Discuss: Political Madness All the Time


Wouldn’t you know it, this thread would lapse just before Trump was kicked out of office. I wonder if the new thread will be as lively without the Orange Cheeto around to focus our anger? I think Joe might provide some prompting, at least.

Lynna is your curator. Type furiously!

(Previous thread)

Comments

  1. blf says

    According to the French Covid-19 track-and-trace app, ICU occupnacy across the whole of France is 100% (in my area it’s c.115%), with just over 5000 Covid-19 patients in ICU, which I recall (from memory) as being the most-ever Covid-19 patients. President Macron will be giving an address tonight. What he will say is currently unclear, but from the Grauniad’s current live pandemic blog:

    [… A French] government source has told Reuters that three scenarios were being examined:
    ● A massive operation to transfer intensive care patients from overloaded hospitals to lesser-hit regions.
    ● School closures.
    ● A strict lockdown in the hardest-hit parts of France.
    […]

    What is still not being mentioned is the “V”-word; as in a serious vaccination drive. (Total vaccinations is now c.8m, three months after vaccinations started.

  2. says

    Guardian – “‘Deeply cynical’ No 10 report criticises use of ‘institutional racism'”:

    A landmark report on racial disparity has criticised the way the term “institutional racism” is used and says others factors, such as family influence, socioeconomic background and religion, have more “significant impact” on life chances than the existence of racism.

    The report, which race equality campaigners have described as “deeply cynical”, marks a change in government policy, with the report stating its findings “present a new race agenda for the country”.

    The 264-page report calls on the government to fully fund the Equality and Human Rights Commission, improve training for police officers and include a local residency requirement for recruitment, establish an office for health disparities, open up access to apprenticeships, teach an “inclusive curriculum”, and stop using the term BAME, as part of its 24 recommendations.

    In an open rebuff to the arguments of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd in the US, the report is described as saying the “idealism” of “well-intentioned young people” that the dominant feature in society is institutional racism achieves little “beyond alienating the decent centre ground”.

    The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, said he was disappointed by the findings from the summary of the report published, insisting there were structural problems that needed to be addressed.

    Rehana Azam, the GMB national secretary for public services, said: “Only this government could produce a report on race in the 21st century that actually gaslights Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic people and communities. This feels like a deeply cynical report that not only ignores black and ethnic minority workers’ worries and concerns. But is part of an election strategy to divide working class people and voters. It’s completely irresponsible and immoral.

    “Institutional racism exists, it’s the lived experience of millions of black and ethnic minority workers. We’re paid less, we’re more likely to be in high-risk jobs during the pandemic, we’re more likely to die from Covid, we’re more likely to be stopped and searched, to be arrested and to go to prison.”

    In response to the report, the Institute of Race Relations said: “From what we have seen, both the findings and the recommendations of the government-commissioned Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report fit neatly with the government’s attempts, post-Brexit, to portray the British nation as a beacon of good race relations and a diversity model, in the report’s words, for ‘white majority countries’ across the globe.

    “The methodology of the report appears to be one that, in severing issues of race from class and treating issues of structural racism as ‘historic’ but not contemporary, leads to the stigmatisation of some ethnic minorities on the back of the valorisation of others. Black Caribbeans, for instance, are contrasted with Black Africans, and deemed to have internalised past injustices to the detriment of their own social advancement.”…

  3. says

    Here’s a link to the March 31 Guardian (support the Guardian if you can!) coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Pfizer says Covid vaccine 100 percent effective in children aged 12-15

    Pfizer says its Covid vaccine is safe and 100% effective in preventing the illness in young people aged 12 to 15.

    Pfizer hopes that vaccinations of the group could begin before the next school year, Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chair and chief executive, said in a statement.

    In the trial of 2,260 adolescents aged 12 to 15, there were 18 coronavirus cases in the group that got a placebo shot and none in the group that got the vaccine, resulting in 100% efficacy in preventing Covid-19, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said in a statement.

    Pfizer’s vaccine is already authorised for use in people starting at age 16, Reuters reports.

    Bourla added that the company planned to seek emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration “in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year”.

  4. says

    Guardian – “Myanmar: US orders diplomats to leave as coup spurs ethnic tensions”:

    The United States has ordered the departure of non-essential diplomats from Myanmar, amid growing violence following the military coup to oust civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The US State Department said it was ordering the departure of “non-emergency US government employees and their family members”. The decision was taken to protect the safety and security of staff and their families, the State Department said.

    The spiralling bloodshed has angered some of Myanmar’s 20 or so armed ethnic groups, which control large areas of territory mostly in border regions.

    Three of them – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army (AA) – on Tuesday threatened to join the protesters’ fight unless the military reined in its crackdown.

    While the trio has yet to act on their warning, two other outfits – the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – have stepped up attacks on military and police in recent days….

    I don’t know that “spurs ethnic tensions” is accurate – it sounds more like the military is spurring ethnic unity.

  5. says

    Guardian – “‘Fake’ Twitter users rush to Amazon’s defense over unions and working conditions”:

    A surge of “fake” Twitter accounts have emerged to defend Amazon and push back against criticism of working conditions at the company amid a fiercely fought union election for the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama.

    Many of the account handles start with “AmazonFC” followed by a first name and a warehouse designation. The accounts often respond to criticism against Amazon on Twitter, dismissing concerns and reports about robotic working conditions and high injury rates.

    One, now suspended, account tweeted: “Unions are good for some companies, but I don’t want to have to shell out hundreds a month just for lawyers!”

    Similar accounts have been used before in periods when criticism toward the company went viral in 2018 and 2019. Several of the Amazon Twitter user accounts cited in reports from 2018 and 2019 no longer exist. Others have switched names. Some of the accounts have been exposed as using fake profile pictures from stock photos.

    The spokesperson did not clarify how many Twitter accounts are run by real Amazon ambassadors, or which accounts still on the platform are actually run by Amazon workers serving as public relations ambassadors. Amazon had declined to provide information on these accounts in previous reports as well, including how these workers are compensated for serving in these roles on social media, though some previous reports have noted these workers work on social media in lieu of warehouse work, and can receive perks such as free gift cards or days off.

    The investigative journalism site Bellingcat has compiled a list of at least 56 Amazon FC Ambassador Twitter accounts….

    More at the link.

  6. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    In England, a see-through face mask that makes lip-reading possible has been developed by a team at a Cambridge hospital and approved for NHS use.

    The transparent mask, designed at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is now registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency as a CE marked medical mask, PA Media reports.

    This means it conforms to health, safety, and environmental protection standards in Europe and can be utilised by hospitals, care homes and in primary care.

  7. says

    CNN – “Two US Capitol Police officers sue Trump and say he should be held responsible for January 6 attack”:

    Two US Capitol Police officers who say they were injured during the January 6 insurrection are suing former President Donald Trump for inciting the crowd.

    The officers — the first police to sue in court following the riot — say they suffered physical and emotional damages because Trump allegedly “inflamed, encouraged, incited (and) directed” the violent mob that stormed the Capitol.

    Capitol Police Officers James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, who have been with the force for a combined 28 years, said they were injured during the attack. Hemby “was crushed against the doors” of the Capitol, was “sprayed with chemicals” and bled from his face, the lawsuit says. Blassingame claims he was slammed against a stone column, injuring his head and back.

    Each of the officers are seeking at least $75,000 in damages. They accuse Trump of aiding and abetting their assaults and directing his supporters to assault them, according to their new complaint.

    The lawsuit from Blassingame and Hemby also describes the sheer terror that the officers felt inside the Capitol, while they were vastly outnumbered by the armed pro-Trump mob. The lawsuit says Blassingame now suffers from depression and that the “severe emotional toll … continues to reveal itself.”

    Blassingame “is haunted by the memory of being attacked, and of the sensory impacts — the sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of the attack remain close to the surface,” the lawsuit says. “He experiences guilt of being unable to help his colleagues who were simultaneously being attacked; and of surviving where other colleagues did not.”

    The lawsuit also claimed that Blassingame was called a racial slur throughout the assault, saying, “He lost count of the many times the racial slur was hurled at him.”

    This is the third major civil lawsuit that is trying to hold Trump liable for the insurrection, after two Democratic lawmakers filed lawsuits against Trump and others, attempting to hold the President and other speakers accountable for his words and his supporters’ actions. The lawsuits are all in their earliest stage, and Trump’s lawyers have not yet responded in court….

  8. says

    Protect Democracy – “Jessica Denson Wins Major Victory Over Trump Campaign”:

    Today, a federal court held that the standard form non-disclosure agreement (Form NDA) the Trump campaign required its workers to sign is invalid and unenforceable. The ruling is the result of a class action lawsuit brought by Jessica Denson, a former Trump campaign staffer, represented by Protect Democracy, Bowles & Johnson PLLC, and Ballard Spahr LLP. The court’s ruling can be found here.

    “The former president and his campaign have been waging an all-out war on truth, aided in no small part by unfettered NDAs that bullied his workers into silence for eternity,” said Jessica Denson. “Today’s beautiful ruling rebukes this unmitigated censorship, and I am so grateful that my years of trial have resulted in this illegal roadblock to transparency, accountability, and justice being struck down.”

    The court denied the Trump campaign’s motion to dismiss the case and issued a declaratory judgment that the Form NDA signed by Denson is invalid.

    “Today’s ruling is a hard-earned victory for freedom of speech and for Jessica,” said David Bowles of Bowles & Johnson PLLC. “For three years, the Trump campaign has threatened and harassed Jessica for having the temerity to criticize the Trump campaign and presidency. We defeated the campaign after it obtained a $50,000 judgment against her and attempted to enforce the award in state court. Today’s decision puts a stop once and for all to the Trump campaign’s efforts to silence Jessica.”

    “The court’s decision underscores the limited purposes for which NDAs may be used in New York,” said Joe Slaughter, an attorney at Ballard Spahr LLP. “Organizations can use NDAs to protect legitimate trade secrets and confidential commercial information. They cannot use unlimited NDAs to silence employees from ever uttering anything an employer dislikes.”

    John Langford, counsel for Protect Democracy, noted that this ruling has broad implications not just for campaign workers, but for the American people. “Political campaigns’ use of overbroad NDAs like those used by the Trump campaign prevent the American people from obtaining vital information about candidates for office and elected officials. Today’s ruling vindicates our profound national commitment to uninhibited, robust, and wide-open public debate about public officials and candidates for office.” As the Court explained, because the effect of the Form NDA “is to chill the speech of Denson and other former Campaign workers about matters of public interest, the non-disclosure provision is harmful not only to them but also to the general public.”…

    In related news – CNN – “Judge allows Summer Zervos’ defamation lawsuit against Trump to proceed now that he’s out of office”:

    A New York appeals court on Tuesday paved the way for a defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump to move forward.

    In a one-sentence order, the appeals court granted the request form Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” to dismiss Trump’s appeal now that he is no longer in office.

    The lawsuit is one of several legal issues facing the former President now that he’s left the White House. He is facing multiple criminal investigations, civil state inquiries and defamation lawsuits by two women accusing him of sexual assault.

    Zervos sued Trump for defamation after he denied her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in 2007. The case had been delayed over questions of whether the US constitution bars a state court from exercising jurisdiction over the president while he or she is in office.

    The case, which has been on hold since January 2020, will now proceed before the trial court….

  9. blf says

    Not too l0ng ago, I did someting I haven’t done since sometime last year (October?) — go out for a draft beer. Earlier I’d visited a local specialist beer bar and ordered multiple bottles to take home. Whilst there, I noticed they were also selling some draft beers for immediate — albeit off-premises — quaffing.

    I got a selection of nice bottles, and a thirst for a draft… so later, after doing all my shopping for the day(? week?) wandered out to get a draft… at a different bar (partly because they were closer, and partly to “spread the money” around, so-to-speak). Whilst it’s not quite the fastest I’ve ever consumed a pint — fastest was at a one-off(?) reunion gig of the legendary Moving Hearts band in Dublin (not the very very good lineup with Christy Moore, but the very good instrumental lineup) where, after ordering my pint, I discovered they weren’t allowing drinks in the concert room (in Dublin!), and the concert was starting in something like 5 minutes, so a Very Quick Quaffing on an entire pint… — this afternoon’s pint was amazingly fast… feck, that was good ! (So was sitting outside in the sunshine, alongside the Old Harbour in the village.)

  10. says

    New York Times:

    The U.S. has averaged 65,000 new cases a day over the past week — a 19 percent increase from two weeks ago. That puts the country close to last summer’s peak, though still far below January levels.

    […] Several factors are fueling the upturn, Apoorva Mandavilli, a Times science reporter, told us. A more contagious variant (the one first identified in Britain, called B.1.1.7) is spreading. Some mayors and governors have continued to lift restrictions and mask rules. Many Americans are behaving less cautiously. And vaccinations have not gotten the country near herd immunity.

    Many experts aren’t surprised. “For literally a month and a half, we’ve all been predicting that the second half of March is when B.1.1.7 would become the dominant variant in the United States,” says Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health. “And sure enough, here we are.”

    The increase is not distributed equally. “New York and New Jersey have been bad and are not getting better, and Michigan’s cases are rising at an explosive rate,” Mitch Smith, a Times reporter covering the pandemic, said.

    Hospitalizations are also rising rapidly in Michigan, with Jackson, Detroit and Flint among the metro areas experiencing the highest rates of new cases in the country.

    What happens next? Cases could continue to rise in the coming weeks, Apoorva says. Between vaccinations and prior infections, half the country may have some form of immunity to the virus, according to Jha: “That still leaves a lot of vulnerable people who can get infected.”

    But the success of the country’s ongoing vaccination drive should keep deaths and hospitalizations well below their January peaks. Many of the people at the greatest risk of severe illness have already been inoculated, which means new cases are likely to be concentrated among younger and healthier people.

    And there are many reasons to expect the state of the pandemic to improve as summer approaches. More and more Americans will get vaccinated. The arrival of warmer weather will let more people spend time outside, where the virus spreads less easily. And cities and states could blunt some new cases by keeping indoor mask mandates.

    Caution in the immediate term and hope in the longer term can make for difficult public health messaging. President Biden walked that line this week, celebrating expanded vaccine access while warning that “reckless behavior” could lead to more infections.

    The solution, Jha believes, is honesty. “There’s been this debate throughout the whole pandemic: Should we be more optimistic or should we be more pessimistic? My personal strategy has been to just be honest with people,” he says. “Be honest with people and give it to them straight. I think most people can handle it.” […]

  11. says

    Republican shenanigans:

    In Kentucky, the Republican-led legislature yesterday overrode Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D) veto and approved a measure that requires “the governor to temporarily fill a vacant U.S. Senator’s seat with an appointee from the same party.” Currently, there are no such vacancies, but GOP legislators pushed the just-in-case policy anyway.

    Link

  12. says

    Follow-up to comment 496 from SC, and other comments in the previous chapter of this thread:

    […] How did this investigation begin in the first place?

    According to the New York Times’ reporting, the congressman’s controversy stems from a broader investigation into one of Matt Gaetz’s political allies: Joel Greenberg, a former local elected official in the Orlando area. Greenberg, an almost comically scandalous figure, has been indicted on a variety of crimes, “including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.” [See this segment of The Rachel Maddow show ]

    What has Gaetz said about his controversy?

    While politicians facing investigations generally say very little on the advice of counsel, Gaetz has been quite loquacious since late yesterday afternoon. The GOP lawmaker told Axios, for example, “The allegations of sexual misconduct against me are false,” though he went on to say, “I have definitely, in my single days, provided for women I’ve dated. You know, I’ve paid for flights, for hotel rooms. I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner. I think someone is trying to make that look criminal when it is not.”

    He also published a series of tweets in the early evening, describing an “organized criminal extortion” scheme involving a former Justice Department official. According to Gaetz’s Twitter thread, which included a denial about the latest allegations, he and his family have been working with the FBI to catch those responsible for the extortion scheme. “The planted leak to the FBI tonight was intended to thwart that investigation,” the congressman added.

    What is a “planted leak to the FBI”?
    I haven’t the foggiest idea.

    If Gaetz and his family are really cooperating with the FBI as part of some kind of legitimate sting operation, why would he be talking about it on Twitter?

    Your guess is as good as mine.

    Is it possible that this extortion scheme is real?

    At this point, anything’s possible, though the timeline is highly relevant: the Justice Department began its investigation into Gaetz last year. The congressman seems to be claiming that someone found out about the investigation and tried to extort him. It’s hard to say with any confidence whether or not that happened, but either way, it doesn’t appear to change the fact that federal law enforcement pursued a probe about his alleged misconduct.

    Who is this person Gaetz is accusing?

    On Fox News last night, the congressman pointed a finger at David McGee, a former Justice Department official who’s now in private practice. McGee told the Daily Beast last night that any reports of extortion involving him or his firm are “completely, totally false.” McGee added, “This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that Matt Gaetz is apparently about to be indicted for sex trafficking underage girls.”

    What else has Gaetz said?

    In his Fox News appearance last night — which host Tucker Carlson said was “one of the weirdest interviews” of his media career — the Florida congressman also strenuously denied that there are pictures of him “with child prostitutes.” That was also odd since there didn’t appear to be any such public allegations.

    Anything else?

    In 2017, less than a year into Gaetz’s first term on Capitol Hill, Congress voted on a proposal to increase law-enforcement funding to combat child sex trafficking. Out of 535 members of Congress, across the House and Senate, literally only one lawmaker — Florida’s Matt Gaetz — voted against the bill. […]

    Link

  13. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Brazil detects new Covid variant similar to South African one

    Brazil has detected a new Covid variant in Sao Paulo state that is similar to the one first seen in South Africa, Dimas Covas, the president of the state’s Butantan biomedical institute, has said. We will bring you more on this as updates come in.

    Reuters reports:

    The French stadium that hosted World Cup finals in soccer and rugby is taking on a new role in response to the Covid-19 pandemic: it is becoming a vaccination centre.

    Workers at the Stade de France venue were on Wednesday putting up tents for use as vaccination cubicles inside a hall in the bowels of the stadium that in pre-pandemic times was used to host conferences and VIP receptions.

    The Stade de France is due to host the French soccer cup final in May, the final of the domestic rugby competition in June, and a concert by US performer Lady Gaga in July, but these should be unaffected because the pitch and locker rooms are not part of the vaccination centre.

    “We’re very pleased that this flagship of French sport can also be a vaccination centre,” said Loic Duroselle, head of programmes at the stadium.

    The stadium will start vaccinating people on 6 April. It is aiming to inoculate around 10,000 a week, said Duroselle, and will employ 150 staff each day.

    The 80,000-seat Stade de France was the venue of the 1998 soccer World Cup final, won by the home team, and it also hosted the 2007 rugby World Cup final.

    I have questions.

  14. says

    Josh Marshall:

    When I saw the first reports of the Gaetz story I figured he was hooked up with some sleazeball who kept a coterie of young women on hand for his male pals enjoyment. Gaetz partook and got swept up in the investigation of the sleazeball associate. Some version of that seems broadly true and the friend is a disgraced GOP rising star named Joel Greenberg, who was the tax chief in Seminole County before getting indicted for stalking, child sex trafficking and more.

    But Gaetz’s performance on TV and Twitter last night makes me think his legal predicament is significantly more serious. Sex with a minor, with money involved and crossing state lines, is certainly bad enough. But these wild claims about good guy and bad guy factions at the DOJ, feds pressuring various friends to testify against him, denials about photographs with underaged girls that no one had at least publicly accused him of yet – these are the flounderings and flailings of a guy wrapped up in something considerably more serious.

    It’s worth noting that Gaetz’s story about his dad wearing a wire to entrap an alleged extortionist and the original NYT story aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Indeed, even for a clown as big as Gaetz is it’s a little hard for me to imagine he made the wire story up out of whole cloth. I mean, it’s Matt Gaetz. Anything’s possible. But it’s hard for me to imagine there’s not some shred of truth there. One can sketch out a situation where Gaetz is under criminal investigation for some role in a trafficking ring and then someone comes in and tries to shake him down with the threat of going public with the charges. A second group from federal law enforcement might get involved there – especially since Gaetz is a member of Congress. In any case, it doesn’t look great for Matt Gaetz’s future political career.

    I also can’t help but note that Matt Gaetz isn’t a college senior who’s in hot water and has his dad swooping in to bail him out. He’s 38 years old, what we once called early middle-age. How is his dad involved in this? The obvious answer is that Gaetz basically inherited his political career from his dad – a longtime Florida GOP pol – and his dad helped him wriggle out of some DUI arrests back in the day. There’s a strong Don Jr/failson odor to this whole dimension of the story.

    Link

  15. lumipuna says

    In 294 on the previous page, I wrote that Finnish government was pushing a bizarrely complicated (yet not very strict) emergency law to restrict people’s movement in the most disease-ridden areas.

    Now, the parliament’s constitutional committee has found the much-hyped proposal flatly unconstitutional, because it’s unnecessarily restrictive and complicated for its purpose (stopping private gatherings), yet vague in its practical details. Some parts of it (like mask mandate in public indoor spaces) will be likely transferred into a new proposal that will again take weeks to process.

    Meanwhile, infections have stopped rising, but remain unacceptably high, and may very well continue rising once the public alarm over the recent surge wears off. More restrictions are needed, and preferably sooner rather than later.

  16. says

    Amid flurry of anti-trans bills, President Biden makes it clear he stands with the queer community

    In a first for any United States president, Joe Biden issued a formal presidential proclamation for the Transgender Day of Visibility on Wednesday […] Since 2009, the Transgender Day of Visibility has occurred annually on March 31 and is celebrated internationally. Unlike the Trans Day of Remembrance, which exists to honor and mourn those lost in the previous year, Trans Day of Visibility is to celebrate the work, contributions, and visibility of transgender and nonbinary folks.

    […] trans folks are facing an absolute onslaught of state-level attacks across the nation. A number of states are dead set against allowing trans girls and women to play on girls’ sports teams, while a growing number of states are also trying to bar transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming heath care. Some states, too, are trying to bar transgender folks from being able to update and correct their birth certificates. This context is part of why Biden’s proclamation is so meaningful.

    In his proclamation, Biden acknowledges progress and the real-life impact it has on people of all ages. He writes that this “hard-fought progress” is “shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community.”

    Biden describes anti-trans violence as a “stain on our nation’s conscience” and recognizes that in spite of many steps forward, transgender youth and adults “still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality.” Biden makes specific note of barriers transgender people face when it comes to housing, jobs, and health care. He also notes violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color.

    […] the Equality Act still sits in limbo in the U.S. Senate. Though the House already passed the progressive, LGBTQ+ inclusive legislation, the federal protection against discrimination for LGBTQ folks has yet to actually reach Biden’s desk. […]

  17. says

    Aiyiyiyi, such ugliness.

    A man in Michigan has admitted to beating a Black teen with a bike chain due to his race.

    The Justice Department said in a statement on Tuesday that 43-year-old Lee James Mouat pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime for the incident that occurred last June. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 24.

    Mouat faces up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.

    In the plea agreement, Mouat admitted that he confronted a group of Black teenagers at a state park, the DOJ said Tuesday. Mouat also admitted to repeatedly using racial slurs and said Black people could not use the beach where the incident occurred.

    Mouat also admitted to striking one of the teenagers’ face with a bike lock, which knocked out several of his teeth, lacerated his face and mouth, and fractured his jaw. He also attempted to strike another Black teenager with the bike lock.

    The DOJ did not name the victim. The Detroit Free Press reported that it was 18-year-old Devin Freelon, Jr.

    Federal prosecutors first charged Mouat in October with “willfully causing bodily injury to an African American teenager because of the teenager’s race.”

    A criminal complaint at the time said that he yelled “N——” don’t belong on this beach and “Black Lives Don’t Matter” before attacking the victim.

    A grand jury later indicted Mouat in February on two charges for willfully causing bodily injury to a Black teenager and attempting to cause bodily injury to another Black teenager because of their race. […]

    Link

  18. says

    New York just legalized marijuana

    New York is the 15th state to legalize marijuana.

    New York on Wednesday legalized marijuana, with the legislature passing a bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signing it into law.

    Under the law, people 21 and older will be able to grow and use marijuana. The state will also set up a regulated, legal marijuana market, with new tax revenues directed to education, drug treatment and prevention, and communities disproportionately hurt by the war on drugs. And it will automatically expunge people’s criminal records of marijuana offenses that are no longer illegal.

    The law came together after years of back-and-forth in the legislature. Cuomo came out in support of legalization in 2018. But the legislation stalled as the governor and lawmakers clashed over the details of legalization, particularly how new tax revenues should be used. A breakthrough came […] after neighboring New Jersey legalized marijuana.

    New York has allowed marijuana use for medical purposes since 2014. But the new law will expand the state’s medical marijuana program, allowing more medical conditions to qualify and let patients smoke or vape the drug.

    Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But starting with former President Barack Obama’s administration, the federal government has generally allowed states to legalize cannabis with minimal federal interference.

    With New York’s law, 15 states and Washington, DC, have now legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, although DC doesn’t allow recreational sales. (South Dakota voters approved a ballot initiative to legalize cannabis in November, but that measure’s future is uncertain as it’s caught up in legal battles.) […]

  19. says

    Of course. All the best people flock together.

    Wonkette: “Hope Y’all Are Sitting Down: Jim Jordan Is On Team Matt Gaetz!”

    And everybody who ever wrestled for Ohio State said WHAT? Wait WHAT? Our Jim Jordan? The same guy who, according to former OSU wrestlers, was absolutely aware of and looked the other way while the team doc was sexually assaulting thousands of them? WHAT? He said WHAT? Jim Jordan is standing by Matt Gaetz?

    So that is shocking.

    We discussed in our last Pizzagaetz post that Republicans all over DC and elsewhere are gleefully texting each other about how much they hate Matt Gaetz and just aren’t all too upset about what’s currently happening in his life. But obviously there are dead-enders, fellow seditionist members of Congress, the absolute worst shithole human beings America has ever produced and subsequently sent to Congress, who stand with Gaetz. Jordan naturally is one of them.

    Marjorie Taylor Greene is another. She is shouting on Twitter, echoing Gaetz’s demands that the FBI/DOJ please RELEASETHETRANSCRIPTSs!!11!!1TAPES! of the alleged extortion attempt against Gaetz, which actually has zero to do with whether Gaetz is innocent of the sex trafficking allegations.

    The DOJ needs to release the tapes instead of allowing another witch hunt to take place. Remember all the conspiracy theories and lies like Trump/Russia collusion and propaganda that the media has spread around.

    Take it from me rumors and headlines don’t equal truth. I stand with @mattgaetz

    [ALL the best people!]

    […] “If it comes out to be true, yes,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy [says he] would remove Gaetz from his assigned committees. Notably, that includes the Judiciary Committee that has oversight of the FBI and DOJ reportedly investigating Gaetz.

    Presumably he’d wait until Gaetz was convicted of a crime and was literally being carted off to federal prison. […]

    Link

    Meanwhile, Gaetz’s staff posted today that his office in Washington D.C. “seeks Interns.”

  20. says

    “Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan to Rebuild Infrastructure and Reshape the Economy”

    NY Times link

    The president will begin selling his proposal on Wednesday, saying it would fix 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges, while also addressing climate change and racial inequities, and raising corporate taxes.

    […] The spending in the plan would take place over eight years, officials said. […]

    But even spread over years, the scale of the proposal underscores how fully Mr. Biden has embraced the opportunity to use federal spending to address longstanding social and economic challenges in a way not seen in half a century. Officials said that, if approved, the spending in the plan would end decades of stagnation in federal investment in research and infrastructure — and would return government investment in those areas, as a share of the economy, to its highest levels since the 1960s.

    […] with Republicans already unloading a torrent of objections to the package’s scope and Mr. Biden’s ambitions to increase corporate taxes, budget reconciliation may be the only avenue for Democrats to pass the legislation at its current size. It would require Democratic leaders to keep their caucus united in support of the plan, with little room for defections in the House and none in the Senate.

    Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, spoke with Mr. Biden about the proposal earlier this week. But he suggested he was unlikely to support the package in the form being proposed by the White House.

    […] Administration officials said the tax increases in the plan — including an increase in the corporate tax rate and a variety of measures to tax multinationals on money they earn and book overseas — would take 15 years to fully offset the cost of the spending programs.

    The spending in the plan covers a wide range of physical infrastructure projects, including transportation, broadband, the electric grid and housing; efforts to jump-start advanced manufacturing; and other industries officials see as key to the United States’ growing economic competition with China. It also includes money to train millions of workers, as well as money for initiatives to support labor unions and providers of in-home care for older and disabled Americans, while also increasing the pay of the workers who provide that care. […]

  21. says

    Documents Show Trump Officials Skirted Rules To Reward Politically Connected And Untested Firms With Huge Pandemic Contracts

    House Democrats investigating the COVID-19 response say Trump adviser Peter Navarro pressured agencies to award deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

    A top adviser to former President Donald Trump pressured agency officials to reward politically connected or otherwise untested companies with hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts as part of a chaotic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the early findings of an inquiry led by House Democrats.

    Peter Navarro, who served as Trump’s deputy assistant and trade adviser, essentially verbally awarded a $96 million deal for respirators to a company with White House connections. Later, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency were pressured to sign the contract after the fact, according to correspondence obtained by congressional investigators.

    Documents obtained by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis after a year of resistance from the Trump administration offer new details about Navarro’s role in a largely secretive buying spree of personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

    [Navarro] was among the first Trump officials to sense the urgency of the building crisis, urging the president to push agencies and other officials to “combat the virus swiftly in ‘Trump Time’” and cut through the red tape of the federal purchasing system.

    In another communication, Navarro was so adamant that a potential $354 million contract be awarded to an untested pharmaceutical company that he told the top official at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, “my head is going to explode if this contract does not get immediately approved.”

    […] more than $36 billion the federal government has awarded, much of it without traditional bidding and with little scrutiny, to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

    […] “The President rejected calls from governors to ensure that the country had sufficient (personal protective equipment) and other supplies to address the crisis, leading to severe shortages and forcing states and cities to compete on the open market,” they wrote.

    […] “In the absence of a coordinated national plan, various White House officials pursued ineffective, ad hoc approaches to procuring certain supplies. Recently obtained documents show that White House officials pushed federal agencies to issue non-competitive contracts for certain pharmaceutical ingredients and other items — some of which would not be ready for many months or even years — even as acute shortages for surgical masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, and other items continued,” members of the subcommittee wrote.

    […] Airboss Defense Group, a subsidiary of Canadian company Airboss of America, […] used an influential consultant to connect Navarro with Airboss CEO Patrick Callahan.

    Retired four-star Army Gen. John Keane, whom Trump had recently awarded the Medal of Honor, reached out to Navarro on behalf of Airboss and the company got a phone meeting with the White House Coronavirus Task Force […]

    In a separate contract negotiation, this time for generic pharmaceuticals, Navarro pressured FEMA and officials leading the effort to beef up a depleted national stockpile to award a potential $354 million deal to Phlow to make drug ingredients. In an email pressing BARDA officials Navarro wrote: “This is a travesty. I need PHLOW noticed by Monday morning. This is being screwed up. Let’s move this now. We need to flip the switch and they can’t move until you do. FULL funding as we discussed.”

    Democrats on the subcommittee noted that Phlow had never before received a federal contract and had incorporated just a couple months earlier, in January 2020. [typical]

    In another public letter this month, the subcommittee expressed concern that Robert Stewart, the CEO of Federal Government Experts LLC, which was awarded a no-bid $34.5 million contract with the VA and a smaller deal with FEMA, wasn’t cooperating with its investigation.

    This contradicts statements his lawyer made before a federal district judge just weeks before, that Stewart was helping congressional investigators, as he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of fraud. […]

    Grifters and fraudsters.

  22. blf says

    Follow-up to my@500(previous page), French President Macron has now apparently finished speaking. (I didn’t watch.) According to France to widen Covid-19 lockdown measures to others parts of the country, says Macron:

    […]
    Macron widened the light lockdown measures [in some areas …] to all of mainland France. “We don’t have to lock ourselves in but we need to limit our contacts,” he said.

    [… Schools are closed for three weeks…]

    Travel between different French regions will be banned for the duration of the nationwide light lockdown, while the 7pm curfew currently imposed on the 19 regions will be extended to all of mainland France. [Something is garbled here, since as far as I know, the 7pm–6am curfew already applies to all of France –blf]

    [… T]he president said that café terraces and some cultural venues could re-open “under strict rules” from mid-May.

    Macron emphasised that jabs are the route out of the nightmare: “Thanks to vaccines, the end of the crisis is on the horizon.”

    He said the government’s objective was to “accelerate the programme as much as possible” — promising that anyone over 60 will be able to get a vaccine from April 16 and anyone over 50 from May 15. [Without being specific, I would be included — yea! — which, if this really does happen, is earlier than my own estimate of “August” (a crude estimate which hasn’t changed since I initially calculated it end-ish January!) –blf …]

  23. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    …In a televised address to the nation, the president, Emmanuel Macron, said the government had waited “until the last moment” to impose further restrictions, winning the country “precious weeks of freedom”, but that “we now have to make one more big effort”.

    In January, Macron rejected scientific advice to impose a strict lockdown and instead ordered an evening and night-time curfew, but kept schools and shops open in a “third way” intended to limit repercussions on the economy and mental health….

    Dipshit.

  24. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Turkey has recorded 39,302 new coronavirus cases in the space of 24 hours, the highest level since the beginning of the pandemic, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.

    The government eased measures to curb the pandemic in Turkey earlier this month, prompting a surge in new cases. On Monday, the president Tayyip Erdogan announced a tightening of measures, including the return of full nationwide weekend lockdowns for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which will start in two weeks.

    The latest daily death toll was 152, bringing the cumulative toll to 31,537, according to the health ministry.

    “We have diagnosed 180,448 cases of the variant first identified in Britain…the variant currently reached 75% of total cases in our country,” the health minister Fahrettin Koca said.

    Koca also said the government was determined to vaccinate the majority of the population by the end of June.

    Turkey has until now been using Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd and procured the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

    The country has carried out 16.04 million inoculations, with 9.14 million people having received a first dose, since Jan. 14 when the nationwide rollout began.

  25. blf says

    SC@27, Referring to French President Macron, “Dipshit.”

    (standing ovation) 👍 👏 👏 😷 💉

  26. says

    Democracy Now! – “Bloody Crackdown in Burma Since Feb. 1 Military Coup Kills 500+ Amid Resistance from Youth, Women”:

    AMY GOODMAN: …For more, we’re joined by Aron Aung…. He came to the U.S. to attend college and is a senior at the New York Institute of Technology. His recent piece for the college’s newspaper, called the Manhattan Globe, is headlined “Misogyny Silenced, Feminism Amplified.”

    ARON AUNG: Right. So, the military is very deep-rooted in our history. Like you said, it was formed during the Japanese takeover in our country back then. And basically, they rose into power when we, quote-unquote, “won” independence from the British. So, what happened was, after we received independence, our father of independence, Bogyoke Aung San, he was assassinated, and the country kind of went into turmoil. There was no ruler, so the military stood up, and, like, they took over. And they have not given back the power to the people since.

    So it’s very deep-rooted. And I believe that countries like the United Kingdom and Japan, all these countries, like, they do have a sense of responsibility, to a point, that this is a very deep-rooted issue, and they should be supporting the people in this modern world that we live in today.

    AMY GOODMAN: Your piece in the Manhattan Globe, the New York Institute of Technology newspaper, begins, “I remember as a young boy, sitting in restaurants and neighborhood tea shops, hearing ‘shh…’ amongst the voices of conversations and the clinking chaos of spoons and ceramic cups. When a police or a soldier’s presence was detected, people would stop talking and try to ignore these men in uniforms. One can’t help but be intimidated by them.” Talk about growing up there and what your parents would say to you about what could be talked about, and now as you desperately try to reach your parents on the phone.

    ARON AUNG: Yeah. So, I grew up under the military regime, basically born into it. And the world was just — thinking about it, it was a scarier time, but then, as a kid, I didn’t understand anything, right? Because we would be out in public — everyone’s scared of soldiers. I was just — I just thought soldiers were someone to be scared of, not loved or appreciated like in other countries, like the United States, where marines and soldiers are, like, congratulated, and everyone is like — even when you see military marines on the streets, people say, “Thank you for your service.” But that’s not the experience that I had in my country. Instead, we were taught to fear them.

    “Democracy” is definitely not a word, back then, when I was growing up, to be talked about. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, like, we couldn’t talk about her. We couldn’t bring up her name anywhere in public, because you never know who’s listening. Back then, undercover cops were a huge thing. So, even in like tea shops and restaurants, getting breakfast, it’s a huge thing. It’s a huge culture in my country to go to tea shops in the morning to, like, catch up and talk about the daily news and stuff. So they purposely would place these undercover cops in these tea shops and restaurants so that they can listen in to the citizens’ conversations, prosecute them at will, if they may. Yeah, so it was a very interesting, growing up, experience, if I look back to it now.

    AMY GOODMAN: And you also write about the women-led revolution, which I don’t think people hear so much about, in Burma. You talked about Daw Aung San — you talked about Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained by the military on February 1st at the time of the military coup. But the significance of who’s in the streets right now, Aron?

    ARON AUNG: Yeah. So, a few weeks ago, we had the Htamein Revolution. ”Htamein” is like a sarong or a skirt worn by — a traditional sarong worn by the women of Myanmar. And our country has deep-rooted misogyny, just culture-wise. We have this idea called ”hpone,” which is the topic that I talked about in the second article that I wrote for school — ”hpone,” which is like — it’s the idea that men have a higher aura, or, like, not a physical, just like luck — right? — than women. So, this idea has been ingrained in all of us. But then, throughout — this has nothing to do with religion or anything; it’s just a cultural thing where we’ve been raised.

    But with this revolution, a few weeks ago, women stood up to the frontlines. And women have been standing up in this revolution. Women have been on the frontlines. They’ve been showing men, they’ve been proving all these misogynistic men, that they have the power and they have — like, they can do what these men are doing. And so, they started going out on the — they protested, went out on the streets, tied their sarongs to sticks and waived them as flags proudly up in the air. They started tying their longyis and their undergarments on the street poles, because it’s also a belief that men are not to walk underneath these skirts, like women’s clothing items and stuff like that. So these soldiers were actually hesitant to cross these lines because there were women’s undergarments that were blocking the way. So they had to spend time taking them down, which bought protesters time to run away from them, hide from them. So, I’m just so happy with people’s creativities back home in the ways we protest and how we do it so seamlessly and peacefully.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Aron, about that issue of the peaceful protests, there have long been ethnic groups in different parts of the country that have resisted the control of the central government. And back in the British colonial period, the British actually pitted different ethnic groups within Burma against each other. I’m wondering how you sense the potential for the armed groups of the ethnic minorities to unite with the broader peaceful movement that has developed in the cities against the dictatorship.

    ARON AUNG: Correct. Growing up, we were all taught — like, the news media portrayed these ethnic military groups as like rebel groups, right? So, until, honestly, up until the coup, I also believed that to be true. I just thought that they had these rebel military groups. But little did we know, now that they’re speaking up about it, and then now they’re — like, now we find out that this military ethnic cleansing has been going on for way too long, and the people of Burma were unaware of it in the major cities. But all they were trying to do is to protect their own people from the military.

    And right now all the so-called rebel groups — but they are no longer rebel groups, they are fighting for us, they’re fighting for the people of Myanmar — they have been joining together to form our own military, to serve under the CRPH, which is the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which is the democratic government group that we, the people of Myanmar, have elected in the 2020 elections that have been overthrown.

    AMY GOODMAN: Finally, are you afraid for your family back in Burma, Aron?

    ARON AUNG: Very. I would like to think that they’d be safe inside their own homes, up until recently. But just seeing videos and news of them just barging into people’s houses with no respect for human life, it’s just, honestly — like, you never know what they will do. They’re targeting any activist, anyone, honestly. Like, who would go into a house to murder a 7-year-old child? You know?…

  27. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Brazil has closed out a month in which it recorded a staggering 57,606 Covid-19 fatalities, with hospitals overwhelmed and doctors forced to make agonising decisions over whom to give life-saving care, AFP reports.

    “Never in Brazilian history have we seen a single event kill so many people in 30 days,” said Dr Miguel Nicolelis, response team coordinator for the impoverished northeast.

    With the southern hemisphere winter now approaching and the virus spreading fast, Brazil is facing “a perfect storm,” he told AFP.

    Epidemiologist Ethel Maciel warned that “the worst is yet to come” as the country’s vaccination campaign is advancing slowly due to a shortage of doses.

    Health experts say the explosion of cases is partly driven by a local virus variant known as “P1”, which is believed to be more contagious, able to re-infect people who have had the original strain, and has already spread to more than two dozen countries, including the US, the UK and Japan.

  28. says

    From NBC’s trial liveblog:

    Juror in Chauvin trial has ‘stress-related reaction’

    A juror in the high-profile trial against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd had a “stress-related reaction” Wednesday.

    Juror 7 returned to the courtroom Wednesday while the rest of the jury was out of the room during a break and was seated on the witness stand.

    Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill asked the woman how she was feeling.

    “I’m shaky, but better,” the juror responded.

    The judge asked her if she had a “stress-related reaction” adding, “We have to make a record of this.”

    The juror said that she did and the judge said he understands she has been having trouble sleeping.

    The juror then said she had been awake since 2 a.m.

    “I think I’ll be OK going forward,” she added.

    Witness breaks down in tears on stand as he watches video of George Floyd calling out for his mother

    Charles McMillian, 61, who was driving near Cup Foods on May 25 when he came upon the arrest of George Floyd, sobbed on the witness stand after video was played of Floyd calling out for his mother.

    McMillian yelled, “You can’t win!” at Floyd while he was being arrested and as officers tried to put him in the back of a squad car, according to bystander video.

    McMillian testified that he was trying to convince Floyd to get into the car.

    “Oh my God,” McMillan sobbed after the video was turned off. He grabbed several tissues and wiped his eyes and face.

    Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge asked McMillian what he was feeling and he said that he felt “helpless” and that he understood Floyd because he had lost his mother on June 25.

    Judge Peter Cahill called for a 10-minute break.

    Video at the link.

  29. says

    Update to #11 – late breaking dam: “EXCLUSIVE: Coca-Cola CEO says the restrictive Georgia voting law is ‘unacceptable…it is a step backward…’

    Quincey also says ‘this legislation is wrong, and needs to be remedied, and we will continue to advocate for it both in private and in now even more clearly in public'”

  30. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Rachel had on AOC, who was saying that instead of 2.2 trillion infrastructure bill, it should be ten trillion. She made a good case. I’ll post available segments in the morning.

  31. says

    Guardian – “Brazil: calls grow for removal of ‘coup-mongering’ Bolsonaro as crisis builds”:

    Prominent leaders of Brazil’s opposition have called for president Jair Bolsonaro to be immediately removed from office to prevent his “coup-mongering, authoritarian delusions” becoming a reality.

    “We cannot be bystanders to this barbarism,” congressman Marcelo Freixo said on Wednesday as parliamentarians demanded Bolsonaro’s impeachment for what they called his illegal attempt to co-opt the armed forces.

    Bolsonaro’s decision to sack Brazil’s defence minister Gen Fernando Azevedo e Silva – and the subsequent departures of the heads of all three branches of the military – has sent political shockwaves through the world’s fourth-largest democracy.

    “There is an attempt here by the president to arrange a coup – it is under way already – and that is why we are reacting,” claimed Alessandro Molon, the leader of the opposition in the lower house, as the impeachment request was presented to congress.

    Gen Azevedo e Silva was relieved of his duties on Monday, with members of the military establishment pushing the idea that he was sacked for resisting Bolsonaro’s plans for a “coup-mongering adventure”. Hours later, on Tuesday morning, the heads of the army, air force and navy were reportedly dismissed during an ill-tempered meeting after Bolsonaro had discovered they were poised to resign in protest.

    The sudden and dramatic fissure between Brazil’s far-right president and the military men who helped bring him to power in 2018 has yet to be fully explained. Some observers suspect senior members of the armed forces had decided to ditch Bolsonaro’s crisis-stricken administration – partly out of frustration at his calamitous handling of an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 320,000 Brazilians.

    Others believe military chiefs may genuinely have been trying to protect Brazilian democracy after Bolsonaro, a former army captain known for his admiration of dictators, attempted some kind of authoritarian move such as a self-coup, by which a democratically elected leader takes on dictatorial powers.

    João Roberto Martins Filho, a leading military expert, said at least eight different explanations for the rupture were circulating, and it was unclear which was true.

    “We don’t even know yet what Bolsonaro proposed. He’s crazy enough to propose these kinds of things but we just don’t know and it will be hard to find out,” Martins Filho said, adding that he was unconvinced by the ousted military commanders’s efforts to position themselves as defenders of democracy.

    Whatever happened, few doubt the week’s drama represents a pivotal and potentially dangerous moment in the modern history of a country that only emerged from two decades of dictatorship in 1985.

    “This is a major moment for Brazilian democracy,” said Brian Winter, a Brazil specialist and the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly.

    Winter said he suspected Bolsonaro had been trying to fill the military top brass with more amenable figures who might help shield him from impeachment or come to his rescue if he failed in his bid to win re-election next year.

    Bolsonaro’s fears over his ability to secure a second term appear to have intensified in recent months, with polls showing his handling of Covid has dented support and the unexpected re-emergence of his political nemesis Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva….

  32. says

    Here’s a link to the April 1 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Europe’s vaccination campaign is “unacceptably slow” while rising infection rates in most countries across the region mean its virus situation is “more worrying than we have seen in several months”, the World Health Organization has said.

    The WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, said on Thursday that vaccines “present our best way out of this pandemic. Not only do they work, they are highly effective in preventing infection. However, their rollout is unacceptably slow.”

    Kluge said falling infections among the over-80s in Europe reflected “early signs of the impact of vaccination”, while data from the UK’s campaign suggested vaccines had so far “saved, at the very least, over 6,000 lives among people over 70”….

    Doctors in Germany have warned that the country’s ICU capacity could be overwhelmed within weeks without a short, sharp lockdown.

    Italy has made coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all health workers, in a potentially controversial move aimed at protecting vulnerable patients and pushing back against significant ‘no-vax’ sentiment in the country.

    Johnson & Johnson has said that a batch of 15m Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in the US failed quality standards and can’t be used.

    The US has been on high alert for incidences of coronavirus variants which experts fear could push the world’s highest national case count even higher. Christina Maxouris reports for CNN that the US has recorded more than 11,500 cases of the B117 variant first spotted in the UK, but that the federal health agency has said the number is likely larger. She writes:

    The highest B117 case counts are in Florida, which has welcomed crowds of spring breakers, followed by Michigan, where officials say another surge is well on its way.

    “We’ve got a high proportion of variants, and that means coronavirus spreads faster,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told CNN on Wednesday. “These are much more contagious and we’re seeing that whether it is at youth sports or it is the reengagement of some of our restaurants.”

    Whitmer said the variants, combined with ongoing pandemic fatigue and more travel, are behind the state’s worrying trends. New Jersey officials also noted the B117 variant as they reported a rise in cases and hospitalizations and warned the numbers could stay high into the summer.

    “It is believed that the uptick in cases is due primarily to more contagious variants, for example B117, the UK variant, coupled with less cautious behaviors,” the state health commissioner, Judy Persichilli, said on Wednesday.

    At least 97.6 million people in the US have now received one or both doses of a vaccine. The infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci urged the nation to hold fast.

    “We’re vaccinating about 3 million people a day. Every day that goes by we get closer and closer to a greater degree of protection. So now is just not the time to pull back and declare premature victory,” Fauci told CNN on Wednesday.

    “Hang in there a bit longer,” he said. “Just hang on, continue to do the public health measures and then we can pull back later, when we get a greater degree of protection from the vaccines.”

  33. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Pfizer vaccine good for at least 6 months and against some variants.

    The ongoing Phase 3 clinical trial of Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine confirms its protection lasts at least six months after the second dose, the companies said Thursday.
    It’s the first look at how long protection for a coronavirus vaccine lasts, and while six months is a modest target, it’s longer than the 90 days of protection been the best estimate offered to date.
    The vaccine remains more than 91% effective against disease with any symptoms for six months, the companies said. And it appeared to be fully effective against the worrying B.1.351 variant of the virus, which is the dominant strain circulating in South Africa and which researchers feared had evolved to evade the protection of vaccines, the companies said.
    “The vaccine was 100% effective against severe disease as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 95.3% effective against severe COVID-19 as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” Pfizer and BioNTech said in a joint statement.
    On Wednesday, the companies said a small trial of volunteers aged12 to 15 showed 100% efficacy in that age group.
    “These data confirm the favorable efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine and position us to submit a Biologics License Application to the U.S. FDA,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. A BLA is an application for full approval. The vaccine currently has emergency use authorization, EUA, which falls short of full approval.
    “The high vaccine efficacy observed through up to six months following a second dose and against the variant prevalent in South Africa provides further confidence in our vaccine’s overall effectiveness.”
    The company has been studying the vaccine in more than 46,000 volunteers and has noted 927 cases of confirmed Covid-19.
    “From the 927 confirmed symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the trial, 850 cases of COVID-19 were in the placebo group and 77 cases were in the BNT162b2 group, corresponding to vaccine efficacy of 91.3%,” it said.
    “Thirty-two cases of severe disease, as defined by the CDC, were observed in the placebo group versus none in the BNT162b2 vaccinated group, indicating that the vaccine was 100% efficacious in this analysis against severe disease by the CDC definition. Twenty-one cases, as defined by the FDA, were observed in the placebo group versus one case in the BNT162b2 vaccinated group, indicating 95.3% efficacy by the FDA definition.”
    These definitions matter. The FDA’s definition of severe disease included a raised respiratory rate indicating respiratory distress; raised heart rate, an oxygen saturation level of 93% or lower; respiratory failure severe enough to need additional oxygen or ventilation; a blood pressure drop indicating shock; significant kidney, liver or neurological dysfunction, admission to an intensive care unit or death.
    CDC’s definition includes a blood oxygen level of 94% or lower and an x-ray finding of lung infiltrates — an indication of pneumonia — of greater than 50%
    The most common adverse events were pain at the injection site, fatigue and headache.
    “In South Africa, where the B.1.351 lineage is prevalent and 800 participants were enrolled, nine cases of COVID-19 were observed, all in the placebo group, indicating vaccine efficacy of 100%,” the company said.
    “Vaccine safety has now been evaluated in more than 44,000 participants aged 16 years and older with more than 12,000 vaccinated participants having at least six months of follow-up after their second dose.”

