Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: COVID is still the top story

The Economist:

Why America needs vaccine mandates

State pressure has a role in public health. Covid-19 jabs are no exception

What should not be in doubt is the danger posed by the Delta variant of covid-19. It is too infectious to be stopped simply by tracking cases. Vaccinated people, especially the elderly, gradually lose protection. If infected they can die, albeit at only one-tenth the rate of the unjabbed. Waves of infection overwhelm hospitals. Treating the unvaccinated cost $3.7bn in America, or $20,000 a patient, in August—a waste of resources.

For all these reasons, your choice over vaccination is everyone’s business. It matters that only 63% of Americans aged over 12 have had two doses of a vaccine, compared with 76% of French and 85% of Danes. Delta’s rapid spread through the population can be slowed by vaccination, sparing hospitals from overload and protecting vulnerable vaccinated people—for instance, the residents of old-people’s homes.

I kind of feel like not enough people realize we are potentially headed to a government shutdown in less than 2 weeks in the middle of a pandemic that is killing 2,000 Americans a day.

— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) September 20, 2021

Margaret Sullivan/WaPo:

For one Capitol reporter, Jan. 6 was the final straw — but he had watched a crisis brew for years

“I’ve been covering the Hill for a long, long time, and the Hill right now, to an unacceptably large extent, is a real cesspool,” [Andrew] Taylor told me in an interview.

Taylor was at his desk in the Daily Press Gallery on Jan. 6 when the Senate abruptly gaveled out of session. “I jumped to check it out,” he wrote later, in a rare-for-him first-person story. “Soon word came to huddle in the chamber. ‘Lock the doors,’ gallery staff was instructed. . . . Maybe a dozen reporters and aides in the gallery and virtually the entire Senate huddled inside.”

Taylor said he never felt himself at the time to be in physical peril. It only sank in for him in the days and weeks that followed.

“I was having a hard time with it,” he told me with characteristic understatement. He became angry and agitated, and increasingly uninterested in returning to the place where he had spent decades as a particularly knowledgeable and respected reporter.

People with COVID in the U.S. are increasingly having to pay deductibles and copays for treatment…like people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.@PostRowland using @KFF data. https://t.co/OuDslk4ZdT

— Larry Levitt (@larry_levitt) September 19, 2021

AP:

Cecile Richards: Court’s Texas move could mean end of Roe

“For a lot of people, they’ve always assumed that, even if they lived in a state that passed restrictions on reproductive care, that there was always a judicial system that would be there to protect them and declare these laws unconstitutional,” Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, told The Associated Press in an interview this week.

“That isn’t happening any more.”

To coincide with Saturday’s anniversary of the death of {Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, whom she called “a trailblazer and advocate for women everywhere,” Richards released an open letter warning that Texas’ Republican leaders “have outlined a roadmap for other Republican governors to follow suit, with the acquiescence of the Supreme Court.”

You have to really dig for it on the home page, but Fox News has interesting poll numbers on masks, mandating vaccines, etc https://t.co/7mg3IFQESo pic.twitter.com/unhsr8F1An

— Bill Grueskin (@BGrueskin) September 19, 2021

Alan Braid/WaPo:

Why I violated Texas’s extreme abortion ban

In medical school in Texas, we’d been taught that abortion was an integral part of women’s health care. When the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Roe v. Wade in 1973, recognizing abortion as a constitutional right, it enabled me to do the job I was trained to do.

...

And that is why, on the morning of Sept. 6, I provided an abortion to a woman who, though still in her first trimester, was beyond the state’s new limit. I acted because I had a duty of care to this patient, as I do for all patients, and because she has a fundamental right to receive this care.

NEW: Before the pandemic and prior to enacting a slew of far-right priorities, Greg Abbott’s overall approval rating was 59%. It’s now at a rock-bottom 45%. And his approval among independents has dropped from 53% last year to only 30%. (The Dallas Morning News/UT Tyler)

— Brian Tyler Cohen (@briantylercohen) September 19, 2021

Tim Miller/Bulwark:

Dark Omen in Rep. Anthony Gonzalez’s Retirement

A slap in the face for delusional Republicans who want to pretend the GOP is anything but a pro-insurrection Trump cult.

Unlike fellow Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, Gonzalez was not willing to go along with the phony election-certification charade. He eventually became one of ten Republican House members to vote for Trump’s impeachment over the actions that led to the January 6 insurrection.

The backlash from that vote is what led to the harassment and eventually tonight’s resignation.

89% of active-duty troops have received at least their first COVID vaccine dose, according to the White House. Just three weeks ago, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that number was 76%. @playbookdc

— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 18, 2021

EJ Dionne/WaPo:

Anthony Gonzalez gets what Democrats need to know

For at least two more elections — next year’s midterms and the 2024 presidential contest — the central issue before voters will be whether to reward or punish the GOP’s extremism and, particularly in the case of the House Republican leadership, the party’s embrace of Trump.

This is not an abstract question. In the here and now, Republican-controlled states have embraced voter suppression and election subversion, justified in the name of doubts sown by Trump’s preposterously false claims about the 2020 election outcome.

With some honorable exceptions, Republican governors in the party’s strongholds have blocked sensible actions to prevent tens of thousands of deaths from the spread of covid-19.

Gonzalez’s decision in combination with the outcome of the California recall, the continuing deadly spread of the delta variant and the introduction of the Freedom to Vote Act in the Senate could well mark last week as a turning point in how Democrats, including Biden, approach the next phase of political combat.

Every adult diagnosed with COVID-19 in Idaho is on a universal do not resuscitate order. Every adult. Don’t try to live with the virus. Get vaccinated if you can. Wear a respirator or well fitted mask, good seal, and ventilate your workspaces/schools. https://t.co/44cpfpJjxk

— Dr Noor Bari (@NjbBari3) September 18, 2021

N.B. Added addition to above tweet: while the framework is real, it is not under universal implementation.

No, Idaho is not under a ‘universal DNR.’ Hospitals won’t just let everyone die.

A misleading claim about Idaho’s hospital crisis has gone viral

It’s also important to note that the state plan is a framework. It is meant to help hospitals make an impossible choice: decide who gets life-saving care when they don’t have enough for everyone. It is not an order for hospitals or medical workers to withhold medical care when they can adequately provide it.

Brian Manzullo/Detroit free Press:

COVID-19 vaccines: Here's how to spot misinformation on social media — and fight it

In other words, you and I have a part to play in championing the truth. And it's a good thing we have that power, because the internet today is a Wild West, where false information thrives as well as true information, and can lead to dire real-life consequences.

That especially has been true when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines. In recent months, you likely have been bombarded with inaccurate or misleading information regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines, created by bad actors on the internet and later shared by friends, family, celebrities, influencers and politicians all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms. This misinformation — sometimes purposefully manufactured to influence you, which is called disinformation — has played a role in tens of millions of Americans electing not to receive a vaccine.

‘Christians who are troubled by the use of a fetal cell line for the testing of the vaccines would also have to abstain from the use of Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Ibuprofen, and other products,’ says Dallas First Baptist’s Robert Jeffress, of #COVID19 shots. https://t.co/foGDNyP7s7

— Bob Garrett (@RobertTGarrett) September 18, 2021

CNN:

Australia had 'deep and grave' concerns about French submarines' capabilities, PM says

Australia was concerned the conventional submarines it ordered from France would not meet its strategic needs before it canceled the multibillion defense deal in favor of an agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Sunday.

Seeking to explain the sudden U-turn that caused huge anger in Paris, Morrison said that while he understood France's disappointment over the issue, "Australia's national interest comes first."
"It must come first and did come first and Australia's interests are best served by the trilateral partnership I've been able to form with President Biden and Prime Minister Johnson," he said at a news conference on Sunday.
The decision by Australia to ditch the French deal and attain nuclear-powered submarines through a new agreement with the United States and the United Kingdom appeared to have taken France by surprise earlier this week.

See also:

As the evidence supporting ivermectin for COVID collapses, the drugs evangelists turn increasingly to anecdote. They often mention the “Uttar Pradesh miracle” Just a thought but maybe it was the mask mandate, lockdown/curfew, & vaccinating 800m people in India (20m in one day)? pic.twitter.com/Dux6wzWeIN

— Nick Mark MD (@nickmmark) September 19, 2021

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Vaccine and booster FDA advisory is nuanced

Katherine J Wu/Atlantic:

Sorry, a Coronavirus Infection Might Not Be Enough to Protect You

Anyone who’d rather have COVID-19 than get vaccinated is taking two gambles: that immunity will stick around, and that symptoms won’t.

Some of these differences might help explain the results of a recent, buzzy study out of Israel, in which researchers reported that previously infected individuals were better protected than people who had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer shots, including against severe cases of COVID-19. “As soon as that paper came out,” Fauci told me, “we obviously discussed the inevitable issue”—whether infection should be enough to exempt someone from a shot.

It’s important because there are plenty of folk who have been infected but not vaccinated. And not all of them know their status, nor is there a foolproof way to find out. Some other countries accept prior infection as counting. The US does not. In any case, a good review here of what we do and do not know.

Old enough to remember when Afghanistan was going to dominate the midterms, end Biden's presidency, etc. https://t.co/8YHnVyBiS0 pic.twitter.com/4eSVGoHiHs

— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) September 17, 2021

NY Times:

Ohio House Republican, Calling Trump ‘a Cancer,’ Bows Out of 2022

Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, is the first of the group to retire rather than face a stiff primary challenge.

The congressman, who has two young children, emphasized that he was leaving in large part because of family considerations and the difficulties that come with living between two cities. But he made clear that the strain had only grown worse since his impeachment vote, after which he was deluged with threats and feared for the safety of his wife and children.

Mr. Gonzalez said that quality-of-life issues had been paramount in his decision. He recounted an “eye-opening” moment this year: when he and his family were greeted at the Cleveland airport by two uniformed police officers, part of extra security precautions taken after the impeachment vote.

One of the most important stories in America is the threat of violence against GOP politicians who cross Trump and his movement (i.e., the whole party). That story is not nearly well enough known. Read about Anthony Gonzalez. Put yourself in his shoes. https://t.co/v4RQ02fAJW

— Jay Nordlinger (@jaynordlinger) September 17, 2021

Tom Nichols/Atlantic:

Trump Put Milley in an Impossible Position

The general stayed inside the lines—barely. The real problem is that he was in that situation at all.

Milley’s conversations with [Chinese General Li Zuocheng] are a concern not because they were unprecedented or a betrayal (as his critics claim) but because Milley felt the need to have them at all. Senior military-to-military contacts are normal and are an important part of building trust between nations, especially between adversaries. In the late 1990s, I had students from Russia in my Naval War College seminars. We valued their presence enough that when the Kremlin pulled them out after the war in Kosovo, I was sent to Moscow in hopes of creating more joint programs with the Russians that might include bringing those officers back. (I do not, of course, in any way represent the views of the Defense Department or the U.S. government.)

“People would get vaccinated if it weren’t mandated” is such an audaciously ridiculous lie that you almost have to admire it.

— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) September 17, 2021

Jackie Calmes/LA Times:

Gen. Mark Milley deserves commendation in the face of Deranged Trump Syndrome

MAGA disciples talk of Trump Derangement Syndrome to dismiss the former president’s critics — the majority of Americans — as simply unhinged.

