Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The search warrant will be released as early as today

WaPo:

FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say Attorney General Merrick Garland wouldn’t discuss the search but said he personally signed off on asking a judge to approve it

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Prior to the news:

What if a classified document on U.S. handling of nuclear weapons or names of CIA agents was given or sold by or stolen from an ex-President, who had stashed it in his basement?

— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) August 11, 2022

We don’t know anything more than an incomplete news report.

We need to see the search warrant (and we could as soon as this afternoon).

It is HIGHLY unusual for Jay Bratt, the Chief of the DOJ Counterintelligence & Export Control Section (CES), to sign an unsealing motion--or any motion. It's possible he hasn't signed one since he arrived at CES years ago. https://t.co/uDjePVAHtI

— Brandon Van Grack (@BVanGrack) August 11, 2022

Inclusion of Jay Bratt, Chief of DOJ’s Counterintelligence & Export Control Section, on motion to unseal warrant signifies that national security concerns about classified material at risk animated the grounds for the warrant.

— David Laufman (@DavidLaufmanLaw) August 11, 2022

Axios:

Florida swing voters: Bring on the search warrants

Florida swing voters in our latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups said the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago was justified — and that it would be a "serious crime" if former President Trump did take classified documents from the White House.

Why it matters: Trump's GOP allies are almost universally echoing his unsubstantiated claims of law enforcement overreach or politicization. The aggressive rhetoric may be boosting Trump's base support and fundraising, but it's not cutting through for this mix of Democrats, independents and Republicans who once backed him.

Also prior to the news:

"Short of the nuclear codes being written on these documents," said @DanaPerino earlier today, "I really don't understand how a document could warrant this kind of warrant." https://t.co/EfNt3UoxMl

— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) August 12, 2022

Uhm…  okay, then.

Stat of the Day: 58% 58% of voters believe that Trump either definitely or probably broke the law, including 59% of Independents, in a new @politico @MorningConsult poll. chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://t.co/rhQQlef7rH pic.twitter.com/gmXatoCZch

— John Anzalone (@JohnAnzo) August 12, 2022

Reposting this because it gets to the heart of the matter:

David Rothkopf/Daily Beast:

The FBI’s Search of Mar-a-Lago Is a Reminder That Trump Has Always Been a National Security Threat

The former president was the most dangerous person in the world when he held power, and he never had respect for the rule of law.

Republican howls of protest in the wake of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida residence were as loud as they were cynical, hypocritical, and irresponsible.

They knew full well that Trump had illegally removed classified documents from the White House—because not only was it acknowledged, but some of the documents were returned. They knew that to conduct such an operation, the FBI had to obtain a warrant from a judge, demonstrate that there was probable cause that a crime was committed, and almost certainly clear a higher bar than usual both within the Department of Justice and in the court because the target of the search was a former president. They were also aware that there was a clear pattern of destruction of records within the Trump administration in its final days and that credible reports suggested that Trump on a regular basis destroyed documents that he by law should have preserved, sometimes by flushing them down the toilet.

It’s amazing how baldly Merrick Garland called Trump’s bluff. For days the GOP is all “release the warrant!” and then the moment DOJ is like, “We’d like to release the warrant,” Trump goes, “Let’s not be hasty!” https://t.co/Y6x3jg6QZG

— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) August 12, 2022

Jonah Goldberg/The Dispatch:

Yearning for a Banana Republic

Emboldened by fever dreams of persecution, Republicans want nothing more than to anoint a strong man to punish their enemies.

I’ll put it plainly: If your “belief” in our country is so fragile and pathetic that you will lose “hope for our nation” unless Donald Trump is given free reign to cleanse the land of evildoers, then you don’t actually believe in this nation. If your love of country is contingent on your preferred faction being in power, you’ve confused partisanship for patriotism. Taken seriously, all of this banana republic talk is un-American.

I don’t mean it’s a wrong or flawed argument or simply an argument I don’t like—though it is all those things. I mean it is literally an un-American argument because it fundamentally betrays the whole idea of this country. And I’d say this if the claims were made about any politician. Indeed, I did. When Barack Obama’s boosters claimed he would fix our “broken souls” (in Michelle Obama’s words), I spared no effort in denouncing them. When Joe Biden sermonized about how “unity”—under his banner—was the answer to all our problems, I trotted out all my arguments against the “cult of unity,” which constantly threatens our constitutional system of separated powers and divided government.

Presidents are not redeemers, messiahs, incarnations of mystical aspirations, or righteous settlers of seething grievances. They’re not god-kings or the fathers of our American family. They’re politicians elected to do some specific things as the head of one branch of one level of government. They get that job for a limited and defined period of time, and afterward they’re simply citizens.

It’s a source of constant consternation and amazement for me that so many people either don’t understand this or simply pretend not to.

Secret Service watchdog suppressed memo on January 6 texts erasure https://t.co/n6cef6X7US --@hugolowell

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) August 12, 2022

Tim Alberta/Atlantic:

What Comes After the Search Warrant?

Why August 8 may become a new hinge point in U.S. history

So why did I feel nauseous yesterday, watching coverage of the FBI executing a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate?

Because this country is tracking toward a scale of political violence not seen since the Civil War. It’s evident to anyone who spends significant time dwelling in the physical or virtual spaces of the American right. Go to a gun show. Visit a right-wing church. Check out a Trump rally. No matter the venue, the doomsday prophesying is ubiquitous—and scary. Whenever and wherever I’ve heard hypothetical scenarios of imminent conflict articulated, the premise rests on an egregious abuse of power, typically Democrats weaponizing agencies of the state to target their political opponents. I’ve always walked away from these experiences thinking to myself: If America is a powder keg, then one overreach by the government, real or perceived, could light the fuse.

Think I’m being hysterical? I’ve been accused of that before. But we’ve seen what happens when millions of Americans abandon their faith in the nation’s core institutions. We’ve seen what happens when millions of Americans become convinced that their leaders are illegitimate. We’ve seen what happens when millions of Americans are manipulated into believing that Trump is suffering righteously for their sake; that an attack on him is an attack on them, on their character, on their identity, on their sense of sovereignty. And I fear we’re going to see it again.

pic.twitter.com/iaRssu022g

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) August 11, 2022

EJ Dionne/WaPo:

The GOP makes its choice: Trump, yes. Rule of law, no.

The GOP seems to be settling on a snappy slogan for November’s elections: Vote Republican. Because Donald Trump is above the law.

That’s the logical conclusion after a regiment of Republican politicians, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), denounced the FBI’s court-sanctioned search of Mar-a-Lago on Monday even though the fulminators had no idea what Trump may have done to lead a judge to approve it.

I’m just hoping that none of the documents include sensitive information about our Jewish space lasers.

— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) August 12, 2022

Politico:

Trump world gripped with anger, fear and a host of conspiracies about the FBI search

There is anxiety in the ranks about how this happened, even as they seek to benefit politically from it.

A wave of concern and even paranoia is gripping parts of Trump world as federal investigators tighten their grip on the former president and his inner circle.

In the wake of news that the FBI agents executed a court-authorized search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump’s allies and aides have begun buzzing about a host of potential explanations and worries. Among those being bandied about is that the search was a pretext to fish for other incriminating evidence, that the FBI doctored evidence to support its search warrant — and then planted some incriminating materials and recording devices at Mar-a-Lago for good measure — and even that the timing of the search was meant to be a historical echo of the day President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974.

Of all the garbage they are throwing this seems the biggest tell. No crooked cop plants evidence that is not incriminating. So their resort to “planted evidence” by definition concedes their belief that what was found was *incriminating evidence*. https://t.co/ns4mkjzfH5

— Francis Wilkinson (@fdwilkinson) August 10, 2022

Jennifer Rubin/WaPo:

Pelosi has found the Democrats’ midterm strategy

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has remained unflappably upbeat about the midterms, now has good reason to tout Democrats’ prospects. Even when other issues have popped up (e.g., impeachment of Trump for inciting an attack on the U.S. Capitol), Pelosi has consistently been an advocate for running on “kitchen table” issues, as she regularly put its, such as lowering the cost of health insurance premiums and prescription drugs…

Above all else, she tells her members, Democrats should run on what they’ve done. Naturally, that will mean highlighting all the measures Republicans opposed (the $35 price cap on insulin being among the juiciest targets).

But she also says Democrats must focus on their future agenda. If Democrats can hold the House and add two more Senate seats, she said at the signing ceremony, “we can get much more done in the United States Senate for the Voting Rights Act and voting protections, and the list goes on — a woman’s right to choose and the rest.”

What can we learn about climate politics from the (long overdue) passage of the Inflation Reduction Act? Two things: 1. Economists were wrong 2. Political scientists were right A 🧵

— Michael Ross (@MichaelRoss7) August 11, 2022

You can read the thread here.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Alex Jones has his day in court

John J. Pitney, Jr./Bulwark:

Democrats Are Running as Opposition Party

Usually the out-party runs as the opposition to the White House. This year, the Supreme Court and Trump have made it possible for Democrats to run as a check on Republican extremism.
The in-party has never been able to wear the “check and balance” mantle—until this year. During the 2022 midterm, there are a couple of ways in which the Democratic appeal is essentially that they will act as a counterweight against an out-of-step Republican party.

Put that recession talk away, and change the subject. A vibecession ain't no recession: July payrolls came in at a huge +528k, and unemployment is down to 3.5%. A whap-bop-a-loopa-a-whap-bam-boo!

— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) August 5, 2022

Verdict: Alex Jones owes $45.2 million more to Sandy Hook in punitive damages. That's on top of $4.1 million in compensatory. That's $49.3 million to two Sandy Hook families. Two more trials after this. Unanimous verdict (what's required for punitive damages).

— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) August 5, 2022

Bill Scher/Washington Monthly:

The Ads That Won the Kansas Abortion Referendum

Avoiding progressive pieties, the ad makers aimed at the broad, persuadable middle of the electorate.

I reviewed eight ads paid for by Kansans for Constitutional Freedom. One used the word choice. Four used decision. Three, neither. The spots usually included the word abortion, but not always.

To appeal to libertarian sentiments, the spots aggressively attacked the anti-abortion amendment as a “government mandate.” To avoid alienating moderates who support constraints on abortion, one ad embraced the regulations already on the Kansas books.

And they used testimonials to reach the electorate: a male doctor who refused to violate his “oath”; a Catholic grandmother worried about her granddaughter’s freedom; a married mom who had a life-saving abortion; and a male pastor offering a religious argument for women’s rights and, implicitly, abortion.

Let’s dissect some of the ads.

Today’s jobs report ‘defied expectations.’ The Kansas abortion vote shocked and stunned. So I say again: https://t.co/Kv7n7ZvDp3

— Margaret Sullivan (@Sulliview) August 5, 2022

Jack Jenkins/Religion News Service:

In Kansas abortion vote, a blow to Catholic bishops’ political strategy

‘If this is what the bishops are going to do, if this was their plan for a ‘post-Roe’ world, then Catholics are going to be very disappointed,’ said one observer of the Catholic hierarchy.

Analysts were quick to frame the result as a setback for anti-abortion movement, but activists and experts say it also amounts to a rejection of the Catholic Church hierarchy, which had shelled out massive sums of money in support of the amendment’s passage. The vote may hint, too, at mounting backlash against the church’s involvement in the nation’s abortion debate — not least among Catholics themselves.

In the wake of the vote, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, who publicly supported the amendment’s passage, issued a statement Wednesday lamenting its failure.

We can argue the strategic value of Democrats spending money in Republican primaries, something Republicans do in Dem primaries all the time, but the bottom line is these insane Republicans are being elected by an extreme Republican base that is the Republican Party of today

— Adam Blickstein (@AdamBlickstein) August 4, 2022

Greg Sargent/WaPo:

The Trumpists are winning. Here are 3 hidden reasons to fear them.

The Trumpists in question are Republicans who won nominations for positions such as governor and secretary of state in critical swing states. The alarming truth is this: Many of them deny the legitimacy of President Biden’s 2020 victory, even as they are seeking positions of control over the certification of future presidential elections.

But the reality of the threat this poses keeps getting lost in euphemisms. There’s an unwillingness in the media to state the true nature of their project in plain, blunt, clear terms.

Hell of a week for Biden: -528k July jobs added -Unemployment at 3.5% (50-year low) -Zawahiri killed -CHIPS Act passes -PACT Act passes -Inflation Reduction Act deal -Gas hits 50+ day low (median US price below $4/gal) -Kansas protects abortion And he oversaw it all with COVID.

— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) August 5, 2022

Paul Waldman/WaPo:

Why criticism of Democrats for boosting radical Trumpists is wrong

[John] Gibbs {MI] is one of a number of such candidates Democrats have tried to help, and the response has been widespread outrage. Outside of the Democratic officials who made the decision to deploy this tactic, there seems to be a nearly universal consensus that what they have done is reckless and hypocritical.

But while I wouldn’t unequivocally endorse parties trying to get their opponents to nominate the looniest candidates possible, there are a number of reasons why the criticism is overblown and even misguided. In fact, we might look back and say that Democrats made a strategic judgment that struck a reasonable balance between risk and reward.

First, note that one of the first things Meijer did after his defeat was to appear at a “unity” event with Gibbs. Whatever Meijer’s distaste for Gibbs’s repugnant views, he’s backing Gibbs in the general election, so spare me the laments for the departure of such a noble public servant.

Second, we can’t escape this fact: Gibbs was exactly what Republican primary voters in Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District wanted. This race got plenty of attention, and Gibbs was not hiding who he is. That’s what they chose, just as Republican voters have in state after state. On the same day, Republicans in another swing state, Arizona, nominated an entire slate of election saboteurs; their nominee for secretary of state is an actual member of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist group.

The productivity was hardly sudden. COVID, infrastructure, Juneteenth, postal reform, lend-lease, and more were already law. With CHIPS, guns, IRA, & more, it moves well into a historic Congress and there's still a lame-duck omnibus to pass in December. https://t.co/380gbMxyim

— Josh Huder (@joshHuder) August 5, 2022

Politico:

Trump faces uphill fight on executive privilege in DOJ probe

History and recent battles in civil suits signal he's unlikely to prevail if he seeks to block witnesses' grand jury testimony about Jan. 6.

Short, Jacob and Cipollone testified to the Jan. 6 select committee but negotiated strict terms to avoid discussing their direct interactions with Trump — a nod to the disputed possibility that such communications could be protected by executive privilege. But it’s unlikely that such claims would pass muster in a criminal probe.

“There is no way that any court would say they didn’t have to testify to conversations with President Trump in a grand jury investigation — a criminal investigation arising out of that conduct,” said Neil Eggleston, who served as White House counsel to President Barack Obama and represented President Bill Clinton in several executive privilege fights. “There’s no doubt if this got to a court, it would hold that the department is entitled to the information. … I think it’s a no-brainer.”

A lot of the energy behind the "cynical Dems behind MAGA crazies" storyline is driven by pundits who feel very, very off balance needing to say constantly that the GOP is now a sectarian revanchist party thats a threat to democracy over&over because it remains true. Again & gain.

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 4, 2022

3/ where Dems were allegedly boosting MAGAs its not even true. PA Gov is a good example of this. Where this has happened is in a number of House contests, run from out of the DCCC. Second, let's be clear what this "boosting" or "running ads for" actually means.

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 4, 2022

NY Times:

Is It All About ‘Fealty to Trump’s Delusions’? Three Writers Talk About Where the G.O.P. Is Headed.

[Tim] Miller: I just want to say here that I do get pissed about the notion that it’s us, the Never Trumpers, who are obsessed with litigating Jan. 6. Pennsylvania is a critical state that now has a nominee for governor who won because of his fealty to this lie, could win the general election and could put his finger on the scale in 2024. The same may be true in another key state, Arizona. This is a red-level threat for our democracy.

A lot of Republicans in Washington, D.C., want to sort of brush it away just like they brushed away the threat before Jan. 6, because it’s inconvenient.

[Ross] Douthat: Let me frame that D.C. Republican objection a different way: If this is a red-level threat for our democracy, why aren’t Democrats acting like it? Why did Democratic Party money enter so many of these races on behalf of the more extreme, stop-the-steal Republican? For example, given the closeness of the race, that sort of tactic quite possibly helped defeat Meijer in Michigan.

Miller: Give me a break. The ads from the left trying to tilt the races were stupid and frankly unpatriotic. I have spoken out about this before. But it’s not the Democrats who are electing these insane people. Were the Democrats responsible for Mark Finchem? Mehmet Oz? Herschel Walker? Mastriano won by over 20 points. This is what Republican voters want.

Also, advertising is a two-way street. If all these self-righteous Republicans were so angry about the ads designed to promote John Gibbs, they could’ve run pro-Meijer ads! Where was Kevin McCarthy defending his member? He was in Florida shining Mr. Trump’s shoes.

Thinking back to Trump acquittal in 2nd impeachment, can't help but focus on how McConnell/GOP thought Trump, Big Lie, 1/6 would be ancient history by now -- & were trying to make that happen. But 3 months before mid-terms, they are bigger than ever, wrapped around GOP's neck.

— Michelangelo Signorile (@MSignorile) August 5, 2022

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The personal and political

We begin today with Dion Lefler of The Wichita Eagle and his review of the winning campaign in support of abortion rights in Kansas and what it may portend for the future of Kansas politics.

I didn’t cover the Value Them Both election watch. Like almost all serious journalists in the state, I was banned by the campaign from attending.

So all I can tell you about their thinking is that they blamed — you guessed it — the mainstream media.

According to their written statement, the media “propelled the left’s false narrative, contributing to the confusion that misled Kansans about the amendment.”

That’s not what happened at all.

I can only speak for myself, but I never believed their infinitely repeated protestations that they didn’t want to ban abortion, just make reasonable regulations about it.

I didn’t believe it because they didn’t even believe it themselves.

Apparently, about six out of 10 voters didn’t believe them either. 

It was the Value Them Both campaign that attempted to mislead voters and propelled false narratives. One example from Jill Filipovic’s essay for CNN.

The vote was much watched by abortion rights proponents and opponents alike. It also wasn’t exactly a fair fight: One conservative group sent out text messages on Monday, the day of the vote, warning, “Women in KS are losing their choice on reproductive rights. Voting YES on the Amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.”

Voting “yes” on the Amendment was actually a vote against abortion rights. Abortion opponents, though, were clearly worried enough that Kansas voters cared about women’s rights, and so they resorted to playing dirty.

They still lost, which makes this victory even sweeter.

Mitch Smith, Lauren Fox, and Elizabeth Diaz of The New York Times report that the overwhelming victory for abortion rights at the ballot box in Kansas had a very broad coalition which included more rural and, perhaps, even more Republican voters than one would think.

DeAnn Hupe Seib is a fiscally conservative, churchgoing Republican from rural Kansas. When faced with a ballot question about whether abortion rights ought to be removed from her state’s constitution, she voted no. So did her home, Jefferson County, which favored Donald J. Trump by a 32-point margin in 2020.

“I was old enough that I remember stories of women who could not get abortions or had to defy their church in order to get in and get an abortion in order to save their lives,” said Ms. Hupe Seib, 63, a lawyer. “So it’s a very real issue to me, and I know it can be again.”

The sweeping victory for abortion rights in Kansas on Tuesday — the country’s first post-Roe vote on the issue — relied on a broad coalition of voters who turned out in huge numbers and crashed through party and geographic lines to maintain abortion access in the state. The result was an election with a stunning 18-point margin that is shaking up national politics ahead of the midterm elections.

The Dobbs decision engaged women in Kansas to an unprecedented degree. This chart shows the percent of new registrants in the state who were women (as a 7 day average). Note the spike after the Dobbs decision leaked, and huge jump after the Supreme Court handed it down. pic.twitter.com/pvi3WpuR86

— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) August 3, 2022

Amy Davidson Sorkin of The New Yorker wishes that Democratic campaign organizations and consultants would stop interfering in Republican primaries on behalf of election-denying candidates.

But the tactic of manipulating Republicans into nominating proto-authoritarian election deniers is damaging even if it works, in the short term, exactly as intended—that is, even if it helps the Democrats win some seats. For one thing, it habituates Republicans—voters, activists, local officials—in the practice of uniting behind extremists after the primary. It cajoles them into discarding whatever taboos might be left at this point. And making the most conspiratorial voices the loudest changes the tone of the political conversation. Candidates of the sort who might vote to impeach Trump the next time—and it’s all too plausible that there could be a next time—will be driven from politics. (All but four of the ten impeachment-voting Republicans have now either retired or been defeated in primaries, and one of the four, Liz Cheney, is almost certain to lose her primary; notably, the three who survived are in states with nonpartisan “top-two” primaries.) The saddest aspect of Meijer’s comments is how bitter he sounds. “I’m sick and tired of hearing the sanctimonious bullshit about the Democrats being the pro-democracy party,” he told Politico.

Voters may tire of it, too—another risk for Democrats. If, when surveying the strange shape of the G.O.P. field, with its collection of the extreme, the improbable, and the outlandish, Democrats sound gleeful rather than dismayed or alarmed, voters’ faith in their seriousness could be diminished. They could come across as hypocrites and fakes, at a time when voters say they are looking for authenticity. And they could sound like part of a party that doesn’t have faith in its ability to win an election on the strength of its own policies and ideals.[...]

Why have some of the Democratic Party’s most prominent campaign organizations—the D.C.C.C., the D.G.A.—pursued such a terrible approach in these races? The fear for democracy’s future is real. But they or their political consultants may have become too enraptured by the idea of their own cleverness or toughness. Another explanation is that there is just too much money in politics these days chasing too few good ideas. Bad schemes get funded, too. OpenSecrets has documented more than five hundred million dollars in outside spending in the primaries alone, a number that is no doubt incomplete owing to the opacity of many of the organizations that are involved in elections in one way or another (and the primaries aren’t over yet); it doesn’t include spending by the campaigns themselves.

Keep playing with fire like that and you’re liable to get burned.

Heather Cox Richardson writes for her Letters for an American Substack about the significance of Alex Jones emails and texts, especially in light of the Rolling Stone exclusive reporting that those texts and emails will be subpoenaed by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

It has been a source of frustration to those eager to return our public debates to ones rooted in reality that lies that have built a certain right-wing personality cannot be punctured because of the constant sowing of confusion around them. Part of why the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol has been so effective is that it has carefully built a story out of verifiable facts. Because House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) withdrew the pro-Trump Republicans from the committee, we have not had to deal with the muddying of the water by people like Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), who specializes in bullying and hectoring to get sound bites that later turn up in on right-wing channels in a narrative that mischaracterizes what actually happened.

But today something happened that makes puncturing the bubble of disinformation personal. In the damages trial, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents, Mark Bankston, revealed that Jones’s attorney accidentally shared a digital copy of two years’ worth of the texts and emails on Jones’s phone and, when alerted to the error, didn’t declare it privileged. Thus Bankston is reviewing the material and has said that Jones lied under oath. This material includes both texts and financial reports that Jones apparently said didn’t exist.

This is a big deal for the trial, of course—perjury is a crime—and it is a bigger deal for those who have believed InfoWars, since it reveals how profitable the lies have been. Bankston revealed that for all of Jones’s claims of low income, in 2018 InfoWars made between $100,000 and $200,000 a day, and some days they made $800,000. But there is more. People calculating the math will note that if indeed there are two years of records on that phone, the messages will include the weeks around the events of January 6, 2021.

Robin Givhan of The Washington Post  writes that even though activists for military families won a victory in getting the PACT Act passed in the Senate, the utter contempt and disrespect for those activists by some of the nation’s lawmakers was on full display.

On Tuesday, the veterans, military family members and their supporters were on their sixth day outside the Capitol. They were clustered under a few trees in the blessed shade just beyond the Capitol’s east plaza on a morning that was already sweltering. They were there to shame the Senate into passing the PACT Act, which extends health-care benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxins from the enormous pits in which the military regularly disposed of waste. Those burning garbage dumps have been linked to cancers, sleep apnea, and other respiratory and neurological ailments. Indeed, President Biden has noted that his son Beau served overseas near such a site and later died of a brain tumor. And so it was not surprising to see an activist holding a cardboard sign shaped like a tombstone that bore the words, “the troops.” Another sign warned: “vets are dying.”

A lot of Americans come to Capitol Hill to make a case for their interests or to raise awareness about looming emergencies. But these activists faced particularly galling circumstances. The Senate had passed the PACT Act back in June with an 84-14 vote, but it had been changed somewhat in the House; so last week the Senate had to vote again, and the second time around the dizzying carousel that is the legislature, the vote was 55-42. This might still seem like a win for veterans, but basic math isn’t so basic in the Senate because of the filibuster, which requires 60 votes before a bill can turn into a law. The legislation stalled and these determined citizens from Virginia and North Carolina and New York were sweating it out on the grass trying to get senators to give veterans something more tangible than a mere “thanks” for their service.[...]

In our democracy, there’s every reason to be proud of the people’s ability to protest and have their demands met. But in the process of making their voices heard on this subject, there have been constant reminders of just how loathe those in power are to listening to voices other than their own. As the bill — and amendments — were considered on the Senate floor, Rand Paul (R-Ky.), explained how he wanted to pay for the veterans’ health care by calling a 10-year moratorium on foreign aid distributed by USAID. Then he rattled off a list of the aid group’s expenditures that, based on the snarling disgust in his tone, he deemed offensively wasteful: encouraging tourism in Tunisia, teaching Korean students about climate change and encouraging millions of Filipinos to go to school. His colleagues did not approve of Paul’s amendment.

Jonathan Capehart, also of The Washington Post, says that for all of Sen. Josh Hawley’s “concern” about masculinity, what he is really selling is more racial resentment.

But as clownish as Hawley comes across, we dismiss him at our own risk. He is selling a vision of masculinity to White America that has much more to do with prejudice than manliness. It’s an old story — but a successful one, and one that’s poised to catch on. Stopping that from happening will require offering an alternative, with better examples of what being a man really means.

During a recent interview, Jason Kander, an Afghanistan War veteran who in 2018 stepped away from rising success in the Democratic Party to tend to his mental health, broke down his fellow Missourian’s plan. Hawley, he said, “is positioning himself, and therefore his movement — his far-right, White-guy movement — as, ‘If you’re a man, then you believe in these things.’” These things, you could probably guess, are archconservative values such as the patriarchy, opposition to women’s bodily autonomy, support exclusively for heterosexual marriage, an aversion to labor organizing. In other words, as Kander told me via email later, Hawley is “making manhood synonymous with conservatism.”

The pitch holds natural appeal for older White men who already hew to traditional morals. But what about the younger White men who, as Kander says, watch Ultimate Fighting but still like their LGBTQ co-workers and have friends who have had abortions? Hawley figures he can woo them too, so long as they share one potent trait with the older group: racial resentment. This vision of masculinity is as much about being White as it is about being a man.

Dave Zirin of The Nation says that Donald Trump is up to his old tired racist tricks again, this time with WNBA star Brittney Griner.

Trump’s one constant has been his racism and bigotry. Even when it seemingly makes no political sense, his unerring instinct moves him toward his happy place: hating others. Never underestimating the racism that lives in this country’s marrow has been his greatest political survival skill, and his survival has never felt more precarious. This is the best way to understand why Trump would look at the political landscape, see Brittney Griner rotting in a Russian prison, and say she should be buried under the cell. Instead of defending a US citizen, an Olympian, and a symbol of wrongful political detentions, Trump piled on. On some godforsaken fascistic podcast that I wouldn’t link to on a dare, Trump called Griner “potentially spoiled” (not sure what that means) and said she deserved to be behind bars.

He described her Kafkaesque situation as follows: “She went in there loaded up with drugs into a hostile territory where they’re very vigilant about drugs. They don’t like drugs. And she got caught. And now we’re supposed to get her out—and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We’re supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world.”[...]

It has largely been a given that everyone wants Griner to come home and be reunited with her family. But Trump doesn’t see the world in terms of easing human suffering. He sees Griner, and you can imagine the neon-blood-red words flashing in his brain—“Black,” “lesbian,” “WNBA”—and Trump immediately deducing that he can use her as a political piñata to bond himself to a frenzied base. It comes from his Colin Kaepernick playbook: demonize a Black athlete, lie about who they are and what they stand for, and reap the benefits.

Charu Sudan Kasturi of the Guardian writes that the spread of polio remains a global threat.

In June, the WHO reported cases of vaccine-derived polio – where a weakened virus in the vaccine itself spreads in the environment and infects people – in Eritrea, Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Israel, Yemen, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And in July, a patient in a New York City suburb was diagnosed with vaccine-derived polio. Over the past six weeks, traces of this form of the virus have also been found in sewage samples in Kolkata and London.

These seemingly unconnected cases highlight a common threat: globally, polio vaccination levels in 2021 dropped to their lowest in 15 years, according to WHO data, with immunisation initiatives disrupted during Covid. India and Indonesia, two of the world’s most populous nations, have witnessed particularly sharp falls in vaccine coverage.

That makes the recent spate of cases a canary in a coalmine, say experts – warning that the paralysing disease eliminated in most of the world could come back, especially in densely populated regions, unless countries redouble their efforts on vaccinations and surveillance.

With such an overwhelming amount of media attention given to the optics of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, Brian Hioe of The Diplomat takes a look at some of the substantive issues.

Pelosi’s motivations for the visit have been speculated to be anything from securing her political legacy to an attempt to tout the Democrats’ record as tough on China before midterm elections. When Pelosi’s plane touched down in Taiwan around 10:43 p.m., the Washington Post released an op-ed by Pelosi arguing for her visit. In that article, she provided her rationale for the trip: “In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.”

As news reports increasingly suggested that Pelosi would, in fact, be visiting Taiwan, speculation revolved around which day she would arrive. Another open question was the length of her visit – whether she would only stay a few hours in Taiwan, as some sources indicated, or whether she would stay overnight – and then whether her visit would only involve meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen or if it would also involve speaking to the Taiwanese legislature.

