Tuesday Reads

Long Liyou, Chinese artist

Painting by Long Liyou, Chinese artist

Good Morning!!

For once I have something to smile about. The Red Sox, after a fairly lackluster end to their season, are now on the way to the American League Championship series. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays, supposedly the best team in baseball this year. I doubt if anyone else here cares, but I’m glad I finally have something to celebrate in this depressing time.

Now back to the discouraging topic of U.S. politics. If anyone can come up with something good about it, I would love to know about it.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is still doing his best to kill Texans–by banning mask and vaccine mandates. At the same time he is trying to force women to bear children against their will, which will lead women to die from back alley abortions like they did in the bad old days before Roe v. Wade. Freedumb!

The Washington Post: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bans coronavirus vaccine mandates, including for private businesses.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday banned any entity in his state — including private businesses — from mandating coronavirus vaccines for workers or customers, expanding prior executive orders from his office that prohibited state government entities from imposing similar requirements.

Abbott’s move puts him at odds with some large corporations and with the Biden administration, which last month announced plans to require all employers with 100 or more workers to adopt vaccine mandates or testing regimens. A number of large private companies in Texas have issued mandates.

“If indeed the mandate now is everyone must be vaccinated or . . . tested once a week, we will obviously comply by that mandate,” Doug Parker, chief executive of Fort Worth-based American Airlines, said in a Washington Post Live interview in September.

“All along, as we’ve been going through this, we have been considering mandates and may have done one on our own. But what we wanted to do was do everything we could first to encourage everyone to do so,” he said.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines last week gave all employees until Dec. 8 to get vaccinated or face possible termination. (Many U.S. airlines also are government contractors, which must meet a Dec. 8 federal deadline for coronavirus vaccinations.) Telecom giant AT&T, also based in Dallas, in August ordered most of its management employees to get vaccinated by this week. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, headquartered in Houston, announced a similar move the same month.

Abbott called the Biden administration’s sweeping plan “yet another instance of federal overreach,” saying in his order that the administration is “bullying” private entities into vaccine mandates, hurting the livelihoods of Texans and threatening the state’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

But bullying a woman into bearing her rapist’s child is A-OK with Abbot. Make it make sense. Also, Abbott hasn’t explained how he will enforce his ban at U.S. military bases in Texas. Will he send the Texas Rangers in to battle the feds?


This is from Ryan Cooper at The Week: It’s time for bold action to save Republicans’ lives, whether they like it or not.

President Biden is in trouble. As my colleague Damon Linker writes, his approval numbers have been steadily declining for months, now hovering in the low 40s in some surveys. Without some upward movement, that will spell disaster for the Democrats in the upcoming midterms.

There is one straightforward policy Biden can undertake, completely on his own initiative, to turn this around: vaccine mandates. Strict policies to force vaccine-resistant populations to get their shots would do more than anything else under Biden’s direct control to improve the condition of the country — and his own polling numbers.

(c) John Croft; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Harold Knight, The Green Book, 1915

Now, there are no doubt many reasons Biden’s approval is down. The shrieking tantrum from the mainstream media over the American empire being humiliated in Afghanistan plays a part, as does the general tendency for presidential approval to decline following inauguration. The relentless drumbeat of conservative propaganda takes its toll as well.

But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is surely the largest part. Political science has shown for years that the incumbent party in the White House tends to be blamed for bad things that happen on its watch — even if that assignment of blame makes little sense. That’s what’s happening here. 

As long as the pandemic continues, it will play hell with the economic recovery. Unemployment is relatively low, but recent jobs numbers have been weak, and supply chains are badly snarled up across the globe. That, coupled with the worst mass casualty event in a century — more people have died of COVID-19 this year than in 2020 — is surely sandbagging presidential popularity.

Republican resistance to measures to control the pandemic is the reason for Biden’s slipping poll numbers as well as the horrible case and death rates in red states and counties.

Right-wing media and leaders have constantly spewed anti-vaccine propaganda for months, while Republican politicians have bitterly fought any kind of forcible pandemic controls. Even as Florida suffered by far its worst surge of the virus since the pandemic started, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) continued to punish schools that required masks. He’s currently in a legal fight trying to ban private cruise ship companies — perhaps the most notoriously disease-prone businesses in the world — from implementing vaccine requirements.

Sure enough, if you plot former President Donald Trump’s vote share by county in 2020 versus vaccination rate, you find a large and consistent negative correlation. That is, the more Trump voters, the fewer shots in arms. A recent study in The Lancet found that if Texas and Florida alone had matched the vaccination rates of the most-vaccinated states, more than 22,000 Texans and Floridians who died of COVID-19 would still be alive today.

As I have previously argued, Republicans like DeSantis (who is vaccinated, by the way) are functionally conducting human wave attacks against Joe Biden’s approval rating, sacrificing their own loyal base for cheap political wins. The extent to which this is a conscious calculation may vary, but the practical effect is that the pandemic continues; Biden is blamed for it; and that (probably) does more damage to Democrats’ vote totals than the GOP loses in dead voters.