What we actually suffer from is Deranged Trump Syndrome — the sense that Donald Trump was and is capable of just about any noxious act…

We need more information about Milley’s thinking, and he’s sure to be asked to provide it when he testifies later this month before senators about the flawed withdrawal from Afghanistan. But based on what’s been leaked from a book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post, to be released next week, Milley mostly deserves our commendation

That email lady nailed it years ago. Deplorables, the whole basket of em. https://t.co/ZLlDlstMAM

— Tim Fournier (@pepinosuave) September 17, 2021

Justine Coleman/The Hill:

Pandemic frustrations zero in on unvaccinated Americans

The growing frustration with the ongoing pandemic is boiling over, with all eyes turned to the unvaccinated as the key to getting through the COVID-19 crisis.

As cases approach winter levels, the U.S. has been left to decide how to deal with and treat the millions who still haven’t received their shots, months after they became widely available.

In response, some have resorted to mocking and joking about the unvaccinated, an approach public health and psychology experts say is unlikely to change the minds of both hard-line activists or the vaccine hesitant.

Police unions are getting bolder and going public with their affinity for far-right militia groups. Not a great sign. https://t.co/aRy2lOTbjR

— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) September 16, 2021

David Rothkopf/Twitter:

With every passing day, it looks less like we have one nation divided by differing political beliefs and more like we have two warring countries battling each other within shared borders. One side represents and seeks to preserve the United States. The other seeks to destroy it. 
If the goal of the GOP is, at it appears to be, gut our democracy, to disenfranchise massive portions of our population, to impose the views of the minority on the majority, to attack principles like tolerance, that no individual is above the law, and equity... 
...to literally reject reality and demonstrable facts and embrace an alternative reality founded in lies and dangerous to the health of the nation, our environment, our ideals and our standing in the world, then we have left the realm of political debate.

"You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions," he said, blaming us for his votes in Bush v Gore, DC v Heller, Citizens United, Connick v Thompson, Concepcion, Shelby County, Hobby Lobby, Vance v Ball State, the eviction moratorium, the Texas abortion law... https://t.co/laU70Ne1d9

— Max Kennerly (@MaxKennerly) September 16, 2021

Greg Sargent/WaPo:

The right-wing media is helping Trump destroy democracy. A new poll shows how.

When future historians seek to explain the United States’ perilous slide toward authoritarianism in the 21st century, they will grapple with the role played in all these events by Fox News and the right-wing media. Simply put, those actors are helping Donald Trump and his movement threaten democracy, in a way that will likely continue getting worse.

new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute demonstrates in a fresh way just how responsible those bad-faith media actors are for what we’re seeing right now. And this raises anew the question of how much damage they will do over the long haul.

The poll’s big finding is that people who rely heavily on Fox News and other right-wing media are overwhelmingly more likely to believe the election was stolen from Trump — and are overwhelmingly less likely to blame Trump for the insurrection — than those who do not.

In one sense, that’s a no-brainer. But taken together, those views add up to something truly toxic: The “belief” that the election was stolen, and the simultaneous refusal to assign accountability for an effort to violently overthrow our constitutional order, suggest right-wing propaganda may be softening the ground for a more concerted abandonment of democracy going forward.

From the NYT https://t.co/7lAPwvY0Fx pic.twitter.com/EoOhdPP4gH

— Daniel Hurst (@danielhurstbne) September 18, 2021

Steven Rosenfeld/National Memo:

“Arizona ‘Audit’ Report Likely To Concede That Biden Won In 2020”

The team of Arizona Republican state senators, legislative staff, and advisers finalizing the Cyber Ninjas' report on the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County is preparing to say that Joe Biden legitimately won the election, according to the largest funder of the Senate's mostly privatized election review, former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.

"The way some of these political RINOs [Republicans In Name Only] are doing this is they're trying to argue that the [election] report should only be allowed to go and address the original construct of the report, the original assignment of the audit, and leave out other things that have been found," Byrne told Creative Destruction Media's L. Todd Wood.

"The political class is going to try to come in and water this down," Byrne said. "The Republican political class, the RINOs, the nobodies… They are going to try to water this down. I am sure they all have been promised federal judgeships or sacks of cash under a streetlight if they can get this killed at this late date or watered down. And I think the public of Arizona should go ballistic."

Sources in Arizona have said that the state Senate review team was spooked by the possible losses of law licenses looming over Trump's attorneys, as well as stern warnings from the U.S. Department of Justice for possibly using investigative methods that could violate voter intimidation laws. As a result, they have been editing the report drafted by the Senate's lead contractor, Cyber Ninjas, and excising claims and narratives that are speculative rather than factual. This has delayed the report's release until the week of September 20, sources indicated.

from @jameshamblin "Everyone may need boosters eventually. But not yet. Until then, we have to grapple with the fundamental conundrum that has beset humanity since day one: Some things are good for some people but not for others." https://t.co/3Txz7BdE2Q

— Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) September 18, 2021

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Hurricane Ida closes in on Louisiana

Wishing safety to everyone in the path of Hurricane Ida as the storm closes in on the Louisiana coast. As of this writing, Ida is forecast to make landfall in Louisiana about 60 miles west of New Orleans, in the city of Houma, on Sunday.

Frida Ghitis of CNN examines some of the strategic choices that the U.S. has left when it comes to Afghanistan.

Listen to US officials speak and it's clear they are watching their words, trying to avoid antagonizing the radical jihadis for fear of jeopardizing the airlift that has carried more than 104,000 souls to safety since August 14. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gingerly sidestepped a question about the future of the US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday, saying, "With regard to diplomatic engagement, we're looking at a series of options, and I'm sure we'll have more on that in the coming days and weeks, but we're looking at a variety of options."
But we don't all need to watch our words. Let me say unequivocally: The United States cannot recognize a Taliban-led government -- certainly not any time soon.
Judging by the conciliatory tone the Taliban spokesmen struck after the takeover, the group is interested in repairing its reputation and gaining international recognition. But words mean little, especially when there's a long track record of repugnant behavior. This is the group that sentenced women and girls to crushing restrictions that prevented them from studying, working or leaving their homes on their own. The Taliban forced women to cover their faces in public, buried them up to their necks and stoned them to death after claims of adultery. They also killed homosexuals, chopped off the hands of suspected thieves, and generally forced an entire country to live under draconian rules. Their words alone won't do.
Robin Wright of The New Yorker asserts that the strike against ISIS-K will not deter extremist groups or terrorist operations in Afghanistan.
The United States may indeed manage to kill more isis-k fighters and destroy some of their modest arsenal. But the central flaw in U.S. strategy is the belief that military force can eradicate extremist groups or radical ideologies. On Friday evening, a senior Biden Administration official acknowledged that the United States “can’t physically eliminate an ideology. What you can do is deal, hopefully effectively, with any threat that it poses.” Past Administrations have tried lethal strikes. In August, 1998, President Bill Clinton ordered Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise-missile attacks on Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan that U.S. intelligence erroneously linked to Osama bin Laden. The strikes were in retaliation for the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than two hundred and injured more than four thousand. That U.S. operation had limited impact. Three years later, Al Qaeda operatives carried out the 9/11 attacks, killing nearly three thousand in the deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Despite the killing of bin Laden, a decade ago, the more skilled Al Qaeda fighters were the force multipliers in the Taliban’s sweep across Afghanistan this year.
“The bottom line is that kinetic action by itself cannot significantly counter terrorist organizations,” Seth Jones, a former adviser to U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan, told me. “It is very limited in what it can do. It can disrupt operationally and take people out. But tactical and operational impact is very short-term.”

Sarah A. Binder and Molly E. Reynolds of the Brookings Institution take a look at the impact of the 9/11 attacks on today’s Congress.

The 9/11 attacks reshaped the business of Congress in at least two ways.

First, the attacks have had lasting effects on congressional budgeting for defense. According to the Congressional Research Service, the federal government spent an estimated $2 trillion in emergency funding to support its response to the 9/11 attacks; Other analysts tally the costs at over $6 trillion. Legislative critics on the left and right have at times derided such emergency monies as slush funds since Congress does not account for the funding in its regular appropriations, allowing it to evade spending limits put in place in 2011. But the parties have generally been complicit in exempting such amounts from legal limits placed on other avenues of government spending. Two decades later, Congress still affords special treatment to the fiscal demands of the government’s war on terror.

[...]

For anyone who works on or visits Capitol Hill today, the changes made in the months and years immediately following the attack are readily apparent. Congress allocated funding to speed up the Capitol Visitors’ Center to serve as a security screening point for visitors to the Capitol itself; closed streets around congressional office buildings; constructed additional vehicle barriers; and made other changes to emergency procedures. By 2004, Congress had expanded the U.S. Capitol Police force (which today comprises almost 10% of the legislative branch’s budget) by roughly 27%.

These operational procedures were significant. But Congress left much bigger-picture, longer-range planning of importance undone. Despite calls for major reforms that would allow the House and Senate to continue operating and, if necessary, repopulate themselves in the event of catastrophe, Congress did little to address its own continuity.

Luisa S. Deprez of Washington Monthly asserts that conservatives have been singing the same song since the 1960s (at the very least), and Donald Trump is no exception at all.

Conservative elites can adjust their anti-government targets depending on the circumstances. Fried and Harris chronicle how Republicans’ arguments changed about how government should operate, depending on who was in control. Newt Gingrich’s rise to power was fueled by the charge that Congress had become too powerful. After Republicans won a House majority in 1994, Gingrich flipped to arguing that Congress should be the dominant power. The same way a broken clock is right twice a day, Gingrich might have stumbled into the truth since executive branch power has grown disturbingly large since World War II.

This can lead to infuriating hypocrisy. Despite Republicans’ portrayal of their complaints about “big government” as rooted in a consistent ideology, Fried and Harris show they’re situational. In the same press conference where President Reagan said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,’” the conservative icon also announced “record amounts of assistance” to farmers. Later in the same news conference, the Gipper rebuffed Chicago Mayor Harold Washington’s contention that cuts in the federal budget were hurting his city’s residents.

In this telling, Donald Trump is no exception to decades of Republican party demagoguery. Granted, Trump’s anger, xenophobia, racism, and railings against the “deep state” were more uncivil and overt; he was unusual in espousing overtly undemocratic norms. But Trump fit comfortably into a Republican tradition of arousing Americans’ suspicions of government. Trump sought to intimidate, “attack and scapegoat” immigrants, attempting to ban “aliens” from benefiting from social programs. That contrasts sharply with Reagan’s grant of amnesty to around 3 million undocumented immigrants, many of them poor. But Trump’s anti-immigrant policies extended Republicans’ long-standing project of radically reducing government—for certain groups and not others.

Kimberly Atkins Stohr of The Boston Globe writes about the increasing and dangerous use of the “shadow docket” by the United States Supreme Court.

While it is certainly the role of the court to decide issues including the limits of presidential authority, such weighty judgments have traditionally come during the court’s regular term, with a full examination of the arguments and in public view. But lately, the rulings come in the form of terse summary orders, drafted out of sight, often issued at night when few are watching.

And for those challenging a presidential order or other matter, the process of getting to the shadow docket is a lot easier than convincing the court to take up a case on the merits. Any litigant can appeal to one justice, who then decides whether to forward the matter to the rest of the court.

If that happens, an order can follow quickly, sometimes within days. Consider the host of shadow docket rulings in favor of churches and other organizations seeking to opt out of pandemic safety measures imposed by cities and states since last year — giving the court leverage to dramatically expand the scope of religious freedom claims in the process.

Chris Joyner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at some of the factors influencing judicial decisions being made with regard to some of the Jan. 6 insurrection defendants.

In their initial appearances, magistrate judges were making decisions to keep defendants in jail “more along the lines of the nature of the offense” and siding with prosecutors concerned about a possible continued insurrection against the government, he said.

“As time went on, there was more of an understanding of the types of activities that different defendants engaged in, some merely entering into the Capitol building, walking around and leaving,” he said.

Some of the rioters benefit from the fact that United States does not have a domestic terrorism law, so the charges some face are more mundane.

[...]

The people who battled police in fierce hand-to-hand combat on the Capitol steps and forced their way inside, kicking in doors and calling out for congressional leaders as they attempted to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election, face more serious charges. And some have been less successful winning release.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times examines trends regarding gentrification in California and the larger national perspective.

Since the 1980s America has experienced growing regional divergence. We have become a knowledge economy driven by industries that rely on a highly educated work force, and firms in those industries, it turns out, want to be located in places where there are a lot of highly educated workers already — places like the Bay Area.

Unfortunately, most of these rising knowledge-industry hubs also severely limit housing construction; this is true even of greater New York, which is much denser than any other U.S. metropolitan area but could and should be even denser. As a result, housing prices in these metros have soared, and working-class families, instead of sharing in regional success, are being driven out.

The result is that there are now, in effect, two Americas: the America of high-tech, high-income enclaves that are unaffordable for the less affluent, and the rest of the country.

And this economic divergence goes along with political divergence, mainly because education has become a prime driver of political affiliation.

Brown University professor and emergency physician Jay Baruch writes for STATnews, proposing a “harm-reduction” strategy in order to deal with vaccine hesitancy.

I’m not free of the frustration and anger about unvaccinated people voiced by my clinician colleagues as we once again don N95 masks and goggles and other protective gear. Mustering sympathy for patients who don’t take precautions to protect their health and safeguard the well-being of others can be difficult, whether they’ve chosen not to wear masks or get vaccinated, drove drunk, or lit matches near flammable oxygen. But this challenge cuts to the heart of what it means to be a physician in a moral profession.

I recognize that “moral” is a term open to distrust and eye rolling. The premise that medicine is a moral profession might sound like a hallucination in today’s profit-driven health care climate. But medicine has a rich tradition as a moral profession based on ideals — placing patients’ interests first, using medical knowledge to benefit others, and acting in a manner that promotes societal trust — that are foreign to health care providers today or often flouted by them.

The anger I feel toward vaccine-hesitant people becomes a more complicated emotion when I witness them reckoning with their choices. Many of the unvaccinated people I’ve talked with are hard-working, loving individuals struggling to catch a break in a life that hasn’t been fair. They’re unmoored and don’t know what to believe when truth itself has supply-chain problems and the health care system has been letting them down for years.

Rich Miller, publisher of the indispensable newsletter of Illinois politics, Capitol Fax, writes for The Chicago Sun-Times about his carelessness in possibly exposing himself to COVID-19 (he turned out to be negative).

Wednesday’s Republican event on the lake was mostly confined to a large room packed with people, including some (like GOP gubernatorial candidates Darren Bailey and Gary Rabine) who have publicly said they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. There were no ceiling fans, the doors were closed and the air conditioner was having real trouble keeping up. It was hot and close. And nobody, of course, was wearing masks.

I didn’t stay longer than 15 or 20 minutes.

[...]

I called a close friend on my way home to say that I’d probably just made a mistake. I’m fully vaccinated, but if I was going to get one of those “breakthrough” cases, that was going to be the place.

On Friday of that week, Leader McConchie, who is also fully vaccinated, announced that he had a mild breakthrough case. I received a text message later that evening from someone else who was at the lake party at the same time as me to tell me he had been exposed to the virus. He suggested that I get tested.

I read Capitol Fax about once a week, but it should be one of my daily must-reads.

Glenn Sacks, a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District, pens an opinion piece for The Washington Post on the need for the College Board to add a current elections component to the Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. Government and Politics exam.

Not only are elections relevant and interesting, but my students, who are seniors, are often involved in them. Some serve as poll watchers, some even vote. What could be wrong with AP Government teachers devoting class time to elections?

They're not on the AP exam.

Every minute spent on these engaging current events is a minute I should have spent explaining the difference between client politics, entrepreneurial politics, interest group politics, and majoritarian politics, between layer cake, marble cake, cooperative and competitive federalism. It’s time we should have spent reading and analyzing all of Federalist Papers 105170 and 78, and on a raft of other generally worthy but somewhat arcane topics.

Taking the time to properly cover our current elections harms my students’ ability to pass the AP exam. I can’t complain about their scores — they’ve done much better than the national average each year. But the perverse incentives built into AP Government mean I’m continually forced to choose between the best things to teach them vs. teaching to the test.

Finally today, Jeff Grabmeier writes for Phys.org about an interesting study conducted at THE Ohio State University regarding consumer behavior with “just-below” ($0.99) pricing.

In one field study, the researchers set up a coffee stand on the Ohio State campus for two days, rotating the prices regularly. About half the time, they offered a small coffee with a "just below" price of 95 cents or a larger cup upgrade for $1.20. In order to choose the upgrade option, customers had to cross that $1 round-number boundary.

Roughly every hour, they changed the price of the small cup to $1 and increased the price of the larger cup by 5 cents to $1.25.

While the larger cup was now more expensive than before, so was the smaller cup. Critically, both prices were on the same side of the $1 boundary, which the researchers predicted would make customers more likely to choose the upgrade.

How did customers respond? Well, 56 percent of them upgraded to the larger cup when they didn't have to cross the round-number boundary to upgrade ($1 to 1.25). But only 29 percent did when the smaller cup was at the just-below price of 95 cents and they had to cross the $1 threshold for the larger cup.

Everyone have a great day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Why Barack Obama still matters

Peniel Joseph writes for CNN on why the 44th President of the United States (who turned 60 Wednesday), Barack Hussein Obama, still matters.

As he approaches 60, Obama's hair has turned grayer, he looks even thinner now than he did as commander in chief and one can see the impact of time -- and being President -- in the wrinkles and creases that appear visible on a once unlined face.
Last summer, Obama said that "Black Lives Matter" but decried efforts to "Defund the Police" as bad politics that alienated potential allies.
Yet, time out of office has radicalized the preternaturally cautious Obama into calling for an end to the filibuster, if that's what's required to preserve democracy. His characterization of the filibuster as "another Jim Crow relic" offered further proof that Obama 2.0 displays a willingness to confront America's long history of structural racism with the kind of bracing candor he rarely embraced as President.
Obama continues to serve as a Rorschach test for the American political imagination. He likely always will. The first Black president didn't so much as flip the script of American politics as write himself into it. Obama proved to be a fervent believer in American exceptionalism.

E J Montini writes for The Arizona Republic that the four Capitol Police officers who have died by suicide since (and because of) the Jan. 6 insurrection should be remembered as “casualties of war.”

The four officers who responded to the insurrection of Jan. 6 In Washington, D.C., and have since died by suicide – two announced just this week – are casualties of war.

They range in experience from nearly 20 years on the job to barely five. But when the call went out about a mob breaching the U.S. Capitol, they answered. Now they’re gone.

Officer Howie Liebengood, Officer Jeffrey Smith, Officer Gunther Hashida and Officer Kyle DeFreytag.

They will not get proper credit for being casualties of war.

But that is what they are.

And, sadly, they died as a result of a conflict with domestic – not foreign – terrorists.

Mary C. Curtis writes for Roll Call on the tendency of Republican politicians and other “tough guys and gals” to “punch down” at others.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent, threatening words involved actual hitting, in this case the speaker of the House and third in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi. At a Republican fundraiser in Nashville, Tenn., over the weekend, when presented with an oversize gavel, McCarthy said: “I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it.” According to audio, the crowd of about 1,400 laughed.

McCarthy can almost taste the speakership, with voting restrictions in the states and new gerrymandered districts being teed up, and the Supreme Court and a Senate stalled on voting legislation helping to clear the way. He’s already referring to Pelosi as a lame duck. For him and his followers, the angry rhetoric isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s dessert, a way to rile up the base and rake in the cash.

[...]

Does he remember or care, as he’s piling on, that the rioters particularly targeted Pelosi, defiled her office and called out “Where’s Nancy?” in their best impression of Jack Nicholson’s demented howl in “The Shining”?

Jason Johnson of The Grio (and MSNBC, of course) explains why Nina Turner lost in her bid to succeed Marcia Fudge as the representative for Ohio’s 11th Congressional District.

Turner didn’t lose because of “dark money,” she lost because local voters don’t live their lives on Twitter, don’t read puff pieces in The New York Times and didn’t want the Progressive Establishment carpetbagging into town and telling people how to vote. Not to mention, Shontel Brown is actually a pretty darn good public servant.

If you could liquefy schadenfreude and inject it directly into your veins, I know a lot of Democrats who’d be high as a kite right now after Turner’s loss, but dunking on Turner or the Progressive Establishment doesn’t do anybody any good. The progressive model of success, finding a local activist or politician, training and funding them to run against an out-of-touch or do-nothing incumbent is a good model. That’s how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Joe Crowley and Jamal Bowman beat Eliot Engel in New York; it’s how Cori Bush beat William Lacy Clay in Missouri, and how Ayanna Pressley beat Michael Capuano in Massachusetts.

The Progressive Establishment model didn’t work in Ohio because Turner wasn’t an underdog and hadn’t been in the district recently but also because mainline Democrats ignore progressives at their peril. At the same time, progressives shouldn’t be calling Black voters in Ohio stupid or blaming outside money when they simply ran a candidate who had every technical advantage but couldn’t reconcile half a decade of attacking the Democratic Party with running in a heavily Democratic district.

Speaking of former Rep. Michael Capuano ... this morning, Mr. Capuano and former Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas jointly penned an opinion piece for The Boston Globe about various ways in which the U.S. might be able to heal a divided nation.

Compiling interviews with public figures — Democrat, Republican, and independent — the report finds that many agree on the major issues from which our political problems stem. One is low voter turnout, especially in primary elections. When turnout is low, it increases the power of the most polarized voters, who are more likely to vote in primaries. This allows a small number of people to have a disproportionate impact on which candidate runs in the general election.

One reason voter turnout in primaries is low is the lack of attention many primary races garner. What may help draw more attention to primaries would be for each region of the country to move all their primaries to the same day. Another option would be for each state to hold its primary on the first Tuesday of the month, mimicking the presidential election. Instead of having primaries scattered over the course of several months on different days, states should coordinate with each other to develop ideas for consolidating primary dates or other changes that would draw increased attention to primaries.

Dana Rubenstein and Katie Glueck of The New York Times report that in the wake of the release of the damning investigative report detailing the repeated pattern of sexual harassment by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whatever political allies that Cuomo had continue to abandon him.

The pillars of Mr. Cuomo’s political base now appear to be cracking beneath him, as he suffers consequential defections from core constituencies, including labor, white suburban lawmakers and Black political leaders.

His only apparent hope is that, during the time it takes to draw up impeachment papers as the State Assembly advances its investigation, the reservoir of public good will he earned early in the pandemic will stifle the sentiment against him in the legislature and elsewhere.

Certainly, in interviews on Wednesday across the state, not all voters saw the report as decisive.

“He is a single man, he is a human being, so mistakes can be made,” said Melissa Edwards, 39, as she began her workout routine in Southeast Queens, suggesting that the accusations paled in comparison to those by women who “are being raped and molested by people — look at Jeffrey Epstein or Bill Cosby.”

Tony Romm and Yeganeh Torbati of The Washington Post report that Infrastructure Week has brought out the lobbyists.

The organizations working to shape the package — ranging from powerful trade associations representing agricultural and energy giants to small-time firms working for cities in Alabama and Kansas — mentioned either “infrastructure” or President Biden’s initial proposal, known as the American Jobs Plan, on their lobbying disclosure forms during the most recent quarter this year, according to an analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks money and influence in Washington.

Those groups collectively have spent more than $426 million in their lobbying efforts, which includes trying to sway lawmakers and regulators on far more than just infrastructure, the center’s data show. The activity reflects a dramatic uptick from the same period one year ago, when more than 1,300 lobbying operations sought to target Washington on infrastructure. Their total spending on all issues over that period exceeded $291 million.

Already, these lobbyists have secured a number of victories. A push publicly and privately by conservative advocacy groups including FreedomWorks ultimately helped prompt a bipartisan group of senators to halt efforts to increase new funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Some Democrats, along with the Biden administration, had hoped to include the funding boost as a way of beefing up tax enforcement on corporations and the wealthy, and raising government revenue.

Charles M. Blow of The New York Times writes about two different “kinds” of protest.

One kind of protest is like the massive, unprecedented protests following the murder of George Floyd. They are somewhat organic reactions to an individual outrage that epitomized a pattern of outrages. They are tragedy-specific, breaking-point protests that often have policy grafted onto them after the initial outbursts by smart activists.

But what we have seen recently are different kinds of protest: organized, policy specific protests, sparked not by individual tragedy, but born of plan and strategy. They are nonviolent. Many of their participants and leaders are older. They are crowdsourced on social media and may never go viral.

These protests harken back to the Civil Rights Movement and even borrow some of its language, philosophy and tactics.

As Bishop William Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and a co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, told me Wednesday about the difference in protest styles, on the one hand there are those who either “want to ride a wave or have a moment,” and then there are those who engage in protest, “direct actions,” where the act of protesting itself is the thing that “creates tension.”

Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News brings the good news that 90% of America’s seniors are now vaccinated against COVID-19.

Amid the latest surge in covid-19 cases and hospitalizations, the United States on Tuesday hit a milestone that some thought was unattainable: 90% of people 65 and older are at least partly vaccinated against the disease.

[...]

Wohl said political leanings that have skewed vaccination rates across the country have had much less of an impact on older adults. “The threat of covid-19 is so real for those 65 and over that it transcends many of the other issues that are complicating vaccination rates,” he said. “Wisdom and fear have really led to impressive immunization rates.”

The pandemic has been especially vicious to older adults. Nearly 80% of deaths have been among people age 65 and up. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were hit hard, and many banned family members and other visitors from entering, isolating residents. Even older adults living at home often kept their distance from family and friends as they sought to avoid the coronavirus. So when vaccines became available in December, many states targeted seniors first.

That effort has proved successful, although rates vary among states. Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Vermont vaccinated more than 99% of their seniors, while West Virginia ranks last with 78%.

Stephen M. Walt of Foreign Policy has an interesting take on the positive use of utilizing “nationalism” to defeat COVID-19.

A depressing aspect of the erratic U.S. response to the pandemic is the absence of a powerful, unified, can-do, “we’re all in this together” spirit. To be sure, medical personnel, public employees, and many others have made enormous and courageous sacrifices for the common good, and many others have adjusted their behavior by wearing masks, supporting local businesses, increasing charitable contributions, and taking other steps to help the country defeat the pandemic and move on. But in sharp contrast to the broad spirit of national sacrifice that animated the U.S. response during World War II—like scrap drives, war bond campaigns, rationing, and volunteering for military service—the campaign against COVID-19 has been undermined by widespread selfishness from the start.

It began with Trump, who was more concerned with what the virus might do to his electoral prospects than he was with the well-being of the nation. It continued with the millions of people—most but not all from Make America Great Again-land—who became convinced wearing a simple cotton mask was not a rather trivial sacrifice for the good of their country and community but a dangerous infringement on their liberty. In other words, their personal comfort and egos were more important than either the health of their fellow Americans or the broad common goal of putting the pandemic behind us. And it has continued with all those against vaccinations, whose selfish refusal to be inoculated has allowed the delta variant to spread rapidly and bring the latest wave of infections.

The most despicable of all are the politicianspundits, and grifters who have sought to advance their careers by feeding their audiences patently false information and reinforcing vaccine reluctance. Even worse, such dangerous misinformation comes primarily from some of the same people who have their hair on fire about dangers from other countries and are quick to accuse Black Lives Matter protesters of being unpatriotic. They say they want to “make America great,” but their actions are prolonging the pandemic and weakening the nation relative to others. It may not be treason, but it sure ain’t patriotism.

Megan K. Stack of The New Yorker writes about the near-blackout on press coverage in Afghanistan now that the U.S. is ending their military presence in the country.

I went to Afghanistan in 2001, as a young reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and I’ve recently been talking with others who fought, documented, and studied the war. I spoke with old friends and journalism colleagues, with academics, with people in the military and retired from it. I asked everyone the same question: How will the war be remembered? And, strikingly, they all said the same thing: they don’t know, because an answer requires a coherent understanding of the war’s overarching purpose, which nobody has possessed for more than a decade. An occupation that began as an act of vengeance against the planners of September 11th and their Taliban protectors evolved into something more abstract and impossibly ambitious, a sort of wholesale rebirth of Afghanistan as a stable and thriving country. It was a project that few U.S. leaders knew how to complete, but nobody had the strength to stop. And so the United States will end the longest foreign war in its history, and few can articulate what it was for. Naturally, there is dysfunction among the propagandists.

Finally this morning, of course I am not going to migrate to the Front Page and leave my bestie The Angry Grammarian behind. This morning, he writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer on the evolution of the use of the term “woke.”

Dating back at least to a 1938 folk song by Lead Belly, woke resided in African American Vernacular English to describe “awareness of racial or social discrimination and injustice,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The term’s definition and connotations, along with its usage frequency, were steady because white American English largely ignored it. Published dictionaries didn’t include woke.

Then in the late 2000s, “I stay woke” was the catchy refrain of Erykah Badu’s 2007 song “Master Teacher.” Lead Belly didn’t have Twitter, but after #blacklivesmatter took off as a hashtag in 2014, #staywoke frequently accompanied it. [...]

In 2021, conservatives have cannily identified woke’s catchiness — and they’ve pounced.

Donald Trump never once publicly uttered the adjective woke when he lived in the White House, but he seems to have learned the word recently, calling out “woke” generals in June and saying that “woke politics” accounted for the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team’s disappointing Olympics performance. Since the start of 2021, Republican politicians including Pat Toomey, Brian Fitzpatrick, Scott Perry, Mitch McConnell, Elise Stefanik, Mike Pompeo, Brian Kemp, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Marsha Blackburn, Dan Crenshaw, Rick Scott, Jim Jordan, Lauren Boebert, Rand Paul, Matt Gaetz, and Louis Gohmert — to name a few — have all derided “woke” liberals/socialists/military/culture/mobs/banks/whatever.

Everyone have a great day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: It’s infrastructure week… for real.

WaPo:

The quiet Biden-GOP talks behind the infrastructure deal

That embrace of a favored provision hit home with Cassidy. “The president made it clear that that was essential for him,” the senator said. “Since the president had said it must be there, obviously that was very helpful.”

And we have a bill. pic.twitter.com/KyFsLmtFXj

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) August 2, 2021

NY Times:

To Fight Vaccine Lies, Authorities Recruit an ‘Influencer Army’

The White House has teamed up with TikTok stars, while some states are paying “local micro influencers” for pro-vaccine campaigns.

Fewer than half of all Americans age 18 to 39 are fully vaccinated, compared with more than two-thirds of those over 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And about 58 percent of those age 12 through 17 have yet to receive a shot at all.

To reach these young people, the White House has enlisted an eclectic army of more than 50 Twitch streamers, YouTubers, TikTokers and the 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo, all of them with enormous online audiences. State and local governments have begun similar campaigns, in some cases paying “local micro influencers” — those with 5,000 to 100,000 followers — up to $1,000 a month to promote Covid-19 vaccines to their fans.

“These 500 tragedies are independent of the total number of children who contracted the virus. COVID would not be a worse disease if only 1,000 children contracted it, but 50% died. Either way, 500 children are dead. As Dr. Walensky said, “Children are not supposed to die”.

— Dr. Lisa Iannattone (@lisa_iannattone) August 1, 2021

WaPo:

Many parents still haven’t gotten their adolescent kids vaccinated. What are they waiting for?

For individual parents looking at their own kids, however, the choice doesn’t always seem so clear-cut. Abby had a seizure last year that was never fully explained by the slew of medical specialists the family visited, says Kensek, and she occasionally suffers from high blood pressure. It makes Kensek nervous about signing her up for a relatively new vaccine, despite assurances of its safety in general.

“I don’t see the necessity of poking that beast,” she says. “There’s just not enough [data] out there for us yet. The CDC says it’s safe, and that’s great. But how many times have they gone back on their suggestions?”

She’s hardly alone. 

“We’re seeing a lot of first doses right now, a lot of parents coming in, 30 to 40 year old age range bringing their 12-14 year old children as well,” Vanessa Davis, the clinic’s supervisor, said. It‘s reporting an 80% increase in demand from 2 weeks ago. https://t.co/llVJDGrm4w

— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) August 1, 2021

AJC:

Georgia health systems hesitate to mandate vaccines

Many health care systems across Georgia have no plans to mandate coronavirus vaccines for frontline workers, despite increasing infections caused by a variant that reportedly spreads as easily as chickenpox.

Nearly 60 major medical organizations called this week for mandatory vaccines for most health care workers, and an internal report surfaced from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that described the highly contagious nature of the Delta variant that is causing the latest increase. Even so, most health care systems in Georgia say that while they will require masks and follow other safety protocols, they’ll continue letting employees decide on their own about vaccinations.

Vaccination rates among health care workers vary widely across the state, although a majority of employees of many major providers have received at least one shot, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found.

NEW: It is widely expected that a #COVID19 vaccine will be authorized for kids under 12 this year. We looked at the size and characteristics of this population. They represent 15% of the US pop, or 48 million. w/@SArtiga2 @_KendalOrgera @tolbert_jen https://t.co/iTMWQbQrDw

— Jen Kates (@jenkatesdc) July 30, 2021

NY Times:

Already Distorting Jan. 6, G.O.P. Now Concocts Entire Counternarrative

In the Republicans’ disinformation campaign, the arrested Capitol rioters are political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi is to blame for the attack.

n the hours and days after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, rattled Republican lawmakers knew exactly who was to blame: Donald J. Trump. Loyal allies began turning on him. Top Republicans vowed to make a full break from his divisive tactics and dishonesties. Some even discussed removing him from office.

By spring, however, after nearly 200 congressional Republicans had voted to clear Mr. Trump during a second impeachment proceeding, the conservative fringes of the party had already begun to rewrite history, describing the Capitol riot as a peaceful protest and comparing the invading mob to a “normal tourist visit,” as one congressman put it.

This past week, amid the emotional testimony of police officers at the first hearing of a House select committee, Republicans completed their journey through the looking-glass, spinning a new counternarrative of that deadly day. No longer content to absolve Mr. Trump, they concocted a version of events in which those accused of rioting were patriotic political prisoners and Speaker Nancy Pelosi was to blame for the violence.

Some Smart Brevity®, from @axios: https://t.co/oHrb8u4xyA pic.twitter.com/eNylkQSvAI

— David Gura (@davidgura) August 1, 2021

Charlie Sykes/Bulwark:

They Really Are Deplorable

Mocking the blue

Our friend Olivia Troye asks: “Mocking the officers, the trauma they lived, and downplaying Jan 6... How do these people sleep at night?” The real answer: it’s not just their business model, it’s become a way of life.

On one level D’Souza’s mockery of police officers injured in the line of duty is just another example of performative assholery, but it also fits a pattern worth noting: Charlie Kirk mocks Simone Biles for “weakness,” Tucker Carlson cackles about critics, and Laura Ingraham ridicules victims of the January 6 riots.

None of this has any relationship to the fight for freedom, limited government, or national greatness, or anything like a coherent set of ideas. But there is a through-line here: a strutting posture of faux toughness, and the celebration of the “strong” as opposed to the weak.

We’ve seen this play before.

Having downplayed Trump's attempts to overturn the election, one must then poo poo worries about future elections. After all, if the GOP really has turned against American democracy, how can a person of integrity who respects the Constitution keep supporting the party? 4/x

— Nicholas Grossman (@NGrossman81) August 1, 2021

Kevin Drum/Mother Jones:

The Real Source of America’s Rising Rage

We are at war with ourselves, but not for the reasons you think.

What accounts for this? It’s here that our popular explanations run aground. It can’t be all about a rise in conspiracy theories, since they’ve been around for decades. It can’t be social media, since Facebook and Twitter have become popular in the political arena only over the past few years. It can’t be a decline in material comfort, since incomes and employment have steadily improved over the past couple of decades. It can’t really be social trends, since most of them have improved too. And most of the specific issues that might cause alarm—immigration, racism, and more—are unlikely candidates on their own. They may be highly polarizing, but in a concrete sense they haven’t gotten worse since 2000. In fact, they’ve mostly gotten better.

To find an answer, then, we need to look for things that (a) are politically salient and (b) have changed dramatically over the past two to three decades. The most obvious one is Fox News.

To an extent that many people still don’t recognize, Fox News is a grinding, daily cesspool of white grievance, mistrust of deep-state government, and a belief that liberals are literally trying to destroy the country out of sheer malice. Facebook and other social media outlets might have made this worse over the past few years—partly by acting as a sort of early warning system for new outrages bubbling up from the grassroots that Fox anchors can draw from—but Fox News remains the wellspring.

WSJ: FDA Advisers and former FDA officials familiar with the process predict that full approval of at least Pfizer’s vaccine could come in September or October. https://t.co/iikXosuYmo

— andrew kaczynski (@KFILE) August 1, 2021

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: A political movement at the Olympic Games?

Good morning, everyone.

Karoun Demirjian, Marianna Sotomayor, and Jacqueline Alemany write for The Washington Post that the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection still needs to investigate if and how the committee can forces relevant members of Congress to testify through subpoena.

...legal experts said there is little precedent for forcing lawmakers to testify as part of a congressional inquiry if they resist a subpoena, an issue members of the Jan. 6 panel said they have yet to fully investigate or plan for as they plot out the next steps for their probe.

“I don’t know what the precedent is, to be honest,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the committee who oversaw the first impeachment trial of Trump and has one of the heftiest investigative resumes in the House. “Obviously we will have to look into all those questions.”

Members of the executive branch have often avoided or delayed for years appearing before Congress by asserting executive privilege. Members of the Jan. 6 panel are hoping that tactic will be less useful to former Trump administration officials after the Justice Department recently said it would break from tradition and not invoke that privilege with regard to inquires regarding the attack on the Capitol.

But while the steps are clear — if arduous — for compelling administration officials to testify, that’s not the case when it comes to lawmakers.

Shai Akabas of Roll Call writes with familiarity regarding the approaching urgency to extend the federal debt ceiling: Here we go again.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans won’t provide the votes necessary to further extend the debt limit, while others in his party have demanded that it be paired with equal spending reductions. Democrats insist they won’t negotiate or accept demands from the opposition but may not be able to tackle the issue along party lines. Based on history, we might expect another eleventh-hour deal in which both sides shake hands and agree to do it again next year. But with the full faith and credit of the United States on the line, waiting for one side to blink is a dangerous strategy.

In these conditions, it’s time for both parties to take the off-ramp. While the debt limit was once viewed by many as an opportunity to force action on the country’s unsustainable fiscal path, that illusion should be long dead. Since 2012, debt limit extensions have most often ridden on legislation that actually increased deficits.

As bipartisan infrastructure negotiations and Democratic spending ambitions slog on through the summer, time is of the essence to resolve the debt limit problem. In modern history, the U.S. has never defaulted on its obligations, an outcome most commonly associated with banana republics.

Paul Krugman of The New York Times walks on his “wonky side” to talk about … Keynesian Republicans?

When justifying their own plans for tax cuts, Republicans generally didn’t argue that those cuts would increase demand. Instead, they invoked supposed supply-side effects: Reduced taxes, they claimed, would increase incentives to work and invest, expanding the economy’s potential. Democrats generally ridiculed these claims.

[...]

But a funny thing has happened. Republicans are now warning that Biden’s spending plans will cause the economy to overheat, feeding inflation — which is basically a Keynesian position, although it’s being used to argue against government expenditure. I guess the confidence fairy has left the building. Or maybe G.O.P. economics is situational — Keynesian or not depending on which position can be used to argue against Democratic spending plans.

Democrats, on the other hand, are arguing that their spending plans, while partly about social justice, will also have positive supply-side effects, raising the economy’s long-run potential.

What can we say about these claims on each side?

Mike Littwin of the Colorado Sun feels no sympathy for those Republicans who willfully choose to be misinformed by the GQP and right-wing media. None.

So sympathy? Sure, I understand that many of the vaccine resisters have been manipulated by the Tucker Carlsons of the world, by the Rand Pauls of the world (did you enjoy, like me, Dr. Fauci’s most recent takedown of Paul?), by the many GOP politicians who don’t have the guts to admit to their political base that they and their families have actually been vaccinated, by social media platforms that clearly play a role (although not nearly as big a role as Biden seems to think), by the misinformation and disinformation running rampant across the country.

But misinformation, particularly when it’s opposed in so many forums with valid information, does not survive, and certainly does not thrive, without a willing audience.

So when I’m asked to be sympathetic to the 44% of Republicans who, according to a YouGov poll, believe Bill Gates wants to use the COVID vaccine to implant microchips in people so he can track them digitally, my sympathy quotient all but disappears. This isn’t about anti-vaxxers. It’s about lunacy.

Nicole Hemmer writes for CNN that women athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games are making bold and perhaps long-lasting political statements.

The deep resistance that seems to emerge every time women athletes advocate for themselves suggests that, even as women's sports evolve, athletes still contend with a continued fear of female autonomy. They are facing a more specific version of what plagues and often prompts backlash against so many women who demand autonomy in all aspects of public life. That struggle has been especially visible at the Olympics, where patriarchal demands are wrapped in the language of nationalism and patriotism, and women athletes stand accused not only of betraying gender expectations but the nation itself.

At the women's gymnastics qualifications on Monday, the German team swapped the traditional high-cut leotards for leg-covering unitards for the team competition, a choice the country's gymnastics federation called a protest "against sexualization in gymnastics." They first debuted the uniforms at the European championships but wanted to bring their message to the world stage at the Olympics, where gymnastics is one of the most watched events. The athletes were clear about their message: They were not arguing that gymnasts should dispense with leotards, but rather wanted to remind gymnasts that they have a choice. "Every gymnast should be able to decide in which type of suit she feels most comfortable," said Elisabeth Seitz, a member of the German team, at the European championships this spring.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe writes about America’s “empathy gap,” and what constitutes a true show of strength.

On “The Sopranos,” HBO’s much-revered drama, Tony Soprano, a mob boss battling depression and panic attacks, lamented what he perceived as a lost era of stoicism. “Nowadays, everybody’s got to go to shrinks and counselors and go on ‘Sally Jessy Raphael’ and talk about their problems,” he grouses to his psychiatrist. “Whatever happened to Gary Cooper, the strong, silent type? That was an American. He wasn’t in touch with his feelings; he just did what he had to do.”

Tony’s primitive view of the human condition permeates this country. From childhood, we’re conditioned to walk off pain or suck up heartache. Some have compared Biles unfavorably to Kerri Strug, the 1996 Olympian who completed her vault on a broken ankle and sealed the gold medal win for the US women’s gymnastics team. Strug’s actions have long been hailed as an exemplar of American perseverance and grit. Rarely mentioned is how Strug was pressured by her coach, Bela Károlyi, to make a vault she didn’t want to make. After Biles withdrew from some Olympic competitions, Strug tweeted her support.

Strength belongs to those willing to express their fears and emotions, not those who deride someone’s pain — which is also what happened after a bipartisan House select committee hearing to investigate the deadly Capitol insurrection. In sworn testimony, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell and Officer Harry Dunn of the Capitol Police and officers Michael Fanone and Daniel Hodges of the DC Metropolitan Police told in shattering detail what they witnessed and endured on Jan. 6. Their recollections left some legislators in tears.

Stephen Leahy, writing for The Atlantic, notes that the June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest did incalculable (and still to be determined) damage to the area’s ecosystem.

Billions of mussels, clams, oysters, barnacles, sea stars, and other intertidal species died during the late-June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, Christopher Harley, a zoology professor at the University of British Columbia, told me last week. Yes, that’s billions, plural. What I call “extreme, extreme heat events”—because the term extreme events doesn’t quite cover the dire situation—not only kill people; they kill plants and animals. In changing our planet’s climate, we’re permanently altering the natural world that is our life-support system. And we’re seeing this happen in real time.

Harley, who is investigating the extent of the June die-off, has learned from marine scientists at various institutions that an estimated 100 million barnacles died on a 1,000-yard stretch of shore near White Rock, British Columbia. While not all sites are as bad as White Rock, large numbers of dead marine animals have been found along much of the Salish Sea shoreline, from Olympia, Washington, to Campbell River, British Columbia. The situation is so alarming that Harley said it could lead to the collapse of the region’s maritime ecosystem.

Finally today, John Feinstein writes for The Washington Post that, in spite of all the drama of the Tokyo Olympics, he is enjoying watching the athletes. 

For most competitors, the Olympics are a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To tell your kids and grandkids that you were an Olympian — regardless of whether you bring home a medal — is a rare honor, especially in sports that don’t produce dozens of multimillionaires or household names. For archers, table-tennis players, kayakers and fencers, this is the pinnacle.

Delaying the Games in 2020 dashed the Olympic hopes of some athletes. Canceling or again postponing these Games would have ended even more dreams. Most of the athletes who didn’t get to compete in the Moscow Games in 1980, thanks to President Jimmy Carter’s boycott, or the Eastern Bloc’s boycott of Los Angeles in 1984, have never gotten over it.

And it’s not just the competitors who miss out. Dave Gavitt was supposed to coach the 1980 men’s basketball team. Olympic trials were held. Among those who made the team were Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre and Maryland’s Buck Williams. None ever got to compete in an Olympics.

Gavitt was preceded as the coach of the U.S. team by Dean Smith and succeeded by Bob Knight — both of whom led the U.S. men to gold medals. “I’d have loved to have done what Dean and Bob did,” Gavitt said in later years

Everyone have a great day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: One step closer, I guess

Good morning, everyone!

Last night, the United States Senate voted 67-32 to advance to debate on an infrastructure package. Tony Romm of The Washington Post has the details.

The twin developments marked an early victory for lawmakers who have struggled for years to turn their shared enthusiasm for infrastructure into actual investments in the country’s inner-workings. Several past presidents had called for robust, new public-works spending to replace old pipes and fix cracked bridges, yet only on Wednesday did the Senate actually move toward delivering on those promises.

[...]

The news sparked jubilation at the White House, where Biden this spring put forward a roughly $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan funded largely through tax increases that Republicans swiftly rejected. But the administration’s top aides ultimately proved willing to be flexible in the months that followed in how they pursued some of the president’s priorities. Asked about the deal while traveling in Pennsylvania, Biden sounded a hopeful note, telling reporters: “I feel confident about it.”

Yet the progress still threatened to prove politically fragile in a debate that is only just beginning. Lawmakers must still draft their legislation, which had not been written by Wednesday evening, and calibrate it in a way to survive the narrowly divided Senate. The absence of actual legislative text troubled some Republicans, including Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), who said in a speech on the chamber floor he could not vote to forge ahead Wednesday because the bill is “not ready.”

Jeremy Stahl at Slate says that there is a perfectly good reason that the Select Committee investigating the 1/6 Insurrection seemed to run smoothly.

Indeed, after 3½ years of covering Democratic oversight efforts since Democrats took back control of the House majority at the start of 2019, I can honestly say that this is the first and only time I can remember witnessing a hearing into misconduct perpetrated by Trump and his minions that maintained its presence in objective reality the whole time. (While the House Intelligence Committee’s hearings during Donald Trump’s first impeachment were illuminating and powerful, they were consistently derailed by partisan nonsense.)

Instead of the usual circus, Tuesday’s hearing was four consecutive hours of clean fact-finding and emotionally constructive first-person witnessing to the horrors of Jan. 6. This was possible only because Jordan (and to a lesser extent Banks) was kept off of the panel. Jordan has previously found enormous success as an oversight arsonist on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight Committee, and on the House Intelligence Committee during impeachment. I know Jordan would have derailed any fact-finding effort into Jan. 6 because he already announced how he would have done it had he been allowed to participate during a press conference with Republican House leadership on the Capitol steps on Tuesday.

Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post says, in large part, that Beltway journalists need to “reframe” how they cover The Beltway.

Mainstream journalists want their work to be perceived as fair-minded and nonpartisan. They want to defend themselves against charges of bias. So they equalize the unequal. This practice seems so ingrained as to be unresolvable.

There is a way out. But it requires the leadership of news organizations to radically reframe the mission of its Washington coverage. As a possible starting point, I’ll offer these recommendations:

Toss out the insidious “inside-politics” frame and replace it with a “pro-democracy” frame.

Stop calling the reporters who cover this stuff “political reporters.” Start calling them “government reporters.”

Stop asking who the winners and losers were in the latest skirmish. Start asking who is serving the democracy and who is undermining it.

Stop being “savvy” and start being patriotic.

German Lopez of Vox says that the time has come for mandating the COVID-19 vaccine wherever it can be mandated in the U.S. can. 

Unvaccinated people, whether they’re apathetic or resistant, are the reason the coronavirus remains a threat in the US. The country and everyone concerned about the rising case rate should do everything in their power to push these people to get a shot.

The federal government could require vaccination for its own employees, as President Joe Biden is reportedly considering, and offer incentives, financial or otherwise, for others to do the same...

[,,.]

I’ve been talking to experts about mandating vaccines for months. Earlier this year, when I wrote about vaccine passports, many argued that mandates should only be tried as a last resort — we should try improving access and offering incentives first. Only if those options failed should we rely on the more drastic steps.

Well, we’re here. America has made the vaccines much more available to just about everyone who’s eligible. The nation has tried rewards, ranging from free beer to gift cards to a cash lottery, to nudge people to get a shot. Yet we’re stuck. Half of the US population still isn’t fully vaccinated.

It’s time to try that last resort.

Jason DeParle of The New York Times reports that there has been an astonishing drop in poverty across the board but that the historic drop may only be temporary.

The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 percent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time, and the development is especially notable since it defies economic headwinds — the economy has nearly seven million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.

The extraordinary reduction in poverty has come at extraordinary cost, with annual spending on major programs projected to rise fourfold to more than $1 trillion. Yet without further expensive new measures, millions of families may find the escape from poverty brief. The three programs that cut poverty most — stimulus checks, increased food stamps and expanded unemployment insurance — have ended or are scheduled to soon revert to their prepandemic size.

While poverty has fallen most among children, its retreat is remarkably broad: It has dropped among Americans who are white, Black, Latino and Asian, and among Americans of every age group and residents of every state.

Ben Brasch of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the process has begun to remove the elections chief of Fulton County.

A letter obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows two dozen state senators support a performance review of Fulton elections chief Richard Barron. The letter was written Tuesday, the very same day a front-page AJC story examined the prospect of a takeover of elections in Fulton, home to a tenth of all Georgians.

“We’re asking them to simply correct a record they say is easily corrected. Is it or isn’t it? The people of Georgia deserve answers,” wrote Republican Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who signed the letter.

As written into Senate Bill 202, the State Election Board can replace a county’s election board following a performance review/audit/investigation. Then, a temporary superintendent would enjoy full managerial authority of how the county counts votes and staffs polling places.

Barron was not available for comment due to a scheduling conflict, according to a county spokesman.

A performance review begins upon request of at least two state representatives and two state senators from the county.

Lauren Michele Jackson writes for The New Yorker that she is personally “exhausted” by the ways in which some liberals have chosen to rebut conservative critics of critical race theory.

None of these summations is incorrect, exactly—in an appearance on CNN, Crenshaw herself described critical race theory in similar terms, as a rejection of the idea that “what’s in the past is in the past, and that the laws and systems that grow from that past are detached from it.” And yet there is something about the homogeneity of these definitions, their recourse to coddling cliché, that makes critical race theory seem like just another version of a fluffier and more familiar three-word initialism, D.E.I.—diversity, equity, and inclusion. As with the less robust term “privilege,” the words “structural” and “systemic” are called upon with a suspiciously breezy regularity these days. Rather than carry on the edifying work that these words are meant to undertake—the project of implicating ourselves in the world that contains us—they have become a lullaby by which liberals self-soothe: it’s never you; it’s the system. Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” told Slate in a recent interview that the divide over critical race theory is based on a misunderstanding that it “seeks to attack white people” rather than “to attack structural racism.” Late last month, Twitter gathered in praise of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for expressing an “open mind” about critical race theory before the House Armed Services Committee: “What is wrong with understanding—having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend?” This expression of tolerance from the seat of power exhibits how defanged the popular apprehension of racial critique has become.

Rasha Younes of The Nation asserts that, in large part, notions of a unified “imagined community” of LGBTQ people is just that: imagined and not based in reality.

While imagined communities serve a purpose, including as a political tool, the assertion that people with a shared sexual orientation or gender identity form a relatively uniform community is depoliticizing. It risks obscuring other intersecting factors that lead to stratification even within the “LGBT community.” Clearly there are issues that affect people based on identity, such as discriminatory laws and policies. But other factors need to be considered when looking at the relative impact of discrimination—almost invariably, those on the social and economic margins are most affected.

Yet, shorthand is necessary, and “LGBT” does help in discussing access to the international human rights framework. To be granted asylum, for example, a queer or transgender person must prove that the basis for their claim is experience of violence or discrimination because of their LGBT identity.

The term “LGBT community” has activist origins signaling political solidarity. But it has also become a convenient acronym in a neoliberal economy where the “LGBT community” has come to be seen as an indispensable niche market—whether for selling rainbow flags or a political candidate. It creates a false dichotomy between “‘in” and “out” groups.

I don’t think that there are many stories that better illustrate what Ms. Younes is saying than our next and final story of this morning.

Two days ago, California-based Democratic donor Ed Buck was found guilty on all charges of a nine-count indictment involving the deaths of Gemmel Moore  and Timothy Dean. L.A.-based journalist and activist Jasmyne Cannick has worked tirelessly on the Ed Buck case for four years.

I have to remind the powers that be that LA’s homeless crisis puts men like Ed Buck’s victims in a position where they feel they have no other choice but to play Russian roulette with their life and subject their bodies to torture just to have a roof over their head–even if just for one night.

Lastly, Black parents, stop kicking out your sons and daughters for being gay or trans.  Men like Ed Buck are waiting to take advantage of them in the worst way. I can’t tell you how many men I interviewed told me that’s why they ended up where they did.

Ed Buck only got away with it for so long because he was white and because we still don’t believe Black victims–even when they tell us what happened to them.

Y’all have no idea of the number of people who were working on documentaries while we were working on getting Ed Buck arrested, tried and convicted. Most of them are white but some Black people lost their minds too.

— Jasmyne Cannick (@Jasmyne) July 29, 2021

Everyone have a good day!

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Bothsidesing the insurrection is a media failing

Greg Sargent/WaPo

The huge, gaping hole in our media discussion of the GOP and Jan. 6

The bare-bones chronology is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nixed two of McCarthy’s choices — Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — from serving on the committee. McCarthy then pulled his nominations of all other Republicans and declared none would serve.

The conventions of political reporting require that this is portrayed as a battle between equivalently motivated partisans: It’s a “partisan fight” or a “partisan brawl” or an escalation of “political tensions” or an “inability” to achieve a “bipartisan committee.”

Pelosi nixed Banks and Jordan because they have openly declared their hostility to the committee’s core investigative mission and have repeatedly raised doubts about the integrity of Donald Trump’s loss. They validated the lies that inspired the insurrection in the first place.

In short: Pelosi did not allow them to serve on the committee because their openly telegraphed goal was to sabotage the committee.

Anti-anti-anti-vax is a good way to put it, because Tucker etc. don’t outright say don’t get it, like antivaxxers, but do “just ask questions” to spread doubt and undermine vaccination efforts, which fits within the larger goal of discrediting authoritative sources of information https://t.co/ZHX1HQHPK5

— Nicholas Grossman (@NGrossman81) July 22, 2021

Jill Lawrence/USA Today:

In vetoing Jordan and Banks, Pelosi safeguards history, democracy and Capitol attack probe

We can only hope that truth, facts, personal testimonies and violent video will lift the scales from American eyes and put the nation on a better path.

Say what you will about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and there are multitudes with lots to say, she is a woman with a steel backbone and a laser focus on history – both the centuries past and the countless pages yet to be written.

Though it was shocking and apparently unprecedented that she rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s choices for the select committee that will be investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, it probably should not have been. Pelosi is not interested in a dog-and-pony show, in distractions that will give endless fodder to conservative media outlets and undercut the gravity of the task before this panel.

A speaker who has helmed two impeachments, painful procedures that exposed egregious offenses by President Donald Trump yet failed to remove him from office, knows exactly what would happen if she gave a platform to Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks.  

Plum Line/WaPo:

How Kevin McCarthy is boosting the integrity of the Jan. 6 investigation

We should be thankful that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) just pulled Republicans out of any involvement in the select committee to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection. In so doing, he ensured that the committee’s investigation will both have more integrity and be more likely to undertake a valuable accounting.

Which goes to a larger truth about this moment: Efforts at a real examination of arguably the worst outbreak of political violence in modern times — and efforts to protect our democracy more broadly — will not be bipartisan. These things will be done by Democrats alone.

If you want to understand what's happening in Missouri with the delta variant, look no further than the contrast between @RoyBlunt , who isn't seeking reelection, and @HawleyMO , who has national ambitions. Then read my @KHNews latest: https://t.co/xad3tsbG7f pic.twitter.com/6MMAMnisEJ

— Lauren Weber (@LaurenWeberHP) July 21, 2021

Molly Jong-Fast/Daily beast:

The GOP Isn’t Sending Their Best, and Pelosi Isn’t Having It

The facts aren’t flattering to Republicans so their plan is to ignore the facts and throw shit at the wall and then try to blame Democrats for the stains and the stench.

McCarthy knew damn well what he was doing when he offered up two election deniers to sit on the committee in the first place. There’s no one in the world who considers jacketless Jim a serious appointment. He is a Trump sycophant who spends most of his time trying to say insane stuff so that he can get on Fox News.

With the rest of the party walking away, the only remaining Republican looks to be Liz Cheney, who Pelosi appointed after McCarthy kicked her out of the party’s leadership for calling an insurrection an insurrection and putting loyalty to country above loyalty to Trump.

folks lecturing others on what (not to) do are missing the point Governors and pundits don't determine whether regular customers wear masks, that's mostly up to the customers https://t.co/EnoWROsA1S

— Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) July 22, 2021

WaPo:

White House officials debate masking push as covid infections spike

One idea batted around by some officials would be to ask all Americans to wear masks when vaccinated and unvaccinated people mix at public places or indoors, such as at malls or movie theaters, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

So far, leaders in the White House have been hesitant about any policies that would explicitly require Americans to show proof of their vaccination status, according to a person familiar with those talks. Depending on where discussions lead, that decision could ultimately fall to business owners who want to offer mask-free environments.

Finally, the ID vs ophthalmology throw-down we’ve been waiting for pic.twitter.com/ZkTjFj0HEV

— Ilan Schwartz MD PhD (@GermHunterMD) July 20, 2021

McSweeney’s:

NOBODY WANTS TO BE A SERF ANYMORE

My good lords, I must bring to your attention a grave issue that requires our utmost concern. You see, my fellow land-owning gentry, it seems that the invention of mechanized industry, the rise of “capitalism,” and the impact of the recent plague have brought upon us a wave of moral degradation and irredeemable sloth — specifically, nobody wants to be a serf anymore.

This newfound modicum of control the peasant class has over their lives has brought us to a dark new reality in which the serfs have become so lazy that they’ll no longer toil without pay on land they do not own yet can never leave, and instead leach upon the system by searching out more equitable work.

The drop in cases and deaths occurred following start of vaccinations as been reversed in the UK by the delta variant. Hospitalizations are on the rise in many states the US, and it appears almost all are unvaccinated. Deaths will like rise here as well. Please get vaccinated. pic.twitter.com/pNn5ciz2PW

— Vincent Rajkumar (@VincentRK) July 22, 2021

Ed Yong/Atlantic:

America Is Getting Unvaccinated People All Wrong

They’re not all anti-vaxxers, and treating them as such is making things worse.

Rhea Boyd: It was a tele-townhall, and around 5,000 people participated. I would have imagined that people who stayed on would be unvaccinated, but the people who asked questions were a mix. I had one gentleman who was vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson and he asked, “Did I get a safe shot?” We affirmed for him that this far after his vaccination, he’s likely safe, but that opened my eyes. If you’ve heard about that serious side effect and are worried if you’re at risk, you’re probably not encouraging the people around you to be vaccinated.

Yong: That’s fascinating to me. There’s a tendency to assume that all vaccinated people are pro-vaccine and all unvaccinated people are anti-vaccine. But your experience suggests that there’s also vaccine hesitancy among vaccinated people.

Boyd: Yes, and we tend to hear similar questions among people who are unvaccinated. They may also have heard common threads of disinformation, but they’re still asking basic questions. The top one is around side effects, which are one of the main things we talk about when we give informed consent for any procedure. If people aren’t sure about that, it’s no wonder they’re still saying no.

A lot of vaccine information isn’t common knowledge. Not everyone has access to Google. This illustrates preexisting fault lines in our health-care system, where resources—including credible information—don’t get to everyone. The information gap is driving the vaccination gap. And language that blames “the unvaccinated” misses that critical point. Black folks are one of the least vaccinated groups, in part because they have the least access to preventive health-care services.

And similarly, the fact that the GOP doesn’t have any serious public policies to offer - hasn’t been interested in tackling actual public policy problems in a long, long time - is just greeted with a shrug. Meanwhile, every Democratic proposal is met with intense scrutiny. https://t.co/GISvtor4Ll

— Thomas Zimmer (@tzimmer_history) July 22, 2021

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The pandemic isn’t over yet

KansasCity.com:

‘Like we’re on an island’: How Missouri’s inaction allowed delta variant to spread

On June 2 Jessica Pearson, an epidemiologist with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, sent a concerned but business-as-usual email to local health officials in the northwest corner of the state.

Pearson took note of the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant, which had surged in some northern Missouri counties.

“Just a reminder that there is nothing additional that needs to be done as far as public health action for variant cases,” Pearson wrote, recapping a conference call earlier that day, “but we emphasize the importance of a timely investigation and implementation of control measures.”

One month later, as the United States as a whole experiences the fewest cases and hospitalizations in months, Missouri is in crisis.

This isn’t COVID porn, as it’s sometimes labeled by those who want to pretend we’re done. We are in a good place in half the country but the other half is beginning to struggle. And since people travel, caution is appropriate.

The Delta hit to the US is now extending from cases to hospitalizations, 13 states with >65% Delta prevalence now with ≥25% increase of hospitalizations over past 14 days pic.twitter.com/shuWiAyBxQ

— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) July 11, 2021

Erika Edwards/NBCNews:

Unvaccinated hospitalized patients say they regret not getting the shot

A year and a half into the pandemic, low vaccination rates and the rise of the delta variant threaten to cripple some hospital systems.

To describe Dr. Ryan Dare as frustrated would be a gross understatement.

Dare and his colleagues at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock are dealing with a surge in extremely ill Covid-19 patients — one that is "nearly 100 percent preventable."

That's because virtually all of their patients are unvaccinated. And now they wish they had gotten the shots when they had the chance.

Good point: pic.twitter.com/Vk8epEazmq

— David Cay Johnston (@DavidCayJ) July 10, 2021

Josephine Harvey/HuffPost:

‘Pandemic Is Not Over’: Florida Republican Describes Harrowing COVID-19 Ordeal

James Ring, president of the Lakeland GOP, said he hadn’t taken the time to get vaccinated yet.

A Florida Republican official has urged people to get vaccinated and wear masks after he got badly sick with COVID-19 last month and feared he “wasn’t going to make it out of the hospital alive.”

James Ring, president of the Republican Party of Lakeland, Florida, said he had grown complacent about remembering to wear a mask and hadn’t gotten around to getting vaccinated yet.

The CDC has released new guidance urging schools to fully reopen in the fall, even if they cannot take all of the steps the agency recommends to curb the spread of the coronavirushttps://t.co/AmoWnmj2RH

— Apoorva Mandavilli (@apoorva_nyc) July 9, 2021

Maya Wiley/WaPo:

 I lost the NYC mayoral race, but women and minorities win with ranked-choice voting

As a Black woman and civil rights attorney, I had many emotional experiences during the campaign that just ended. But my brief Harlem encounter was one of the most humbling. I had a real shot at becoming the 110th mayor in a city that had elected 109 men, and only one of those a person of color. In an unprecedented race held during a pandemic, with more than 30 candidates, a shortened election cycle and less name recognition than other top contenders, I came in third. But ranked-choice voting (RCV) was neither an explanation for the outcome nor an impediment to Black women winning in the future.

One of the more telling things I have read about the Washington press corps and what it prizes. The theme is coming down from the insane high of Trump to the sedate professionalism of the Biden White House. In commenting on this they reveal themselves. https://t.co/sGwit7LaX7

— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) July 9, 2021

Julia Ioffe/Tomorrow Will Be Worse (newsletter):

The Agony and Ecstasy of the Trump Reporters, After the Fall of Trump

The prominent White House reporter, however, acknowledged an occasional feeling of loss. “I loved covering Trump,” they said. “It was a great and fascinating story. It wasn’t just about him; it was about his movement and the institutions and America. The story was always so dramatic and had these larger than life characters. The stakes often felt very high. I like covering Biden, too, but it just doesn’t feel as dramatic. It’s a slightly better work-life balance, and I’m not waking up at 5:30 in the morning, wondering what the president tweeted and what direction it will send my day in. It was exciting and exhilarating, but it’s fucking exhausting.”

Some were relieved for the country’s sake. “I’m not of the camp that misses Trump,” said the broadcast reporter. “I understand the sentiment, but you also have to step back and look at what happened on January 6. This isn’t a fun game that we’re playing on Twitter, it’s serious. It’s bigger than you and your career.”

But many feel a yawning sense of emptiness and disappointment at what the ebbing Trump tide left behind. “I think everyone probably misses the ease of it, having so many willing leakers,” said the young White House reporter. “It made you think that you were better than you were. It made you think you were a really good reporter, but really, are you? I think we had an inflated sense of our abilities and it was all a fraud. Now everyone is exposed and everyone is dogshit. Where are the great stories? They don’t exist. I can’t remember the last time I read a great story that really revealed something about the Biden White House.”

A very detailed look at election administration in 2020. https://t.co/S00YQGqwEa

— Charles Franklin (@PollsAndVotes) July 10, 2021

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt/Atlantic:

The Biggest Threat to Democracy Is the GOP Stealing the Next Election

Unless and until the Republican Party recommits itself to playing by democratic rules of the game, American democracy will remain at risk.

As we argued in How Democracies Die, our constitutional system relies heavily on forbearance. Whether it is the filibuster, funding the government, impeachment, or judicial nominations, our system of checks and balances works best when politicians on both sides of the aisle deploy their institutional prerogatives with restraint. In other words, when they avoid applying the letter of the law in ways contrary to the spirit of the law—what’s sometimes called constitutional hardball. When contemporary democracies die, they usually do so via constitutional hardball. Democracy’s primary assailants today are not generals or armed revolutionaries, but rather politicians—Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—who eviscerate democracy’s substance behind a carefully crafted veneer of legality and constitutionality.

This is precisely what could happen in the next U.S. presidential race. Elections require forbearance. For elections to be democratic, all adult citizens must be equally able to cast a ballot and have that vote count. Using the letter of the law to violate the spirit of this principle is strikingly easy. Election officials can legally throw out large numbers of ballots on the basis of the most minor technicalities (e.g., the oval on the ballot is not entirely penciled in, or the mail-in ballot form contains a typo or spelling mistake). Large-scale ballot disqualification accords with the letter of the law, but it is inherently antidemocratic, for it denies suffrage to many voters. Crucially, if hardball criteria are applied unevenly, such that many ballots are disqualified in one party’s stronghold but not in other areas, they can turn an election.

Un. Be. Lievable. The underlying article about the conflict is here: https://t.co/gTpSf1DcEG https://t.co/m1OEeRG6V2

— hilzoy (@hilzoy) July 9, 2021

Lisa Rosenbaum/NEJM:

No Cure without Care — Soothing Science Skepticism

Whereas many people’s fundamental heuristic for health-related decisions is to trust medical and scientific experts, vaccine hesitancy reminds us of the many competing forces informing people’s intuitions about health, be they religious, political, historical, or identity-based. To be clear, some of these forces are identifiable and should be addressed; the contribution of historical abuses and ongoing systemic racism to vaccine hesitancy in minority communities is a notable example. But in understanding people who simply have a feeling that Covid vaccines should be avoided, identifying specific heuristics matters less than simply recognizing the limits of data in shaping perceptions of truth. “We don’t make our decisions about what’s true based on an analysis of evidence,” Levinovitz emphasized. “It’s a profound misconception of how people figure out reality.”

Though Covid hasn’t changed human nature, its devastating consequences have highlighted the gap between what is true and what people believe. One memorable low for me was reading a South Dakota nurse’s description of patients who were critically ill with Covid but continued to insist the virus was a hoax until the moment they were intubated.2 If you can be denying the existence of a disease while you’re dying from it, what hope is there for science to persuade people unaffected by that disease to take it seriously enough to get vaccinated?

For some subset of the population, not much. But although people who are aggressively denying science and disregarding others’ health loom large in our minds, there are probably many more who are simply bewildered and no longer know whom or what to trust. Undoubtedly, current vaccine skepticism is partly rooted in factors specific to this moment and these particular vaccines. But to the extent that hesitancy also reflects deeper, longer-standing fractures in our relationship with the public, its exploration provides an opportunity to improve patient care in ways that go far beyond the pandemic.

This really seems extreme and a harbinger of what is to come: veteran (and tenured) high school teacher and baseball coach dismissed from school after he assigned a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay and poem about white privilege. https://t.co/3tFpH4g7gl

— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) July 9, 2021

List of authors.

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: After Juneteenth, a reckoning of sorts

Washington Examiner:

Arizona election analysis finds GOP voters disenchanted with Trump helped Biden win

Benny White, a Republican election researcher who previously ran for Pima County recorder, joined with Democrat Larry Moore and independent Tim Halvorsen, two retired executives from election company Clear Ballot, performed an analysis of the cast vote record in the November general election in Maricopa County. White has worked on over two dozen previous election audits, and Moore has had experience in more than 200, White told the Washington Examiner.

White, who said he voted for Trump in both elections, spent weeks with his team analyzing the cast vote record, which was obtained through a public records request on May 7. The data can be used to confirm vote tabulations and better understand voting patterns and behavior.

Here’s a piece on Opal Lee from Variety (Why 94-Year-Old Activist Opal Lee Marched to Make Juneteenth a National Holiday).

Derek Robertson/Politico Magazine:

How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party

The Barstool-ification of the GOP could reconfigure its cultural politics for a generation.

One of Trump’s early adopters articulated the mindset perfectly in August 2015, back when Jeb! was still his closest primary threat: “I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says shit nobody else will say, regardless of how ridiculous it is.”

Is it surprising that Republican politicians would constantly prefer to talk about the party’s record on race in the 1800s? https://t.co/6FAItTC78m

— Michael Freeman (@michaelpfreeman) June 20, 2021

Brian Karem/The Bulwark:

The GOP’s Alternate Reality Industry

Plus, Eric Swalwell’s restroom run-in with Ted Cruz.

Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, told me of a chilling revelation he had when he once happened across Ted Cruz in the Senate men’s room during Trump’s second impeachment trial. Swalwell calls his epiphany “my pro-wrestling theory.”

According to Swalwell, many of the members of the GOP look at themselves as something like pro-wrestling performers. They know it’s fake—kayfabe, as it’s called in wrestling—and so do the voters. “For most of these guys, they don’t look at their constituents as the people they represent,” Swalwell told me in an interview for my “Just Ask the Question” podcast. “They look at them as their fans.”

Which brings us to that restroom run-in during the impeachment trial. Swalwell, recall, was one of the House managers making the case for holding Trump to account for the events of January 6. When Swalwell ran into Cruz, the Texas senator told him, “Hey I just want you to know you’re doing a great job out there.”

Swalwell was taken aback. Cruz had scorched him on Twitter and on Fox News within 24 hours of running into him in the restroom—yet according to Swalwell, the senator acted like “we’re two pro wrestlers. We’re bros.”

It’s kayfabe, baby. But do you even lift, bro?

The UK has warned the US 3 times. We're 1 for 2 so far. 1. Covid is coming. Response: "It won't happen here" X 2. Alpha variant. Response: Solid vaccination campaign, a bump instead of a surge ✓ 3. Delta variant. Response is lacking any sense of urgency to date pic.twitter.com/uUjRm4QVMQ

— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) June 19, 2021

iNews (UK):

G7 summit was ‘super spreading’ event for Cornwall as cases rocket 2,450% after Johnson and Biden visit

Areas of Cornwall where G7 events were focused saw infections rise more than 2,000 per cent in the seven days leading up to the end of the meeting between global leaders .

The G-File, from ⁦@JonahDispatch⁩: American Passover https://t.co/x2vdErUr5T

— The Dispatch (@thedispatch) June 18, 2021

David Rothkopf/USA Today:

Joe Biden is better on the world stage than any president since George H.W. Bush

It is probably unfair to compare Biden's early performance to the first months of Donald Trump, the only president in U.S. history to have had zero public service experience of any kind before he took office. In fact, it’s probably unfair to compare him with any of his predecessors since the senior Bush. Former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, former Texas Gov. George W. Bush and freshman Sen. Barack Obama all came into office with little or no international affairs experience. And it showed.

Good Lord. This ⁦@DouthatNYT⁩ column is incoherent. The reason liberals aren’t as exercised about Russia these days is that they’re not worried about Biden selling us out to Putin. https://t.co/qEHj5TT13h

— Dan Kennedy (@dankennedy_nu) June 20, 2021

Axios:

Juneteenth forces U.S. to confront lasting impact of slavery economy

Why it matters: That lack of generational wealth still denies Black families the economic security that many white families take for granted.

By the numbers: Around $50 trillion of economic resources and labor has not been paid to Black people since slavery, Rochester told Axios. Advocates say this legacy of slavery must be addressed to tackle systemic racism.

EXCLUSIVE: Last year MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell said he’d convert 75% his factories to making masks. He did. It was a multimillion-dollar bust. Now he’s sitting on millions of masks he despises & wants to burn. He told me all about it @thedailybeast https://t.co/ehjXsruIZP

— Roger Sollenberger found true love, suckers (@SollenbergerRC) June 19, 2021

Nicole Bibbins Sedaca/The Bulwark:

How Juneteenth Observance Can Rekindle Our Democracy

Our failings remind us of the importance of our democratic values.

But our rememberance cannot be merely a passive observation of past events. Like Independence Day, Juneteenth National Independence Day—as the holiday will now officially be known—must be at once a celebration, a reminder, and a challenge.We celebrate the universal and lasting importance of democratic values and institutions.We are reminded of the fact that even democratic nations quite often fall short of these values. And, hopefully, we rise to the challenge of our shortcomings by using the opportunity of democracy to create an ever more perfect union. Democracy and democratic values do not lose their importance because of human failing. Human failing reminds us of the need for democracy and democratic values.

It’s Juneteenth, the rest is fancy ‘no one will use it’ stuff. It’s like trying to rename the Bronx Zoo (they’ve tried and failed).

G.O.P. lawmakers have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results. https://t.co/ziMUb9M1FI

— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) June 19, 2021

Troy Patterson/New Yorker:

The Celebration of Juneteenth in Ralph Ellison’s “Juneteenth”

In a pinch, any passage of Ellison will do. The novelist was a tremendous writer of passages who spent four decades, between the incandescent accomplishment of “Invisible Man” and his death, in 1994, producing many reams of stunning ones that never coalesced into a proper novel. He had the problem of a house fire that consumed at least some of a manuscript; he had the challenge of setting down an expansive parable about race in America in bright, hard language, like the radiant vernacular of a jazz-head Joyce. He had been dead for seventeen years when the bulk of this latter work was published as an eleven-hundred-and-thirty-six-page behemoth called “Three Days Before The Shooting . . .”—a vast slab of gorgeous marble amounting to an incomplete monument. “Juneteenth,” published in 1999, at three hundred and sixty-eight pages, is the fine effort of his executor, John F. Callahan, to shape the manuscript into a comprehensible sculpture.

This by @Calthalas in @ForeignPolicy is really good #MedievalTwitter #twitterstorians https://t.co/J6XDMarXJH

— Matt Gabriele (@prof_gabriele) June 20, 2021

Harry Siegel/Daily Beast:

Eric Adams Wears a Gun, Brandishes Dead Rats, and Maybe Lives in Jersey. He Could be NYC’s Next Mayor.

There’s only been one, or maybe two, mayors of New York City in my lifetime who were not weirdos: the gentlemanly and restrained David Dinkins for sure; and arguably the Clash-loving, dad joke-making Massachusetts native Bill de Blasio, a veteran of the Dinkins administration who’s gone after this year thanks to term limits. Ed KochRudy Giuliani, and even Mike Bloomberg were each, in their own inimitable ways, unhinged.

If the polls hold and former cop, Republican, and Louis Farrakhan admirer and current vegan Eric Adams wins the Democratic primary on Tuesday that will almost surely decide the city’s next mayor, we’ve got another character coming. Adams’ oft-recited political origin story involves getting beaten up by the police as a teen along with his older brother Conrad after they broke into the apartment of a prostitute he says owed them money for running errands, and then deciding to become a cop himself to reform the NYPD from within.