  34. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Brazil has suffered by far its heaviest month of Covid-19 losses after the deaths of nearly 67,000 people were confirmed in March.

    The figure – more than double the previous high, when 32,912 deaths were recorded last July – underscored how the South American country has been plunged into by far the most devastating chapter of its epidemic.

    A record 3,950 deaths were recorded on Wednesday – with experts warning the number of daily fatalities is likely to rise to around 5,000 as the situation deteriorates further in April.

    Earlier in the day opposition politicians demanded the impeachment of Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who has been accused of catastrophically mismanaging an epidemic that has killed more than 322,000 of his citizens.

    Only the US has a higher official death toll. Bolsonaro continues to resist containment measures such as lockdown.

    “He will go down in history as the governor… who most inflicted tragedy on the Brazilian people,” said Randolfe Rodrigues, one of the senators behind the impeachment attempt.

    Polls show support for Brazil’s far-right leader is slipping as a result of his reaction to Covid, although he retains the support of around a third of voters.

  35. says

    Vox – “Fox News has become a jobs program for some Trump family members and ex-staffers”:

    Fox News fancies itself, at least outside of its Hannity-style programming, as a journalistic outlet. But its recent string of hires tells a different story.

    Despite the Trump administration’s legacy of unrelenting dishonesty and Trump’s recent turn against Fox, the network has hired several former Trump officials of late, basically becoming a jobs program for any former Trump aide who desires gainful employment — and ensuring that Trump’s brand of politics will have a regular, prominent place on national television.

    On Tuesday, the network announced that former Trump administration press secretary Kayleigh McEnany will be co-hosting the weekday afternoon Outnumbered talk show starting April 6….

    News of McEnany’s promotion came just a day after Lara Trump, a former senior Trump campaign official and the daughter-in-law of Donald Trump, announced during a Fox & Friends appearance that she’s been hired as a contributor, while basically acknowledging that Fox News served as an unofficial arm of the Trump campaign.

    There’s an irony to this hiring spree, given how angry Trump was at Fox News in the weeks following the election for what he took to be the network’s disloyalty. [I’d say less “irony” than “deal.”]

    While there’s ample precedent for former White House officials making the leap into news media when their tenure in government is through — George Stephanopoulos went from the Clinton White House to ABC News, for example, and Dana Perino went from the George W. Bush White House to Fox News — the volume of former Trump officials Fox News has hired is notable, particularly because Fox News staffing itself with Trump family members and former staffers will keep Trumpism relevant.

    Lara Trump, for example, is still teasing a possible 2022 US Senate run in North Carolina even though she was just hired as a commentator for Fox. And Kayleigh McEnany’s installation as a daytime host means that the political news of the day will be filtered through a MAGA lens.

    Donald Trump, meanwhile, can self-promote by calling in to friendly hosts who will let him opine about Biden’s purported failures on national TV, even if he can no longer post tweets.

    It won’t be good journalism, but that’s rarely the point with Fox. What it will do is help Trump maintain control over the Republican Party heading into the 2022 midterms — and beyond.

  36. says

    Sorry – left out this paragraph @ #45:

    In addition to bringing aboard McEnany and Lara Trump, the network gave former Trump administration economic adviser Larry Kudlow his own show on Fox Business. And while he hasn’t been hired by Fox, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller — known for helping to develop Trump’s nativist immigration policy — has become a fixture as a guest on Sean Hannity’s and Laura Ingraham’s shows.

  37. tomh says

    Wisconsin Supreme Court Declares Governor’s Mask Mandate Is ‘Unlawful’
    MATT NAHAM Mar 31st, 2021

    The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Gov. Tony Evers (D) a 4-3 loss on Wednesday on the issue of the state’s mask mandate, finding that three of the governor’s executive orders were “unlawful.”

    “Wisconsin Stat. § 323.10 specifies that no state of emergency may last longer than 60 days unless it ‘is extended by joint resolution of the legislature,’ and that the legislature may cut short a state of emergency by joint resolution. The statute contemplates that the power to end and to refuse to extend a state of emergency resides with the legislature even when the underlying occurrence creating the emergency remains a threat,” …. the governor may not deploy his emergency powers by issuing new states of emergency for the same statutory occurrence.”

    The dissent…. said the majority’s conclusions were “erroneous” on a few levels.

    ….Justice Ann Walsh Bradley began. “First, the majority errs by granting taxpayer standing to [Jeré] Fabick on a conjured justification neither briefed nor argued by any party. In essence, the product of this new theory results in a standard so low that all that is needed for taxpayer standing in this court is a song and a whistle with an ability to produce a melody appealing to at least four justices.”

    ….“In a final flourish of judicial immodesty, the majority goes beyond the relief requested and declares Executive Order #105 unlawful with scant analysis and without candid justification. Obscuring the fact that Fabick did not move for the relief it grants, the majority reaches out and strikes down Order #105 even though that order is not properly before the court.”

    Opinion and Dissent

  38. tomh says

    From the Brennan Center for Justice:
    VOTING LAWS ROUNDUP: March 2021

    ….. As of March 24, legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states. That’s 108 more than the 253 restrictive bills tallied as of February 19, 2021 — a 43 percent increase in little more than a month.

    These measures have begun to be enacted. Five restrictive bills have already been signed into law. In addition, at least 55 restrictive bills in 24 states are moving through legislatures: 29 have passed at least one chamber, while another 26 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote).

    Most restrictive bills take aim at absentee voting, while nearly a quarter seek stricter voter ID requirements. State lawmakers also aim to make voter registration harder, expand voter roll purges or adopt flawed practices that would risk improper purges, and cut back on early voting. The states that have seen the largest number of restrictive bills introduced are Texas (49 bills), Georgia (25 bills), and Arizona (23 bills). Bills are actively moving in the Texas and Arizona statehouses, and Georgia enacted an omnibus voter suppression bill last week.

    Many bills seek to undermine the power of local officials. After county election officials conducted elections during a pandemic and stood up to pressure to manipulate the results, state lawmakers are now seeking new criminal penalties to target these officials.

    Federal voting rights legislation now moving through Congress would override many of these state-level restrictions, and some state lawmakers are responding. Some have introduced nonbinding resolutions to oppose the For the People Act. Texas lawmakers have proposed setting up a parallel system with its own rules for state contests if the federal law is enacted….

  39. says

    SC @45 and 46, I guess we knew they would all end up there. It’s like a garbage dump. Former Trump administration people, and Trump’s relatives, can all play hosts on Fox News.

    Here’s a discussion of a Republican governor’s appearance on Fox News network:

    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appeared on Fox News last night to criticize President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan […] Republicans are eager to derail the White House initiative, and the ambitious governor routinely toes her party’s line.

    […] the GOP line is that Biden’s infrastructure plan is insufficiently focused on infrastructure. “I was on a call with the White House today with all the governors talking about the specifics of this package,” Noem said, “and I was shocked by how much doesn’t go into infrastructure.”

    To drive home the point, the South Dakota governor complained that the president’s plan, among other things, puts money “into housing and pipes” — as opposed to actual infrastructure.

    Noem’s comments were amusing, but in a deeply unfortunate way. The White House’s “American Jobs Plan” does intend to build and retrofit more than 2 million homes, while improving U.S. water systems. As part of the effort, Biden has called for the elimination of “all lead pipes and service lines in our drinking water systems.”

    Evidently, the South Dakota governor — who’s “shocked” by the White House blueprint — doesn’t think such initiatives should be seen as infrastructure investments. Why not? I haven’t the foggiest idea.

    Noem’s pitch probably won’t persuade many people, but the weakness of her talking points is emblematic of a larger truth: Republicans know they don’t like Biden’s plan, and they’re determined to turn people against it. But making the case against it is going to be tricky.

    […] the White House’s proposal is already popular. [According to polls] excluding the tax hikes made the plan less popular, not more.

    In other words, what most Americans want is a plan that spends trillions of dollars and raises taxes on the rich and hikes the corporate tax rate. This is exactly what Biden’s plan does […]

    For his part, Donald Trump tried to attack Biden’s plan yesterday, issuing a 400-word rant that seemed oddly disconnected to reality, even for him. From the former president’s harangue:

    “Joe Biden’s radical plan to implement the largest tax hike in American history is a massive giveaway to China, and many other countries…. Biden promised to ‘build back better’ — but the country he is building up, in particular, is China and other large segments of the world.”

    In all, Trump’s statement directly referenced China five times — six if we include the gratuitous reference to Beijing — while condemning the idea of a “tax hike” three times. The former president added that the plan would be “among the largest self-inflicted economic wounds in history.”

    While I’m mindful that fact-checking Trump’s nonsense can be exhausting, let’s quickly note a few things. First, the idea that investing in U.S. infrastructure would “build up” China is bonkers. Second, saying the word “China” over and again is not actually an argument.

    Third, the idea that raising the corporate tax rate would devastate the U.S. economy and cause massive job losses is belied by recent history. […]

    There’s also a political context to Trump’s tantrum. As Ezra Klein explained well yesterday, “It’s become a punch-line, but it really is remarkable that Trump didn’t do an infrastructure plan in his four years in office. Particularly at the beginning, he could’ve peeled off scared Democrats. The whole country could have roads and bridges with his face on them…. Trump said he wanted a massive rebuilding of American infrastructure. He likes building things. I think he did want it. He just didn’t want to do the work.”

    And now that Biden and his allies — the members of the nation’s governing party — are prepared to do the work, Trump is furious, and his GOP allies are pretending that water systems don’t count as infrastructure. […]

    Link

  40. tomh says

    Voting in Georgia is no picnic.

    Georgia Legislators Advance Bill Making Standing in Line to Vote Over 30 Minutes a “Loitering” Crime Subject to Imprisonment
    April 1, 2021

    …. Georgia legislators on the last day of the legislative session advanced a measure criminalizing line-standing. Under the bill, any voter waiting more than 30 minutes in a voting line may be criminally punished for illegal loitering. Governor Kemp is expected to sign the measure.

    “We understand in big cities, where lines typically are the longest, people want to vote like other Georgians,” a statement from Republican legislative leaders read. “But those rights need to be balanced with the right to tranquility and quiet in our streets.”

  41. says

    Republicans in the Georgia state legislature are looking for ways to punish corporations whose leaders have criticized Georgia’s voter-suppression laws:

    […] By midday [yesterday], there were reports that GOP state legislators were prepared to penalize their corporate critics for taking a stand in support of voting rights.

    […] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported overnight that the GOP-led state House did, in fact, vote shortly before midnight to scrap a $35 million jet-fuel tax break that Delta currently enjoys. Stating the obvious, a Democratic lawmaker said the move was “purely retaliation for the business community speaking out on a bill everyone feels is Jim Crow 2.0.”

    The AJC article added that state House Speaker David Ralston (R) “made no effort to hide” the fact that the vote to scrap the tax break “was payback.” Ralston was quoted saying, “You don’t feed a dog that bites your hand.”

    As it turns out, the bill stalled in the state Senate and won’t become law, at least not anytime soon, though one GOP state senator, Jason Anavitarte, expressed disappointment that he wasn’t able to vote for it. “I wanted to send Delta a message,” he said.

    That message, evidently, was that Georgia Republicans not only want to make it harder to vote, they’ll also retaliate against private-sector allies who dare to criticize — not take any meaningful action, just criticize — voter-suppression measures.

    None of this is healthy in a democracy.

    Postscript: If some of this sounds vaguely familiar, we followed a story in 2018 in which Georgia Republicans also penalized Delta when the airline responded to a mass shooting by ending a discount for NRA members. Delta, one of Georgia’s largest private employers, eventually regained the tax break.

    Link

  42. says

    Apple CEO Joins Growing Number Of Corporations Condemning Voting Restrictions

    Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday joined mounting calls from corporate leaders against the new Georgia restrictive voting law and other voting restrictions around the country.

    In a statement to Axios, Cook pointed to the Black community’s long history of fighting for the right to vote.

    “American history is the story of expanding the right to vote to all citizens, and Black people, in particular, have had to march, struggle and even give their lives for more than a century to defend that right,” Cook said.

    Cook said that Apple values the right for every eligible citizen to exercise their right to vote.

    “We support efforts to ensure that our democracy’s future is more hopeful and inclusive than its past,” Cook said.

    The Apple CEO’s condemnation of voting restrictions was issued a day after the floodgates opened following Delta CEO Ed Bastian’s statement blasting the “unacceptable” legislation in Georgia.

    Hours after Bastian’s criticism of the Georgia law was issued in a companywide memo on Wednesday, other corporations with Georgia ties such as Microsoft and Coca-Cola came out against the legislation. […]

  43. says

    Josh Marshall: “Gaetz Saga Manages to Get More Absurd”

    Here’s a fascinating new wrinkle to the Matt Gaetz story. Jeff Stein has a piece up about the backstory of this Iranian rescue operation which – absurd as it sounds – is the center of what the Gaetzes claim was an extortion plot.

    The Gaetzes gave purported screencaps of text messages to The Washington Examiner, a friendly rightwing outfit, to support their extortion claims. But even at face value what is described doesn’t sound like an extortion plot.

    These guys approached Gaetz’s dad and said that if he funded their absurd plan that Matt would become a national hero and that a grateful nation would cut him a break on the child sex trafficking/statutory rape. They would even ask President Biden to pardon Matt.

    None of that makes any sense. But it really doesn’t sound like extortion, even if you take everything the Gaetzes claim at face value. They weren’t threatening to do anything to Matt or reveal anything about him. But the Gaetzes seem to have glommed on to this offer and reimagined it as an extortion plot to get Matt off the hook for the trafficking investigation.

    But let’s set that aside for the moment. What is up with this plan to run a rescue operation in Iran that will make Matt a national hero? Here’s where Jeff Stein’s piece comes into the picture. Stein is a veteran intelligence/spy world reporter who speaks with great authority on these issues. It turns out that he’s reported in the past on the guy behind the rescue mission. His name is Bob Kent and he’s a former Air Force intelligence officer who appears to be obsessed with the Bob Levinson case.

    Levinson was a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran on a CIA mission in 2007. The US government has thought for some time that Levinson died in Iranian custody. Last year the Levinson family finally accepted the evidence put forward by the US government. That seemed to close the book on the story. But Kent wasn’t convinced and, according to Stein, in 2018 he “began assembling a network of Iranian exile sources in Iraq, where he’s been involved in the oil business, to gather information on Levinson’s whereabouts and medical condition.” When Stein talked to Kent three years ago Kent showed him Iranian documents which his exile sources had purchased from a network of Iranian informants. Those documents turned out to be your standard mix of forgeries mixed in with authentic material.

    In other words, Kent appears to be a deluded crank who may be a true believer or a hustler with some as yet unrevealed agenda but is definitely not anyone you’d ever want to get involved with. The relevant takeaway, I think, is that Gaetz and his dad managed to get hooked up with a guy who’s legitimately obsessed with the Levinson case and has hatched other plots to rescue him. (Remember that Levinson is almost certainly dead.) It’s the standard mix of cockamamie schemes, various exiles and/or con men trying to sell unverified accounts or phony documents to folks like Kent.

    It seems like Kent and his lawyer found out that Gaetz was in big trouble and probably desperate. So they pitched him – or rather his dad – on this idea of funding a rescue operation on the inane premise that this would lead the country to think Matt Gaetz was such an indispensable man that if he had to have sex with minors to maintain his level of awesomeness that that was a price worth paying. Absurd as this all is, as I said, it still doesn’t sound like extortion. Because at least based on the text messages from the Gaetz family Kent and his lawyer weren’t threatening anything.

    Link

  44. says

    Drought in California:

    Following another exceptionally dry and hot winter, forecasters are dashing California’s hopes for refreshing spring rain in April as the state may see a continued drought.

    […] potentially part of a longer megadrought that has engulfed the U.S. Southwest for over 1,200 years, which scientists attribute to human activity impacting the climate.

    […] both Northern and Southern regions experiencing weather that range from “Abnormally Dry” to “Exceptional Drought.”

    An estimated 32.9 million people are impacted by the state’s dry weather.

    The Drought Monitor’s accompanying forecast predicts that widespread “extreme” and “exceptional” drought conditions are continuing in the Western U.S. Precipitation continued to fall below average during the month of March, and combined with lower rates of snow water runoff for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, long-term drought is likely to continue in California along with other southwestern states.

    Earlier in March, California’s State Water Board sent notices to utilities customers warning that water shortages may result in cuts to individual water supply.

    Officials have advised water suppliers to begin storing water reserves. […]

    Link

  45. says

    Wonkette: “OK, Who’s Writing The Matt Gaetz Screenplay, Because This Sh*t Is WILD”

    Let’s just skip to the part about the UFOs, shall we? We all know that’s where this weird-ass Matt Gaetz story is headed, right? […]
    Oh, we kid … probably!

    When last we left that freak, he and his father were flapping their yaps to every reporter in DC about a supposed sextortion plot to get the congressman out of trouble with the FBI in exchange for a $25 million payoff.

    “HENGGGHHHHH????” we all said in unison? How could some lawyer in Pensacola who hasn’t worked for the government in 16 years make a federal investigation disappear?

    When he appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show Tuesday, Gaetz implied that the entire FBI investigation was a Democratic plot to shut him up and steal money from his father.

    “These allegations aren’t true. They’re merely intended to try to bleed my family out of money,” he protested, perhaps too much, accusing federal prosecutors of leaking the story to the New York Times to blow up the sting operation the Gaetz family was running to catch the perps in the act.

    As if the so-called extortion caused the federal investigation — you know, in the same way that babies cause sex.

    And then the Iran stuff dropped. Hooboy!

    Let’s assume for the moment that the documents leaked to the Washington Examiner are real […]

    According to the Examiner, the federal investigation into Gaetz’s relationship with a teenage girl had been underway for months when his father, Don Gaetz, was approached by a former Air Force intelligence officer named Bob Kent and his attorney, David McGee, with a harebrained scheme to free an American hostage held in Iran and clear the congressman’s name.

    “I would like to talk to you immediately about the current federal investigation and the indictment that is about to be filed against your son,” the March 16 text reads. “I have a plan that can make his future legal and political problems go away.”

    Kent and McGee have been working for years to free David Levinson, a CIA operative who went missing in Iran in 2007. The US government has told his family that Levinson is dead, but Kent claims to have more recent proof of life. When Don Gaetz met with Kent and McGee the next day, they allegedly presented him with a typed memo which began with a detailed description of his son’s legal problems, with references to “compromising pictures depicting Congressman Gaetz and an Election Official involved in a ‘sexual orgy with underage prostitutes’, in Maitland, Florida,” which “has resulted in Congressman Gaetz becoming a target of a widening investigation into serious underage sex trafficking, political corruption, public integrity, and other Criminal allegations against Congressman Gaetz and others.”

    Oh, so that’s where the claim that there are photos of Gaetz involved in sexual activity of minors comes from. Before, we just thought Gaetz was denying a charge no one had made … and denying it on Fox news … which seemed … unwise.

    “A Grand Jury has been impaneled, in the Middle District of Florida, to determine whether criminal charges shall be brought against Congressman Gaetz and others,” it continues. “It has been confirmed that at least one underage female has testified to the Grand Jury that Congressman Gaetz has paid her to engage in sexual activities.”

    But never fear, these randos have a solution to all the congressman’s problems!

    “Our strategy for Congressman Gaetz to mitigate his legal, and political, troubles would be for him, or someone else, to arrange for the funds required to obtain the immediate release of Robert Levinson from captivity in Iran,” they wrote.

    The “plan,” dubbed “Project Homecoming,” appeared to go like this:

    Step 1: Poppy Gaetz “loans” the schemers $25 million;
    Step 2: Schemers pay $25 million to Iran and secure Levinson’s release;
    Step 3: Matt Gaetz is “on the plane” when Levinson comes home;
    Step 4: Gaetz is a hero;
    Step 5: President Biden disappears Gaetz’s legal problems, since heroes are allowed to have sex with minors;
    Step 6: Schemers collect $25 million reward from US government for Levinson’s release;
    Step 7: Schemers pay Poppy Gaetz back for his “loan” and promise never to mention it again;
    Step 8: ALIENS!!!!!

    Okay, maybe we made that last step up. […]

    The Examiner has emails apparently from the FBI confirming Don Gaetz’s claim that he wore a wire during at least one meeting with the schemers. They’ve also got a photo of a business card from a guy named Stephen Alford, a Florida businessman who served ten years on a fraud conviction, whom Gaetz claims was at the meeting. But it’s not clear if the illegal conduct here is extortion of the Gaetz family or some other violation of sanctions laws. It’s also not clear how these geniuses thought Poppy Gaetz was going to move $25 million into the lawyer’s escrow account by March 19 — i.e. in three days — without leaving a paper trail that would inevitably lead to the whole stupid caper becoming public.

    What is clear, however, is that Rep. Gaetz’s legal problems occurred long before these desperate idiots put the squeeze on his father. This is not, as Gaetz would have us believe, one unified, dastardly plot to shut him up because “we are in an era of our politics now Tucker, where people are smeared to try to take them out of the conversation.”

    The feds were investigating Gaetz’s pal Joel Greenberg, the Seminole County tax collector awaiting trial on a raft of charges including embezzlement and paying minors for sex. And some sort of way that investigation led them to Gaetz’s door.

    Equally clear is that Gaetz’s strategy to salvage his political career by talking about his legal problems with every reporter in DC is really fucking stupid when it comes to his legal defense.

    “My hope is that the truth will set me free, so I’m trying to get as much truth out as possible,” he told Politico yesterday, after having confirmed that he did in fact ferry women across state lines for sex. […]

    Gaetz’s pals in Congress are sticking by him for the time being, but his obnoxious antics and total lack of interest in the work of governing have hardly endeared him to his colleagues.

    Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is so far ignoring Democratic demands to yank Gaetz from the Judiciary Committee […]

    On Tuesday, Axios reported that Gaetz was thinking of noping out of Congress for a sweet gig at Newsmax or another conservative outlet. He confirmed as much yesterday to the Daily Beast, saying, “There is not a single conservative television station I haven’t had a passing conversation with about life after Congress. I have neither received nor solicited offers from any of them. But yes, I’ve talked to either executives, producers or hosts at Newsmax, OAN, Fox, Fox Business, Real America’s Voice and probably others I’m forgetting in this moment as I focus intently on refuting false accusations against me.”

    But even wingnut welfare is denying Gaetz’s application.

    “No one with any level of authority has had conversations with Matt Gaetz for any of our platforms and we have no interest in hiring him,” a Fox spox told the Beast.

    “Right now, I’m not really hiring anybody for talk shows,” said OAN’s CEO Robert Herring.

    “Highly doubt it, highly,” Newsmax sources said, when Beast reporters asked if Gaetz would be joining the network.

    Womp womp. And also, CRIPES, COULD THIS SHIT GET ANY WEIRDER?

    Link

  46. says

    Wonkette: Texas Senate Votes To Punish Wind, Solar For Blackouts Caused By Coal, Oil, Nuclear

    The Texas state Senate on Monday passed a great big bill, SB 3, aimed at addressing some of the problems with the state’s electric power system, which experienced huge outages during February’s extreme freeze. Some four million people across the state were left without electricity, and at least 57 people died. There are some actually good measures in the package, like a requirement that utilities winterize their equipment, and a ban on the “indexed retail electric plans” that resulted in insanely large power bills when the wholesale cost of electricity spiked. But SB 3 also includes a provision that will increase costs for renewable energy sources, because wind and solar are supposedly “unreliable.”

    Many of Texas’s power plants — of all types — froze up because they weren’t winterized, even after a similarly devastating storm in 2011. But conservative media and Texas politicians, including Gov. Greg Abbott, went on TV to blame the blackouts on wind and solar, which wasn’t the case at all. So now, even knowing that renewables didn’t cause the power outages, Republicans in the Lege are gonna get back at renewable energy. Or at least they’ll help out fossil fuels, which have seen their dominance of the Texas energy market slip as wind and solar have become a larger part of the state’s overall power supply.

    […] The anti-renewables measure in SB 3, an amendment introduced by Republican state Sen. Kelly Hancock, requires that

    “intermittent generation resources” purchase ancillary services and replacement power “sufficient to manage net load variability.”

    It’s fairly complex stuff, but Hancock’s amendment basically seeks to shift a big chunk of the costs for keeping the grid functioning from power customers generally, as part of the costs of having a grid, to providers of renewable energy. That will drive up the cost of renewable energy and help out fossil fuels, which won’t have to foot the bill for the ancillary services they use.

    […] In a statement urging the Texas House to pass SB 3, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick framed the measure as a necessary step to protect Texans from those flaky socialist wind and solar power sources, claiming

    “SB 3 ensures a more reliable electric grid by requiring renewable energy sources to have backup plans to fill in the gap of any energy they fail to provide during critical periods.”

    Again, wind and solar were not the cause of the recent blackouts. We feel we need to mention that.

    […] Jeff Clark, president of the renewable energy industry group Advanced Power Alliance, said […] “This bill doesn’t serve anybody. It just increases the costs to customers. If you’re going to start assigning ancillary services, let’s do it for all generators.”

    […] In conclusion, this has nothing to do with the reliability of renewable energy; it’s a scam to prop up the market for fossil fuels, and Texas being Texas, the state House may well pass something similar unless Texans make a hell of a fuss about it. Fortunately, Texas progressives can be awfully good at making a fuss.

  47. says

    COVID update: on March 31 there were 68,162 new cases. The change in new cases when viewed over a 14-day period is up 17%. Yes, that’s +17%.

  48. says

    Atlantic – “The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man”:

    The pandemic has made fools of many forecasters. Just about all of the predictions whiffed. Anthony Fauci was wrong about masks. California was wrong about the outdoors. New York was wrong about the subways. I was wrong about the necessary cost of pandemic relief. And the Trump White House was wrong about almost everything else.

    In this crowded field of wrongness, one voice stands out. The voice of Alex Berenson: the former New York Times reporter, Yale-educated novelist, avid tweeter, online essayist, and all-around pandemic gadfly. Berenson has been serving up COVID-19 hot takes for the past year, blithely predicting that the United States would not reach 500,000 deaths (we’ve surpassed 550,000) and arguing that cloth and surgical masks can’t protect against the coronavirus (yes, they can).

    Berenson has a big megaphone. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter and millions of viewers for his frequent appearances on Fox News’ most-watched shows. On Laura Ingraham’s show, he downplayed the vaccines, suggesting that Israel’s experience proved they were considerably less effective than initially claimed. On Tucker Carlson Tonight, he predicted that the vaccines would cause an uptick in cases of COVID-related illness and death in the U.S.

    The vaccines have inspired his most troubling comments. For the past few weeks on Twitter, Berenson has mischaracterized just about every detail regarding the vaccines to make the dubious case that most people would be better off avoiding them. As his conspiratorial nonsense accelerates toward the pandemic’s finish line, he has proved himself the Secretariat of being wrong:

    -He has blamed the vaccines for causing spikes in severe illness, by pointing to data that actually demonstrate their safety and effectiveness.
    -He has blamed the vaccines for suppressing our immune systems, by misrepresenting normal immune-system behavior.
    -He has suggested that countries such as Israel have suffered from their early vaccine rollout, even though deaths and hospitalizations among vaccinated groups in Israel have plummeted.
    -He has implied that for most non-seniors, the side effects of the vaccines are worse than having COVID-19 itself—even though, according to the CDC, the pandemic has killed tens of thousands of people under 50 and the vaccines have not conclusively killed anybody.

    Usually, I would refrain from lavishing attention on someone so blatantly incorrect. But with vaccine resistance hovering around 30 percent of the general population, and with 40 percent of Republicans saying they won’t get a shot, debunking vaccine skepticism, particularly in right-wing circles, is a matter of life and death.

    Berenson’s TV appearances are more misdirection than outright fiction, and his Twitter feed blends internet-y irony and scientific jargon in a way that may obscure what he’s actually saying. To pin him down, I emailed several questions to him last week. Below, I will lay out, as clearly and fairly as I can, his claims about the vaccines and how dangerously, unflaggingly, and superlatively wrong they are.

    Before I go point by point through his wrong positions, let me be exquisitely clear about what is true. The vaccines work. They worked in the clinical trials, and they’re working around the world. The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson seem to provide stronger and more lasting protection against SARS-CoV-2 and its variants than natural infection. They are excellent at reducing symptomatic infection. Even better, they are extraordinarily successful at preventing severe illness from COVID-19. Countries that have vaccinated large percentages of their population quickly, such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Israel, have all seen sharp and sustained declines in hospitalizations among the elderly. Meanwhile, countries that have lagged in the vaccination effort—including the U.K.’s neighbors France and Italy, and Israel’s neighbor Jordan—have struggled to contain the virus. The authorized vaccines are marvels, and the case against them relies on half-truths, untruths, and obfuscations….

    Much more atl. “The current score in the competition between non-senior pandemic deaths and conclusive vaccine deaths is 100,000–0.”

  49. says

    Chris Hayes on the American Relief Plan:

    It feels like we drove a stake through a certain kind of anti-welfare austerity politics that was incredibly powerful for four to five decades…. The kind of marking of an era of transition to the politics of government support and investment to me is as significant as anything that I’ve seen in the time I’ve covered politics.

    The New York Times, commenting on President Biden’s infrastructure plan:

    It will take years to know whether Mr. Biden’s initiative will have the lasting power of the New Deal or the Great Society, or whether it can “change the paradigm,” as he argued a few weeks ago. Yet it is already clear it is based on the gamble that the country is ready to dispense with one of the main tenets of the Reagan revolution, and show that for some tasks the government can jump-start the economy more efficiently than market forces.

    “Market forces” failed to prevent death and catastrophic power outages in Texas recently. Government action is needed.

    Steve Benen:

    Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar plan itself reflects a welcome shift in the political paradigm.

    Yes. I agree. Things are changing. Attitudes are changing.

  50. says

    Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes Hangs With GOP Big Shots At Border Rally

    The founder of the Oath Keepers popped up at a rally near the U.S.-Mexico border last week, sharing the roster with Texas Republican Party Chairman Allen West and other Republican politicians.

    Stewart Rhodes has not been charged with anything related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, but he acknowledged some heat from law enforcement during his remarks, which were reported by The Daily Beast Wednesday.

    “I may go to jail soon,” Rhodes said. “Not for anything I actually did, but for made-up crimes.”

    As the list lengthens of Oath Keepers and Proud Boys facing serious prison time for their alleged involvement in the Capitol attack, prosecutors have made clear that they’re aware of Rhodes’ actions that day, too.

    In court filings, the government has quoted text messages and noted phone call metadata that they say show Rhodes — referred to as “Person 1” — was in touch with alleged rioters before and after the attack. At one point Rhodes even allegedly pointed fellow Oath Keepers to a specific side of the Capitol where he allegedly reported that there were “Patriots pounding on the doors.”

    […] Kimberly Fletcher, the founder and president of the group Moms for America and a speaker at a rally in D.C. the day before the Capitol attack, was also on the speaker’s list.

    Introducing Rhodes, Fletcher acknowledged that “Oath Keepers gets a bad rap” before defending the group.

    “These are real patriots who get what the Constitution is and want to make sure that that constitution is protected,” Fletcher said. “So if you’re looking for the front line of defense against the communists, I’d say that the reason why the media hates Oath Keepers is because they’re standing in their way.”

    “We’re facing a communist overthrow of our nation, and this is a fact,” Rhodes said when he took the stage, comparing the current moment to the Revolutionary era in American history.

    “You now have a foreign power, the Chinese and the globalists, who have illegitimately installed their puppet, the ChiCom puppet Biden, through a stolen election,” Rhodes said. [head/desk]

    […] Rhodes said the Oath Keepers were the “tip of an iceberg.”

    “They don’t understand that below the surface, there’s a great mass of other patriots, other veterans, and current-serving, who feel exactly the same way,” he concluded. “And they will never find out who they are until it’s too late. Hooah!”

  51. says

    Follow-up to comment 65.

    Comments posted by readers of the TPM article:

    I didn’t know anyone said “Chicom” anymore. How John Birch of him.
    ——————–
    Ruski muppet uses “Chicom puppet” in a sentence.
    ——————–
    That’s childish narcissism masquerading as patriotism that justifies acting out anger and violence.

  52. blf says

    Johnny Enlow Claims Military Intelligence Will Soon Reveal the 2020 Election Was an Elaborate Sting Operation (RWW edits in {curly braces}):

    QAnon conspiracy theorist and supposed “prophet” Johnny Enlow […] continued to insist that former President [sic] Donald Trump is, in fact, still secretly the president, falsely claiming that Trump’s signature appeared on checks distributed by the federal government as part of the COVID-19 stimulus bill.

    […]

    Enlow asserted that right-wing election conspiracy theorists Sidney Powell, Lin Wood, and Mike Lindell all have obtained irrefutable proof that the election was stolen but that the proof has been suppressed and censored. He then claimed that it will soon be revealed that the entire election was an elaborate sting operation and that military intelligence recently filed a report documenting it all.

    […] They knew it was coming, and so even the military intelligence knows that 49 states, including California, went to Trump. {I have} inside military intelligence information that on March 10, they presented the seven-week report, and they acknowledge they know that the election was fraudulent and that it was essentially, from that standpoint, stolen from President Trump. And it was because every agency, every institution that was supposed to defend the Constitution and the people failed — the Congress, the Senate, the Supreme Court intimidated; there’s been killing of the governor’s people and kids and staff behind the scenes, and so we don’t know what part of it’s blackmail, what part of it’s threat. [Also, the Chicago Cubs didn’t win the World Series in 2016, Covid-19 is an oil painting by Rembrandt in the Louvre, and the Grand Canyon is where the stones used to build the Great Wall of China came from… –blf]

    I will tell you, behind the scenes, {Trump} is still who carries power in this nation, Enlow continued. It ought to be answered this week alone by the fact that our stimulus checks — the stimulus checks, $1,400 for every person in America — they’re signed by Donald J Trump, not Joe Biden.

    […]

  53. snarkrates says

    Lynn@65,66 and BLF@67, when did every Republican except Mitt and Lisa become Alex Jones’ drunk uncle.

  54. blf says

    snarkrates@68, When Uncle Ooognahno refused to climb down out of the tree, oga taw aiee urk y! (roughly translated, “bipedalism is a saber toothed tiger conspiracy to eat us all, stay in the trees you two-legged antiapes!”).

  55. johnson catman says

    re blf @67: Anyone who has actually seen the latest stimulus checks knows for a fact that the signature is ABSOLUTELY NOT that of The Orange Shitgibbon. Biden’s name is also not on the check. It looks like Vona L. Robinson or something similar. Those cultists just can’t keep themselves from making shit up.

  56. blf says

    johnson catman@70, Yeah, I’m aware neither President Biden’s signature nor hair furor’s swastikure is on the third round stimulus cheques. What I didn’t know — until looking to see who Vona Robinson is (she’s “an official with the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service”, 10 Myths About Stimulus Checks) — is that expats like me are also eligible for the stimulus cheques (see link).

    Can I swap the cheque for a full vaccination, please ?

  57. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    President Biden’s infrastructure plan came under harsh attack from the Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who argued that the bill contains “no provision whatsoever” for building a giant dome to shield the nation from Jewish space lasers.

    Greene, whose address to the House of Representatives was interrupted at several points by standing ovations from her Republican colleagues, said that the absence of a dome to offer protection against Hebraic laser attacks made the bill a “non-starter.”

    “I cannot in good conscience support a bill that allocates billions for roads, bridges, and broadband but not a penny for giant-dome construction,” she said.

    Putting a human face on the need for such a dome, Greene said, “I, for one, live in constant fear of lasers, except for Friday after sundown.”

    New Yorker link

  58. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    NBC News:

    The latest mass shooting: “Four people, including a 9-year-old boy, were killed in a shooting at a business complex in Orange, California, on Wednesday evening, officials said. A fifth victim, a female, was shot and taken to a hospital, as was the suspect, police Lt. Jennifer Amat said. Both were in critical condition.”

    NBC News:

    The two paramedics who treated George Floyd testified Thursday during the fourth day of witness testimony in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial. The day began with testimony from Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross. She said that during their relationship, they both suffered from opioid addiction. Ross also said that Floyd was tormented by the loss of his mother in 2018

    This is day four of the trial.

    Politico:

    The Pentagon is on alert as Russia steps up its activity in Eastern Europe and the Arctic this week, presenting a new challenge for the young Biden administration, military officials said Wednesday.

    And a new challenge for European countries that are currently struggling to control the coronavirus pandemic, and struggling to vaccinate their people.

    Associated Press:

    U.S. manufacturers expanded in March at the fastest pace in 37 years, a sign of strengthening demand as the pandemic wanes and government emergency aid flows through the economy.

    NBC News:

    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Wednesday that it will consider an appeal from Crystal Mason, a Texas woman sentenced to five years behind bars for casting a provisional ballot in the 2016 election.

    Politico:

    The Government Accountability Office has issued a damning report about the implementation of legislation supporting Ivanka Trump’s signature women’s empowerment initiative, from her time as an adviser to her father, President Donald Trump.

    […] W-GDP aimed to codify gender analysis and deliver targeted finance across the women’s programs of 10 U.S. Government agencies. At the individual level, the hope was that poor women entrepreneurs would receive the financial kick-start they needed to build a business.

    One of the 10 agencies involved was the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is mandated to allocate $265 million a year for support to micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises under the WEEE Act. Half of the money is required to go to women, half to the very poor (some overlap between the two groups is expected).

    While Trump touted W-GDP as a cohesive program “enabling us to rigorously track the execution and the efficacy of the money that we are spending,” the GAO’s 14-month audit demonstrates that, at least at USAID, the opposite was happening.

    While USAID launched at least 19 new women’s empowerment programs in 2019 alone, there were extensive failures in both the targeting of the money, and the measurement of its impact.

    USAID was unable to say what proportion of funds went to the very poor, and women-owned and managed businesses. Shockingly, the agency couldn’t even define what actually constitutes a business owned and run by women, the GAO concluded.

    A senior Trump administration official who worked on W-GDP said they inherited a tangled mess of women’s policy programs in 2017. “Everything was scattered with no real clear goal or purpose. That is not a good use of taxpayer dollars and doesn’t help people anywhere,” the former official said. Ivanka Trump and her team spent two years developing the broader W-GDP program, which they say helped 12.6 million people in 2019 alone. […]

  59. says

    Rebecca Solnit in the Guardian – “There’s another pandemic under our noses, and it kills 8.7m people a year”:

    It is undeniably horrific that more than 2.8 million people have died of Covid-19 in the past 15 months. In roughly the same period, however, more than three times as many likely died of air pollution. This should disturb us for two reasons. One is the sheer number of air pollution deaths – 8.7 million a year, according to a recent study – and another is how invisible those deaths are, how accepted, how unquestioned. The coronavirus was a terrifying and novel threat, which made its dangers something much of the world rallied to try to limit. It was unacceptable – though by shades and degrees, many places came to accept it, by deciding to let the poor and marginalized take the brunt of sickness and death and displacement and to let medical workers get crushed by the workload.

    We have learned to ignore other forms of death and destruction, by which I mean we have normalized them as a kind of moral background noise. This is, as much as anything, the obstacle to addressing chronic problems, from gender violence to climate change. What if we treated those 8.7 million annual deaths from air pollution as an emergency and a crisis – and recognized that respiratory impact from particulates is only a small part of the devastating impact of burning fossil fuels? For the pandemic we succeeded in immobilizing large populations, radically reducing air traffic, and changing the way many of us live, as well as releasing vast sums of money as aid to people financially devastated by the crisis. We could do that for climate change, and we must – but the first obstacle is the lack of a sense of urgency, the second making people understand that things could be different.

    I have devoted much of my writing over the past 15 years to trying to foreground two normalized phenomena, violence against women and climate change. For all of us working to bring public attention to these crises, a major part of the problem is trying to get people engaged with something that is part of the status quo. We are designed to respond with alarm to something that just happened, that breaches norms, but not to things that have been going on for decades or centuries. The first task of most human rights and environmental movements is to make the invisible visible and to make what has long been accepted unacceptable. This has of course been done to some extent, with coal-burning power plants and with fracking in some places, but not with the overall causes of climate chaos.

    …One way to do so is by drawing attention to the cumulative effect and the quantifiable results. Another is to map out how things could be different – in the case of climate change, this means reminding people that there is no status quo, but a world being dramatically transformed, and that only bold action will limit the extremes of this change….

  60. says

    Géraldine Schwarz in the Guardian – “What researching my family’s Nazi history taught me about how to approach the past”:

    …If Britain and other nations want to come to terms with their past, they need to accept a minimal consensus: slavery and colonialism cannot be explained by the “social and moral standards” of a different age, but by a rapacious desire for domination and profit. How convenient that your thirst for exploitation is justified by a racial hierarchy in which you happen to be on top.

    Such consensus wouldn’t “cancel” the debate; instead it would depolarise it. It would open the possibility for fruitful dialogue and help overcome the old victim-versus-perpetrator dialectic, replacing it with a culture of honesty and responsibility. Despite claims to the contrary, failure to have this dialogue, languishing in denial, is ultimately more damaging than facing the past. It reveals a profound misunderstanding of how important this process is for democratic maturity….

  61. says

    Guardian – “‘Trans kids are not new’: a historian on the long record of youth transitioning in America”:

    Republican lawmakers pushing to restrict transgender children’s lives have repeatedly argued that trans kids are a “new phenomenon” and that gender-affirming treatments and policies are “experimental”.

    But Jules Gill-Peterson, a professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies at the University of Pittsburgh, has found extensive evidence of trans youth in the US living as themselves and fighting to transition in decades-old archival documents. The records from American hospitals and clinics date back to the early 20th century, with examples across the US well before the existence of contemporary language on trans identity.

    The Guardian recently spoke to the Histories of the Transgender Child author about her research and its implications as Republicans push legislation to restrict trans youths’ access to sports teams and outlaw gender-affirming healthcare….

    Why was it important to you to research the history of trans kids?

    In the past 10 years, we’ve seen this sudden visibility of trans kids…. There’s this cloak of caution and fear around trans kids, this idea that ‘We don’t know what it means for a child to transition’. That ‘this is all an experiment’. I had a sense as a historian that these ideas were probably not true and wanted to do historical research that would challenge this, by showing that trans kids have been around for a long time.

    How far back were you able to find documentation?

    What I uncovered in the research is that children and youth have been finding access to trans medicine and transition as long as there has been medical transition – as far back as the 1930s and 40s. But even prior to that, children certainly lived trans lives where they would socially transition in childhood. I found evidence in the US that families and communities would accept children as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth, let them go to school, use the correct bathroom, all of the things that are being fought over now. We can see that 70 or 80 years ago, we were actually in a more progressive place in some areas.

    What pieces of evidence were particularly telling?

    I found handwritten letters from trans kids to a famous endocrinologist, Harry Benjamin, who was known for providing trans healthcare…. Suddenly, I had not only proof that kids were trans, but that they contacted doctors and tried to transition the best they could. It speaks to the remarkable ingenuity and resilience that trans young people have had for a really long time. And it’s pretty unimpeachable evidence that this is not a new social phenomenon. It’s not some trendy thing that kids are picking up now.

    Are there specific stories that stuck with you?

    One of the other incredible archival finds was this woman Val, a trans woman who in the 1950s was trying to get surgery in Wisconsin. In the hospital, she did an interview with a psychologist and talked about her childhood, growing up in the early 1930s in a small town in rural Wisconsin. She says from as far back as she could remember, she knew she was a girl. There was no trans language in that household, but her parents accepted her. There was an understanding of what that meant, socially, without any need for a medical diagnosis. So her family raised her as a girl and arranged for her to go to school as a girl. Now, there are dozens of bills that claim we have to restrict trans kids because ‘we’ve never seen kids like this before’, but in reality we can look almost 90 years ago and see a trans kid who was accepted by her family.

    What did you learn about who has actually had access to care throughout the history of trans medicine?

    One of the biggest lines of difference was racial. White trans people were seen as having a problem in their gender development that could be corrected, and in fact must be corrected because of this inherently racist idea that white civilization must have its gender norms. So right from the start, we see that white trans kids get way more access to medical care.

    Black trans children in particular are almost completely shut out. Instead of receiving medical care, they are much more likely to be arrested or institutionalized, put in the foster care system or juvenile detention. And they are much more likely to be diagnosed as delusional, schizophrenic or something else that blatantly ignores what they know about themselves.

    How does that legacy of exclusion tie into the current efforts to outlaw gender-affirming treatments?

    Most trans people do not have access to gender-affirming care. They never have, it’s never been the reality. We’re not even close. It’s primarily upper middle class and white well-educated families that actually have the time and the money to access care. So we’re now facing the proposition of banning forms of healthcare that almost no trans kids even have access to. The possibility of making things better and righting historical wrongs will stop with these bills.

    And it’s a direct continuation of this history that is also a racial history. There is a lot of disposable income and time required to get care. If you have a trans kid, you need to advocate constantly and show up and testify against the bills. So working class families, families of color, people with less resources are way less able to do what it takes right now to access pediatric gender-affirming care.

    Why do you think trans kids in particular have become such a culture war target?

    Mainstream LGBT organizations for a long time weren’t trans-inclusive, and trans activists long warned that focusing on gay marriage would leave behind other LGBT people who are vulnerable and wouldn’t be protected by marriage – like trans people and youth. And that seems to really have come true. Trans rights have been turned into a wedge issue. And children are really easy targets, because we don’t grant them the privilege to speak for themselves and defend their own interests. So they are used as pawns.

    Rightwing conservatives have been recycling the same language that we saw 15 to 20 years ago around gays and lesbians – the language of “child endangerment”, “grooming”, “pedophilia”, the need to “protect children” and “protect schools” through really restrictive laws. The focus on children is part of a coordinated effort and it’s not just in the US. We see it in the UK where there is no real access to gender-affirming treatments if you’re under 18. There’s a media campaign to shift the discourse to focusing on children’s transitions with all sorts of moral panics. It’s a really disturbing coalition, because you’ve got rightwing white supremacist evangelicals, but you also have politicians in the mainstream and people on the left who are trans-exclusionary and claim to be feminists. It’s a perfect storm.

    How do you think people should be responding to Arkansas passing the first trans healthcare ban in the US this week?

    This should be a wake-up call for a lot of folks…. We should also be thinking more broadly, so we’re not just reacting over and over again to these bills. In some ways trans healthcare is analogous to reproductive rights and abortion….

    In related news from the Guardian, “New laws fuelling ‘increasing hostility’ and anti-LGBTQ violence in Uzbekistan.”

  62. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 83: “rightwing white supremacist evangelicals.” Yikes, what a scary phrase. That really lets you know what trans kids may face in terms of harassment or lack of care.

    Also this: “In some ways trans healthcare is analogous to reproductive rights and abortion.” Yes, quite true.

  63. says

    McConnell’s partisan vow on infrastructure bill has a silver lining

    Democrats can proceed with their infrastructure plan, knowing the GOP is sitting out the debate.

    President Joe Biden called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) this week to make a pitch in support of the new White House infrastructure plan. I don’t imagine anyone will be too surprised to learn that the GOP senator wasn’t immediately swayed to endorse the American Jobs Plan.

    […] Mitch McConnell on Thursday ruled out support from his Republicans for President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan, all but ensuring that the proposal will have to pass with lockstep Democratic unity in the Senate. At an event in Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader pilloried the $2.5 trillion infrastructure proposal as exacerbating the debt and raising taxes. McConnell said the bill would not get a single Senate GOP vote, despite the White House’s bipartisan outreach.

    […] If this sounds at all familiar, it’s probably because the Senate minority leader adopted a similar stance a few months ago on the American Rescue Plan […]

    Indeed, we can keep strolling down the same memory lane. As we recently discussed, observers need only look at McConnell’s actions 12 years ago […] with many pleading with GOP officials to resist the urge to slap away the [Obama’s] outstretched hand. McConnell executed a different kind of plan, refusing to even consider bipartisan governing, even when Obama agreed with his opponents.

    […] McConnell felt like he’d cracked a code: Republicans would make popular measures less popular by killing them. McConnell’s plan was predicated on the idea that if he could just turn every debate into a partisan food fight, voters would be repulsed; Obama’s outreach to Republicans would be perceived as a failure; progressive ideas would fail; and GOP candidates would be rewarded for their obstinance.

    […] With Biden in the Oval Office, McConnell’s priority is to position his party to retake the Senate majority after the 2022 midterms, and then elect a Republican president in 2024. Working constructively with a Democratic White House — especially on a popular priority like infrastructure — would do little to advance these objectives, which is precisely why he will choose a maximalist partisan course.

    But — and this is important — McConnell isn’t calling the shots now. He couldn’t derail the Democrats’ COVID relief package, and as things stand, Democrats can use the budget reconciliation process to circumvent the Senate minority leader on infrastructure, too.

    What’s more, public attitudes appear to be shifting. Wholesale Republican opposition to the American Relief Plan did not make it any less popular. […]

    Indeed, as Rachel noted on last night’s show, McConnell has arguably done all of the major players a favor: Democrats could spend weeks and months, desperately trying to find 10 Senate Republicans willing to consider an ambitious infrastructure plan, but the minority leader has effectively taken the possibility off the table.

    And so, everyone involved can simply skip that step and move on with the process of crafting a worthwhile bill that would produce worthwhile results.

    Postscript: The debate is just getting started in earnest, but the distinction between Republicans on Capitol Hill and Republicans elsewhere matters. The New York Times noted this morning, for example, that on the national level, “some local Republican officials are already embracing the prospect of millions of dollars in new infrastructure spending flowing into their communities, even as they are careful to express concern about new taxes.”

    Among the GOP officials voicing support for expansive federal infrastructure investments are Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer (R), Mesa Mayor John Giles (R), and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price (R). When Biden and his team start arguing that their infrastructure plan is plausibly bipartisan, keep this in mind.

  64. says

    Job growth soared in March, exceeding optimistic expectations

    Remember when Trump told us that the economy would collapse if he lost … not true.

