Monday, May 31, 2021

Alternatively, "When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?"


You have to give it to Marc Lamont Hill. The disgraced Temple University professor and former CNN contributor knows how to paint his adversaries into a corner.

Hill, on "Black News Tonight," was interviewing Christopher F. Rufo, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, about Critical Race Theory and asked "And if I were to say right now to you, Christopher, 'what do you like about bering white?' What would you say?'



It's a clever, loaded question and, understandably, Rufo did not have a response prepared. If he had said there was nothing he liked, it would have seemed insincere and evidence that he was plainly self- unaware. Had he conceded there was quite a bit he liked about being white, his words might have been interpreted as revealing racism or white privilege. However, he could have answered in any one of a number of ways, including:

1) "It's not for me to question a decision made by Almighty God. Further, we've had well over two hundred years of "whitesplaining," in which blacks are told what they must think. It's time for whites to listen to African-Americans and in that spirit I'd like to ask you, Lamont, 'what do you like about being black?'"

2) "Mostly, Marc, I consider myself lucky for, irrespective of race, the values passed on to me; values which have allowed so many of us to make the most of opportunities afforded to us by this great country we have to learn to live together in."

3) "I haven't thought about it much, Marc. What do you like about being a millionaire?"

4) "I don't dwell on my race and and therefore would never recommend the destruction of the state of Israel. So what do you like about being an anti-Semite, Marc?"

It was on November 28, 2018 that Hill,  at a meeting at the United Nations conducted in conjunction with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, declared

We have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grass-roots action, local action and international action that will give us what justice requires and that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea.

It was an unambiguous call to arms to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state, invoked by the Palestinian Liberation Organization and later popularized by Hamas. Still, any one of a number of responses unconnected with the MIddle East would have served as an effective rebuke.

If a white talk show host had asked "what do you like about being black," a public outcry would ensue from coast-to-coast.  There would be a demand that the individual be fired from his or her public and private employment.

Nonetheless, as youth would say in bygone days, "this is a free country." Thankfully it is, and Marc Lamont Hill, consistent with our liberal values as a nation, remains employed in both the public and private sectors.  But we should remember who and what he is.

 


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Almost As Evil As Donald Trump


The nation's most prominent phony before Donald Trump climbed out of the sewer and down the escalator in Trump Tower  has a delusional fan:

 

This is as if Donald Trump announced his candidacy for President of the USA in 2024 while supporters characterized him as a warrior against gender stereotypes. Suggesting that- of all people- Clarence Thomas was not a perpetrator of bullying but a target of bullying is akin to claiming that Trump is an innocent victim of sexual predators. sexual assault. Investigative journalist Jane Mayer, who (co-) wrote the book on Thomas' ascension to the US Supreme Court, in January, 2019 told PBS' Frontline

He absolutely played the race card to get on the Supreme Court of the United States, and played the victim card, which of course his ideology is that nobody should be able to ever see themselves as a victim. But he sure played it, and it worked.

That's precisely how, in 50 words or less (fewer), Judge Clarence Thomas became Justice Clarence Thomas. Challenging his fitness for the High Court was effectively shut down as he complained he was "lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree."  It was "a high tech lynching for uppity blacks." Mayer explains

He worked it out with Ken Duberstein, who was working with the White House, one of his handlers, a great sort of political operative, and others, who came up with this fantastic phrase with him, which was to basically say that he was being put through what he called a “high-tech lynching.” He raised the “lynching” word. It obviously is one of the most explosive words you can come up with in American history, the most explosive word in racial history in America, evoking images of just a horrible racist process without any justice that was meant to kill him in the worst way, in front of the whole public. And he said it was cooked up only because he was trying to think for himself and think differently from the rest of the sort of black establishment.

Black conservative lawyer plays the race card to get on the Supreme Court of the United States, right?

He absolutely played the race card to get on the Supreme Court of the United States, and played the victim card, which of course his ideology is that nobody should be able to ever see themselves as a victim. But he sure played it, and it worked.



Thomas was pressured to drop out but responded "I'd rather die than withdraw," either of which would have been a stunningly patriotic act.

He suspected he had an ace in the hole, though. Waiting to testify against him were Angela Wright, Moira Smith, and Sukari Hardnett. Nonetheless, the Democratic chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee was thoroughly cowed.  He put a quick end to the hearing, Thomas was approved by the Judiciary Committee, confirmed by the Senate, and remains on the US Supreme Court today.

That committee chairman was a guy from Delaware, Joseph R. Biden Jr.. He has since been elected President, a bizarre chapter in politics, given his history. It is not, however, as bizarre as worshiping a guy who demanded to be seen as a victim of lynching while he bullied himself onto the United States Supreme Court..

 

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Thursday, May 27, 2021

Prostration


Well, this is not a good look:

John Cena, the professional wrestler and star of the newest “Fast and Furious” movie, apologized to Chinese fans and professed his “love” to China on Tuesday after he faced backlash for calling Taiwan a country during a promotional interview.

In a video posted on Weibo, China’s most popular social media platform, Cena apologized in Mandarin for a statement he made in an interview with the Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS, where he said “Taiwan is the first country that can watch the film.”

The remarks prompted ire from Chinese fans, touching on a sensitive geopolitical issue between Taiwan, a self-governed island, and China, which considers it a breakaway territory that must be reined in.

