1

Remember When Sarah Palin Warned Us About “Death Panels”? Welp…

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

Congratulations, America. The pandemic now has states yelling at each other, and that always ends well. Let us take, for example, Idaho, a state that is like the nation’s attic in which we store all the crazy uncles and aunts. Idaho is one of the most hardcore Live-Free-and-Die states in the union. Back in March, a bunch of parents brought their kids to the steps of the state capitol so they could all burn their masks on local TV. (Used to be all you needed to do was build a decent soapbox derby car.) This owned the libs all the way into Oregon. Of course, now Idaho is foundering in the trough between the second and third waves of the pandemic, and it has decided to depend on the kindness of strangers. From CNN:

“It’s terrible. I don’t know if people understand the gravity of the situation,” Cassie Sauer, chief executive of the Washington State Hospital Association, told CNN Thursday evening. “This is not something that should be happening in America at this point.” Sauer says hospitals in Washington are getting more requests to take patients from overwhelmed facilities in Idaho. In some cases, sick Idahoans are simply driving themselves across the border seeking treatment. “The fact that it’s not causing severe alarm in Idaho is shocking to me,” Sauer said. “In a normal time, our hospitals would accept almost every transfer request. They’re accepting some, but they’re declining more now.”

You try at this point not to be cruel and unfeeling, but if I were a heart patient in, say, Spokane, and I couldn’t get a bed for my mitral valve surgery because all the ICU slots were taken up by COVID patients from a state run entirely by conservative Republican morons, I’d be pretty frosted, actually. Meanwhile, Idaho has decided to face the crisis by developing…wait for it…death panels!

Under the Crisis Standards of Care declaration announced Thursday, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said, “The massive surge of Covid-19 patients has exhausted the supply of staff, available beds and necessary resources to adequately address the increased demand for healthcare services. “The declaration is a decision of “last resort,” Idaho’s health department director, Dave Jeppesen, said earlier this month. It moved Idaho Gov. Brad Little to plead for eligible Idahoans to get vaccinated. “We have reached an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state,” the governor, a Republican, said earlier this month.

For the love of god, do something. At least listen to the frustrated neighbors.

Back in Washington, Sauer is frustrated that the state’s neighbor to the east is not taking the kind of extensive steps Washington has to stem the tide. “Idaho’s not doing what it should. They don’t have a [statewide] mask mandate. They need to do their part,” said Sauer. “They cannot rely on Washington as their stopgap.”

The country’s patience is not inexhaustible.

1

Here’s Some Research for the Do-Your-Own-Research Crowd

From Esquire, by Jack Holmes:

Billions of people have taken the COVID-19 vaccines and they’re totally fine.

Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend’s testicles, or at least the saga thereof, have revealed a great deal about the ongoing vaccine debate, at least in the Western Hemisphere. It’s a look at the anti-vax media ecosystem, where the species range from the “just asking questions The Elites don’t want us to ask” of Tucker Carlson to the all-out “Bill Gates wants to update your OS” types. But first and foremost, it’s a window into the Do Your Own Research community, of which Minaj is apparently a part, and how the Research usually involves trawling Facebook groups and texting cousins until you find fact-like objects that confirm your doubts about the vaccines. Even in cases where actual medical research is consulted, the overarching principle of a conclusion-in-search-of-evidence reigns. That’s why “skepticism” is, as with “skeptics” of the climate crisis, far too generous a word.

But there’s no need to get into the weeds of particular studies or the credentials of various interpreters thereof, or even the general fact that the vast, vast majority among those who know anything about this—doctors, virologists, denizens of the public-health field at large—come down on one side of things. Because we’re past the point where we’re depending on lab results or studies of relatively small groups of people who have taken the vaccine.

If you’re looking to Do Your Own Research, here’s some: more than 5.8 billion doses have been administered, right there out in the real world, and 2.3 billion people are fully vaccinated. We don’t seem to mention this much, but we’ve got a huge sample to study here. The reliability of data varies by country, but the number of documented adverse health events that can be attributed to taking the vaccine is astonishingly small. Moreover, people who get vaccinated also get the added bonus of protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, along with the confidence to return to their lives. It’s been six months, eight months, ninth months in some cases, and no one has, as yet, turned into an I Am Legend zombie. Also, in the movie, it’s the virus itself that turns people into zombies, not a vaccine. It sure seems to this layman like billions of people have taken these things and they’re totally fine. Plus, now my Microsoft Office is always up to date.

4

Dan Quayle May Have Saved Democracy

From Charlie Sykes and “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa:

Mike Pence was even more of a windsock than we thought:

The book also reveals how Vice President Mike Pence struggled more than was publicly known over how to navigate Mr. Trump’s demands that he upend the election certification. Speaking privately to former Vice President Dan Quayle, who oversaw the certification of the 1992 election in which he was on the losing ticket, Mr. Pence appeared open to going along with Mr. Trump’s plan, pushed the false claim that Arizona’s voting results were wrong and asked whether there was any way he could delay certification.

In the days leading up to Jan. 6, Mr. Pence called Mr. Quayle, the only living Republican vice president forced to certify an election in which he was on the losing ticket.

Mr. Pence told him that the president was convinced that Mr. Pence could throw out the election results in order to keep himself in power.

“Mike, you have no flexibility on this,” Mr. Quayle told Mr. Pence. “None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away.”

3

Never, Ever, EVER Concede

From The Bulwark, by Jonathan V. Last:

One of the theories I’ve floated here over the last couple years is the idea that the GOP is no longer a traditional political party—an institution with diffuse power centers and clear policy goals—but rather an authoritarian personality cult.

I mean this not pejoratively, but descriptively. The institution of the Republican party now takes whatever position Donald Trump insists because if the party does not, the party’s voters will turn on it.

Examples:

  • Maintaining that the COVID pandemic was overhyped.
  • Declaring that the 2020 election was stolen.
  • Defending people who refuse to be vaccinated.

Each of these postures hurt the “Republican party” in that they were unpopular and hurt the party’s chances of winning elections.

But each position became mandatory for one reason and one reason only: Because Donald Trump took them.

This is a serious question: If Trump had conceded the election and said it was a tough fight and that he’d be back in 2024, what percentage of GOP voters would today say that the election had been “stolen”?

Because right now, something like 60 percent of Republicans say that Trump actually won.

So if all of the facts remained the same, but Trump had not demanded that people believe he was the victor, what would that percentage be?

If your answer is “less than 60 percent” then it means we’re looking at a cult where people are taking their positions purely on the say-so of the maximum leader.


In the current Republican party, all of the normative behaviors are being anchored by the whims of one guy. And the norm for election loss is now to refuse to acknowledge it. It’s stop the steal, all the way down.

Another serious question: If you are a losing Republican candidate, what penalty will you pay for insisting that your election was stolen? Will you be read out of your local party? Will you be unable to raise money for future elections? Will your fellow travelers snicker about you behind your back?

I doubt it.

Now take the opposite angle: If you are a losing Republican candidate, what penalty will you pay if you concede your loss? I suspect that such a concession will put you crosswise with your party’s base voters and make any future campaigns more difficult. You will be labeled a RINO cuck who was afraid to fight and get kicked to the curb by the next MAGA clone looking to take your spot.


I will be very interested to see what happens with Glenn Youngkin in Virginia.

Youngkin is the millionaire CEO running as the working-man’s champion in the Virginia governor’s race. He might well win.¹ But if he loses, what’s he going to do?

Youngkin was the establishment pick in Virginia—the horse the state GOP chose to beat back the really MAGA candidates. He’s the reasonable guy. The one who would nod at all the right places, but didn’t actually believe any of that crazy stuff. He just wants to cut taxes and create jobs like every pre-2016 Republican before him.

And yet, Youngkin is a realist. He played footsie with the #StopTheSteal crowd. He spoke at an “election integrity” rally at Falwell State. His campaign has an Election Integrity Task Force—with its own membership card!

So you’re Glenn Youngkin and you’re desperate to buy your way into Republican politics. You’ve gone pretty close to all-in on 2020 having been stolen, though you’ve tried to never totally, unequivocally, say it out loud. You’ve made “election integrity” a signature part of your campaign.

Let’s say you lose by a few thousand votes.

What do you do? If you want to run for office again as a Republican, you’re going to have to say the race was stolen.

That’s the new precondition for being a Republican in good standing with the party’s base.

5

Greg Abbott has a button on his desk to eliminate all rape in Texas

Satire from The Washington Post, by Alexandra Petri:

Eliminating all rape in Texas was so little of a challenge that it was almost not worth doing. It was not difficult, like asking grandparents to lay down their lives for the Texas economy, or onerous, like getting through a bill restricting reproductive freedom, or another bill restricting voting rights. It wasn’t even hard enough to be fun, like thwarting a mask mandate.