    Expectations […] showed projections of about 675,000 new jobs added in the United States in March. As it turns out, according to the new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those projections underestimated matters by a large margin.

    The U.S. economy added 916,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 6 percent, in the strongest indication yet that the labor market is finally working its way back to pre-pandemic norms as the number of vaccinations continues to rise.

    […] By any fair measure, today’s jobs report is worth feeling good about, but no one should forget that the domestic economy still has a long way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels.

    As we discussed in January, the trajectory matters: In March and April of last year, the economy shed over 22 million jobs. The United States spent the next several months adding jobs, but that only brought us back halfway to where we were.

    Just as importantly, the monthly totals gradually decreased in the latter half of 2020 as the coronavirus crisis intensified. In other words, even as the economy added jobs, July’s totals were worse than June’s, August’s totals were worse than July’s, September’s totals were worse than August’s, and so on.

    In December 2020, the economy stopped adding jobs altogether.

    Fortunately, that trend has ended, and we’re moving in the right direction again: January was better than December, February was better than January, and March was better than February and January put together.

    The road ahead is long — we’d need about 13 months like this one to return to where we were when the COVID crisis began — but progress is heartening. [Chart available at the link]

  65. says

    Allegations against the GOP’s Matt Gaetz become even more serious

    Gaetz was already facing accusations of possibly having violated federal sex trafficking laws. The story has now advanced in a dramatic new direction.

    It was Tuesday night when the New York Times first reported that the Justice Department is investigating Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a minor and may have paid for her to travel with him, possibly violating federal sex trafficking laws in the process.

    The allegations, which the congressman has denied, came to the attention of federal law enforcement as part of a larger investigation into one of Gaetz’s political allies: Joel Greenberg, an almost comically scandalous figure, who has been indicted on a variety of crimes, “including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.”

    Overnight, the New York Times advanced this story in dramatic ways.

    A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

    Practically every paragraph in the Times’ report […] adds to the appalling nature of the allegations. The article added, for example, that federal investigators believe Greenberg would meet women “through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts,” and then introduce the women to the Republican congressman, “who also had sex with them.”

    Gaetz, one of Donald Trump’s most flamboyant congressional allies, continues to deny the allegations.

    Nevertheless, according to the reporting, the alleged sexual encounters occurred as recently as 2019 and 2020, with Gaetz and Greenberg allegedly instructing women on where to meet them and receive financial offers. “Some of the men and women took ecstasy,” the Times reported, “an illegal mood-altering drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.”

    The Florida congressman also allegedly asked women to help recruit others “who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends.” Should potential recruits ask, the article added, Gaetz told the women “to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.”

    Of particular interest, the newspaper went on to note that it had reviewed receipts from Cash App and Apple Pay “that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.”

    If accurate, this suggests there may be a financial paper trail — in effect, receipts — that investigators can follow as part of the ongoing investigation.

    […] “It is also a violation of federal child sex trafficking law to provide someone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex, which can include meals, hotels, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. A conviction carries a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.”

    […] federal investigators are examining whether Gaetz used federal campaign funds while “paying for travel and expenses for the women.” CNN added that the Florida Republican “showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with,” including boasts made while on the floor of the U.S. House.

    Congress isn’t holding formal legislative sessions this week, so Capitol Hill is relatively quiet, though it shouldn’t surprise anyone if there’s quite a bit of talk today about Gaetz resigning in disgrace

  66. blf says

    Hank Kunneman Says Christians Must Continue to Trust the ‘Prophets’ Who Guaranteed Trump’s Reelection (RWW edits in {curly braces}):

    Self-proclaimed “prophet” Hank Kunneman […] continued to insist that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, mainly because he cannot accept that all of God’s messengers, prophets, intercessors, {and} Christians were somehow wrong while the enemy and the fake news were right. [And the Chicago Clubs didn’t win the World Series in 2016 since they hadn’t won for 71 years despite their fan’s hopes… –blf]

    […]

    President Trump won the election, Kunneman asserted. So, for people to say, ‘Well, people prophesied that he’d win,’ he did win, and so we had a stolen election. [For my next class in logic, I will prove it’s legal to proceed when the light is Red because it isn’t Yellow and so must be Green… –blf …]

  67. tomh says

    NYT:
    No Federal Taxes for Dozens of Big, Profitable Companies
    By Patricia Cohen
    April 2, 2021

    Just as the Biden administration is pushing to raise taxes on corporations, a new study finds that at least 55 of America’s largest paid no taxes last year on billions of dollars in profits.

    The sweeping tax bill passed in 2017 by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump reduced the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. But dozens of Fortune 500 companies were able to further shrink their tax bill — sometimes to zero — thanks to a range of legal deductions and exemptions that have become staples of the tax code, according to the analysis….

    Twenty-six of the companies listed, including FedEx, Duke Energy and Nike, were able to avoid paying any federal income tax for the last three years even though they reported a combined income of $77 billion. Many also received millions of dollars in tax rebates.
    […]

    The Biden administration announced this week that it planned to increase the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, and establish a kind of minimum tax that would limit the number of zero-payers. The White House estimated that the revisions would raise $2 trillion over 15 years, which will be used to fund the president’s ambitious infrastructure plan.
    […]
    Referring to the proposed revisions, Matt Gardner, a senior fellow at the taxation institute, said, “If I were going to make a list of the things I would want the corporate tax reform to do, this outline tackles all these issues.”

  68. blf says

    The dumbest lawyer not named Orly Taitz or Larry Klayman (or Lin Wood or Sidney Powell) is at it again, again, albeit this time he’s spouting nonsense which will get people killed, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver Peddles Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on New TV Show:

    […] In the past two weeks, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver devoted two episodes of his new TV show to promoting outright conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 virus and the vaccine.

    Staver’s Freedom Alive! show ran a two-part interview with Lee Merritt, an orthopedic surgeon and spokesperson for America’s Frontline Doctors, a group that made a splash last July with a press conference that portrayed hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 (it is not). Video of that press conference was viewed millions of times before major social media platforms removed it for violating policies against misinformation.

    During their interviews, Merritt described a conspiracy to keep hydroxychloroquine and what she claimed were other effective COVID-19 treatments hidden from the medical community and public, saying, it takes a lot of juice at a high level to pull off such a scheme. We are being sold a whole matrix narrative of information that’s convinced us of things that aren’t true, she said.

    […]

    Staver repeatedly referred to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which work differently than traditional vaccines by using messenger RNA to teach the body how to respond to the virus, as so-called vaccines. He claimed they work with a person’s DNA — they do not — calling it shocking and frightening.

    Think of it like a computer chip, Merritt told Staver, adding that people should think of the COVID-19 vaccines as an experimental biologic agent” or experimental gene therapy.

    […]

    In February, McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, published a column by its director, Dr Joe Schwarcz, urging people to “back away” from America’s Frontline Doctors. Merritt “may be a fine orthopedic surgeon, but when it comes to the science of COVID-19, she is a bumbling neophyte,” Schwarcz said. The article also debunked Meritt’s insinuations, which she raised in the Staver interview, that dark forces were at work behind fires in factories that make ingredients for hydroxychloroquine.

    [… more details about demerritt & amerikook’s frothing quacks, etc…]

    On a related note, The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson just published a thorough debunking [The Pandemic’s Wrongest Man, see SC@63] of bogus claims made by Fox News contributor and “pandemic gadfly” Alex Berenson about COVID-19 vaccines.

  69. says

    Reports: Gaetz Caught On Surveillance Vid With Alleged Sex Trafficker Sifting Through IDs

    […] CNN reported overnight that an employee at the tax collector’s office once saw Greenberg and Gaetz on an internal surveillance video, looking through driver licenses on a weekend evening.

    The Daily Beast and The Orlando Sentinel, meanwhile, reported that surveillance camera footage showed Greenberg and another man in the Lake Mary branch of the tax collector’s office at night.

    An employee at that office reportedly arrived on Monday morning to find driver licenses scattered on the desk, instead of in a disposal basket. She told her boss, who asked Greenberg what had happened in a text message. The text, which the Daily Beast said was dated April 16, 2018, was shared with federal investigators last January, the outlets reported.

    “Did you happen to visit the Lake Mary Office on the weekend?” the message read, according to the Daily Beast.

    “Yes I was showing congressman Gaetz what our operation looked like,” Greenberg reportedly replied. “Did I leave something on?”

    It’s unclear if federal investigators have access to that surveillance footage — Seminole County officials told the Daily Beast and the Orlando Sentinel that surveillance video is deleted after 60 days.

    But the reported nighttime rummaging through seemingly discarded ID cards fits with existing allegations against Greenberg.

    As part of the 33 counts — spread across four indictments — against Greenberg, a grand jury alleged that he “used his access to the Seminole County Tax Collector’s Office to take surrendered driver licenses before they were shredded.”

    […] On September 4, 2017, Greenberg allegedly illegally obtained the name, photograph and driver identification number of the “Minor Victim” discussed in the indictments — a girl between 14 and 17 years old who Greenberg is accused of causing to engage in a commercial sex act sometime between May and November 2017.

    This is where new reporting, again, makes things worse for Gaetz: The New York Times reported Thursday that Greenberg met women through websites such as Seeking Arrangement — a destination for so-called Sugar Daddy/Baby relationships — and then introduced them to Gaetz for sex.

    The Times also reported that the 17-year-old girl federal investigators are trying to determine whether Gaetz slept with is the same girl that is discussed in the sex trafficking count against Greenberg.

    In other words: Greenberg is accused of illegally accessing the government information of a 17-year-old girl in 2017, and also of sex trafficking her. And new reporting indicates that authorities are aware of a 2018 text message in which Greenberg acknowledges bringing Gaetz by a branch of the tax collector’s office at night, where an employee later found a mess of IDs scattered on a desk.

    Does Rep. Gaetz recall this nighttime visit? Does he dispute any part of these three reports? Was he aware of Greenberg’s alleged abuse of a government database and discarded driver licenses? Was Gaetz ever aware that Greenberg was allegedly using illegally obtained personal information in furtherance of a sex crime? […]

  70. blf says

    Guess his steaks weren’t cooked to a cinder or had insufficient tomato ketchup, Italian restaurant owner mistakenly sanctioned by Trump:

    […]
    In a case of mistaken identity, Alessandro Bazzoni, who owns a restaurant and pizzeria in the northern Italian city of Verona, had sanctions slapped against his company as part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on blacklisted Venezuelan crude oil.

    The US treasury also mistakenly blacklisted SeriGraphicLab, a graphic design company owned by another man called Alessandro Bazzoni, in Sardinia. […]

    […] On his last day in office, Trump sanctioned a network of oil firms and individuals tied to PDVSA [Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela].

    Bazzoni, the restaurant owner, […] told the newspaper [Corriere della Sera] he solved the problem himself, “by entering my data on a special digital platform of the US government”. He added: “While I was at it I managed to get a visa until 2023.”

    In an updated list on the US treasury’s website dated 31 March, both Italian companies were deleted from the blacklist. A treasury official told Reuters that the department realised the companies were owned by different individuals than the Bazzoni it blacklisted in January.

    The restaurant owner claimed he didn’t receive an apology. “But it’s not a problem, the important thing is they removed my name from that list,” he told Corriere. “I thank the new American government for the efficiency with which it intervened.”

    The Grauniad does not explain who the “Bazzoni” the sanctions were aimed at is. Teh hair furor dalekocrazy’s press release of 19th Jan, Treasury Targets Venezuelan Oil Sector Sanctions Evasion Network asserts:

    [Alessandro] Bazzoni, along with [Francisco Javier] D’Agostino, is a core facilitator of the network, connecting Elemento [Ltd] and Swissoil [Trading SA] with PdVSA and [indicted money launderer Alex Nain Saab Moran]. Bazzoni, an Italian citizen, has been instrumental in coordinating the purchase and sale of Venezuelan-origin crude oil from PdVSA. Following Saab’s June 2020 arrest in Cape Verde and OFAC’s designation of Leal, Bazzoni took over the core coordinating role in the ongoing scheme to broker the re-sale of Venezuelan-origin crude oil from PdVSA and charter vessels willing to go to Venezuela to load oil. Bazzoni was designated today for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy and because he has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, PdVSA.

    That Saab character, based on Ye Pfffft! of All Knowledge, seems like a real piece of work. He’s apparently in detention(? house arrest?) in Cape Verde since June 2020, and is now awaiting extradition to the States. And, apparently, “On 29 December [2020], Nicolás Maduro appointed Alex Saab as ambassador to the African Union, seeking to send Saab to Ethiopia and to prevent his extradition.”

  71. says

    Follow-up to comment 92:

    Beginning to get the impression, via these dates, that Barr was more than likely slow-walking the investigation last year. To help both Gaetz and Trump win re-election.

    Hard to believe it takes this long to pin these charges on Gaetz unless the ball only really got rolling on January 21st, 2021.
    ———————–
    the very thing Qanons rant about—sex rings and pedophilia—are at the center of this investigation and reveal that Republican rot is deep, goes right to the core. From what I read, the GOP knew about Gaetz’s shenanigans for months and pretended (and I’m sure will continue) not to see or hear or acknowledge. The fact that this will likely include other Florida politicians receiving access to the Sugar Daddy list suggests we’re only at the beginning of a huge blowup.
    ———————–
    If Republicans are accusing others of something, you can be certain they are themselves doing it.
    ———————–
    Giuliani shakes his head: “Jesus these guys are sloppy.”

    Text posted by readers of the TPM article.

  72. says

    […] It’s interesting that in the Axios interview Gaetz referred to his “single days” and the statement issued to the Times notes that Gaetz is looking forward to his upcoming wedding. Gaetz became engaged in December. But the FBI is reportedly interviewing women that Gaetz paid for sex “as recently as January.”

    That would seem to indicate that Gaetz was still engaged in these acts a month after he became engaged to be married. It also shows that he was still carrying on more than six months after Greenberg was arrested and indicted. […]

    Link

  73. blf says

    QAnon Community Outraged by Matt Gaetz Sex Trafficking Investigation… Except for the Wrong Reason:

    It’s almost as if the conspiracy theorists aren’t actually that concerned about child trafficking

    QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory predicated on the idea that the government is run by a cabal of sex-trafficking pedophiles. It stands to reason that adherents might feel a little vindicated — celebratory, even — when news breaks that a prominent politician is under investigation for sex trafficking. Such news broke last night, when The New York Times reported that the FBI is looking at Rep Matt Gaetz […] for a possible sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, whom he may have “trafficked” by paying for her to travel across state lines.

    But alas, the QAnon community doesn’t seem to be calling for Gaetz to be removed from Congress, arrested, or worse, as they have for countless other politicians who are not under investigation for sex trafficking. Instead, the QAnon crowd appears to be defending Gaetz by alleging that the media and the Justice Department are persecuting one of former President [sic] Trump’s most fervent supporters.

    Gaetz has made it easy for them. His defense centers around the idea that the allegations are tied to a crooked ex-Justice Department official’s attempt to extort his family, and there isn’t much the QAnon community loves more than the idea that the Justice Department is filled with “deep state” actors trying to sabotage Trump and his supporters.

    […]

    The main thing Gaetz seems to want everyone to understand is not what happened, but that he’s being treated unfairly and people are out to get him. It’s just the kind of paranoid conspiracy theorizing that continues to fuel QAnon as their prognostications fall flat over and over again […]

    Regardless of whether Gaetz is intentionally trying to muddy the waters around whatever is actually going on here, the situation has become so confusing that the QAnon community has been able to fill in the gaps with whatever they feel suits the movement, which — surprise! — doesn’t seems as concerned with sex trafficking as it does with defending Trump and his allies at all costs.

  74. says

    JFC: “Christ has called me” Former Sec. of State Pompeo Suspends 2024 Presidential Bid Activities

    […] Pompeo, a self-proclaimed evangelical Christian originally from Santa Anna California, who served as a conservative congressman from Wichita Kansas, was appointed by […] Trump as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in January of 2017, and later replaced dismissed oil tycoon Rex Tillerson as head of the US Department of State in April of 2018.

    “Christ has called me, and I will follow” one source familiar with the matter said about the motivation for this new missionary initiative Pompeo is said to be planning to formally announce later this month along with several evangelical leaders and former Trump officials whom he has been meeting with over the last several weeks.

    Pompeo, along with other former members of the Trump cabinet such as Betsy DeVos, Rick Perry, Jeff Sessions, Ben Carson, and others including Vice President Mike Pence, were in the “White House Bible Study Group” led by former NBA basketball player Ralph Drollinger.

    Speculation about the role of the Wednesday morning prayer group’s influence on Pompeo’s decision has been circulating in former Trump insider circles, along with rumors about who may be funding the former secretary’s new evangelistic endeavor.

    In which country, or countries, Pompeo’s mission is to take place is still a mystery due to the contentious relationships he has had with world leaders as Trump’s top foreign diplomat. His past Islamophobic statements and support of returning the Israeli capitol to Jerusalem have made him an unwelcome figure across the Islamic world and the Middle East and his anti-immigrant policies and programs are unpopular across Mexico, Central and South America. […]

    Although Pompeo largely ignored the plight of most countries in Africa during the global coronavirus pandemic, it seems that it is the one continent in which he might be allowed to do missionary work. Or as one State department observer noted “there’s always Canada, or Russia, he’s still got friends there.”

    While at the State, Pompeo received sharp criticism for using federal funds and department assets, such as aircraft and venues, for promoting his own political ambitions while still a cabinet secretary under Trump. It was revealed in May of 2020 that he had been using taxpayer dollars to pay for lavish, head-of-state-style, catered “Madison Dinners” at his Arlington Virginia home arranged using his second wife’s personal email account. […]

  75. says

    Biden holds first call with Ukrainian president amid Russian buildup

    The conversation follows at least three high-level calls between the U.S. and Ukraine this week.

    President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on Friday morning for the first time since Biden took office, amid reports of a Russian military buildup in eastern Ukraine that has alarmed U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

    The leaders spoke for 30 to 40 minutes, according to a person with knowledge of the call. A White House readout of the conversation said Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.”

    The leaders also discussed Zelensky’s anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, which are “central to Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the readout says.

    […] “We obviously don’t want to see any more violations of Ukrainian territory,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said this week. “We’ve been very clear about the threats that we see from Russia across domains … we’re taking them very seriously.”

  76. says

    “Senior officer rejects Chauvin’s ‘totally unnecessary’ use of force against George Floyd”

    Washington Post link

    An emotional week of testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin concluded Friday with Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the most senior officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, rejecting the former officer’s use of force against George Floyd, calling it “uncalled for” and “totally unnecessary.” Zimmerman testified that once someone is handcuffed, “they are not a threat to you at that point” and the amount of force should be immediately reduced. “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that could kill him,” he testified.

    Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, argued Friday that police can use “improvisation” for “whatever force is reasonable and necessary.”

    […] Toward the end of his testimony Friday, Zimmerman said Chauvin should not have held his position on Floyd’s neck until paramedics arrived.

    During cross-examination, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, mentioned that his client kneeling on Floyd’s neck was a practice he called “holding for EMS” because “they are more capable to deal with whatever the situation is.”

    Nelson argued that sometimes people are held in a restrained position until paramedics arrive on the scene to administer medical treatment.

    When prosecutors had their turn to question Zimmerman, the lieutenant confirmed that just because police are “holding for EMS,” it does not excuse an officer from providing medical attention to someone in custody. […]

  77. KG says

    Lynna, OM@98,

    It’s an April fool – see the attribuion to “Associated April Press 2021” at the bottom of the article!

  78. says

    There’s an incident at the Capitol, which is on lockdown. It looks like a car hit two Capitol police officers and slammed into a barrier close to the building. The police and the driver have been taken to the hospital. I don’t know if the driver was shot.

  79. says

    Free to speak is his mind, Boehner says some GOP reps were ‘morons’

    During his tenure as Speaker of the House, John Boehner would occasionally express some frustrations with his own GOP conference. A year before his 2015 retirement, for example, the Ohioan lamented the number of Republican “knuckleheads” he had to deal with.

    Five months earlier, Boehner publicly mocked his own members over their reluctance to work on immigration reform. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Oh, don’t make me do this. Oh, this is too hard,'” Boehner said, in a tone deriding House Republicans as if they were sniveling children. He added, “We get elected to make choices. We get elected to solve problems, and it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to.”

    Yep. I’ve noted that before. Republicans just do not want to do the work.

    Six years removed from his lengthy tenure on Capitol Hill, Boehner has written a book on his experiences, and Politico published an essay today adapted from the text. The first paragraph helped capture the former Speaker’s current feelings:

    In the 2010 midterm election, voters from all over the place gave President Obama what he himself called “a shellacking.” And oh boy, was it ever. You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name — and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.

    Remember, in case this isn’t already obvious, this is the former Republican Speaker referring to some of his own Republican members.

    In the second paragraph, Boehner described the challenge of trying to lead a massive group of first-year GOP representatives:

    Since I was presiding over a large group of people who’d never sat in Congress, I felt I owed them a little tutorial on governing. I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way.

    […] Boehner’s essay proceeded to call out GOP members of Congress who “didn’t really want legislative victories,” conservative “propaganda” outlets that churned out “crazy nonsense,” and Fox News for making governing impossible — and creating “a living hell” for him.

    In the same vein, Boehner described an amazing story in which Michele Bachmann — whom he described as a “lunatic” — threatened to leverage her position as a prominent figure in conservative media unless the then-Speaker gave her a committee assignment she liked.

    As for Barack Obama, with whom Boehner clashed frequently, the Republican added, “He still wasn’t making Republican outreach a priority. But on the other hand — how do you find common cause with people who think you are a secret Kenyan Muslim traitor to America?”

    That’s a good question.

    Why would the former Speaker’s perspective matter six years later? Part of Boehner’s essay resonated because of the degree to which it debunks the idea that the Obama era would’ve been more productive if only the then-president had schmoozed, golfed, and rubbed elbows with Republicans who hated him.

    […] “A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected. Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. […]”

    […] Boehner had a front-row seat to a political avalanche that never really stopped. The Ohioan wanted to legislate, and had ambitions of being a consequential House Speaker, but just as he rose to a position of real influence, he quickly discovered that he was leading a radicalized caucus, that was indifferent to governing, and which had become preoccupied with the whims of propaganda outlets that had helped poison his party.

    All of which is to say, John Boehner’s problems before are our problems now.

  80. says

    “Multiple outlets are reporting that at least one person has been shot. The Washington Post is reporting that the person is the suspect.”

    CNN is reporting that the driver might have been brandishing a knife.

  81. tomh says

    NYT:
    Virginia, the Old Confederacy’s Heart, Becomes a Voting Rights Bastion
    By Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti
    April 2, 2021

    ARLINGTON, Va.– As states across the South race to establish new voting restrictions, Virginia is bolting in the opposite direction. The Democratic governor, Ralph Northam, this week capped a multiyear liberal movement for greater ballot access by signing off on sweeping legislation to recreate pivotal elements of the federal Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority in 2013.

    Alone among the states of the former Confederacy, Virginia has become a voting rights bastion, increasingly encouraging its citizens — especially people of color — to exercise their democratic rights. In the last 14 months, the state’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly and Mr. Northam have together repealed the state’s voter ID law, enacted 45 days of no-excuse absentee voting, made Election Day a state holiday and enacted automatic voter registration for anyone who receives a Virginia driver’s license.

    Virginia, which for nearly 50 years had to submit changes to its elections to the federal government for approval under the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirements, has now effectively imposed the same covenants on itself, an extraordinary step for a state with a long history of segregation and racially targeted voting laws.

    The new law that was approved on Wednesday, called the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, requires all local elections administrators to receive public feedback or advance approval from the state’s attorney general for changes like moving voting precincts or elections registrars’ offices, and allows voters and the attorney general to sue over voter suppression. It expressly prohibits any racial discrimination or intimidation related to voting….

    “At a time when voting rights are under attack across our country, Virginia is expanding access to the ballot box, not restricting it,” Mr. Northam said. “Our Commonwealth is creating a model for how states can provide comprehensive voter protections that strengthen democracy and the integrity of our elections.”

  82. blf says

    Mask-wearing chocolate bunnies (and other amusing / tempting images), France’s ‘essential’ chocolate sellers ring in second Easter under lockdown:

    […] In France, it has hardly raised an eyebrow that chocolate shops count among the list of merchants authorised to remain open. This holiday season certainly counts as an essential one for France’s chocolatiers.

    Indeed, the French are among Europe’s foremost chocolate fiends. The average household in France consumed 7.2kg of chocolate last year, according to the country’s chocolate trade union, the Syndicat du chocolat. [That’s nothing compared to Switzerland’s c.9kg –blf] French connoisseurs have a significant weakness for dark chocolate, which makes up 30 percent of the chocolate the country enjoys, compared to five percent in Europe as a whole, according to market research group Kantar.

    Ninety percent of the country’s chocolate makers are small and medium-sized firms, according to the Syndicat du chocolat.

    […]

    Some creations are virtually museum-worthy: For 2021, La Maison du Chocolat’s master chef Nicolas Cloiseau created a limited-edition chocolate art piece entitled “Egg UFE — unidentified flying egg” handmade from 7kg of chocolate for the sweet sum of €1500. [short video at link]

    […]

    Although no stranger to the festivities in France, the Easter Bunny, which is German in origin, isn’t the star of the occasion here that it has become in the Anglo-Saxon world. In the Catholic tradition in France, Easter lore has it that chiming bells distribute the sweets. Chocolate bells, eggs and hens make up a considerable chunk of France’s Easter treat iconography, with fish another biblical reference commonly turned chocolatey for the occasion (although bunnies, ducks, pandas and kangaroos are evidently welcome, too).

    The bell custom comes from the symbolic pause in chiming their bells that churches mark between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in mourning for Jesus Christ before the resurrection. To explain the bell’s silence, children were traditionally told that the bells had flown to Rome to be blessed by the pope. Upon their return, amid prolific chiming, they are said to bring back chocolate eggs that “land” in fields and gardens — or on apartment balconies.

    […]

    Indeed. Accidental landings of tired, lost, or overloaded church bells are not unknown, and you can hear their frantic flapping as they pass overhead. Albeit they do leave behind tasty droppings…

  83. blf says

    Not sure if it’s been mentioned in this series of threads, but in teh NKofE (N.Korea of Europe†, also known as teh “U”K), a report on racial discrimination was recently published by the so-called “government”. It is so bad it’s being described as teh “U”K’s version of hair furor’s infamous “1776 report”, Historian David Olusoga joins academic criticism of No 10’s race report (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    Broadcaster says report seems to want to brush history under the carpet, as others attack ‘distorted’ use of research

    One of Britain’s foremost historians of slavery has accused the authors of a controversial racial disparities report commissioned by Downing Street of giving the impression they would prefer “history to be swept under the carpet”.

    Broadcaster David Olusoga, professor of public history at Manchester University, made the comments in an article for the Guardian [The poisonously patronising Sewell report is historically illiterate], as hundreds of experts on race, education, health and economics joined the criticism of the report for brazenly misrepresenting evidence of racism.

    Published in full on Wednesday, the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities said its findings presented a new race agenda for the country, and concluded the claim the country is still institutionally racist is not borne out by the evidence.

    MPs, unions and campaigners swiftly condemned the report, with comments made by the commission’s chairman, Dr Tony Sewell, in its foreword singled out for special criticism. Sewell wrote there was a new story to be told about the slave period not just about profit and suffering, but about how culturally African people transformed themselves into a re-modelled African / Britain.

    Professor Olusoga is scathing (see link embedded above):

    [The report] condemns young people for doing exactly what it claims to support — exploring their ancestors’ roles in shaping Britain

    Since its publication, the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has been denounced as “divorced from reality” by public health experts. Dame Doreen Lawrence [mother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered because he was black and the police weren’t interested –blf] has warned that it risks pushing the fight against racism “back 20 years or more”. Academics named in the report have revealed they were not properly consulted, and an author is having his name removed. Windrush campaigners have condemned the report for paying so little attention to the scandal that was exposed three years ago, and just about every leading writer and commentator on race and racism in the UK has criticised the report’s findings and challenged its methodology.

    Very hair furorian.

    […] The report minimises and at times denies the existence of institutional racism in Britain, despite the fact that, as the government now acknowledges, several witnesses gave detailed evidence of the forms of institutional and structural racism that they feel do operate within the UK. It was produced by a commission led by figures who had rejected the concept of institutional racism years before they began work. […]

    From memory, “institutional racism” in the police was one of the main conclusions of the inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the indifferent, bungled, police investigation and prosecution (the murders were not convicted).

    The report’s many detractors struggle to see how its authors could reach its conclusions from the data presented. The chapter on health inequalities was ripped apart by no lesser an authority than the British Medical Journal. At its worst, the report is government-funded whataboutery stretched over 258 pages.

    […] Shockingly, the authors […] deploy a version of an argument that was used by the slave owners themselves in defence of slavery 200 years ago: the idea that by becoming culturally British, black people were somehow beneficiaries of the system.

    It is the fact that the histories of slavery and empire are becoming mainstream, and that young people are entirely comfortable with the reality that “profit and suffering” were at the centre of both, that appears to disturb the authors and the government whose agenda they have so faithfully served. Determined to privilege comforting national myths over hard historical truths, they give the impression of being people who would prefer this history to be brushed back under the carpet.

    The historical illiteracy and internal inconsistencies do not stop there. The report argues that young black people should reclaim their British heritage. Which is exactly what black British people have been doing, by recovering the contributions of their ancestors to British history and culture. Yet the report crudely characterises those struggles to bring marginalised black figures and communities into the mainstream of British history as token expressions of black achievement — a poisonously patronising phrase.

    This report is, in effect, Britain’s version of the 1776 report […]. The authors of the 1776 report blamed racial disadvantage in the US not on the legacies of slavery, segregation and continuing racism but on the teaching of the histories of slavery and segregation in American schools and universities. To counter this, they called for critical scholarship to be replaced by what they called patriotic education. There are statements in the UK’s race disparities report that come dangerously close to similar conclusions.

    Just as disingenuous is the report’s false characterisation of demands made by students and staff at many universities for the decolonisation of the curriculum. The report mischaracterises these demands as the banning of white authors. This crude attack line, like so many others in the report, is inflected with a patronising tone of inter-generational arrogance, a blithe dismissal of the politics and passions of the young […]

    […]

    Throughout the report, the authors rail against phenomena they either misrepresent or misunderstand. They defend the nation from charges no one is making; they create and then slay straw men, and set up false binaries. […]

    Leaving the smoking ruins of the report, back to the original Grauniad article:

    […]
    Hakim Adi, professor of the history of Africa and the African diaspora at the University of Chichester, told the Guardian that the report’s foreword failed to make clear that the subjugation of millions of African people was a crime against humanity.

    “It is forgetting the hundreds of years of the crimes against the African people, the deaths of millions of African men, women and children,” said Adi. “We live in a country where {many} have denied this as a reality, they have refused to make any reparation, and for this report to put it in a paragraph in that manner — the word insulting does not do it justice.”

    The British theologian Robert Beckford said it was consistent with the radical and “historical amnesia and vicious historical revisionism” of Caribbean and African history by the far right. Beckford, professor of Black theology at the Queen’s Foundation, Birmingham, said the report had reduced slavery’s racial terror and Britain’s racial capitalism to a simple exchange of cultural ideas.

    [… Sewell utters something totally missing the point…]

    The report drew further criticism on Friday from hundreds of UK academics who came together to sign an open letter criticising its “selective and distorted use of academic research”.

    [… more about the open letter…]

      † Both N.Koreas are self-isolated nuclear-armed regimes run by a small, paranoid, kleptomatic heredity elite.

  84. says

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff on Friday in honor of a Capitol Police officer who died after a person crashed a car into a security barricade near the Senate side of the building.

    “Speaker Pelosi has ordered the flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff due to the death of a U.S. Capitol Police Officer in the of duty today,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said on Twitter.

    “The process of lowering the flags may take longer than usual because of the Capitol’s current lockdown status,” Hammill noted.

    “He did not respond to verbal commands. The suspect did start lunging toward U.S. Capitol Police officers, at which time U.S. Capitol Police officers fired upon the suspect,” Pittman said at a press briefing.

    “The suspect has been pronounced deceased. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers were transported to two different hospitals, and it is with a very, very heavy heart that I announce [one of the] officers has succumbed to his injuries,” she said. […]

    Link

  85. says

    MLB pulls All-Star Game out of Georgia over voting reform law

    Major League Baseball (MLB) announced Friday that it is pulling its All-Star Game for the 2021 season out of Georgia in protest of the state’s new voting restrictions signed into law last month.

    Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, said in a statement the decision was made after conversations with teams and players and that moving the July 13 game out of the Peach State is “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.” The MLB draft will also be moved out of Georgia.

    “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said. […]

  86. blf says

    Sadly, it’s been corrected, Road typo stops Italian town in tracks and lightens lockdown:

    […]
    A typo in a road marking has caused amusement among residents of a town near Rome, helping to break the monotony of the coronavirus lockdown.

    Workers freshening up markings this week at an intersection on Via Regina Margherita in the beach town of Sabaudia painted “Sotp” instead of “Stop” in bold letters.

    A photo of the error was posted by Giada Gervasi, the mayor of Sabaudia, on her Facebook page, inviting ironic comments including suggestions that the typo should be maintained as a tourist attraction.

    Gervasi was quick to distance the town hall from the misprint, writing on Facebook that “the company in charge made a mistake” and promising a quick correction. “Sotp will return to Stop,” she wrote. “It’s a small mistake that maybe made you smile!”

    […]

    The typo was quickly rectified, although Gervasi later had to spring to the defence of the culprit. “Once again no time was wasted in insulting those who, in carrying out their work, made a mistake,” she wrote in another post on Facebook.

    Gervasi backed up her message of solidarity with the worker by citing a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt […]: “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.”

    Image at the link. No comennt form Tpyos.

  87. quotetheunquote says

    @SC #73
    Thanks, I needed that… hadn’t had a really good laugh in weeks!

    (By the way, I have stayed in at least one of those camps – I think it was a Four Points. The continental breakfast sucked, but my wife and I made it out alive, somehow…)

  88. says

    NBC News:

    Washington and Tehran have agreed to indirect talks on returning to the Iran nuclear deal, the U.S. State Department said Friday.

  89. says

    Former President Obama:

    Congratulations to @MLB for taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens. There’s no better way for America’s pastime to honor the great Hank Aaron, who always led by example.

    Commentary:

    he praise comes after the MLB announced it was pulling its July 13 game out of Atlanta in opposition to a string of voter restrictions Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law last month.

    Rob Manfred, the MLB commissioner, said in a statement the decision was made after conversations with teams and players and that moving the game out of the Peach State is “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.” The MLB draft will also be moved out of Georgia.

    “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” Manfred said.

    Among the restrictions Kemp signed into law are limits on ballot drop boxes, shorter periods in which a Georgia resident can apply for a mail-in ballot and new photo ID requirements for absentee voting.

    […] “Disappointed @MLB will move the All-Star Game, but proud of their stance on voting rights. GA GOP traded economic opportunity for suppression,” voting rights advocate and 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams tweeted.

    […] The GOP hammered the MLB’s decision, saying it caved to pressure from Democrats.

    “Georgians – and all Americans – should fully understand what the MLB’s knee-jerk decision means: cancel culture and woke political activists are coming for every aspect of your life, sports included. If the left doesn’t agree with you, facts and the truth do not matter,” Kemp said in a statement Friday.

    Link

    Yeah, Kemp and the other Republicans do not have a leg to stand on here.

  90. says

    Trump ‘Accidentally’ Sanctioned Random Italian Restaurant

    Alessandro Bazzoni is the owner of a restaurant in Verona, Italy. This man was just minding his own business, making pizza, trying to survive the COVID pandemic both literally and economically, when one day he went to the bank to find out that all of his accounts were blocked.

    The reason they were blocked, it turns out, is that Bazzoni’s company was mistakenly sanctioned by the US government. Because on Trump’s last day, he sanctioned what he thought were a bunch of oil firms connected to Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela — some of which turned out to just be random businesses that had nothing to do with that at all. Like a pizza restaurant. And a graphic design firm in Sardinia, owned by a dude also named Alessandro Bazzoni. Because, apparently, there was a Venezuelan company owned by another guy named Alessandro Bazzoni.

    […] Via The Guardian:

    In 2019, Trump’s government imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), in an attempt to force the resignation of president Nicolás Maduro, who the US accused of corruption, human rights violations and rigging his 2018 re-election. On his last day in office, Trump sanctioned a network of oil firms and individuals tied to PDVSA. […]

    “When I heard that my current accounts had been blocked, I thought it was a joke,” Bazzoni told Corriere della Sera. “These are already difficult times for us restaurant owners, the last thing I needed was to have my accounts blocked.”

    The restaurant owner claimed he didn’t receive an apology. “But it’s not a problem, the important thing is they removed my name from that list,” he told Corriere. “I thank the new American government for the efficiency with which it intervened.”

    I checked Corriere del Veneto to see if that came across in Italian the way it does in English, and I assure you it does.

    Now, it would be one thing if this were just one incident that could be blamed on incompetence alone — but this is part of a pattern. A pattern of pizza crime, which I have been steadfastly documenting lo these past few years.

    For far too long, the Right has waged war on pizza, the greatest and most beloved culinary invention in the history of the world […] Most famously, there was Pizzagate, a bizarre conspiracy theory rooted in the belief that there was just something suspicious about how much an Italian guy (John Podesta) talked about food, namely pizza. “No one could talk about food that much!” they thought, and then assumed must be code for something nefarious. Like child sex trafficking. Imagine how many headaches we could have saved over the years if any of the people spreading this nonsense had simply met an Italian person at any point in their lives.

    […] This was not the only pizza crime. There is also Papa John, who didn’t want to pay for his workers to have health insurance because it would cost 11 to 14 more cents per pizza, and who eventually had to step down from his position as CEO for being too racist. He also made very bad pizza that tastes like someone poured a bag of Domino’s sugar on it, while cosplaying as an Italian person by calling himself “Papa John” and hoping no one would realize he is a German-American guy from Kentucky, which I maintain is just a super weird thing to do.

    […] “Godfather’s Pizza,” the pizza chain owned by deceased Trump acolyte Herman Cain. Not only is it terrible — I had it at an airport once and it was grotesque — but the name is a little offensive, frankly. […] is not an ideal look for a company founded by some very not-Italian people in Omaha, Nebraska.

    I mean … [Video available at the link]

    I realize that Republicans hate all that is good in the world, but these attacks on pizza, which is very delicious and has never hurt anyone (who wasn’t lactose intolerant), must end.

  91. says

    Josh Marshall:

    […] big corporations are lining up in opposition to the voter suppression law in Texas as many have been over the last couple weeks in response to the legislation in Georgia. This broader trend has spurred a generally insipid and perhaps offensive debate about whether corporate America is now “woke” as well as a more interesting question about whether we should applaud a system in which corporate America tries to exercise a veto over the political choices of state governments. (Remember, it may not always be laws you disagree with.) But apart from loaded questions this phenomenon is an illustration of a broader reality undergirding almost all American politics today, which is important to focus on.

    Why are corporations doing this?

    The first thing to note is that this isn’t really left and right, though it overlaps with that division significantly. It’s more cosmopolitan urban America and one way of looking at this is that cosmopolitan urban America controls what we might call the commanding heights of cultural production in contemporary America. As such it exercises a strong hold over the reputations that are so critical to modern corporations, especially to consumer-facing ones. […]

    But there’s another more specific, albeit complementary, way to understand this dynamic. Consumer-facing corporations are most sensitive and responsive to economic dynamism, disposable income and growth. Growth is an arrow pointing forward in time. Which is another way to say it focuses on the young. Put this all together and it means that in the domain of culture and consumerism blue America is already leaving red America in the dust. It’s not even close. Think of Nike, Apple, Coke, Pepsi, Google, Nestle, major league sports, really every corporation under the sun you might directly buy something from.

    […] politics is different. In the domain of vote counting, blue America is in the lead as well, but only marginally. With a host of structural factors ranging from the electoral college and the senate to the concentration of Democratic voters in cities and gerrymandering it is possible for red America to dominate politics even while getting fewer votes overall. A 65 year old in a declining mid-sized town has a vote that counts just as much as a 30-something with lots of disposable income in one of the country’s high growth metropoles. Indeed, because of those structural factors their vote counts significantly more.

    In other words, the domains of culture and consumerism are significantly out of alignment with the world of politics, even as they both seem to be trending in similar directions.

    […] mostly I think we can trust corporate America to accurately gauge where the money, the future and public opinion is.

    This disjuncture between consumer America and future America on the one hand and the American political system – both everyone getting a vote and architecture of the system itself – is perhaps the defining tension or dynamic in American life today.

    Of course, corporate America’s deepest needs remain access to the levers of state power and finding ideological allies interested in killing regulations and keeping taxes as low as possible. […] even the most trendsetting corporations rooted in the country’s most liberal enclaves still want to get close to power. Remember those awkward but smiley moments of Trump convening the CEOs of all the country’s tech giants around one table in 2017.

    So we shouldn’t expect corporate America to become Democrats’ best friends. Because they’re clearly not. And in any case, as I noted above, it’s not really right vs left in any case. But this disjuncture remains a central if not the central tension point across the entirety of American politics today.

    Link

  92. says

    I don’t think Trump succeed in this promotion of a boycott of baseball, among other things:

    […] “Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of the Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter I.D., which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections,” Trump said in a statement released by Save America PAC.

    “Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections. Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all!” he added. The statement rebuking baseball and companies challenging the state’s overhaul of voting rights was first reported by The Hill.

    Trump’s comments come after the MLB announced its decision to relocate the game which was initially scheduled for July 13 at the Atlanta Braves’ Truist Park, after the state signed new restrictive elections rules into law.

    “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” MLB commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. said in a statement released Friday.[…]

    Link

  93. says

    NYT details how the Trump campaign scammed supporters into making ‘unwitting’ donations

    I happen to believe that if you send money to Donald Trump you pretty much get what you deserve. If people still haven’t learned from Trump University, Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, Trump Magazine, Trump Airlines, Trump: The Game, and Trump: The Shitty Presidency, then they’ll never learn anything.

    The only way I’d feel good about sending money to anything remotely Trump-related is if the EPA declared his quaggy, purpling corpse a Superfund site, in which case I’d be happy to chip in for transport to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository. […]

    But, hey, as we saw on Jan. 6, there are plenty of benighted, dead-ender Trumpies willing to keep his grift alive for several more years, even though he keeps doing shit like this.

    New York Times:

    Stacy Blatt was in hospice care last September listening to Rush Limbaugh’s dire warnings about how badly Donald J. Trump’s campaign needed money when he went online and chipped in everything he could: $500.

    It was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.

    What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud.

    “It felt,” Russell said, “like it was a scam.”

    Oh, it was a scam, Russell. It so was. But let me ask you this. Does Donald Trump have to steal from you directly before you realize this is what he’s all about? Because if we have to wait for Donald Trump to personally grift every human being on the planet before people realize he’s an unrepentant scammer, it will take a lot more than 15 flushes to permanently get rid of him.

    Of course, the Blatts weren’t the only ones taken to the cleaners by the Trump campaign.

    The Blatts, along with many other Trump donors, were snookered by a tactic in which donors who intended to make one-time contributions instead set themselves up for recurring—in some cases weekly—donations that were automatically withdrawn from their bank accounts. As The Times notes, what the Blatts thought was overt fraud was actually “an intentional scheme to boost revenues” on the part of the Trump campaign and WinRed, the company that processes the campaign’s online donations.

    As the Trump team’s coffers dwindled and the campaign was being vastly outspent by the Democrats, it “set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week of the election.” Worse: “Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.”

    […] Eventually, notes The Times, the campaign made the disclaimer “increasingly opaque” and introduced another pre-checked box known as a “money bomb,” which further increased donors’ contributions. “Eventually,” writes The Times, “its solicitations featured lines of text in bold and capital letters that overwhelmed the opt-out language.”

    Just in case you’re tempted to think, well, this is just how politics is done these days—well, it’s not. Not really. We can’t be naive, of course. I got plenty of Biden-Harris solicitations screaming about arbitrary fundraising goals and deadlines, but I never felt outright scammed into contributing more than I wanted to.

    In fact, ActBlue, the Democratic counterpart to WinRed, says it has started to phase out prechecked boxes asking for recurring donations […] ActBlue is a nonprofit, WinRed is a for-profit company that takes a chunk of every donation.

    […] Ultimately, the Trump team’s tactic worked, filling the campaign’s coffers […] After the election, Trump continued to raise money in order to fight phantom election fraud, and he was able to use that cash to cover the refunds he was ultimately forced to issue. […]

    Further, political strategists and campaign finance experts noted that they’d never seen refunds of this magnitude before. In fact, according to The Times, the refunds issued by Trump and the RNC totaled more than those given out by every federal Democratic candidate and committee combined.

    So there you have it.

    If you don’t want to be scammed out of your money—or your life, for that matter—don’t support Republicans. And definitely don’t go into business with Donald Trump.

    But that should be fucking obvious by now, shouldn’t it?

  94. says

    As social media platforms finally take to cracking down on conspiracy theories, right-wing propaganda has found a new home. Conspiracy theorists are flooding TikTok, a popular social media application known for its short videos, with misinformation and alt-right propaganda.

    While this seems harmless as propaganda is not new to social media, the issue is these videos are making their way to a number of audiences because of TikTok’s recommendation algorithm. The algorism encourages users to follow accounts that are in their area or similar to their interests, by pushing multiple conspiracy theory accounts, TikTok’s algorithm is spreading extremist misinformation at a rapid rate, according to Media Matters. As a result, far-right conspiracy theories are creating massive communities […]

    According to Media Matters, while some accounts are dedicated to theories of why the earth is flat others are more harmful and spread misinformation about cultures and identities, including COVID-19. That in itself is harmful to the country specifically, Asian Americans who have been discriminated against and targeted due to these theories, however as TikTok’s algorithm promotes these videos more harm is done as misinformation reaches broader and often more vulnerable audiences.

    A majority of TikTok users are GenZ users that are subject to influence from social media […]. A fact it seems many alt-right TikTok users are taking advantage of. It only takes one video for a person’s entire feed to be filled with “ConspiracyTok.” The way TikTok’s account recommendation algorithm works is individual users are recommended to one another by not only distance but potential interest.

    Meaning if you accidentally even stumble on one video you most likely will end up seeing more in the future. Additionally, if a user follows someone they are more likely to get recommendations of similar accounts. This has caused the massive spread of not only anti-vax misinformation but, QAnon-related theories, COVID-19 denial, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

    Of course, TikTok is working to ban and has banned many alt-right users from spreading misinformation but the issue is that this misinformation is not always easy to catch.

    According to Media Matters, many conspiracy theorists pose as harmless users by posting a variety of content. This prevents them from being flagged as not all their content is controversial. For example, “Conscious Content” is an account with over 11,300 followers, whose bio reads: “Learn and inspire!” With videos about TV shows and other random information, one would never assume that this account belonged to a conspiracy theorist, but a deeper dive shows that the user suggests conspiracies such as believing that Jeffery Epstein was an Israeli spy.

    […] An easy way to find these users is by noting the hashtags they commonly use on videos, but again the issue comes down to these users cleverly diversifying their feeds to include different types of content and different tags as well. […]

    If an account describes itself as a lifestyle account, a person who follows similar accounts may unknowingly follow it not realizing it is meant to spread conspiracy theories. […]

    This has been documented throughout TikTok’s history with COVID-19 misinformation especially being a huge documented problem. While at first videos focused on COVID-19 and its spread they now focus on misinformation to do with the vaccine. “This shot will rearrange your DNA. They’ve planned this for one hundred years, it is the mark of the beast,” one user […] said. The account has over 27,500 followers.

    […] Studies have found that many youth and young adults get their news from social media […]

    By not addressing the issue more thoroughly, TikTok is failing its users. […] TikTok’s algorithm does more harm than good and needs to be redeveloped to consider the potential risks it poses.

    Link

  95. raven says

    WSJ April 2, 2021
    How a Custody Fight Plus QAnon Turned Deadly
    Christopher Hallett’s unorthodox legal theories gave Neely Petrie-Blanchard hope, and his online community of QAnon believers gave her a way to make sense of her disordered life
    By Georgia Wells in Ocala, Fla., and Justin Scheck in Youngstown, Ohio
    April 2, 2021 11:19 am ET

    Christopher Hallett spent years helping Neely Petrie-Blanchard fight for custody of her daughters. Then on the evening of Nov. 15, she shot him in the head in his Ocala, Fla., home. While blood pooled beneath Mr. Hallett’s dying body, Ms. Petrie-Blanchard declared her motive. She was convinced Mr. Hallett had joined a cabal of government Satanists to steal her children.

    Mr. Hallett was a self-appointed expert in child-custody law, with no formal legal training, whose theories about corruption in the legal system attracted thousands of followers on YouTube and Facebook .

    Qanon is half right.
    Some conspiracy theories have claimed a huge number of victims.
    What they don’t get right is who.
    Qanon are the criminal perpetrators, not the solution.

    “She was convinced Mr. Hallett had joined a cabal of government Satanists to steal her children.”
    This woman killed a guy based on a made up fantasy.

  96. says

    raven @124, yep. Violence based on made up stuff. Sounds very QAnon, and also sounds very trumpian. It’s all of a piece. And now we have state legislators passing voter-restriction laws based on lies about fraud in the 2020 election. I am so fucking weary of all the lies.

    Speaking of those voter-suppression laws: CEA Chair Defends MLB’s Decision To Relocate Game Over Opposition To GA Law

    Council of Economic Advisers chair Dr. Cecilia Rouse on Sunday defended Major League Baseball’s decision to relocate its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new restrictive voting law.

    During an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Rouse was asked about President Biden calling on the MLB to relocate its All-Star Game prior to the league taking it upon itself to do so. The CEA chair was pressed on whether the President’s demand for the MLB means that the White House is urging corporations to use their economic power to take political positions.

    Rouse cited Biden’s strong opposition to state laws restricting voting rights, likening Georgia’s new voting overhaul law “Jim Crow of the 21st century,” before defending companies’ rights to “vote with their feet.”

    “It’s a little early to judge what the economic impact will be, but they have a right to to vote with their feet and to and to express their dissatisfaction with the laws,” Rouse said.

    Pressed more on how the MLB’s decision will affect workers in Atlanta, such as those who would have worked the MLB All-Star Game at the city’s Truist Park, Rouse acknowledged that workers in Atlanta will “undoubtedly” experience a cost as a result of the MLB’s decision.

    “I think that was the point that the Major League Baseball was trying to make,” Rouse said.

    Rouse noted that the MLB will relocate its All-Star Game to a location that will benefit economically from the league’s decision […]

    “The President opposes these laws. He believes that they are restrictive, they are discriminatory,” Rouse said. “These businesses, these companies have the opportunity to vote with their feet and they’re using their economic power to just express their dissatisfaction.”

    Rouse’s remarks come a day after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who signed the new Georgia voting legislation into law, accused the MLB of submitting to “fear and lies” by depriving Georgians of a paycheck after it decided to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta over the state’s new voting law.

    “Yesterday, Major League Baseball caved to fear and lies from liberal activists,” Kemp said at a news conference on Saturday. “In the middle of a pandemic, Major League Baseball put the wishes of Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden ahead of the economic well-being of hard-working Georgians who were counting on the All-Star Game for a paycheck.” […]

  97. says

    Tracking Matt Gaetz

    – July 24, 2020: Trump signs an executive order on prescription drug pricing. Gaetz appears at the signing ceremony.

    – Aug. 24, 2020: Gaetz delivers an address at Republican National Convention. “You cannot cancel a culture that loves its heroes,” Gaetz proclaimed. “We know that to make America great again, we must first make something of ourselves.”

    – Oct. 26, 2020: Gaetz and Trump appear onstage at a rally in Ocala, Florida. Trump accidentally refers to Gaetz as “Rick Gates.”

    – Oct. 23, 2020: Gaetz appears at a rally with Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in Pensacola. “We don’t build walls because we hate the people on the outside, we build walls because we love the people on the inside,” Gaetz intoned.

    – Dec. 21, 2020: Trump holds a meeting with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and members of Congress to support his bid to overturn the 2020 election. Gaetz is present.

    – January 28, 2021: Gaetz says that he spoke to Trump and got his help writing a speech to denounce Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) for voting yes on impeachment at an event in Wyoming.

    – June 2017: In an interview with WFLA News, Gaetz says Greenberg should run for Congress.

    – July 8, 2017: Greenberg tweets a picture with Gaetz and Roger Stone.

    – Late 2017/early 2018: Greenberg brings Gaetz to the Seminole County tax collector’s office and shows him around, according to multiple reports.

    – January 2019: Facebook video shows Gaetz and Greenberg with others celebrating DeSantis’ directive to end the ban on smoking marijuana.

    – June 2019: Greenberg’s wife posts to Facebook a slew of pictures of Greenberg and Gaetz together in D.C., including some at the White House with Donald and Melania Trump, and at the Capitol.

    – June 22, 2019: Greenberg tweets a picture with Gaetz in front of the White House.

    – July 4, 2019: State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) gets voicemail from Greenberg who handed the phone over to Gaetz who told her she was the future of the Democratic Party. Most of Trump’s allies were attending Trump’s “Salute to America” in D.C., but these two were hanging out in Florida.

    – June 9, 2020: Gaetz is the first to contribute to Greenberg’s reelection campaign, with $1,000.

    – June 23, 2020: Greenberg, who was allegedly involved in an array of criminal behavior, is arrested.

    – August 19, 2020: Greenberg is indicted for alleged sex trafficking of a child. The indictment alleged that Greenberg engaged in this behavior between May and November of 2017.

    – August 30, 2018: Palmer Luckey, brother of Gaetz’s future fiancée and tech millionaire, donates $2,700 to Gaetz’s reelection campaign.

    – Early March-ish 2020: Luckey has declined to say when she and Gaetz met, but tells the Daily Mail that the day after they did, Gaetz took her to Kimberly Guilfoyle’s birthday party. Guilfoyle’s birthday is March 9. And on March 8, Trump threw a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, which Luckey said her mom “dragged her” to.

    – June 17, 2020: Gaetz and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) get into a fight at a House Judiciary Committee hearing over the wellbeing of Black children, specifically in regards to policing. “Are you suggesting that you’re certain that none of us have non-white children?” Gaetz asked, after Richmond made comments about being the father of Black children.

    – June 18, 2020: Gaetz announces the existence of a 19-year-old who he describes as his “son,” Nestor, on Twitter. People publishes a story in which Gaetz reveals that Nestor Galban is the brother of his ex-girlfriend. Galban lived with Gaetz off and on, the congressman said, starting when Galban was 12, after he immigrated from Cuba. Gaetz says that he never formally adopted Galban, and that Galban’s biological dad is alive. Pictures started resurfacing of social media posts in which Gaetz referred to Galban as his “helper” in 2017 and a “local student” in 2016.

    – September 30, 2020: Gaetz says Galban has become a U.S. citizen.

    – December 10, 2020: Gaetz posts a picture with Luckey under a painting of Ronald Reagan at the White House. The two are not publicly known to be dating at this time.

    – December 30, 2020: Fox News’ Judge Jeannine Pirro breaks the news that Gaetz has proposed to Luckey in a tweet with a picture of the two. Gaetz retweets the photo, thanking Pirro for “sharing the moment” with them. Gina Loudon, a rightwing radio personality, tweets out a video of the proposal from “the most beautiful place in the world,” Mar-a-Lago.

    – December 31, 2020: Daily Mail publishes a story in which Luckey says that she saw the proposal coming, has been Gaetz’s “travel buddy” since her company went remote in March and that they’ll get married sometime between now and 2024.

    – March 22, 2021: Gaetz prompts controversy when he says he let Galban go on spring break in Panama City, which at the time was experiencing a severe COVID-19 outbreak.

  98. says

    Follow-up to comment 126.

    Posted by readers of the TPM article:

    Nothing says “love” like Gaetz’s fiance Ms. Luckey referring to him as her “travel buddy!” WTF?? And, Kimberly Guilfoyle is the “Charo of the Republican Party!”
    ———————
    So all the stuff– whoring, trafficking, drugs, eating babies!–that Qanon told us about weren’t happening in the basement of Comet Pizza(which doesn’t actually have a basement!) but in the attic of Mar-a-Lago. And it wasn’t Dems, it was hard core rightie Trump-worshipping Republicans doing the deeds. So the whole reason for attacking the Capitol is ass backwards. But at least Matt Gaetz is a Christian(and sexist, and sexual predator and racist) so he will soon be forgiven by the faithful
    ————————
    What stands out to me is the under-the-radar dating plus a proposal after, at most, nine months? Followed by an engagement period of as much as four years?

    So, a rush immediately followed by an extended pause?

    Interesting. I’m not sure what this means, but I’m willing to assume that Gaetz was desperate to have the cover of a committed relationship as quickly as he could make it happen. I wonder what the odds are that this woman makes it to the altar?
    ——————
    “Sent Money to Women” is the most delightfully innocuous way to characterize “Hired Underage Prostitutes to Do Illegal Drugs With” ever. [from Betty Bowers]
    ———————
    We’re approaching 48 hours since Matt Gaetz was last mentioned on Fox News or Fox Business. [from Aaron Rupar]. [Bonus laugh at Fox News’ expense, the network aired the following chyron: “AOC SAYS THEIRS ONLY ONE MEXICO.”]
    ———————
    [tweeted by Matt Gaetz on February 16] Cuomo is no longer going to be a serious contender for any future office moving forward.
    —————-
    a flood of schadendorphins ssufficient to make an elephant swoon.
    —————
    The men who share nude images of us on the House floor are the same ones who want to control our bodies The men who hire prostitutes via Apple Pay are the ones legislating over our uteruses

  99. says

    COVAX program leader hopes to have vaccines to over 100 countries in next few weeks

    […] When pressed by host Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation” if the WHO will reach its goal of beginning to administer vaccines in all countries by April 7, Seth Berkeley said “we are on our way.”

    “We are on our way, we’ve vaccinated 84 countries, or brought vaccines into 84 countries over the last about six weeks, we hope to get over 100 in the next couple of weeks,” said Berkley, who is also the CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an organization that works to help vaccinate children in poor countries.

    […] He said the “big challenge” is access to vaccines, and the inequity between developed and developing countries.

    “We are only safe if everybody is safe and nothing tells us this like the new variants, because if we have large populations that are not vaccinated, then there is the risk that we will see new variants pop out and they will continue to spread across the world, as we’ve seen with this virus […]

  100. says

    Coronavirus update, USA:

    Cases: 30.6 million

    Deaths: 554,302

    Hospitalized: 41,518

    Over the past week, there has been an average of 65,191 cases per day, an increase of 19 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

    Michigan is adding cases at a higher rate than any other state. As of Friday, the six metro areas with the country’s worst outbreaks were in Michigan.

  101. blf says

    Desperately seeking attention — and getting some (including this comment) but not as presumably intended, Who needs Twitter? Trump wishes happy Easter to radical left crazies:

    Ex-president [sic] marks holy day with brief, abusive statement […]

    […]

    On Sunday the former president [sic …], mimicking world leaders including Pope Francis, if not echoing their sense of dignity and appeals for peace on a major religious holiday, by releasing a statement to mark Easter Sunday.

    Happy Easter to ALL, Trump said, including the Radical Left CRAZIES who rigged our Presidential Election, and want to destroy our Country!

    The presidential election was not rigged, however often Trump repeats a lie repeatedly thrown out of court. Joe Biden beat him by more than 7m votes and by 306–232 in the electoral college.

    [… Hair furor]’s Easter statement did not set off the kind of explosions in the news media his tweets once did. Instead of prompting deadline scrambles and front-page headlines, it seemed to engender a sort of mild ennui.

    “Jesus couldn’t have said it any better,” wrote Ken Vogel of the New York Times.

    The writer Robert Schlesinger asked: “What is the phrase my religious friends use when in doubt? What would Jesus whine?”

    David Frum, once a speechwriter for George W Bush, now a prominent Trump critic on the American right, called it “an Easter Sunday message of resentment and rage”.

    “It’s an enduring good joke,” he added, “that Donald Trump has zero understanding of Christian faith — and that if he ever did understand it, he would 100% oppose and reject it.” [Won’t snark, won’t snark, won’t snark… quaffs some beer so as to not snark… –blf]

    A few hours later, Trump tried again. This time, his statement simply said: Happy Easter![]

      † It’s hair furor — automatic eejit quotes, except by accident or when he’s correct(-ish) for plausible reasons (mostly, stuck clock syndrome). Possible sincerity would be an added and totally unexpected bonus.

  102. lumipuna says

    From The Guardian (see blf at 130):

    Donald Trump is reportedly working on a social media platform of his own, after being banned from Twitter and Facebook for inciting the Capitol riot.

    He has also launched a new website, which presents a highly selective history of his single term in power and offers the chance to book appearances or personal greetings.

    But Trump has also said he may not need his new platform, because the short, often tweet-length statements he now propels into journalists’ inboxes from Mar-a-Lago in Florida communicate his views as effectively as any tweet ever could.

    Sounds familiar, and seasonally appropriate.

    “Yeshua Ben Yosef is reportedly alive and preparing to take over the world from his secret hideout in a non-material realm, after being executed for trying to incite the Jews into an uprising against Roman Empire.

    He has also organized a campaign group that presents a politically sanitized version of the agenda he briefly argued before his death, while alleging that his excellent postmortem health was confirmed in several appearances and personal greetings before his retreat from material reality.

    But Ben Yosef has also said he may not need to ever come back in flesh to rule as King of Jews, because his devoted followers are perfectly capable of spinning his half-remembered speeches into a rousing platform that governs said followers’ entire lives”

  103. says

    Guardian – “Netanyahu in court as Israel’s lawmakers mull over his political fate”:

    Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to remain in power face a double-pronged challenge, with Israel’s prime minister back in a Jerusalem courtroom for his corruption trial while at the same time critical talks on his political future were held following last month’s inconclusive election.

    The witness testimony and evidence stage of a case assessing whether the 71-year-old leader is guilty of bribery, fraud and breach of trust – repeatedly delayed due to the pandemic – began on Monday morning.

    Meanwhile, across town, President Reuven Rivlin started key consultations at his residence with parliamentarians on how to form a government that could help save or end Netanyahu’s career.

    In two sides of a city Israel claims as its capital, both the legal and political fate of the country’s longest-serving leader was being decided.

    Scores of police officers were positioned around the Jerusalem district court as dozens of pro- and anti-Netanyahu demonstrators gathered. Netanyahu, the first serving Israeli leader to go on trial, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, alleging he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

    He is alleged to have accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds in luxury gifts from billionaire friends and traded favours with Israeli media and telecoms moguls for favourable news coverage.

    The prime minister sat in court with his arms crossed as the lead prosecutor, Liat Ben-Ari, read out the charges against him, accusing him of being involved in “a serious case of government corruption”.

    “The relationship between Netanyahu and the [other] defendants became currency, something that could be traded,” she said. “The currency could distort a public servant’s judgment.”

    Monday’s hearing focused on case 4,000, which centres on allegations that the owners of Bezeq Israel Telecom provided positive coverage of the Netanyahus on its Walla news website in return for regulatory changes worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

    Ilan Yeshua, the former CEO of Walla News, took the stand and made extraordinary allegations of interference since 2012 from his bosses, who he believed were being directed by the Netanyahu family, as well as other people close to the prime minister.

    Yeshua described a hands-on process, from choosing accompanying photos to changing headlines in articles to skew coverage in favour of the Netanyahus, and to damage their opponents.

    “I agree that ethically and publicly I can’t defend [it],” he told the court.

    At the president’s residence in West Jerusalem, members from rightwing, centre-left, religious, far-right nationalist and Arab parties gave their recommendations on who should lead….

  104. says

    Guardian – “Turkish ex-admirals arrested over criticism of Erdoğan’s ‘crazy’ canal scheme”:

    Turkey has detained 10 retired admirals over their public criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “crazy” Istanbul canal project, which seeks to create a new route for the city from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

    The arrest warrants issued on Monday came a day after a group of 104 former senior navy officials signed an open letter warning that the proposed canal could harm Turkish security by invalidating an 85-year-old international treaty designed to prevent militarisation of the Black Sea.

    Plans to in effect create a second Bosphorus were drawn up in 2011 and finally approved last month. The 28-mile (45km) passage is to be built west of the natural waterway in order to ease the heavy traffic and reduce the risk of accidents on the Bosphorus.

    The statement criticising the scheme was met with fury from Turkish officials, who interpreted it as a direct challenge from the military to the civilian government, “echoing coup times”.

    To date, Turkish officials have insisted that the 1936 Montreux convention – which opened the Bosphorus to civilian shipping below a certain size and its Black Sea neighbour’s navies – will not apply to the new canal, meaning Turkey could in theory allow whatever vessels it likes – including US warships – passage to the Black Sea, effectively militarising the Russian-dominated waters.

    The chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara has launched an investigation into the statement, according to the state news agency Anadolu, and four more people suspected of putting the statement together have been called to report to police within the next three days.

    “A group of retired soldiers are putting themselves into a laughable and miserable position with their statement that echoes military coup times,” the presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Twitter.

    “The [group] should know that our esteemed nation and its representatives will never allow this mentality,” he added.

    Erdoğan’s top press aide, Fahrettin Altun, said: “Not only those who signed but also those who encourage them will give an account before justice.”

    The £9.5bn canal plan was put on hold in 2018 when the Turkish lira crashed. Its reintroduction has prompted concern from critics who say it will wreak environmental havoc and that costs are likely to spiral.

    “Montreux provided Turkey the possibility to maintain its neutrality during the second world war. We are of the opinion that there is a need to avoid any statements and actions that could cause the Montreux convention, an important treaty in terms of Turkey’s survival, to be brought up for discussion,” the statement from the retired navy personnel said.

    The former admirals are suspected of conspiring against state security and constitutional order, news website Haberturk said.

  105. says

    Lynna @ #122, I remember Josh Marshall posting screenshots and TPM doing articles about those fundraising efforts. IIRC, it started with constant claims about “matching” funds but with no source provided. The percentage of “matched” donations kept growing, and then late in the campaign what was described as a “matched” donation was really a recurring payment by the donor that they went to great lengths to obscure. It seemed totally fraudulent at the time.

    raven @ #124, QAnon Anonymous did an episode about that case: “Episode 118: The Tragic Tale of Neely Blanchard.” Sad and disturbing.

  106. says

    Guardian – “‘Allergic reaction to US religious right’ fueling decline of religion, experts say”:

    …Alison Gill, vice-president for legal and policy at American Atheists, who authored a report into the creep of Christian extremism in the US, warned that the drop-off in religious adherence in America could actually accelerate that effort, rather than slow it down.

    “Surveys of those who identify with Christian nationalist beliefs consistently show that this group feels that they are subject to more discrimination and marginalization than any other group in society, including Islamic people, Black people, atheists, [and] Jewish people,” Gill said.

    “They are experiencing their loss of prominence in American culture as an unacceptable attack on their beliefs — and this is driving much of the efforts we are seeing to cling onto power, undermine democracy, and fight for ‘religious freedom’ protections that apply only to them.”

    The influence of religion over politics is stark, Gill said.

    “America perceives itself to be a predominantly religious society, even if the facts no longer agree. Politicians often feel beholden to pronounce their religious faith – and are attacked for a perceived lack of it,” she said.

    While the danger of a right-wing backlash is real, Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said that the Gallup data suggests the US is moving in a positive direction.

    “We have this constitutional separation of church and state in America, and our constitution is godless, and it says you can’t have a religious test for public office, and yet you virtually have to wear religion on your sleeve in order to be elected,” Gaylor said.

    “There is movement [away from religion], and we’re just delighted to see this. We think it’s great that Americans are finally waking up.”

    More atl.

  107. says

    Here’s a link to the April 5 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    India’s daily virus cases breach 100,000 in 24 hours

    India recorded 103,558 new Covid cases on Monday, its biggest one-day figure, data from the health ministry showed – taking the national total to 12.59 million cases.

    The country added 478 new deaths, raising the toll to 165,101. India has the world’s third-highest number of cases after the US, with 30 million, and Brazil, with just under 13 million.

    Single-day infections have been rising since early February when they fell to below 9,000 after peaking at almost 100,000 in September.

    India’s wealthiest state, Maharashtra, home to the financial capital, Mumbai, will impose a weekend lockdown and night curfew on its 110 million people in response to the rise in cases, authorities announced on Sunday.

    From Monday night until the end of April a night curfew will be imposed, gatherings of more than four people banned, and private offices, restaurants, cinemas, swimming pools, bars, places of worship and public places such as beaches shut.

    On weekends only essential services will be allowed to operate.

    Calls are growing in Germany for the introduction of nationwide coronavirus restrictions amid confusion and frustration over patchwork arrangements across the country as the infection rate continues to rise, my colleague Kate Connelly writes.

    The majority of Germans are in favour of a more unified approach to tackling the virus, now in its third wave, according to a poll, ahead of an expected tightening of rules after the holiday weekend.

    Fifty-three per cent of Germans have said they would like to see the government setting the rules without the support of the 16 states, according to a poll by YouGov, in order to introduce more clarity.

    The chancellor, Angela Merkel, has persistently called for tighter, more unified rules across the country, but has frequently been overruled by the leaders of the states, leading to a weakening of her standing.

    The Guardian has full reports on both of these stories.

  108. says

    Ben Collins:

    Ron Watkins told me he never posted as Q, never talked to anyone who claimed they were Q, never knew who it was. Here, it appears he finally slipped up.

    The widely believed thesis may wind up being the correct one: Q was a bunch of anons on 4chan, then the Watkinses on 8chan.

    Clip from the HBO documentary in which Watkins evidently slips up (I haven’t seen it so can’t speak to the context) at the link.

  109. says

    Here’s NBC’s Chauvin-trial liveblog for today.

    From there:

    The first week of the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in George Floyd’s death concluded Friday with the longest-serving member of the police department testifying that it was “totally unnecessary” for Derek Chauvin to kneel on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he lay handcuffed on his stomach.

    Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender of Hennepin County, where Chauvin is being tried on charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, said “the prosecution had an exceptional week” and that the defense’s goal “should have been to avoid any self-inflicted damage” — a challenge she said the defense did not meet.

    Today’s testimony will begin shortly.

  110. says

    Entertaining TPM article from last August – “A Journey Through Donald Trump’s Small-Dollar Fundraising Drive, In Ten Easy Steps.”

    …As we’ve seen, the best way to cheer President Trump up is to send him money. But in case you’re still feeling reticent, the President frequently draws upon a magical power to multiply donations at will. When Trump was riding higher in the polls, he would roll out the 200% match, with 3x and 4x matches more sparing, invoked for special occasions only. But lately it’s been 500% matches pretty much all the time. Last month a 600% match broke cover and just the other day there was a temporary 700% match. Meaning, there’s never been a better time not to give, ever!

    Strangely, somehow the 700% match offers haven’t stopped coming, along with the 300, 400 and 500 and 600% ones. This morning at 12.35 am, The Donald said it was my last chance to contribute with a 600% matching donation. But by 9.50 am, he was inviting me to donate to enter a new contest to meet him in the Hamptons for dinner, with a 600% match to accompany my tithe. Clearly, when you’re a MAGA fan, short-, medium- and long-term memory loss is a big plus.

    Not that it likely matters. As the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which studied the matching phenomena — employed regularly by fund raising campaigns — has observed, “Limited-time matching gives ideological supporters extra incentive to donate to a campaign they care about. But legal experts say it is hard to see how donation matching could happen given campaign contribution limits. And there are no accountability mechanisms to determine whether campaigns actually follow through with their promises.”

    Given Trump’s extensive track record of not following through on promises to give and the near complete abdication by the FEC of its oversight responsibilities, there is no reason to be suspicious, is there?…

    I haven’t found the pieces about the fake matches being used to describe obscured recurring payments by the same donor, but I seem to recall that this is what happened later in the campaign.

  111. blf says

    lumipuna@132, Laughs… well done !

    Unrelated, a follow-up of sorts to me@131, but not really political, Soviet TV version of Lord of the Rings rediscovered after 30 years:

    Film posted on YouTube delights fans with its rudimentary sets and ludicrous green-screen effects

    A Soviet television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings thought to have been lost to time was rediscovered and posted on YouTube last week, delighting Russian-language fans of JRR Tolkien.

    The 1991 made-for-TV film, Khraniteli, based on Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, is the only adaptation of his Lord of the Rings trilogy believed to have been made in the Soviet Union.

    Aired 10 years before the release of the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, the low-budget film appears ripped from another age: the costumes and sets are rudimentary, the special effects are ludicrous, and many of the scenes look more like a theatre production than a feature-length film

    I just watched the entire thing. Two points that summary omits: There is one sequence of scenes which are well-done, the Ringwraiths (Nazgûl) on their horses searching for Frodo and company. Horses and riders menacingly moving through snowy forests is a Russian specialty, and it shows here, those scenes are much better shot that anything else. Also (probably related to “look[s] more like a theatre production than a feature-length film” point), many of the most dramatic action scenes in the Peter Jackson movie are notable by their absence. No dramatic escape across the Brandywine; the attacks on Bree, on Weathertop, and the rescue by Glorfindel are only hinted-at; etc. The fight in Moria is shown (with “ludicrous” special effects), but no Balrog nor the “You shall not pass!” stand of Gandalf; etc.

    And, of course, it’s all in Russian. Lots of dialogue heavy-scenes (presumably all the obviously minuscule budget allowed for), with only a handful of words I caught (I don’t speak Russian); e.g., “Mordor”, “Gandalf”, and “Sam”, and once I worked out how they were being pronounced, “Frodo” and a few others, all noticeably largely untranslated proper names. (I’m not certain, such are the production values, but Legolas may be played by a woman.)

    More at the Grauniad (including a short video excerpt), but — until a later correction? — not the actual links:

    ● Part 1, Хранители | Часть 1 | Телеспектакль по мотивам повести Д.Р.Р.Толкиена (“Keepers | Part 1 | Teleplay based on the novel by D.R.R. Tolkien”, says Generalissimo Google (DRR Tolkien?)).

    ● Part 2, Хранители | Часть 2 | Телеспектакль по мотивам повести Д.Р.Р.Толкиена.

    As the Grauniad points out, the Tom Bombadil scenes from the book are in this adaption.

  112. redwood says

    @136 Yet Donald Trump was probably the least religious president ever. He never had to show how religious he was. I don’t ever recall him attending church regularly (did he even go once in a while?) while president. It just goes to show that it’s not how religious one is, it’s how well one’s values correlate with the white conservatives who are losing their prominence in society. Such disgusting hypocrisy. That’s one of the main reasons I left the Southern Baptist church when I was in college and have never even thought about going back to it or joining any other organized religion.

  113. blf says

    redwood@142, “[D]id [hair furor] even go [to church] once in a while?”

    On one occasion he had peaceful protestors violently removed so he could march over to a nearby church and hold a bible upside down.

    As to what the question is presumably asking, did he ever attend a service whilst occupying Wacko House, I also have no idea / recollection.

    As quoted in @130:

    David Frum, once a speechwriter for George W Bush, now a prominent Trump critic on the American right, […] added [as a self-proclaimed joke], “that Donald Trump has zero understanding of Christian faith — and that if he ever did understand it, he would 100% oppose and reject it.”

    Eh? He grabs all the money he can, lies constantly and even when there is no discernible reason, grabs all the money he can, has magical beliefs (e.g., hydroxychloroquine, drinking disinfectant, &tc) and is prone to conspiratorial / magical thinking, grabs all the money he can, expects total obedience and yet more money, is authoritarian and bigoted, still needs more money, &tc — all very Very xian. Seems to me has a rather “good” understanding of the practicalities, if an exceptionally warped implementation of those practicalities.

  114. says

    SC @135, you’re right about the “matching funds” aspect of Trump’s bogus fundraising efforts. I had forgotten about that. “Matching funds” usually means that a deep-pocketed donor has agreed to match individual donations dollar for dollar. In some of Trump’s fundraising efforts they claimed that an individual’s donation would be matched at a rate of 825 percent.

    […] claims that contributions will be matched at a rate of 825 percent, meaning that a $100 donation would result in $925 going to the campaign. The email also strongly implies that Trump himself will be contributing the matching funds. […]

    And that’s just one example. It’s obviously a lie. And who believes that Trump would actually contribute any of his own money?

    Thanks for reminding me of that particular aspect of the scam. So egregious.

    From Trump himself at the time:

    “I know this is a big goal, but you’ve NEVER let me down before, and I know you never will,” the email states. “It’s going to take EVERY supporter stepping up if we’re going to succeed, and I need to know that I can count on you. This is so important that I’ve upped the stakes…For the FIRST TIME EVER: all gifts will receive an 825%-MATCH!”

  115. says

    Guardian – “Haiti has no Covid vaccine doses as violence looms larger than pandemic”:

    Haiti does not have a single vaccine to offer its more than 11 million people over a year after the pandemic began, raising concerns among health experts that the wellbeing of Haitians is being pushed aside as violence and political instability across the country deepen.

    So far, Haiti is slated to receive only 756,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through a United Nations program aimed at ensuring the neediest countries get Covid-19 shots. The free doses were scheduled to arrive in May at the latest, but delays are expected because Haiti missed a deadline and the key Indian manufacturer is now prioritizing an increase in domestic demand.

    Lauré Adrien, general director of Haiti’s health ministry, blamed the vaccine delay on scrutiny of the AstraZeneca shots and concerns that the country lacks the necessary infrastructure to ensure proper vaccine storage, adding that his agency prefers a single-dose vaccine. AstraZeneca requires two doses.

    “It’s no secret that we don’t have excellent conservation facilities,” he said. “We wanted to be sure that we had all the parameters under control before we received vaccine stocks.”

    Many poorer countries have experienced long waits in getting Covax vaccines as richer countries snapped up supplies, though most have received at least an initial shipment. Some took matters into their own hands, securing shots through donations and private deals.

    Haiti’s lack of vaccines comes as it reports more than 12,700 cases and 250 deaths, numbers that experts believe are underreported.

    Ongoing protests and a spike in kidnappings and gang-related killings have some wondering how any vaccine will be administered given the lack of stability coupled with a growing number of people afraid to leave their homes.

    Perceptions also remain a big challenge.

    While face masks remain mandatory at Haiti businesses, airport closures and curfews have long since been lifted, and other precautions are rare.

    “People don’t really believe in the coronavirus,” said Esther Racine, a 26-year-old mother of two boys whose father died in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

    Racine once worked as a maid but began selling face masks at the beginning of the pandemic, making brisk business with some 800 sales a month. Now, she barely sells 200.

    “Look around,” she said, waving at a maskless crowd bustling around her in downtown Port-au-Prince. The only customers nowadays are those who need a mask to enter a nearby grocery store, she said, adding that Haitians have other problems on their mind: “People worry more about violence than the virus.”

  116. says

    GOP tries to oppose Biden’s plan without opposing infrastructure

    On “Meet the Press” yesterday, NBC News’ Chuck Todd reminded Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that a recent report from the American Society of Civil Engineers offered bad news for the senator’s home state of Mississippi. On everything from bridges to roads to drinking water, the evidence pointed to Mississippi’s systemic infrastructure needs.

    With this in mind, as the White House moves forward with an ambitious infrastructure initiative, the host asked Wicker — who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee — whether he sees the issue as a priority. The Republican replied:

    “Listen, I’m all for working with the administration on an infrastructure bill. And yes, we need it in Mississippi. And I voted for it as a state legislator and as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. And let me tell you, I think I can work with [Transportation Secretary] Pete Buttigieg.”

    Around the same time, his state’s governor, Mississippi’s Tate Reeves (R) conceded on CNN that “there’s no doubt” that his state could benefit from federal infrastructure investments.

    On Fox News, meanwhile, Chris Wallace asked Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, “Doesn’t the country need a significant infrastructure upgrade?” The Missourian replied, “Oh, absolutely…. We need that.”

    And if we simply ended the conversation here, there’d be reason for some optimism about a bipartisan breakthrough. Democrats and Republicans, at least at the national level, may not agree on much when it comes to public policy, but just about all of the relevant players seem to agree that infrastructure investments deserve to be a leading U.S. priority.

    The trouble is, that’s about all the relevant players agree on.

    Wicker denounced President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan because it includes an increase to the corporate tax rate. When Chuck Todd asked the senator, “How would you pay for infrastructure? Where would you get the money?” Wicker responded, “Well, listen. I’m open to suggestion about that.”

    Chuck Todd should stop interviewing Republicans like Wicker. Todd never holds them to account when they offer contradictory or unbelievable statements.

    […] Pressed on the same point by Jake Tapper, Reeves added yesterday, “Well, I think you pay for it in a number of different ways. One way you pay for it is by seeing significant improved economic growth.” [Ha! It’s the resurrection of “trickle down” economic policy that never works.]

    As the Washington Post’s James Downie noted overnight, Republicans appear to be “drawing a blank on basic governance.”

    Quite right. GOP officials don’t want to take a stand against infrastructure investments, in part because the nation needs them, and in part because they’re broadly popular with the American public.

    But these same Republicans also don’t want to endorse ambitious infrastructure legislation because they know it might lead to some tax increases, especially on big businesses, which the party will not consider. What’s an alternative source of revenue? They’re reluctant to talk about it.

    […] Between this posturing and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) insistence last week that congressional Republicans won’t support the White House’s proposal, is it any wonder that Democrats are prepared to legislate without their GOP colleagues?

  117. says

    Laughable:

    […] many GOP officials in the state [Georgia] are outraged — to the point that they’re banning Coke products from their offices as a symbolic gesture.

    The fact that these same Republicans are decrying “cancel culture” in the midst of their antics adds a touch of irony to the circumstances.

    Link

  118. says

    McConnell picks the wrong fight, questions Biden’s ‘mandate’

    […] Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell […] believes the president isn’t just wrong to pursue ideas he disagrees with, McConnell also believes Biden lacks a popular “mandate.”

    “I like him personally. I mean, we’ve been friends for a long time. He’s a first-rate person,” McConnell told reporters in Kentucky, “Nevertheless, this is a bold, left-wing administration. I don’t think they have a mandate to do what they’re doing.”

    On a conceptual level, the whole idea of a “mandate” is a fun thing to kick around from a political science perspective. For those unfamiliar with the word in this context, its meaning is pretty straightforward: candidates seek elected office while presenting voters with their visions of what they’d do once in office. The greater their margin of victory, the easier it is for those candidates to claim a popular mandate — in effect, they can declare, “My agenda has been endorsed by the electorate, so it deserves broad support.”

    McConnell would have people believe that Biden is misreading the results of the 2020 election. Sure, the Democratic ticket won, the Republicans’ Senate leader concedes, but that doesn’t mean the American people actually endorsed the president’s governing blueprint.

    […] at a foundational level, the entire line of inquiry misses the more important point. The better question is, since when does Mitch McConnell care about mandates?

    In 2008, Barack Obama won 53% of the popular vote — a 20-year high for presidential candidates from either party — and two-thirds of the nation’s electoral votes. In his first year in the White House, the then-president saw his party reach a 60-vote majority in the U.S. Senate, and a majority in the U.S. House that was nearly as large.

    At the time, McConnell couldn’t have cared less about whether Obama and Democrats had earned a mandate or not.

    In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots. Again, McConnell was wholly unconcerned with mandates as the Kentuckian helped pass Trump’s regressive tax cuts and stacked the federal judiciary with Trump’s far-right nominees.

    This need not be complicated: Biden ran on an ambitious platform; he won with the strongest support of any presidential challenger since FDR; and polls show broad public backing for much of the president’s policy agenda.

    If McConnell wants to make the case against Biden’s plans, fine. If the minority leader has a rival policy agenda he’s eager to present to the public, I’m eager to see it.

    But to argue that the president lacks a mandate after winning by 7 million votes is pointless.

  119. says

    “Trump sees those who put their faith in him as suckers to be fleeced.”

    Donald Trump has an unusually ugly record when it comes to separating those he perceives as fools from their money. As we’ve discussed before, the Republican ran a fraudulent charitable foundation and created a fraudulent “university” that was designed to do little more than rip off its “students.”

    But the scam the Trump campaign pulled off last fall was truly extraordinary, even by the former president’s standards.

    […] Of course, even though the Republicans were forced to refund millions of dollars, Trump and his team were able to use that money when they needed it most. As the Times put it, “In effect, the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.”

    […] It’s tempting to think Trump’s defeat in early November ended the problem, but it didn’t: the Republican continued to pump out ridiculous financial appeals, begging donors to send him even more money based on his post-election Big Lie. The former president’s supporters did as they were told, chipping in more money to help combat the made-up conspiracy, unaware of the fact that much of the money was directed to Trump’s new political action committee, not to efforts to combat the election results.

    As was true before Election Day, Team Trump continued to benefit from a system in which many donors didn’t recognize the fine print — which in turn generated another round of weekly withdrawals.

    For the former president, revelations like these add to a history of scams. When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) pleaded with GOP voters in 2016 to see Trump as an accomplished “con man,” the senator was entirely correct. The common thread tying together Trump’s fraudulent charitable foundation, his fraudulent “university,” his fraudulent fundraising operation, and even the way he treated contractors is obvious: Trump sees those who put their faith in him as suckers to be fleeced.

    […] it’s not just the former president. The same New York Times report added:

    Now WinRed is exporting the tools it pioneered during the Trump re-election across the Republican Party, presaging a new normal for G.O.P. campaigns. Today, the websites of various Republican Party committees and top congressional Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, include prechecked yellow boxes for multiple or recurring donations.

    To be sure, in recent years, we’ve seen a great many prominent Republicans treating their donors like dupes. But there’s every reason to fear the problem will continue to intensify.

    It was nearly eight years ago when MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote, “Much of movement conservatism is a con and the base are the marks.” The observation was true at the time, but it’s even more important now.

    Link

    When will Trump’s supporters learn that Trump sees them as suckers to be fleeced?

  120. says

    In Texas’ upcoming congressional special election, Sery Kim, a veteran of Donald Trump’s Small Business Administration, insisted last week that she doesn’t want Chinese immigrants in the United States “at all,” in part because “they give us coronavirus.” The Republican candidate added, “And quite frankly, I can say that because I’m Korean.”

    Link

  121. says

    Josh Marshall:

    Throughout the last year of the COVID pandemic […] one constant refrain from politicians has been that aggressive lockdowns are taking lives as well as saving them. In its crudest form, remember […] Trump’s constant insistence that ‘the cure can’t be worse than the disease’. He and others who made this argument focused particularly on depression and suicide. But now preliminary data for 2020 shows that death by suicide actually declined by a small but significant amount.

    […] it really comes down to what you see as the proper analog for the COVID pandemic. There is ample historical evidence that suicide rates decline during wars and other big public crises. In the US we tend to over-analogize things to war. But war is a pretty good analog to the scale and depth of the COVID crisis. It is a definitional public crisis.

    […] At some level, if you are focused on getting through each day and struggling to do so in mutual reliance with others that is a level of crisis response and focus that is less conducive to suicidal ideation.

    […] literally being stuck in your home – has been an overriding feature of the pandemic. Kids aren’t in school. People are working from home or they’re not working at all. […]

    My own sense is that while the pandemic has been profoundly physically isolating I am not sure it has been socially isolating in key ways. We are quite literally all in this together. Not everyone faces the same risk. The privileged get better medical treatment, more freedom to isolate from the disease, quicker vaccination. But everyone is under threat from COVID and everyone’s life has been upended in some way.

    […] literally everyone is experiencing the pandemic. Never in my life has their been an acute emergency that is faced by all humanity at once. The health care worker at a county hospital is having a dramatically different experience than the white collar worker working from home. But everyone is experiencing it. […]

    I think this commonality creates its own rather profound form of social cohesion and solidarity. When I say this I think about all the anti-sociality, militant anti-masking and all the ways society has failed to show communal common concern. All true. But I think the reality of shared experience bulks larger than we think. […]

    I saw a news report of Yo-Yo Ma giving an impromptu performance at the vaccine distribution center waiting area after getting his second injection. This filled me with a deep sense of my connection to everyone in the country, and less directly in the world, a common experience and perseverance.

    There are some further details in the mortality data. A number of causes of death did go up besides COVID: heart disease, diabetes, stroke. These are likely a combination of underreporting of COVID or cases where COVID was a contributing, perhaps cryptic factor, and disruptions of routine medical care. […]

    The pandemic has been a withering, shattering, life-altering experience for the United States and every American. But the nature of the impact on those who lived through it is more complicated and different than our initial assumptions may suggest.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/covid-suicide-and-solidarity

  122. says

    Mitch McConnell is so strange.

    McConnell Rants That Businesses Are ‘Bullying’ America By Criticizing GA GOP’s Voting Restrictions

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday railed against the backlash from top businesses over Georgia Republicans’ suppressive voting law in wake of the Major League Baseball (MLB) organization’s decision to pull its All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

    Having apparently become concerned about corporate influence on politics all of a sudden, McConnell complained in a statement that “we are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people.”

    The GOP leader accused Democrats and the corporations of spreading “disinformation” about the law, which imposes new limits on absentee voting, amps up voter ID requirements, gives state legislators more say over election administration, and even makes it illegal to give food and water to people standing in long lines at polling places.

    “It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves,” McConnell complained.

    The GOP leader also threatened corporations with “serious consequences” if they “become a vehicle for far-left mobs to hijack our country from outside the constitutional order.”

    “Businesses must not use economic blackmail to spread disinformation and push bad ideas that citizens reject at the ballot box,” he said. […]

    What “serious consequences” is Mitch threatening?

    Comments posted by readers of the article:

    Says the man who shamelessly has taken dark money from corporations for as long as he has been allowed. Moscow Mitch sounds more and more desperate every day. Without his useful idiot in the White House, he’s got nothing.
    ——————–
    Proponent of unchecked corporate power cries foul when unchecked corporate power mildly criticizes him.
    ——————-
    What’s the matter, Mitch?

    You finding out the consequence of treating businesses as citizens? Is it only supposed to work when they are voting for you to get a tax break?

    If they’re citizens then they are your constituents and maybe you should listen to them about this.
    ————————–
    I guess restricting voting rights of millions of Americans does not in any way, shape, or form constitute bullying. However, standing up for voting rights is bullying in one of it’s most pernicious forms … it hurts Republicans.
    ———————-
    While I never count McConnell out when it comes to gumming up the works of government, it’s been quite something watching congressional Republicans try the same tricks they did with Obama (supported by right wing media rage and grievance peddling) and getting angry that the old tricks just don’t work anymore. The flailing is something to behold.
    ————————-
    Major League Baseball should lose its decades-old antitrust exemption, two Republican U.S. senators said Friday night.
    ———————-

    Having apparently become concerned about corporate influence on politics all of a sudden, McConnell complained in a statement that “we are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and bully the American people.”

    LOL

  123. says

    Republican voters have been (are being) duped again—this time regarding the attack on the Capitol.

    Donald Trump’s rabid base continues to consumes disinformation at a voracious pace. Not only do six in 10 Republicans believe the election was “stolen” from Trump, according to new Reuters polling, about half either believe the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol attack was largely peaceful or was staged by left-leaning activists “trying to make Trump look bad.”

    Sure, Trump supporters in para-military gear waving Trump flags and donning an endless amount of Trump paraphernalia literally climbed the walls of the Capitol in an assault that injured more than a hundred police officers. But was it really that violent? […]

    Just last week, Trump told Fox News that the Capitol siege posed “zero threat” to U.S. lawmakers working to certify the election results that day. […]

    Obviously, the GOP can just get away with this stuff because Republican voters insist on continuing to be the most gullible group of lemmings known to man. The information is out there. The videos are compiled. The footage of Trump revving up his supporters at a same-day rally to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” is there for anyone to consume.

    But it’s just far too much to ask of Trump supporters that they open the door to reality enough to let just a hint of light into the dark corners of their minds.

    In the same poll, some 59% of Americans said Trump bore some responsibility for the deadly Capitol assault. But Republicans were, well—exceptional—with only three in 10 agreeing with the statement.

    “Republicans have their own version of reality,” John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University told Reuters. “It is a huge problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence.” […]

    Link

  124. says

    “You Need Water to Live”: Pete Buttigieg Explains Infrastructure to Republicans

    There are people out there who are apparently confused about the meaning of the word “infrastructure,” so let’s help them out, shall we?

    According to dictionary.com, there are three definitions of “infrastructure,” which is a noun. There’s “the basic, underlying framework or features of a system or organization.” There’s “the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and schools.” And there’s “the military installations of a country.”

    To help explain the concept, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the rounds on the Sunday political shows. “There’s a lot more than roads and bridges that are part of infrastructure,” he told George Stephanopoulos, who had asked him about the widely repeated Republican talking point that “only about 5 percent” of President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure proposal “goes for traditional roads and bridges.”

    “I heard the governor of South Dakota recently saying, ‘This isn’t infrastructure—it’s got money for pipes,’” Buttigieg said. “Well, we believe that pipes are infrastructure, because you need water to live, and too many families now live with the threat of lead poisoning.” […]

    Clean water for Americans! What a concept! He went on to note that broadband internet also counts as infrastructure, particularly in rural areas—makes sense, in the age of school and work via Zoom—as do electric vehicle charging stations.

    Buttigieg was referring to remarks made by South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem on Fox News’ Hannity Wednesday night. “I was on a call with the White House today with all of the governors talking about the specifics of this package, and I was shocked by how much doesn’t go into infrastructure,” she said. “It goes into research and development. It goes into housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy.”

    Infrastructure: the basic, underlying framework or features of a system or organization.

    On NBC’s Meet the Press, Buttigieg said that the United States is “still coasting on infrastructure choices that were made in the 1950s.”

    Link

  125. says

    Yeah, that makes sense: “Supreme Court declines to hear Alex Jones appeal in Sandy Hook case.”

    The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear Alex Jones’s appeal in a Sandy Hook defamation case from Connecticut.

    The Infowars host and conspiracy theorist was appealing a Connecticut court sanction in a defamation lawsuit filed by the families of victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

    Jones was penalized by a trial court judge two years ago for angry outbursts toward the plaintiffs’ attorney during his online show and for violating orders to turn over documents to lawyers for the families […]

    Judge Barbara Bellis in Connecticut barred Jones from filing a motion to dismiss the pending case, in which she said she would order him to pay for some of the families’ legal fees. The Connecticut Supreme Court court upheld her ruling last year.

    Jones has argued he should not be sanctioned for exercising what he called his freedom of speech.

    The families, as well as an FBI agent who responded to the scene, sued Jones and his show for making claims that the 2012 mass shooting, which left 26 people dead, was a hoax.

    The families are also suing Jones, Infowars and others for infliction of emotional distress.

    Jones has since said he believes the shooting had occurred. [too little too late]

    […] “The families are eager to resume their case and to hold Mr. Jones and his financial network accountable for their actions,” said Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families.

    “From the beginning, our goal has been to prevent future victims of mass shootings from being preyed on by opportunists,” Koskoff added.

    Jones suffered a legal setback earlier this year when the Texas Supreme Court rejected a request to dismiss four defamation lawsuits against him from parents whose children were killed in the school shooting.

    Link

  126. says

    First case of India’s ‘double mutant’ COVID-19 variant found in San Francisco Bay Area

    A new “double mutant” coronavirus strain believed to be behind a surge of cases in India has been discovered in San Francisco, marking what is thought to be the first time the variant has been detected in the U.S.

    The strain is referred to as a “double mutant” because it carries two mutations that help the virus latch onto cells, the San Francisco Chronicle notes.

    The variant, like strains from the United Kingdom and Brazil, is believed to be more transmissible than the pre-existing form of the virus. It is currently unknown whether the “double mutant” strain is more resistant to vaccines available in the U.S. […]

  127. says

    Many corporate giants (once again) paid no federal income taxes

    Major businesses aren’t even paying the 21% corporate rate that exists on paper. Republican officials believe the proper response to this is indifference.

    On paper, Donald Trump and congressional Republicans slashed the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, delivering a windfall for private-sector giants that were already enjoying record profits. But in practice, the official tax rates only tell part of the story.

    A couple of years ago, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released the results of a detailed study that found of the Fortune 500 companies, about 400 paid an average tax rate of about 11% — roughly half of the current rate of 21% — thanks to a series of loopholes, exemptions, and giveaways Republicans made no effort to address in the “tax reform” package.

    What’s more, as regular readers may recall, the same research found that plenty of corporate giants weren’t paying any federal taxes at all.

    […] The Washington Post reported this morning:

    Fifty-five of the nation’s largest corporations paid no federal income tax on more than $40 billion in profits last year, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy […] In fact, they received a combined federal rebate of more than $3 billion, for an effective tax rate of approximately negative 9 percent.

    The same report added that, in the wake of the Republican tax-cut package from four years ago, 26 corporations haven’t paid any federal income taxes in recent years — including private-sector giants such as FedEx and Nike — even as these same corporations enjoyed a combined income of $77 billion.

    […] there’s also a political context that makes this all the more significant right now: President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, called the American Jobs Act, proposes an increase to the corporate tax rate, from 21% to 28%, as a way of financing the infrastructure investments.

    Republicans who lowered the rate from 35% to 21% are predictably outraged by the very idea, suggesting it would do drastic harm to the economy to ask corporate giants to operate under a 28% rate.

    That’s wrong for a variety of reasons, but the research is pointing to a more fundamental problem: major American businesses aren’t even paying the 21% rate that exists on paper.

    Republican officials believe the proper response to this is indifference. As the GOP explores ways to position itself as a “working-class” party, it’s worth keeping these details in mind.

  128. says

    NBC trial liveblog:

    Joyce Vance, a legal analyst for NBC and MSNBC, said Monday that the testimony of Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo is “giving a master class on what smart police leadership looks like.”

    Arradondo is the city’s first Black police chief. He joined the force in 1989. He has said George Floyd’s death was a murder.

    “Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training — the training was there,” Arradondo said in June. “The officers knew what was happening — one intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it.”

    A day after Floyd’s death, Arradondo fired Chauvin and the three other officers who were at the scene.

  129. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Turkey nearly saw another all-time high level of Covid-cases, as 42,551 tested positive in the last 24 hours.

    The country broke its record over the Easter weekend, and ranks fifth globally for the most daily cases based on a seven-day average, according to Reuters.

    Cases have risen sharply since the government eased measures to curb the pandemic in early March. Saturday saw a record high of 44,756.

    Last week president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reintroduced a tightening of measures, including full-national weekend lockdowns during Ramadan, which starts on 13 April. 32,456 have died of the virus in the country.

  130. says

    SC @159, I agree with what Joyce Vance said. Chief Arrandondo was a great witness.

    In other news: “Former Gaetz Aide Holds Bizarre Presser To Disavow Any Knowledge Of Alleged Wrongdoing”

    […] Retired Air Force Capt. Nathan Nelson, previously Gaetz’s director of military affairs for four years, held a very brief press conference Monday in front of what appeared to be his home.

    He told reporters that last Wednesday afternoon, two members of the FBI had come to his house “unannounced” saying that members of the media had contacted them asserting that he, Nelson, had knowledge about Gaetz engaging in illegal activities, which prompted his departure from his Gaetz’s office.

    Nelson denied the claims, saying that neither he nor any other member of Gaetz’s staff had any knowledge of Gaetz’s alleged involvement in any illegal activity. He added that his departure from Gaetz’s office at the end of October was long-planned.

    “This baseless claim against me leaves me further convinced that the allegations against Congressman Gaetz are likewise fabricated and merely an attempt to discredit a very vocal conservative,” he said. [Bullshit]

    When asked if he had proof that the allegations against Gaetz were false, he said that he was not there to offer evidence in support of Gaetz. He did say that he had reached out to Gaetz’s office to let them know about the conversation with the FBI.

    If Gaetz was hoping for a full-throated character defense from his former staffer — who said he still advises the congressman’s office in an unpaid, “as-needed” advisory capacity — he’ll be disappointed.

    Nelson was quick to distance himself from the beleaguered congressman, saying he hadn’t spoken to him directly in “several months.” He also said that he’d never met Joel Greenberg, Gaetz’s friend and the former Seminole County tax collector who was indicted in August 2020 for alleged sex trafficking of a child. The Gaetz probe, the Times reported, is an offshoot of the Greenberg one.

    […] Though he offered no evidence of Gaetz’s innocence, he pointed to the congressman’s affinity for the limelight.

    “He has spent the last four years drawing a tremendous amount of spotlight on himself and his activities, and I don’t think that he would likewise be conducting anything illegal,” Nelson said.

    Nelson’s conclusion is bullshit, although the part about Gaetz seeking the spotlight is true.

    […] Gaetz also penned an op-ed for the Washington Examiner published Monday, in which he maintains his innocence and says that he will not resign.

    “First, I have never, ever paid for sex,” he wrote. “And second, I, as an adult man, have not slept with a 17-year-old.”

    In the piece, he doesn’t mention his wild extortion claims, saying only that he’s “sure some partisan crooks in Merrick Garland’s Justice Department want to pervert the truth and the law to go after me,” adding that he “will not be intimidated or extorted.”

    Assertions of innocence out of the way, Gaetz predicted what, so far, has been the central theme of the fast-moving scandal: more revelations to come.

    “You’ll see more ‘drip, drip, drip’ of leaks into the media from the corrupt Justice Department and others,” he wrote.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/gaetz-aide-staffer-press-briefing

  131. says

    Chris Geidner:

    BREAKING: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announces he has VETOED anti-trans bill HB 1570.

    Hutchinson says the bill was overbroad, restricted people’s decisions, and sent a message about Arkansas that he did not want to send. At the same time, he notes that the legislature can still make an override vote (by a simple majority).

    Notable that Hutchinson said specifically that he wants transgender people in the state to know they are loved. (Albeit, in an answer defending his signing of the other two pieces of legislation that subject trans people to differential treatment.)

    WHAT’S NEXT: HB 1570 passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, so, unless one chamber decides not override — meaning a ton of lawmakers change their vote in light of Hutchinson’s veto — it could still become law. This is possible; it happened w another bill:…

  132. says

    Yellen calls on rich nations to boost COVID-19 aid, vaccines for developing countries

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday warned that a failure of rich nations to help developing countries respond to the coronavirus pandemic would trigger “a deeper and longer-lasting crisis” that could also harm the U.S. economy.

    In a Monday speech, Yellen said that the developing world would be wracked by “mounting problems of indebtedness, more entrenched poverty, and growing inequality” without more medical and economic aid from well-off nations.

    “Unless we act now, the world is susceptible to the emergence of a deepening global divergence between rich and poor countries,” Yellen said in prepared remarks before The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

    “This would be a profound economic tragedy for those countries, one we should care about. But, that’s obvious. What’s less obvious — but equally true — is that this divergence would also be a problem for America,” she said.

    The U.S. and other rich countries are on track for strong growth and a return to normal activity before the end of the year. Even so, developing nations are lagging woefully behind due to a much smaller capacity to provide economic aid and procure vaccines.

    While the U.S. is on track to vaccinate every adult before the end of summer, many developing nations may not be able to acquire sufficient doses to do so until 2023 or 2024.

    Yellen also warned Monday that the economic toll of the pandemic will push 150 million people into extreme poverty this year without a substantial increase in support for developing countries.

    “It is too early for advanced economies to declare victory,” Yellen said, warning that prolonged economic suffering could make U.S. adversaries more hostile and exacerbate “the human crisis of refugees and migrants.” […]

  133. says

    Follow-up to comment 158.

    Oh, no. Manchin says he won’t support corporate tax hike to 28 percent

    […] Manchin said Monday he would instead support raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, a level he identified last month as something he could back.

    “As the bill exists today, it needs to be changed,” [Senator Joe] Manchin told Hoppy Kercheval, the host of West Virginia Metro News’s “Talkline” show.

    “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere,” he added. […]

    “It’s more than just me, Hoppy,” Manchin added. “There’s six or seven other Democrats who feel very strongly about this. We have to be competitive, and we’re not going to throw caution to the wind.” […]

  134. says

    Brazil has become South America’s superspreader event.

    The doctor watched the patients stream into his intensive care unit with a sense of dread.

    For weeks, César Salomé, a physician in Lima’s Hospital Mongrut, had followed the chilling reports. A new coronavirus variant, spawned in the Amazon rainforest, had stormed Brazil and driven its health system to the brink of collapse. Now his patients, too, were arriving far sicker, their lungs saturated with disease, and dying within days. Even the young and healthy didn’t appear protected.

    The new variant, he realized, was here.

    “We used to have more time,” Salomé said. “Now, we have patients who come in and in a few days they’ve lost the use of their lungs.”

    The P.1 variant, which packs a suite of mutations that makes it more transmissible and potentially more dangerous, is no longer just Brazil’s problem. It’s South America’s problem — and the world’s.

    In recent weeks, it has been carried across rivers and over borders, evading restrictive measures meant to curb its advance to help fuel a coronavirus surge across the continent. There is mounting anxiety in parts of South America that P.1 could quickly become the dominant variant, transporting Brazil’s humanitarian disaster — patients languishing without care, a skyrocketing death toll — into their countries. […]

    In Lima, scientists have detected the variant in 40 percent of coronavirus cases. In Uruguay, it’s been found in 30 percent. In Paraguay, officials say half of cases at the border with Brazil are P.1. Other South American countries — Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile — have discovered it in their territories. […] it has been identified in more than two dozen countries, from Japan to the United States.

    Hospital systems across South America are being pushed to their limits. Uruguay, one of South America’s wealthiest nations and a success story early in the pandemic, is barreling toward a medical system failure. Health officials say Peru is on the precipice, with only 84 intensive care beds left at the end of March. The intensive care system in Paraguay, roiled by protests last month over medical shortcomings, has run out of hospital beds. […]

    Washington Post link

  135. says

    Oh, FFS.

    The decision by social media giants Twitter and Facebook to ban former President Donald Trump from their platforms appears to have drawn the ire of one of America’s most prominent jurists: Justice Clarence Thomas.

    As the Supreme Court issued an order Monday declaring moot a lawsuit over Trump’s blocking of some Twitter users from commenting on his feed, Thomas weighed in with a 12-page lament about the power of social media firms like Twitter.

    […] Thomas’ opinion amounts to an invitation to Congress to declare Twitter, Facebook and similar companies “common carriers,” essentially requiring them to host all customers regardless of their views. […]

    It seems like Justice Thomas wants to guarantee the spread of disinformation.

    The George H.W. Bush appointee’s complaints dovetail with those of Republican lawmakers and conservative activists who say big social media firms employ double standards that block or obscure more of the content they post when compared to posts by Democrats. The firms say they’re trying to prevent-real world harms caused by people advocating for violence or circulating misinformation on life-or-death topics like the coronavirus. […]

    Politico link

  136. says

    From today’s DN! headlines:

    U.S. and Iran Holding Talks Via Nuclear Deal Signatories in Attempt to Revive 2015 Accord

    The U.S. and Iran will hold indirect talks this week in Vienna on a possible plan to bring both nations back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. The nations will negotiate through other parties to the deal for now. Former President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the landmark deal in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions on Iran.

    Jordan Arrests Ex-Crown Prince, Other Top Figures Accused of Plotting Coup Against King

    In Jordan, more than a dozen prominent figures have been arrested and are accused of plotting a coup against King Abdullah II. Among those detained by police Saturday were the former head of Jordan’s royal court and a member of the royal family who once served as an envoy to Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah’s half-brother, the former Crown Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, said in a video statement he’d been put under house arrest with most of his lines of communication cut off. He accused Jordan’s leaders of corruption, incompetence and harassment, and said he would continue to disobey orders from the Army not to speak with the outside world.

    Demonstrations Continue Against New U.K. Bill That Would Empower Police to Suppress Protests

    In Britain, over 100 people were arrested Saturday during “Kill the Bill” protests in London as people marched around the country to stop a new bill which would increase police authority to crack down on peaceful demonstrations. This is a protester in London.

    Protester: “Because people should have the right to protest. Any country, any government needs to be held to account. And by protesting, you hold a government to account. Otherwise, it becomes a dictatorship.”

    Florida Wastewater Pond on Brink of Catastrophic Collapse

    Back in the U.S., authorities in Florida are racing to prevent the catastrophic collapse of a 77-acre wastewater storage pond at an abandoned phosphate mine in the Tampa Bay area. Work crews have been pumping more than 20,000 gallons of contaminated water per minute from the Piney Point reservoir into surrounding waterways after containment walls began leaking. Governor Ron DeSantis has ordered the evacuation of 300 homes. Manatee County Sheriff’s officials initially ordered prisoners moved to the second floor of a jail near the pond, but later reversed the order, saying it posed a security risk. Some models predict a collapse could trigger a 20-foot-high wall of water. This is Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes.

    Scott Hopes: “We’re talking about the potential of about 600 million gallons, within a matter of seconds and minutes, leaving that retention pool and going around the surrounding area.”

    According to the EPA, phosphorus and nitrogen in the wastewater could cause algal blooms that may harm humans and kill fish.

    Texas Police Officers Fired for Killing Black Man Jailed for Marijuana Possession

    In Texas, seven Collin County Sheriff’s officers were fired last week over their involvement in the killing of a 26-year-old Black man, Marvin Scott III, who died in jail on March 14. Scott’s family says he may have been suffering from a mental health crisis. Scott was arrested that day on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. He had less than two ounces of marijuana on him. Before he died, officers put Scott on a restraint bed, pepper-sprayed him and covered his face with a spit mask.

    Steelworkers Begin Second Week of Strike over Unfair Labor Practices at Allegheny Technologies

    In labor news, over 1,300 steelworkers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut are entering into their second week on strike. United Steelworkers says Allegheny Technologies has refused to bargain in good faith with workers who are demanding fair wages, job security and better healthcare.

    Meanwhile, in Alabama, over 1,000 mineworkers are on strike at Warrior Met Coal. Amazon workers from Bessemer, about 30 minutes away from the mines, have been joining strikers on the picket line. Votes are still being tallied in Bessemer in what could become Amazon’s first-ever union.

  137. says

    NBC trial liveblog:

    Minneapolis police chief says Chauvin’s actions ‘in no way, shape or form’ consistent with department policy

    Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified Monday that Derek Chauvin’s actions during the restraint of George Floyd were “in no way, shape or form” consistent with department policy, training or ethics.

    Arradondo said Chauvin violated department policy when he held Floyd down with his knee on Floyd’s neck about nine minutes. The police chief said once Floyd had stopped resisting and was in distress, Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd should have stopped.

    “Clearly, when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back — that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy, is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,” he said Monday afternoon.

    “That action is not deescalation. And when we talk about the framework, about our sanctity of life and when we talk about the principles and values that we have, that action goes contrary to what we’re taught,” he also said during his testimony.

    Arradondo also said he did not see Chauvin or others attempt to provide first aid to Floyd, also in violation of department policy.

  138. blf says

    Once again, the WSJ has an unhinged editorial, this time explaining to Dr Fauci what does and doesn’t work, Dr Fauci, Tear Off These Masks (paywalled, so the following excerpt is truncated):

    […] If the coronavirus epidemic in the US continues on its current trajectory, the need for masks outside particular local outbreak areas will pass in a matter of weeks.

    One way to think about the problem is by analogy to seasonal influenza. Hardly anybody wears a mask in ordinary settings to protect against the flu, and no one is required to do so. The worst flu seasons of recent years saw an average of 220 deaths a day nationwide. The seven-day moving average for Covid-19 daily deaths hovers around 900, still considerably worse. But that’s a 78% reduction since January, and the trends are favorable almost everywhere in the country. When the 14-day rolling average of daily Covid deaths has come down below flu level, which may happen within the next month or two, we should adjust our thinking about the coronavirus accordingly.

    Facepalm. Covid-19 is not analogous to the seasonal influenza. And it is much more infectious.

    […] . If you’ve been vaccinated, there’s almost no direct safety benefit — to yourself or others — of wearing a mask. You still have to do so only because immunity is invisible. […]

    No. Just, no.

    At some point, however, herd immunity is achieved: Enough of the population is immune to make the risk of infection minimal in the population as a whole. Anthony Fauci puts the threshold for herd immunity at full vaccination of 85% of the US population, including children. Since the vaccine has been authorized only for patients 16 and older and not all adults are willing to accept it, Dr Fauci’s goal almost certainly won’t be reached for another year, if ever. The current figure is only 17% of total population.

    Oh for feck’s sake! The 85% is based on decades of experience, etc. Etc. Etc. Absolutely fecking brain-dead.

  139. says

    From blf’s link @ #173:

    Dr Fauci, Tear Off These Masks

    For the love of fuck. (Who’s this by, anyway?)

    One way to think about the problem is by analogy to seasonal influenza. Hardly anybody wears a mask in ordinary settings to protect against the flu, and no one is required to do so.

    Masking and social distancing pretty much eliminated the flu in the US this year (as I predicted!). So in addition to saving lives from COVID they saved all of the lives that would have been lost to the flu, just for the record.

    The worst flu seasons of recent years saw an average of 220 deaths a day nationwide. The seven-day moving average for Covid-19 daily deaths hovers around 900, still considerably worse.

    Yes, it’s now recently decreased to still more than four times worse than the average worst flu season, even with significant measures still in place and increasing numbers of vaccinations.

    the trends are favorable almost everywhere in the country.

    Even if this were fully true, what is this absolutely insane need to jump precipitously to a risky action on the basis of a trend rather than on the basis of the current situation?

    When the 14-day rolling average of daily Covid deaths has come down below flu level, which may happen within the next month or two, we should adjust our thinking about the coronavirus accordingly.

    As blf points out, these aren’t analogous, for a number of reasons. But also, again, when the numbers are low enough and vaccine coverage high enough, which will hopefully happen in the next two months (with the spread of variants and stupidity as ever-present complicating factors), and when the evidence is sufficiently in on whether masks are needed for vaccinated people, then yes, then we should adjust our thinking based on those conditions and that knowledge. Not today based on conjecture and wishful thinking.

    At some point, however, herd immunity is achieved: Enough of the population is immune to make the risk of infection minimal in the population as a whole. Anthony Fauci puts the threshold for herd immunity at full vaccination of 85% of the US population, including children. Since the vaccine has been authorized only for patients 16 and older and not all adults are willing to accept it, Dr Fauci’s goal almost certainly won’t be reached for another year, if ever.

    Nonsense. He said 75-85%. Children over 12 will likely be able to be vaccinated by the end of the summer, and all except the youngest children by the end of the year or early next year (and all of these are in trials and moving more quickly than had earlier been predicted). And it’s plain that neither Fauci nor any of the experts is saying that population immunity has to be reached before any measures can be relaxed; they’re adjusting the guidelines to the existing situation and risk profile as they go.

    The current figure is only 17% of total population.

    The current figures:

    % of Total Population
    At Least One Dose: 32.4%
    Fully Vaccinated: 18.8%

    % of Population 18+ Years of Age
    At Least One Dose: 40.2%
    Fully Vaccinated: 23.2%

    % of Population 65+ Years of Age
    At Least One Dose: 75.2%
    Fully Vaccinated: 54.9%

    Almost 208 million doses have been delivered, and the US is now vaccinating at a clip of several million people a day.

    This whole mindset is astonishing to me: look at how things are going, see them gradually moving in the right direction but with dangers still looming, and recommend against expert advice taking premature steps that put lives at risk and could jeopardize the progress being made.

  140. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Senator Rand Paul said that he is opposing President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan because it “infringes on bridges’ constitutional right to crumble.”

    “Decay, deterioration, and collapse are all a part of the natural process of entropy,” Paul said. “It is not the job of government to play God and interfere with that.”

    Warning of the “slippery slope of government overreach,” Paul said that the Biden plan is “threatening our infrastructure’s precious freedom to disintegrate.”

    “First they came for our bridges, then they came for our potholes, and then they came for our lead water pipes,” he said.

    The Kentucky senator’s comments drew support from an unlikely ally, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “Look, I was just glad to see Rand talking about something besides the pandemic,” Fauci said.

    New Yorker link

  141. says

    NBC News:

    Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a law allowing him to potentially hold onto power until 2036, a move that formalizes constitutional changes endorsed in a vote last year.

  142. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Hospitals are coming under mounting pressure in Poland, where daily infections have been above more than 35,000 in each of the last two days.

    New restrictions have been ordered to prevent large gatherings over Easter, according to Associated Press.

    On Sunday, Covid patients filled all of the beds in the hospital in Bochnia, 40km east of Krakow. One patient Edward Szumanski, 82, said some still refused to see the virus as a threat. About 55,000 people have been killed by the virus in the country.

    “The disease is certainly there, and it is very serious. Those who have not been through it, those who do not have it in their family, may be deluding themselves, but the reality is different,” he said.

    Authorities in neighbouring Ukraine have also introduced tighter restrictions after a spike in recent cases. Schools have been closed by its government for the next fortnight, and public transport access has been restricted.

    An investigation has been launched in France after a TV exposé revealed “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic.

    The M6 channel showed the nation’s political elite were brazenly ignoring rules they had set for the public, according to AFP. Its report included hidden camera footage from a restaurant in a high-end part of Paris, where neither the staff nor diners were wearing masks. Government ministers are thought to have attended the restaurant.

    “We don’t wear a mask here. Once you pass through the doors, Covid no longer exists. We want people to feel at ease,” a staff member told the undercover team.

    All restaurants and cafes have been closed in France for dining in for the last five months. This week the country began a new national lockdown to deal with another surge in Covid infections.

    Paris prosecutor Rémy Heitz said Sunday that a criminal probe had been opened into putting the lives of others at risk.

    The investigation would assess “if these evenings were organised in defiance of health rules and to determine who were the possible organisers and participants.”

  143. says

    Reuters:

    The United States on Friday lifted sanctions on International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda that drew international criticism after they were imposed by the administration of former President Donald Trump

  144. says

    Prosecutors indicate they’re nearing cooperation with Oath Keeper charged in Capitol assault

    An inadvertently disclosed court filing on Monday indicated that prosecutors are in advanced negotiations about a potential guilty plea from a heavy metal guitarist and self-described “lifetime member” of the Oath Keepers who is one of more than 300 defendants charged for breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6.

    Jon Schaffer […] was arrested in Indiana in January on charges that he used bear spray to assault officers trying to prevent rioters from entering the building as lawmakers were attempting to certify President Joe Biden’s Electoral College win.

    “The government’s ongoing plea negotiations with this defendant are the first and most advanced plea negotiations involving any of the over 300 Capitol Riot defendants,” prosecutors wrote in a filing they indicated was intended to be submitted secretly to Judge Beryl Howell, chief of the federal District Court in Washington, D.C.

    Despite the request for sealing, the filing appeared on the court’s public docket on Monday afternoon, just hours prior to what had been a scheduled Tuesday hearing on whether Schaffer should continue to be detained. At the request of both sides, Howell put the hearing off until April 21. […]

  145. says

    Senate parliamentarian to let Democrats bypass GOP filibuster on two more bills

    The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Monday that Democrats can use special budgetary rules to avoid a GOP filibuster on two more pieces of legislation, setting the stage for President Biden’s infrastructure agenda to pass in two packages with simple-majority votes.

    It’s a win for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that allows him to pass Biden’s $2.25 trillion package by revising the fiscal year 2021 Budget Resolution. A second budget resolution can be passed this year to do the second half of Biden’s infrastructure agenda. Or the fiscal year 2021 budget could be revised a third time to set up a third reconciliation package.

    Schumer could also pass a budget resolution for FY 2022 to do a third reconciliation package for the second half of the Biden infrastructure agenda.

    Top Schumer aides had argued to parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough last month that Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 allows them to revise the budget resolution for fiscal year 2021 to create additional reconciliation instructions, setting up pathways to pass two more bills this year with only a simple majority in the 50-50 Senate.

    “The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues,” a spokesperson for Schumer said in a statement Monday.

    “While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using Section 304 and some parameters still need to be worked out, the Parliamentarian’s opinion is an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed.”

    […] A Schumer aide said last week that the majority leader “wants to maximize his options to allow Senate Democrats multiple pathways to advance President Biden’s Build Back better agenda if Senate Republicans try to obstruct or water down a bipartisan agreement.” […]

    Technical, Senate process details … but it may end up being crucial if Democrats want to get bills passed in the Senate.

  146. says

    John Fraher, Bloomberg (minus flag and syringe emojis):

    Vaccine Tracker Update-April 5

    Time to 75% vaccination at current rate

    USA 3 months
    Chile 4 months
    UK 5 months
    Canada 10 months
    Brazil 10 months
    EU 1 yr
    China 1.1 yrs
    World 1.8 yrs
    Russia 1.9 yrs
    S Africa [more than] 10 yrs

  147. says

    redwood @ #142, and among the most genuinely and openly religious US politicians are Biden and Pelosi. And of the two most recently elected Democratic Senators, one’s literally a Baptist pastor.

  148. says

    Here’s a link to the April 6 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    ‘Clear’ link between rare blood clotting cases and AstraZeneca vaccine, EMA official says

    A senior official from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has told an Italian daily it is “clear” that there is a link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare form of blood clot but that the cause is still not known, Agence France-Presse is reporting from Rome.

    “In my opinion, we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine. But we still do not know what causes this reaction,” the EMA head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

    The official reportedly told the paper that Europe’s drug regulator would be makinga statement on the issue “in the coming hours”.

    The EMA said last week it expected to issue an “updated recommendation” on the shot during a meeting of its safety committee that starts today and continues until Friday.

    Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands have all recently limited inoculation with the Anglo-Swedish company’s vaccine to older age groups pending an EMA investigation, while reports from the UK on Monday suggested Britain’s MHRA was considering a similar restriction and could make an announcement as early as Tuesday.

    The MHRA’s chief executive, Dr June Raine, said no decision had been made and urged people to continue to get vaccinated.”No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action,” she said.

    Prof Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London told the BBC that the clots raised questions over whether young people should get the jab. He said: “There is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated particularly with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but it may be associated at a lower level with other vaccines, of these unusual blood clots with low platelet counts.

    “It appears that risk is age related, it may possibly be – but the data is weaker on this – related to sex.”

  149. says

    Guardian – “Wanted lists published in Myanmar as junta extends crackdown”:

    Wanted lists featuring the names and photographs of dozens of prominent figures, from actors to musicians, have been published in Myanmar’s military-controlled media, as the junta escalates its threats against anyone voicing support for anti-coup protesters.

    The military has killed 570 people, including at least 43 children, and detained 2,728 since it ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and seized power on 1 February. A domestic advocacy group that tracks detentions has been unable to confirm the whereabouts of the vast majority of people taken by the military.

    On Sunday and Monday, the state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar printed lists of people it said would be charged under section 505A of the penal code, which criminalises comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news”. Those accused under the law can face up to three years in prison.

    State media accused those named of promoting the civil disobedience movement, a peaceful protest campaign through which huge numbers of people have refused to go to work. The movement aims to bring down the junta by paralysing the country, and has already brought banks, customs and transport to a near standstill.

    The military has sought to crackdown on anyone organising or publicly supporting the movement, and in February it charged several actors and directors. There are now at least 60 people on wanted lists, after new names were published over recent days, along with their photographs, links to their social media accounts and home town or city.

    In a video posted on social media, Myat Noe Aye, an actress, wrote that she was among those who had been targeted with an arrest warrant. “I thought I might be really afraid when it comes to my turn but actually I’m more proud of myself for doing the right thing for my country,” she said. She expected more names would be announced, she added.

    “No matter how they haunt us, we’ll keep fighting for justice and democracy. Please know our struggles and save our country. We must win,” she said before raising her hand in a three finger salute, a gesture used by protesters to show defiance against the military.

    Despite the military’s ongoing, bloody crackdown, small street protests continued on Tuesday….

  150. says

    Guardian – “Alexei Navalny ‘seriously ill’ on prison sick ward, says lawyer”:

    Alexei Navalny’s lawyer has said confirmed that the opposition leader is “seriously ill” after reports emerged that he had been transferred to a prison sick ward for a respiratory illness and had been tested for coronavirus.

    The Kremlin critic said in a note published on Monday that he was coughing and had a temperature of 38.1C (100.6F). Several prisoners from his ward had already been treated in hospital for tuberculosis, Navalny wrote. Hours later, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported he had been moved to a sick ward and tested for coronavirus, among other diseases.

    A lawyer for Navalny said that a member of his legal team had seen the opposition leader on Tuesday and that he was “in rather bad condition”. Navalny declared a hunger strike last week because he had been denied a visit from a personal doctor for growing numbness and pain in his back and legs that had made it difficult for him to walk.

    “He has lost a lot of weight, plus he has a strong cough and a temperature of 38.1C,” Olga Mikhailova, the lawyer, said on the Echo of Moscow radio station. “This man is seriously ill. It’s a complete outrage that the IK-2 [prison] has driven him to this condition.”

    In a letter published on Monday, Navalny wrote that three inmates in his ward had been taken to hospital recently with tuberculosis. He joked darkly that if he had contracted the disease, it could distract him from “the pain in my back and numbness in my legs”.

    There has not been official confirmation of Navalny’s medical treatment, although a lawyer speculated on Monday that the sick ward was probably in the IK-2 prison colony, 60 miles east of Moscow, where he is being held. The prison is notoriously strict and said to specialise in isolating prisoners from the outside world.

    Navalny has compared the prison colony to a “concentration camp” and complained of sleep deprivation and other psychological pressure. Last week, a pro-Kremlin activist who had been jailed on spying charges in the US visited him in the prison, telling him that he had exaggerated the poor conditions in the prison.

    “I’m tired of the complaining. He is in one of the best penal colonies in Russia,” Maria Butina, the activist who now works for the state-funded television station RT, posted on social media. She visited the prison with a camera crew in tow.

    Police have been deployed outside the prison ahead of a protest in support of Navalny planned for Tuesday.

    “One of the best penal colonies in Russia” is quite a phrase. It’s the Harvard of Russian prison camps! People would kill to get in!

  151. says

    Guardian – “EU and UK pledge backing to Ukraine after Russian military buildup”:

    The European Union and UK have pledged “unwavering” support for Ukraine’s government amid concerns of a military escalation in the east of the country or a possible new offensive against the Nato ally after recent Russian troop movements.

    Ukraine has accused Russia of massing thousands of military personnel on its northern and eastern borders as well as on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Moscow in 2014. Online researchers have identified troops being transferred to Ukraine’s borders from western and central Russia, including artillery from as far away as Siberia.

    Late on Monday, Boris Johnson’s office said the prime minister had “significant concerns” about Russian activity in the Crimea and on the Ukrainian border, and “reaffirmed his unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky.

    In a tweet after the call, Zelensky thanked Johnson for his support against a “serious challenge to the security of Nato members” and said the Ukraine was “not alone” and was “supported by the G7 nations”.

    Earlier, the EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said he was “following with severe concern the Russian military activity surrounding Ukraine”. After a phone call with the Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, he also pledged “unwavering EU support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

    The Russian government has denied it is planning a military attack but has not denied the troop movements. The country’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, on Monday said Russia was doing “what it considers necessary” and would “ignore signals” of concern from the United States and other western countries.

    On Monday, Ryabkov hinted at what Moscow’s aims may be, saying that the United States should apply greater effort to enforce the Minsk agreements, a 2015 roadmap out of the conflict that many in Kyiv believe is disadvantageous and was forced to sign during a Russian-backed offensive….

  152. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    President Joe Biden is set to announce he is shaving about two weeks off his 1 May deadline for states to make all adults eligible for coronavirus vaccines.

    From Associated Press:

    With states gradually expanding eligibility beyond such priority groups as older people and essential, front-line workers, the president plans to announce that every adult in the U.S. will be eligible by April 19 to be vaccinated, a White House official said.

    The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Biden’s plans before the formal announcement. Biden was scheduled to visit a COVID-19 vaccination site in Virginia on Tuesday, followed by remarks at the White House updating the nation on the administration’s progress against the coronavirus.

    Biden is also expected to announce that 150 million doses have been put into people’s arms since his inauguration on January 20th. That puts the president well on track to meet his new goal of 200 million shots administered by April 30 — his 100th day in office. Biden’s original goal had been 100 million shots in arms by the end of his first 100 days.

    The White House said on Monday that nearly 1 in 3 Americans and over 40% of adults have received at least one shot, and nearly 1 in 4 adults is fully vaccinated. Among older people, 75% have now received at least one shot, and more than 55% of them are fully vaccinated.

  153. says

    Update to #186 – this is exhausting:

    EU drug agency denies already finding causal link between AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots

    Europe’s drug regulator has denied it has established a causal connection between the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and a rare blood clotting syndrome, after a senior official from the agency said there was a link.

    In a statement to Agence France-Presse, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Tuesday it had “not yet reached a conclusion and the review is currently ongoing”, adding that it expected to announce its findings on Wednesday or Thursday.

    Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccines, had earlier told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper that in his opinion: “we can say it now, it is clear there is a link with the vaccine … But we still do not know what causes this reaction.”

    Concerns over rare but serious blood clotting events in a small number of recipients have dogged the shot in recent weeks, with more than a dozen European countries briefly suspending its use last month pending an EMA investigation.

  154. blf says

    SC@175, Thanks for the additional details on the stoopidity of the WSJ editorial @171 ! From memory, it was unsigned, which — also from memory — is the WSJ’s usual policy.

  155. says

    blf @ #194, oh! I somehow missed where you said it was an editorial and was thinking it was an oped.

    Wow. I really shouldn’t be surprised by WSJ editorials but I still am.

  156. says

    AP – “Vaccine skepticism runs deep among white evangelicals in US”:

    The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical denomination, posted a photo on Facebook last week of him getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It drew more than 1,100 comments — many of them voicing admiration for the Rev. J.D. Greear, and many others assailing him.

    Some of the critics wondered if worshippers would now need “vaccine passports” to enter The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, where Greear is pastor. Others depicted the vaccines as satanic or unsafe, or suggested Greear was complicit in government propaganda.

    The divided reaction highlighted a phenomenon that has become increasingly apparent in recent polls and surveys: Vaccine skepticism is more widespread among white evangelicals than almost any other major bloc of Americans.

    In a March poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 40% of white evangelical Protestants said they likely won’t get vaccinated, compared with 25% of all Americans, 28% of white mainline Protestants and 27% of nonwhite Protestants.

    The findings have aroused concern even within evangelical circles. The National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 local churches, is part of a new coalition that will host events, work with media outlets and distribute various public messages to build trust among wary evangelicals.

    Some Christians say they prefer to leave their fate in God’s hands, rather than be vaccinated.

    “We are going to go through times of trials and all kinds of awful things, but we still know where we are going at the end,” said Ron Holloway, 75, of Forsyth, Missouri. “And heaven is so much better than here on earth. Why would we fight leaving here?”

    John Elkins, pastor at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria, Texas, about 50 miles south of Houston, said only one person in his SBC congregation of about 50 has been vaccinated.

    “We’re in a very libertarian area. There’s a lot of hesitancy to anything that feels like it’s coming from the federal government,” said Elkins, who is also forgoing the vaccine, at least for now, along with his wife.

    Elkins, whose father was a professor of gynecology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said his congregants’ doubts are not theologically based.

    “It’s skepticism about effectiveness,” he said. “People are concerned it was rushed out too quickly.”

    Phillip Bethancourt, another Southern Baptist pastor in Texas, has encouraged his congregation at Central Church in College Station to get the vaccine and believes most will. The church hosted a vaccine drive for staff and volunteers at other churches; 217 people got their first doses March 22.

    “Even people who might be skeptical from a medical standpoint can understand it from a missional standpoint,” he said. “If it helps more people be able to serve at their church again, so more children can learn about Jesus, that’s a good thing.”

    Bethancourt, a former vice president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has spoken with congregants who spurn the vaccine and say they’re unafraid of dying if that’s God’s will.

    “The sentiment doesn’t trouble me on the face of it, but there’s inconsistency,” he said. “We don’t adopt that mentality in other aspects of our life, like not wearing a seat belt.”

    Partnering in the initiative is the Ad Council, known for iconic public service ad campaigns such as Smokey Bear and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk.”

    As the vaccines first became available, there was widespread concern that many Black Americans would be hesitant to take them due to historic, racism-related mistrust of government health initiatives. But recent surveys show Black Protestants are more open to vaccinations than white evangelicals.

    “This pandemic has hit our community like a plague — and that’s made our job easier,” said Bishop Timothy Clarke of First Church of God, a Black evangelical church in Columbus, Ohio. “We’ve done a tremendous job of educating.”

  157. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    “Travesty” that some countries lack access to Covid vaccines, WHO says

    It is a travesty that some countries still have not had enough access to vaccines to begin inoculating health workers and the most vulnerable people against Covid-19, the head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

    “Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

    “It’s a travesty that in some countries health workers and those at-risk groups remain completely unvaccinated.”

  158. says

    From today’s DN! headlines:

    Montana Governor Who Ended Mask Mandate in February Tests Positive for Coronavirus

    The United States reported over 79,000 new coronavirus infections on Monday as cases continue to rise nationwide, led by soaring rates of infection in Michigan. In Montana, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte — who ended a statewide mask mandate in February and pushed local governments to drop COVID-19 restrictions — has tested positive for coronavirus. Governor Gianforte received his first dose of Pfizer vaccine four days before his positive test result, which came a day after he attended Easter Sunday services at Grace Bible Church in Bozeman.

    38,000 Texas Rangers Fans Pack Home Opener, Widely Flouting Mask Requirement

    In Waco, Texas, thousands of college students who’d gathered in Baylor University’s football stadium to watch the NCAA basketball finals rushed the field Monday night after their team won the national championship. The students packed together for celebrations, few of them wearing masks.

    Meanwhile, in Arlington, Texas, over 38,000 fans packed the home opener of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team Monday. The Rangers said masks were required, but the rule was widely flouted. It was the first time in over a year that any professional sports team in the U.S. has allowed its stadium to fill to capacity. As of Monday, just 16% of Texas residents had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

    Virginia Bans So-Called Gay and Trans Panic Defense in Murder and Manslaughter Trials

    Virginia has become the first state in the South to ban individuals charged with killing LGBTQ people from using so-called gay and trans panic as a defense for lesser charges or a reduced sentence. The legal defense has allowed individuals accused of murder or manslaughter to argue that the victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation was what provoked them to commit the crime. The legislation was introduced by Virginia House Delegate Danica Roem, who in 2017 became the first transgender lawmaker elected to a state legislature….

  159. tomh says

    WaPo:
    Texas to ban government-mandated ‘vaccine passports’
    By Erin Cunningham and Marisa Iati
    April 6, 2021
    Note:The Washington Post is providing this information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

    Texas will ban government-mandated “vaccine passports” that would require someone to show proof of coronavirus immunization to enter a space or receive a service, the second state to do so [Florida].

    The prohibition, codified in an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott (R) shared by his office Tuesday, also bars organizations that receive public funds from requiring proof of vaccination. In a statement accompanying the order, Abbott stressed that “these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced.”

  160. says

    Atlanta Journal news:

    Gwinnett County Solicitor Brian Whiteside said yesterday that he does not intend to prosecute anyone for giving water to voters in line to cast a ballot, despite the newly passed Republican state law. “It’s unjust to criminalize giving someone some water,” Whiteside said.

  161. says

    The number of sports drawing Republicans’ ire keeps growing

    A political party picking a series of public fights with professional baseball, football, and basketball leagues seems unwise.

    Tens of thousands of spectators packed into a baseball stadium in Arlington, Texas, yesterday to watch the Texas Rangers host the Toronto Blue Jays. As the New York Times reported, this was “the largest crowd at a sporting event in the United States in more than a year.”

    It also seemed quite dangerous given the fact that the pandemic isn’t over. The article added that Major League Baseball “requires all fans over age 2 to wear masks at games this season, but a large percentage of the fans in Arlington went maskless. That will undoubtedly raise fears of the event resulting in a spike in coronavirus cases.”

    But as important as the public-health angle was, there was also a political element to the story. Because as striking as it was to see those who did show up for the game, there was also interest in who did not.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that he won’t throw the ceremonial first pitch as planned at the Texas Rangers’ home opener — the latest jab in a fight that’s pushing corporate America into the political battle over voting rights…. In the letter, Abbott said he will no longer participate and that Texas won’t seek to host any future MLB events.

    The Republican governor, naturally, is distancing himself from Major League Baseball because the league pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new voter-suppression law.

    […] Time will tell whether these partisan antics have much of an effect — I’m skeptical of the idea that league officials are genuinely worried — but the fact that so many Republicans now see Major League Baseball as a political foe is itself amazing. It’s also a little familiar.

    It was less than a year ago, for example, that Trump decided the National Basketball Association also deserved to be seen as a political enemy. The then-president blasted the NBA of acting “like a political organization,” and he repeatedly focused on television ratings for basketball games.

    Around the same time, Trump blasted NBA players as “very nasty” and “very dumb” for participating in social-justice protests.

    Also last year, the then-Republican president turned his animus against the National Football League “into a centerpiece of his campaign’s culture war strategy.” Then-Vice President Mike Pence even went to an NFL game, saw some players engage in a brief, peaceful, and symbolic protest, and left before kickoff in a performative display that cost taxpayers a fair amount of money.

    At one point last year, Trump also said he’d refuse to watch soccer games if players also engaged in social-justice protests.

    […] sports are very popular in the United States, and their cultural footprint is enormous.

    If I were advising a political party and its most prominent voices, I might suggest picking a series of public fights with professional baseball, football, and basketball leagues — for no good reason — is unwise.

  162. says

    Why it matters that Schumer got the procedural news he wanted to hear

    Given the state of the Senate, when doors that appeared closed are suddenly open, it’s extremely encouraging.

    […] the news from Capitol Hill last night, while seemingly dull, is likely to have an enormous impact on the nation and the economy in the near future.

    The Senate’s top referee on procedural matters ruled Monday that a revised budget resolution could potentially be used to pass another reconciliation bill, according to Senate Democratic officials. That could give Democratic leaders at least one more opportunity to pass legislation that could skirt a Senate filibuster, with Republicans already signaling that President Joe Biden’s infrastructure and other proposals won’t get the 60 votes needed to advance in that chamber.

    As Rachel explained at the top of last night’s show, nearly all legislation that reaches the Senate needs 60 votes to advance, but budget bills are an exception. Thanks to the budget reconciliation process, the majority can pass certain kinds of bills with 50 votes, circumventing filibusters.

    Ordinarily, the Senate majority gets one opportunity to use this tactic. This year, because no budget resolution passed in 2020, Democrats were excited to get two bites at the apple instead of one.

    Dems used the process to pass their American Relief Plan, overcoming Republican opposition to pass a popular and ambitious COVID relief bill, leaving the party with one more opportunity to use reconciliation to approve another top priority, such as an infrastructure plan.

    But as we discussed last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his team, to their enormous credit, got creative. In fact, they came up with a new interpretation of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 […] which they argued gave the majority party yet another opportunity to use the reconciliation process. Politico reported that Schumer and his team concluded that they’d uncovered “a magical parliamentary trick.”

    […] Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whose job it is to resolve procedural disputes, announced yesterday that Team Schumer was right. The majority leader’s “magical parliamentary trick” is legitimate.

    And why should regular people care about such legislative trivia? Because bills that can circumvent Republican filibusters are the only ones that can pass. President Biden is eyeing a two-part infrastructure plan, for example, and if his party can use the reconciliation process twice this year, it means both parts can pass whether GOP senators like it or not.

    To be sure, there are some caveats to the news. For one thing, Schumer’s office acknowledged last night that “some parameters still need to be worked out” about how the tactic would next be implemented.

    For another, there are all kinds of important priorities — voting rights, gun-massacre-prevention bills, et al. — that simply cannot be considered under the budget reconciliation process. Proponents of such measures will need to continue to push for filibuster reforms if those measures have any chance of success.

    […] The developments do not guarantee success, but they help move Democrats a big step away from failure.

  163. says

    Facing campaign scam allegations, Trump’s response has a big flaw

    Given an opportunity to defend his efforts to rip off his own backers, Trump couldn’t think of anything persuasive.

    The New York Times reported over the weekend on Donald Trump’s 2020 political operation and the brazenly underhanded tactics it employed to swindle its unsuspecting donors. […] the tactics and the scope of the scam were breathtaking.

    […] the Times found that Team Trump, facing a financial shortfall, set up a default system for online donors: by adding easily overlooked pre-checked boxes and opaque fine print, the then-president’s operation was able to fleece unsuspecting donors for months.

    Not surprisingly, banks and credit card companies were soon inundated “with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.” Some donors even “canceled their cards” just to make the recurring payments to Trump stop.

    […] Trump issued a 373-word written statement yesterday, responding to the New York Times’ revelations. I read it with great interest, because the available evidence seemed so overwhelming. Indeed, since the facts made it seem as if the former president is an unrepentant con man, treating his own supporters like suckers, I was eager to see his proof to the contrary.

    [Trump] began by describing the reporting as “highly partisan” and “a completely misleading, one-sided attack piece” — rhetoric that may have made Trump feel better, but did not constitute an actual argument. Eventually, the statement added this:

    “In fact, many people were so enthusiastic that they gave over and over, and in certain cases where they would give too much, we would promptly refund their contributions. Our overall dispute rate was less than 1% of total online donations, a very low number.”

    Perhaps the former president is confused. The problem is not that “enthusiastic” Trump supporters voluntarily “gave over and over.” Rather, the problem is that his donors involuntarily “gave over and over” because his campaign was running a scam […]

    As for the idea that the dispute rate was “a very low number,” that isn’t true at all. At issue is hundreds of thousands of transactions, far exceeding the totals from other modern presidential campaigns. What’s more, the total doesn’t include the donors who didn’t notice the recurring contributions, or were too embarrassed to contest the charges after their president took advantage of them.

    What about the rest of Trump’s statement? Oddly enough, [Trump] never actually got around to pointing to any specific errors or misstatements in the Times’ reporting. In fact, most of the former president’s statement peddled unrelated nonsense about his bonkers belief that the 2020 election was “massively rigged and stolen.”

    In other words, Trump would have the public believe that the revelations about his latest scam are “misleading,” and to bolster his point, he wrote a grand total of two sentences — both of which were wrong. […].

  164. says

    Josh Marshall:

    […] Large swathes of corporate America, particularly consumer-facing corporate America, doesn’t want to be associated with various reactionary Republican policy agendas. Corporations will make statements, threaten to withhold financial support and even participate in soft boycotts as Major League Baseball has by taking the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. But corporate America’s big legislative asks remain the same: low taxes, low regulation, regulatory hostility to labor unions and passive anti-trust enforcement. McConnell seems to be hinting that some of those things might be withheld. But that’s hard to figure since those are all core elements of Republican party ideology. The Trump years illustrate this: lots of talk about ‘working class values’ and Trump attacks against corporations who don’t bend the knee but in reality as consistent a policy of tax breaks and regulatory gutting as any administration in living memory.

    […] Trade unionism generally lives or dies by a mix of regulatory frameworks it operates under and workers’ beliefs about whether or not they should form labor unions. In the first case, you can’t really pick and choose NLRB standards based on a corporations positions on trans-rights or voting rights. It’s also pretty hard to support union drives in some sectors as righteous stands for dignity and wages while while insisting they are threats to competitiveness and jobs everywhere else. It really amounts to little more than [Republican] offers of vague support to own the libs – neener-neener as party platform.

    […] The first goal is to avoid all involvement in America’s political polarization – since in the nature of things most corporations are focused on the entire consumer market, not one or the other main faction. (Note that in the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection many corporations decided to discontinue all political giving, to both parties.) But when it’s not possible to avoid picking sides many corporations now seek to avoid the reputational harm of being associated with views which the majority of the country – particularly the parts of the country that represent the future and the most disposable income – oppose. But voting rights aren’t first, second or third or even tenth on any corporate lobbyist’s list of asks from Congress or various state legislatures. Not even close. […]

    Corporations may oppose or refuse to support things like the voting rights clamp down in GOP controlled swing states. But again, this is largely passive, an effort to disassociate and avoid reputational harm. The core agenda remains keeping taxes and regulations low because those are tied to maximizing profits, which is what corporations are designed to do.

    Link

  165. says

    Key Figure In Gaetz’s Iranian Alibi Denies Extortion Attempt

    A self-styled operative who plays a prominent role in Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-FL) claims he is being extorted told CNN on Monday that the congressman was using the situation to distract from his sex trafficking investigation.

    Bob Kent, a retired Air Force captain who has reportedly devoted the past few years of his life to the hunt for missing FBI agent Robert Levinson in Iran, told CNN that he had not contacted the Gaetz family out of any nefarious motive. […]

    “When I left, the last thing I told Don Gaetz was that you’ll never hear from me again,” Kent told CNN, referring to the congressman’s father. “I’m not a threat to you or your son. I won’t talk to the press. I’m not going to say a bad word about him.”

    The Washington Examiner published documents last week which Gaetz claims constitute part of an extortion attempt against him. Those included text messages purportedly from Kent to Don Gaetz, the father of the congressman and a Florida politico and businessman in his own right.

    The Examiner also published a document supposedly from Kent and a Florida lawyer named David McGee, a longtime friend of Levinson’s who has spearheaded civil litigation around his return. The documents suggested that Kent knew of the federal criminal sex trafficking probe and also proposed that the Gaetz family provide $25 million as part of an extraction effort for Levinson.

    Kent told CNN that “there were no threats. There were no demands.”

    Posted by readers of the article:

    “When I left, the last thing I told Don Gaetz was that you’ll never hear from me again,” Kent told CNN, referring to the congressman’s father. “I’m not a threat to you or your son. I won’t talk to the press. I’m not going to say a bad word about him.”
    Can we get a clarification on “when I left” happened? And how is a search for a missing FBI agent a threat to Gaetz or his son? And why can’t any of these people shut up?
    ———————–
    The simplest explanation is that harebrained schemes from people with dubious grasps of reality are regular occurrences in the lives of wealthy people. Throw in some super-MAGA “patriotism” and you can see why Kent might think the Gaetzes would share his goals.
    —————
    Right now, we mostly have statements from shady characters.
    ———————
    If people aren’t showing you raunchy sex photos or offering to involve you in bizarre plots, pat yourself on the back. This is all a reminder of how much better it is to be, well, better.
    ———————–
    I live in a world where a Congressman has almost certainly had sex with hookers while taking ecstasy and then tried to show his fellow congressman pictures of it – and he still sits on the judiciary committee!
    —————————
    So the deal was loan Kent the money ( 25 million ) and he’ll get Levisson out which entitles him to the 25 million reward. The reward would be used to pay pack daddy Gaetz. The hook was baby Gaetz had an emerging PR problem and Kent claimed he could fix it.

    Loan me the bucks and ill pay you back. To close the deal Ill get you kid out of hot water.

    That’s not extortion.
    ———————————
    Once again Republicans have gotten involved in a plot too bizarre to pass off as a fictional movie script.
    ————————
    the baroque degeneracy of Florida politics
    ———————
    You’re right, it’s not extortion. But how would a retired Air Force captain have known anything about a Justice Dept. investigation? At the very least, this reflects poorly on both Kent and Gaetz, and possibly the previous Justice Department.

  166. says

    Matt Gaetz’s staffers were sending videos of his outrageous behavior to other Republican officials

    […] as Gaetz rails that these “bizarre claims” are coming out because he’s decided to take on the FBI and the “Biden Justice Department” in some unspecified way, there seems to be a distinct flood of rats looking for the exit ramp from S.S. Gaetz.

    According to Politico, those eager to walk, not run, away from association with Gaetz include Trump, right-wing pundits like Sean Hannity, and other Republican members of Congress. According to one Trump staffer, when it comes to the accusations against Gaetz, “Not a lot of people are surprised.”

    […] Not only did Gaetz show off naked pictures and videos of his supposed conquests to other Republican members of Congress, his staff apparently sent around videos of his most outrageous exploits to their counterparts with other Republican officials.

    […] Republicans weren’t facing vague rumors about his conduct, they were getting bragging self-confessions from the man himself. And they were getting both photos and video, some of it delivered by Gaetz right from the floor of the House.

    Part of what made Gaetz feel as if sending his sex tapes to fellow Republicans acceptable can be seen in a new Orlando Sentinel article that describes Gaetz’s feelings about such images. Gaetz believes that once he has an “intimate” picture of someone, that image is his to use however he wants. That includes feeding his ego, or using the image as revenge porn. Which is why Gaetz as the primary source of opposition to a bill against revenge porn when he served in the Florida house.

    […] The biggest crime is the conspiracy of silence among Republican lawmakers who continued to protect Gaetz even though they were seeing graphic evidence of his behavior. They knew what he was doing. And they were just fine with it until Gaetz was caught.

    […] As Politico reported on Tuesday, Gaetz’s staffers “would regularly send embarrassing videos of their boss to other GOP operatives.” Not once, but “regularly.”

    […] Over and over again, Gaetz showed Republicans exactly who he was. But until word of an actual FBI investigation made the news, not one of them made a move to speak out against Gaetz. No Republican turned those nude videos into an ethics complaint. No Republican warned that Gaetz was bragging about the women he picked up through an indicted sex trafficker.

    Even now, the best Republican leader Kevin McCarthy will say is that Gaetz will be removed from his campaign committees should the accusations “turn out to have merit.” That’s a position of incredible weakness—especially from someone who very likely has already seen nude pics passed along by Gaetz.

    The Republican willingness to accept this behavior from a representative is nothing short of disgusting.

  167. says

    As far as I’m concerned, allowing Newsmax reporters into the White House briefing room is a little like High Times asking Mitt Romney to write a guest column on how to score weed at Burning Man, but then the Biden administration is nothing if not fair […]

    That said, Newsmax lives in another reality—one where Donald Trump won the election, Joe Biden is a Chinese communist operative, and Mike Lindell’s squishy, foam-filled monster head somehow wasn’t the prototype for his egregious MyPillows.

    So that’s the context—and it’s also why we shouldn’t feel sorry for Newsmax’s John Gizzi when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki takes him out like a ninja … as she did earlier today [video is available at the link]

    GIZZI: “The other thing on the infrastructure package, there is a private memo that’s being circulated in the business community and to some Republican senators that said that the $2.25 trillion price tag is $1 trillion off, and that there’s many things in there that were omitted in the initial discussion of the bill, notably the $300 billion energy tax credit, the $100 billion for the green bank, and that these things would add $1 trillion to it. This is being circulated on the Hill. Do you have any response to the charge that the president lowballed the price tag on the infrastructure bill?”

    PSAKI: “Sounds mysterious, the memo. The secret memo. Is it, are you saying, just so I understand your question, are you saying there are things the president didn’t put in his proposal people think he’s going to add to his proposal?”

    GIZZI: “No, there’s things there that somebody went through it or is claiming to have gone through it and added it up and came up with $1 trillion more than the president listed as the price tag, so it is actually $3.25 trillion as opposed to …”

    PSAKI: “Well, we laid out very specifically each component of the package and how much we’re proposing, so I would encourage you all to get your calculators out and charge that up and see how it compares to the secret memo.”

    […] If there’s a memo, produce the fucking memo. And show your work. Otherwise, shut the fuck up. […]

    Link

  168. says

    ‘Chauvin knew what he was doing’: Police chief doubles down on his stance of what happened to Floyd

    […] Arradondo testified on Monday that the type of restraint Chauvin used on Floyd and held for nine minutes and 29 seconds violated department policy. Force has to be “objectively reasonable,” he said, adding that once Floyd had stopped resisting Chauvin should have stopped restraining him.

    “There’s an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds,” Arradondo said, “but once there was no longer any resistance and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy.

    “It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”

    […] “The first time that we interact with our community members may be the only time that they have an interaction. That has to count for something,” Arradondo said. “It’s very important for us to make sure that we’re meeting our community in that space, treating them with dignity, being their guardians.” Arradondo, who fired Chauvin and other officers who aided Chauvin in restraining Floyd, said in a statement last June that Floyd’s “tragic death was not due to a lack of training—the training was there.”

    ”Chauvin knew what he was doing. I agree with Attorney General (Keith) Ellison: What happened to Mr. Floyd was murder,” Arradondo said in the statement. […]

  169. says

    Greg Gutfeld has a new hilarious [NOT] evening comedy show “Gutfeld!” that airs on Fox News.

    Wonkette:

    […]

    All right, here we are again, a brand new show and a brand new Greg. I’m as giddy as Kamala Harris explaining kids in cages or Woody Allen hearing about kids in cages.

    Ha ha!

    If you’ve been watching “The Greg Gutfeld Show” on Saturdays, welcome. If you love “The Five” and felt the need for more GG, that’s awesome. If you ended up here because you thought your TV was the microwave oven, it’s good to see you, Mr. President. Your pizza will be warm in two minutes, and Hunter, he brought the extra cheese.

    Extra cheese! We get it! [No we don’t, because Evan thinks it’s about Ukraine moneys, and I think it’s about Child Porn Pizzagate, and we PROBABLY can’t both be right. — Editrix]

    You all made a great choice. For proof, let’s see what Brian Williams is up to right now over at MSNBC.

    “Good evening. I’m Brian Williams and I am on Mars. Yes, I jumped on a chopper and now I’m on Mars. I’ve been here for a year now. I built a castle here made of mastodon carcasses and marshmallows. This is where I invented all the COVID vaccines, as well as penicillin, the smartphone and Fluffernutter.”

    Oh good, Brian Williams joke that is very timely and current! Go on!

    Some things never change. Meanwhile, what’s on CNN?

    “You, sir, are a racist, racist, racist, White male racist.”

    That’s from the Don Lemon hour. He reports the news with the same look your mother gave you when she found weed in your sock drawer.

    Don Lemon hates white people! Don Lemon is mad at you like your mother! Don Lemon is your mother! You hate your mother!

    As for those late night shows we’re supposed to compete against, why bother? Who do they offend? The only time Stephen Colbert ruffles feathers is in a pillow fight. The definition of risk to Kimmel is dehydration from crying too much. Fallon, that guy fawns more than a herd of deer. And I heard Seth Meyers and Trevor Noah ran off to be obscure together.

    […] This is how you do comedy.

    So let them be. They’ve got the market cornered on calling Americans stupid. To them, it was never about Trump. It’s Trump voters. It’s not about guns, but gun owners. It’s not just about destroying statues it’s anyone who thinks math is real.

    Oh good, we’ve abandoned the “comedy” section and now we’re just gonna do white grievance. That’s what Fox News viewers were here for anyway.

    The rest is some whiny-ass bullshit about cancel culture and Major League Baseball, and a “joke” about how Joe Biden, the “great unifier [is] now flinging racial discord like Frisbees at a fish show.” Yes, at a fish show. Because Fox News is so culturally relevant it can’t even accurately transcribe Greg Gutfeld’s very timely joke about the band called Phish.

    And this:

    So screw you, MLB. Your stupid exhibition game is about as entertaining as a cornhole match on ESPN at three a.m. And screw Delta and screw Coke. In fact, screw all corporations. You stupid executives are cowards and bad golfers. You cheat on your taxes and you cheat on each other!

    […] Sooooooo … conservative “comedy” still doesn’t exist. […]

    Link

    Video snippets are available at the link.

  170. says

    On the filibuster’s future, Arizona’s [Senator Krysten] Sinema makes a flawed case

    What should happen when Republican senators are asked to “change their behavior,” and they respond, “No”?

    […] in the Senate Democratic conference, support for an overhaul is not yet universal. Sen. Joe Manchin receives the bulk of the attention in this debate, in part because he’s Congress’ most conservative Democrat, and in part because he’s been quite vocal in his opposition to major institutional changes.

    Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, however, is every bit as opposed to filibuster reforms as Manchin — and by some measures, more so. She just tends not to talk about it as much.

    In early March, the Arizonan wrote a relatively long letter to a constituent, making the case for leaving the filibuster alone. It was good to see the senator tackle the issue in some detail, but Sinema’s letter included suspect historical claims.

    This week, the Democratic senator elaborated on her perspective to the Wall Street Journal.

    “When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Senate today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the rules,” she said in an interview after two constituent events in Phoenix. “I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do.”

    I read this paragraph several times, trying to better understand where Sinema is coming from, but it’s a difficult perspective to understand.

    […] by all appearances, it’s the abuse of the rules that has turned the chamber into such a mess. Restoring the Senate to a majority-rule institution — the way it operated for generations before the routinization of abuses — would allow it to start functioning again, but that’s a change Sinema will not consider.

    To restore majority-rule, she says, would be to “erode the rules” that are being abused.

    But it’s that next sentence in her quote that I found especially important: “I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together.”

    Wouldn’t it be great if it were that simple?

    Senate Republicans have broken the institution, refuse to compromise, and have abandoned any interest in responsible governance? This could be fixed if GOP senators simply “changed their behavior.”

    […] What if Americans elect a Democratic House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic White House, expecting elected officials to deliver on a Democratic agenda, and Republicans stand in the way of constructive policymaking? What if GOP senators are asked to “change their behavior,” and they respond, “No”?

    Sinema appears to believe that, at that point, the nation should simply tolerate a Senate that is “broken” and “not working,” leaving it intact until voters elect members who’ll behave more responsibly. Given the ideological direction of the Republican Party, that’s a recipe for indefinite dysfunction.

  171. blf says

    Follow-up to me@94 and Lynna@119, There were two Italian businesses sanctioned by hair furor’s dalekocracy because their owner’s name happened to match that of a individual alleged to be deeply involved in selling of Venezuelan-origin crude oil. One, a restaurant owner, got the matter cleared up quickly. The other, a graphics designer, whilst also taken off the sanctions list, is not very happy, Italian business owner to sue US Treasury over blacklist error:

    Alessandro Bazzoni’s bank account was closed after he faced sanctions in a case of mistaken identity

    […]

    Alessandro Bazzoni, who owns a graphic design company in Sardinia, has been unable to trade since 19 January, when his business was slapped with sanctions as part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on blacklisted Venezuelan crude oil.

    In a case of mistaken identity, the US Treasury erroneously blacklisted Bazzoni’s graphic design company, SeriGraphicLab, along with a restaurant and pizzeria in Verona owned by another businessman called Alessandro Bazzoni. Both were removed from the blacklist on 31 March. But while the restaurant owner’s bank account has been reactivated, the blunder led to the Sardinian businessman’s account being closed.

    “It was a momentous error on their part, and one that is having serious implications as it is preventing me from working,” he said.

    Bazzoni, who works independently, was able to withdraw the money that was in his account but can no longer trade because, as per Italian law, he needs a bank account in order to receive payments from clients. The absence of a bank account also means he can’t access the financial support he is entitled to receive as part of the Italian government’s Covid-19 relief scheme.

    “I have to go to another bank to see if I can open an account there,” he said. “But for now, I cannot sufficiently operate my business, so much so I have started to look for other jobs.”

    […]

    He has made a legal complaint to the Italian police, with the aim of suing the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a unit of the US Treasury.

    […]

    The Guardian has contacted the Treasury for a response to the Sardinian businessman’s case. “First and foremost, I want an apology,” said Bazzoni.

    The restaurant owner also wants an apology.

  172. lumipuna says

    Repeating some bits from blf at 173, quoting an editorial from WSJ, on giving up pandemic precautions:

    […] If the coronavirus epidemic in the US continues on its current trajectory, the need for masks outside particular local outbreak areas will pass in a matter of weeks.

    One way to think about the problem is by analogy to seasonal influenza. Hardly anybody wears a mask in ordinary settings to protect against the flu, and no one is required to do so. […] When the 14-day rolling average of daily Covid deaths has come down below flu level, which may happen within the next month or two, we should adjust our thinking about the coronavirus accordingly.

    […] . If you’ve been vaccinated, there’s almost no direct safety benefit — to yourself or others — of wearing a mask. You still have to do so only because immunity is invisible. […]

    I see a curious focus on masks in particular – starting from the headline of the quoted editorial. Masking is certainly something that seems to preoccupy many people’s minds, and hence makes for good clickbait journalism, here in Finland as well as in English-speaking world.

    Recently, I’ve started seeing some official-ish advice (from US sources) along the line of “If you’re fully vaccinated, you can resume normal social life*, but you still need to wear a mask”. This advice seems to assume that masking is “easy” compared to other pandemic precautions, and therefore something people can still continue when they don’t have sufficient reason or motivation to keep up the full set any more, but there’s still need for some caution**.

    I think this depends on individual circumstances. Many people apparently find masking rather uncomfortable (or sometimes near impossible), others not so much. Also, different people have rather different ideas of what constitutes “normal social life”, and how easy it is to continue to avoid extensive mingling with people. I guess there’s a need for public health messaging to be simple and short, and therefore it tends to be simplistic and one-size-fits-all. OTOH, there needs apparently needs to be a different one-size-fits-all model for vaccinated people, if only to encourage vaccine takeup.

    *This also seems to assume that various social venues in your area are more or less open-as-normally, so resuming normal social life is effectively up to your own choice based on recommendations, risk assessment and responsibility.

    **There’s also the practical issue, as noted in the editorial, that “immunity is invisible” and some venues mandate masking for all. It seems like any discrimination based on vaccination status will be politically more or less impossible in the US.

  173. says

    Excerpts from a longer article by Mallory Pickett, writing for The New Yorker:

    […] Over the course of the pandemic, evidence supporting masks has piled up. An analysis of mask mandates in German towns found that they may have reduced covid-19 infections by about forty-five per cent. Another study examined U.S. states with mask mandates, and found that the daily growth of infections was two per cent lower in states where a mask mandate had been in place for a few weeks. By April, 2020, the W.H.O., the Centers for Disease Control, and other groups decided that there was enough evidence, and recommended face coverings. The C.D.C. now firmly concludes that “experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of sars-CoV-2.” Yet Tegnell [Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s head epidemiologist] remained unsatisfied.

    Tegnell’s prediction of a tapering epidemic curve and quickly-attained immunity never came to pass. Sweden’s per-capita case counts and death rates have been many times higher than any of its Nordic neighbors, all of which imposed lockdowns, travel bans, and limited gatherings early on. Over all in Sweden, thirteen thousand people have died from covid-19. In Norway, which has a population that is half the size of Sweden’s, and where stricter lockdowns were enforced, about seven hundred people have died. It’s likely that some simple policy changes—especially shutting down visitations to nursing homes sooner, and providing more P.P.E. and testing to nursing-home staff—would have saved lives. And the strategy doesn’t seem to have helped the economy much: the Swedish G.D.P. fell by around three per cent, better than the European average, but similar to the drop in other Nordic countries.

    […] The fatalities in the elder homes, which account for about fifty per cent of the covid-19 deaths in Sweden, seem especially needless; if visits to these facilities had been banned sooner, if their workers had been advised to wear masks and get tested frequently, it’s possible that thousands of lives could have been saved. People from both pro- and anti-Tegnell camps believe that this was an unnecessary tragedy.

    […] “I think we have failed.” Stefan Lofven, the country’s Prime Minister, told reporters, “The fact that so many people have died cannot be seen as anything else than a failure.”

    […] we still don’t know a lot,” Howard Forman, a professor of public-health and management at Yale, told me. Protections that seemed important may turn out, after long-term study, to have been less effective than we thought. “If you, one day, come to me and say that masks only reduce spread by fifteen per cent or even ten per cent, I’d be like, O.K., well, that’s within range. It’s not a total shock. And, by the way, I would still say it was worth wearing the masks.”

    […] Swedes are slowly making masks a part of their pandemic routines. My mother-in-law has bought some masks to wear on buses and trams. She and my father-in-law continue to see a small circle of friends, but they celebrated Christmas alone, seeing their grandchildren only on small screens.

    New Yorker link

    In the article, the personal stories of Swedes who lost relatives to Covid, and some who suffered from the disease themselves, are told. The details are telling. With all the schools open, with no masking and very little testing going on, a high school student sneezed in a nurse’s face. That was the start of a long, difficult, disease-ridden time for the nurse. She is still suffering effects many months later.

  174. says

    The glaring flaw in the GOP’s new talking point on Georgia voting

    The idea that that Colorado and Georgia are effectively the same in imposing voting restrictions is demonstrably ridiculous.

    Major League Baseball recently pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia’s new voter-suppression law. The exhibition will instead be played this year in Denver.

    And that, evidently, gave some Republicans an idea for a new talking point. At a briefing today, for example, Fox News’ White House correspondent asked: “Is the White House concerned that Major League Baseball is moving its All-Star Game to Colorado, where voting regulations are very similar to Georgia?”

    The premise of the question was, of course, false, but this is clearly the line of the day in GOP circles.

    [Snipped details of several Republican officials spouting the same false line.]

    Conservative media ran big headlines such as, “Colorado voting laws are similar to Georgia’s despite decision to move Major League Baseball All-Star Game.”

    The point, of course, is unsubtle: all Georgia Republicans did was pass the same kind of voting regulations that are found in blue states like Colorado, but everyone’s picking on them as part of a political vendetta, launched by rascally Democrats and meanies in Corporate America. The fact that the All-Star Game is headed to Denver, the argument goes, proves just how unfair it is to punish the poor, picked on Georgia GOP.

    This is, in reality, spectacularly wrong.

    Colorado’s voting laws have effectively nothing in common with Georgia’s newly revised system. In Colorado, for example, every eligible voter is automatically mailed a ballot, which Coloradans are free to return via mail or through drop boxes located throughout the state. The Rocky Mountain State has also automatic voter registration, and same-day registration for both in-person voters who choose to vote early or on Election Day.

    Are these election laws “very similar” to Georgia’s? Not even a little. In Georgia, it is now illegal to send every eligible voter a ballot. Georgia Republicans have also made it harder to request mail ballots, cast mail ballots, and use drop boxes. Georgia has neither automatic voter registration nor same-day registration.

    […] Colorado has what the National Conference of State Legislatures calls a “non-strict” voter ID law for in-person early voting. Voters can produce a number of different types of ID, including ones without photos. And if they don’t have ID, they can vote via provisional ballot, at which time elections officials are charged with verifying their eligibility. Georgia’s in-person ID requirement, by contrast, is a “strict” law, requiring photo ID.

    Finally, let’s not forget that Georgia’s new law deliberately strips power from local election officials. As a Vox explainer recently noted, “The [state election board], which now will be fully controlled by the Republican legislative majority, is unilaterally empowered to take over (among other things) the process of disqualifying ballots across the state. Given that Georgia Republicans have helped promote false allegations of voter fraud, it’s easy to see why handing them so much power over local election authorities is so worrying.”

    […] Is there something comparable in Colorado? Of course not.

    The idea that that the two states are effectively the same in imposing voting restrictions, and that Major League Baseball is guilty of hypocrisy, is demonstrably ridiculous.

    Either the Republicans pushing this didn’t familiarize themselves with the basic details, or they know the comparison is absurd and they’re hoping to fool people.[…]

  175. says

    President Biden moved up the deadline for states to make all adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine to April 19.

    In other news: Gaetz Fundraises Off Of Alleged Sex Trafficking Investigation

    […] The congressman, who is reportedly being investigated for the possible sex trafficking of a minor, has happily given interviews and on-the-record quotes, penned op-eds and furiously retweeted supportive articles and takes from rightwing outlets.

    On Tuesday, he took that baffling PR strategy a step further as he sent out a fundraising blast to his supporters bemoaning the “smear campaign.”

    “The far-left New York Times has been publishing salacious allegations against me in an attempt to end my career fighting for the forgotten men and women of this country,” the email read. “It is a shame that the Left tries to drag my dating life into their political attacks, but it’s no surprise – when your ideas suck, you have to stoop this low.”

    A big red button invites you to “CLICK HERE TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST THE FAKE NEWS,” which redirects to a donation page on Gaetz’s campaign website. […]

  176. says

    What additional fuckery is this?

    Gaetz Will Speak At Trump Doral For Summit Hosted By Jan. 6 Rally Planners

    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) will appear at one of Donald Trump’s properties on Friday night to speak at an event hosted by the group that held the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. that turned into the insurrection.

    Women for America First announced that Gaetz would be speaking at their “Save America Summit” at the Trump National Doral in an email Tuesday. The event is scheduled to take place from Thursday through Sunday, and Gaetz will speak Friday night, according to the email.

    It might not make immediate sense why the group would invite the congressman to their summit. After all, he’s acknowledged that he’s under federal investigation, reportedly for potentially having had sex with a 17-year-old girl.

    But Gaetz himself has taken the investigation in stride, denying all wrongdoing and even fundraising off of the spotlight. […]

    Other high-profile speakers slated for the multi-day event, according to Women for America First, include Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). […]

  177. says

    In good news, the CDC announced that almost 80 percent of teachers and childcare workers in the USA have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

  178. tomh says

    Masks in Schools
    April 5, 2021

    HEMPSTEAD, Texas — A group of Texas parents brought a legal challenge against the Katy Independent School District’s Covid-19 mask policy, claiming it unfairly forces students who refuse to wear a mask to learn virtually and bars them from participating in extracurricular activities.

  179. says

    OMG

    Gaetz sought blanket pardon from Trump White House

    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) reportedly sought a blanket pre-emptive pardon from the White House during the final weeks of President Trump’s administration, a revelation that comes as the lawmaker finds himself the subject of a federal sex-trafficking investigation.

    Gaetz asked Trump for a pardon for him and unidentified congressional allies, two people familiar with the discussion told The New York Times. The conversation came at roughly the same time that Gaetz publicly called for Trump to pardon GOP allies and as the Justice Department investigated the Florida Republican over an alleged relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws. […]

    More from The New York Times

    Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was one of President Donald J. Trump’s most vocal allies during his term, publicly pledging loyalty and even signing a letter nominating the president for the Nobel Peace Prize.

    In the final weeks of Mr. Trump’s term, Mr. Gaetz sought something in return. He privately asked the White House for blanket pre-emptive pardons for himself and unidentified congressional allies for any crimes they may have committed, according to two people told of the discussions.

    Around that time, Mr. Gaetz was also publicly calling for broad pardons from Mr. Trump to thwart what he termed the “bloodlust” of their political opponents. But Justice Department investigators had begun questioning Mr. Gaetz’s associates about his conduct, including whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old that violated sex trafficking laws, in an inquiry that grew out of the case of an indicted associate in Florida.

    It was unclear whether Mr. Gaetz or the White House knew at the time about the inquiry, or who else he sought pardons for. Mr. Gaetz did not tell White House aides that he was under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations when he made the request. But top White House lawyers and officials viewed the request for a pre-emptive pardon as a nonstarter that would set a bad precedent, the people said.

    Aides told Mr. Trump of the request, though it is unclear whether Mr. Gaetz discussed the matter directly with the president. Mr. Trump ultimately pardoned dozens of allies and others in the final months of his presidency, highlighting his willingness to wield his power to help close supporters and lash out against the criminal justice system.

    In recent days, some Trump associates have speculated that Mr. Gaetz’s request for a group pardon was an attempt to camouflage his own potential criminal exposure.

    Either way, Mr. Gaetz’s appeal to the Trump White House shows how the third-term congressman sought to leverage an unlikely presidential relationship he had spent years cultivating. […]

  180. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #218:

    It might not make immediate sense why the group would invite the congressman to their summit. After all, he’s acknowledged that he’s under federal investigation, reportedly for potentially having had sex with a 17-year-old girl.

    Well, it is a group formed to support a sexual predator! And here’s its founder Amy Kremer at a rally for Roy Moore.

    From the event site (the tab inexplicably features a pink pump): “The Save America Summit is for MEN & Women…” The “Special Guests” so far include 9 women (among them Amy and Kylie Jane Kremer) and 16 men.

    The PR person (also “Special Guest”) is Chris Barron. After the Arkansas General Assembly voted yesterday to override Gov. Hutchinson’s veto of their anti-trans bill, he tweeted: “Why vote Republican if all you get is Asa Hutchinson?” Barron was the organizer of LGBT for Trump.

  181. says

    Guardian – “Brazil’s coronavirus death toll passes 4,000 a day for first time”:

    Brazil’s coronavirus catastrophe has deepened further after more than 4,000 daily deaths were reported for the first time since the outbreak began in February last year.

    At least 4,195 people were reported to have lost their lives on Tuesday, taking Brazil’s total death toll – the world’s second highest after the US – to nearly 337,000.

    Brazil also reported 86,979 new infections. Experts fear a record 100,000 Brazilians could lose their lives this month alone if nothing is done.

    “It’s a nuclear reactor that has set off a chain reaction and is out of control. It’s a biological Fukushima,” said Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian doctor and professor at Duke University in the US, who is closely tracking the virus.

    Despite the growing crisis, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, continues to resist the idea of a lockdown and downplay the epidemic. “In which country aren’t people dying?” he said last week.

    Brazil, which has 212 million citizens compared with the US’s 328 million, is expected to overtake the US weekly average for daily deaths in the coming days.

    Many governors, mayors and judges are reopening parts of the economy despite lingering chaos in overcrowded hospitals and a collapsed healthcare system in several parts of the country. Local authorities nationwide claim that numbers of cases and hospitalisations are trending downward after a week of a partial shutdown.

    Miguel Lago, the executive director of Brazil’s Institute for Health Policy Studies, which advises public health officials, said reopening was a mistake that he feared would bring even higher death numbers, though he thought it unlikely to be reversed.

    “The fact is the anti-lockdown narrative of President Jair Bolsonaro has won,” Lago said. “Mayors and governors are politically prohibited from beefing up social distancing policies because they know supporters of the president, including business leaders, will sabotage it.”

    Covid-19 patients are using more than 90% of beds in intensive care units in most Brazilian states, though figures have stabilised over the past week. Still, hundreds of people are dying as they wait for care and basic supplies such as oxygen and sedatives are running out in several states.

    Less than 3% of Brazil’s 210 million people have received both doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to Our World in Data, an online research site….

  182. says

    George Monbiot in the Guardian – “Seaspiracy shows why we must treat fish not as seafood, but as wildlife”:

    …The film gets some things wrong…. But the thrust of the film is correct: industrial fishing, an issue woefully neglected by the media and conservation groups, is driving many wildlife populations and ecosystems around the world towards collapse. Vast fishing ships from powerful nations threaten to deprive local people of their subsistence. Many “marine reserves” are a total farce, as industrial fishing is still allowed inside them. In the EU, the intensity of trawling in so-called protected areas is greater than in unprotected places. “Sustainable seafood” is often nothing of the kind. Commercial fishing is the greatest cause of the death and decline of marine animals. It can also be extremely cruel to humans: slavery and other gross exploitations of labour are rampant.

    To me, the problem is symbolised by two words I keep stumbling across in scientific and official papers: “underfished” and “underexploited”. These are the terms fisheries scientists use for populations that are not “fully fished”. The words people use expose the way they think, and what powerful, illuminating, horrible words these are. They seem to belong to another era, when we believed in the doctrine of dominion: humans have a sacred duty to conquer and exploit the Earth. I suspect some people are so angry because it’s not just malpractice Seaspiracy exposes, but an entire worldview….

  183. says

    Here’s a link to the April 7 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    The European medicines watchdog EMA is about to issue guidance on whether AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine should be used in people under 60, in a press conference set to kick off at 1500 GMT….

  184. says

    A key detail in the corporate tax debate: the GOP’s cut didn’t work

    Republicans and private-sector opponents of Biden’s plan are demanding the preservation of a corporate tax break that failed.

    As the debate over President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan begins in earnest, many of its opponents are focused one specific provision: the White House intends to pay for infrastructure investments in part by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

    For many Republicans, this represents an outrageous and intolerable attack on free enterprise.

    Not surprisingly, Corporate America is eager to weigh in on the debate. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, yesterday endorsed elements of Biden’s blueprint, adding that the online retail behemoth is “supportive of a rise in the corporate tax rate.” (He didn’t say how much of a rise.)

    Other business leaders, however, aren’t willing to go nearly that far. Politico reported overnight that much of Corporate America wants infrastructure investments, but not if it cuts into businesses’ bottom lines.

    Groups like the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable have largely rejected the plan, saying the tax hikes that Biden is proposing to pay for it would crush American competitiveness. […]

    On the surface, none of this is especially surprising. Increasing the corporate tax rate is popular with the American mainstream, but no one seriously expected executives, en masse, to start endorsing the president’s proposal.

    But there’s an element to this that too often gets overlooked: the Republican plan that lowered the corporate tax rate in the first place didn’t work.

    It was four years ago when Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, which led Republicans to make bold boasts about the policy’s many benefits. By cutting the corporate rate, Republicans insisted, Americans would soon see vastly greater business investments, improved private-sector hiring, higher wages, and a policy that paid for itself.

    Progressive critics of the Republican plan, meanwhile, said none of these benefits would materialize, and the corporate beneficiaries of the tax breaks would use their windfalls on priorities such as stock buybacks.

    […] The corporate tax cut didn’t improve business investments, didn’t fuel private-sector hiring, didn’t improve wages, and didn’t pay for itself. Stock buybacks, however, soared. (All of this, of course, pre-dates the pandemic.)

    […] In other words, Biden is effectively saying, “The tax break didn’t work, so let’s invest the money in infrastructure,” to which the right is effectively responding, “It doesn’t matter if the policy didn’t work, we just want to keep the money.”

  185. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Marjorie Taylor Greene’s antics prove to be surprisingly lucrative

    Greene raised “a staggering sum of money.”

    […] Politico reported this morning:

    Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the controversial MAGA firebrand, raised over $3.2 million in the first three months of this year, according to a source close to her campaign. That eye-popping haul came from over 100,000 individual donors, for an average donation of $32.

    Politico described this as “a staggering sum of money,” which is more than fair. We are, after all, talking about a first-year representative from a largely rural district with no major media markets. If Greene had raised $320,000 in the first quarter, the year before an election year, it would’ve been a sizable haul.

    But she raised 10 times that amount. Greene pulled this off despite — or more accurately, because of — her many controversies, bonkers conspiracy theories, and record of unhinged radicalism.

    Let’s also not forget, however, that House members voted to remove Greene from her congressional committee assignments, in response to her over-the-top extremism. Indeed, it’s not altogether clear what the right-wing Georgian does all day, given her limited official duties on Capitol Hill.

    The New York Times recently ran a good report on the “new wave” of congressional Republicans who are “more interested in brand-building than lawmaking.”

    A growing number of lawmakers have demonstrated less interest in the nitty-gritty passing of laws and more in using their powerful perches to build their own political brands and stoke outrage among their opponents. The trend has contributed to the deep dysfunction on Capitol Hill, where viral moments of Republicans trying to troll their colleagues across the aisle … generate far more attention than legislative debate.

    Greene, in particular, celebrated her status as a lawmaker that has very little to do. After boasting that she’s been “freed” from having to do actual legislative work, the Georgia Republican added, “If I was on a committee, I’d be wasting my time.”

    More than 100,000 donors decided to reward Greene for such antics, sending $3.2 million her way in the first three months of 2021.

  186. says

    Fox News takes a big step toward painting Capitol insurrectionists as heroes and patriots

    On April 6, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson observed the three-month anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol—in order to mock the idea that it was noteworthy at all, and in a clear escalation of the effort not just to downplay what happened but to reframe it as almost heroic.

    […] Tucker described it, with over-the-top sarcasm, as the “white supremacist QAnon insurrection, that came so very close to toppling our government and ending this democracy forever.”

    As if only the actual toppling of the government would have made it problematic to have people bashing in the windows of the seat of government, stealing things from government offices, and roaming the halls chanting their desire to hang the vice president—all as part of an effort to block the final certification of an election that had been affirmed and reaffirmed by local and state election boards, courts, and the Electoral College. As though only if all those flex-cuffs had been used on members of Congress would it have been a problem that men were stalking around carrying them.

    “You saw what happened. It was carried live on television, every gruesome moment,” Carlson continued in the vocal equivalent of an eye roll. “A mob of older people from unfashionable zip codes somehow made it all the way to Washington, D.C., probably by bus. They wandered freely through the Capitol, like it was their building or something. They didn’t have guns, but a lot of them had extremely dangerous ideas.”

    Police officers on the scene have been very clear that some of the insurrectionists did have guns. One rioter was arrested with multiple guns, including an AR-15, and Molotov cocktails in his truck parked nearby. Bombs were planted nearby. They also had stun guns and flag poles and all that mace and bear spray. They threw police barricades and fire extinguishers. They included organized cadres of hate group members.

    Perhaps most of all, the idea that you can change the results of an election through violence because you didn’t like the result is in fact a dangerous idea. It’s one of the most dangerous ideas.

    “They talked about the Constitution, and something called their rights. Some of them made openly seditious claims,” he said. “They insisted, for example, that the last election wasn’t entirely fair. The whole thing was terrifying, and then, as you’ve been told so very often, they committed unspeakable acts of violence.”

    Carlson is being sarcastic, of course, acting like he’s exaggerating what happened in order to downplay it. But we are talking about people who pulled multiple police officers away from their stations and beat them. This is what Carlson is being sarcastic about, mocking the very idea that these “older people from unfashionable zip codes” could have “committed unspeakable acts of violence.” [video available at the link]

    […] they were trying to overturn the results of a legal election through violence. They were talking about the Constitution … but their actions were to directly violate it.

    Carlson went on to claim that Ashli Babbitt, the QAnon-believing Trump supporter shot as she climbed through a window, was “to this day … the one completely verified casualty of the insurrection […]

    But that’s not the only verified casualty. The New York Times has showed definitively how Rosanne Boyland, another Trump supporter intent on storming the Capitol, was trampled to death by the members of the mob around her.

    Tucker Carlson isn’t interested in the reality of the situation, of course. He’s interested in telling his viewers that the insurrection was justified. Heroic, even. He went on to frame opposition to the bloody attack on the Capitol as entirely partisan, as something Democrats are mad about only because it was in opposition to Democrats. […]

    But what Carlson is doing here is trying to delegitimize opposition to violent insurrection—when committed by Republicans […] This must be understood as a campaign to make the response to the Capitol attack partisan. Trump was impeached for inciting this insurrection, with 10 House Republicans voting to impeach and seven Senate Republicans voting to convict. When Fox News is done rewriting the story, the people beating down windows of the Capitol with poles and police shields and Tasing police officers will be unambiguously the heroes of the day. That’s where this is going. [two videos available at the link]

  187. says

    Gaetz sought a blanket pardon for indictments not yet made, on crimes every Republican knew about

    […] What’s already been made clear is that Gaetz was deeply connected for an extended period, with indicted sex trafficker Joel Greenberg. The two were apparently involved in manufacturing false IDs for underage girls. Gaetz bragged on Greenberg’s ability to secure women for sex. In turn, Gaetz also reportedly procured women for other Republican officials. Gaetz also had a proclivity for showing nude photos and videos of his supposed conquests to fellow Republicans in Congress. Meanwhile, his staff was sending more videos of Gaetz’s exploits to their counterparts around town. And all this videography followed Gaetz’s taking the lead in an attempt to defeat a bill banning revenge porn, because he was dedicated to the idea that once he had an “intimate” image of someone, he should be able to use it however he wanted.

    In short, every Republican official in both Florida and Washington seemed to know everything that Matt Gaetz was up to. All of them are now claiming they never liked it. None of them did a damned thing about it.

    And the latest drip to escape that big bag of corruption is that Gaetz tried to get Donald Trump to give him a “preemptive pardon” for every crime he’s committed, and to give more pardons to all his sex trafficking pals. […]

    White House lawyers seemed to have turned Gaetz away […]

    A Gaetz spokesman has issued a statement denying that the Florida Republican ever asked for a pardon. Which, because every aspect of this affair demands to be simply bizarre, is based on the idea that Gaetz was always asking for pardons: “… he called for President Trump to pardon ‘everyone from himself, to his administration, to Joe Exotic.’” So clearly Gaetz never asked Trump to pardon anyone, because he was on record asking Trump to pardon everyone.

    The Times also quotes Gaetz as bragging about how often he was in contact with Trump. […] he answered a Trump call while “in the throes of passion.” […]. Gaetz also says he took a call from Trump while “on the throne.” […]

    As ABC News notes, even in a White House that was regularly handing out broad pardons to pals who had committed everything from tax fraud to threatening murder, Gaetz’s request would have been pretty out there. […]

    It’s not certain if Trump knew about the Justice Department investigation into Gaetz when the pardon request came in. However, it certainly seems that Gaetz knew the jig was soon to be up.

    Meanwhile, Politico has more details on Greenberg. [snipped details]

    Greenberg has managed to pick up at least 33 indictments. How many of those will also end up being applied to Gaetz is still to be determined, but as a Florida attorney who worked for one of Greenberg’s opponents said, this isn’t a story just about Gaetz, or even about Gaetz and Greenberg. “Ultimately, it’s about abuse of power and how the Republican Party lost its way with guys like this. … They’re the embodiment of Trumpism.”

  188. says

    JPMorgan Secretly Emailed the Trump Administration About Bailing Out the Oil Industry

    The bank has promised big action on climate—but it still wants to finance fossil fuels.

    There’s a lot of in-depth detail in the article, and it would be difficult to provide excerpts.

    The emails in question basically show that JPMorgan requested changes to government lending programs, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, so that fossil fuel industries could be bailed out.

    JPMorgan expected then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (Trump’s lackey) to use his broad powers to adjust the terms of the lending as he saw fit to benefit oil and gas companies.

  189. says

    Trump claims Gaetz ‘never asked me for a pardon’

    […] The Times’ story did not say that Gaetz directly asked Trump himself for a pardon, reporting it was “unclear” whether Gaetz actually spoke with the then-president about the request for himself and “unidentified congressional allies.” A spokesperson for Trump declined to comment to the Times for its story.

    Trump’s White House shot down Gaetz’s request for a pardon under the thinking that it “would set a bad precedent,” the Times reported.

    […] In a two-sentence statement Wednesday, Trump also stressed that Gaetz “has totally denied the accusations against him.” Trump’s brief statement broke silence from Trump and his allies on the allegations against Gaetz, one of the former president’s strongest supporters in Congress. […]

    Reminds one of Trump exonerating Putin by pointing out that Putin strongly denied all charges.

  190. says

    Biden administration to restore millions in aid to Palestinians

    […] the U.S. will restore funding to the United Nations program for Palestinian refugees, reversing a Trump-era policy.

    The move by the Biden administration will provide an estimated $150 million in assistance to the program, formally called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Reuters reported on Wednesday.

    The announcement, which could come as soon as Wednesday, is expected to accompany the restoration of an estimated $125 million to other humanitarian assistance programs for Palestinians […] That funding includes $75 million to support economic development and $10 million for people-to-people programs approved by lawmakers in 2020.

    An estimated $40 million frozen from 2016 and 2017 for security assistance will also be delivered.

    Former President Trump ended U.S. assistance for Palestinians in 2018, and eliminated support for UNRWA, the primary humanitarian program for an estimated 5.7 million Palestinians who claim refugee status as descendants of refugees from Israel’s 1948 war of independence and against Arab nations at the time.

    The U.S. in 2018 was contributing about 30 percent of the UNRWA budget and in 2017 provided an estimated $360 million.

    Trump’s decision was celebrated at the time by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu […]

  191. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    In Georgia, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) has responded to the state’s new voting restrictions by issuing an “administrative order” yesterday. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the mayor has directed Atlanta’s Chief Equity Officer “to implement a series of actions to diminish what her office called ‘new voting restrictions.’ … Her office stated these actions will ensure every Atlanta resident can exercise their right to vote.” […]

    The order will enact efforts to develop a plan within the city’s authority to expand opportunity and access to the ballot box, according to the mayor’s office.

    The plan involves training staff members on voter registration and general information on early, absentee, and in-person voting. The city staff will provide that information to residents to ensure people know how to obtain the identification required for absentee voting.

    The city is also developing plans to provide information on voter registration and absentee voting using water bills, QR Codes, and weblinks to city websites, according to the statement.

    […] in a highly competitive race yesterday in Wisconsin to become the state’s top education official. Jill Underly, the Democratic Party-backed candidate, defeated Deborah Kerr, with roughly 58% of the vote.

  192. says

    Holy shit, this is the actual pre-checked box on the NRCC site right now (I checked):

    We need to know we haven’t lost you to the Radical Left. If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems. CHECK this box and we can win back the House and get Trump to run in 2024.

    [in lighter print] Make this a monthly recurring donation

  193. says

    MS GOP Elections Official Clutches Pearls Over ‘Woke’ Students Being ‘Forced’ To Vote

    Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) is deeply troubled by the fascist notion that it should be easier for students to vote. [sarcasm]

    In a local TV interview resurfaced by the Mississippi Free Press on Tuesday, Watson falsely claimed that President Joe Biden’s executive order on bolstering voting access meant that federal agencies and universities were directed to “register as many folks as they can via this automatic voter registration.”

    In reality, the order says nothing about automatic voter registration or college students. Yet Watson went on to characterize it as government tyranny burdening the beleaguered youths with, uh, easier access to the polls, particularly those who are “woke” (GOP curse word for left-wing).

    “Think about all those woke college and university students now who will automatically be registered to vote whether they wanted to or not,” the elections official lamented. “Again, if they didn’t know to opt-out, they’re going to be automatically registered to vote and then they receive this mail-in ballot that they didn’t even probably know was coming because they didn’t know they were registered to vote.”

    “You’ve got an uninformed citizen who may not be prepared and ready to vote,” he continued. “Automatically, it’s forced on them: ‘Hey, go make a choice.’”

    “Our country’s going to pay for those choices,” Watson added, making more explicit the true cause for his paternalistic concern: People being allowed to vote for things he doesn’t like.

    […], state Republicans are pushing several means of blocking students’ access to the ballot.

    Some measures include ID requirements that try to bar students from out of state to vote in their school’s state, restrictions on what kind of student IDs may be used when voting, and polling place requirements that disqualify universities as voting sites.

  194. says

    Lynna @ #231, exactly:

    Trump on Roy Moore: “He totally denies it.”

    Trump on Putin: “He just said it’s not Russia. … I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

    Trump on MBS: “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

    Trump on Gaetz: “It must also be remembered that he has totally denied the accusations …”

  195. says

    SC @236, “wow” indeed. They can’t really mask what they are saying and what they are doing: perpetuating and justifying myths of white superiority … and then using supposed white superiority to justify suppressing the voting rights of non-whites.

    And it is exactly the same argument they used in the past.

    SC @239, Ha! Thanks for that. That’s a good list.

  196. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    South America is now the most worrying region for Covid-19 infections, as cases mount in nearly every country, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

    Reuters reports:

    “Nowhere are infections as worrisome as in South America,” director Carissa Etienne said during a weekly news conference.

    Brazil has seen the most merciless surge. Scientists forecast it will soon surpass the worst of a record January wave in the United States, with daily fatalities climbing above 4,000 on Tuesday.

    “The situation in Brazil is concerning countrywide,” said Covid-19 incident director Sylvain Aldighieri. “Our concern at the moment is also for the Brazilian citizens themselves in this context of health services that are overwhelmed.”

    Brazil needs access to more Covid-19 vaccines now and should be able to receive them through global partnerships, Aldighieri said.

    […]
    Intensive care units are nearing capacity in Peru and Ecuador, and in parts of Bolivia and Colombia cases have doubled in the last week, Etienne said, adding that the southern cone is also experiencing an acceleration in cases.

    The United States, Brazil and Argentina are among the 10 countries seeing the highest number of new infections globally, she added.

    The Americas recorded more than 1.3 million new coronavirus cases and over 37,000 deaths last week, Etienne said, more than half of all deaths reported globally.

    France logs new record number of intensive care Covid patients since beginning of the year

    The French health ministry reported on Wednesday that the number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 increased by 103 to a new 2021 record of 5,729 people.

    Week-on-week, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care rose by 13.4%, the biggest week-on-week increase since 13 November, Reuters reports.

    The global human rights situation has deteriorated significantly since the pandemic began, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

    The crisis was abused by numerous states to further restrict the rule of law and freedom of expression, the organisation said in its annual report.

    It also levelled criticism against rich countries over their lack of solidarity during the pandemic.

    In many regions the pandemic has increased inequality, discrimination and oppression, the organisation said.

    Amnesty General Secretary Agnès Callamard wrote in the report’s foreword that the Covid-19 crisis has “increased mediocrity and mendacity, egoism and deceit among those in power in the world.”

    As we reported previously, health ministers fom the EU’s 27 member states will discuss the recommendations of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the rare risk of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine this evening.

    The EMA’s findings – that unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine – are expected to have an immediate impact on the bloc’s vaccination rollout and will require a co-ordinated response, Reuters reports.

    “We expect this announcement will have a direct and immediate impact not only on our national vaccination plans, but also in our citizens’ trust in vaccines against Covid-19,” a letter seen by Reuters states.

    Further to the UK government’s vaccines advisory body’s recommendation that the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be used in people over 30, it has emerged that most of the reported cases of blood clots after the AstraZeneca jab also tested positive for an antibody seen in patients who have an adverse reaction to heparin, an anticoagulant (blood thinner).

    PA reports:

    Beverley Hunt, professor of thrombosis and haemostasis at King’s College London, said tests were carried out to find the antibody to a molecule called platelet factor 4.

    Speaking at a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre (SMC) on Wednesday, she said: “We have a special test that we can do and we have always done in the past in patients who’ve had a very odd reaction to getting heparin.

    “We were surprised to find, and it was first found in Germany, that these patients have this positive test for antiplatelet factor 4 antibody.

    “And in many ways they behave like this very rare syndrome of heparin-induced thrombosis.”

    The World Health Organization’s advisory vaccine safety panel said on Wednesday a causal link between the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine and rare cases of blood clots with low platelets is “considered plausible but is not confirmed”.

    The independent experts, in a statement issued after a review of the latest global data, said that specialised studies were needed to fully understand the potential relationship between vaccination and possible risk factors.

    “It is important to note that whilst concerning, the events under assessment are very rare, with low numbers reported among the almost 200 million individuals who have received the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine around the world,” the panel said.

    It added that it would meet against next week to review additional data.

    A British medical expert has said there is not enough evidence to show whether blood clotting side effects seen with the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine could also be seen with other types of vaccines.

    Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said a similar vaccine type to the AstraZeneca jab is the Janssen vaccine, which the UK has placed orders for.

    Speaking at a briefing hosted by the Science Media Centre (SMC) on Wednesday, Harnden said reports of blood clots could be “AstraZeneca-related”, adding:

    It could be related to the specific vaccine but could be related to the vaccine platform.

    And if it is, then the same safety signals will arise with the Janssen vaccine, and we know that there’s been one case within the clinical trial of the Janssen vaccine.

    But we’re not seeing this with the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, that’s the Pfizer or Moderna at the moment.

    India reported a record 115,736 new infections on Wednesday, a 13-fold increase in just over two months, raising pressure on the government to expand its vaccination campaign….

    The US has delivered about 3 million Covid-19 vaccine doses per day on average over the past week, up 8% over the previous 7-day average, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

    But, she stressed, new daily infections in the US have been averaging 63,000 over the past seven days, up 2.3% from the previous seven-day average.

  197. says

    More from the Guardian world liveblog:

    AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it was working with European and UK regulators to change the product information on its Covid-19 shot after authorities said they suspected possible brain blood clots were a rare side-effect of the shot.

    The company said in a statement:

    Both of these reviews reaffirmed the vaccine offers a high-level of protection against all severities of Covid-19 and that these benefits continue to far outweigh the risks.

    However, they came to the view that these events have a possible link to the vaccine and requested they be listed as an extremely rare potential side effect [..] AstraZeneca has been actively collaborating with the regulators to implement these changes to the product information.

  198. says

    Trump blasts Georgia’s new voting law (but for the wrong reason)

    Voting-rights advocates abhor Georgia’s new voter-suppression law. So does Donald Trump, but for a very different reason.

    In general, the dividing lines on Georgia’s new voter-suppression law are unambiguous. Republicans support it; Democrats oppose it. Voting-rights advocates hate it; voting opponents love it. As political disputes go, this couldn’t be clearer.

    There is, however, one notable exception.

    Donald Trump yesterday criticized Georgia Republicans yesterday for passing a “watered-down” anti-voting bill, and he blamed Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) for not going “further.”

    Later in the day, the former president took another rhetorical shot at the new Georgia law his party has scrambled to defend: “Georgia’s election reform law is far too weak and soft to ensure real ballot integrity! Election Day is supposed to be Election Day, not Election Week or Election Month. Far too many days are given to vote.”

    Trump is such an ill-informed asshole.

    In the three-paragraph statement, Trump proceeded to criticize early voting, allowing voters to return ballots through the mail, ballot drop-off boxes, and weekend voting. […]

    In other words, as far as the former president is concerned, Georgia’s ugly voter-suppression bill, reminiscent of Jim Crow-era tactics, is just too liberal. While mainstream critics are appalled at Georgia Republicans’ wildly unnecessary crackdown on voting access, Donald Trump is appalled that the crackdown wasn’t quite harsh enough.

    […] NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin raised an important related observation: “When the main problem the bill is attacking is rooted in one person’s lies, there’s no policy ‘solution’ beyond the whims of that one person.”

    Exactly. Georgia Republican leaders boasted that the 2020 election cycle in the state was, for all intents and purposes, flawless. There was no fraud; there were no security lapses; there was no reason whatsoever to question the integrity of the results.

    These same GOP officials nevertheless agreed to attack voting rights in the state, not because of flaws in the system, but because Donald Trump concocted a ridiculous fantasy about winning the election he lost — and Kemp and other Republicans were eager to be seen playing along with the lie, as if it were real.

    What they’re discovering now is the folly of the effort. Trying to address made-up nonsense through legislation does not and cannot work, because the capricious clown responsible for the made-up nonsense will never be fully satisfied.

  199. says

    TPM – “GA Rep. Who Was Arrested For Knocking On Kemp’s Door Will Not Be Prosecuted”:

    Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said on Wednesday that Georgia state Rep. Park Cannon (D) will not be prosecuted after she was arrested for knocking on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) door as he was signing the Republicans’ voter suppression bill almost two weeks ago.

    “After reviewing all of the evidence, I have decided to close this matter,” Willis said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press. “It will not be presented to a grand jury for consideration of indictment, and it is now closed.”

    “While some of Representative Cannon’s colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behavior annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges,” she continued.

    Gerald Griggs, Cannon’s attorney, told the Associated Press, “We are appreciative of the decision of the district attorney after we provided witnesses to her and we plan to speak publicly very soon about our next steps.”

    Cannon said during a press conference last week that she was facing an eight-year prison sentence.

    However, “as horrible as that experience was and as difficult as it is to acknowledge that I am facing eight years in prison on unfounded charges, I believe the governor’s signing into law the most comprehensive voter suppression bill in the country is a far more serious crime,” the lawmaker told reporters….

  200. says

    Trump quoted in Lynna’s #243:

    Election Day is supposed to be Election Day, not Election Week or Election Month. Far too many days are given to vote.

    Like, what the actual fuck?

  201. says

    A bit of good news:

    Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed into law Wednesday a bill that expands voting access, making his state an outlier as others with GOP-held legislatures pass a string of restrictions.

    Beshear, who unseated a Republican governor in 2018 and is running for reelection this year, signed a measure that will establish three days of early voting, stand up voting centers to provide more options for in-person voting and open a digital portal for voters to register and apply for ballots. It also allows voters to retroactively fix issues with absentee ballots.

    Beshear’s signature makes Kentucky the only state in the nation with a legislature run by Republicans to expand voting access. […]

  202. says

    Life on the minimum wage

    Jordan is finally getting back on his feet after visiting the emergency room several times over the past year with bouts of severe spinal headaches, dizziness, and a thyroid storm. The ER visits left him with about $2,000 in medical bills. […] He makes $7.25 an hour working as a cashier at Dollar Tree.

    Before I called Jordan, who lives in Kentucky, to talk about what his life is like making the minimum wage, he explained to me that I’d need to dial him on a Kindle tablet. He can’t afford to fix his broken phone at the moment. […]

    I ask him what he thinks would be a fairer wage, one that would make his life a little easier. He says $10 an hour, though he knows that his coworkers who are older and have kids would need more, like $15.

    Still, he worries a higher federal minimum wage might hurt small businesses, a talking point often spouted by opponents of increasing the minimum wage. But Jordan doesn’t work for a small business: He works for a multibillion-dollar corporation that has been doing gangbuster sales during the pandemic. The day after we spoke, Dollar Tree announced it would open 600 new stores this year and buy back $2 billion more of its shares.