“I made a mistake,” Cena said in the video. “I have to say something right now, that is so, so, so, so important: I love and respect China and Chinese people,” he added without referring specifically to Taiwan.


Cena could have apologized as Trey Parker and Matt Stone did in 2019. He should have stated something similar to "I deeply apologize if I offended China because I didn't realize a place with 'its own constitution, democratically-elected leaders, and about 300,000 active troops in its armed forces' is not a country."


He's not the first guy to genuflect before the Communist Chinese regime. Even LeBron "King" James, who is bigger than the National Basketball Association,  who broke NBA protocol while pimping for a liquor company, has chosen to bow down to the Butchers of Beijing. You'd almost think John Cena, NBA superstars, and American corporations are more concerned with piling up wealth than in concentration camps and worldwide pandemics.

 


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A Healthy Obsession



In his defense, Philadelphia Inquirer/Philadelphia Daily News journalist always has been concerned with the plight of Uighurs in mainland China, noting twenty-four months ago

Coincidentally, this week will mark the 30th anniversary of China’s massacre of political dissidents in and around Tiananmen Square — a horrific event met largely with a collective shrug. In the case of the Uighurs, it’s been appalling that the world’s largest Muslim nations — led, of course, by their own murderous dictators — have made it clear they’d rather do business with Beijing than stand up for people of their own faith....

We shouldn’t let things like the vast distance between the United States and East Turkestan, the unyielding behavior of China’s dictators or worries about whether prices will keep falling at Walmart to so demoralize us to keep us from speaking out against human rights abuses. We can, and should, pressure Congress and the Trump administration to do a lot more. Never again? “Again” is happening right now, on our watch. What are we going to do?

Not in his defense, however:


In an article written for an academic journal last November,  thus in a slightly wonky fashion, David Relman explained

A more complete understanding of the origins of COVID-19 clearly serves the interests of every person in every country on this planet. It will limit further recriminations and diminish the likelihood of conflict; it will lead to more effective responses to this pandemic, as well as efforts to anticipate and prevent the next one. It will also advance our discussions about risky science. And it will do something else: Delineating COVID-19’s origin story will help elucidate the nature of our very precarious coexistence within the biosphere.

Very likely, and understandably,  Bunch's cynicism  is prompted by the suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of  public officials pushing the (very real) possibility that SARS-CoV-2  originated in the Wuhan Lab.  Steve  M plausibly argues that  for Republicans, determining the origin of the coronavirus

provides an opportunity, in the future, to bash the mainstream media and Dr. Fauci, who are proxies in the mind of every Republican voter for the Democratic Party. That's the important work that needs to be done in the wake of a once-in-a-century pandemic that's killed nearly one of every 500 Americans....even finding the arsonist isn't as important as tracking down the people who said the fire couldn't have been arson. But demonizing domestic enemies is always Job #1 on the right.

O.K., sure, their primary motive is electoral strategy. However, investigation of the Capitol insurrection, an event now more than four months in the past, may give Democrats a chance to bash Donald Trump and his toadies, virtually the entire GOP.  (Or it would, assuming it comes about and in a fashion which allows the truth to emerge, which Republicans won't allow). Yet, that is no reason not to investigate, uncover facts, and come to conclusions: a search for the truth.

Beyond that, there are at least three reasons to find out whether SARS-CoV-2 came from a wet market or a laboratory:

- the nearly 34 million Americans reported to have contracted Covid-19 and the more than  605,000 confirmed to have died;

  - the approximately 168 million human beings reported to have contracted Covid-19 and the nearly 3.5 million who have died;

- the likelihood that the real number in the USA is almost double the official count and that the real number globally is far more than double the official count.

Soon after the initial outbreak, one of the three most powerful nations on earth decided to prioritize "secrecy and order" and may have thereby ended the lives of 3,489,000 human beings- and counting.  It matters, and it matters a lot.


 

 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Welcome Walk-Back


And then it happened on Twitter:

Hating on Israel's occupation is not antisemitic.Hating on Israel terrorism is not antisemitic.

Israeli killing innocent Palestinians are inhumane. Israeli bombing Palestinian civilians is an act of genocide. Not self-defense.

We don’t hate jews.

This tweeter was honest- or brazen- enough to invoke "hating on," which makes it quite clear what he is doing.  And Israel is focusing on Hamas terrorists and underground Hamas tunnels. When civilians occupy a building expected to be bombed, Israel typically notifies residents beforehand so as to reduce the death toll. It doesn't make those killed any less dead, but it does result in fewer being killed.

 

I have thanked you in previous tweet. I had respect for you, but I’ve deleted my tweet. If you have morals and principles, you can’t take them back or apologize for them. You got this one wrong, it’s not Israel/Hamas, it’s Israel/Palestine. Israel killed 60+ Palestinian children

Yes, actually it is Israel/Hamas.  Those rockets fired toward the civilian populations of Israel come from Hamas and not from the West Bank or anywhere but Gaza. Don't confuse Hamas with the Palestinian children, victims of both Israeli bombs and of Hamas, who enjoy using them as human shields.

 

Say Palestine. I dare you.

"Palestine, Palestine, Palestine, Palestine." There- I as a Zionist have said it. And because over half the population of Jordan is of Palestinian origin, there is no doubt a patch of land in Jordan which would be great as an independent Palestinian state.

 

You used to be cool, man. What happened.