In the end, Pelosi’s visit involved stops to the legislature and to meet with Tsai. The House speaker’s comments were similar on both occasions, stressing Taiwan-U.S. cooperation in terms of mutual security interests, economic cooperation, and “shared values of self-governance and self-determination,” a phrase she used during verbal comments in her op-ed. With regards to her points on economic cooperation, Pelosi touted the CHIPS Act as an arena for cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan, a somewhat odd framing considering the CHIPS Act is sometimes understood as aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on Taiwanese semiconductors.

Hannah Roberts of POLITICO Europe writes that with the hard-right Brothers of Italy party poised to win next month’s Italian snap elections, there is a fear that fascism is creeping into Italy. Again.

The public discourse over the murder of Alika Ogorchukwu, beaten to death in front of bystanders in the coastal town of Civitanova Marche, has laid bare the divisions in society as Italians prepare to vote in a snap election next month.

For some, the killing is the fault of years of hate-stoking anti-immigrant rhetoric from politicians on the right, with disturbing echoes of fascism. Others accuse the left of trying to make political capital out of a tragedy.

The bitter dispute matters because, according to current polling, it is the anti-immigration parties on the right of Italian politics that stand to win most support at the election and form the next government.

At the head of them all is Giorgia Meloni, leader of the hard-right Brothers of Italy, who is on track to become the country’s next prime minister after the September 25 vote. It would mark a radical shift in Italian politics, posing potential risks to the country’s economy after a period of stability under outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s steadying influence. There are also fears a right-wing coalition could weaken European unity at a sensitive time.

The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer on the importance of clear and precise grammar even if it is a bit “clunky.”

But what’s a grammarian to do when precise and concise are at odds with each other?

The ways we talk about abortion and gender — particularly in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s downfall — illustrate the problem.

Take, for example, a recent viral exchange between Sen. Josh Hawley, lately known for running away from the same rioting Jan. 6 mob that he’d raised a fist in solidarity with, and Berkeley law professor Khiara Bridges. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Hawley objected to Bridges’ use of the phrase “people with a capacity for pregnancy,” which Hawley — ever the studious grammarian — thought should be shortened to just “women.” Bridges replied that Hawley’s questioning was transphobic, as it excluded trans men and nonbinary people who can become pregnant, as well as cisgender women who are unable to become pregnant. [...]

Put aside (for only the briefest moment) the fact that Hawley’s motivation was likely not syntactic concision but the desire to pick a fight and spark a viral moment and a provocative Twitter post (mission accomplished, Senator). A pressing language question still lingers here.[...]

Where does that leave someone just trying to improve the ways they speak and write?

Finally today, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes a wonderful essay on his Substack about his 60-year relationship with Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell. (Pushing fair use a bit here to tell the story of a young Lew Alcindor meeting Bill Russell.)

As I wandered into the gym, I saw, sitting casually on the bleacher bench reading The New York Times, Bill Russell. The Secretary of Defense himself. My personal hero.

I also saw my coach, Jack Donahue, chatting with the Celtics coach, Red Auerbach. Being naturally shy and unnaturally polite, I decided to head downstairs to the locker room and wait patiently until they were done. Maybe I could find a copy of the Times to read too.

“Lew, c’mere,” Coach Donahue called to me.

I gulped. Me?

I shuffled over to Coach Donahue, who introduced me to Coach Auerbach. Coach Auerbach gestured at Bill Russell. “Hey, Bill, c’mere. I want you to meet this kid.”

Bill Russell dipped down his newspaper and looked me over with a frown. Then he snorted. “I’m not getting up just to meet some kid.”

I shrank to about six inches tall. I just wanted to run straight home.

Auerbach chuckled. “Don’t let him get to you, kid. Sometimes he can be a real sourpuss.” He grabbed my wrist and walked me over to Russell.

“Bill, be nice. This is the kid who just might be the next you.”

Bill looked at me again, this time taking a little longer. I was already 7’, two inches taller than him.

I stuck out my hand. “How do you do, Mr. Russell. Pleasure to meet you.”

He didn’t smile, but his demeanor had softened, just a little. He shook my hand. “Yeah, yeah, kid.”

That’s how I met my childhood hero.

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Trump’s plot to overthrow the election in full focus this week

Sarah Longwell/Atlantic:

The January 6 Hearings Are Changing Republicans’ Minds

GOP voters want political power. And they’re no longer sure Donald Trump is the best way to get it.

I conducted dozens of focus groups of Trump 2020 voters in the 17 months between the storming of the Capitol on January 6 and when the hearings began in June. One measure was consistent: At least half of the respondents in each group wanted Trump to run again in 2024. The prevailing belief was that the 2020 election was stolen—or at least unfair in some way—and Trump should get another shot.

But since June, I’ve observed a shift. I’ve conducted nine focus groups during this period, and found that only 14 percent of Trump 2020 voters wanted him to run in 2024, with a few others on the fence. In four of the groups, zero people wanted Trump to run again. Their reasoning is clear: They’re now uncertain that Trump can win again.

“He’s just too divisive and controversial,” a participant in Washington State said about Trump. “There are good candidates out there waiting to shine.”

Between the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS+ bill, it's pretty amazing what's being kicked around in production support and/or cost constraints around energy, pharmaceuticals, and tech. Just real cause for hope for the US's long termhttps://t.co/MjgC6ATLv2 https://t.co/L98bs2dgmF

— Matt Singer (he/him) (@mattsinger7) July 28, 2022

Robinson Meyer/Atlantic:

Manchin and Schumer’s Astonishing Climate Deal

If passed, the energy provisions of the senators’ new bill would represent the most significant climate action in a generation.

But on climate and energy in particular, the bill is a landmark. It authorizes $369 billion of new climate spending, the largest investment in emissions reduction in American history—and, more important, the biggest blow against climate change ever struck by the U.S. government. “This is it. This is the real victory,” Sam Ricketts, a co-founder of Evergreen Action, a climate think tank, and a former adviser to Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State, told me. “I struggle to find enough superlatives to describe this deal.”

The legislation is so big, so multifaceted, that I don’t think it’s possible to summarize in this narrow space. But I will hit a few highlights that are crucial to understanding how the bill’s energy provisions work and what they could mean for the country and the world:

"I will oppose an overwhelmingly popular bill to protect gay marriage that I would otherwise support because I'm mad that the Democrats held a vote on a microchip bill that I also supported" has got to be the best example of DC brain worms I have ever encountered https://t.co/rqXdHXidTZ

— Tim Miller (@Timodc) July 28, 2022

Adam Serwer/Atlantic:

Republicans’ Cowardly Excuses for Not Protecting Marriage Equality

There is absolutely no reason to believe that fundamental rights of same-sex couples are safe.

Republican senators such as Marco Rubio and Ben Sasse, as well as conservative outlets such as National Review, have insisted that the Respect for Marriage Act is unnecessary because there is no case currently on its way to the Supreme Court that has the potential to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision that recognized the right of same-sex couples to marry. Rubio said he would vote against the bill because it was a “waste of our time on a non-issue.” Sasse told reporters that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was “trying to divide America with culture wars. I think it’s just the same bullshit. She’s not an adult.”

This is nonsense. The majority reasoning in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade, is one that would invalidate Obergefell and allow states to destroy hundreds of thousands of families, notwithstanding the majority’s weak and insincere disclaimer that the decision applied only to abortion. In his concurrence, Justice Clarence Thomas took aim at Obergefell among other decisions as one granting rights not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, and therefore a decision that should be overturned. There is absolutely no reason to believe that fundamental rights of same-sex couples are safe. Conservative activists want Obergefell overturned, and will try to make it happen at the first opportunity, because they do not believe that same-sex couples should have the right to marry. Reassurances to the contrary are meaningless, because the same sources that say these rights are not now at risk said similar things about Roe. It is also political strategy: Because they know that repealing marriage equality is an unpopular position, they wish to deny what they are doing right up until the moment it becomes possible. Although no one can predict what the justices themselves will do with complete certainty, Republicans in Congress are now on record as overwhelmingly supportive of the agenda Thomas outlined and the society it would impose.

This is astonishing, yet not surprising. If it feels like you're far less safe in NYC than ever before, it's not bc shootings are up. It's because the media (fueled by lies & fearmongering by NYC Mayor Eric Adams) is up. Look at this chart. Red line is shootings. Grey is media. pic.twitter.com/taPoGWGHKv

— Scott Hechinger (@ScottHech) July 29, 2022

Liz Sly/WaPo:

Ukraine could be turning the tide of war again as Russian advances stall

The lack of progress may be explained at least in part by the “operational pause” declared by Russia’s Defense Ministry after the seizure of Lysychansk — to allow Russian troops a chance to “rest and develop their combat capabilities,” in the words of President Vladimir Putin.

But the so-called pause did not halt Russian attempts to probe and penetrate Ukrainian lines — and the official end of the pause, announced by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on July 16, has brought no noticeable increase in the intensity of Russia’s assaults, said George Barros, a geospatial and Russia analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.

FiveThirtyEight:

What It Will Take For Lisa Murkowski To Win Reelection In Alaska

First, Murkowski’s approval rating has improved more than almost any other senator since President Biden took office. New survey data from Morning Consult found that 46 percent of Alaska registered voters approved of Murkowski in the second quarter of 2022, while 39 percent disapproved. This marked the first time Morning Consult had found Murkowski in net-positive territory during Biden’s presidency. The data also showed how Murkowski is an atypical politician: She had better ratings among those who identify with the opposing party than among her own. The survey found that 62 percent of Democrats approved of her, while 23 percent disapproved. By comparison, 41 percent of Republicans approved of her versus 46 percent who disapproved (she ran about even among independents). However, Murkowski still needs some GOP support in red-leaning Alaska to win, and she might be able to retain it: Those numbers among Republicans were much better than in the first quarter of 2021, when 76 percent of them disapproved of her.

Still, it’s not hard to see why Democrats now have a better opinion of Murkowski than Republicans do. Murkowski supports abortion rights, and she’s tallied a number of conservative apostasies in recent years, including her 2017 vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act and her vote to convict Trump in the impeachment trial following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The latter vote even led the Alaska GOP to censure her. Going back to 2010, her tea party-backed primary challenger, Joe Miller, cast her as a RINO — “Republican in name only” — and narrowly defeated her for renomination. But Murkowski bucked her party to mount a write-in campaign and, remarkably, won that November. (She also beat Miller in 2016, when he ran as a Libertarian.) So she’s overcome a stern intraparty challenge before, although it took an extraordinarily unusual campaign.

I once worked in a (winning) presidential campaign. You would kiss the ground in thanks for oppo self-own material like this. The Oz campaign will be studied for a long time. (And the Fetterman campaign.) https://t.co/l1ow0dHCpP

— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) July 28, 2022

Caitlin Rivers, PhD/Substack:

A look at the CDC monkeypox technical report

Detailed epidemiological data now available!

I encourage a full review of the new U.S. report. The following highlights stood out to me:

  • Over 99% of cases are in men (or assigned male sex at birth), and 99% of cases are in men who have sex with men. This confirms that men who have sex with men are currently the primary population at risk, and that public health interventions (e.g., outreach, education, vaccination, treatment) should be tailored to them.

  • The mean incubation period was estimated at 7.6 days (CrI 6.2-9.7). with 95% of cases developing symptoms within 17.1 days. The time from exposure to rash onset is slightly longer, at 8.7 days (CrI 6.9-11.7). CDC has previously said that fever, lymphadenopathy and malaise are commonly reported before rash onset, so those may be the symptoms that patients are experiencing in the 2 days before the rash becomes apparent.

  • The median number of days between symptom onset and a positive test result was 8 days, which has remained stable or declined slightly over time. In my opinion, this is one of the most important findings of the report. Rapid diagnosis is critical for enabling public health interventions which are needed to break chains of transmission. A diagnosis is also what enables people who are affected to receive proper treatment. I am glad that CDC chose to report this important metric week by week so that trends can be assessed. Time to diagnosis can and should be reduced through education, case finding, accessible diagnostic testing, and quick turnaround times for lab results.

Sarah Gollust/Twitter:

New study in @JAMANetworkOpen led by @rtopazian @colleenlbarry & colleagues reports concerning finding that a growing percentage of U.S. adults said harassing or threatening public health officials over COVID-19 business closures was justified {thread}

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The economy

We begin today with Rachel Siegel of The Washington Post writing about the Federal Reserve raising interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point to stave off inflation.

The Fed hiked interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point, following a similarly aggressive rate hike in June, even as Chair Jerome H. Powell acknowledged that the Federal Reserve sees previous hikes as already weighing on housing, business investment and consumer demand.[...]

Inflation has plagued policymakers for months, becoming the economy’s biggest problem and weighing on families nationwide, but especially the most vulnerable lower-income families. Higher prices for milk, gas and clothing have soured people’s sense of how the economy is working for them, dampening consumer sentiment and influencing families to change their own spending behavior, which can worsen inflation.

The glum economic mood has also become a major political problem for the Biden administration going into the midterm elections. Republicans continue to blame Democrats’ stimulus efforts from earlier in the pandemic for supercharging the economy and have resisted more federal spending.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times says that even if the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows a shrinking in real G.D.P. for the second quarter, that does not necessarily mean that the economy is in recession.

There’s a pretty good chance the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which produces the numbers on gross domestic product and other macroeconomic data, will declare on Thursday, preliminarily, that real G.D.P. shrank in the second quarter of 2022. Since it has already announced that real G.D.P. shrank in the first quarter, there will be a lot of breathless commentary to the effect that we’re officially in a recession.

But we won’t be. That’s not how recessions are defined; more important, it’s not how they should be defined. It’s possible that the people who actually decide whether we’re in a recession — more about them in a minute — will eventually declare that a recession began in the United States in the first half of this year, although that’s unlikely given other economic data. But they won’t base their decision solely on whether we’ve had two successive quarters of falling real G.D.P.

To understand why, it helps to know a bit about the history of what is known as business cycle dating.

William Danvers writes for The Hill that the American economy is still going through economic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supply and demand, which is fundamental to the cost of goods and services, were affected dramatically by the pandemic. People largely stayed at home. Jobs were lost and businesses were closed. Supply chains were disrupted. The nature of work and education changed. How people viewed their jobs and their future in the workforce was altered.

Lockdowns meant that the home became central to day-to-day lives, which altered patterns of consumption and how the economy functioned. For example, going to movies and restaurants was drastically curtailed, even halted. The restrictions of everyday life during the height of the pandemic had an impact on how people viewed their day-to-day activities. Working from home, another pandemic-related change, affects issues such as office space, public transportation and the functioning of businesses that no longer connect to the pre-pandemic economic reality of going into the office regularly.

Understanding the role that the pandemic has played in determining the present economic state in the U.S. and globally, as well as the economic future, is key to determining responses to present crises. Biden has been criticized for putting too much money into the economy and thereby increasing the likelihood of inflationary pressure with his American Rescue Plan, but the plan was literally a lifeline for millions of Americans — who, in turn, helped stabilize the economy.  

Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine of POLITICO report on the deal that Senator Joe Manchin struck with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on a financial package that includes energy and climate spending as well as ACA premiums.

Moreover, Manchin’s announcement came hours after final passage of semiconductor legislation, a bill Republicans threatened to block mere weeks ago in an effort to stop Democrats from pursuing a party-line tax, climate and health care package.