These things were all challenging endeavors and therefore worthy of effort, unlike eliminating all rape, which was going to be so easy it barely deserved a second thought. That was why it hadn’t gotten one. There were only so many hours in the day, and it seemed as if the best way to spend those hours was to make certain you were making the lives of women in the state of Texas hell, and creating additional hurdles for pregnant people. When you have many tasks to complete, the best practice is always to start with the most difficult and then leave the easy, doable ones for the last possible minute!

There was probably a button on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) desk somewhere, if you knew where to look, that you could push and eliminate all rape. That or someone would bring you a Diet Coke. One of those two things would happen. It might almost be worth pushing the button and finding out, except that if it did do what you hoped, it would make all your other accomplishments as governor look small and pitiful in comparison, and Diet Coke has a weird aftertaste.

Besides, eliminating all rapists from Texas would probably destroy some promising young men’s careers. It could also make people who had already had to suffer feel as if they had suffered for nothing. But the point was that it was so completely trivial to do that it wasn’t even something you needed to worry about or consider for more than a minute.

Everyone knows about the button, of course. That was why when people asked what you were going to do about your new onerous abortion law that did not include exceptions for victims of rape or incest, you could casually say, “Rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to make sure we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

Which Abbott will do very soon! He is just busy not learning about history, or the mechanics of reproduction (feels needlessly invasive to understand how the uterus works; let its workings remain decently shrouded in mystery!). Not learning anything about either of these subjects, and discouraging others from doing so as well, takes a great deal of time and concentration and cannot be rushed.

But he is pretty sure the button is there, and he can press it any time he wants. One of so many reasons Texas is a great state to live in. Eliminating all rapists there is something that won’t take dealing with a backlog of thousands of rape kits and facing all the difficulties involved in bringing accused rapists to trial.

It is both easy and possible, because in Texas, rape is perpetrated by certain clearly identifiable people who can easily be taken from the streets in a flash, with a simple application of effort. It is not a crime most commonly perpetrated by people you know, but by easily identifiable monsters, just as easily stopped. Poof!

Though, nobody has done it yet, which is strange. It seemed like the sort of thing you would do right away if you had the capacity to do so. But of course just knowing he could do so probably allowed Abbott to work on other, more challenging things, such as increasing the difficulty of voting by mail and eliminating 24-hour polling places and making it increasingly impossibly difficult for people who wanted to terminate their pregnancies to do so. Knowing the button was there enabled the writing of things into law that otherwise would be unbearably cruel to victims of rape, such as a ban on abortions after six weeks, when it was extremely possible you would not even know you were pregnant.

The point is that we need not worry. Abbott could end this in a second. He has the technology. That is why he has been focusing on everything else instead, and probably will be, for a great length of time. But we can surely hope he will get around to the button after.

4

Conservative Politicians Have Realized They Don’t Even Really Need to Try Anymore

From Esquire, by Charles P. Pierce:

For a while now, it’s been obvious that America’s conservative politicians have decided that they don’t have to try very hard, and that their audience of voters will swallow just about anything as long as it has the desired effect of owning the libs and conforming to whatever the fantasy conflict du jour is. ’Twas not ever thus. For example, supply-side economics is as fundamentally kooky as anything Alex Jones ever has exhaled into the ether, but there was at least a semblance of thought behind it. OK, so its founding document is a cocktail napkin. But there was at least a semblance of a kind of thought that grew out of that napkin. There was an attempt to defend the crackpottery on its merits. Now, all that is necessary is to spout off in public, full in the confidence that most of your audience is safely in the bag before you ever say a word.

We had a perfect example of this on Monday, when Texas Governor Greg Abbott was asked why he’d signed a law that essentially forces a woman to carry and bear the child of her rapist. Unless you’re one of the wingnut initiates, Abbott’s answer sounds like he’d recently beamed in from Alpha Centauri. From KXAN:

With loud voices trying to reach Abbott, he’s still backing the bill, even when asked why there was no exception for victims of rape. “Let’s be clear: rape is a crime,” Abbott said. “And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets.”

So Abbott’s answer to the question of why a woman should bear her rapist’s child is that he intends to see that nobody ever gets raped in Texas again. If he can arrange that, why the hell hasn’t he done it already? Is this answer crazier than it is insulting? Our lines are open and operators are standing by.

austin, tx   july 10 texas gov greg abbott speaks during a border security briefing with sheriffs from border communities at the texas state capitol on july 10 in austin, texas border security is among the priority items on gov abbotts agenda for the 87th legislatures special session photo by tamir kalifagetty images
All of these men are wearing their hats indoors to protect them from the shower of bullshit emanating from Gov. Abbott.
3

The harsh truth of this moment: Republicans understand power. Democrats do not.

From The Washington Post, by Paul Waldman:

Democrats look like they’re the ones with the greater share of political power in America today, holding both the White House and Congress. So why do they so often seem weak and ineffectual, while Republicans ruthlessly employ every shred of power they have?

You could hardly have asked for a more vivid illustration than what’s happening right now. In Congress, a couple of key Democrats, especially Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), proclaim their intention to sabotage the party’s agenda if it isn’t drastically pared back, lest anyone think it’s too “partisan.” They could unshackle themselves from the filibuster and actually do what they were elected to do, but they choose not to.

Meanwhile, Republican-run states are rushing to create a far-right dystopia where every customer at your local supermarket is packing heat, school boards and election boards are run by QAnon lunatics, mob rule is valorized and institutionalized, voting rights are dramatically restricted, and abortion is outlawed.

And they’re doing it with the help of a conservative Supreme Court majority that barely bothers to pretend that it cares about precedent, the Constitution, the law, or anything other than remaking America to conform to its ideological agenda.

We’re seeing what a profound difference there is in how Democrats and Republicans view power. When Democrats have it they’re often apologetic, uncertain, hesitant to use it any way that anyone might object to. Republicans, on the other hand, will squeeze it and stretch it as far as they can. They aren’t reluctant and they aren’t afraid of a backlash. Whatever they can do, they will do.

Think of how the two parties react when presented with an obstacle to getting what they want. Democrats often issue statements of regret: We’d like to move forward, but what can we do? This is how democracy works.

Republicans, on the other hand, react to obstacles by getting creative. They search for loopholes, they engineer procedural workarounds, they devise innovative ways to seize and wield control. When they come up with an idea and someone says “That’s madness — no one has ever dared try something like that before,” they know they’re on the right track.

There’s a line of jurisprudence establishing the right to abortion? What if we outlaw the procedure, but pull a switcheroo by putting enforcement in the hands of millions of potential vigilantes so you can’t sue the government to overturn the law? Does that sound cynical and crazy? Don’t worry, we’ve got five votes on the Supreme Court who’ll give it the rubber stamp.

That’s the kind of creative use of power Democrats don’t even contemplate. Think back to the decision that led directly to this latest stage in the assault on abortion, when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to allow Barack Obama’s nominee to be considered for a Supreme Court vacancy, holding it open for nearly a year so it could be filled by a Republican president.

McConnell didn’t worry about how many stern editorials condemned his action. He didn’t care about whether polls showed that if you asked them the right way the public would disagree with what he was doing, because he knew that they were barely paying attention.

Critically, nearly all of his Republican Senate colleagues got on board with the strategy. They didn’t care that what they were doing wouldn’t be seen as sufficiently “bipartisan.” They wanted that seat, and they were going to get it. Now they have it — and two more, thanks to the fact that Donald Trump was elected in 2016 winning a minority of the vote — and they’re damn sure going to use it.

You can trace the roots of these differing conceptions of power very far back, but the most critical moment was the 2000 election controversy in Florida, not only for the tactical chasm that separated the parties throughout that battle, but for the way it ended. Five conservatives on the Supreme Court simply handed George W. Bush the presidency, not because it was what the Constitution demanded or even because there was a remotely persuasive legal argument for it, but because the outcome itself was what they wanted.

They could do it, so they did. Republicans learned a vital lesson: If you have the power to get what you want, use it. Don’t worry that you’ll pay some karmic price down the road, because you probably won’t.

Perhaps most importantly, when they muster all the creativity and ruthlessness they can find to deploy their power, they have a long-term vision, one unconstrained by the granular politics of the moment. Will their party take a political hit for Roe v. Wade being overturned? Almost certainly. But it’s a trade they’re willing to take, because they so desperately want women to be stopped from accessing abortions.

They do not quake at the prospect of the electorate’s displeasure, especially when they’ve done so much to ensure that the will of the electorate can be thwarted with the right combination of gerrymandering and voter suppression. They know what they want, and they’ll do what’s necessary to get it.

And Democrats? They fret and worry, they restrain themselves, they recommit to norms the other side has already trashed, they live in fear of political repercussions that never come. And their own goals languish while Republicans turn America into a darker, meaner, crueller place.

2

All of Those ‘Hysterical’ Women Were Right

For half a decade, Republicans gaslighted Democrats about Trump’s Court nominees’ views on abortion. The jig is up.

From The Atlantic, by Laura Bassett:

Last night, the Supreme Court quietly green-lit the most extreme abortion ban the United States has seen in half a century: a Texas law that prohibits abortions at six weeks from a woman’s last period, even in cases of rape or incest, and that deputizes citizens to spy on women and sue anyone who helps someone obtain a prohibited abortion.

The rest of the states now have a road map to ban abortion almost entirely and put bounties on women and doctors without court intervention. The constitutional right to abortion until viability is no longer being enforced. Republicans have been looking forward to this moment for decades. But some have mysteriously gone quiet. Even the loudest of the anti-abortion senators, Ted Cruz, who happens to hail from Texas, had managed, as of this writing, to refrain from gloating about the victory on Twitter.

Perhaps they don’t want the big headlines, because overturning Roe v. Wade is consistently unpopular with American voters. But another motivation could explain the silence: For half a decade, Republicans—especially self-described moderate members of the party—have been gaslighting America on the issue of abortion rights, pretending they didn’t know that Donald Trump’s Supreme Court picks were always planning to overturn Roe. A central goal of the conservative judicial movement that these justices came out of is overturning Roe. The Federalist Society handpicked them for that reason. It’s a transparently phony act, one that’s now been exposed as such.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, for example, tried to convince everyone that she genuinely believed Brett Kavanaugh would let Roe stand, despite all evidence to the contrary. “Protecting [the right to an abortion] is important to me,” Collins told The New York Times after a two-hour, face-to-face session with Kavanaugh during which, she said, he convinced her that he would not overturn Roe. “His views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.” Collins said that Kavanaugh assured her Roe was “settled law,” and that his answer on Roe was “very strong,” though he had openly criticized the decision in a speech, used the anti-abortion lingo “abortion on demand,” and voted more than once as a federal judge against reproductive rights.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, an outspoken abortion opponent, also said on Fox News before Kavanaugh’s confirmation that the justice “will give great deference to Roe v. Wade.” Women, in particular, protested loudly about Kavanaugh’s nomination—less than a third of them supported it—not only because he clearly threatened Roe, but also because he had been credibly accused of attempted rape. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a Republican, in turn called women hysterical for sounding the alarm about Roe.

“People are going to pretend that Americans have no historical memory, and supposedly there haven’t been screaming protesters saying ‘Women are going to die’ at every hearing for decades,” Sasse told Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing. “So the fact that the hysteria has nothing to do with you means that we should ask: What’s the hysteria coming from?”

Kavanaugh was then confirmed, tipping the Supreme Court toward an anti-abortion majority.

The same charade repeated itself when Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett, a religious conservative and formerly outspoken abortion opponent, to replace the liberal lion Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett very carefully answered a question about Roe during her confirmation hearings. “All nominees are united in their belief that what they think about a precedent should not bear on how they decide cases,” she told senators.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a supposed pro-abortion-rights moderate Republican in the same vein as Collins, told reporters that she did not believe Barrett would ever overturn Roe. She voted to confirm Barrett in the middle of Trump’s reelection campaign. And then Trump himself—despite having promised in 2016 to nominate only anti-abortion judges—flatly denied in a debate with then-candidate Joe Biden that Roe was on the ballot.

“You don’t know what’s on the ballot. Why is it on the ballot?” Trump asked Biden in an exchange about Roe.

“It’s on the ballot in the Court,” Biden said, to which Trump replied, “You don’t know [Barrett’s] view on Roe v. Wade.”

Of course, now that Chief Justice John Roberts has sided with the liberal justices on the Texas case, it’s clear that Kavanaugh and Barrett were the votes that effectively ended abortion rights for women in Texas. That was always the plan. It was exactly why they were chosen. Women weren’t being “hysterical” about the threat to Roe—Republicans were simply lying about it. And now they hope we won’t notice.