A Washington Post reporter could inform him, as she explained

Several of the most prominent U.S. Jewish organizations appealed Friday to the Biden White House to take measures to combat antisemitism after a string of attacks on Jews across the country related to the Mideast conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Jews in New York City, Los Angeles and south Florida were physically or verbally assaulted by individuals claiming the cause of the Palestinians, among other incidents, in the 11 days since fighting erupted in Israel and Gaza.

A yarmulke-wearing man was hospitalized after being attacked by a group of people making antisemitic statements near an anti-Israel protest, according to New York City police. A car of people yelling “Free Palestine!” and obscenities threw trash at a family walking in Bal Harbour, Fla. A Hasidic man was chased in Los Angeles by a carload of people waving Palestinian flags.


 

These events are among those which made Ruffalo wisely and courageously reflect upon his words and note that they were "inflammatory" and "used to justify antisemitism here & abroad."  A half point should be taken away from Ruffalo because he apologized for using the term "genocide," when he actually was accusing Israel of apartheid. 

Nevertheless, he deserves a greater amount of extra credit because he labeled his remarks "hyperbole."  Accusations against Israel have ratcheted up from "apartheid"- which also isn't accurate- to "genocide," which has the advantage of being both inaccurate and inflammatory.  They don't always go without correction, however:


The Netanyahu government still must be pressured to address the land grab by Palestinian Jews, most of them Orthodox, which is inimical to hopes of an independent state for Palestinian Arabs. 

For four years, the President of the USA continually demonstrated that he is bigoted, almost uniquely selfish and greedy, and yes- uniquely- corrupt and dishonest.  The American left and much of the center blamed not the United States of America but instead- justifiably- Donald Trump (or "President Trump.")  Yet,  little of the criticism of Israel's actions is directed toward the Netanyahu government, Netanyahu's Likud Party, or toward Bibi Netanyah himself. 

In Israel, it's always, well, "Israel," the whole darn lot of 'em.  So when some individuals plead "we don't hate Jews," for many of us paying attention, it's a hard sell. Thankfully, Mark Ruffalo doesn't appear to be one of those individuals.

 


Monday, May 24, 2021

Worthy Series, Worthy Subject


It was a few months ago when Bill Maher (video below) stated, I naively believed, the obvious. Two days after the Capitol insurrection, he remarked

I keep wrestling on this show with the hard questions of how do Americans, all of us, learn to share a country with ass_  _ _ _ _ you can't stand. I've preached and still do that you can hate Trump but not all the people who like him.  Seventy-four million Trump voters are not self-deporting and neither are we.




Trump voters are not self-deporting and neither are we. This is analogous to the chliched "we're all in this together," oft-heard pertaining to the pandemic, grating to many conservatives, unrealistic to many liberals, yet with an undeniable truth. And it is true that Trump voters are no more likely to emigrate from the USA as, say, Democrats were after the election or re-election of George W. Bush.

I didn't realize "we ought to be able to live with people we disagree with" would be controversial. However, it appears that there are anti-Trump people who either expect Trump voters to "self-deport" or at least who believe their opinions don't matter. 

Woman who, almost unbelievingly, was once a journalist:

As part of its series on "George Floyd and America," the NYT "wanted to see if some conservative voters had shifted their thinking on Mr. Floyd and the continuing racial justice movement; Republican support for Black Lives Matter briefly rose after his death" and sponsored a focus group of Trump voters.  However disturbingly, most tweeters agreed with O'Brien: 

When will news orgs stop acting as if Trump followers are the only "real" Americans?

They do not. Those news organizations actually dwell on anti-Trump individuals, though they aren't categorized tht way. Nonetheless, they are the "black and brown" and white people active in the push for hate-crimes legislation, police reform legislation, expanding access to vaccines and other health care to underserved communities; and against environmental degredation.

When will journalists spend half as much time writing articles about the other 70% of Americans who do NOT worship Trump?
See above.

I don’t need to hear anyone’s perspective on the public murder of George Floyd. His murder was viewed around the world. Theres no nuanced discussion. Full stop...Period...Drop the mic...please spare us!

If the murder was significant enough to spur millions to protest in the streets, energize public officials who fight racial injustice, help fuel the push for criminal justice reform, and give a police officer- a police officer!- a lengthy prison sentence, it's sufficiently important to measure any particular backlash. 

trump supporters have much more in common with the nyt than they do with George Floyd.

My guess is that the ten (and maybe the rest) who blamed "the media for the fear that the Black community have towards the police" wouldn't agree. And the other four also probably would be angry  at being lumped in with The New York Times on anything.

Why in the world does ANYONE care what they think? We could ask kindergartners what they think? Or maybe villagers in Mongolia ? They’re all about as equally qualified to make social commentary on George Floyd’s legacy.

We care- or should- because not all Trump voters believe exactly the same things, nor do they always vote as they do for the same reasons. They're not going to accomodate Soledad O'Brien (as well as like-minded individuals) by packing up and emigrating.  And, well, they are Americans.




Thursday, May 20, 2021

The View's View


When Bill Maher's periodic segment "I don't know it for a fact, I just know it's true" runs, it usually includes items which are ridiculous and those he does know are true. The following is something in between.

Meghan McCain was trending early Thursday on Twitter, which only means that this is a day that ends in the letter "y." The vitriol directed toward her on such occasions is something to behold.

Today it included

-Meghan is so trashy and disrespectful. No home training;

- I challenge @MeghanMcCain- for an entire episode of @TheView - to refrain from using any of the following words: “I”, “me”, “myself”, “mine”… you get the gist. It’s enough already;

-What the hell just happened? Joy simply asked the toddler a question. She went nuts. Chile this girl is a mess!! EVERY FREAKING DAY.