The Manchin-Schumer deal includes roughly $370 billion in energy and climate spending, $300 billion in deficit reduction, three years of subsidies for Affordable Care Act premiums, prescription drug reform and significant tax changes. Manchin said the bill was at one point “bigger than that” but that’s where the two Democrats settled.

As part of the agreement announced Wednesday, Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to pass legislation governing energy permits. Manchin said he spoke to Schumer, Pelosi and President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Paul M. Krawzak of Roll Call  lays out the possibilities for the “vote-a-rama” to come.

A full CBO score wasn’t yet available for the not-yet-released Senate substitute text. But under the publicly unveiled parameters of a deal struck between Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., it will contain drug pricing provisions that will reduce “on-budget” deficits — the part that counts toward meeting reconciliation directives — by $277 billion over a decade.

Adding two years of expanded health insurance premium subsidies would be expected to cost somewhere in the ballpark of $40 billion, reducing the net deficit reduction.

Still, that leaves plenty of room for senators to offer amendments, including on things like extending expiring Trump-era tax cuts, provided they don’t go below $1 billion in Finance Committee deficit reduction. GOP senators could offer other amendments, including on energy policy, to try and put Democrats in a tough spot ahead of midterm elections this November.

Alternatively, there’d be room for Democrats to try to expand spending within Finance’s jurisdiction. They could seek to add a paid leave program, expanded child tax credits, funding for home- and community-based care under Medicaid, or Medicare hearing benefits that were in earlier versions — as well as tax increases to pay for it all.

Gabriel R. Sanchez, Keesha Middlemass, and Alla Rodriguez of The Brookings institution look at the effects of misinformation on the American electorate.

One of the drivers of decreased confidence in the political system has been the explosion of misinformation deliberately aimed at disrupting the democratic process. This confuses and overwhelms voters. Throughout the 2020 election cycle, Russia’s cyber efforts and online actors were able to influence public perceptions and sought to amplify mistrust in the electoral process by denigrating mail-in voting, highlighting alleged irregularities, and accusing the Democratic Party of engaging in voter fraud. The “big lie” reinforced by President Trump about the 2020 election results amplified the Russian efforts and has lasting implications on voters’ trust in election outcomes.

The Collaborative Multi-Racial Political Study reveals that a robust 57% of white Americans believes there was voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, including 26% of whom believe there was definitely fraud in 2020. This survey also reveals that racial and ethnic minorities are highly susceptible to misinformation regarding voter fraud, as 38% of Latinos and 30% of African Americans think there might have been at least some fraud in 2020. Furthermore, in a 2021 survey by Howard University Digital Informers, a slim majority (51.5%) of respondents believe that “Black Americans are targets of fake news”.

In conjunction with the circulation of claims of election fraud and misinformation throughout the country, the public’s trust in our democratic system subsequently declined as well. An ABC NEWS/Washington Post survey found that only 20% feel “very confident” in the integrity of the U.S. election system. Furthermore, 56% of respondents of a recent CNN poll said that they have “little or no confidence” that the elections represent the will of the people. This pessimism is shared by the America youth as well, as 42% of the Harvard Youth Poll participants believe that their vote does not make a difference.

Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post writes that the deluge from DOJ investigations of Trump and his acolytes for the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow the duly elected American government are just beginning.

It might have been hard for jaded Beltway reporters to imagine, but powerful evidence presented dramatically in a easily accessible way — along with steady amplification by the media — may well be draining Trump of his support and encouraging Republicans to look elsewhere for a leader. No wonder the right-wing editorial pages of the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, both Rupert Murdoch publications, have broken sharply with Trump. Trump of all people should understand how the aura of being a “loser” turns people off.

If you feel as though the pace of revelations has picked up, you’re not alone. On Tuesday, the New York Times published another blockbuster report regarding Trump’s phony elector scheme. The Times reviewed emails that show one lawyer involved in the scheme “repeatedly used the word ‘fake’ to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome.” That’s classic “admissions against interest” — the sort of self-incriminating statements that light up prosecutors’ eyes. Plus, with more names popping up in emails, the pool of witnesses grows. The Post’s report also revealed that the Justice Department has the phone logs of senior Trump aides.[...]

The question now is not whether Trump will be exposed to criminal investigations but how far along and how fast they are moving. Meanwhile, the public’s view of his conduct grows ever more negative, with possible consequences for his party. If Trump feels a tad claustrophobic, it’s because the walls are closing in.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe writes that Trump’s base will not abandon him because of white supremacy, not in spite of it.

With a historic 81 million votes Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. But Trump got 74 million votes, 11 million more than he garnered in 2016. That means millions more people heard Trump’s lies, witnessed his racism, and saw him impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and thought, “Yup, I want some of that for four more years.”

Now, even after a second impeachment and an ongoing House investigation revealing Trump’s culpability in the deadly insurrection that defiled the Capitol and wounded our democracy, Republicans have remade themselves in his graven image, their would-be autocrat a half-century in the making. Election deniers who’ve swallowed whole Trump’s Big Lie are vying for seats in the Senate and House, and as governors and secretaries of state who will certify future elections.

Despite not even a scintilla of evidence to the contrary, nearly 70 percent of Republicans do not believe that Biden is the legitimately elected president. More than 60 percent of Republicans say Jan. 6 was not an insurrection, but a “legitimate protest.” Reacting to Trump’s crimes alone is like treating the wound, but not an infection that continues to spread.

Trump’s minions carry their support and what he emboldened not as a millstone, but as a badge of honor. Time won’t change that.

Charles Blow of The New York Times writes that Trump doesn’t care one bit about law and order and neither do the MAGA folks.

This week, Trump returned to Washington for the first time since he left office. And the speech he gave was another law and order speech, returning to the theme of empowering the police, calling for the execution of drug dealers, and describing the country as a “cesspool of crime.”

In all this, he encouraged cities to reinstate racialized stop-and-frisk policies, because “it works,” and called on them to flood the streets with more officers and pull back on accountability for those officers’ actions.

Trump said, “There is no longer respect for the law, and there certainly is no order.”

Clearly, irony escapes the man.

But his remarks underscore another reality, beyond the fact that his support for the police is opportunistic at best, and it is this: In societies that prize grotesque imbalance, you will reap grotesque resistance and violent expressions. And when you add stressors like a pandemic and surging inflation, the problem will only get worse.

Elizabeth Wellington of The Philadelphia Inquirer says that The Sesame Place staff needs are even simpler than DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) training; that staff needs basic couth and “home training.”

Real talk: DEI alone won’t solve this problem, because DEI doesn’t teach common decency and manners. A mean person, dressed up as a friendly Sesame Street monster, decided it was OK to behave nastily toward two Black children. Instead of greeting the little girls with outstretched arms — or at the very least offering them high fives — this cretin, disguised as a muppet, shooed them away after giving other children — white children — mad love. And more videos have surfaced of Black children being ignored by Sesame Place characters, demonstrating a pattern of mistreatment. [...]

Let’s be clear: This column isn’t knocking the need for DEI training, so the people whining about being forced to acknowledge Black history as American history can cool their racist heels. Diversity, equity, and inclusion training in workplaces is meant to teach people how to recognize unconscious biases that result in them treating their Black colleagues like servants. DEI also helps institutions raise employees’ awareness of systemic racism that results in unequal housing, pay, education, transportation, and food access.

DEI training doesn’t, however, teach basic manners. It doesn’t instill kindness. It doesn’t cure a bitter heart. Call me crazy, but a person should not need DEI training to know they should treat Black children with the same compassion they treat white children. That’s the job of home training. Sesame Place needs to do a better job making sure they hire employees who have home training. DEI training helps employers spot racists and reject them because racists are not good people.

Aaron Bolton and Ellis Juhlin of Kaiser Health News report that increasing numbers of women may be opting for permanent sterilization in response to the Dobbs decision.

The uncertainty around abortion access in Montana and other states where abortion is now or could become illegal, plus the fear of future legal fights over long-term contraception, has seemingly spurred a rise in the number of people seeking surgical sterilization, according to reports from doctors. That includes Marietti, who is having a salpingectomy, a procedure in which the fallopian tubes are removed instead of tied, as in tubal ligation, which can be reversible.

How many people sought permanent sterilization after the fall of Roe won’t become clear until next year, said Megan Kavanaugh, a researcher for the Guttmacher Institute, which gathers data related to reproductive health care across the U.S. and supports abortion rights.

But anecdotal reports indicate that more people have been undergoing permanent birth control procedures since the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which struck down Roe. Dr. Kavita Arora, who chairs the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ ethics committee, said providers across the country are beginning to see an influx of patients into their operating rooms.

Eric Kutscher and Lala Tomnoy Das write for the Los Angeles Times that discrimination in the medical and public health systems against LGBTQ individuals is key to ending the monkeypox outbreak.

It’s no accident that this virus receiving a weak public health response is one that mostly affects men who have sex with men, many of whom self-identify as gay, bisexual and transgender. In fact, WHO advisers declined to declare a monkeypox emergency in June in part because the disease has not moved out of this primary risk group. With cases rising, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus overruled advisers to make the declaration.

To be clear, nothing about LGBTQ individuals makes them more biologically susceptible to monkeypox. The current outbreak is primarily transmitting via close physical and sexual contact, though it can also spread through respiratory secretions and touching infected materials (such as clothing and linens). The reason this virus continues unchecked among men who have sex with men is that public health authorities have been slow to treat the risk to these individuals as an emergency.

To end monkeypox, we must confront the discrimination in the medical and public health systems that has enabled this preventable crisis. Clearly, having a vaccine for monkeypox is not enough in the face of homophobia that hampers public health response. And the steps it will take to end monkeypox will also enhance access to the comprehensive and patient-centered primary care that largely does not reach LGBTQ individuals.

I’ve heard that song before.

Aydali Campa of InsideClimateNews writes that a number of west side residents in Atlanta fear that an EPA investigation of high levels of lead in the area may lead eventually to gentrification.

In 2018, a graduate student found high levels of lead, a powerful neurotoxin, in a few urban gardens across the west side of Atlanta and alerted the Environmental Protection Agency. Since 2019, the EPA has been testing soil in the study area, but mistrust from residents has slowed that process. Many who live in the two historically Black neighborhoods in the study area view the federal government’s efforts with a jaundiced eye. They suspect the remediation is part of an effort to help gentrification flourish by pushing them off the now-valuable land where Black Atlantans have lived with toxins for a long time.

So far, the agency has been cleaning the site under its emergency response program for short-term cleanups, but the projects under this program have time and funding limits. In March of this year, the EPA added the site that spans 627 acres to the Superfund National Priorities List, making it eligible to receive federal funding for the investigation and long-term cleanup. As a Superfund site, the EPA will oversee remediation and evaluate public health and environmental risk associated with the contamination. Under the current scope, EPA officials say the cleanup will take about four more years, and the site will likely grow by as many as hundreds more properties. They estimate the entire cost of the remediation to be upwards of $49 million.

It will take testing of residents’ soil and blood to understand the extent of the contamination and its harm to residents’ health. Despite not doubting that their homes could be polluted with lead, some residents say that the community’s history of racism and displacement makes them wary of allowing the government into their homes to confirm it.

An eight-reporter team for Der Spiegel writes about the end of globalization (!) and what that means for Germany.

These days, even stoic government leaders seem overwhelmed by the barrage of world crises, tremendous upheavals and changing times. The global financial crisis, the refugee crisis, Brexit, the climate collapse, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have all happened in succession. It's more than enough to make a person dizzy. And yet, all this now simply feels like a preview for the massive change that is only now starting to role in: The age of globalization is coming to an end.[...]

Globalization has never been a purely economic phenomenon. For three decades, it was the defining world order, the guiding principle informing all political decisions. It determined how and where we work and how well we live and even who is a friend and who is a foe.

Linked to this was a clear vision of the further development of humanity: that the world would become ever more prosperous, and thus necessarily ever more modern, ever more liberal, ever more democratic. And that it would constantly become more Western. That economic ties would also create common values. And, more importantly: peace – at least more than ever before.

But all of these supposed certainties have just been steamrolled by Putin's tanks. These days, everybody who is anybody is proclaiming the death of globalization.

Finally today, Andrew Downie of the Guardian writes about the outrage among a group of Brazilian senators because a prosecutor dropped five criminal charges against Brazilian President Jair Bolosonaro related to his mismanagement of COVID.

A congressional inquiry into Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic ended last October with recommendations that the president face a range of charges, but a senior prosecutor, Lindôra Araujo, shelved five of the nine charges, leading senior lawmakers to request her conduct be examined.

Seven senators also asked the supreme court to ignore her decision as they promised not to let Bolsonaro and his supporters off the hook. “Those who want to halt the investigations into those crimes under investigation by the Covid CPI will not be allowed to rest,” said Humberto Costa, one of the seven senators.

The chief prosecutor’s office said evidence initially presented to the Covid inquiry “did not contain the proper individual proofs” required to meet the legal criteria for criminal charges. It also said relevant documents were missing and that evidence to connect the alleged crimes was lacking.

It called Araujo’s ruling strictly “legal”, while classing last year’s Covid inquiry as “political”.

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Writing down a criminal conspiracy isn’t just good television

NY Times:

‘Kind of Wild/Creative’: Emails Shed Light on Trump Fake Electors Plan

Previously undisclosed communications among Trump campaign aides and outside advisers provide new insight into their efforts to overturn the election in the weeks leading to Jan. 6

In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussions repeatedly used the word “fake” to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Mr. Trump’s allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny.

WaPo:

Justice Dept. investigating Trump’s actions in Jan. 6 criminal probe

People familiar with the probe said investigators are examining the former president’s conversations and have seized phone records of top aides

The Justice Department is investigating President Donald Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors who are questioning witnesses before a grand jury — including two top aides to Vice President Mike Pence — have asked in recent days about conversations with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle who sought to substitute Trump allies for certified electors from some states Joe Biden won, according to two people familiar with the matter. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

This confirms what we’ve seen so far during the January 6th Committee hearings—the dishonest lawyers advising Trump (Clark, Eastman, Giuliani, etc) have significant liability and could be charged with straightforward crimes by DOJ. https://t.co/NzeFw8msnk

— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) July 25, 2022

FiveThirtyEight:

Why Democrats' Midterm Chances Don't Hinge On Biden's Approval Rating

On one hand, President Biden is historically unpopular: As of July 25 at 5 p.m. Eastern, he had an average approval rating of 38 percent and an average disapproval rating of 57 percent — a net approval rating of -19 percentage points. You have to go back to Harry Truman to find a president with a net approval rating that bad at this point in his term.

On the other, generic-congressional-ballot polls are pretty close. As of the same date and time, Republicans had an average lead of 1 point.

Those two numbers feel difficult to reconcile. Biden’s approval rating suggests that the national mood is extremely poor for Democrats, while the generic-ballot polling suggests that the political environment is only slightly Republican-leaning. But in reality, these two types of polls aren’t in opposition as much as you might think. They’re separate metrics, and a look back at past midterm elections shows they don’t always line up. But history also shows that when they do diverge, one is more predictive than the other.

First, it’s kind of an obvious point, but presidential-approval polls and generic-ballot polls are measuring two different things. 

The Uvalde school board is formally urging Gov. Greg Abbott to call state lawmakers back to Austin so they can raise the legal age to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21 https://t.co/xEsh9VgihK

— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) July 26, 2022

Washington Examiner:

Republicans blame drop in online GOP grassroots fundraising on inflation and Trump

“As the economy eats away at purchasing power, something has to go by the wayside,” said Zac Moffatt, CEO of Targeted Victory, a Republican consulting firm that specializes in digital fundraising and strategy. Targeted Victory maintains a house file of online donors. The firm discovered through periodic polling that these grassroots Republicans have reduced discretionary budgets for political giving in response to inflation that accelerated to 9.1% in June.

“We do these massive 3,000-person surveys to our donor file,” Moffatt explained. “The verbatim [responses have been:] It’s gas or this donation; it’s vacation with our children or this donation.” Republican insiders interviewed for this story were more guarded when discussing the Trump factor in the second-quarter fundraising downturn experienced by so many GOP candidates and groups, fearing reprisals by the former president. Granted anonymity, they unloaded.

Jennifer Rubin/WaPo:

It’s no wonder right-wing justices didn’t weigh Dobbs’s awful impact on women

With so many disturbing aspects of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade — the shoddy history, the contempt for stare decisis, etc. — it is easy to forget that one of the most heinous came from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

During oral arguments, Julie Rikelman, counsel for Jackson’s Women Health, had the temerity to spell out the ramifications that bans would have on the health and future of women denied an abortion. Roberts cut her off and plunged ahead in his search for justification for a 15-week limit on the procedure.

Do people still think this is an open question? Yes, Republicans will shut out the press in 2024. Virtually the entire presidential primary will be conducted through the right-wing press. Mainstream press will get access only to be used as punching bags. https://t.co/WeM6yulk6m

— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) July 26, 2022

Sarah Posner/TNR:

How Did Maryland Republicans Nominate Two Extremist Screwballs for Statewide Office?

The gubernatorial nominee was at the Capitol on January 6. The attorney general pick says public schools belong to Hitler. What is going on?

Last Tuesday, Republican primary voters in Maryland picked two radical extremists as their nominees in November’s race for governor and attorney general. In electing Dan Cox as their gubernatorial candidate and Michael Peroutka as their nominee for attorney general, Maryland Republicans showed not just that they prefer the Trumpier brand of the GOP. They showed that a long campaign by radical right theocrats to take over the party has borne more fruit in the age of Trump than ever before, coalescing in a toxic merger of white Christian nationalism and the stolen election lie.

Peter Wehner/NY Times:

What in the World Happened to Elise Stefanik?

There was a time in 2016 when Elise Stefanik, now the third-ranking Republican in the House, was so disgusted by Donald Trump, she would barely mention his name. Today he proudly refers to her as “one of my killers.”

She proved that again last month. In an effort to undermine confidence in the select committee investigating the violent assault on the Capitol, Ms. Stefanik said, “This is not a serious investigation. This is a partisan political witch hunt.” The committee, she said, is “illegitimate.” The hearings did not change her mind. In mid-July, before the final session planned for the summer, she referred to the committee as a “sham” and declared that “it is way worse than the impeachment witch hunt parts one and two.”

Maybe Ms. Stefanik was continuing to discredit the House committee because the evidence it has produced from Trump insiders — and the compelling way the evidence has been presented — has inflicted staggering damage on Mr. Trump, even though it might not prevent him from winning the Republican presidential nomination for a third straight time. Ms. Stefanik has failed in her efforts to sabotage the committee, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Doug Mastriano consultant and Gab CEO Andrew Torba has reaffirmed he doesn't want right-wing Jewish commentators like Ben Shapiro and Dave Rubin in his movement unless they “repent” and renounce their Jewish faith. https://t.co/R8Y4Gye3ll

— Eric Hananoki (@ehananoki) July 22, 2022

David Rothkopf/Daily Beast:

What Comes Next After Biden’s Foreign Policy Marathon

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan talks about Biden’s recent Middle East trip and the challenges that lie ahead

“You’d be hard-pressed to find another president operating at this pace—and all this in an election year,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. “When you think of the stakes involved with China, Russia, Ukraine, NATO expansion, ensuring affordable energy and food supplies, Israel’s integration with the region, shoring up security partnerships, and major issues of geopolitics—to do all those things in nine weeks and to see how much better off the U.S. is at the end of it whether in terms of short-term or long-term trends, it is hard to argue, especially for anyone who has watched him in action, that he has slowed down or been hindered by domestic politics.”

.@CNN Poll Do you think that Trump's public statements leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol encouraged political violence? % Yes/No Voters 60/40 Dem 94/6 GOP 20/79 Ind 66/34 Lib 91/9 Mod 71/29 Con 21/79 White,College 60/40 White,No degree 44/55https://t.co/TKRrcIydFd

— Aron Goldman (@ArgoJournal) July 26, 2022

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Defending democracy

We begin today with the Editorial Board of the Boston Globe saying that the nation’s lawmakers don’t have to wait for history (or the Justice Department) to do something about the jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The intended audiences for the Jan. 6 hearings have been clear from the start. The first is American voters, who can finally put an end to Trump’s political career by leaving him behind if he ever runs again. The second audience is much smaller. The House committee can’t hold anyone legally accountable for any crimes they committed, and so the case they made in public added pressure on those who can — officials at the Department of Justice. On multiple occasions, this editorial board has argued that Trump and his cronies who partook in his scheme to usurp American democracy must be put on trial because allowing them to go unpunished would send a dangerous message to future administrations that they can get away with anything.

But there’s a third audience that should be paying close attention to what has come out of the Jan. 6 committee, and that is the people who work in the very chambers where the hearings have been held. So far, Congress has not reinforced a single guardrail, let alone install any new ones, to protect Americans from a repeat of the Trump years. They are trying, as Lincoln might have put it, to escape history. 

Brian Klaas of The Atlantic gives a diagnosis that American democracy is dying.

I’ve spent the past 12 years studying the breakdown of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, in places such as Thailand, Tunisia, Belarus, and Zambia. I’ve shaken hands with many of the world’s democracy killers.

My studies and experiences have taught me that democracies can die in many ways. In the past, most ended in a quick death. Assassinations can snuff out democracy in a split second, coups in an hour or two, and revolutions in a day. But in the 21st century, most democracies die like a chronic but terminal patient. The system weakens as the disease spreads. The agony persists over years. Early intervention increases the rate of survival, but the longer the disease festers, the more that miracles become the only hope.

American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we’re choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office.

Jonathan Swan of Axios presents another installment for Axios’ “Inside Trump 25” series, the horrific look at what’s being planned in the event of a second Trump Administration,

Kash Patel, who is set to play an influential role in a second Trump administration, has described a new approach to ensure Trump does not repeat these mistakes.

"Everybody that gave us the [Attorney General] Bill Barrs of the world, that gave us [FBI director] Chris Wray, that gave us [former Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein, that gave us [former CIA director] Gina Haspel ... everybody that said 'these are Trump people' should be put on the list and we're never going to listen to them ever again," Patel said on a conservative podcast, "The Lee Smith Show," in April.

"That's Step 1," Patel said. "Step 2, you listen to guys that have proven themselves to be, I don't want to say loyal to the president but loyal to the democratic process. ... You need guys like [Trump loyalist and former director of national intelligence] Johnny Ratcliffe, Ric Grenell, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, [Rep. Matt] Gaetz … you need folks like that."

Jim Jordan told Axios he thinks it likely Trump will bring back some of the final team who ran the Department of Homeland Security — such as Tom Homan, Mark Morgan and Chad Wolf — "because that was an agency that cleaned it up, did it right, secured the border."

Heather Cox Richardson writes for her Letters to an American blog about the efforts of President Joe Biden to defend democracies worldwide.

When he took office, Democratic president Joe Biden recognized that his role in this moment was to prove that democracy is still a viable form of government.  

Rising autocrats have declared democracy obsolete. They argue that popular government is too slow to respond to the rapid pace of the modern world, or that liberal democracy’s focus on individual rights undermines the traditional values that hold societies together, values like religion and ethnic or racial similarities. Hungarian president Viktor Orbán, whom the radical right supports so enthusiastically that he is speaking on August 4 in Texas at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), has called for replacing liberal democracy with “illiberal democracy” or “Christian democracy,” which will explicitly not treat everyone equally and will rest power in a single political party.  

Biden has defended democracy across the globe, accomplishing more in foreign diplomacy than any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Less than a year after the former president threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken pulled together the NATO countries, as well as allies around the world, to stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The new strength of NATO prompted Sweden and Finland to join the organization, and earlier this month, NATO ambassadors signed protocols for their admission. This is the most significant expansion of NATO in 30 years.  

That strength helped to hammer out a deal between Russia and Ukraine with Turkey and the United Nations yesterday to enable Ukraine to export 22 million tons of grain and Russia to export grain and fertilizer to developing countries that were facing famine because of Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports. An advisor to the Ukrainian government called the agreement “a major win for Ukraine.” When a Russian attack on the Ukrainian port of Odesa today put that agreement under threat, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bridget A. Brink called the attack “outrageous.”

Jon Allsop of Columbia Journalism Review evaluates the first “season” of the Jan. 6 Committee hearings.

Still, with the committee’s scheduled run now over, it’s worth reflecting on how it succeeded, not only substantively but also at what amounted, effectively, to an exercise in media production. In terms of format, any future hearings will be unlikely to deviate too much from what we’ve seen so far—indeed, the format has remained disciplined and consistent since the committee aired its first televised hearing, also in prime time, last month. As I wrote then, it’s a format that has innovated without being totally revolutionary, which I mean in a positive sense; each individual hearing has dispensed with the worst aspects of the genre—partisan mudslinging, preposterous grandstanding, a bloated running time—while retaining others, remaining recognizable as a Congressional hearing and thus retaining a basic aesthetic of institutional gravitas. (Not everyone will welcome this, but it makes sense for the committee given that its work is aimed at preserving institutions.) And the hearings arguably have been revolutionary when taken as a whole—radically reshaping the idea of what a long-running Congressional probe can look like.

I likened the first prime-time hearing to a long-form magazine article, in the sense that it synthesized things that were, for the most part, already public knowledge in a way that added fresh perspective and emotional depth. Since then, it’s been more common for media critics to compare the hearings to a prestige TV miniseries. Last night, that metaphor kicked into overdrive, with talk of a “finale” hearing and a possible “second-season pickup” (a reference to the prospect of future hearings). The structure of the final hearing, in fairness, invited such comparisons. It even featured a final-episode blooper reel of Trump struggling through a video message to supporters after January 6—though of course, what he said was scary, not funny.[...]

As I (and others) have written before, none of this is a bad thing, even though talking about deadly serious events through the prism of television techniques instinctively sounds trivial; as James Poniewozik, the Times’s great TV critic, put it after the committee’s first hearing, “storytelling is a tool for engagement, not just distraction.” Ultimately, that’s what the committee has done these past few weeks: tell a story. What matters above all, in real-life storytelling, is that the story is true—and this one demonstrably has been. As I see it, the committee has laid down a blueprint for how Congress might rethink future hearings and investigations to better engage the public on all manner of questions of public concern. It has also shown that TV can still be a useful vehicle for that type of engagement. “Many analysts have downplayed its importance with the rise of the Internet and social media,” CNN’s David Zurawik noted last night. “But these hearings have shown the enduring political and cultural power of the medium.” (Not that this is an either/or question: the committee has proven adept at viral clip-making, too.)

Natalia Contreras of the Texas Tribune reports that a group of conservative volunteers have begun examining the votes of the 2020 election in Tarrant County, TX.

Volunteers with the group, the Tarrant County Citizens for Election Integrity, told Votebeat Friday that their goal is to ensure the results of the election were accurate. Members are specifically counting votes in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, in which Sen. John Cornyn won with 73% of the vote in Tarrant County over his closest challenger, who won 13% of the county’s votes. The group also alleges a range of fraudulent activities related to the 2020 November general election in Tarrant and other counties across the state but has offered no evidence to support the allegations.

“We’re not here as Republicans or Democrats,” said John Raymond, a volunteer with the group. “A lot of people don’t have faith in our elections, so we’re just here counting, making sure that what the secretary of state’s numbers say are right.”

“There's nothing wrong with the election,” Tarrant County Election Administrator Heider Garcia said. “But the ballots are now public and it's their right [to inspect them], and we will do everything that we have to do to make sure they can exercise their right to inspect public records.”

The group’s tallying of ballots — spurred by unsupported claims of voter fraud and of flawed election audits in Texas — began more than a week ago. In contrast with high-profile reviews of ballots elsewhere in the country, such as the 2021 review ordered in Maricopa County by the Arizona state Senate, the Tarrant ballot inspection has until now attracted almost no notice. In fact, even the secretary of state’s office said it had previously been unaware of Citizens for Election Integrity’s ballot review. But it’s unlikely to be the last such effort.

The examination of ballots in Tarrant County might have something to do with the fact that Joe Biden was the first Democrat to win Tarrant County in a presidential election since Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Katy Swordfisk writes for Phys.org about a study that shows that overconfidence bolsters anti-scientific views.

"Our research suggests that there may be a problem of overconfidence getting in the way of learning, because if people think they know a lot, they have minimal motivation to learn more," Light said. "People with more extreme anti-scientific attitudes might first need to learn about their relative ignorance on the issues before being taught specifics of established scientific knowledge."

The paper examined attitudes about eight issues with scientific consensus on which anti-consensus views persist: climate change, nuclear power, genetically modified foods, the big bang, evolution, vaccination, homeopathic medicine and COVID-19. Light said they found that in general, as people's attitudes on an issue get further from scientific consensus, their assessments of their own knowledge of that issue increases, but their actual knowledge decreases. Take COVID-19 vaccines, for example. The less an individual agrees with the COVID-19 vaccine, the more they believe they know about it, but their factual knowledge is more likely to be lower.

"Essentially, the people who are most extreme in their opposition to the consensus are the most overconfident in their knowledge," Light said. "Our findings suggest that this pattern is fairly general. However, we did not find them for climate change, evolution, or the big bang theory."

The degree to which attitudes on an issue are tied up with political or religious identities could affect whether this pattern exists for that issue, Light added.

Helen Branswell of STATnews reports on the World Health Organization declaring monkeypox a worldwide public health emergency.

In an unusual move, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the declaration even though a committee of experts he had convened to study the issue did not advise him to do so, having failed to reach a consensus. The same committee met just one month ago and declined to declare a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC.

Though the committee does not formally vote, a survey of the members revealed that nine thought a PHEIC should not be declared and six supported a declaration. When the group met in June, the breakdown was 11 against and three for. [...]

Monkeypox is endemic only in about a dozen countries in Central and Western Africa. But in May, public health officials in London reported six cases in people who had not traveled to endemic countries. Four of the six were in men who have sex with men.

The number of cases internationally has ballooned in the ensuing weeks, now reaching more than 16,000 in over 75 countries throughout Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, new parts of Africa, South Asia, and Australia. The United States has recorded nearly 2,900 cases.

The recent outbreaks of monkeypox, polio and Marburg show why we better learn the lessons of Covid. Unless we make significant investments in global health and strengthen systems to quickly find and stop new disease threats, we and our children will face the consequences.

— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) July 23, 2022

Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, writing for Der Spiegel, were the two journalists that were first contacted by a whistleblower about the Panama Papers story. Here, the journalists conduct the first-ever interview with the still anonymous whistleblower.

DER SPIEGEL: Tax havens seem to be of crucial importance for strongmen in autocratic regimes.

Doe: Putin is more of a threat to the United States than Hitler ever was, and shell companies are his best friend. Shell companies funding the Russian military are what kill innocent civilians in Ukraine as Putin's missiles target shopping centers. Shell companies masking Chinese conglomerates are what kill underage cobalt miners in the Congo. Shell companies make these horrors and more possible by removing accountability from society. But without accountability, society cannot function. [...]

DER SPIEGEL: Do you fear Russia might seek revenge?

Doe: It's a risk that I live with, given that the Russian government has expressed the fact that it wants me dead. Before Russia Today's media presence was curtailed due to Russia's attack against Ukraine, it aired a two-part Panama Papers docudrama featuring a "John Doe" character who suffered a torture-induced head injury during the opening credits, after which a cartoon boat sailed through the pool of his blood, as though it were the Panama Canal. However bizarre and tacky, it was not subtle. We have seen others with connections to offshore accounts and tax justice resort to murder, as with the tragedies involving Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak. Their deaths affected me deeply, and I call upon the European Union to deliver justice for Daphne and Ján and their families. And to deliver rule of law in Malta, one of Mossack Fonseca's former jurisdictions.

Vince Chadwick of Devex has an exclusive that an internal EU document shows that the European Union is recalibrating their diplomatic approach to the African continent over the war in Ukraine.

On the one hand, the report calls for “understanding and empathy for African challenges, and willingness to help find concrete solutions.”

But it also underlines that Europe is “the main indirect victim of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war of aggression,” citing “dramatic consequences in all aspects (security, economic, financial, social, migration - 7 million refugees, unemployment).” And it opens the possibility of calibrating foreign aid from Europe according to Africa’s stance.

“Becoming more transactional in our approach, we should be clear about the fact that the willingness of Europeans (governments and taxpayers) to maintain higher levels of financial engagement in African countries will depend on working based on common values and a joint vision,” the report reads.

Despite billions of euros pledged to Ukraine, EU officials have so far said publicly that African countries will get the same amount of development assistance from the EU institutions as that initially agreed in their 2021-2027 country plans. However, the latest report points out that “it is clear that the longer the war will last, the less resources there will be.”

This will also impact on #globalhealth - losing Africa over Ukraine #geopolitics https://t.co/hzk6mHERNq

— Ilona Kickbusch (@IlonaKickbusch) July 23, 2022

Joseph Steib of War on the Rocks details the failure of interventionist narratives and practices in the Global War on Terror and its effects on U.S. policy in Ukraine.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, neoconservative and liberal narratives built bipartisan support for a highly interventionist response. Despite their differences, these narratives converged in concluding that the solution to terrorism was transforming the countries from which it emerged, specifically through the application of U.S. military power in the Middle East. But when the war in Iraq turned into a violent quagmire, anti-interventionist critics from the nationalist right and progressive left got a new hearing for their ideas. Both sets of critics rejected the idea of transforming foreign societies, and were more skeptical of military intervention in general.

Indeed, the larger crisis of the U.S. political establishment is linked to the failure of the interventionist visions of the Global War on Terror. Support for the Iraq War became a political liability, as figures like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush discovered in the 2016 primaries. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both gained political momentum from their once-marginal critiques of an elite that had misconceived and misled the response to terrorism while neglecting domestic problems. Former interventionist intellectuals now focus on defending liberal democracy against assaults from within and without rather than on efforts to democratize the world.

In short, the constituency for post-9/11 dreams of global transformation has collapsed. In response, the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations have all sought to limit U.S. interventions. Now, as President Biden seeks to rally political support for his policy in Ukraine, it remains to be seen just how much the Global War on Terror and its backlash have transformed debates over U.S. foreign policy.

The independent Russian media agency Meduza received the permission of St. Petersburg media outlet Bemuga to publish the inspirational story of an opposition politician in St. Petersburg who came out as gay last month.

On June 24, in an interview with the LGBT+ health website Parni Plus (“Guys Plus”), Troshin came out as gay. While some may see his timing as imprudent— after all, the Russian government is currently both waging a war of aggression against Ukraine and preparing legislation that would further demonize LGBT+ people — Troshin saw coming out as both an important move towards a more progressive Russia and an important step in his personal journey.

“No matter what time you choose, there will always be someone who says it’s the wrong time,” Troshin said. “[But] all coming-out announcements, especially those of public figures, help to reduce homophobia and move society closer to living up to European values. The government is trying to lead the country in a completely different direction right now, of course, but I’m confident that progress can’t be stopped.” [...]
There’s no question that LGBT+ people have become a scapegoat for the Russian government as it seeks to justify increasingly illiberal policies as necessary measures against an attack on “traditional values” from the West. Troshin recognizes that while still maintaining his belief that equality will prevail in Russia. “I don’t think you can stop progress,” he said. “And that means that the LGBT rights situation will inevitably improve. I’m confident that it won’t be long before there are gay parades on Nevsky Prospekt and rainbow flags on government buildings, including Smolny, on pride week.”

Finally today, Michelle Young of The Wilson Quarterly writes about the efforts to preserve Ukraine’s artwork and cultural heritage.

In Lyiv, local volunteers worked rapidly to protect historical monuments in the old town, one of seven UNESCO World Heritage sites in Ukraine. The effort, according to Lilia Onyshchenko, who serves as the head of historical preservation for the city and spoke to the Los Angeles Times, involved using “whatever materials they could find—ideally fireproof.” She told them, “They built scaffolding around iconic structures, hoisted cranes to affix plywood to protect delicate stained-glass windows, stowed away gold-lacquered panels from the churches in basements and hallways and cached foam-wrapped artwork in bunkers.”

Marc Young, an experienced disaster relief operator, who assisted in bringing in vehicles for rescue efforts in Ukraine says, "Almost all cultural heritage sites, churches, and government buildings had some level of protection initially. Obviously it took some time after the bombing started to fortify them [with] sandbagging around foundations and boarding or corrugated metal covering of windows. This lasted for a short term at some sites in the West and Kyiv, as some had been removed during my three months. The 'protection' for the most part would have been from incidental contact. In my opinion a missile strike in close proximity would have rendered most of the efforts worthless. In Bucha and Irpin I did see indiscriminate damage that included churches and sites of historical importance."

Cities in eastern Ukraine did not have as much time as the ones further west. Kyiv and Kharkiv were hard hit, and artworks there could not be moved in time. The Washington Post reported that “the windows of Kharkiv’s main art museum have been blown out, subjecting the 25,000 artworks inside to freezing temperatures and snow for weeks. . . . Twenty-five works by one of Ukraine’s most celebrated painters, Maria Prymachenko, famed for her colorful representation of Ukrainian folklore and rural life, were burned when Russians bombed the museum housing them in a town outside Kyiv. Other museums in the capital are boarded up, their works still inside because those who would have evacuated them have fled.”

Have a good day, everyone!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: What to do about Donald Trump

Ian Bassin and Erica Newland/NYRB:

The Attorney General’s Choice

Merrick Garland’s job in weighing a Trump indictment is not to heal the nation.

The Founders also grasped the difference between the normal judgments delegated to prosecutors and questions that should be left to presidents in moments of national crisis. Arguing in favor of the pardon power to the people of New York during the ratification debates, Alexander Hamilton suggested that “in seasons of insurrection or rebellion, there are often critical moments, when a well timed offer of pardon to the insurgents or rebels may restore the tranquility of the commonwealth.” This is precisely the consideration many are now asking Merrick Garland to take into account. But the Founders deliberately gave this power to the president alone, and courts have repeatedly held that it cannot be delegated.

The point is that Merrick Garland doesn’t have to decide whether prosecution is for the good of the nation, or that the nation should be spared. That’s a president’s job (see Gerald Ford). 

If there’s a reason to prosecute, prosecute.

Michelle Cottle/NY Times:

The Good, the Bad and the Chicken on Jan. 6

Among the most uplifting takeaways has been Liz Cheney’s display of public service. Yes, ideologically speaking, she is a Democrat’s nightmare, an in-your-face conservative who would ordinarily make for great fund-raising fodder. But when it comes to fighting for democracy, personal costs be damned, she has gone all in on the principle that protecting America from all enemies — be they foreign or Floridian — should trump political and policy disagreements. “I believe this is the most important thing I’ve ever done professionally,” she recently told my colleague Peter Baker, “and maybe the most important thing I ever do.” Fact check: True.

At the other end of the patriotic spectrum crouches Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff. From the accounts of his actions (or lack thereof) leading up to and including Jan. 6 — not to mention his ongoing silence — we have learned so much about what cynical, amoral, craven, butt-smooching venality looks like. One suspects that somewhere in Mr. Meadows’s attic hangs a portrait of him, his painted visage steadily rotting away.

Is the "red wave" ebbing? Probably not much. But as Dems show more signs of life and Rs nominate several problematic candidates, we're downgrading our @CookPolitical House outlook from a GOP gain of 20-35 seats to 15-30 seats. Full analysis: https://t.co/LozihjYbQz

— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) July 22, 2022

Keep it going. The trends are in our favor.

NY Times:

The Jan. 6 Hearings Did a Great Service, by Making Great TV

Investigating a threat to democracy was always going to be important. But this time, it also managed to be buzzworthy.

These hearings, in an era of social-media cacophony, cable-news argument and fixed political camps, were never likely to build to a cinematic climax that would unite the public in outrage. Yet by the standards of today, they have achieved some remarkable things.

They drew an audience for public-affairs TV in the dead of summer. They reportedly prompted further witnesses to come forward. Polling suggests they even moved opinion on Mr. Trump and Jan. 6 among Republicans and independents. They created riveting — and dare I say, watchable — water cooler TV that legitimately mattered.

And make no mistake: The hearings, produced by James Goldston, the former president of ABC News, succeeded not just through good intentions but also by being well-made, well-promoted TV. They may have been a most unusual eight-episode summer series (with more promised in September). But they had elements in common with any good drama.

I have been warning about this for two years. Congress has known all along. But congressional leaders have not closed the statutory loophole that makes this possible. What’s needed is a straightforward technical fix. But heaven forbid they legislate. https://t.co/lpqoIkYeSk

— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) July 22, 2022

Paul Waldman/WaPo:

The most dangerous threat to America? White male entitlement.

As witness after witness testified to the Jan. 6 House select committee Thursday about Donald Trump’s deranged and possibly illegal plot to cling to power, it was impossible to ignore his sense of entitlement. What was this system for, if not to give him whatever he wanted? And if it wouldn’t, he would tear it down.

That’s not just his story; it’s also the story of those who stormed the Capitol on his behalf. And it’s increasingly the story of the Republican Party. In our ongoing debate about what the Constitution means and whether we should have a genuine democracy, it is the people who have been given the most advantages who are most willing, even eager, to destroy the American system.

This is about much more than Jan. 6, 2021(...)

Only 8 of the 213 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives support an individual right to contraceptives. Think about that.

— Lucy Caldwell (@lucymcaldwell) July 21, 2022

EJ Dionne/WaPo:

 Finally, the dam is breaking against Trump

During Thursday’s prime-time session, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) summed up the explosive impact of this summer’s hearings by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

“The dam,” she declared, “has begun to break.”

Cheney, the committee’s vice chair, was speaking largely of new investigative opportunities that a parade of witnesses has opened into President Donald Trump’s illicit effort to maintain power. But her statement had much broader implications.

The Jan. 6 committee has fundamentally altered public perceptions of Trump’s role in the violence at the Capitol.

Yesterday prominent GOP polling firm @EchelonInsights found Ds leading by between 4-7 pts. Today highly influential in GOP circles @USChamber released a poll showing Ds up 46-41. Questions about whether McConnell and McCarthy are blowing the election going to start flying now. https://t.co/i2rOY9dNx3

— Simon Rosenberg (@SimonWDC) July 21, 2022

Leonard Pitts, Jr/Miami Herald:

You’ve been too quiet, Merrick Garland. Show us you will vigorously defend democracy

Dear Attorney General Merrick Garland:

In a press conference Wednesday, you seemed fed up with carping about the perceived timidity and inertia of your department and you. “A central tenet of the rule of law,” you said, “is that we do not do our investigations in public.” You added that, “We have to hold accountable every person who is criminally responsible for trying to overturn a legitimate election ... in a way filled with integrity and professionalism.” In other words: Back off and let us do our jobs. Your pique is arguably understandable. But there is something here you may not be grasping.

People are impatient, yes. They demand accountability, yes. But the other factor at play is simply that it’s been a very tough time for the aforementioned rule of law. One is reminded of an old trope from Western movies: The angry mob descends on the jailhouse with torches and rope, ready to drag out some prisoner and do street justice. But the sheriff stands them off, tells them to leave the prisoner’s fate to the law. Clichéd as that scene is, it captures an important truth. Fealty to the rule of law is not a native instinct. To the contrary, the native instinct is to demand instant satisfaction if somebody has done you wrong. But the rule of law asks us to exchange torches and rope for a set of rules to be administered on our behalf by the government. Thus do human beings carve civil societies from wildernesses of social primitivism.

Truly remarkable numbers. In just under two years public approval of the US Supreme Court has fallen from 66% to 38%. Simply unprecedented in rapidity. This is what fatal loss of institutional legitimacy looks like. https://t.co/HJU0x0GtPp pic.twitter.com/PHWh8aw0k0

— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 20, 2022

The Bulwark:

Wisconsin Swing Voters Are Done With Trump and Biden—and Not Sold on DeSantis

Trump-to-Biden voters don't want the olds.

“Trump, I would have to agree, was great for our economy, but he was an embarrassment by the way he spoke, his tweets, his attitude,” commented Ginger, 62, from Sherwood. “He was not in control of his emotions, and I found that to be very embarrassing for the leader of our country. Biden is just so confused, and he’s almost like a puppet who is saying what somebody tells him to say. Anytime he speaks, he gets so confused. I think he needs to enjoy retirement.”

“I just don’t feel [Biden] is all there enough to keep going. He’s too old for [the presidency],” remarked Jamie, 36, from Green Bay.

Did 20 or so Senate Republicans acquit Donald Trump of treason during his second impeachment trial in order to cover up their role in a "congressional coup"? https://t.co/6c1dBAHfDa

— *The* Editorial Board (@johnastoehr) July 22, 2022

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Jan. 6 Committee Hearing wrap up

We start today with Ambassador P. Michael McKinley writing for Just Security that, at the very least, even the so-called “Team Normal” set of Donald Trump’s advisors should be held politically accountable for the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attempt to overthrow the U.S. government.