    America purports to be a country of workers — a place where if you try hard enough, put in the time and effort, you’ll make it to the middle class, or at the very least be able to build a solid life. But that version of America doesn’t line up with the reality: As of 2019, 39 million people made less than $15 an hour. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009, and 1.6 million workers make that amount or less. Many low-wage workers rely on public assistance to get by. Pew Research Center defines “middle-income” households in the US as starting at about $48,000; a $15 minimum wage at 40 hours a week adds up to $30,000; at $7.25, it’s $15,000.

    […] Everyone I talked to said that more money in their paychecks would make it easier to pay their bills, add to their savings, and maybe even let them take a vacation. Some workers talked about feeling held back from life transitions, such as moving out of their parents’ homes, or, in one woman’s case, delaying her decision to get a divorce. Others talked about the stresses higher wages would relieve — even something as simple as being able to put some bills on autopay, delete the DoorDash app they use for extra cash, or take a day off. [..]

    “Eating, paying for health insurance, all the bills that normal people have — those don’t go away just because you don’t make a lot of money, those things all exist,” […]

    According to MIT’s living wage calculator, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 isn’t enough for full-time workers to cover their basic expenses in any state in the union. […]

    According to a report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there isn’t a single state in the country where people making the minimum wage can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment at fair market prices while working full-time. Even taking into account states and cities with higher minimum wages, the average minimum-wage worker would need to work 79 hours a week to pay rent on a one-bedroom apartment and 97 hours for a two-bedroom.

    […] “I don’t expect to be rich, I just expect to pay the heat bill.”

  203. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has insisted there would be “no national lockdown,” ignoring growing calls from health experts a day after the nation saw its highest number of coronavirus deaths in 24 hours since the pandemic began.

    The country’s health ministry registered 4,195 deaths on Tuesday, Reuters reports, becoming the third country to go above that threshold as Bolsonaro’s political opponents demanded stricter measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

    “We’re not going to accept this politics of stay home and shut everything down,” Bolsonaro said, resisting the pressure in a speech in the city of Chapeco in Santa Catarina state.

    “There will be no national lockdown.”

    The EU drug regulator will begin an investigation next week on whether clinical trials of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine followed global clinical and scientific guidelines, the Financial Times reported.

    The FT report unidentified people familiar with the European Medical Agency’s approval process as having expressed concern that the Sputnik V trials may not have met ethics standards.

    But the official twitter handle for Sputnik V called the FT report “fake” and “incorrect” in a tweet.

    “Sputnik V team is going through a regular rolling review of EMA, in which good clinical practice (GCP) is a part of the standard procedure for all vaccines,” the tweet added.

    Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s Direct Investment Fund, told the newspaper, “There was no pressure (on participants) and Sputnik V complied with all clinical practices”.

  204. says

    Follow-up to SC @236.

    Wonkette: “National Review Guy, 2014: Why Not Hang Abortion-Havers? Same Guy, 2021: Is Voting Even Good?”

    Amid all the backlash against Georgia’s new voter-suppression law […] the National Review’s Kevin Williamson asks an important question: Do we really need all the voters we already have, anyway? Might not America be better governed if fewer people voted, instead of more? […] We should note he asks this in a publication that also wants to “set the record straight” on Georgia’s “voter access law,” […]

    This is apparently a really bold argument that we are to take seriously, from Williamson, who was pretty sure women would find Mitt Romney irresistible in 2012, because of his wealth and demonstrated virility (many strong sons and grandsons, compared to Obama’s siring of mere daughters, why, yes, that was his actual argument). Williamson has been a veritable font of provocative thinking, like that time when he suggested women who have abortions be executed like any other murderers, […]

    […] wouldn’t denying the franchise to people who don’t know the odd Latin phrase [ceteris paribus], or who misuse “begs the question,” mean we’d have a smarter electorate that would avoid making bad choices? Williamson acknowledges that the very question sounds like anathema in America, but then explains that we already deny the vote to children and to felons, who are pretty much the same thing, and while he’s at it casually says former convicts should only be re-enfranchised on a case-by-case basis anyway.

    Similarly, he asks, what’s the big deal about asking for photo ID to vote, even if it disenfranchises some people who might otherwise be eligible to vote. Anyone too lazy to keep a driver’s license is clearly not really pulling their weight anyway:

    So, what? We expect people, including poor and struggling people, to pay their taxes — why shouldn’t we also expect them to keep their drivers’ licenses up-to-date? If voting really is the sacred duty that we’re always being told it is, shouldn’t we treat it at least as seriously as filing a 1040EZ?

    And if that tends to exclude categories of voters, like 101-year old ladies who stopped driving decades ago, and voted in every election since women were allowed to, well that’s too bad, don’t you see? Sure, maybe a dozen or a few hundred thousand people may lose their votes, but it’s far more important to make sure that a practically nonexistent category of voter fraud is even less likely to happen.

    After all, says Williamson with a straight face, we expect people like surgeons to be qualified, so why don’t we also require voters know what they’re doing?

    There would be more voters if we made it easier to vote, and there would be more doctors if we didn’t require a license to practice medicine. The fact that we believe unqualified doctors to be a public menace but act as though unqualified voters were just stars in the splendid constellation of democracy indicates how little real esteem we actually have for the vote, in spite of our public pieties.

    Yes, how true this bizarre, illogical comparison is. Also, why do we allow people to drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?

    Inevitably, Williamson gets around to pointing out that the average American is actually not very smart — of only average intelligence, even! — and should we really trust just anyone to elect our leaders? Why yes, it’s that very contempt for everyday Americans that liberal elitists are supposedly guilty of:

    One argument for encouraging bigger turnout is that if more eligible voters go to the polls then the outcome will more closely reflect what the average American voter wants. That sounds like a wonderful thing . . . if you haven’t met the average American voter.

    Voters — individually and in majorities — are as apt to be wrong about things as right about them, often vote from low motives such as bigotry and spite, and very often are contentedly ignorant.

    […] just think what might have happened if everything were up to a vote, because “If we’d had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide.” (That would be the date of the adoption of the 13th Amendment, you see.)

    Or maybe, if all people had been enfranchised and treated as full citizens from the start, slavery might have ended on or shortly after June 21, 1788, huh? At the very least, a Civil War seems a tad less likely 70 years after that.

    And so he blathers on, piling up one bad faith argument after another to suggest both that voting is fairly pointless and that it’s too important to be left to just anyone, which is why Future Generations Will Be Burdened With Our Debt (which is bullshit economics, but that’s what happens when you let just any fool have access to free speech). Ultimately, Williamson explains, voting is just a pretty bad idea because “the fact is that voters got us into this mess.”

    So if we just get rid of them, or at least make sure only the right people can vote, everything will work out fine, especially because there’s no chance at all that Kevin Williamson or any one he thinks matters would conceivably be among those culled from the voter rolls.

    We guess that, if nothing else, this anti-voting screed is at least consistent with the National Review’s recent weird fluffing for the British monarchy.

    Link

  205. says

    Wonkette: “Don’t Think John Boehner Likes That Loser Trump Guy Very Much”

    […] The excerpts [Maggie] Haberman put in the New York Times are more focused on the now, or more specifically, on the Capitol terrorist attack. Boehner writes that Donald Trump absolutely “incited that bloody insurrection” on January 6. He says he “wasn’t prepared for what came after the election — Trump refusing to accept the results and stoking the flames of conspiracy that turned into violence in the seat of our democracy, the building over which I once presided.”

    Mr. Trump, he goes on, “incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the bullshit he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November.” Mr. Boehner writes, “He claimed voter fraud without any evidence, and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.”

    Guess John Boehner doesn’t like that Donald Trump character so much. He also blames Trump for losing the Senate for Republicans […]

    Boehner says he’s not “surprised in the least” by who in Congress ended up supporting Trump’s attempt at a fascist coup based on his Big Lie. “The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism.” That’s right, Tucker Carlson, it was terrorism.

    “Watching it was scary, and sad. It should have been a wake-up call for a return to Republican sanity.” Nodding to the divisions between the parties in Congress now, he writes, “Whatever they end up doing, or not doing, none of it will compare to one of the lowest points of American democracy that we lived through in January 2021.”

    A “return” to Republican sanity. OK. We won’t be holding our breath while we count our chickens, or however the expression goes.

    Wait, when was there Republican sanity? Sometime before we were born? Oh well anyway.

    Haberman reports that the Trump camp responded to Boehner’s remarks through[…] spox Jason Miller, who said something along the lines of DURRRRR DURRRRRRR JOHN BOEHNER COMMUNIST CHINA. Trump also responded, saying something about DURRRRRR DURRRRRR JOHN BOEHNER DRINKS A BUNCH OF MERLOT. Those are just very good and adult replies from the Trump camp.

    Wonkette review of book we have not read is that we … might read it? Just because Boehner is such a saucy, cussy, crabby old wine-soaked diva? […]

    Link

  206. says

    Wonkette: “Voters Sure Do Love Biden, Democrats’ Radical ‘Don’t Let Us Starve’ Agenda”

    […] A new poll conducted after the former White House squatter was run out of town shows a nine-point gap between the number of Americans who identify as Democrats or are Democratic-curious and those who support the QAnon-friendly Republican Party.

    Bloomberg reports:

    A Gallup poll conducted from January to March showed that 49% of respondents consider themselves Democrats or leaning that way, while 40% consider themselves Republicans or lean that way.

    Gallup said the jump comes mostly from Republicans leaving the party at the end of President Donald Trump’s tenure. Only 25% of U.S. adults firmly identify with the Republicans, down from 29% late last year.

    This seems reasonable because Republicans are terrible and you should feel ashamed if you are one.

    […] health care tripped up Clinton and Obama in 1994 and 2010. Republicans were able to sell Americans on preserving their freedom to die from treatable illnesses. Now, Republicans appear fixated on a Dr. Seuss platform. They’re trying to make “cancel culture” the new “death panels,” but no one is biting.

    This is likely because President Joe Biden is a savvy political operator whose decades of experience provide him a rare insight into voter preferences: We don’t like to starve. We especially don’t enjoy starving while dying from COVID-19. Biden has addressed both issues right out of the gate.

    The president’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package is so popular even the Republicans who didn’t vote for it (so, all of them) are trying to claim credit for the good things in the bill, because they are shameless liars who don’t even know when they’re lying anymore. It’s just reflex […]

    It’s harder to demonize Democrats for passing a bill when Republicans have hopped on its bandwagon. Sure, full-blown MAGA supporters often demonstrate an astonishing amount of cognitive dissonance. These are the same voters who thought the Affordable Care Act was different from Obamacare, which they hated because the Black guy’s name was on it. But independent voters are often deciding factors in midterm elections. […] The GOP’s sedition caucus isn’t winning over independent voters, while Biden maintains a reasonable level of support from them.

    The Bloomberg article also notes:

    There has also been a spike in Americans identifying as independents, no matter which way they lean, since the election of President Joe Biden. Some 44% of respondents made that choice. The number is up from 38% at the end of 2020.

    Look, traditional Democratic voters aren’t the ones leaving the party in disgust right now. Arguably, 2010 through 2016 was the great migration of white working class voters or Reagan Democrats to the GOP. However, 2018 and 2020 saw more college-educated white voters and suburban Republicans hopping off the MAGA express.

    The Affordable Care Act was underwater with independent voters before the 2010 and 2014 midterms, which proved fatal for Democrats. Biden’s […] infrastructure bill, the American Jobs Plan, enjoys broad support among Democrats, independents, and even the few Republicans who are honest with themselves. […] But even racists still like money, jobs, broadband, and non-lead pipes.

    Link

  207. says

    NBC – “N.C. bill would ban treatment for trans people under 21”:

    Three North Carolina Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would prevent doctors from performing gender confirmation surgery for transgender people younger than 21.

    The legislation follows a nationwide trend of GOP-controlled state legislatures looking to limit treatments for transgender adolescents. Unlike other states, however, North Carolina would classify adults between the ages of 18 and 21 as minors under the “Youth Health Protection Act.”

    Medical professionals who facilitate a transgender person’s desire to present themselves or appear in a way that is inconsistent with their biological sex could have their license revoked and face civil fines of up to $1,000 per occurrence. The measure bars doctors from providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery.

    Senate Bill 514 would also compel state employees to immediately notify parents in writing if their child displays “gender nonconformity” or expresses a desire to be treated in a way that is incompatible with the gender they were assigned at birth. LGBTQ advocates fear the bill would out people under 21 who tell state workers that they may be transgender.

    The proposal in North Carolina will almost certainly not become law, despite GOP majorities in both the state House and Senate. Senate leader Phil Berger was not immediately available for comment on whether he supports the measure and wants it to go to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

    North Carolina Democrats last week unveiled a legislative package aimed at ensuring LGBTQ residents have greater legal protections. Among the plans put forward was a full repeal of House Bill 2, the state’s so-called “bathroom bill” that was passed in 2016 and partially repealed a year later. State lawmakers also pushed to prohibit gay conversion therapy practices. The bill introduced Monday by the three GOP senators would not allow the state or any licensing boards to punish people who provide therapy that is consistent with their conscience or religious beliefs.

  208. says

    Biden plan recognizes care economy is integral to infrastructure, and public agrees

    By the year 2030, 20% of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older. This isn’t new news—the Census Bureau has been pointing that out for the past 25 years. By 2050, the population of Americans age 65 and older will be nearly double what it was in 2012. Right now, the growth of the working-age population is well behind the growth of the 65-and-older group, and the population aged under 14 is shrinking.

    While the COVID-19 pandemic has cut as much as two years out of life expectancy in the U.S., it could be a blip, and life expectancy could return to previous levels; by 2030, women are expected to live to over age 83 and men to 80. What all this means is that very soon the U.S. is going to have a very large population of people who are going to require, on the whole, a lot of care.

    The Republican answer to the aging baby boom generation for the past quarter of a century has been austerity—cut Social Security and Medicare to “save” them, and cut loose that aging population to live sicker and poorer. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have a different answer: recognize that care-giving is part of the nation’s infrastructure, and fund it.

    Biden’s American Jobs Plan will invest $400 billion in caregivers. That’s in addition to $621 billion for transportation including roads, bridges, ports, airports, public transit, and electric vehicle charging stations; $111 billion for replacing lead water pipes and replacing old sewer lines; $100 billion for national broadband internet; $100 billion for upgrades to the electric grid to deliver clean energy; and $300 billion toward building and retrofitting homes.

    […] An investment in supporting human capital—by creating a well-paid caregiving force—does both. It helps create a professional and skilled caregiving workforce with living wages and the support that they need to do the most necessary work. They, in turn, allow the rest of the workforce—especially women—to return to their jobs, earning income and participating in the economy.

    That’s what infrastructure is supposed to be about. Leave it to Sen. Elizabeth Warren to spell out what is happening here. “The vast majority of direct care workers — a group that includes personal care aides, home health aides and nursing assistants who work in private homes, nursing homes and other settings — are women (86%) and people of color (59%),” she wrote in an op-ed for CNN. “The under-valuing of caregiving work is directly linked to racism and sexism, so it’s not surprising that caregiving is consistently—and wrongly—devalued as ‘unskilled’ and ‘women’s work.'” […]

    Check out the numbers from the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll: Every part of this proposal from Biden gets majority support even from Republicans. That includes 64% of Republicans supporting the caregiving proposal. […]

  209. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #249:

    just think what might have happened if everything were up to a vote, because “If we’d had a fair and open national plebiscite about slavery on December 6, 1865, slavery would have won in a landslide.”

    The North had almost twice the population of the South, and around a third of the Southern population were enslaved people.

  210. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Moderna Inc’s chief medical officer Tal Zaks said the company should be able to provide a booster shot for protection against variants of the coronavirus by the end of this year, Reuters reports.

    Zaks, speaking to the Economic Club of New York, said he expects the booster shots the company is testing to show a higher level of protection against variants of the coronavirus.

    Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, said it would begin opening some 600 new graves per day, well beyond the record of 426 burials in a day on March 30, Reuters reports.

    The city is also preparing plans for a “vertical cemetery,” a crypt with 26,000 drawer-like graves that can be build in 90 days once approved.

  211. says

    SC @258, that’s good news!

    In other “news” here is nice hit of humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    In a sign that Republicans’ war on the carbonated beverage could be backfiring, a new poll of Georgia’s voters finds Governor Brian Kemp losing overwhelmingly to a can of Coca-Cola.

    According to the poll, which has a margin of error of four points, seventy-one per cent of Georgia voters preferred a can of the fizzy drink, while only twenty-three per cent chose Kemp.

    Although the can of soda predictably performed better than Kemp when voters were asked which was more refreshing, it also bested the incumbent governor on the question of “Who cares more about people like me?” by an impressive six-to-one margin.

    Speaking to reporters, Kemp issued a bellicose warning to his new political rival. “All I can say to Mr. Can of Coke is, be careful what you wish for,” he said. “You’ll recall that our voting law criminalized water. If I can do that to one liquid, I can do that to you.”

    New Yorker link

  212. says

    Guardian:

    “Myanmar celebrity model arrested as military targets public figures”:

    One of Myanmar’s most popular celebrities, the model and actor Paing Takhon, has been arrested by a military that is increasingly targeting celebrities who have criticised the coup.

    Paing Takhon, who has a huge online following, was detained at 5am on Thursday, and is the latest of thousands of people to be held since the February coup.

    The 24-year-old was taken away after eight trucks carrying police and soldiers arrived at his mother’s home in Yangon, according to local media reports. He had been in poor health at the time.

    The military has been publishing the names and photographs of popular figures in daily wanted lists on TV and in the state-run newspaper. More than 100 are being sought by the military, and many have gone into hiding. On Wednesday, the popular beauty blogger Win Min Than was reportedly taken by security forces who arrived at a hotel where she had been staying with her mother, according to the Irrawaddy news site.

    Paing Takhon, who had participated in anti-coup protests, faces charges under section 505a of the penal code, which criminalises comments that “cause fear” or spread “false news” and can lead to up to three years in prison. His social media profiles have been taken down, though it is not clear who removed them.

    According to the advocacy group, the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners in Burma, 2,750 people – from politicians to doctors, actors and social media influencers – are in detention. Most are held in unknown locations.

    On Thursday, Jose Ramos Horta, a Nobel peace prize winner and former Timor-Leste president, urged the UN security council to ignore China and Russia and make a resolute statement on the military coup that included arms embargos and sanctions, even if it was vetoed.

    Ramos Horta said it was better for China and Russia to “be exposed” than for the council to have unanimous support on an “empty and useless press release”.

    On Thursday, protesters began what they called a “marching shoe strike”, placing flowers in pairs of shoes at protest locations, or in their homes. Organisers said the symbolic protest would honour the more than 580 people killed by the military, writing: “for every step, a flower blooms”.

    Protesters, who have faced brutal violence by the security forces, have found new ways to show their defiance to the junta. On Monday, Easter eggs were decorated with anti-coup slogans, part of an “Easter egg strike”, while on Tuesday, the streets of Yangon were splashed with red paint in a “Blood strike” to highlight the killing of peaceful protesters.

    Protesters have also made creative use of social media, using it to share footage of abuses by the military, as well as anti-coup art work and memes. Many have joined in solidarity with other pro-democracy movements in the region, adopting the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag, which was first used by young people in Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong to voice opposition to authoritarianism. According to Twitter, which has now created an accompanying milk tea emoji, the hashtag has been featured in more than 11m tweets in the past year, with its use surging in February when the coup first occurred.

    The military has clamped down on such online activity, cutting mobile data for more than three weeks, and recently restricting broadband wireless internet services. Fixed-line internet still works, but even this is subject to shutdowns at night, when the military and police carry out house raids to round up protesters and critics.

    “Myanmar’s ambassador to UK locked out of embassy ‘by deputy’”:

    Myanmar’s ambassador to London has been locked out of the country’s embassy – apparently by his deputy, who was reported to have taken charge on behalf of the military.

    Since a military coup in February, Myanmar’s army has launched a harsh crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and has been accused of hundreds of extrajudicial executions as well as torture and illegal detentions.

    London ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn has broken ranks with the ruling junta in recent weeks, calling for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    “I have been locked out,” he told Reuters outside the embassy in central London.

    “It’s a kind of coup, in the middle of London … you can see that they occupy my building,” he said, adding that he was talking to Britain’s Foreign Office about the situation.

    Four diplomatic sources with knowledge of the matter said that deputy ambassador Chit Win had taken over as chargé d’affaires and he and the military attaché had locked the ambassador out of the building.

    Kyaw Zwar Minn spoke next to the embassy, where police were standing guard. He spoke to protesters on the street outside.

    “This is my building, I need to go inside. That’s why I’m waiting here,” Kyaw Zwar Minn said.

  213. says

    Guardian – “Among the Covid sceptics: ‘We are being manipulated, without a shadow of a doubt’.”

    In November, during the second lockdown, hairdresser Sinead Quinn became a hero of the movement when she announced she would keep her salon in Bradford open. In the window, she pinned a piece of paper on which she had typed: “I do not consent. This business stands under the jurisdiction of Common Law. As the business owners, we are exercising our rights to earn a living.” Citing “article 61 of Magna Carta 1215”, the document claimed that “we have a right to enter into lawful dissent if we feel we are being governed unjustly”. The notion that citizens don’t have to follow unjust laws, and can only be fined or arrested if they give their consent, is a commonly circulated bit of disinformation. This clause of Magna Carta applied only to a small group of barons, not the public at large, and in any case, it never became statutory law. (In January, Kirklees council obtained an injunction to prevent Quinn from opening her business during a national lockdown again.)

  214. says

    Here’s a link to the April 8 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Most of the news is wall-to-wall vaccine-related this morning, and this is no different – with a new development in the row over the Sputnik V vaccine in Slovakia.

    You may recall that prime minister Igor Matovic resigned last month after a festering political crisis started by the decision to purchase 200,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, despite it not being approved for use.

    The country is yet to administer any doses, and Slovakia’s health agency SUKL said it didn’t have enough data from the manufacturer to approve it.

    The makers of Sputnik V hit back at newspaper reports in Slovakia yesterday, saying that “Reports that somehow the Sputnik V vaccine in Slovakia is different from Sputnik V in clinical trials, citing anonymous sources, are fake. Unfortunately, we also expect additional fake news and provocations from enemies of Sputnik V in Slovakia who try to undermine the vaccine.”

    Today that is SUKL itself, who Reuters report saying have issued a statement that the Sputnik V vaccine batches delivered to Slovakia do not have the same characteristics as the batches used in the Lancet Magazine studies. Expect more on this row.

    Also from the Guardian – “What do I need to know about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine?”

  215. says

    NBC – “Leaders call for calm after night of ‘serious’ violence in Northern Ireland”:

    Young people set a hijacked bus on fire and hurled gasoline bombs at police in Belfast in at least the fourth night of serious violence in a week in Northern Ireland, where Britain’s exit from the European Union has unsettled an uneasy political balance.

    People also lobbed bricks, fireworks and gasoline bombs Wednesday night in both directions over a concrete “peace wall” that separates Protestant, British loyalist and Catholic, Irish nationalist neighborhoods.

    Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said several hundred people gathered on both sides of a gate in the wall, where “crowds … were committing serious criminal offenses, both attacking police and attacking each other.”

    He said a total of 55 police officers have been injured over several nights of disorder.

    The recent violence, largely in loyalist, Protestant areas, has flared amid rising tensions over post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland and worsening relations between the parties in the Protestant-Catholic power-sharing Belfast government….

    Much more atl.

  216. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    The situation in hospitals remains “serious” but France is starting to see some signs of improvement in regions where it imposed a lockdown a few weeks ago, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Thursday.

    Following a meeting of government ministers, Attal told a news conference:

    We have the first encouraging signs in the 16 departments where we had imposed restriction measures.

    France is hoping a ramp up of its vaccination campaign, combined with the month-long nationwide lockdown in place since last weekend, expanding upon some regional restrictions, will help it regain control over the latest outbreak.

    Nonetheless, Attal said the number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 was likely to increase over the coming days.

  217. says

    RNC has a similar message on unchecking the box to double your donation: ‘The Dems want you to uncheck this box and abandon President Trump, but we know you won’t!’…”

    I can’t get over this. The reason people are on these pages to begin with is that they’re donating money, in an off-year, to a party that’s doing fuck-all for them, and they’re telling them that if they don’t give double what they’d planned they’re “abandoning” Trump and if they don’t make it recurring they’re a “DEFECTOR” who’s “sided with the Dems.” For donating to Republicans! The gall of it!

  218. says

    Science – “‘A hostile environment.’ Brazilian scientists face rising attacks from Bolsonaro’s regime”:

    Last week, scientists at the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio), Brazil’s lead agency for studying and managing the nation’s vast protected areas, had to start abiding by an unwelcome new rule. It gives one of ICMBio’s top officials the authority to review all “manuscripts, texts and scientific compilations” before they are published.

    Researchers fear President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, which has a markedly hostile relationship with Brazil’s scientific community, will use the reviews to censor studies that conflict with its ongoing efforts to weaken environmental protections. The administration says that is not the intent. But the move adds to recent developments that have rattled many Brazilian scientists and left those who are critical of Bolsonaro’s policies fearing for their jobs and even their physical safety.

    “Science is being attacked on several fronts,” says Philip Fearnside, a veteran ecologist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA). “There is denial of the pandemic, denial of climate change, denial of deforestation; not to mention budget cuts.”

    Bolsonaro’s grievances with scientists date back to the start of his administration in 2019. Then, he accused the National Institute for Space Research of “lying” about satellite data showing increased deforestation in the Amazon and fired its director, physicist Ricardo Galvão, after he defended the numbers. Since then, Bolsonaro has clashed with researchers over issues including his persistent rejection of science-based strategies for combating the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed at least 330,000 Brazilians. But the relationship appears to have entered an even tenser phase in recent months.

    Scientists are also reconsidering what they study and publish, says Marcus Lacerda, an infectious disease specialist with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Manaus, Brazil. Last year, he faced intense inquiries from federal prosecutors—and received death threats—after he published work highlighting the health risks of giving the drug chloroquine to COVID-19 patients. (Bolsonaro heavily promoted chloroquine despite studies concluding it is ineffective against COVID-19.) “A lot of people are afraid to publish after what happened to me,” Lacerda says. Colleagues have abandoned coronavirus research, he adds, in order to avoid online harassment by what is known as Bolsonaro’s “digital militia.”

    In one case, online harassment appears to have escalated to a physical attack….

    This week, a group of Brazilian researchers cited safety concerns in explaining why they did not sign their names to a white paper, published by the Climate Social Science Network housed at Brown University, that outlines Bolsonaro’s efforts to dismantle environmental protections. They decided to remain anonymous “for security reasons and considering the current political scenario in Brazil,” they wrote.

    Brazilian scientists are also facing a deepening funding crisis….

    The funding troubles and constant conflict are wearing down Brazilian researchers, says Mercedes Bustamante, an ecologist at the University of Brasilia and co-founder of the Science and Society Coalition, a group created in 2019 to promote science-based policies. “I am so exhausted of having to defend myself all the time,” she says. “Meanwhile, all the important issues that we really should be tackling are being left behind.”

    Most Brazilian scientists “are not accustomed to functioning in such a hostile environment,” adds Atila Iamarino, a microbiologist and prominent science communicator. “They are trained to argue with facts, but that’s not what matters most in these situations.”

    Much more atl.

  219. says

    TPM – “Investigators Are Examining Gaetz Bahamas Trip As Part Of Sex Trafficking Probe”:

    Federal investigators are examining a Bahamas trip Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) allegedly took as part of an inquiry into whether he violated sex trafficking laws, according to multiple reports.

    CBS News reported that investigators are trying to determine if alleged paid female escorts on the trip –which reportedly took place in late 2018 or early 2019– were illegally trafficked across state or international lines for the purpose of sex with the congressman.

    Sources told CBS News that Gaetz was joined on the trip by Jason Pirozzolo, a marijuana entrepreneur and hand surgeon, who allegedly paid for the company of the women, in addition to travel expenses and accommodations.

    NBC News also confirmed that the trip was under scrutiny and noted investigators were also looking into whether Gaetz and one of his associates used the internet to search for women they could pay for sex.

    According to CBS News, investigators are…looking into whether or not Gaetz was accepting paid escorts in exchange for political access or legislative favors. That development comes after CNN reported last week that the investigation touched on whether or not federal campaign money was involved in paying for travel and expenses for women who had allegedly been recruited online for sex.

    Gaetz, who has not been charged of wrongdoing, said in an op-ed published Monday that he is not a criminal and that he will not resign….

  220. says

    @264, OMG, Trump is living in a place where his cult followers cheer him and applaud everywhere he goes. And, no matter how obviously sweaty and gross he is from golfing, he gets to stand next to the bride celebrating her wedding at Mar-a-Lago. This is very disturbing.

  221. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday started backpedaling a bit on his declaration that corporations should “stay out of politics.” He told reporters, “I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are.”
    ——————
    Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) yesterday acknowledged “an inappropriate relationship” with a woman who is not his wife. Merrill, who was reportedly poised to kick off a U.S. Senate campaign, has instead decided not to seek elected office against next year.
    ———————
    In North Carolina, Beaufort Mayor Rett Newton (D), a retired Air Force colonel, kicked off a U.S. Senate campaign. The Democratic mayor said he didn’t intend to run — he’s working on a PhD in marine sciences — but the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol inspired him to launch a statewide race.

    Link

    It’s good to see a potentially good candidate declare he is running in the U.S. senate race in North Carolina.

  222. says

    Leading Georgia Republican concedes voting law is based on a lie

    Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor conceded the state’s new voter-suppression law was fueled by “10 weeks of misinformation” from Team Trump.

    When leading corporations started stepping up in support of voting rights, and specifically criticized Georgia’s new voter-suppression law, Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees that the Republican measure is “unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.” But that’s not all he said.

    “The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” Bastian said. “This is simply not true.”

    The Delta CEO isn’t the only one making the observation.

    A top Georgia Republican said Wednesday that Rudy Giuliani’s false claims of election fraud — which were presented before state lawmakers — created momentum for a package of voting rights restrictions that recently became state law.

    “This is really the fallout from the 10 weeks of misinformation that flew in from former President Donald Trump,” Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan told CNN yesterday. “I went back over the weekend to really look at where this really started to gain momentum in the legislature, and it was when Rudy Giuliani showed up in a couple of committee rooms and spent hours spreading misinformation and sowing doubt across, you know, hours of testimony.”

    It was a striking acknowledgement of an important fact. […] As Rachel joked at the top of last night’s show, national GOP leaders are lashing out at corporations criticizing Georgia’s voter-suppression law as having been based on a lie, but perhaps they should reconsider now that Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor has suggested those critics are right.

  223. says

    The biggest flaw in the GOP’s case against the Iran nuclear deal

    President Joe Biden is well aware of the fact that the nuclear threat posed by Iran has become far more serious in recent years, which is why the U.S. administration is exploring ways to restore the 2015 international nuclear agreement his predecessor abandoned.

    As Matt Stieb explained, those efforts are moving forward this week.

    On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that the U.S. is prepared to “take the steps necessary to return to compliance” with the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Though Price said he is “not in a position here to give you chapter and verse on what those might be,” those measures will include “lifting sanctions that are inconsistent with” the stipulations of the Iran Deal secured by Barack Obama.

    The report added that each of the international partners involved in crafting the 2015 policy are meeting in Vienna, participating in working groups tasked with figuring out “how to revoke the economic sanctions Trump re-imposed after he left the accord in 2018” and to determine “how to bring Iran back into compliance with the agreement’s limits on nuclear enrichment and stockpiled enriched uranium.”

    Right on cue, Republicans are demanding that the White House change course. Four GOP senators — Oklahoma’s Jim Inhofe, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, and Indiana’s Todd Young — sent a joint letter to the president this week, opposing “any attempt to return to the failed JCPOA.”

    This came four days after Inhofe issued a separate statement of his own, telling Biden not to “repeat history … by restoring that failed agreement.”

    […] There is, however, an important flaw in the GOP’s case against the Iran nuclear deal: the policy worked quite well.

    Just yesterday, Joe Cirincione, whose expertise in international nuclear diplomacy has few rivals, wrote a piece for NBC News explaining that diplomats in Vienna have been tasked with trying to “undo the damage Donald Trump caused when he left an agreement that had effectively shrunk Iran’s program, frozen it for a generation and put it under lock and camera.”

    Quite right. The Iran deal did exactly what it set out to do: it dramatically curtailed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and established a rigorous system of monitoring and verification. Once the agreement was in place, each of the parties agreed that the participants were holding up their end of the bargain, and Iran’s nuclear program was, at the time, on indefinite hold.

    And then Donald Trump took office.

    […] Republicans can keep saying the word “failed” over and over in reference to the policy that was working just fine, but that won’t make it true. The only real failure here is the policy Trump tried to implement, not the policy he tried to replace.

  224. says

    Why the new ACA open-enrollment totals matter

    “So this is what it looks like when the people in charge of ‘Obamacare’ want to enroll as many people as possible.”

    Last spring, as the coronavirus crisis first started to intensify, the Trump administration considered creating a special open-enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act. While this was generally seen as a no-brainer, the Republican White House balked, to the surprise of nearly everyone involved in the process. As Politico reported one year ago this week, the decision appeared to be largely political: Team Trump didn’t want to turn to “Obamacare” to help people in a crisis.

    That was then; this is now.

    About a week after Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, re-opening the healthcare.gov marketplace. As the Associated Press reported yesterday, it had the intended effects.

    More than a half million Americans have taken advantage of the Biden administration’s special health insurance sign-up window keyed to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced Wednesday in anticipation that even more consumers will gain coverage in the coming months…. The numbers released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that 528,005 people newly signed up for government-sponsored private plans from Feb. 15 to Mar. 31.

    Good news!

    These are heartening numbers, but they actually understate the scope of the good news. As the New York Times added, “The new enrollment figures cover the 36 states that use Healthcare.gov to run their health insurance marketplaces. They do not include Americans enrolling in coverage in the 14 states and District of Columbia that manage their own markets, many of which also have extended enrollment periods this year.”

    What’s more, this good news predates the expansive new ACA benefits included in the Democrats’ COVID relief package: Some will see their premiums cut in half, while millions will see their premiums fall to literally zero, thanks entirely to the investments in the American Rescue Plan.

    […] HuffPost’s Jonathan Cohn noted yesterday, “So this is what it looks like when the people in charge of ‘Obamacare’ want to enroll as many people as possible.”

    […] Donald Trump and his team could’ve taken each of these steps a year ago. The options were on the table to create new open-enrollment periods, alert the public to the coverage opportunities, make premiums even more affordable, and so on.

    […] Team Biden not only created a new enrollment period, the Democratic administration also launched an “ad blitz” and forged “partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups” on this — steps his recent predecessor refused to consider.

    The current administration wants more Americans to get coverage they can afford, and it’s taken effective steps to make that happen. The results speak for themselves.

  225. says

    Josh Marshall:

    I just got around to reading Joe Manchin’s new OpEd in the Post. And, well … it’s pretty bad news and by my read almost all bad news. […] Manchin won’t support abolishing or weakening the filibuster. Full stop. This seems to take back what had seemed to be his pretty clear openness to some version of a talking filibuster earlier in the Spring. He claims early efforts to weaken the filibuster have only increased partisan polarization, a claim that makes no sense […].

    He says that we need to keep the filibuster because only that can force the two parties to get back to the good old days when bills went through regular order and passed on something other than party line votes. But he wants to force this outcome by taking off the table at the start the one cudgel that might conceivably (though very unlikely) make it happen: the threat to end or significantly weaken/reform the filibuster.

    As most of us know, both on policy specifics and for political reasons, Republicans want no legislation under Biden’s presidency. On the big agenda items, they actually want to go in the opposite direction. So there’s no real basis for compromise, other than agreeing not to do anything. And they see their best political hopes for 2022 and 2024 in a Biden presidency that fails or can’t deliver. By standing by the filibuster Manchin is giving Democrats lots of incentive to compromise and Republicans none. In essence, he says to his Republican colleagues: start compromising now or face the prospect of getting exactly what you want.

    What a joke.

    Just to draw this point out, the one way to achieve some version of what Manchin claims to want would be this: Announce today that on January 1st 2022, unless there has been significant legislative progress on some set of agenda items, he will support major changes to the filibuster. I don’t think that would get you any bipartisan bills. But it would create real incentives for Republicans to find some. […]

    But wait there’s more … bad news.

    Manchin also pans the increasing use of budget reconciliation. He doesn’t rule it out. So I don’t think that threatens its use on an infrastructure bill. This leaves the discussion about the filibuster really about HR1, the big piece of democracy-protecting legislation, which certainly can’t be passed through budget reconciliation. Manchin does appear to support a lot of the measures contained in it. […] he doesn’t mention is the anti-gerrymandering portion. To me that’s actually the most important part. It’s also the part Republicans certainly won’t support precisely because it’s the most important part.

    Where does this leave things? I’m really not sure. I think Ds can still pass a really big infrastructure bill, which is hugely important. Anti-filibuster crusader Adam Jentleson notes that when Republicans refuse to negotiate in good faith on anything or simply say no to everything (which it’s actually entirely their right to do) it will leave Macnhin as “Mr. Gridlock”, the guy standing in the way of passage of lots of popular legislation.

    The problem is that I don’t think Manchin really cares. Or rather, this doesn’t actually put any pressure on him. Outside of West Virginia, only political obsessives know who Manchin even is. To the extent the public is upset about lack of progress on important legislation that will focus on the Democrats or Joe Biden. Nor does that create any realistic chance that Manchin will face a primary challenger or lack of party support because there’s zero chance any other Democrat could win or hold that seat.

    […] Manchin just voted for the massive COVID relief bill and he’ll likely vote for a very big infrastructure bill, albeit probably with more slimming than the relief bill got. […]

    The simple fact is that Manchin, probably both on principle and certainly as a matter of self-preservation, prefers a more consensus-based form of politics where party lines aren’t so harshly and clearly drawn. For him it is a very accurate estimation of self interest to see things this way. He represents a state that in our current political world is overwhelmingly Republican. Without his 50th vote, the entire Biden legislative agenda goes up in smoke. And that’s simply where we are.

    Manchin has said that his guiding priority is the success of the Biden presidency. And I think he means it. Yes, his claims about Biden and the filibuster are in wild contradiction. But that being the case doesn’t mean they have to change.

    […] Manchin can say one thing categorically now and just change his mind later. That doesn’t mean it’s likely that it will happen. But it can. And Democrats need to keep operating on the possibility it could. But at least right now the chances don’t look good.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/new-terrible-news-from-manchin-yay

  226. says

    Parents of additional 61 separated children have been located, advocates say in new court filing

    The steering committee that has been working to reunite families ripped apart at the southern border by the previous administration says its made contact with the parents of an additional 61 children […] The updated data from court documents filed Wednesday brings the number of children whose parents have not yet been reached down to 445.

    “The lawyers believe that the parents of 302 children who have not yet been reached were deported to Central America, while the parents of 129 children are somewhere in the U.S,” the report said. “The lawyers say the government has not yet provided contact information for the parents of the remaining 14 children.”

    […] “The steering committee of pro-bono lawyers and advocates working on reunification said it had yet to find the parents of 506 children, down from 611 on Jan. 14, the last time it reported data to a federal judge overseeing the process,” NBC News reported at the time. […]

  227. says

    Breathing expert estimates half of Chauvin’s weight was on Floyd’s neck

    A respiratory physiology expert testified during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin on Thursday that the former Minneapolis police officer at one point had half of his body weight on George Floyd’s neck during his arrest last summer.

    Floyd was killed during the arrest, a moment that led to nationwide demonstrations against police violence and for racial justice.

    “What we’re seeing is that half of his body weight, plus half his gear weight, is coming down,” Dr. Martin Tobin, a witness for the prosecution, testified Thursday as he looked at a photo captured from the arrest.

    In the photo, the tip of Chauvin’s foot could also be seen slightly off the ground as he kneeled on Floyd, who was pinned to the street.

    “That’s 91.5 pounds … coming down directly on Mr. Floyd’s neck,” Tobin, a renowned pulmonologist, testified. “Everything is directed down on his knee.”

    The prosecution is arguing that Chauvin directly caused Floyd’s death by putting his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Chauvin faces murder charges over Floyd’s death.

    Chauvin’s defense lawyer argued in his opening argument argued Floyd died from a mixture of causes, including pre-existing conditions and drugs that were in his system.

    “The reason we’re seeing that is because the toe is off the ground, and there is no body weight sitting back, he’s not hunkering back on his heels, so everything is directed down on his knee,” Tobin continued, adding that in that position, his “shin and his toe and his boot is playing no contribution.”

    […] Another image Tobin zeroed in on during his testimony was a still from police bodycam footage that showed Floyd appearing to push his knuckles and fingers against the street and the tire of a nearby police vehicle as he was pinned to the ground during the arrest.

    “To most people, this doesn’t look terribly significant. But to a physiologist, this is extraordinarily significant,” Tobin said.

    “This tells you that he has used up his resources and he’s now literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles,” the doctor testified.

    “When you begin to breathe,” Tobin said, “you begin to breathe with your rib cage and your diaphragm. Then the next thing you recruit after that is your sternum muscle which is the big muscle in your neck.”

    “When those are wasted up, then you’re relying on these types of muscles like your fingers to try and stabilize your whole right side. Because he’s totally dependent on getting air into the right side,” he continued.

    Floyd used “his fingers and his knuckles against the street to try and crank up the right side of his chest,” Tobin said, adding that he also believe Floyd had also attempted to use his shoulder to breathe during the arrest.

    “It’s a very poor way of breathing. But it’s what you have to do when everything else is failing,” he said.

    He also claimed that had a healthy person subjected to what Floyd was during the arrest, they “would have died as a result.”

  228. says

    Tucker Carlson Thwarted Once Again By Google Machine, Dictionaries

    Back in February, Tucker Carlson concluded that “QAnon” did not exist and was purely an invention of the liberal media, because he and his crack staff were unable to find “the QAnon website.” Now they’ve hit another roadblock — because Joe Biden keeps talking about something called “equity” and Tucker is pretty sure that’s not actually a thing. And if it is a thing, it is the real racism.

    On his show Wednesday night, Carlson laid into Joe Biden for inventing this strange word out of thin air and then expecting everyone to just know what it means, as if it’s just been around since the 14th century or something. The target of his criticism in the segment below was the fact that, back in February, the Justice Department decided to no longer pursue a lawsuit against Yale University for supposedly discriminating against white and Asian students in favor of Black students. How? Because the university has a policy of not admitting more than a percentage point less than the percentage of Black students in the previous year’s class.

    Right now, 7.7 percent of students at Yale are Black, 13 percent are Latinx, 19 percent are Asian, and 52 percent are white.

    11 percent are legacies. [video available at the link]

    Transcript via Media Matters:

    So, what is “equity?” Joe Biden never tells us, never even hints. His order proclaims that America will be getting, quote, “an ambitious, whole of government equity agenda.” So, whatever it is, “equity” is “ambitious,” and it will be everywhere, but we’re not allowed to know what it is. That’s odd.

    For three months, we’ve been trying to guess — what is this “equity” that is now our country’s main reason for existing? We know it’s not the same as equality, or even closely related.

    In the name of equity, for example, the Biden administration supports open discrimination against Asian college applicants. They’re Asian, therefore, they can’t get into school. It’s that simple.

    We used to call that kind of behavior racism, we had laws against it. Now we call it “equity” and we have laws demanding it. It turns out that racism and equity are pretty much the same thing. Who knew?

    No one is saying that Asian kids can’t get into school. That is not a thing. They’re just saying “Black kids can go to school also.” And as long as they are giving admittance preferences to legacy students, and to those who compete in sports like sailing, fencing, squash, skiing, golf, and other relatively white hobbies and extracurricular activities you can’t really do if you are poor, then it’s in the school’s best interest to balance things out in other ways. It would be one thing if Black and Latinx students were the only ones being admitted to schools based on a holistic admissions process and everyone else was being admitted explicitly based on test scores and grades, but that is not the case.

    Because schools are funded by property taxes, public schools are still pretty separate and unequal. Eighty-six percent of underfunded schools are majority Black, and only eight percent of students in well-funded schools are Black. That makes a difference, especially when AP classes and extracurricular activities are things that admissions counselors look at. So yes, in order to have some amount of diversity for the student body as a whole, in order to give opportunities to those whose applications may only be not quite as impressive because they did not go to a school that offered many opportunities, giving kids one point in their plus column for being a member of an underrepresented race or ethnicity is the right thing to do.

    Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson likely assumes that he got his all on his own, but he’s the heir to a TV dinner fortune who went to St. George’s Boarding School in Middletown, Rhode Island […]

    Although, given that he can’t figure out what the word “equity” means or bother to look it up in a dictionary, I think we may have some idea.

    Equity is not really that hard to understand. It just means fair treatment and justice. It can even be explained in entirely non-political terms! For instance, I have dark brown hair. Say I had a blonde friend and we wanted to have matching pink hair. We could use the exact same hair dye, but in her hair it would come out bright and in mine it wouldn’t come out at all. In order to get the same color, I’d have to have my hair bleached. Giving us both the same hair dye is equality, but bleaching my hair first and then dying it would be “equity.” Because sometimes people, through absolutely no fault or deficiency of their own, need more to achieve the same result and sometimes other people, for reasons entirely unrelated to their own character, talent or hard work, need less. Duh.

    But Tucker Carlson seems to have a really hard time understanding this. [video available at the link]

    Transcript via Media Matters:

    You do not want to live in a completely racialized country — where a person’s genetics are the most important thing about them, where you are reduced to your DNA, dehumanized. But that’s exactly the society they’re creating.

    And what’s the result of what they’re doing? Every action provokes a reaction. That’s the most basic principle in physics. When you attack people for qualities they can’t control, over time, you will make them radical. That is guaranteed.

    You’ve got to wonder, if it’s ever occurred to the morons pushing this “equity” garbage that everyone on earth has an identity. If you make identity politics mandatory — and they have — how long until you get white identity politics?

    Ever consider that, you reckless fools?

    First of all, Tucker Carlson, please stop yelling at us. Second, “how long” until we get white identity politics? We have white identity politics now! They are on full display every weeknight on a little show called “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

    But of course Tucker Carlson doesn’t want to have an “identity.” He wants to be neutral. Because he wants to believe that if he were not white, if he had not been born into money, if he had not had a privileged education, that he would have turned out to be the same asshole he is today. He wants to believe all of these factors were neutral and that he had no privilege, and in order for that to be true, factors in the lives of other people also have to be neutral.

    How long before there is no national identity at all in this country? Only warring tribes fighting each other for the spoils? Does anyone want to raise children in a society like that? Only the racists want that. But that’s exactly where they’re pushing us, and at high speed.

    Tucker Carlson doesn’t have to worry about “warring for the spoils” because he was born with the spoils. What he wants is not for everyone to have spoils, but for others to accept their lack of spoils graciously, instead of inconveniencing those born with spoils by pointing out that they might be a little, well, spoiled.

    Tucker Carlson equated “equity” with “garbage.”

  229. says

    “Biden calls gun violence in the U.S. an ‘epidemic’ and ‘embarrassment’ as he announces executive orders to tighten restrictions.”

    Washington Post link

    President Biden announced the executive actions, including one targeting kits used to assemble firearms from pieces, after deadly back-to-back mass shootings last month in Atlanta and Boulder, Colo. The unilateral moves come as legislation to tighten gun controls remains stalled in Congress. […]

    announce new rules on firearms that are assembled at home, which lack serial numbers and are harder to track, among other moves designed to make it harder for unqualified people to obtain dangerous weapons.

    […] announce David Chipman as his pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, although it is unclear how the nominee will fare in an evenly divided Senate. Chipman is a senior adviser to a gun control group founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was severely injured in a mass shooting in 2011. [Trump did not bother to fill that important job.]

    […] direct the Justice Department to draft a new rule regulating a device that can be placed on a pistol to turn it into a short-barreled rifle.

    […] plans to order the department to create a template that individual states can use to enact “red flag” laws, which allow judges to seize firearms from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others.

    Other initiatives include asking the Justice Department to issue a report on gun trafficking and directing several agencies to allocate more money for violence intervention programs.

  230. says

    Lynna @ #279, Tobin’s testimony has been very powerful. Just before the lunch break, he shot down two other defense claims. From the Guardian trial liveblog (which I didn’t know existed, but of course it does):

    Tobin’s testimony has dealt another blow to the defense’s position that Floyd died from drug use and underlying health problems. Based upon Tobin’s analysis, Floyd’s breathing was normal before it was constrained—undermining any argument that fentanyl derailed his respiratory function.

    After reviewing several factors, Tobin says: “fentanyl is not causing the depression of his respiration.”

    Tobin then discusses the potential role of heart disease.

    “The first thing is that if you have somebody who has underlying heart disease, and the heart disease is so severe that it’s said that it’s causing shortness of breath…virtually all of those patients are going to have very high respiratory rates,” he says.

    Floyd’s respiratory rate, however, is “normal” prior to the arrest, based upon his analysis.

    The prosecution has completed its direct questioning of Tobin. The court is now taking a lunch break. We will bring you our roundup of the morning’s developments shortly.

  231. says

    CNN – “Matt Gaetz associate likely to strike plea deal, attorneys say”:

    Joel Greenberg, a central figure in the ongoing investigation into Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, is likely to strike a plea deal with federal prosecutors, his attorney and prosecutors said in court Thursday, potentially putting additional legal pressure on the congressman.

    Greenberg’s cooperation with the Justice Department could provide investigators with key details as they work to determine whether Gaetz broke sex trafficking or prostitution laws himself.

    A federal prosecutor and Greenberg’s attorney told a judge the deal was not finalized but there is an expectation that it could be resolved within weeks

    “We believe this case will be a plea,” said assistant US Attorney Roger Handberg.

    Greenberg’s attorney, Fritz Scheller, requested a plea date by May 15. If a plea is not reached, they could move to a trial in July.

    Greenberg, the former tax commissioner in Seminole County, Florida, and a friend of Gaetz’s, had faced decades in prison on 33 federal counts that ranged from identity theft to sex trafficking of a minor. CNN reported last week that the investigation of Gaetz began in 2020 as part of the broader probe into Greenberg.