And the most pertinent insult: "Meghan McCain is the epitome of a Karen."

However, in an unintended way, the tweet which gets to the point:


Of course there are. And when Meghan McCain was hired for "The View," she was what was, on the likes of Twitter, Hollywood, and Fifth Avenue, almost the epitome of a "decent" Republican pundit.

McCain began on "The View" in October, 2017. This was only two years after the USA Supreme Court, in its most overhyped ruling of modern times, had struck down all prohibition of same-sex marriage. Dubbed "marriage equality" by liberals and "gay marriage" by conservatives and a few centrists, it still was a controversial issue. For the right, abortion, "religious liberty," and same-sex marriage were the three spokes of the culture war. The producers, the cast, and other interested parties very likely knew that two years earlier.

“Republicans have to move on from this, or become relics,” said McCain, the TV personality and writer who is also the daughter of Arizona senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee for president.

“The GOP’s nominee in 2016 has to support this ruling,” she continued. “I think any anti-equality rhetoric will be lethal. We live in a world now where the reaction to Caitlyn Jenner is overwhelmingly positive and loving and accepting.”

She also got in a dig at Huckabee: “I’ve said this before, but Huckabee is one of the great imbeciles of American politics.”

The show must have at least one conservative co-host, lest the others spend the hour straining to find something to argue about. The daughter of  Senator John McCain, who only three months earlier had cast the deciding vote against ending Obamacare, would be a strong candidate. However, a conservative who supports same-sex marriage would be even better, gold to the executives in the corporate suites. Calling Mike Huckabee, once the high-profile Christian conservative candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, an "imbecile," was mere gravy.

Now, things have changed.  It is, significantly, almost five years out from Obergefell v. Hodges, the nature of marriage no longer is a major political issue and the cultural right largely obsesses on abortion and, to a lesser extent, the right to discriminate if religious belief is the rationale.

In the middle of the last decade, an individual's stance on "marriage equality" was the litmus test for Democratic politicians and the issue which for much of the left distinguished the acceptable from the irredeemable.

Now it is "Karen."  Race- or, more generally, ethnicity- has become the defining issue of American politics. The seeds had been laid decades before, but when candidate Donald Trump came down the escalator in New York City, demonized immigrants from Mexico. and won the GOP presidential nomination with a racial appeal, race had been elevated to the most salient issue in American politics. The murder of George Floyd, the protests which followed it, and the backlash among overwhelmingly Republican voters have only reinforced this status.

I don't know for a fact that Meghan McCain was selected for "The View: because she was (probably still is) a gay-friendly conservative Republican. However, it was no coincidence. When McCain quits (or is fired from) the show, she will be replaced with a conservative culled from the ranks of Never-Trump Republicans, individuals formerly part of the party's establishment. She may be highly partisan and will have stellar conservative credentials but will take a reasonably progressive position on race. Even if, aside from that enlightened perspective, she is an imbecile.

 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Abortion Politics


The  United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear an abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson, which is not likely to be decided for approximately twelve months.  Steve M. has a thought of how the Court therefore will rule and writes (or blogs, or types)

A ruling that guts Roe threatens the project of electing Republicans. On the other hand, a ruling that doesn't gut Roe demotivates Republican voters. So I expect a ruling that will batter Roe but leave it standing, if barely. The portion of the Democratic electorate that isn't deeply engaged in politcs will regard the decision as tolerable, while the right will understand that change has been made.

I'm guessing the Court will say that 15-week bans are fine while suggesting that 6-week bans might not be acceptable, so the decision seems "centrist."

This Court will never stop attacking Roe but might never have the honesty to reject it outright. The time to do that would be after a sweeping Republican victory that leaves the party with a cushion of several seats in the House and Senate -- and then the ruling should come down more than a year before the next election.

I think that's about right.  Polls- or at least this poll- typically have found Americans to be nearly equally divided between those who consider themselves "pro-life" and those who identify as "pro-choice."  While there are many individuals who believe abortion should be illegal in almost all circumstances and many who believe it should be legal in almost every circumstance, there are roughly as many people who believe it should be legal in some circumstances as those who take the extreme positions combined.

Yet, there has been for a long time a solid majority of Americans opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. That seems counter-intuitive because its elimination would technically merely return the issue to the states.

However, it appears that many people understand that the impact of upending the famous 1973 decision would go far beyond that. As a video from CBS News indicates, there are five states which have passed abortion "trigger laws," which would ban the procedure in nearly all cases if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Moreover, a "few states" have amended their constitution to remove any protection of reproductive freedom.

Except that was in February, 2019. There now are ten states- Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Missouri, Tennessee, South Dakota and Utah- which have passed such legislation. Additionally, nine states which banned abortion prior to Roe v. Wade could simply choose to enforce their existing laws if the landmark decision is cancelled.



Three months ago, US News summarized

In the past few years, state legislatures have enacted more than 250 abortion-related laws in 45 states, according to the study from authors at the University of Utah. Of the laws enacted between January 2017 and November 2020, 88.7% restricted access to abortion services. Seven states accounted for more than half of those restrictive laws: Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio and Utah.

The laws ranged from funding constraints and restrictions for physicians to waiting periods for patients and gestational limits. Some would trigger a complete ban on abortions if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.

On the side of expanding access to abortions, Washington, D.C., and 12 states expanded access with 29 laws between 2017 and 2020, 11.3% of the total laws enacted during the period.

They may not know the details, but the American people seem to have an intuitive sense of the stakes involved in determining whether Roe v. Wade should remain.  Though the right to an abortion remains a very controversial issue with most people, there may be a rough consensus. There is a sense, rational or otherwise, that too many abortions are taking place and thus they should be deterred, but that the procedure should remain available (within limits) for when it is needed.

That equilibrium, which has existed unequally and uneasily for a few decades, would be upended if Roe v. Wade is overturned. It would not go unnoticed by voters.

The fictional Mr. Dooley once wisely stated  “no matter whether th’ constitution follows th’ flag or not, th’ supreme coort follows th’ iliction returns.” The Supreme Court now is dominated by partisan Republicans keenly aware that ending any and all protection of reproductive freedom might be signing a death warrant for the GOP. Thus, as Steve M speculates, while Roe v. Wade currently is on life support, it's unlikely to flat line in an election year.

 


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Vaccine Politics


On May 14, former President Donald J. Trump

released a wordy statement that read: “Isn’t it incredible that because of the vaccines, which I and my Administration came up with years ahead of schedule (despite the fact that everybody, including Fauci, said would never happen), that we no longer need masks, and yet our names are not even mentioned in what everybody is calling the modern day miracle of the vaccines?”

Later in the statement, he made a straight-up plea: “Just a mention please! The Biden Administration had zero to do with it.”

The New York Times has mentioned it, with a reporter in mid- December conceding "helping speed the development of a coronavirus vaccine may be one of Mr. Trump’s proudest accomplishments...."

Given that whatever accomplishment Trump-Kushner may have claimed in the Middle East has now blown up in Joe Biden's face, "one of Mr. Trump's proudest accomplishments" sets the bar extremely low. Still, the 45th President probably deserves at least a little credit for encouraging drug companies to develop the vaccine for SARS-CoV-2.

However, if Trump is to be credited at all with that, a full examination of the former President's pitiful- nay destructive- approach to the pandemic should be made. Ironically, we get a little closer to that if we take the advice of Representative Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Wisconsin.

Appearing with Saagar Enjeti on The Hill's "Rising" on Friday, Gallagher referred to the interrogation of Dr. Anthony Fauci by Senator Rand Paul in a committee hearing and remarked

Fauci admitted yesterday that they don't have a full understanding of everything that was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Viroogy... We want to know what the heck happened if for no other reason than we want to prevent this from happening again. If we can't get to the origin, we'll never be able to prevent the next pandemic.

Gallagher's aim appears to be an investigation into whether SARS-CoV-2 originated in the Wuhan wet market or in the lab in the city. He continued

.... we had nominated some Americans to be on the WHO investigation and what happened is effectively the Chinese Communist Party vetoed that and they allowed one American- a dual American-British citizen, Peter Daszak, to be on the WHO team.

Daszak, as hasd been suggested here before, clearly has a conflict of interest because he

has built his entire professional career around promoting gain-of-function research and the ECO Alliance (which he headed) was doing work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

It's neither paranoid nor racist to suggest that, just maybe, Beijing lurks behind the curtain. Gallagher added

The Biden Administration came in and they didn't contradict the information that the Trump Administration released in January, which said that workers at the Wuhan Institue got sick prior to the broader outbreadk, which would be more evidence in suppotr of the lab leak. So the incoming Adminsistration has said actually there's something here but what they haven't done is they haven't been willing to declassify all the intelligence and that's what I think neesds to happen. We need to know what happened with these workers at the lab. They need to be transparent, forthcoming, and if they're holding that back just because they don't want to get in trouble with the CCP or screw up some broader negotiation that's happening on climate change, well, that would be short-sighted in my opinion.

Determining the origin of the coronavirus is important not only to hold accountable whomever may be responsible. American tax dollars and the focus of reseacrch are at stake. Gallagher continued

About 200 million dollars in American grants went towards gain-of-function research. Well, now, there's something called the Global Virome Project that wants to 6X that with a 1.2 billion dolllar investment in gain-of-function research. So we now face this really important question as to whether we're going to increase the amount of money we're spending on research when we have evidence suggesting that maybe it was this exact type of research that played a role in causing the pandemic.

The comments from the conservative Republican congressman then took a slightly surprising twist as he remarked

It would be insane to dramatically increase the amount of funding that's going toward this type of research, which even the Obama Administration shut down because of the risks involved.



Thank you, Congressman! The Obama Administration did in fact shut down this approach. However, on December 19, 2017

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today lifted a 3-year moratorium on funding gain-of-function (GOF) research on potential pandemic viruses such as avian flu, SARS, and MERS, opening the door for certain types of research to resume.

The action coincides with today's release of a US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) framework for guiding funding decisions about proposed research involving pathogens that have enhanced potential for creating pandemics.

The gain-of-function research which may have led to the coronavirus being unleashed was approved in the Trump Administration. So let's find out if it escaped from the lab or from a wet market, which was the company line propagated to quell concerns about Beijing. And then we also can determine how much credit President Trump deserves for development of the vaccine(s) and how much blame for promoting its spread. Fair is fair.

 


Sunday, May 16, 2021

In The Nick Of Time



Neri Zelber in Foreign Policy writes "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been waging two wars recently—a shooting one in the Gaza Strip and a political battle at home against opponents from across the spectrum.."

But of course Netanyahu has been waging an additional war, the latter a smaller, local one his right-wing policies and pronouncements have instigated. Earlier this month six Arabic families were evicted from the East Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrrah in favor of six Jewish families. Hundreds of East Jerusalem residents gathered nightly in the neighborhood and numerous clashes with police followed. (The dispute is pending in the Israeli Supreme Court.) Hamas took the opportunity to fire missiles into Israel, whose military has responded disproportionately.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been under indictment (video below from 11/19) for breach of trust, accepting bribes, and fraud. (Some democracies believe even a head of state is subject to the rule of law. Then there is the USA.)


 

 The timing may not be coincidential:


Zelber explains

Naftali Bennett, a right-wing lawmaker and a key figure in the negotiations between the opposition factions, told party members in a closed-door meeting Thursday that the option was “off the table,” according to Israel’s Channel 12. The report, later widely confirmed, said he doubted such a government could deploy the necessary force to quell the clashes between Arab and Jewish citizens that have flared since fighting in Gaza began this week.

The anti-Netanyahu coalition would have spanned the political gamut from left to right—with Bennett serving as prime minister—and included an Islamist party representing Arab Israelis. The motley group was united mainly by the goal of toppling Netanyahu, who has led Israel for 12 straight years and is standing trial on multiple corruption charges.

The report indicated that Bennett, head of the pro-settler Yamina party, was resuming negotiations with Netanyahu’s Likud party.

So the war may be saving Netanyahu's political skin while he invokes a tactic- diversion- of one of his close political allies, President Donald J. Trump.  The status of Jerusalem is far more important than conflict with one terrorist group, while the latter dominates the airwaves. Moreover, it may be no coincidence that shortly before the Hamas-Israel hostilities broke out in violence, the issue dominating news in the USA involved- you guessed it- the government in Russia:

 

What will be the response, Kasparov asks. We may have seen the response, nearly 6,000 miles from Washington, D.C., and not from a President but from a Prime Minister.


 


Worse Than McCarthy



In an opinion piece in The New York Times, columnist Jennifer Rubin argues that Representative Liz Cheney, thus far leader of the anti-Trump faction in the Republican Party, does not go far enough. She should, Rubin writes, "embrace efforts to guarantee the same access voters enjoyed in 2020 and also support H.R. 4, which would restore the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act."

Moreover, Rubin maintains, the Wyoming congresswoman should campaign in both primaries and general election "against any House member who signed on to the noxious brief seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters and against any House or Senate member who voted to overthrow the results of 2020."

A little strangely, she then adds that Cheney "also should require candidates she backs to refuse to vote for McCarthy as speaker." That would serve little purpose.

It's apparent that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted to support objections to the election results in both Pennsylvania and Arizona, has no spine.  Minority Whip Steve Scalise voted in the same manner in January, as did Gary Palmer, now the Republican Policy Committee chairman. None appears to have any  problem with Donald Trump.

Elise Stefanik voted for the objection to Pennsylvania's vote, though against the objection to Arizona.

However, that was the old Elise Stefanik. The new Elise Stefanik made sure in the GOP's closed-door meeting on May 14 "to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican conference...."

Even Rubin, who has written "Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy From Donald Trump," recognizes that Stefanik is an even "bigger Trump stooge" than McCarthy. And there may be an even worse scenario that "Speaker Stefanik." 

Back in October, 2015, when the Republican Party already was unreasonable but seemed tolerant of democracy, NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams noted that the US Constitution specifies

 "The House of Representatives shall chuse (sic) their Speaker and other Officers."

The Clerk of the House agrees with the office of the House Historian, which says the speaker "has always been (but is not required to be) a House Member."

Most historians and legal experts who've looked at this issue conclude the founders simply assumed the speaker would be drawn from among elected members.

Moreover

given the Constitution's silence on the matter, what if the House did elect an outsider to be speaker? Someone affected by a law passed during a Congress that included a non-member speaker could file a lawsuit, but such an effort probably wouldn't go very far.

The federal courts — and especially the Supreme Court — are reluctant to wade into cases that raise such purely political questions.



If the GOP were to take control of the House of Representatives in January, 2023 (as most analysts believe likely) and Donald Trump were to demand that he be made Speaker, there would be little objection from House Republicans. By that time, Liz Cheney and the few members of the caucus who are willing to question the Chosen One probably will be gone. Although a lazy Donald Trump imight not want to put forth the effort which a Speaker of the House normally expends, it would be his for the asking. The Supreme Court ultimately would agree or take a pass.

A few years ago, pundits who fancied themselves clever would declare- without dissent- "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." It was considered irrefutable, was politically correct, and was as recently as a year ago January repeated by the House Judiciary Committee chairperson.

Surprise!



Friday, May 14, 2021

Let Them Eat Low Wages



After pledging undying loyalty to "unity," House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of upstate New York declared"the American people are suffering under the far-left, radical socialist policies of Speaker Joe Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi."

But "unity." Stefanik's charge is so antithetical to the cause of unity that it's easy not to notice that Stefanik has referred to Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi as "far-left" and "radical." That may be unsurprising, however, in a party whose leadership follows self-anointed "Chosen One" Donald Trump, who has replaced Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

More significantly, however, Stefanik, speaking for the GOP caucus, maintained

The economic risis.. We see the worst jobs report in over twenty years. Unemployment is up, small businesses are struggling to hire workers and Speaker Pelosi and Jo Biden (sic) solution to that is to pay people to stay out of work rather than incentivize people to get back to work. And Republicans, we are fighting to re-open the economy....



The average monthly increase in jobs in the first three years- before the pandemic- of the Trump Administration was approximately 185,111. Last month, the "worst jobs report in over twenty years" showed a gain of 266,000 jobs. Wallowing in alternative facts, Stefanik has passed her first test as a GOP leader. Worse, GOP governors are acting in lockstep with House Republicans as

More than 1.9 million Americans in Alabama, Mississippi and 14 other Republican-led states are set to have their unemployment checks slashed significantly starting in June, as GOP governors seek to restrict jobless assistance in an effort to force more people to return to work.

The cuts are likely to fall hardest on roughly 1.4 million people who benefit from stimulus programs that Congress adopted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, including one targeting those who either are self-employed or work on behalf of gig-economy companies such as Uber. Beginning next month, many of these workers are likely to receive no aid at all.

In a move undoubtedly rankling many Republicans

McDonald’s announced Thursday that it is raising hourly wages by an average of 10% for more than 36,500 employees at its company-owned restaurants in the U.S.

The fast-food giant says the changes, which have already begun, will include raising the entry-level wage to a range of $11 to $17 an hour, as well as increasing the starting range for shift managers to between $15 and $20 an hour, based on restaurant. location.

(There is no word on whether the food will be made edible; one issue at a time.)

McDonald's is raising wages while Republicans rush to slash unemployment compensation to send more individuals into the workforce.  Some individuals are still queasy about the coronavirus, some are without child care, and some are simply unable to work, but Republicans adamantly advocate increasing the labor supply, the better to put a brake on wage increases.

Free money. Washington wants to send money to state capitols, to be relayed to the residents of those states. And fifteen (15) Republican governors are rising in unison to say: "keep your money."

Rejecting free money is unwise and probably wouldn't be done if those Republicans and their donors were simply heartless. They have to be heartless- and want loads more of their constituents competing with other constituents, lest wages rise. 

It's bad enough that numerous GOP governors won't take the free money which would help people feed their families. It turns out that the compensation doesn't even discourage individuals from returning to the workforce:

 


Thursday, May 13, 2021

Better Than Nothing


It's not that Liz Cheney isn't courageous. She is, as much as CNN is giving her credit for, and that's not easy.

Cheney is not attacking only the GOP's reigning god, Donald "Chosen One" Trump. She also is standing up against a party establishment, the entrenched powerful, which, as Democrats who once opposed Nancy Pelosi's leadership in the House learned, is rarely successful.

Still, Cheney's challenge is mostly sound and fury, with little chance of sucess. Matthew Dowd, Independent, former Republican strategist, and founder of "Country Over Party," appeared on MSNBC's "The Reid Out" on Wednesday. He has this one nailed, and not only because he realizes that the Wyoming congresswoman and her allies 

have to ask themselves the question, am I facilitating and enabling a party that`s going to push this by staying in it? And that`s my issue with Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger and Mitt Romney and others, because what happens if the House is taken over by the Republican in 2022, or the Senate is taken over by the Republican in 2022? The reason why it will be taken over is because Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney stayed in the Republican Party. So they will facilitate this happening.

After host Joy-Ann Reid referred to the "first big lie as having been birtherism," Dowd remarked

Well, to me, it actually -- I trace it back further than the birtherism. I think that if we really look at this and trace it back to where this sort of started, where this virus began and where it really started taking off, it was in the mid `90s. And in the mid `90s with Newt Gingrich started to make cultural argument, and because the Republicans were then beginning to face the prospect that the diversity of America was blossoming and that people of color, women were starting to push themselves into power and at the table. They didn`t like that.

Conservative Republicans are not offended because some people are "black and brown." They're not offended even because of the subculture characterizing many members of the black and Latino communities.  They're angry because of "the prospect that the diversity of America was blossoming" and ethnic groups conspicuously favoring Democrats "were starting to push themselves into power and at the table." For the most part, they don't dislike them. They simply don't want them to vote.

That's the major Republican mission now. The GOP "autopsy" following the party's loss in 2012 recognized that the nation's demographic profile was changing dramatically, and strongly implied that the Party would have to branch out from their core of old white males. Then failed businessman and successful actor Donald Trump came around to complain "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists some I assume are good people," he won, and their descent down the rathole of voter suppression accelerated.

Now the Republican Party is engaged in a massive, nationwide effort to block Americans from voting. As of March 11, Republican state legislators across 43 states had introduced more than 250+ bills to curb voting. Yet, a mere nine days before she'd be thrown out as chairperson of the House Republican conference, Cheney denounced HR 1, the For the People Act, as "unconstitutional federal takeover," claiming the Democratic effort to protect voting rights

steals power from the people, violates Americans’ First Amendment Rights, and is designed to protect Democrat politicians. The legislation would force hard-earned taxpayer money to fund political campaigns and enable the federal government to control all aspects of our elections.

It’s clear that we need common sense election reform, but this unconstitutional federal takeover would only create more uncertainty for the system.

Liz Cheney has decided that a guy who incites a riot to storm the Capitol and seek the execution of the Vice-President and the Speaker of the House should not lead the GOP or the nation. That places her in a minority in her Party. "Her stand likely won't matter much," Esquire's Jack Holmes writes, "and it certainly does not redeem her or her family name. But her defenstration is, at the very least, a telling mile-marker on this path into the darkness." 


 


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Beyond The Lie


Q. Does saying something repeatedly make it more credible than stating it only once?

A. It does make it more credible (believable or convincing) but not more valid.

In the video below, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, questioning Dr. Anthony Fauci in a virtual hearing of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions about funding for, and origin of, SARS-CoV-2, contended (at :25)

For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the U.S., has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zeng-li of the Wuhan virology institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super viruses. This gain of function research has been funded by the NIH. The collaboration between the U.SA. and the Wuhan virology institute continues Dr. Baric and Shi worked together to insert bt virus spike protein into the backbone of the deadly SARS virus and then- and then used this man-made super virus to infect human airway cells. Think about tht for a moment..... Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the- NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?

Dr. Fauci responded

Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect- that the NIH has not ever- and does not- not fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Fauci is employing a double negative in saying that Paul is incorrect in stating that the National Institutes of Health has not ever, and does not, not fund gain-of-function research in Wuhan. Obviously, Paul was arguing that the NIH does fund, or had funded, gain-of-function research. Presumably, Fauci was simply tripping over words because he would maintain at 2:55

However, I will repeat again that NIH and NIAID categoricallly has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

And at 3:31, Fauci can be seen remarking

I fully agree that you should investigate where the virus came from but again, we have not funded gain-of-function research on this virus in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. No many- how many times you say it, it didn't happen.



Three times Fauci appeared to deny, vehemently, that neither the NIH or the NIAID funded gain-of- function research which would be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Yet, in an article posted on May 5, 2021 by the Bureau of the Atomic Scientists, science writer, editor, and author Nicholas Wade explains

Baric had developed, and taught Shi, a general method for engineering bat coronaviruses to attack other species. The specific targets were human cells grown in cultures and humanized mice. These laboratory mice, a cheap and ethical stand-in for human subjects, are genetically engineered to carry the human version of a protein called ACE2 that studs the surface of cells that line the airways.

Shi returned to her lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and resumed the work she had started on genetically engineering coronaviruses to attack human cells. How can we be so sure?

Because, by a strange twist in the story, her work was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). And grant proposals that funded her work, which are a matter of public record, specify exactly what she planned to do with the money.

The grants were assigned to the prime contractor, (Peter) Daszak of the EcoHealth Alliance, who subcontracted them to Shi.

Wade then quoted from the grants for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, which begs the question of why Dr. Fauci would emphatically deny government subsidization of the gain-of-function research which may have led to escape from the Wuhan lab of the coronavirus. Wade writes

From June 2014 to May 2019, Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance had a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to do gain-of-function research with coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Whether or not SARS2 is the product of that research, it seems a questionable policy to farm out high-risk research to unsafe foreign labs using minimal safety precautions. And if the SARS2 virus did indeed escape from the Wuhan institute, then the NIH will find itself in the terrible position of having funded a disastrous experiment that led to death of more than 3 million worldwide, including more than half a million of its own citizens.

The responsibility of the NIAID and NIH is even more acute because for the first three years of the grant to EcoHealth Alliance, there was a moratorium on funding gain-of-function research. Why didn’t the two agencies therefore halt the federal funding, as apparently required to do so by law? Because someone wrote a loophole into the moratorium.

The moratorium specifically barred funding any gain-of-function research that increased the pathogenicity of the flu, MERS, or SARS viruses. But then a footnote on page 2 of the moratorium document states that “[a]n exception from the research pause may be obtained if the head of the USG funding agency determines that the research is urgently necessary to protect the public health or national security.”

This seems to mean that either the director of the NIAID, Anthony Fauci, or the director of the NIH, Francis Collins, or maybe both, would have invoked the footnote in order to keep the money flowing to Shi’s gain-of-function research.

Six days before Dr. Fauci's testimony, the editorial board of The Washington Post noted

It is known from public documents that Dr. Shi was conducting “gain of function” research on bat coronaviruses, which involves modifying their genomes to give the viruses new properties, such as the ability to infect a new host species or transmit from one host to another more easily. Such research is controversial — a gain of function experiment can create a danger that didn’t exist before. But the research might also help predict how a virus might evolve toward spillover, enabling the development of effective countermeasures such as a broad coronavirus vaccine.

The research carried out by Dr. Shi was financed in part over the years by the United States, China and Europe.

Wade believes that if the virus did originate with the lab, responsibility for the escape and coverup is widespread, lying with Chinese virogogists. Chinese authorities, and the worldwide community of virologists.

But also with "The US role in funding the Wuhan Institute of Virology."  That may or may not include the most renowned virologist in the USA, the celebrated Anthony Fauci.

Fauci knew in early spring that donning masks would be effective but claimed otherwise until later in the season. In public pronouncements, he initially underestimated the percentage of individuals necessary to be vaccinated before herd immunity would be reached.  In both cases, he thought Americans weren't ready for the truth.  He seemed so sincere, as he does now, though facts indicate he is not.

Dr. Fauci- otherwise lying to Rand Paul, a Sentate committee, and the American people- has helpfully agreed "that you should investigate where the virus came from." Congress needs to do so or it is complicit in a coverup. Even liars can offer good advice.

 

Indirect, But Real

When Bill Maher recently was interviewed by CNN's Chris Cuomo, the host of Real Time maintained that it is Representative Liz Cheney&...