These senior officials with a public trust should not be treated as heroes or concerned citizens because they had reservations at the time about the efforts to overturn the election results and to select new state electors. They did not act – not on Jan. 6, not in the weeks before the insurrection, and not in the aftermath as the enormity of what had occurred sank in. Some, like former Attorney General William Barr, who authorized the Department of Justice to look into “vote tabulation irregularities” – over the objections of the head of the Election Crimes Branch who resigned instead – cooperated in the early stages of the attempt to discredit election results. They are being given an accountability pass.

Their actions may or may not be prosecutable, but political accountability should be about more than building court cases and establishing criminal liability. Not all situations lend themselves to such an outcome. The evidence trail in the Watergate and the Iran-Contra scandals did allow for convictions of political figures; the path forward has been less clear for the events of Jan. 6 but evidence is emerging that points in the same direction, and as the Department of Justice prosecutes hundreds of individuals involved in the assault on the Capitol.

Ambassador McKinley’s essay is especially — but fairly— harsh on former Vice President Mike Pence.

There was a very brief mention here of Andrew Weissman’s “hub and spoke conspiracy” essay in The New York Times by TheBradBlog. It deserves more eyes, so I am posting it here.

Before the hearings, federal agents and prosecutors were performing a classic “bottom up” criminal investigation of the Jan. 6 rioters, which means prosecuting the lowest-ranking members of a conspiracy, flipping people as it proceeds and following the evidence as high as it goes. It was what I did at the Justice Department for investigations of the Genovese and Colombo crime families, Enron and Volkswagen as well as for my part in the investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election led by the special counsel Robert Mueller.

But that is actually the wrong approach for investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. That approach sees the attack on the Capitol as a single event — an isolated riot, separate from other efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the election.

The hearings should inspire the Justice Department to rethink its approach: A myopic focus on the Jan. 6 riot is not the way to proceed if you are trying to follow the facts where they lead and to hold people “at any level” criminally accountable, as Attorney General Merrick Garland promised.

Bob Bauer and Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare note that the revelations of the Jan. 6 committee also show that Donald Trump and his lawyers lied their as*es off during the second impeachment trial.

These hearings show that Trump, through his lawyers, lied to Congress about the events of Jan. 6 in his second impeachment trial in denying that the then-president had meant to spark violence. In so doing, he undermined the constitutional process of impeachment—as well as the peaceful transition of power.

In determining whether to bring charges, prosecutors have to assess not merely the quality of the evidence against Trump but also the national interest in a prosecution of the former president. Trump’s lies in the impeachment process should properly figure into prosecutors’ deliberations on this point. After all, this was the constitutional proceeding by which he was supposed to be held accountable, and a conviction would have included a Senate judgment of his ineligibility to ever again seek office.  Corrupting the trial compounded the underlying conduct that prompted the impeachment by helping to sap the adjudication of its value—thus making prosecution arguably a more important mechanism for holding the president accountable.

What’s more, the hearings should prompt long overdue consideration of the processes by which Congress exercises its power to impeach and try presidents. Since 1974, it has been reluctant to conduct independent fact-finding. In the process affecting Bill Clinton, the House conducted virtually no independent factual inquiry, relying fatally on the independent counsel record compiled by Kenneth Starr. The Senate then did the minimum in the trial, conducting only three depositions. While the House conducted a substantial investigation in the first Trump impeachment trial, the Senate relied solely on House evidence and, though significant questions remained unanswered, passed on conducting any factual inquiry of its own.

Robin Givhan of The Washington Post reviews the testimony of the two witness at last Tuesday’s Jan. 6 committee hearing, Stephen Michael Ayers and Jason Van Tatenhove.

Ayres described himself as a “family man” who’d worked at a cabinet company in northeastern Ohio for 20 years. He’s a guy who speaks in short, gravelly voiced sentences, sometimes mere fragments. He’s a regular guy, whatever that might mean, who enjoys camping and playing basketball. He arrived at his place at the witness table because he was also a man who spent a great deal of time on social media absorbing the lies of former president Donald Trump about a stolen election. Ayres wasn’t part of a club or an organization when he went to Washington with his friends. He was a citizen borne forward on anger, patriotism and the assurance of like-minded pals that he was doing the right thing.[...]

Ayres has pleaded guilty to illegally entering the Capitol and awaits sentencing; he was turned in by family who saw him bragging about it on social media. He lost his job, Ayres said, and sold his home. “It changed my life — and definitely not for the good.”

He was dressed as though he was trying to disappear, as if he was trying to fade back into a guy that no one notices on the street. He was wearing a gray suit and a blue shirt and a narrow red plaid tie. His hair was clipped short and his glasses were modestly stylish. And when Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) asked him if he still believed the election was stolen, he sounded not so much like an evangelist preaching the gospel of truth but like a man who was just plain exhausted.

I will go into some more detail about the testimony and the “I’m sorry” of Steven Michael Ayers Friday night.

Eleanor Klibanoff of the Texas Tribune profiles Linda Coffee, one of the few remaining survivors involved in the 1973 SCOTUS case Roe v. Wade.

Nearly 50 years later, Coffee, now 79, is one of the only people involved in that legal battle who is still alive. Henry Wade, the Dallas district attorney named in the suit, died in 2001, and Norma McCorvey, the pregnant woman identified in the filings as Jane Roe, died in 2017. Weddington died just after Christmas last year.

So Coffee alone has borne the unique burden of watching the U.S. Supreme Court, and its new conservative majority, meticulously pick apart and summarily reject every argument she once used to establish the constitutional protection for abortion.

“It’s a bittersweet thing for me,” she said. “Because I’m glad I got to do what I did, but it bothers me, really, to see how it’s ending up.”

You may also want to read Linda Coffee’s May 4  essay in The New Republic.

Ms. Coffee is an inspiration in many, many ways. And remember, she’s from Texas and still lives in the Lonestar State.

Jerusalem Demsas of The Atlantic is skeptical that there will be a large-scale migration because of the Dobbs decision.

Since Dobbs, speculation about liberals abandoning anti-abortion states hamultiplied on social media. The neuroscientist Bryan William Jones was one of many liberals who declared his intention to leave a red state (in his case, Utah) for one that respects reproductive rights. Such vows aren’t limited to Twitter, however. In a recent Leger/Atlantic poll of 1,001 American adults, 14 percent of respondents said that the end of Roe had them reconsidering where they lived, including 25 percent of people who voted for Joe Biden. Notably, 24 percent of respondents said that the political climate had factored into a previous decision to move.

This would hardly be the first time that political upheaval led Americans to vote with their feet. Black Americans fled racist violence in the Jim Crow South during the Great Migration; intolerance led Mormons to Utah and LGBTQ Americans to havens such as San Francisco and New York City. Crossing national borders is a much larger hurdle, but in the decade after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, The Journal of Negro History notes, 15,000 to 20,000 Black Americans entered Canada. More than a century later, tens of thousands of draft dodgers also entered Canada to avoid conscription in the Vietnam War.

I’m skeptical that abortion will similarly scramble the American urban landscape, however.

Eliza Mackintosh of CNN writes about the continuing surge of Omicron subvariant BA.5 worldwide.

The newest offshoot of Omicron, along with a closely related variant, BA.4, are fueling a global surge in cases — 30% over the past fortnight, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

In Europe, the Omicron subvariants are powering a spike in cases of about 25%, though Dr. Michael Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, has said that number may actually be higher, given the “almost collapse in testing.” BA.5 is on the march in China, ratcheting anxieties that major cities there may soon re-enforce strict lockdown measures that were only recently lifted. And the same variant has become the dominant strain in the United States, where it accounted for 65% of new infections last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We have been watching this virus evolve rapidly. We’ve been planning and preparing for this moment. And the message that I want to get across to the American people is this: BA.5 is something we’re closely monitoring, and most importantly, we know how to manage it,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, in a news briefing on Tuesday.

13% jump in #monkeypox cases today in the US, with 41 states + Puerto Rico & the District of Columbia reporting 1053 #hMPXV cases. https://t.co/AIC5TTp5sH

— Helen Branswell 🇺🇦 (@HelenBranswell) July 14, 2022

 

Jon Allsop of Columbia Journalism Review says that in light of the recent U.S. visit of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and President Biden’s trip to the Middle East, the Biden Administration needs to step it up on “press-freedom issues.”

It’s not uncommon for US leaders to skirt press-freedom issues in choreographed encounters with foreign counterparts with questionable records in that area. But the state of threat facing Mexican journalists is hardly a faraway issue: two of the reporters killed so far this year died in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego; in the past, Mexican journalists killed close to the US border have covered it, or lived and worked on both sides of it. And, more broadly, press freedom is uncommonly front of mind in US foreign affairs right now. Last night, Biden took off for his first presidential trip to the Middle East, where he plans to visit Israel, the occupied West Bank, and Saudi Arabia. He plans to focus on regional stability—and oil. But, as a slew of headlines in various countries have noted in recent days, the trip risks being overshadowed by the killings of two journalists, in particular—one recent, the other dating to before Biden’s time in office, both of considerable relevance to his administration and the US.

Shireen Abu Akleh, a prominent journalist for Al Jazeera, was killed in May while reporting on an Israeli raid in the West Bank city of Jenin. She was a US citizen. After her death, eyewitness accounts and investigations by several major international news organizations and the United Nations concluded that she was shot by an Israeli soldier; CNN even suggested that she had been targeted...Over the July 4 holiday, the State Department said, in a 193-word statement, that officials had overseen an independent forensic analysis of the bullet that killed Abu Akleh, which Palestinian officials handed over after initially refusing to do so. That analysis was inconclusive because the bullet was damaged. The State Department said that it had also been granted “full access” to official Israeli and Palestinian investigations. It drew on those to conclude, in strikingly vague and passive language, that while “gunfire from IDF positions was likely responsible for the death of Shireen Abu Akleh,” US officials had “no reason to believe that this was intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances” during the Jenin raid.

Yesterday, four Democratic US senators, including Dick Durbin, the majority whip, wrote to Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, criticizing the State Department’s findings, arguing that they do not constitute the “independent, credible investigation” for which Blinken himself called, accusing the Biden administration of a lack of transparency, and laying out thirteen further questions. Meanwhile, various commentators demanded that Biden raise Abu Akleh’s killing on his visit to Israel. Abu Akleh’s family, for their part, wrote Biden a furious letter in which they characterized the US response as “abject” and demanded that Biden meet with them on his trip.

Chris Mason of BBC News reports on the latest in the race to become the next British Prime Minister.

The contest to be our next prime minister is being remoulded once again.

Jeremy Hunt - the man who finished second for the Conservative leadership behind Boris Johnson in 2019 - told me he's now backing Rishi Sunak.

And he hopes plenty of his supporters will too.

Mr Sunak is well out in front and the working assumption is he will get one of the two golden tickets into the run off - the vote of Conservative Party members.

But the fizz and chatter, for now at least, is about Penny Mordaunt, the runner up in round one.

If she were to win this race, she'd be the most little-known prime minister on assuming office of modern times.

The challenge for the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss today, as she launches her campaign, is to prove later on that she is competitive and can grab a slot in the final two.

Annabelle Dickson of POLITICO Europe reports that the race to become British Prime Minister has gotten lowdown and dirty.

Dirty dossiers, claims of backroom stitch-ups, explosively timed Whitehall leaks and bitter behind-the-scenes briefing wars are all adding up to what many observers judge has been the dirtiest Tory leadership contest of recent times.

Such is the rancor that former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt issued a stark warning shot to colleagues as he was eliminated from the race Wednesday night.

“A gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates: smears and attacks may bring short term tactical gain, but always backfire long term,” he tweeted. “The nation is watching, and they’ve had enough of our drama.”

Another failed candidate, Sajid Javid, condemned the “poisonous gossip” being circulated by rival camps. A third, Nadhim Zahawi, said last week he was “clearly being smeared.”

But the key players left in the game show little sign of listening.

Thisanka Siripalan of The Diplomat says that in the aftermath of the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, the ruling coalition in Japan’s upper house has expanded their majority.

The upper house election went ahead amid a record-breaking heatwave and fierce debate over national security, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a weak yen, and the rising cost of living. But it will also go down in history for its connection to Abe’s assassination in the final stages of election campaigning.

The election victory ushers in a fresh mandate for Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. It is his second consecutive victory in a national election after taking office in October last year. But his electoral success will also put his leadership to the test, as Japan faces a mountain of long-term domestic and international issues. [...]

There will be many shifts in the internal dynamics of the LDP, with Abe’s assassination leaving a gaping hole. As an elite and influential member of the LDP, Abe was a symbol of stability and experience.

Finally today, Buffalo native Ishmael Reed writes for The New York Review of Books ($$$) about the past and present of his hometown.

My mother and my stepfather arrived in Buffalo in 1941 from Chattanooga, Tennessee. By then my mother had survived tragedies that would have discouraged many others. Her father had been murdered by a white man in 1934. In his last moments at Chattanooga’s Erlanger Hospital, he told my mother, a teenager, that he heard the doctor say, “Let that nigger die.” When I received the death certificate, it noted that he had died of shock. She was left to tend to her mother, who suffered from schizophrenia. Then, in 1938, she was abandoned by my birth father. She was stabbed during a race riot on a Knoxville bus and received $3,000 in compensation only after her employer, a white woman, demanded it on her behalf.[...]

In her scathing study Power Failure: Politics, Patronage, and the Economic Future of Buffalo, New York (2006), Dillaway describes blunder after blunder wrought by the city’s white leadership, including the “Group of Eighteen” that emerged in the 1970s from the city’s new business elite. That group’s “master plan” for the city, she shows, failed to “include a plan for neighborhood development.” By the 1990s the Group of Eighteen had been replaced by more recent arrivals. Byron Brown, who came from Queens, was sworn in for the first of his four mayoral terms in 2006. In 2008 The Buffalo News reported that he was “refusing to comment on his Police Department’s decision to withhold basic crime information from the public.”

“The city’s racial divide left black professionals, entrepreneurs, and workers to fend for themselves,” Dillaway writes. “Politically, the African American community remained outside the patronage systems of the Italian, Irish, and Polish mayors. Other isolating factors included segregated schools and the inability to move into white neighborhoods.” In the 1960s, in one episode of unity, Blacks and whites joined in an effort to boost Buffalo’s economy by building the University at Buffalo’s promised second campus on the city’s downtown waterfront. In Dillaway’s account, an unnamed banker helped nix the project out of fear that the university would attract “New York radicals and people of color” to the city. The second campus was eventually built in the nearby town of Amherst. I don’t know whether this was the same banker next to whom I sat on a flight from New York to Buffalo; I was going to ask him how he had acquired one of the world’s finest modern art collections, but he downed a double vodka and went to sleep. It was 10 AM.

Have a good day, everyone.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Previews and reviews

We begin today with Hugo Lowell of the Guardian preview of the third hearing of the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

The panel will first examine the genesis of Trump’s pressure campaign on Pence to adopt an unconstitutional and unlawful plan to reject certified electors from certain states at the congressional certification in an attempt to give Trump a second presidential term.

The select committee then intends to show how that theory – advanced by external Trump legal adviser John Eastman – was rejected by Pence, his lawyers and the White House counsel’s office, who universally told the former president that the entire scheme was unlawful.

