Joe Biden Is Done With Rightie Covid Nonsense

My favorite headline today, so far: Finally, Biden Cracks Down on Unvaccinated Snowflakes. In this article, Matthew Cooper writes,

When you get past all of the enumerated steps outlined in the president’s plan, the bottom line of the Biden approach is cracking down and cracking heads. This was Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino Biden in full “Get off my lawn” angry murmur. “Our patience is running thin,” Biden said to the jab free. There was no more c’mon-in-the-water’s-fine. It was a series of demands. If you work for the feds as an employee or contractor, you have to get a shot—no dodging with frequent testing. If you work for a company with 100 or more employees, you either get a shot or get tested often. We’ll use Medicaid, Medicare, Head Start, and any other program we can to make sure health care workers and educators get shots. He cited Fox News by name for requiring vaccinations—and then attacked Ron DeSantis and Gregg Abbott by name for their war on school districts with mask mandates. “Pandemic politics,” Biden sniffed. He vowed that the feds would reimburse any educators who had their salaries cut for defying the Florida and Texas governors’ anti-mask crusade. Biden also implored where he couldn’t use his power, even asking concert venues to impose vaccination requirements.

The provisions in yesterday’s speech have probably been in the works for a while. I suspect those provisions were written carefully to be sure the administration stayed within precedent and constitutional powers. As I have written in the past, public health emergency powers are generally considered to belong to state and local government. But it seems to me Biden used every loophole he could use.

The Right is going ballistic, as expected. They’re hollering about “civil disobedience” and legal challenges. Amber Philips writes that the Biden provisions are built on solid constitutional law and precedent, and the challenges ought to fail. I say “ought to” because we have too many unqualified Trump judges sitting on too many benches. It’s also the case that it might take a while before we see significant reduction in covid cases.

But let’s be clear what is happening right now. This is from William Saletan, Why the Party of 9/11 Couldn’t Handle Covid-19 at Slate.

Since the beginning of May, the rate of COVID deaths is more than 50 percent higher in red states than in blue states. When you break down the numbers by county, the gap is even worse. Death rates are nearly twice as high in red counties as in blue counties, and there’s a direct correlation between COVID fatalities and support for Trump. In counties where Trump got 60 percent to 80 percent of the vote, the death rate is twice as high as in counties where he got less than 40 percent. In counties where he got more than 80 percent of the vote, the death rate is three times as high.

This catastrophe dwarfs any terror attack. So far, COVID-19 has killed 650,000 Americans. That’s more than 200 times the death toll of 9/11. It’s nearly 100 times the combined number of U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 20 years. In August alone, the virus killed 30,000 Americans. That’s a 9/11 attack every three days.

See also Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of covid-19, CDC report finds.

And as long as so many people are offering their bodies as petri dishes for the development of new variants, it’s possible some variant will come along that can’t be controlled by any means.

It’s also the case that Republicans seem to be overestimating the political reach of vaccine resistance. About 65 percent of Americans over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated, and over 75 percent have had at least one shot. Older people — a key Republican constituency — are more likely to be vaccinated than younger people.  Suburban voters that Republicans desperately need are more likely to be vaccinated than rural voters. Polls show that a solid majority of Americans support mask and vaccine mandates.

Republicans also don’t seem to realize that most large businesses will gladly use Biden’s directives to force their employees to be vaccinated. Many were already doing so. The bleeping pandemic is costing them bleeping money. A vaccinated workforce is more stable than an unvaccinated one. Employers probably will strongly incentivize employees to take the vaccination option rather than submit to weekly testing, which will cost some administrative overhead, at least.

For that large majority of Americans who already are vaccinated, the hysterical screaming coming from the resisters is just ridiculous. Snowflakes, indeed.

As of now, 5.64 billion doses of covid vaccines have been administered worldside. This has been going on for about ten months, right? We have lots of data showing the vaccines greatly reduce hospitalizations, deaths, and the spread of infection. There have not been widespread, severe side effects. Get the bleeping shots, people.

Josh Marshall writes that this isn’t just good policy, but good politics. So does Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo.

Dan Pfeiffer notes that while Republicans think they can weaponize masks and mandates for the midterms, they may be misreading the room. Vaccine mandates enjoy widespread support in a Politico/Morning Consult from August: about 55% including a third of Trump 2020 voters.

To capitalize on that Democrats need to do three things, Pfeiffer writes. They need to make Republicans wear their opposition to vaccine and mask mandates like an albatross and “hold them accountable for enabling the unvaccinated minority to put our children in danger.”

I absolutely agree that Democrats need to be talking from now until the midterms about the ways so many Republican governors and other office holders put children, and all of us, in continued danger. Vaccines work, and masks do reduce the spread of infection if most people wear them.  Righties can scream that Biden is an authoritarian, but he’s not the one trying to block local governments from mitigating vaccine spread or forcing cruise companies to accept unvaccinated passengers.