    People who know the two men have described them as close, with a relationship that was as much about Republican Party politics in the state as after-hours socializing….

  232. says

    SC @282, thanks for that additional information. The defense is currently trying to sow doubt about Tobin’s testimony, in part by asking leading questions. In my opinion, this effort is not going well. Tobin is an expert and Chauvin’s lawyer is irritating.

  233. says

    Boca Raton GOP Club Will Feature Proud Boys Leader Tarrio As Dinner Speaker

    The chairman of the right-wing street gang the Proud Boys will speak to a local Florida Republican club next month to tell “his side of the story” and “set the record straight.”

    That’s the word from the Boca Raton Regional Republican Club, which has promoted the $45 May 3 dinner on Facebook and through its newsletter this week. The club’s president, Armand Grossman, is the former vice mayor of Miami Springs, Florida. […]

    “The mainstream media has labeled Enrique a far-right fascist, white supremacist and leader of a hate group which are all LIES,” an event description reads.

    “He and the Proud Boys are patriots dedicated to helping maintain freedom and liberty for our country at a time when many of our freedoms are being denied by the left.”

    Yes, that’s the “Boca Raton Regional Republican Club.”

    Posted by readers of the article:

    How nice that the GOP is now openly supporting domestic terrorists and providing rhetorical cover for their activities.
    ——————–
    I assume that the SWAG that everyone will get there includes jackboots and brown shirts
    ——————–
    it’s just the paramilitary wing of the party breaking bread with the political arm.
    ———————
    That “snitching” is what’s so incredibly funny since “Boca Raton” means “mouth of the rat”.
    ———————–
    Its like inviting Al Qaeda or the KKK. You do you, GQP.

  234. says

    […] In March when U.S. Marshals showed up to take him into custody, Greenberg was reportedly threatening to use firearms and explosives, and even threatened suicide. This does not sound like someone eager to spend a decade or more in prison. So, he’s cooperating to lessen his own time behind bars.

    Prosecutors don’t offer such a deal unless they are aiming higher. In other words, Rep. Matt Gaetz has gone from hot water to boiling hot water in no time flat. […] investigations into and accusations against Gaetz, which include possibly trafficking minors across state lines, illegally using campaign funds to pay for said travel, and traveling to the Bahamas with women (or minors) being trafficked.

    In short, Greenberg is accused of using his access to state identification and tax records to identify girls between the ages of 14 and 17 in order “to produce a false identification document and to facilitate his efforts to engage in commercial sex acts.”

    As far as the trip to the Bahamas, Jason Pirozzolo, the man at the center of that investigation, spent time with other notable Florida politicians. Thanks to The Intellectualist for locating these photos and videos. [Tweet available at the link, with photo: “President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, his wife Casey and Jason Pirozzolo”] [snipped other references to Pirozzolo’s political connections]

    Of course, there is another layer of intrigue in this case. As Matt Gaetz realizes just how boinked he really is and starts grappling with how much serious prison time he could be facing, will he offer prosecutors something they can’t pass up? After all, there is little doubt Gaetz knows where a few bodies are buried in the swamps of Florida.

    Link

  235. says

    Florida sues Biden administration over cruise restrictions

    Florida on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit to force the Biden administration to scrap regulations that are blocking the cruise industry from resuming operations.

    Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the lawsuit in Miami, where he sharply criticized federal authorities because they have “mothballed” cruise ships for the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    “It’s not reasonable, it’s not rational,” DeSantis said. “We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball an industry for over a year based on very little evidence and very little data.”

    The lawsuit, filed against Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, marks the ongoing escalation between the Biden administration and Republican officials in Florida.

    A few weeks ago, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration over immigration policy.

    DeSantis, a potential Republican contender for president in 2024, has been a constant critic of Covid-19 lockdowns and has steadily refused to enact a mask mandate for Florida even though other GOP governors approved them.

    The CDC first imposed restrictions on the cruise industry during the start of the pandemic citing numerous ships whose passengers or crew became infected with the coronavirus. […] restrictions have remained in place even as the United States has vaccinated millions of residents. The CDC has revised its orders, but Florida’s lawsuit maintains that under the current restrictions, cruise lines may be shuttered until November.

    At the White House on Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t comment on the lawsuit, but she said the CDC’s guidance on cruises is based on data and medical information.

    […] Florida’s 21-page lawsuit asks a federal judge to block the CDC from continuing to impose a no-sail order on cruise lines and allow cruises to resume as long as they operate with “reasonable safety protocols.” The lawsuit contends that the CDC has exceeded its authority during the coronavirus pandemic to impose regulations on the cruise industry.

    In the past year, the governor used his emergency powers during the pandemic to block local governments from collecting fines related to coronavirus restrictions and to spend billions in federal relief money without getting approval from the Florida Legislature.

  236. says

    […] “Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said in the Rose Garden. “They’re phony arguments suggesting these are Second Amendment rights at stake with what we’re talking about. But no amendment, no amendment to the Constitution is absolute.”

    “So the idea is just bizarre to suggest that some of the things we’re recommending are contrary to the Constitution,” he added. “Gun violence in this country is an epidemic. And it’s an international embarrassment.”

    […] Biden framed the need for action as urgent, repeatedly calling the steady drum beat of mass shootings in the U.S. an epidemic. He pointed to recent mass shootings in Atlanta; Boulder, Colo.; and one this week in South Carolina that left five people dead.

    Hundreds of people each day are shot in the country, Biden said, noting flags were still at half-staff for the victims of the Atlanta shooting when the Boulder shooting happened less than a week later.

    “This is an epidemic for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” he said.

    […] Biden reiterated his calls for Congress to take action by passing three House-passed measures on the issue, just as he did last month after the Colorado shooting. The president urged the Senate to pass the House bills that would expand background checks, close the so-called Charleston loophole and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. All three were passed with bipartisan support in the House.

    “They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers … but they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence,” Biden said. “Enough prayers. Time for some action.”

    Link

  237. says

    Wonkette:

    If there is anything Ted Nugent loves more than guns, racism, […] it is truth and logic and common sense. That is what everyone always says about good ol’ Ted Nugent, for sure. He’s just a very truthful, logical, and sensible person. Probably very well-informed too, what with his interest in the truth.

    On Tuesday, Nugent took to Facebook to share his very logical thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic, which is very rudely preventing him from going on tour yet again this year. [video available at the link]

    He said, with a straight face:

    You know, I guess I would ask you, because I’m addicted to truth, logic, and common sense, and my common sense meter would demand the answer to ‘Why weren’t we shut down for COVID 1 through 18?’

    There was a COVID 1 and 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. COVID 1 through 18 didn’t shut anything down, but WOAH! COVID-19, even though it’s 99.8 percent survivable.

    […] To be fair, this would be a reasonable question if COVID-19 was so-named because it was the blockbuster sequel to COVIDs 1-18 and not because it was discovered in the year 2019. Or if he were not wrong about it having a 99.8 survival rate. COVID-19 does technically have about a 1-2 percent mortality rate — and while that may not actually sound that bad, that means it’s about ten times more deadly than the regular flu. Which is a lot more deadly. It’s also highly, highly contagious, obviously, and causes myriad health problems other than death as well.

    But it wasn’t just COVIDs 1-18 Nugent was concerned about.

    Why didn’t we shut down with the AIDS epidemic, or the flu or the Spanish Flu or the bird flu or the West Nile flu? Or influenza every year?

    Well, because it would be highly unlikely to catch HIV from a trip to the supermarket; the flu is much less likely to kill people; we did shut down, social distance, and wear masks for the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918; humans rarely get bird flu and when they do, they don’t easily pass it on to other humans; West Nile Virus is spread through mosquitos. These things are all very easy to look up, especially if one is addicted to truth, logic, and common sense.

    They claim 500,000 people have died from COVID-19. Bullshit. I believe that medical examiners in all 50 states have gone, ‘I put down on the death certificate that he died of asphyxiation, but they made me put COVID.’ ‘Well, this guy was stabbed to death, but they made me put down COVID.’ ‘This guy was run over by a tandem gravel truck doing a four-wheel drift and the crows be pecking at your flesh, but they made me put down COVID-19.’

    Given that there was a major spike in homicides in 2020, it would be difficult to suggest that all of the murders, manslaughters, and suspicious deaths were erroneously being labeled as COVID-19 deaths.

    While this may be what Ted Nugent believes happened, quite the opposite is true. Medical examiners in Connecticut, for example, have identified many deaths that should have been attributed to COVID-19 but were not.

    One might think that a person addicted to truth, logic, and common sense would, logically, have the common sense to just look things up to see if they are true before saying them out loud, but perhaps that would be too easy.

    Link

  238. says

    Wonkette:

    […] VP Harris visits Chicago bakery even as border crisis escalates

    OH NO! She’s eating snacks!

    Fox News explains, in its journalistic way, that Harris “visited a bakery in Chicago, coming away with a piece of German chocolate cake — even as she faces scrutiny for not having visited the overwhelmed southern border.” Which is just totally a normal journalism sentence. The vice president had a piece of German chocolate cake, right in the middle of Fox News’s bellyaching shitfit about the border. How daaaaaaaare she?

    According to the pool report, Harris loves German chocolate cake, despite how she is not currently on the border […]

    Elsewhere on Fox News, “Fox & Friends” guest Autry Pruitt, a Black Republican who has run for office in Texas, angrily huffed to Ainsley Earhardt that Vice President Harris was only put in charge of border things “because she has brown skin.” […] [video available at the link]

    Link

  239. says

    Quoted in Lynna’s #286:

    “The mainstream media has labeled Enrique a far-right fascist, white supremacist and leader of a hate group which are all LIES,” an event description reads.

    From Luke Mogelson’s great New Yorker piece from January, “Among the Insurrectionists”:

    On January 4th, Tarrio had been arrested soon after his arrival at Dulles International Airport, for a destruction-of-property charge related to the December 12th event, where he’d set fire to a Black Lives Matter banner stolen from a historic Black church. (In an intersection outside Harry’s Pub, he had stood over the flames while Proud Boys chanted, “Fuck you, [f—-ts]!”) He was released shortly after his arrest but was barred from remaining in D.C. On the eve of the siege, followers of the official Proud Boys account on Parler were incensed. “Every cop involved should be executed immediately,” one user commented. “Time to resist and revolt!” another added. A third wrote, “Fuck these DC Police. Fuck those cock suckers up. Beat them down. You dont get to return to your families.”

  240. blf says

    Lynna@291, I visited two bakeries today, one for bread and another for tonight’s dessert. And I live next to the southern border — which is actually a few kilometres offshore — so, yeah, Vice President Kamela Harris is definitely slacking off, visiting only one bakery far away from French, I mean Latin American, bakery treats. Proof, proof, is I haven’t been slapped by a wet fish wielding fox “anchor”.

  241. says

    blf @293. I’m jealous. I’m still keeping my grocery-buying expeditions to a minimum. I’ll feel safer after I get my second Covid vaccine shot. I could use some bread and some dessert!

    In other news, here’s some humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    Senator Mitch McConnell urged the nation’s largest corporations to follow his example and not get involved in governing the country.

    Speaking to reporters, the Senate Minority Leader said that he “could have easily used my position over the years to make the country a better place, but I have wisely resisted that temptation.”“Whether it was giving Americans affordable health care or passing stronger gun laws, I have been careful not to influence the government to accomplish things,” he said. “I wish corporations would follow my lead.”

    He urged the C.E.O.s of major companies to spend a day with him in Washington to “see how getting nothing done is done.”

    McConnell cut short his remarks to reporters, saying that he had to return to his office to get to work on not improving the country’s infrastructure.

    New Yorker link

  242. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    * Vaccines: “As of Thursday, just short of 20 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated, giving some 66 million people a strong measure of protection against a disease that has already killed more than 500,000 Americans. By contrast, Covax — a World Health Organization-backed push for equitable distribution — aims to secure enough doses to cover up to 20 percent of the people in participating countries by the end of 2021, but it may not meet that relatively modest goal, experts warn.” [Washington Post is quoted]

    […] * Homelessness: “Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge on Thursday unveiled nearly $5 billion in new grants to states and local governments across the country for rental assistance, the development of affordable housing and other services to help people experiencing or on the verge of homelessness.” [Washington Post is quoted]

    […] * Turmoil in Amman: “Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Wednesday sedition has been quashed after a rift with his half-brother and former heir Prince Hamza, whom the government had accused of links to efforts destabilize the country.” [NBC News is quoted]

    * The Trump organization’s new lawyer: “The Trump Organization has hired Ronald Fischetti, an experienced New York criminal-defense attorney, to represent it in Manhattan prosecutors’ investigation into the business dealings of the former president and his company.” [Wall Street Journal is quoted]

    [Wow!] * As part of a bankruptcy trial we’re following closely: “Wayne LaPierre, the embattled chief executive of the National Rifle Association, said on Wednesday that he had kept his organization’s recent bankruptcy filing secret from almost all its senior officials, including its general counsel, chief financial officer and top lobbyist. He also did not inform most of the N.R.A.’s board.” [NY Times is quoted]

    * Middle East: “The United States and Iraq said Wednesday that they have agreed on the eventual withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq and that the two governments would hold talks to work out the timing.” [NBC News quoted]

    * Helping military families: “First lady Jill Biden on Wednesday called military families ‘the rudder that steers our military’ as she held an event laying out the priorities of a revived White House initiative focused on their needs…. She said the revived ‘Joining Forces’ initiative will focus on the employment of military spouses, child care and education for families of service members, as well as health care.” [Washington Post is quoted]

    * I’m eager to hear more about this: “Another budget reconciliation bill is likely on the horizon, and Democrats are eyeing the measure as a vehicle for a policy priority long mired in partisan disagreement: immigration overhaul.” [Roll Call is quoted]

    Link

  243. says

    Josh Marshall:

    In case you’re not following it, the union organizing drive at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama seems to be going down to a blow out defeat. Out of 3,215 votes cast the current tally is Yes: 294, No: 691. In other words, rejected so far by more than a 2 to 1 margin. I don’t have enough experience with this to know whether there are factors that can make early votes different from late votes or if that concept even applies here. But this rough proportion has been very consistent since the first couple hundred votes were counted. So it seems like the organizers didn’t even come close.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/amazon-union-drive-appears-to-be-failing

    That’s a failure that I was hoping would go the other way.

  244. blf says

    Lynna@294, Jealous? Jealous? I’m still waiting to be eligible for a vaccination, and we’re under lockdown (lite), and I mispronounced génépy in the wine shop today! And yer jealous? I mean, the bread is just the usual French stuff (great), and the dessert was poached pears in chocolate (great (but a bit too sweet)), and the génépy is nice, along with the vin the shopkeeper recommended… Jealous, pfffft!!!1! 😷

  245. blf says

    Follow-up to @293 / @294 / @297, What being desperate for “some bread and some dessert” leads to… Giant lizard climbs shelves of Thai supermarket in search of food (video): “A giant monitor lizard climbs up a fully-stacked wall unit at a supermarket on the outskirts of Bangkok, unperturbed by the falling cartons and packages it dislodges as it searches for footholds, then appears to rest on the top shelf, watched by staff and customers. According to reports the 6ft-long reptile emerged from a nearby canal and ran into the 7-Eleven store. Police arrived with reptile handlers to snare the creature, which is believed to have struggled to find food outside, following months of dry weather, which has led to canals and lakes drying up”. No Lynnas were harmed in the making of this video.

  246. says

    blf, okay, that made me smile. I understand your point of view. I’ll take the poached pears in chocolate.

    Regarding 298, I haven’t started climbing to the top shelf in grocery stores and then resting … at least not yet. However, being a petite woman, I do sometimes step on a bottom shelf to reach items on the highest shelf. I realize this is not safe. I will keep an eye out for the Lynna handlers that may come to snare me.

    In other news, the hole in which Matt Gaetz is trapped just keeps getting deeper.

    Gaetz paid accused sex trafficker, who later sent same amount of cash to teen girls

    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in 2018 paid an accused sex trafficker who later sent the same amount of cash to teen girls […]

    Gaetz sent two Venmo transactions amounting to $900 to accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg in May 2018. He labeled the first transaction “test” and the second transaction “hit up _____,” with the alleged nickname of a young woman.

    Greenberg later sent money to three girls labeled as “Tuition,” “School” and “School” that totaled $900.

    The Daily Beast said that while it was investigating the transactions, Gaetz’s public Venmo record disappeared.

    Greenberg has also made his Venmo transactions private.

    […] Greenberg and Gaetz allegedly met with these women on specific dates and would pay them for their time.

    One of the women said Gaetz and Greenberg paid her to have sex with both of them, messages reviewed by The New York Times showed.

    The Daily Beast found another Venmo connection between Gaetz and Greenberg and a woman.

    The outlet pulled records from Gaetz’s Venmo history with Greenberg as well as Greenberg’s credit card statements, and found that areas of contact between the two and certain transactions overlapped.

    Gaetz has denied having sex with a teenage girl and says he will not resign despite calls from Democrats and Republicans to do so. […]

    Yeah, Gaetz never paid for sex. He just may have paid his buddy Greenberg, who then paid the girls to have sex with Gaetz. It looks like that, but we don’t have all the details and this story may change … again.

  247. says

    Odd source, believable story:

    The stepsister of Anne Frank said in an interview published Thursday that she believes former President Trump “obviously admired Hitler.”

    Eva Schloss, 91, co-founder of The Anne Frank Trust UK which seeks to preserve Frank’s memory as well as educate others on the Holocaust, spoke with The Daily Beast reporter Marlow Stern to discuss her history and touched on what she thought of Trump.

    Stern noted there was a rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes during the Trump administration and that he once praised a group of people that included neo-Nazis as “very fine people.”

    “Trump wasn’t just against the Jews—he was against the Mexicans, and many others. He was a racist. Full-stop, he was a racist,” Schloss responded.

    “His son-in-law is a Jew, and his daughter converted to Judaism. You know, he’s said so many silly things,” Schloss continued. “I’ve compared him to Hitler. I even heard that he studied Hitler’s speeches and things like that, so he obviously admired Hitler and just copied him with his anti-Semitism.”

    […] During the interview Stern also noted that other well-known GOP lawmakers have made anti-Semitic remarks or conveyed an admiration for Adolf Hitler. He pointed to Reps. Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) who said his visit to Hitler’s vacation house had been on his “bucket list for awhile,” and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (Ga.), who claimed “Jewish Space Lasers” control the weather.

    “Anti-Semitism is nothing new, and I’m afraid it will always be there. I don’t know why it is, but it is a fact—ever since Jewish people became a people, there has been prejudice,” Schloss said. “We have to be alert and try to give the message that it is wrong. But the Black people are suffering as well. We have to shake hands with anyone who is racist against anybody and try to change the attitudes of people.”

    Trump received a great deal of backlash following his first presidential debate with then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden when he refused to denounce white supremacy. […]

    Link

  248. says

    Here’s a link to the April 9 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From their summary:

    Authorities in France have ruled that under-55s who received a first injection of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine can be given a jab from a different producer for their second dose.

    Hong Kong has confirmed this morning that it has requested AstraZeneca suspend delivery of its Covid-19 vaccine.

    States and territories in Australia have been left scrambling to respond to government advice recommending against vaccinating anyone under 50 with the AstraZeneca shot, leaving tens of thousands of people in the lurch.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to take control from Germany’s federal states to impose restrictions on regions recording high numbers of new coronavirus infections, according to reports. Health minister Jens Spahn has said the country needs a national lockdown.

    Leading hospitals in India’s most coronavirus-hit state halted vaccinations today, citing shortages as infections across the country crossed 13 million and set a new daily record.

    Sweden’s climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has said she will not attend the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, citing “inequitable vaccine distribution”.

    Police in Norway have fined prime minister Erna Solberg for breaking Covid-19 social distancing rules when organising a family gathering to celebrate her birthday.

    The UK’s transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has said that the public could “start to think” about foreign holidays this summer.

    Gibraltar has become one of the first places in the world to vaccinate the bulk of its adult population against Covid-19, allowing virus restrictions to be lifted and life to almost return to normal.

  249. johnson catman says

    re SC @304: The republicans will use any and all means of cheating to win a race.

  250. KG says

    SC@301,

    The Guardian had a link labelled “Prince Philip dies – latest updates”. I’m afraid my immediate thought was that this should be an easy one to write:

    He’s still dead.

    He’s still dead.

    He’s still dead…

  251. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Here some more detail on the news that Europe’s drugs regulator EMA is reviewing reports of a bleeding condition in people after receiving AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and looking into Johnson & Johnson’s shot over reports of rare blood clots.

    Reuters reports:

    While Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca has been caught in a turmoil over possible links to rare blood clots in the brain and abdomen, and subsequent restriction on usage of its vaccine, this is a formal disclosure of the J&J probe.

    Four serious cases of rare blood clots with low platelets, one of which was fatal, have been reported after inoculation with J&J’s vaccine from its Janssen unit, the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) said.

    It said five cases of capillary leak syndrome linked to AstraZeneca’s vaccine were reported. The condition, in which blood leaks from the smallest of vessels into muscles and body cavities, is characterised by swelling and a drop in blood pressure.

    However, the EMA has said that “at this stage, it is not yet clear whether there is a causal association” between the vaccines and the reported conditions.

    AstraZeneca and US-based J&J did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

  252. quotetheunquote says

    @SC #285 Some good responses to Molly Jong-Fast there. My favourite:
    Please, republicans, don’t #GetVaccinatedToOwnTheLibs!
    I’d feel so owned if you went to the link below, found a place to get vaccinated, then went and got it.
    So. Owned.

    (As an aside, yes, Falwell’s a despicable hate-monger; I get it. Can people please just cut out all the fat-shaming, now? It has absolutely zilch to do with him being a despicable hate-monger.)

  253. blf says

    Republican-led states secretly spending huge sums on execution drugs:

    Documents obtained by the Guardian show three states paying astronomical amounts to skirt — almost certainly illegally — a ban on pharmaceuticals for lethal injections

    […]

    Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal the full extent of the spending blitz that American death penalty states have embarked upon as they try to restart executions delayed by the pandemic. The findings show that Republican leaders are not only willing to run roughshod over their own state and federal laws, but are also prepared to spend lavishly in the process.

    The most jaw-dropping outlay has been made by Arizona, a state in which Republicans hold both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. A single-page heavily redacted document obtained by the Guardian records that last October the department of corrections ordered 1,000 vials of pentobarbital sodium salt, each containing 1g, to be shipped in unmarked jars and boxes.

    At the bottom of the document, the record states: Amount paid: $1,500,000.

    Arizona’s extraordinary $1.5m payment starkly illustrates the lengths to which the state is prepared to go to kill death row prisoners. […]

    Arizona’s splurge on illicit execution drugs is all the more striking given that it was made in the middle of a pandemic when so many of its citizens were hurting. At the time the payment was made there were estimated to be almost 1 million Arizonans struggling with hunger, including more than 300,000 children.

    It is a felony under Arizona and federal law to dispense pentobarbital without a valid prescription. Medical practitioners are not allowed to issue prescriptions for the drug for use in executions as taking the life of a prisoner serves no therapeutic or medical purpose.

    The Guardian asked Arizona’s department of corrections to explain its costly and apparently unlawful purchase of pentobarbital. The department said that it does not discuss how it obtains execution drugs.

    It also stressed that the information the Guardian was requesting was statutorily confidential — meaning that it is secret under court order. […]

    [… shenanigans in Tennessee and Missouri…]

    Behind the states’ extravagant spending is the blanket refusal of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to allow their products to be used in US executions. Medical drugs are made to save lives, they argue, not to end them.

    As a result, death penalty states have been forced to enter into increasingly dubious — and often unlawful — deals with suppliers at home and abroad. In 2010, five American states illegally purchased execution drugs without federal Food and Drug Administration approval from Dream Pharma, a wholesaler operating out of a driving school in London.

    Since then, states have been pushing at legal boundaries in their scramble to evade the boycott of pharmaceutical supplies. “States have switched from one drug to another, crossed state lines to get drugs, paid cash and failed to record the payments to keep the purchases secret,” said Deborah Denno, a professor at Fordham law school.

    […]

    In recent years, 19 states as well as the federal government have moved to shroud their execution practices in secrecy — working especially hard to obscure the source of their lethal injection drugs. […]

    […]

    One of the paradoxes of the current scramble to acquire lethal injection drugs illicitly and at such high prices is that the efforts are exclusively being made by Republicans who frequently claim to be the party of fiscal conservatism and small government. […]

  254. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    US vaccination campaign in doubt as J&J ‘one-shot’ vaccine deliveries plummet

    Over in the US, deliveries of the “one-shot” Johnson and Johnson vaccine are set to drop by 85% next week, in a setback to the government’s vaccination campaign.

    The Biden administration has allocated just 700,000 J&J doses to states for the week beginning April 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a huge drop from the nearly 5m shots allocated the week before.

    The decline comes after J&J reported a batch of its Covid-19 vaccines developed in Baltimore had failed quality standards and can’t be used – as Anthony Fauci warned the US is at risk from a new coronavirus surge….

  255. blf says

    quotetheunquote@309, I’m not quite sure why you set that response in what I call eejit quotes, but whatever…
    I followed the #GetVaccinatedToOwnTheLibs tag, hoping for some good jokes or snarky comments. Amusingly (and usefully!) it had a header from the French health agency saying (in translation), “Know the facts. To learn and understand vaccines and vaccinations, visit the government’s reference site. https://vaccination-info-service.fr/ […]”. No jokes or snarky comments (at both links), indeed not much content at all, unfortunately (at the tag!).

  256. says

    CNN – “Federal prosecutors get the green light to start offering plea deals to Capitol riot defendants, attorneys say”:

    Federal prosecutors have informed some Capitol riot defendants the Justice Department has given the green-light to cut guilty plea deals, a step toward bringing the first of the hundreds of cases to a close, according to attorneys involved in the talks.

    Defense lawyers involved have long recognized that much of the evidence in the Capitol riot cases isn’t disputable enough to take to trial — especially because so much is on video — and that many of the more than 350 people charged would want to end their court proceedings quickly. But the cases have stalled for weeks as the Justice Department worked out what it was willing to offer, prompting attorneys to ask for delays in many of the court proceedings.

    It’s not clear yet which or how many defendants may be getting plea deals, and they haven’t been offered to all interested defendants at this time, the attorneys told CNN. Lawyers who spoke to CNN described deals for defendants with misdemeanors, and not the cases with more severe charges.

    The hang-up until now appears to at least partly come from how unusual the Capitol cases are: that there are hundreds, each with many hours of video evidence, and the charges range from the equivalent of trespassing and vandalism crimes to more serious violence and conspiracy charges.

    It’s not yet clear if the prosecutors have been authorized to make deals with defendants around the major conspiracy cases, against the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

    Next week marks 100 days since the insurrection. Several defendants deemed to be violent, obstructive or threats to public safety are awaiting further court proceedings from jail. On the whole, judges and lawyers have acknowledged the Capitol insurrection on January 6 has created one of the most sprawling and intensive investigations in American history.

  257. says

    France 24 – “UN special envoy to step up Myanmar diplomatic effort as death toll surpasses 600”:

    The UN’s special envoy for Myanmar is to embark on an Asian tour to step up diplomatic efforts to tackle the crisis, as the death toll from the junta’s crackdown on dissent passed 600 on Friday.

    The push by Christine Schraner Burgener comes amid mounting international concern at events in Myanmar, rocked by daily protests since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power on February 1.

    Burgener will start her trip in Thailand and will also visit China, though exact details and timings for her trip have not been confirmed.

    At least 614 civilians have been killed in the military’s crackdown on protests and nearly 3,000 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a local monitoring group.

    There was more bloodshed early on Friday, with rescue workers reporting at least four people killed when security forces broke up protest barricades in the city of Bago, 65 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of Yangon.

    UN rights officials say the military is making increasing use of heavy weaponry including rocket-propelled and fragmentation grenades, heavy machine guns and snipers.

    The violent response has drawn intense international criticism and on Thursday Washington imposed another set of sanctions, this time on Myanmar’s state gem company, as it seeks to deprive the junta of sources of income.

    UN envoy Burgener wants face-to-face meetings with the generals but she has not received permission to visit Myanmar.

    “She, of course, stands ready to resume dialogue with the military to contribute to a return to Myanmar’s democratic path, peace and stability,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

    As well as China — a key player with historical links to the military and which more recently cultivated close relations with Suu Kyi — Burgener also hopes to visit member countries of regional bloc ASEAN.

    “As she has highlighted repeatedly, a robust international response to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar requires a unified regional effort involving neighbouring countries who can leverage influence towards stability,” Dujarric said.

    An ASEAN summit on Myanmar is scheduled for the end of the month, but diplomats say the bloc is deeply divided over the crisis.

    “At one end, there are Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, who are in the mode of ‘back off, there’s nothing to see, it’s a question of internal politics,'” one diplomat said, while Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are open to a more active role for ASEAN….

    I’ve seen higher estimates of the number of people killed in Bago.

    Also: “JUST IN: #Myanmar state TV announces that the famous couple, academy award-winning film actor and actress; Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin got arrested today at their house in #Yangon as they were supporting #CivilDisobedienceMovement against the junta….” (I believe this is a national academy award.)

  258. blf says

    US anti-abortion groups shift focus to voting restrictions:

    […]
    In the months since Donald Trump lost his re-election bid, conservative groups traditionally focused on lobbying against abortion and LGBTQ+ rights have moved to support new restrictions on voting, offering significant grassroots power and money to efforts to make it harder to vote.

    The increased attention on elections has come from unexpected corners, such as the Susan B Anthony List, which traditionally has a singular focus on restricting abortion access.

    The group announced it intends to spend millions in a joint election transparency initiative with the American Principles Project, which until recently concentrated on restricting trans participation in sports. The effort aims to scupper national voting rights legislation proposed by Democrats in Washington DC and mobilize lawmakers and volunteers in states.

    […]

    Members of the organization “demanded” it engage on election issues “as a pre-condition to be able to make the pro-life case” of further restricting abortions rights, [a wannabe-dalek at hair furor’s DHS, and head of this new anti-everything coalition, Ken] Cuccinelli said in an interview.

    I’ve opted to not set those Cuccinelli quotes as eejit quotes because what he is quoted as saying seems very plausible. Appalling, but probably correct.

    The pivot to voting rights comes after the same groups put up tens of millions of dollars to support Trump’s 2020 campaign […]. The Susan B Anthony List spent $52m backing the former president, making it the most expensive electoral effort in the organization’s history.

    Now their full-throated support has left the groups in a bind. Some small-dollar donors, believing there was widespread fraud, are uncertain why they should donate to electoral efforts if the process is rigged.

    […]

    “The big lie of a stolen election that [hair furor] was pushing, and his supporters were pushing leading to the insurrection … has taken hold in religious communities,” said Andrew Whitehead, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University, and recent author of Taking Back America for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.

    “There’s a real distrust in the election, in electoral fraud, and questioning whether Biden is a legitimate president.” He added: “I don’t see how that genie gets put back in the bottle.”

    Anti-abortion groups are in turn beginning to see trimming the electorate as essential to achieve their goals. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B Anthony List, said in a statement that the group’s ability to elect pro-life candidates depended on a transparent, fair elections process.

    The integrity of our electoral system was severely compromised in 2020 when pro-abortion Democrats — utilizing the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse — weakened state laws that ensure free and fair elections, she said in a statement.

    Conservative support for anti-voting laws comes with significant financial backing. The political arm of the Heritage Foundation, the influential conservative group that has long backed voting restrictions, recently announced it would spend $10m on an effort to push voting restrictions.

    FreedomWorks, the group that helped spread the Tea Party movement, has its own $10m initiative led by Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who was on a phone call between Trump and the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger […].

    Also joining the effort is the Family Research Council, which championed the issue during a town hall recently, according to the New York Times. […]

    All of these groups have also set to work pressuring individual US senators seen as swing votes not to support the Democratic push for expanded voting rights. They held a rally in West Virginia targeting the centrist [sic] Democratic US senator Joe Manchin, according to the New Yorker.

    Many of the most fervent backers of abortion bans are also championing anti-voting rights legislation in places such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas […]

    […]

    Grassroots agitators once seen as too extreme for serious consideration, but who gained traction during the Trump administration, have also hewn to peddling election conspiracy theories to justify limits on voting rights.

    The Ohio-based anti-abortion extremist who wrote the first six-week abortion ban, Janet Porter, has been pushing fraud conspiracy theories since before Trump lost his re-election bid.

    […]

    Doubling down on the big lie, however, does not come without risks. Anti-voting rights legislation threatens to undo the gains Trump made with Black and Latino voters, who will be disproportionately hurt by anti-voting rights legislation.

    “The Republican party and the Christian right has invested a tremendous amount into minority recruitment,” said Fred Clarkson, an expert on the religious right and a researcher at Political Research Associates. “This is an underappreciated part of the strategy.

    […]

  259. says

    blf @315, a friend of mine posted a reminded on his Facebook page for people to get vaccinated. The comments following that post immediately filled up with anti-vaccine propaganda. One comment even claimed that, “My sister died from a vaccine.” Sheesh.

    In other news, that didn’t take long. Back to skullduggery as usual.

    After Jan. 6 halt, corporate money starts reaching the GOP again

    Remember when several corporations responded to the Jan. 6 attack by halting their political contributions?

    There’s fresh evidence of a post-riot shift in corporate PAC strategies.

    JetBlue Airways Corp. is the first company to end a pause in PAC contributions following the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and disclose giving to one of the Republican lawmakers objecting to the Electoral College vote count.

    Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) — who, like most House Republicans, opposed certification of the results of the 2020 presidential election, even after the deadly insurrectionist attack — received a $1,000 contribution from the airline’s corporate political action committee.

    According to Bloomberg’s report, “No other corporate PAC that announced a pause is believed to have reported a donation directly to a lawmaker who objected to the certification of President Joe Biden’s election.”

    For those who may need a refresher, let’s review how we arrived at this point. Within a few days of the Capitol riot, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Marriott International were among the prominent companies that said they would pause political contributions to congressional Republicans who voted to reject President Joe Biden’s victory. Many others soon followed — including Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns MSNBC (my employer), and which said it would suspend contributions “to those elected officials who voted against certification of the electoral college votes.”

    The shift did not go unnoticed. Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican strategist, told the New Yorker that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in particular, was “scared to death” of corporate America’s response to the attack.

    By late January, officials in some GOP offices on Capitol Hill weighed “punishments” for companies that halted PAC contributions, including possible bans on lobbyists. In March, CNBC reported that several entities, including the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, were taking their pleas to corporations directly, “encouraging them to remove their restrictions and resume contributing.”

    Some corporate PACs, including the National Association of Realtors’ PAC, halted federal contributions after Jan. 6, and resumed donations in February, but anti-election Republicans have not been among the beneficiaries.

    All of which makes JetBlue’s support for Nicole Malliotakis that much more notable: it’s effectively a crack in the wall.

    The airline defended the move yesterday, pointing to the GOP congresswoman’s role on the House Transportation Committee as evidence of her “specific relevance to JetBlue’s network and business, as well as the aviation industry overall.”

    Malliotakis also represents Staten Island, which isn’t far from JetBlue’s corporate headquarters.

    Obviously, given the scope of congressional fundraising, it’s tempting to look past a single $1,000 check from one corporate PAC to one Republican who voted to reject election results. In the world of campaign financing, especially at the federal level, it’s a small drop in an enormous bucket.

    But if Bloomberg’s report is correct, and this is the first example of a corporate PAC reversing course on its post-riot position on an anti-election lawmaker, other corporations may very well start wondering if they can and should do the same.

  260. says

    From today’s DN! headlines:

    Ex-NFL Player with History of Concussions Kills 5 Before Turning Gun on Himself

    In Bryan, Texas, one person was killed and five others wounded Thursday after an employee of a cabinet shop opened fire at his workplace. After the shooting, the suspect led police on a high-speed chase, then wounded an officer in a gun battle. The 27-year-old suspect was then taken into custody alive.

    In South Carolina, a gunman broke into the home of a prominent doctor in the city of Rock Hill Wednesday, killing five people, including children, and wounding a sixth person before turning the gun on himself. Police identified the killer as Phillip Adams, a 33-year-old former NFL star who played for the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers. Adams had a history of head injuries, including two concussions in a span of three games during the 2012 season. Adams’s father said his son had no history of violence, telling reporters, “I can say he’s a good kid. I think the football messed him up.”

    President Biden Cracks Down on “Ghost Guns” and Calls on Congress to Ban Assault Rifles

    President Biden ordered a series of executive actions on gun control Thursday, calling gun violence in the U.S. an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment.” Biden’s orders will crack down on so-called ghost guns — easily assembled firearms bought over the internet without serial numbers, which account for about a third of guns recovered at crime scenes. Biden called for an expansion of “red flag” laws that allow family members or law enforcement to temporarily block people from obtaining firearms if they present a danger. He also called on Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and said gun manufacturers should be held liable for deaths and injuries resulting from their products.

    President Joe Biden: “The only industry in America, a billion-dollar industry, that can’t be sued, has exempt from being sued, are gun manufacturers.”

    Johnson & Johnson to Slash Deliveries of COVID-19 Vaccine After Factory Error

    The United States recorded nearly 80,000 new coronavirus infections Thursday and 1,000 deaths from COVID-19. Michigan remains the hardest-hit state, but new hot spots are emerging in the Northeast, Texas and parts of the Upper Midwest.

    In North Carolina, health officials shut down a mass vaccination site Thursday after several patients had immediate adverse reactions to shots of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. This follows similar reports of nausea and dizziness in people who received J&J doses in Colorado a day earlier.

    Johnson & Johnson said Thursday it will drastically reduce its deliveries of its vaccine around the U.S. next week, after one of its contractors, Emergent BioSolutions, said 15 million doses at a Baltimore plant were contaminated and needed to be thrown out. The White House has since ordered Johnson & Johnson to take charge of the plant. One in four U.S. adults is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

    Pakistani PM Condemned as “Rape Apologist” After Blaming Sex Assaults on How Women Dress

    In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan is being called a “rape apologist” after he blamed a rise in sexual assault cases on the way women dress and on outside cultural influence. This is human rights activist Tahira Abdullah, who joined a protest in the capital Islamabad this week.

    Tahira Abdullah: “It is highly humiliating and insulting to say that Pakistani men cannot control themselves when women are out in public without wearing the veil. Does that mean that men are out of control and that all men are rapists, because they see women not observing the veil in public? This is nonsense. It is a Taliban mindset, and it betrays a sexism, misogyny and patriarchy. And the prime minister must apologize.”

    Unionists Riot in Belfast as Brexit Stokes Northern Ireland Divisions

    President Biden has joined the Irish and British prime ministers in calling for an end to the unrest that has rocked Northern Ireland over the past week. Since last Friday, vehicles have been set on fire, and clashes with police have left dozens of officers injured. Police deployed water cannons in Belfast Thursday night and threatened to start shooting plastic bullets. Some of those in the streets have been as young as 12 or 13. The unrest comes amid mounting anger in unionist, or loyalist, areas over Brexit, which they say further weakens Northern Ireland’s ties to Britain.

    Allegations of Abuse, Sexual Assault in Texas Migrant Facility for Unaccompanied Children

    In Texas, an investigation is underway into allegations of child abuse, including sexual assault, faced by unaccompanied migrant children being held at the Freeman Expo Center in San Antonio. Over 1,300 unaccompanied teens, who recently came to the U.S. seeking refuge, are currently being detained at Freeman. According to the latest data, nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children came to the U.S. during March — double the number of children who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in February. In more immigration news, the parents of 445 migrant children — separated by the Trump administration — still cannot be found. That’s according to a court filing from the ACLU, which says efforts to reunite separated refugee families are moving slowly.

    Texas GOP Official Called for “Army” of Poll Watchers to Deploy in Communities of Color

    In Texas, a newly leaked video reveals a Harris County Republican official urged his party to create an “army” of poll watchers made up of 10,000 people from Houston’s majority-white suburbs. The unnamed official says the poll watchers should mobilize on Election Day in predominantly Black and Brown communities in Houston.

    Harris County Republican official: “We’ve got to get folks in these suburbs out here that have, you know, a lot of Republican folks that got to have the courage. If we don’t do that, you know, this fraud down in here is really going to continue.”

    The video was published by the government accountability group Common Cause Texas, which warns the efforts could further fuel voter suppression in communities of color.

    “No” Votes Lead in AL Amazon Union Drive Amid Reports Amazon Unlawfully Installed Onsite Mailbox

    In Bessemer, Alabama, a partial tally of votes cast by workers at an Amazon warehouse shows more than twice as many votes against forming a union than in favor, with around half the cast ballots counted. Hundreds of ballots have been challenged during the count, most of them by Amazon. Those votes could come back into play if the margin among the uncontested ballots is close.

    Meanwhile, the labor rights media group More Perfect Union has revealed Amazon executives coerced the U.S. Postal Service to install a private mailbox at the Bessemer warehouse so the company could pressure workers to mail their ballots from work and monitor votes….

  261. says

    Why the House Republicans’ plan to fight climate change matters

    As a rule, congressional Republicans aren’t in the habit of unveiling policy proposals on any issue. It’s the hallmark of a post-policy party: it’s up to others to do the unglamorous work of crafting substantive legislation.

    With this in mind, it was a pleasant surprise to see this report from Bloomberg News on GOP officials working on, of all things, a climate plan.

    House Republicans plan to unveil their own plan to fight climate change later this month, according to three people familiar with the matter, a reflection of the pressure on the party to come up with solutions to a problem it had previously denied or ignored. The legislative package, being spearheaded by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, is still being assembled but is expected to include a plan to plant as many as a trillion trees, said two of the people who asked not to be identified in describing private communications.

    The same report added that the blueprint, to be rolled out in time for Earth Day, “is also expected to include a focus on the research and development of low-emissions sources of power as well as the development of carbon capture technologies and natural gas plants.”

    […] given everything we know about Republican lawmakers’ approach to this policy and policymaking in general, some skepticism is probably in order.

    […] even a radicalized House Republican conference no longer sees blanket climate denial as a sustainable political position. Several years ago, Kevin Drum wrote a terrific item on the evolution of the right’s approach to the climate crisis, noting that conservatives started by denying rising global temperatures, before chalking up rising global temperatures to natural phenomena, and then arguing that doing anything about rising global temperatures is too difficult.

    Ultimately, however, much of the right scrapped each of these talking points and simply concluded that global warming “is the biggest hoax ever put over on the American public.” The idea of addressing the climate crisis wasn’t just rejected, it was derided by GOP officials as ridiculous.

    As public attitudes shift, and the global crisis intensifies, it appears that House Republicans now want to be able to say they have a proposal to address the problem. Even if the proposal is weak and ineffective, it’s better than the right pretending the crisis can and should be ignored.

    […] The point is not that the House Republicans’ plan will have merit; it almost certainly won’t. Rather, my standards for GOP officials are so low that I’ll consider it a minor breakthrough when they grudgingly acknowledge that climate change warrants the unveiling of a plan at all.

  262. says

    Doing the opposite of what’s right: GOP reps ease gun restrictions in several states following shootings

    Recent mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado have renewed the debate over massacre-prevention measures, and at the federal level, President Joe Biden took new steps yesterday to address gun violence he described as “an epidemic” and “an international embarrassment.”

    Elsewhere in the nation’s capital, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who’s retiring next year, told Politico he hasn’t yet given up on advancing some kind of gun safety legislation in this Congress.

    But at the state level, Republican officials appear to be moving in the opposite direction. Two weeks ago in Georgia, for example, the GOP-led state legislature took up measures designed to make Georgia’s gun laws even less restrictive.

    A few days later, the Des Moines Register reported that Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed a law “allowing people to buy and carry handguns in Iowa without a permit, fulfilling a longtime goal of gun rights advocates.”

    And yesterday, the list grew a little longer. The Tennessean reported:

    Tennessee is officially one of 19 states where permit-less gun carry will be the law. Gov. Bill Lee on Thursday signed a bill allowing most adults to carry a handgun without a permit, an effort that was at the top of his legislative agenda for the year…. It allows people 21 and older to carry handguns openly or concealed without a permit, along with members of the military ages 18 to 20.

    In a statement celebrating the measure, the Republican governor thanked the Republican-led legislature for approving his priority — while also thanking the National Rifle Association.

    In response to deadly mass shootings, some look for ways to hopefully prevent the next gun massacre, while others look for ways to scale back the restrictions already in place.

  263. blf says

    France24 interviews Dr Fauci… nothing especial, albeit with a few carefully-phrased pointed comments about the EU’s vaccination efforts, Dr Anthony Fauci on Covid-19: ‘We encourage people to get vaccinated’ (video). A snippet from the accompanying summary:

    Fauci also highlighted the importance of vaccinating the whole world against Covid-19, explaining that as long as the virus circulates actively in certain regions of the planet, new variants can emerge, putting at risk the countries who think they are immune.

    “This is a global pandemic and it requires a global response,” he explained.

  264. says

    Matt Gaetz under new pressure to resign following new revelations

    Before last night, the grand total of GOP lawmakers calling for the Florida congressman’s ouster was zero. That’s no longer the case.

    […] Politico reported overnight:

    Rep. Adam Kinzinger called on fellow Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz to resign Thursday night, making him the first Republican to do so since it was revealed that the Justice Department is investigating the Florida congressman over sex trafficking allegations. Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran and one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest critics within the party, has previously targeted Gaetz, along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), with the creation of a political action committee that aimed to help fund Republican candidates who have separated themselves from Trumpism.

    Kinzinger shared his new position by way of a simple, five-word tweet that read, “Matt Gaetz needs to resign.”

    The Illinois congressman published the brief missive in response to this Daily Beast report, which alleged that Gaetz sent his friend, accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, money through a mobile money-transfer service called Venmo in May 2018, and the next morning, Greenberg used the same app to send the same amount of money to three young women.

    […] “The memo field for the first of Gaetz’s transactions to Greenberg was titled ‘Test.’ In the second, the Florida GOP congressman wrote ‘hit up ___.’ But instead of a blank, Gaetz wrote a nickname for one of the recipients. (The Daily Beast is not sharing that nickname because the teenager had only turned 18 less than six months before.)”

    […] A New York Times report added overnight that the scope of the investigation into the congressman’s activities appears to be expanding. In addition to the controversies we already know about, investigators have also reportedly been told of “a conversation where Mr. Gaetz and a prominent Florida lobbyist discussed arranging a sham candidate in a state Senate race last year to siphon votes from an ally’s opponent.” [SC pointed to this news in comment 304.]
    […]

  265. says

    A summary: Matt Gaetz did not pay for sex using Venmo for the transaction. He paid Greenberg … who paid for sex using Venmo to transfer Gaetz’s funds to very, very young women.

  266. says

    Amazon has won a historic warehouse union election. But the battle is not over.

    The union says it will challenge the results over alleged illegal behavior.

    A majority of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama have voted against unionizing with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) in the first election of its size at an Amazon warehouse in the United States. But the union involved already said before the counting was finished that it would likely challenge the results.

    “Our system is broken, Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign,” RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement to Recode on Thursday evening.

    RWDSU spokesperson Chelsea Connor said part of the alleged behavior involves Amazon’s placement of a USPS mailbox on the grounds of the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse at the center of the vote. Some workers have said they were intimidated by the installation of the mailbox, as well as the messages from Amazon to use it, and believe that the company wanted to monitor who voted. The Washington Post reported earlier on Thursday that Amazon officials pressed the USPS to install the mailbox, after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) denied the company’s request to place a ballot drop box on the property.

    […] The union said on Friday morning that it would file “Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs) with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charging that Amazon interfered with the right of its Bessemer, Alabama, employees to vote in a free and fair election.” Beyond the mailbox issue, the union called out Amazon’s messaging that discouraged workers from unionizing because of union dues. In Alabama, though, a union cannot force workers to pay dues.

    While union organizers believe just getting to a vote of this size at Amazon is a victory in its own right — Applebaum, the union president, said as much on Thursday evening, calling the vote “an important moment for working people” — a loss will still undoubtedly sting. The pandemic exposed wealth and race inequalities in the US that labor activists used as catalysts for their drive in Bessemer, where organizers say at least 80 percent of Amazon employees are Black. If there were a perfect storm to take Amazon on and win, this might have been it.

    The RWDSU had already hinted at the grounds for an appeal to the NLRB in recent months, pointing to the mailbox recently installed on the warehouse grounds, as well as Amazon’s message to workers encouraging them to use the mailbox for their ballots.

    “I can’t imagine a situation where the workers vote against the union and there’s not a challenge based on that mailbox,” Rebecca Givan, a labor professor at Rutgers University who has followed the Bessemer union drive closely, told Recode before the vote counting began.

    If the NLRB rules in favor of the union in its challenge, the board could call for a revote or could even overturn the result and certify the union. […]

    Link

  267. says

    Trump officials celebrated efforts to change CDC reports on coronavirus, emails show.

    Washington Post link

    Political appointees also tried to blunt scientific findings they deemed unfavorable to Trump, according to new documents from House probe.

    Trump appointees in the Department of Health and Human Services last year privately touted their efforts to block or alter scientists’ reports on the coronavirus to more closely align with then-President Donald Trump’s more optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to newly released documents from congressional investigators.

    […] Even as career government scientists worked to combat the virus, a cadre of Trump appointees was attempting to blunt the scientists’ messages, edit their findings and equip the president with an alternate set of talking points.

    Then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote to then-HHS public affairs chief Michael Caputo on Sept. 9, 2020, touting two examples of where he said officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had bowed to his pressure and changed language in their reports, according to an email obtained by the House’s select subcommittee on the coronavirus outbreak.

    Pointing to one change — in which CDC leaders allegedly changed the opening sentence of a report about the spread of the virus among younger people after Alexander pressured them — Alexander wrote to Caputo, calling it a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!”

    In the same email, Alexander touted another example of a change to a weekly report from the CDC that he said the agency made in response to his demands. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR), which offer public updates on scientists’ findings, had been considered sacrosanct for decades and untouchable by political appointees in the past.

    Two days later, Alexander appealed to then-White House adviser Scott Atlas to help him dispute an upcoming CDC report on coronavirus-related deaths among young Americans.

    “Can you help me craft an op-ed,” Alexander wrote to Atlas on Sept. 11, alleging the CDC report was “timed for the election” and an