The select committee then intends to show how that theory – advanced by external Trump legal adviser John Eastman – was rejected by Pence, his lawyers and the White House counsel’s office, who universally told the former president that the entire scheme was unlawful.[...}

The select committee will additionally show that Trump’s false public remarks about Pence having the power to refuse to count votes for Biden – Pence had no such power – directly put the vice-president’s life in danger as the mob chanted “hang Mike Pence”.

In this photo, taken minutes after VP Pence was evacuated from the Senate Floor, Karen Pence closes the curtains. A person in the room told me she could see the mob outside and was fearful they would see where Pence was. pic.twitter.com/RJs2nitAmE

— Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) June 15, 2022

Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Emma Brown of The Washington Post report exclusively that Ginni Thomas also maintained email contact with Trump lawyer John Eastman.

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has obtained email correspondence between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and lawyer John Eastman, who played a key role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory, according to three people involved in the committee’s investigation.

The emails show that Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, two of the people said. The three declined to provide details and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

The committee’s members and staffers are now discussing whether to spend time during their public hearings exploring Ginni Thomas’s role in the attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election, the three people said. The Washington Post previously reported that the committee had not sought an interview with Thomas and was leaning against pursuing her cooperation with its investigation.

Now does Liz Cheney want to investigate that?

Justin Hendrix of JustSecurity tells us about a massive database of tweets about misinformation, disinformation, and rumors” that were spread on Twitter about the 2020 election.

On the same day the Committee laid out evidence that Trump and his associates knew the election was lost even as they cynically pushed the Big Lie, a group of researchers from the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and the Krebs Stamos Group* published a massive dataset of “misinformation, disinformation, and rumors spreading on Twitter about the 2020 U.S. election.” The dataset chronicles the role of key political elites, influencers and supporters of the President in advancing the Big Lie, exploring how key narratives spread on Twitter.

Published in the Journal of Quantitative Description, the paper accompanying the dataset is titled Repeat Spreaders and Election Delegitimization: A Comprehensive Dataset of Misinformation Tweets from the 2020 U.S. Election. The dataset, which the researchers named ElectionMisinfo2020, “is made up of over 49 million tweets connected to 456 distinct misinformation stories spread about the 2020 U.S. election between September 1, 2020 and December 15, 2020,” and it “focuses on false, misleading, exaggerated, or unsubstantiated claims or narratives related to voting, vote counting, and other election procedures.”

“President Trump and other pro-Trump elites in media and politics set an expectation of voter fraud and then eagerly amplified any and every claim about election issues, often with voter fraud framing,” said one of the lead researchers, Dr. Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Center for an Informed Public. “But everyday people produced many of those claims.” The new report sheds light on how these claims proliferated from the margins to the nation’s Capitol.

The 5 groups of false election claims the Trump Administration utilized for the 2020 presidential election.

Robin Givhan of The Washington Post writes about all the former president’s men and women.

As a candidate and as president, Trump liked to make his hires based on whether folks looked the part; he liked his statesmen and generals and personal representatives to exude “central casting” charisma and looks that are easy on the eye. And now these stars were stuck in videos with as much sheen as community access cable.

In his deposition, former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller is answering questions in muffled tones from behind a face mask while sitting in a stark, characterless room. The man once charged with speaking for the voluble Trump requires subtitles to make his words discernible. Ivanka Trump is positioned against an empty marble-patterned wall in hues of gray, from the color of lint to the color of saliva. Her heavy makeup only emphasizes that no amount of artifice can improve upon the dismal facts.

The elite circle of people who catered to a man who prided himself on his cinematic acumen has lost the power of its props, its costuming and its messaging. For an administration that loved nothing more than to surround itself with American flags by the dozens, there were few flags waving in the background as the pack of former colleagues, advisers and enablers sat through questioning by just-the-facts government lawyers. Instead of being wrapped in the accoutrements of patriotism, they were surrounded by all the trappings of grifters, cheats and con-men stuck in an interrogation room. The crafty pugilists were on the defensive.

Heather Digby Parton of Salon writes about the so-called guardrails of democracy that really weren’t guardrails at all.

The January 6 committee is now looking closely at what happened after that in the period between the election and the Capitol riot. What they have found is that the remaining protectors of the guardrails didn't do much to stop Trump from attempting to overturn the election.

Their reticence to do something other than watch from the sidelines led to Trump empowering Rudy Giuliani and the rogues gallery of misfits and weirdos who helped him spread the Big Lie that led to the insurrection. Some of the anonymous heroes even suggested in the press that Trump just needed to cry it out and then he would bow out gracefully. The Jan 6 committee hearing this week revealed that within the White House during this period they called themselves "Team Normal" apparently because they knew the Big Lie was a big lie and they didn't go out of their way to help Trump spread it. However, some helped Trump lay the groundwork for his claims that the election was being rigged and only balked after the fact when he insisted that it was. Some of them helped him raise hundreds of millions of dollars in a clear-cut scam while others are even currently working for people who are running for office on the Big Lie platform. They all stayed mum about what Trump and his crazy accomplices were up to. It's good they are telling the truth under oath to the committee but it doesn't speak well of them that they didn't step up when it really counted. Their silence led to death and mayhem and an ongoing crisis in our democracy.

The Washington Post reported some new details about the one group in "Team Normal" who did manage to hold Trump back from doing his worst in those final days: the lawyers in the Department of Justice(DOJ) and the White House Counsel's office. While Jared Kushner testified that he dismissed them as a bunch of whiners, it was their threats to quit that kept Trump from firing the Acting Attorney General and replacing him with an obscure toadie named Jeffrey Clark who was somehow persuaded that he could take over the DOJ and use it to help Trump overturn the election.

It occurs to me that Fiona Hill described a similar “two-track” way of working as it pertained to Ukraine during the first impeachment trial although, in that case, the foreign service and national security civil servants weren’t content to “watch from the sidelines.” 

Frida Ghitis of CNN writes about the Trump campaign’s election grift.

The Trump campaign’s alleged grift was well underway long before Election Day. He showed no compunction about tricking his supporters. In one of the most shameless scams, the Trump campaign extracted tens of millions of dollars by setting up the donations page on the campaign website that by default turned every donation into a recurring payment, according to reporting last year by the New York Times.

The scam snagged huge amounts of money. Among those who got caught up in it were Trump supporters – including a cancer patient – who saw their bank accounts drained. Complaints about the scheme overwhelmed fraud lines at credit card companies, according to the Times report. Despite issuing more than $122 million in refunds, campaign spokesman Jason Miller downplayed the controversy, arguing campaign records showed only a small percentage of complaints.

Not content with that shakedown, the campaign added another default setting, a so-called “money bomb” that doubled the donation of Trump supporters they took for suckers.[‘’’]

Trump’s campaign transgressions are in keeping with Trump’s own decades’ long track record of pushing the envelope on financial matters, no matter the consequences for others.

However, EJ Montini of the Arizona Republic says that the grifted, “cultists” that they are, don’t care.

Instead of election challenges, the select committee pointed out that the money solicited by Trump went to “a conservative organization employing former Trump staffers, to the Trump Hotel Collection, to the company that organized the rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6” and others.

Amanda Wick, a lawyer for the Jan. 6 committee, said, “The evidence developed by the select committee highlights how the Trump campaign aggressively pushed false election claims to fundraise, telling supporters it would be used to fight voter fraud that did not exist. The emails continued through Jan. 6, even as Trump spoke on the Ellipse. Thirty minutes after the last fundraising email was sent, the Capitol was breached.”

The cultists do not care.

They refuse to believe.

They refuse even to hear the evidence, perhaps out of fear that they might believe, and they do not want to risk that. It’s a mindset that is difficult to imagine.

Charles Blow of The New York Times wonders if the U.S. will survive this period of mass hysteria.

But now, as the Jan. 6 committee is making ever clearer, his impulse to deceive and manipulate has taken on democracy-threatening dimensions.

Millions of people fell under the spell of Trump’s lies and remain convinced of them to this day. His lies have been used to incite an insurrection in which people were injured and some died, to push through a wave of voter suppression bills in counties across the country, and to help his Republican acolytes win elections.

This all raises, to me, a profound and frightening series of questions: Can a lie, in periods like this one, simply be stronger than the truth? I have faith that history will properly diagnose this moment, and that many who now occupy high places will be brought low by it. But, in the present, without the perspective that time and distance can provide, is fantasy more seductive than reality?

Is it, on a base level, more exhilarating to destroy something than to hold it together?

John Cassidy of The New Yorker talks about The Federal Reserve’s biggest interest rate hike in 28 years and wonders will it stem the tide of inflation.

In addition to raising the rate, Powell indicated that another three-quarter-point hike is possible at the Fed’s next meeting, in July. The members of its policymaking committee also raised their predictions for where the federal funds rate will be at the end of this year and next year—to 3.4 per cent and 3.8 per cent, respectively. “We anticipate that ongoing rate increases will be appropriate,” Powell said. [...]

When inflation began to rise last year, Powell resisted calls from some quarters—yes, that’s you, Larry Summers—for the Fed to hit the monetary brakes, describing the rise in prices as “transitory.” He dropped this term late last year, in time for the economy to be hit by the Omicron variant, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and a fresh lockdown in China—each of which carried a further inflationary shock. In retrospect, the Fed made an error by not starting to raise rates sooner, although, given that inflation is a global problem—it’s running ​​at 8.1 per cent in the eurozone and 7.8 per cent in the United Kingdom—it’s not clear how much of a difference a quicker policy reversal in the U.S. would have made.

In any case, the big question now is whether the Fed can raise rates at a more rapid pace than it previously anticipated, and bring inflation down, without knocking the economy into an outright recession. According to a new survey conducted by the Financial Times and the University of Chicago, which was published on Sunday, more than two-thirds of academic economists think that Powell won’t pull it off: they are predicting that a recession will start next year.

Damian Carrington of the Guardian writes about the enormous rise in temperatures in an area of the Arctic.

The heating is occurring in the North Barents Sea, a region where fast rising temperatures are suspected to trigger increases in extreme weather in North America, Europe and Asia. The researchers said the heating in this region was an “early warning” of what could happen across the rest of the Arctic.

The new figures show annual average temperatures in the area are rising across the year by up to 2.7C a decade, with particularly high rises in the months of autumn of up to 4C a decade. This makes the North Barents Sea and its islands the fastest warming place known on Earth.

Recent years have seen temperatures far above average recorded in the Arctic, with seasoned observers describing the situation as “crazy”, “weird”, and “simply shocking”. Some climate scientists have warned the unprecedented events could signal faster and more abrupt climate breakdown.

It was already known that the climate crisis was driving heating across the Arctic three times faster than the global average, but the new research shows the situation is even more extreme in places.

Steven Erlanger of The New York Times writes about the additional arms that the U.S. and its allies are sending to Ukraine.

The package, detailed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III after a meeting with allies at NATO headquarters in Brussels, includes more long-range artillery, anti-ship missile launchers and more rounds for howitzers and for a sophisticated American rocket system on which Ukrainians are currently being trained. Overall, the United States has now committed about $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

Mr. Biden said in a statement that he had told President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine about the new weapons during a 40-minute call Wednesday morning. Mr. Zelensky and his aides have recently ramped up public pressure on the West to supply vastly more of the sophisticated armaments it has already sent, questioning their allies’ commitment to the Ukrainian cause and insisting that nothing else can stop the inexorable, brutal Russian advance in eastern Ukraine.

Western officials and arms experts caution that flooding the battlefield with advanced weapons is far slower and more difficult than it sounds, facing obstacles in manufacturing, delivery, training and compatibility — and in avoiding depletion of Western arsenals.

David M. Herszenhorn, Barbara Moens, Hans von der Burchard, Jacob Hanke Vela, and Maia de La Baume of POLITICO Europe report on the lack of unanimity by European Union members to approve Ukraine’s request for membership.

The European Commission on Friday is expected to recommend formal candidate status for Ukraine and for neighboring Moldova, but the final decision requires unanimity among the 27 EU heads of state and government who will gather for a European Council summit in Brussels next week but still don’t agree on what to do.

Rejecting Ukraine’s request — or even a fudge nodding to future “membership perspective” — would be a devastating blow for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, potentially demoralizing many of his more than 40 million citizens, and especially his military, which continues to take heavy causalities as it fights off Russian invaders who are now occupying large swathes of the south and east of the country.

Such a rejection would also further inflame Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fantasies about reclaiming a sphere of influence resembling that of the Soviet Union and its superpower status during the Cold War. Supporters of Ukraine’s membership bid say that anything less than candidate status would encourage Putin to prolong the war.

On the fifth anniversary of the tragedy at the Grenfell Tower in London, Stephen Rand of The Article writes that Grenfell and the UK’s Rwanda “extradition” policy are indicators of a Conservative Party gone wrong.

The Grenfell Tower calamity was so tragic and sobering because, when we saw the faces of the deceased, we saw people who were, in effect, in the care of the state. The people who burned alive or suffocated in that tower block were the vulnerable and voiceless, the very people whom Michael Gove had said the Conservatives needed to support. Those were the people whom the state has let down for decades. To say that the Conservative government of five years ago alone had blood on its hands is to misjudge the scale of the issue. The victims of Grenfell were let down by the whole apparatus of the state for years — by Left and Right alike.

There is an inquiry into the disaster which will report later this year, and it must be allowed to run its course before anyone jumps to conclusions. At the same time, it is wrong to use the inquiry to dodge questions and let the indignation so many felt five years ago splutter into disinterest. It’s already clear that the residents of Grenfell had foreseen and warned of the tragedy before it took place, but were ignored by a system which should have been designed to help them. It ’ s also clear that the inquiry will paint a picture of victims, not only killed in their homes, but neglected through numerous iterations and layers of the state. However, it is a stain on the memory of all those who died that nothing of any real worth has been done to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.[...]

If Grenfell happened because of disinterest and inaction, the Rwanda deportation policy represents the exploitation of the vulnerable and voiceless for political gain. Thanks to ranting from the likes of Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Liz Truss need to be seen to be doing something — anything — about people coming over the Channel on dinghies. They seem to think the answer is to be found in the crime and punishment policies of the 18th century. In 1788 the starving were punished for poaching by being transported to Australia. In 2022 asylum seekers are flown to a 21st century penal colony in Rwanda. It’s sickening.

Finally today, José Gomes Temporão, public health minister under former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva writes for AlJazeera that the U.S. should be prioritizing equitable access to COVID vaccines for Latin America.

Comprised of mostly middle-income countries, Latin America’s governments have found themselves truly caught in the middle. They do not have resources comparable to those mobilised by wealthy countries in response to the pandemic. But neither can they benefit from international support programmes often targeted only at low and lower-middle-income countries.

As pharmaceutical companies have prioritised selling doses where they can secure the highest profits and without a shared approach to advance the interests of the region as a whole, accessing COVID-19 vaccines has been an uphill struggle for the continent. As a result, more than 200 million people remain unvaccinated across the region.

A combination of large urban populations, heavy chronic disease burden, weak health systems, and a seriously unequal global vaccine rollout has led some experts to warn that Latin America could be the most vulnerable region in the world to the emergence of a new variant. This is not just a Latin American problem, but a problem for everyone.

Everyone have a good day!