Another Trump Candidacy Would Bring Chaos

There is a curious op ed at the Wall Street Journal that you don’t have to read if you don’t want to. But let me describe it. Some guy named Holman Jenkins writes Is Donald Trump Finished? The subhead is, Admit it: You don’t want him to run again yet his absence hasn’t solved any problem.

Holman appears to be a loyal Republican who wants to see the party defeat Joe Biden. Trump could be reelected, he argues. There are all kinds of issues he could exploit to win another term. But Trump is blowing it because he won’t let go of the 2020 election. He needs to find a way to at least put that election is behind him, even if he doesn’t admit he lost. And then Jenkins writes,

My own estimate is that Mr. Trump can’t afford not to run for president between now and 2024—it’s too lucrative. His business life now appears to consist largely of paying himself for services his companies provide to his own campaign, funded by thousands of small donations and sales of Trump merchandise. And yet a hunger for him to serve again as president, even among his fans, is not conspicuous. I also ask myself: Would he be selling his Washington hotel, one of the few ways he successfully synergized his business interests with this political interests during his presidency, if he planned on being president again?

I doubt it. Mr. Trump has likely already decided he will be happy with just picking the next president, which explains the troop of hopefuls outside his door in Mar-a-Lago.

… which is pretty much an admission that Trump was just in it to make money.

Philip Bump mentions Jenkins in his column The looming chaos of Trump 2024

Trump can’t pivot away from his fraud claims no matter how much Jenkins wishes he would. He couldn’t even if he wanted to.

But he clearly doesn’t want to. He was out there making new claims about fraud just this week, part of his effort to convince his supporters and himself that he didn’t actually lose in 2020 at all. If Trump runs for president in 2024, he’s running as the guy who tried to steal the election from Biden as he claimed that Biden had stolen it from him. He’s running not as he did in 2015, as an outsider to the politics game. He’s running, instead, as a representation of an anti-democratic undercurrent in right-wing politics with the support of people who’ve triggered repeated warnings from law enforcement about their willingness to use violence in defense of Trump’s claims.

It’s anyone’s guess if Trump will run in 2024. “If he runs in 2024, even without his approach to politics changing, he’ll again be a candidate unlike any who has come before,” Bump writes. “And again he’ll catch much of the country unprepared.”

David Atkins thinks Trump could still destroy the GOP. Republicans still look to him as the leader of the party, and most of them are terrified to go against him. Which is fine with Democrats, I suspect.

Atkins continues,

It’s hard to deny it: The GOP is now a reinvigorated cult of personality around Trump. He dispatched his opponents in the 2016 primary with ease despite the open hostility of most of the party establishment, marginalized or co-opted his opposition, and remade the party in his image. More importantly, he hastened a realignment that will be structurally advantageous for the GOP in Congress and the Electoral College for decades, even though Republicans are numerically inferior and shrinking across the country. Trump drove turnout among his ardent fans higher than expected and cut into Democratic advantages among people of color.

But Trump didn’t really take over or save the Republican Party. Trump’s greatest gift to Republicans is also his greatest curse: He gave them permission to be their worst selves. By liberating the GOP to embrace its most noxious impulses, he has breathed new life into the staid culture that nominated John McCain and Mitt Romney while destroying basic norms of public decency and weakening the guardrails of democracy. This has come at a devastating cost to the victims of the hatreds Trump fueled. Despite short-term appearances, unmasking the GOP base’s most vicious instincts might also be disastrous for the party in the long term.

Republicans don’t appear to be paying any prices for this, Atkins says, and the structural advantages they have given themselves could put them in a winning position for 2022 and 2024. But their anti-public health campaign, the dismantling of Roe v. Wade, the Big Lie about the election, and stunts like January 6 have shown the nation what they are. Atkins continues,

This might all seem brilliantly, if diabolically, Machiavellian, but there’s a problem with a well-distributed anti-majoritarian coalition that wins elections despite being outnumbered nationally. It doesn’t take big shifts in the population or the turnout model to breach the walls. You can take over government by winning five-point margins in congressional districts and states. But not if those five-point margins suddenly become competitive due to turnout or coalition shifts.

Trump gave Republicans permission to be themselves. It “worked” for a time at the expense of the country, and it couldallow them to dominate politics for decades to come. But the party may face a high price for allowing the cruelest and most vicious elements of American society to run rampant. It might take some time, but the Trump effect could very well backfire on them in surprising ways.

I hope it doesn’t take too much time, or there won’t be a country left to save. Or a planet, for that matter.

Reforms Are Blocked in Every Direction

Well, let’s see how bleeped we are at the moment. Roe v. Wade is about gone, and there’s little Democrats can do about it without (1) getting rid of the filibuster, and (2) adding at least four more judges to the Supreme Court. Neither thing is likely to happen with the current Congress. The same thing applies to voting rights reform. And then there’s the centerpiece of the Biden agenda, the $3.5 trillion infrasctructure reconciliation bill. This is something the Democrats could do, but they are being blocked by a small group of “moderates” within the party. And we’re still dealing with covid. And fires and floods and global warming.

On the plus side, Greg Sargent writes that “Zombie Trumpism” may give Democrats a chance in the midterms. The test for this could be this year’s Virginia governor’s election. Democrat Terry McAuliffe is taking the fight to his Republican opponent.

He is excoriating Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin for opposing vaccine and mask mandates, and casting this as a holdover of Donald Trump’s deranged approach to covid-19.

McAuliffe just launched a new TV ad campaign that hits Youngkin’s opposition to requiring masks in schools and requiring vaccines for teachers and health-care workers. The spot ties this to Youngkin’s declaration that “Trump represents so much of why I’m running.”

As I wrote last week, McAuliffe also is running to defend Roe v. Wade, which Youngkin wants overturned. In other words, he’s giving voters a real choice instead of being the candidates that’s only slightly less right-wing than the other candidate.

On the infrasructure bill, do see David Dayen, Infrastructure Summer: Joe Manchin’s Symphony of Disingenuousness.

Let’s say I didn’t know anything about the big budget reconciliation bill working its way through Congress this month. (Believe me, I’d love to say that; things would be much easier if I didn’t.) If non-aware me read through the entirety of Joe Manchin’s op-ed in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, which said that the bill is too expensive and just not right at this time, I wouldn’t know anything more about it. While Manchin ably demonstrates how a conservative Democrat representing a red state can preen about concepts like inflation and the deficit and spending trillions of dollars, he explains nothing about what the bill he opposes actually does, whom it would help, and what specific parts he disfavors.

Evidently, Manchin doesn’t want you to know too much about the bill he’s trying to kill. Or at least, he doesn’t want you to know why he doesn’t like it.

Go ahead and read the whole thing. Manchin has been making pious noises about deficits and the burdens being placed on the next generations. But the truth is, the cost of not passing this bill is a lot bigger than the bill itself.  And then go to the Intercept and read about the big corporations working to get rid of the bill’s tax increases on big corporations. Manchin and his mini-me Kyrsten Sinema are well-rewarded by various moneyed interest groups for damaging their party, and the nation.

Greg Sargent thinks that Manchin and Sinema can at least be made to feel very uncomfortable.

Two progressive senators are set to unveil a new plan to tax stock buybacks, in which corporations purchase back shares in themselves as a way to channel additional money to shareholders.

The details of the plan are as yet unknown, but the office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) confirms to me that it will be revealed this week. Brown will champion the plan with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who as chairman of the Finance Committee is assembling the corporate tax increases for the $3.5 trillion bill, which Democrats hope to pass by the simple-majority “reconciliation” process.

The plan to tax stock buybacks is one of numerous proposals Democrats are considering to offset the reconciliation bill’s spending, Bloomberg News reports. These proposals are expected to include an increase in the corporate tax rate, an effort to capture more revenue from multinational corporations that shelter profits abroad, taxing capital gains like regular income, and more.

If and when this proposal gets debated, it will be harder for centrist Democrats to hide behind platitudinous objections to spending. That’s because specific proposals can both generate revenue and have policy value of their own, and centrists will have to say which of these they oppose and why.

Of course, corporate taxes are the real reason Manchin and Sinema are being rewarded for holding up the bill. We’ll see if they blink.

Get Ready for Rule by the Mob

Last week three yahoos stormed into an elementary school in Tucson and confronted the principal. One was livestreaming the event, and one carried “law enforcement grade” zip ties. The third was the father of a boy who had been taken out of class and told he was required to mask and quarantine. The child had been in close contact with someone who tested positive for covid, and the school was following county health requirements.

The three men decided that the school didn’t have legal authority to do such a thing. The fellow in charge of the live stream said he was prepared to “raise hell,” and insisted the school couldn’t take the law “into their own hands” by instructing a student to quarantine. He also wrote on Facebook that a citizen’s arrest was an option. Instead, the principal called the police. One of the three has been charged with tresspassing; whether the other two are also in trouble, I do not know. See also An Anti-Masker Just Tried to Zip-Tie a School Principal Over COVID Rules.

I bring this up because this is the pattern we’re falling into. Instead of the rule of law, we’re facing the rule of self-appointed vigilantes. The hideous Texas abortion law is another example. For that matter, the Texas voting repression law appears to allow partisan poll watchers to harass people who are voting. Wingnuts are assuming the power to make and enforce laws as they see fit. This will not end well.

Of course, this is not really new. Extremists have been bombing abortion clinics and murdering doctors in the U.S. since the early 1990s.

In the “stuff to read” department — I heartily endorse a column by Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer — We knew America would never be the same after 9/11. We didn’t know how bad. Just read the whole thing.

Worth a clip ‘n’ save — Ed Kilgore’s Trump’s Long Campaign to Steal the Presidency: A Timeline.

Better late than never, but not much — The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League admits that the ADL was wrong to oppose the building of Cordoba House, a.k.a the “Ground Zero Mosque.” “Today one can see how the Cordoba House could have helped to heal our country as we nursed the wounds from the horror of 9/11,” the CEO writes. Some of us saw it at the time, ten years ago.

Roe May Be Dead; Republicans Hope We Don’t Notice

I got tickled at Dave Weigel’s column today. The intro — “The only newsletter that isn’t about Joe Manchin today, this is The Trailer.”

Many people are pissed at Manchin, who is acting up again. He wrote an op ed for the Wall Street Journal saiyng that Democrats should “hit the pause button” on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. This is especially infuriating at the very moment the nation is suffering from fires in the West and a super storm in the South and East. Climate change, bro. But Manchin doesn’t want to spend money addressing it.

Just see Joe Manchin’s Dirty Empire by Daniel Boguslaw at The Intercept. Manchin is corrupt as hell. See also Joe Manchin’s new threat to destroy Biden’s agenda is worse than it seems by Greg Sargent at WaPo and Joe Manchin Has Put Biden’s Presidency in Mortal Danger by Jonathan Chait at New York.

Dave Weigel goes on, ignoring Joe Manchin:

Donald Trump’s victory five years ago created, and later fulfilled, the possibility of a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. That emboldened conservatives, especially antiabortion activists who favored so-called “heartbeat” legislation — ending legal abortion at six weeks, when they say first flutter can be detected in embryos. And after Ginsburg’s death, while conservative activists had never felt closer to the end of Roe, Republicans in competitive races said Democrats were overhyping the potential effect on abortion rights.

“I think the likelihood of Roe v. Wade being overturned is very minimal,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said in a debate days after the justice’s death and one day after Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett to replace her. “I don’t see that happening.” In his first debate with Biden, Trump scoffed at the idea that Roe was “on the ballot,” telling the Democrat that he didn’t know how the potential justice — who yesterday joined the majority in the Texas case — would rule.

And we all remember Sen. Susan Collins assuring us that Kavanaugh believed Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” This is the line Republicans have walked for a long time. They’ve promised their base they would criminallize abortion while reassuring the public at large that they wouldn’t.

Even given the events of this week, the conservatives on the Supreme Court seem to want to maintain the fiction that they are not hardline ideologues.

Mary Ziegler, The Atlantic:

The justices who allowed Texas’s law to go into effect hardly seem to love the thought of that backlash. Their order tried to reassure the public by spelling out what was not being decided—and tried to signal that the Court takes all of this very seriously. And even before this particular question arose, during their confirmation hearings, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett repeated that when it came to Roe, they would keep an open mind. After all, they are neutral arbiters of the law, not pre-committed ideologues.

The justices desperately want the public to believe that is true, even though similar procedural hurdles did not stop the Court from blocking COVID-19 stay-at-home orders that affected in-person worship, and even though the Court’s overnight order made a laughingstock of what is still supposedly a constitutional right. The message was clear: Texas wanted to pass a legal-consequence-free abortion ban, and the Supreme Court wanted to find a political-consequence-free way to uphold one. …

… The Supreme Court may want to reverse Roe, but it is afraid of what will happen when the decision is gone. This fear makes it attractive to hem and haw, to deny and obfuscate. Clarence Thomas may not miss a chance to denounce Roe, but his colleagues are less keen to do so.

They don’t seem to be fooling anyone, however. So Democrats are mostly speaking out and vowing to fight the Texas law. Given their narrow hold on Congress there doesn’t seem to be much they can do, but we can hope it will help inspire a big turnout in the midterms. Republicans, though, are being strangely quiet and pretending that Roe v. Wade isn’t really dead.

Did the Right Just Shoot Itself in the Foot?

The most encouraging thing I’ve seen today is that centrist squish Terry McAuliffe, of all people, is elevating abortion rights in his campaign for governor of Virginia.

“The stakes are huge. … For years, we’ve said, abortion could be outlawed. Well, it happened today,” McAuliffe told ABC News in an interview. “I vetoed every bill that would have stood in the way of women making their own decisions. And, you know, I’ve vetoed bills that would have defunded Planned Parenthood. I stopped all their nonsense. But it’s a battle here in Virginia. We’re not going back.”

There was a time when conventional wisdom said Democratic candidates should just keep their mouths shut about abortion, and not just in southern elections. If they were forced to say something, they said “safe, legal, and rare.” But many on the Left are done with the moral ambivalence of “rare.” No more apologies, no more stigmas.

Indeed, a consensus is quickly forming that the Right may have just shot itself in the foot.  Former Republican David Frum:

Pre-Texas, opposition to abortion offered Republican politicians a lucrative, no-risk political option. They could use pro-life rhetoric to win support from socially conservative voters who disliked Republican economic policy, and pay little price for it with less socially conservative voters who counted on the courts to protect abortion rights for them. …

… Today, accountability has suddenly arrived. Texas Republicans have just elevated abortion rights to perhaps the state’s supreme ballot issue in 2022. Perhaps they have calculated correctly. Perhaps a Texas voting majority really wants to see the reproductive lives of Texas women restrained by random passersby. If that’s the case, that’s an important political fact, and one that will reshape the politics of the country in 2024….

… This is a new reality, and one that opens a way for the prolonged U.S. abortion-rights debate to be resolved. If the Texas Republicans prosper politically, then abortion-rights advocates must accept that the country truly is much more conservative on abortion than they appreciated and adjust their goals accordingly. But if not, and I’m guessing that the answer is not, anti-abortion-rights politicians are about to feel the shock of their political lives. For the first time since the 1970s, they will have to reckon with mobilized opposition that also regards abortion as issue No. 1 in state and local politics.

Although individual minds don’t seem to have changed much since Roe was decided in 1973, Younger voters are more strongly pro-choice than older voters, according to Pew.

The only demographic groups identified by Pew that favor criminalization are Republicans and evangelicals. With everyone else, including Catholics, a majority favor keeping abortion legal.

I take it Democrats were worried that voter enthusiasm on the Left would wane without Donald Trump in the White House. Texas could light some fires, especially when other Republican states pass their own Handmaid’s Tale laws.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi promises the House will pass a bill that codifies the Roe v. Wade provisions into law. “Upon our return, the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America,” she said in a statement. That could raise some interesting dynamics when it goes to the Senate.

We now have more details about what went on in the Supreme Court regarding the Texas bill. Texas abortion providers made a last-ditch effort to stop the bill from going into effect by seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court on Monday night. Amy Howe writes at SCOTUSblog about what happened next:

In a one-paragraph, unsigned order issued just before midnight on Wednesday, the court acknowledged that the providers had “raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law.” But that was not enough to stop the law from going into effect, the court explained, because of the way the law operates. Specifically, the court observed, it wasn’t clear whether the state officials – a judge and court clerk – and the anti-abortion activist whom the abortion providers had named as defendants “can or will seek to enforce the Texas law” against the providers in a way that would allow the court to get involved in the dispute at this stage.

It was five to four — Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas refused to act. Roberts sided with Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor in opposition.

In his dissent, which was joined by Breyer and Kagan, Roberts described the Texas scheme as “unprecedented.” By deputizing private citizens to enforce the law, Roberts stressed, the law “insulate[s] the State from responsibility.” He wrote that because of the novelty and significance of the question, he would stop the law from going into effect to preserve the status quo and allow courts to consider “whether a state can avoid responsibility for its laws in such a manner.”

Breyer wrote his own dissent, which was joined by Kagan and Sotomayor, in which he acknowledged the procedural challenges posed by the Texas law but expressed skepticism as to “why that fact should make a critical legal difference” when “the invasion of a constitutional right” is at issue.

Sotomayor, joined by Breyer and Kagan, described the court’s order as “stunning.” “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny,” she wrote, “a majority of the Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

Both Breyer and Sotomayor also noted that, within the first day that the Texas was in effect, clinics in the state began turning away most or all abortion patients.

Kagan’s dissent, joined by Breyer and Sotomayor, focused largely on the process by which the court reached its ruling on Wednesday night. She complained that, “[w]ithout full briefing or argument, and after less than 72 hours’ thought, this Court greenlights the operation of Texas’s patently unconstitutional law banning most abortions.” The result, she concluded, “is emblematic of too much of this Court’s shadow-docket decisionmaking — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend.”

The four justices in the minority seem alarmed.

There may be other kinds of fallout in store for Texas. See Lurch to Right May Imperil Texas’s Attraction for Employers at Bloomberg.

Companies including Apple Inc., Toyota Motor Corp. and Tesla Inc. have moved operations and college-educated, creative-class workers to Texas in recent years; enclaves like Austin and Houston’s Montrose neighborhood felt a little like San Francisco with withering humidity. Now, those workers find themselves in a state taking far-right stances in a culture war with national ramifications for women’s autonomy and presidential politics.

“Other states are competing for people,” said Tammi Wallace, chief executive officer of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “If you look at what our state is doing, and then you see another state where they’re not doing some of those things, you might say, ‘Well, the money’s good, but where do I want to raise my family?’”

Texas’s infamously stupid power grid may be a consideration also. What will big business do?

Elon Musk is being a squish. But there are several “Silicon Valley” companies that have moved into Texas in recent years.

I agree with Becca Andrews at Mother Jones that the Texas law is just a beginning. Criminalization fanatics are not going to rest until more states have passed similar laws. We don’t yet know what the fallout will be or how messy the vigilantism will get. Watch this space.

Fetus Vigilantes Are Unleashed in Texas

I have long believed that abortion is an effective wedge issue for Republicans as long as Roe v. Wade stays in effect. Polls going back years show a reasonably comfortable majority of Americans support Roe and don’t want it overturned. The criminalizers will always vote for politicians promising criminalization. But if states really did criminalize abortion, I suspect the criminalizers would face a backlash they are not now expecting.

Well, that theory may be about to be put to the test.

The Texas law that went into effect today bans abortions very early in pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. According to Paul Waldman, the law bans abortions six weeks after the first day of a woman’s last period, which in an average cycle would be only four weeks after conception. Many, possibly most, women don’t know they are pregnant at that point.

Worse, the law “establishes a system of legal vigilantism whose purpose is nothing less than terrorizing and financially ruining not just abortion providers but also anyone who helps any woman get an abortion,” Waldman writes.

It allows anyone to sue not just an abortion provider but someone who “aids or abets” an abortion. So for instance, if you give your friend a ride to the abortion clinic, any random person in America could sue you for a minimum of $10,000. Even if you won the case — say, because your friend managed to get in her abortion five weeks after her last period, or because you never gave anyone a ride anywhere — you’d still have the legal bills to contend with.


Weird, huh? Summer Concepcion writes at Talking Points Memo,

As The Intercept’s Jordan Smith notes, typically in civil litigation, the individual suing must have been harmed in some way.

Not only does the law put abortion providers at risk, but also generally anyone who could be classified as “abetting” the act — such as a rideshare driver who takes someone to an abortion clinic, a counselor, a friend who helped pay for it, etc.

Therefore, the law is designed to evade federal court challenges by allowing private individuals, rather than state authorities, to sue the so-called “abettors.”

at Vox also writes that the law was drafted to prevent courts from reviewing it.

The way it’s written, a Texan who objects to SB 8 may have no one they can sue to stop it from taking effect.

For one, abortion rights plaintiffs can’t sue their state directly. The ordinary rule is that when someone sues a state in order to block a state law, they cannot sue the state directly. States benefit from a doctrine known as “sovereign immunity,” which typically prevents lawsuits against the state itself.

But they also can’t really follow the same path that most citizens who want to stop laws do. That path relies on Ex parte Young (1908), a decision in which the Supreme Court established that someone raising a constitutional challenge to a state law may sue the state officer charged with enforcing that law — and obtain a court order preventing that officer from enforcing it. So, for example, if Texas passed a law requiring the state medical board to strip all abortion providers of their medical licenses, a plaintiff could sue the medical board. If a state passed a law requiring state police to blockade abortion clinics, a plaintiff might sue the chief of the state’s police force.

Part of what makes SB 8 such a bizarre law is that it does not permit any state official to enforce it. Rather, the statute provides that it “shall be enforced exclusively through . . . private civil actions.”

Under the law, “any person, other than an officer or employee of a state or local governmental entity in this state,” may bring a private lawsuit against anyone who performs an abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, or against anyone who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion.” Plaintiffs who prevail in such suits shall receive at least $10,000 from the defendant.

SB 8, in other words, attempts to make an end run around Young by preventing state officials from directly enforcing the law. Again, Young established that a plaintiff may sue a state official charged with enforcing a state law in order to block enforcement of that law. But if no state official is charged with enforcing the law, there’s no one to sue in order to block the law. Checkmate, libs.

Naturally, Texas Right to Life set up a website for people to report anonymous tips of illegal abortion activity. Naturally, since going online, the site has been robustly trolled.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a request to block the law, so now it’s a law. Still to be decided is a Mississippi abortion case I wrote about several weeks ago. That case is a direct challenge to Roe also. But knowing wingnuts, I do not doubt a whole lot of chubby white men in state legislatures are looking closely at this Texas law and planning to introduce a similar law in their own states. This could get very messy.

Terrorists Are Where You Find Them

[Note: My web service provider is telling me that sometime today somebody is going to do something to disrupt service for a few hours. This is a necessary something and cannot be avoided. I don’t understand any of this. I take it the site may be offline for a while, but it should be okay tomorrow.]

Well, the U.S. is now officially withdrawn from Afghanistan. The original purpose of this war was to reduce the threat of foreign terrorism to the U.S. We prefer our own home-grown terrorists, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, all power has been knocked out of our fourth largest port city by a climate-change super-charged storm. Not Islamic terrorists.

Our home-grown terrorists are getting more emboldened. For example, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Georgia anti-vaxxers:

… it was Dr. Kathleen Toomey who stopped us in our tracks when she revealed that anti-vaxxer protesters had disrupted several vaccination drives — and forced one to shut down.

We asked aides to Toomey, the state’s top health official, to elaborate. Her office promptly detailed how public health staff “have been harassed, yelled at, threatened and demeaned by some of the very members of the public they were trying to help.”

In one south Georgia county, the anti-vaxxers tracked down public health employees through social media and harangued them with messages of hostility and misinformation about vaccines.

And the event that was canceled was a north Georgia mobile vaccination event, where an organized group of people showed up to harass and name-call public health workers.

“Aside from feeling threatened themselves, staff realized no one would want to come to that location for a vaccination under those circumstances, so they packed up and left,” said Nancy Nydam, Toomey’s spokesman.

Why aren’t the thugs arrested? Oh, never mind. We know why.

This guy is running for Northampton County (PA) Executive:

He’s running on the “make men men again” platform, I take it.

See Greg Sargent, Madison Cawthorn’s vile lies about Jan. 6 reveal a big truth about the right. Cawthorn is a persistent liar about just about about everything, note. This is about Cawthorn’s lies that are intended to incite violence, specifically about the 2020 election and the alleged threat posed by the political Left. Sargent:

There you have the reigning ethos of today’s right wing laid bare: If we keep lying uncontrollably to our supporters about the totalitarian left’s repression of them, they just might resort to violence, and gosh almighty, wouldn’t that be just terrible!

The big truth captured here is that for many right-wing personalities, the lying about the left is prior and essential to their radicalization, abandonment of democracy and increasing embrace of authoritarianism. The former inspires and justifies the latter: Once you unshackle yourself entirely from any obligation to reality in depicting the leftist menace, it’s a short leap to envisioning and then justifying pretty much anything in response to it.

This has been true for a long time. The Right justifies its own violence by claiming the Left is more violent. There have been no end of studies showing that right-wing extremism is the most common source of political violence in the U.S., but we’re still giving righties a pass. In their minds, righties possess an inherent title to “America” and “patriotism,” which justifies their use of force.

See also ‘It’s all terrifying’: Fascism expert breaks down Madison Cawthorn’s violence-promoting ‘propaganda.’

Frank Rich writes that America’s Greatest Existential Threat Wasn’t Terrorism. The jingoism and warmongering that followed the September 11 attacks took us directly to Trump, Rich says.

We should also acknowledge that a pervasive question after 9/11 — “Why do they hate us?” — was the wrong question. Providing answers to it proved a full-employment program for pundits, but the question Americans should have been addressing instead was “Why do we hate each other?” That hate wasn’t just manifest in the virulent Islamophobia that tarred American Muslims with Al Qaeda after 9/11. Culture wars were rampant. “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,” Bush declared. Those were fighting words at home as well as abroad. Bill Maher was dropped by ABC after wisecracking that hijackers were not necessarily cowards. The writer Andrew Sullivan targeted the “decadent left” in “enclaves on the coasts” as potential traitors as the country careered into war. The NBC peacock logo was recast in stars and stripes lest anyone doubt that it was a hawk. GOP congressmen, precursors of today’s Freedom Caucus, demanded that the House cafeterias rename French fries “freedom fries” after France refused to sign on to the invasion of Iraq.

In his new book, Reign of Terrorthe journalist Spencer Ackerman draws a direct line from the jingoism, bigotry, and xenophobia that erupted after the 9/11 attacks to Trump’s cynical political choice to feed a “white nativist appetite for a narrative of besiegement, replacement, abandonment, and betrayal.” This hideous strain of 9/11 fallout spread at an accelerated pace once Barack Hussein Obama could be conflated with terrorists by the opposition party — not just on the fringes but from the national platform awarded to its vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. Trump knew what he was doing when he peddled a demonstrably fictional sighting of Muslim Americans in New Jersey cheering the fall of the Twin Towers — even as he tastelessly bragged, with equal falsity, that he had “spent a lot of time” with first responders at ground zero and that his building at 40 Wall Street was by default New York’s tallest thanks to the towers going down.

And here we are. Well, it’s good to finally be out of Afghanistan, anyway.

The Present Storms

Hurricane Ida has touched Louisiana. All living things there are in for a rough time.

I have decided that those blasting President Biden for the chaos in Afghanistan have lost touch with what “war” is. I’m not saying that no mistakes were made, but it could have been worse. See Storer H. Rowley, The Media’s Premature Verdict on Biden’s Afghanistan Pullout and David Rothkopf, There’s chaos and risk in Afghanistan exit, but Biden critics are getting it mostly wrong. Rothkopf writes, “There’s no way that the Taliban regaining control would not have led to chaos with many thousands of Afghans seeking to escape the rule of a thug regime. Whenever we began to airlift folks out, it would have started.” Yes, because war is like that. War is bloodly and chaotic. We seem to think wars can be directed by Steven Spielberg to just give us some good action sequences followed by a positive outcome.

Jennnifer Rubin,

President Biden on Thursday mournfully delivered information to the country that was disagreeable to many Americans: There is no way to withdraw from a futile war without messiness. The expectation that there would be no misery or casualties was a fantasy.

A case in point is the issue of Afghan refugees. “I know of no conflict, as a student of history — no conflict where, when a war was ending, one side was able to guarantee that everyone that wanted to be extracted from that country would get out,” Biden said solemnly. His historical memory is accurate.

The United States has transported roughly 120,000 Afghans and American citizens to safety at great human cost. That miraculous feat is a tribute to the humanity and bravery of the U.S. military and civilian personnel and volunteers. But any hope of depopulating a war-torn country, and ending the suffering there (including the dismal future for millions of women and girls) after our defeat is not grounded in reality. It belongs with the magical thinking that the United States could create a nation state in Afghanistan.

See also Juan Cole, Biden got 117,000 Afghans Out: Contrast that Time Trump Abruptly Withdrew Troops from Syria and refused to Help Kurdish Allies.

On the covid front: See Vaccine Refusers Don’t Get to Dictate Terms Anymore by Juliette Kayyem.

Sometimes the Right Thing Can Look Wrong

We’ve had a signifiant couple of days, and I’m a bit under the weather (but my covid test was negative). But here goes an attempt at blogging …

Ezra Klein wrote, “Everything about the Afghanistan withdrawal is tragic. But that tragedy is the result not of the withdrawal, but the occupation, and America’s profound misjudgment of its own power and limits.” That’s as succinct a summation of the Afghanistan situation as I’ve found.

Most of the commentary on Afghanistan is coming from a place of deep denial about what a mistake it has been to remain in Afghanistan all this time. There was never going to be a glorious moment at which we could brush off our hands and say “our work here is done.” Juan Cole argues that Afghanistan is facing war between the Taliban and ISIS-K, and President Biden is right to just get our troops out of the way.

Republicans are screaming for President Biden’s head. Do read William Saletan, The GOP’s Phony Complaints About Afghanistan, at Slate. Hell, I’ll just be lazy and reproduce most of it here.

On Feb. 29, 2020, the Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. The deal also required the Afghan government to release 5,000 imprisoned Taliban fighters. Hawks called the agreement weak and dangerous, but Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, advised them not to speak out against it. In March 2020, at hearings of the House Armed Services Committee, some lawmakers worried about the deal, but most, including Reps. Jim Banks and Matt Gaetz, said nothing about it. Another Republican member of the committee, Rep. Mo Brooks, expressed his impatience to pull out, noting that American forces had long ago “destroyed al-Qaida’s operational capability” in Afghanistan.

In July 2020, the committee took up the National Defense Authorization Act, which would fund the military for the next year. Democratic Rep. Jason Crow presented an amendment that would make the Afghan pullout contingent on several requirements. These included “consultation and coordination” with allies, protection of “United States personnel in Afghanistan,” severance of the Taliban from al-Qaida, prevention of “terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan,” and adequate “capacity of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces” to fight off Taliban attacks. The amendment also required investigation of any prisoners, released as part of the deal, who might be connected to terrorism. In short, the amendment would do what Trump had failed to do: impose real conditions on the withdrawal. Crow told his colleagues that he, too, wanted to get out, but that Afghan security forces weren’t yet “ready to stand on their own.”

Gaetz dismissed these warnings. The Taliban was already taking over the country, he argued, and imposing conditions would just get in the way of the pullout. “I don’t think there’s ever a bad day to end the war in Afghanistan,” he said.

Eleven members of the committee, including Banks, Brooks, and Gaetz, voted against the amendment. It passed, but Trump refused to accept it. In December, he vetoed the whole defense bill, complaining that it would, among other things, “restrict the President’s ability to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.” Steve Scalise, the minority whip, voted to uphold Trump’s veto. McCarthy, who had to miss the vote for medical reasons, said he, too, stood with the president. Congress overrode the veto, but Trump essentially ignored the amendment.

Eight months later, Biden is completing the withdrawal, and Republicans have done a 180. They act as though they had nothing to do with the pullout or its consequences. “It’s humiliating that the Taliban now controls not just Afghanistan’s presidential palace,” but the U.S. embassy, says Banks, “and it’s all happened on Joe Biden’s watch.” Having voted not to hold Trump accountable for the withdrawal’s execution in last year’s defense bill, Banks vows to hold Biden accountable in this year’s bill. Gaetz now says Biden pulled out prematurely.

To cover their hypocrisy, the Republicans are rewriting history. Brooks says the Taliban’s triumph “would never have happened under President Donald J. Trump.” In reality, Trump guaranteed it by removing as many troops as he could. McCarthy says he knows “for a fact” that Trump wouldn’t have let the Taliban advance from “city to city,” though Trump allowed just that. Scalise says Trump “made it very clear with conditions he put in place that he was not going to let the Taliban take control of the country,” but Trump continued to withdraw troops regardless of conditions, making clear that the Taliban would take control.

See also After negotiating with the Taliban, Trump officials criticize Biden for negotiating with the Taliban.

Republicans are screaming for Biden to resign or be impeached or be removed from office via the 25th Amendment. Philip Bump writes that the GOP anti-Biden rhetorical arms race is already at Defcon 1; where can it go from there?

The problem Republicans may soon face is the one Greene is dealing with in the moment: Now what? Where do you go from here? If a terrorist attack in Afghanistan warrants resignation or removal by impeachment or the Cabinet, what might some more significant situation demand? There’s no obvious way to descend from this position, barring an actual resignation, which won’t happen, or Republican views of Biden softening, which also won’t happen. So is this just the temperature at which we’ll operate forever, a political boil that never spills over?

Isn’t that pretty much what they do when a Democrat is in the White House? Going back to the Clinton Administration?

Anyway, I think we can count on Republicans to try to make the midterm elections about Afghanistan. And if Republicans take back the House next year, expect the rest of President Biden’s administration to be buried under endless House hearings and investigations into Afghanistan that will be limited to only what happened on Biden’s watch.