This ruthlessness must be met with bold, uncompromising action to save life rather than end it. A minority of Republicans insist they absolutely will not choose to get the vaccine? Fine. Force them to do it.

Keith Larson, A Page Turner, 2012

Keith Larson, A Page Turner, 2012

On the abortion issue, this is from the AP, via NBC News: Justice Department again presses to halt Texas abortion law.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Biden administration urged the courts again to step in and suspend a new Texas law that has banned most abortions since early September, as clinics hundreds of miles away remain busy with Texas patients making long journeys to get care.

The latest attempt Monday night comes three days after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the nation’s most restrictive abortion law after a brief 48-hour window last week in which Texas abortion providers — following a blistering ruling by a lower court — had rushed to bring in patients again.

The days ahead could now be key in determining the immediate future of the law known as Senate Bill 8, including whether there is another attempt to have the U.S. Supreme Court weigh in.

The law bans abortions in Texas once cardiac activity is detected, which is usually at six weeks and before some women even know they are pregnant. Although other GOP-controlled states have had similar early bans on abortions blocked by courts, the Texas law has proved durable because the state offloads enforcement solely onto private citizens, who can collect at least $10,000 in damages if they successfully sue abortion providers.

“If Texas’s scheme is permissible, no constitutional right is safe from state-sanctioned sabotage of this kind,” the Justice Department told the appeals court.

In wording that seemed to be a message to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department raised the specter that if allowed to stand, the legal structure created in enacting the law could be used to circumvent even the Supreme Court’s rulings in 2008 and 2010 on gun rights and campaign financing.

Former Republicans seem to be doing a better job of defending the Biden agenda and elucidating the threat to democracy posed by the former guy than Democrats are. Of course the mainstream media plays a role in this too; they simply refuse to explain what’s in the Democrat’s infrastructure bills.

Former Republican Tim Miller at The Bulwark: Dear Democrats: Only 10% of People Even Know What You Are Fighting For.

Quick: What is in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better,” “Human Infrastructure,” “Reconciliation,” “Unicorn Boner,” “Bed Bath & Beyond” legislation?

Can you tell me?

I’m guessing that you can. Well maybe you don’t know everything that’s in it. But I bet you can name a couple things. Because you, dear reader, are an engaged citizen. You participate in our rollicking national civic dialogue. You subscribe to a few substacks.

Vincenzo Irolli, Italian artist

Painting by Vincenzo Irolli, Italian artist

But do you understand just how rare you are, person who knows what is in the BBB plan? You are like the recherché and retired Batty the Bat beanie baby or the sweet Nikola Jokic double behind the back dribble TopShot NFT.

Because when CBS News asked the American public how much they know about the “Build Back Better” plan only 10 percent replied “a lot of the specifics.”

10 percent!

And let me tell you a secret: Even that number is wrong, because a bunch of those people were lying.

There is copious political science research which demonstrates when people are asked whether or not they voted, those who didn’t will often report that they had. It’s human nature. You don’t want to sound like a laggard to the stranger on the phone!

So we have 1-in-10 as our absolute ceiling when it comes to the share of Americans who know what is in the bill that is cock-blocking the done-and-ready infrastructure bill.

This seems like a problem!

Read the rest at the link.

From former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson: Opinion: The Trump nightmare looms again.

It is increasingly evident that the nightmare prospect of American politics — unified Republican control of the federal government in the hands of a reelected, empowered Donald Trump in 2025 — is also the likely outcome.

Why this is a nightmare should be clear enough. Every new tranche of information released about Trump’s behavior following the 2020 election — most recently an interim report from the Senate Judiciary Committee — reveals a serious and concerted attempt to overthrow America’s legitimate incoming government.

At roughly the same time that Trump was gathering and unleashing his goons to intimidate members of Congress on Jan. 6, he was pressuring Justice Department leaders to provide legal cover for his effort to prevent certification of the election. When they refused, Trump conspired with a lower-level loyalist to take over the department and run it according to the president’s dictates. Under the threat of mass resignations, Trump eventually backed off.

This led to one of the lamest excuses in the long history of lame political excuses. Trump defenders such as Brit Hume want to award Trump kudos for desisting in the end. “Trump decided against it,” Hume tweeted. “It is not to his credit that he even considered it, but his rejection should be part of any story on it.” But this retrenchment, on Trump’s part, was a recognition of positional weakness, not a display of public virtue. The thing that matters most is this: The current front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination would have broken the constitutional order if he could have broken the constitutional order.

Meanwhile, it is clear that this same lawless, reckless man has a perfectly realistic path back to power. The GOP is a garbage scow of the corrupt, the seditious and their enablers, yet the short- and medium-term political currents are in its favor.

Ian Henderson, UK

Painting by Ian Henderson, UK

Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman at The New York Times: We Are Republicans. There’s Only One Way to Save Our Party From Pro-Trump Extremists.

8 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    I bought Adam Schiff’s new book and Fionna Hill’s too. I love that his first page is a Shakespeare quote from Measure for Measure.

    For the truth is truth
    To the end of reckoning.

    Indeed! I have a feeling I’m going to be lost in them for a while.

  5. dakinikat says: