Lazy Caturday Reads: Young Guns

Belinda Del Pesco

By Belinda Del Pesco

Good Morning!!

It seems as if mass shootings are contagious. Whenever there is a high profile case, more gun violence follows. There have been so many cases of gunmen shooting multiple people lately that the massacre of ten people in Buffalo seems to have receded into the past. But it happened only three weeks ago. It’s difficult not to feel helpless and despairing when these massacres keep happening and one political party stands in the way of the federal government doing anything to prevent them.

From yesterday’s New York Times: Again and Again and Again

In the early hours after the shooting at a Tulsa medical center on Wednesday, the details were murky. Soon, it became clear that the death toll there was not going to be as nearly as high as the tolls from the recent shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo.

Four people were killed in Tulsa (in addition to the gunman), compared with 21 in Uvalde and 10 in Buffalo. But the Tulsa shooting is nonetheless horrific in its own way — not only for its victims and their families but also for what it says about gun violence in the United States.

Shootings that kill multiple people are so common in this country that they often do not even make national news. They are a regular feature of American life. Tulsa has become the latest example — yet another gun crime that seems almost ordinary here and yet would be extremely rare in any other country as wealthy as the U.S.

To give you a sense of how common these shootings are, we’re devoting the rest of the lead item of today’s newsletter to a list of every documented mass shooting in which a gunman has killed at least three people in the U.S. so far this year. (The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any in which at least four people are shot, including survivors.)

Among the patterns we noticed: Family disputes are a common motivation, and gang disputes are another. Every identified suspect has been a man, many under 25. Baltimore and Sacramento have experienced multiple such mass shootings this year.

Read the list of incidents at the NYT link. On May 25, NPR counted 213 mass shootings in 2022.

Calico-Curiousity-Persis-Clayton-Weirs

Calico Curiousity, by Persis Clayton Weirs

Yesterday, The Washington Post published an interesting article about school shooters: Young men, guns and the prefrontal cortex.

When Vanderbilt University psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl learned that the perpetrator of the Uvalde, Tex., school massacre was a young man barely out of adolescence, it was hard not to think about the peculiarities of the maturing male brain.

Salvador Rolando Ramos had just turned 18, eerily close in age to Nikolas Cruz, who had been 19 when he shot up a school in Parkland, Fla. And to Adam Lanza, 20, when he did the same in Newtown, Conn. To Seung-Hui Cho, 23, at Virginia Tech. And to Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, in Columbine, Colo.

Teen and young adult males have long stood out from other subgroups for their impulsive behavior. They are far more reckless and prone to violence than their counterparts in other age groups, and their leading causes of death include fights, accidents, driving too fast, or, as Metzl put it, “other impulsive kinds of acts.”

“There’s a lot of research about how their brains are not fully developed in terms of regulation,” he said.

Perhaps most significantly, studies show, the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to understanding the consequences of one’s actions and controlling impulses, does not fully develop until about age 25. In that context, Metzl said, a shooting “certainly feels like another kind of performance of young masculinity.”

In coming weeks and months, investigators will dissect Ramos’s life to try to figure out what led him to that horrific moment at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 when he opened fire on a classroom full of 9- and-10-year-olds at Robb Elementary School. Although clear answers are unlikely, the patterns that have emerged about mass shooters in the growing databases, school reports, medical notes and interview transcripts show a disturbing confluence between angry young men, easy access to weapons and reinforcement of violence by social media….

“Age is the untold story of all this stuff,” said Metzl, who is also a sociologist. “I feel very strongly we should not have people 18 to 21 with guns.”

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Summer Morning, Sleeping Cat, by Yuanchi Qiao

Summer Morning, Sleeping Cat, by Yuanchi Qiao

There’s still a lot of discussion in the media about the disastrous response of law enforcement in the Uvalde school massacre.

CNN: Frustration mounts in Uvalde over shifting narratives about school shooting. State senator says lack of clarity could hinder future safety measures.

Ten days after a gunman slaughtered 19 students and their two teachers in their classrooms at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, there are still significant gaps in the information officials have released about law enforcement’s response.

“My point as a policymaker, which is the third function of my job, is to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents Uvalde.

“How in the world are we going to be able to do anything if we can’t figure out what happened in that building in those 40 minutes?”

The shifting police narratives, unanswered questions and the horror of knowing 21 victims were trapped with a gunman for more than an hour — despite repeated 911 calls for help from inside the classrooms — is tormenting this small Texas city.

Gutierrez has questioned whether the responding officers on scene were aware of those calls as they stood outside the classrooms. It’s also unclear whether the incident commander, who made the call for the officers not to confront the shooter immediately, was on scene as the shooting unfolded.

Victims’ families and other local residents are angry. At a school board meeting last night, Superintendent Hall Harrell said that Robb Elementary would not reopen. After that, the board went into a “lengthy closed-door session.

Angela Turner, a mother of five who lost her niece in the shooting, expressed outrage. “We want answers to where the security is going to take place. This was all a joke,” she told reporters, referring to the meeting. “I’m so disappointed in our school district.”

Turner insisted that she will not send her children to school unless they feel safe, adding that her 6-year-old child told her, “I don’t want to go to school. Why? To be shot?”

“These people will not have a job if we stand together, and we do not let our kids go here,” she said as she pointed to a vacant school board podium.

Summer Cat by Rosemary Margaret DaunisDawn Poitevent, a mother whose child was slated to attend Robb Elementary as a second-grader, was tearful as she told reporters that she wants the board to consider letting her child stay at his current school, Dalton Elementary.

“I just need to keep my baby safe, and I can’t promise him that. Nobody can promise their children that right now,” Poitevent said. “At least if he goes to Dalton, he’s not going to be scared, and he’s not going to be having the worst first day that I can possibly imagine.”

Poitevent added that her son, Hayes, has been telling her that he’s scared to go to school because a “bad man” will shoot him.

“We’re just trying so hard to get past everything,” she said. “We’re trying to bury our babies and say goodbye to people that really mattered.”

Read more at the CNN link.

Poppy Noor at The Guardian: Uvalde police were trained to quickly confront an active shooter. So why did they wait?

It took more than an hour for police officers to enter and stop the gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers at Uvalde’s Robb elementary school last Tuesday in Texas.

In that time, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos fired more than 100 shots while as many as 19 police officers stood outside waiting and desperate parents tried to break victims out of the school windows. It has been reported that one teacher and several children placed 911 calls while the gunman was inside the building….

The officers on duty had received active shooter training just two months before the massacre, prompting questions from parents, politicians and public safety officials about exactly what officers should have done and casting doubt on how effective such training is in reality.

What does the training manual say about dealing with school shooters?

“A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field.” Those are the words, from an active shooter training manual used to train Uvalde’s school police on 21 March 2022, that have been repeated again and again since the shooting on Tuesday.

The Summer - Cat On A Balustrade, Theophile Steinlen

The Summer – Cat On A Balustrade, Theophile Steinlen

They refer to the lessons post-Columbine, the high school shooting in 1999 that led to the deaths of 15 people (including the suicides of both shooters). Before Columbine – which was the most deadly US mass shooting in history at the time – officers had been taught to form a perimeter around the school and wait for backup in the event of a school shooting, not unlike what allegedly happened at Uvalde on Tuesday. But after Columbine, law enforcement officials learned that not going in and directly confronting the shooter costs precious minutes and possibly lives.

The training materials encourage officers to confront the attacker in an active shooter situation, driving them away from victims, isolating and distracting them, even when it means putting themselves in harm’s way: “If they are engaged with the officer(s) they will be less capable of hurting innocents,” the manual says.

If officers are at the scene alone, they must go in alone, it says. “Time is the number one enemy during active shooter response … The best hope that innocent victims have is that officers immediately move into action to isolate, distract or neutralize the threat, even if that means one officer acting alone.”

The manual makes clear that not doing so will cost lives. “The number of deaths in an active shooter event is primarily affected by two factors: How quickly the police or other armed response arrives and engages them; How quickly the shooter can find victims,” it states.

Frankly, I don’t see why what happened is still being treated as a mystery. Let’s face it: those police officers are cowards. And Pete Arrendondo should be fired. Instead, he is now on the city council.

From The Texas Tribune: In battered Uvalde, where a police chief is in hiding, grief gives way to calls for accountability.

Vladimir A Abat Cherkasov

By Vladimir A Abat Cherkasov

Even state police complained this week that Arredondo has remained elusive to them, accusing him of not cooperating with a Texas Department of Public Safety investigation into the shooting, a claim Arredondo refuted. The New York Times reported Friday that the chief arrived on scene without a radio, hampering his ability to organize the response.

Residents here remain in mourning. Each day repeats a cycle of at least two funerals followed by processions to the cemetery on the west edge of town. Their grief, however, is giving way to frustration about how local officials have responded to the tragedy and conversations about how to hold them accountable.

For many, this starts with firing Arredondo and overhauling his department, which they believe failed the students it was supposed to keep safe.

That’s all I have for you today. Please post comments and links on any subject that interests you. This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Garden Cats, Hilary Pecis, 1979

Garden Cats, Hilary Pecis, 1979

Good Afternoon!!

I’m really late getting started today, because I had a chance to get a second Moderna booster shot and I took it. My town held a booster clinic in my apartment building late this morning. My arm is sore and I expect I’ll have some symptoms for a few days like I did with the last shot. I hope it won’t be too bad.

Anyway, there’s lots happening today. Of course there’s quite bit of discussion of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and I’m going to focus on that. The massacre has also put a spotlight on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson’s hate filled rants and drawn attention to NY Rep. Elise Stefanik promotion of the so-called “great replacement theory.” Another Trumpist politician in Arizona is also being investigated for her claims about the Buffalo mass shooting.

The Washington Post: Buffalo shooting suspect wrote of plans 5 months ago, messages show.

Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old accused of killing 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, wrote in increasing detail of his plans to murder dozens of Black people in statements posted online over the past five months, according to a compilation of messages by a writer who identified himself as Gendron.

A review of more than 600 pages of messages by The Washington Post found that Gendron resolved in December to kill those he slurred as “replacers,” and decided in February to target Buffalo’s Tops grocery store based on its local African American population. In March, he performed a reconnaissance-style trip to monitor the store’s security and map out its aisles, the messages show. When a store guard confronted him about why he had repeatedly entered that day, Gendron made excuses and fled in what he described as “a close call,” the messages state.

Having identified the supermarket as “attack area 1,” Gendron detailed two additional Buffalo locations as areas at which to “shoot all blacks,” according to the messages, which showed that he had charted routes to each location, worked out the times needed for each shootout and assessed that more than three dozen people in all could be fatally shot.

Wind from the sea, Edward Gordon

Wind from the sea, Edward Gordon

Police confirmed on Monday that they suspected Gendron had intended to attack multiple locations. Also on Monday, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in a call with various law enforcement officials and community leaders: “I want to be clear, for my part, from everything we know, this was a targeted attack, a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”

Gendron, from Conklin, N.Y., has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in relation to the attack on Saturday. Three other people were also injured before Gendron was arrested at the grocery store. The shootings were streamed live online. In a separate 180-page document published two days before Saturday’s shooting, Gendron cited a racist theory that non-Whites were brought to the United States to replace White people for political purposes.

The 672-page compilation of messages reviewed by The Post was published during the weeks before the attack in Buffalo. The messages featured a screen name that Gendron used on other platforms, contained images of Gendron’s face in selfies and referenced events in his personal life, such as a speeding ticket, which The Post verified.

You can read much more about Gendron and his plans at the WaPo link.

NBC News: New York’s red flag law should have helped thwart the Buffalo mass shooting. What went wrong?

Less than a year after a white teenager in upstate New York was investigated for making a threatening statement at school, he legally purchased a firearm, which he is accused of using to gun down 10 Black people in a racist rampage, authorities said.

The massacre at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday should have been thwarted by New York’s red flag law, which aims to stop people from buying or possessing firearms when they show they’re threats to themselves or others, gun policy experts said.

“It was designed exactly for this circumstance,” said David Pucino, the deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, a gun-safety group.

Instead, after Payton Gendron appeared on the radar of New York State Police in June over a chilling comment about a murder-suicide he made in the classroom while he was still a minor, he was evaluated and cleared, paving the way for him to legally buy the semi-automatic rifle he is accused of using in the shooting 11 months later, law enforcement officials and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

No official involved in the investigation in June initiated a court process that could have helped prevent Gendron from buying the rifle, a New York State Police spokesperson said Monday.

Now, state legislators are looking into whether those involved followed the proper protocol. “I’ve asked for the investigation of exactly what transpired there,” Hochul told Buffalo’s WKSE radio on Monday.

Hochul said a teacher had asked Gendron about his plans just before the start of summer vacation last year. He responded, “I want to murder and commit suicide,” Hochul said.

the-summer-poppy-field Claude Monet

The Summer Poppy Field, Claude Monet

NBC News: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson under fresh scrutiny after Buffalo mass shooting.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is facing intense scrutiny from extremism experts, media watchdogs and progressive activists who say there is a link between the top-rated host’s “great replacement” rhetoric and the apparent mindset of the suspect in the weekend’s deadly rampage in Buffalo, New York.

The white suspect accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others Saturday at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood apparently wrote a “manifesto” espousing the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory — elements of which Carlson has pushed on his weeknight show.

The theory baselessly holds that a cabal of Jewish people and Democratic elites are plotting to “replace” white Americans with people of color through immigration policies, higher birth rates and other social transformations. The idea circulated on the far-right fringes before moving to the mainstream of conservative media.

“Tucker Carlson has made comments that directly reference this conspiracy theory on his show,” said Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks white supremacy, hate groups and extremism.

“The rhetoric that he espouses finds its origins in white supremacist literature,” Hayden went on to say, citing examples of websites and other publications popular with white supremacists. He added that Carlson “stops short of naming” Jewish people as the orchestrators of the “replacement,” instead using more general terms such as “the elite.”

Annie Karni at The New York Times: Racist Attack Spotlights Stefanik’s Echo of Replacement Theory.

Over the past week, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the third-ranking House Republican, has blasted President Biden for providing infant formula to undocumented immigrants while “American mothers” suffer amid a nationwide formula shortage.

Wheat field with a reaper, Vincent Van Gogh

Wheat field with a reaper, Vincent Van Gogh

She has attacked Democrats and “pedo grifters,” borrowing language from the baseless pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory that claims there is a Satan-worshipping cabal of liberal pedophiles, which has evolved into a movement on the right.

And after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, where a heavily armed white man is accused of killing 10 Black people at a supermarket in a racist rampage, Ms. Stefanik is under scrutiny for campaign advertisements she has circulated that play on themes of the white supremacist “great replacement” theory. That belief, espoused by the Buffalo gunman, holds that the elite class, sometimes manipulated by Jews, wants to “replace” and disempower white Americans.

Last year, in an ad on Facebook, Ms. Stefanik accused “radical Democrats” of planning what she described as a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.”

“Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington,” the ad said.

Stefanik originally ran as a “moderate,” but that was before she decided to suck up to Trump to advance her career.

ArizonaCentral.com: Arizona Senate to investigate Wendy Rogers over social media post on Buffalo shooting.

The Arizona Senate will investigate a social media post from state Sen. Wendy Rogers that suggested the shooter in a mass killing in Buffalo, New York, last weekend was a federal agent and part of a federal conspiracy.

The Senate voted 24-3, with three members not voting, to move forward with an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. The committee will now examine Rogers’ remarks “relating to the Buffalo shooting as inappropriate of an elected official with this body.”

An effort to expel Rogers, pushed by Democrats, failed on a 11-15 vote just after 4 p.m.

Sea Watchers, 1952 (oil on canvas)

Sea Watchers, Edward Hopper, 1952

Rogers, a Trump-endorsed, first-term politician who belongs to the Oath Keepers and has espoused conspiracy theories, was censured by her Senate peers on March 1 after she promoted hanging political enemies during an appearance at an event hosted by Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and threatened to destroy fellow Republicans’ careers.

Rogers also drew condemnation at the time for antisemitic statements and behavior, including a promotional photo of her next to do a dead rhino marked with a Star of David.

On Saturday, following the shooting deaths of 10 people at a Buffalo store, Rogers posted on the social media site Telegram, “Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo.”

Numerous political observers and journalists said that Rogers statement meant that she was calling the shooting was a “false flag” operation by federal authorities. The statement drew nearly 200 comments that were subsequently blocked from view by Telegram.

Two more articles discuss the GOP’s responsibility for racist violence:

David Leonhardt: The Right’s Violence Problem. The Buffalo killings are part of a pattern: Most extremist violence in the U.S. comes from the political right.

Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.

Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.

Nearly half of the murders were specifically tied to white supremacists:

17-THE-MORNING-CHART-jumbo-v2

As this data shows, the American political right has a violence problem that has no equivalent on the left. And the 10 victims in Buffalo this past weekend are now part of this toll. “Right-wing extremist violence is our biggest threat,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, has written. “The numbers don’t lie.”

The pattern extends to violence less severe than murder, like the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. It also extends to the language from some Republican politicians — including Donald Trump — and conservative media figures that treats violence as a legitimate form of political expression. A much larger number of Republican officials do not use this language but also do not denounce it or punish politicians who do use it; Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, is a leading example.

Talia Lavin at Rolling Stone: The Buffalo Shooter Isn’t a ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s a Mainstream Republican.

There’s no such thing as a lone wolf — an appellation often given, in error, to terrorists who act alone, particularly those of the white supremacist variety. There are only those people who, fed a steady diet of violent propaganda and stochastic terror, take annihilatory rhetoric to its logical conclusion.

Such was the case on Saturday, when a teenaged white supremacist named Payton Gendron opened fire in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people, while livestreaming the carnage on the live-video site Twitch. Prior to the shooting, he had posted a 180-page manifesto in which he laid out his rationale clearly: He was an adherent of what is called Great Replacement Theory, the idea that white people, in the United States and white-majority countries around the world, are being systematically, deliberately outbred and “replaced” by immigrants and ethnic minorities, in a deliberate attempt to rid the world of whiteness. It’s a conspiracy theory that has inspired terror attacks in New Zealand and Pittsburgh, San Diego, and El Paso – an ideology that marries demographic panic with the idea of a cunning, nefarious plot. Reading through the document, what struck me hardest, however, was how very close the killer’s ideas were to the American mainstream – the white-hot core of American politics.

klimt_appletree-1

Apple tree, Gustav Klimt

Five years ago, when white supremacists walked down the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and carrying tiki torches, few people understood their intent – the fact that they were referring to replacement theory. The idea seemed outlandish, even incomprehensible; at the time, it was a fairly obscure rallying cry, based around a 2012 book by French novelist Renaud Camus fearmongering about a nonwhite-majority Europe, absorbed into the fetid stew of white-supremacist cant, where it acquired a vicious antisemitism. For many white supremacists, it is Jews who are orchestrating the “reverse colonization,” as Camus put it, of white countries, in order to more easily manipulate a nonwhite and therefore more malleable general populace. In Gendron’s manifesto, after explaining in detail why he picked the particular supermarket he did — it was in a majority-Black neighborhood with a majority-Black clientele — he felt the need to explain why he did not choose to attack Jews. “[Jews] can be dealt with in time, but the high fertility replacers will destroy us now, it is a matter of survival we destroy them first,” he wrote, before listing his weaponry in detail with price points included — a manual for future murders. While Gendron’s choice to engage in mass slaughter puts him on the radical fringe of those who enforce their beliefs with bullets, and his overt antisemitism differs slightly from vaguer blame of “elites,” “Democrats” and “globalists,” his fixation on white birthrates and demographic change are neither fringe nor particularly unusual. The gnawing fear of a minority-white America has utterly consumed conservative politics for the past half-decade, creating a Republican party whose dual obsessions with nativism and white fertility have engendered a suite of policies engineered to change the nature of the body politic. What unites murderers like Gendron, and the long list of white supremacist attackers he cited with admiration, with the mainstream of the Republican party is the dream of a white nation.

What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

hym01art1On Tuesday, I wrote about the sudden mainstreaming of the so-called “lab leak theory” of the origins of Covid-19 in China. Today David Leonhardt has an “explainer” of this sudden attention to this long-dismissed notion.

Suddenly, talk of the Wuhan lab-leak theory seems to be everywhere.

President Biden yesterday called on U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble their efforts” to determine the origin of Covid-19 and figure out whether the virus that causes it accidentally leaked from a Chinese laboratory. Major publications and social media have recently been filled with discussion of the subject.

The origin of the virus remains unclear. Many scientists have long believed that the most likely explanation is that it jumped from an animal to a person, possibly at a food market in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Animal-to human transmission — known as zoonotic spillover — is a common origin story for viruses, including Ebola and some bird flus.But some scientists have pointed to another possibility: that it escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As in other laboratories, researchers there sometimes modify viruses, to understand and treat them.

“It is most likely that this is a virus that arose naturally, but we cannot exclude the possibility of some kind of a lab accident,” Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told senators yesterday.

Leonhardt writes–as I did on Tuesday–that the reason this is suddenly getting so much attention is because a number of scientists have recently argued that the lab leak theory should be investigated.

Among the reasons: Chinese officials have refused to allow an independent investigation into the lab and have failed to explain some inconsistencies in the animal-to-human hypothesis. Most of the first confirmed cases had no evident link to the food market.

But has anything really changed?

In some ways, not much has not changed. From the beginning, the virus’s origin has been unclear. All along, some scientists, politicians and journalists have argued that the lab-leak theory deserves consideration.

Almost 15 months ago, two Chinese researchers wrote a paper concluding that the virus “probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan.” Alina Chan, a molecular biologist affiliated with Harvard and M.I.T., made similar arguments. David Ignatius and Josh Rogin, both Washington Post columnists, wrote about the possibility more than a year ago. Joe Biden, then a presidential candidate, didn’t mention the lab-leak theory in early 2020 but he did argue that the U.S. should “not be taking China’s word” for how the outbreak started.

But these voices were in the minority. The World Health Organization initially dismissed the lab-leak theory as implausible.

Read the rest at the link–I’ve probably quoted too much.

covid_19_-_the_right_way_ditikalayakashyapIf you read the comments on the Tuesday post, you know that Quixote, who is quite knowledgeable on this subject, vehemently argued against the lab leak theory. Quixote posted another comment yesterday that I didn’t see until this morning:

The virus isn’t engineered because you can tell by the RNA sequence. If it had been, the inserted bits will be obvious when you compare it to related viruses. Sort of like Frankenstein’s monster is visibly sewn together from parts that don’t go together.

The early cases don’t particularly center on the lab or on people associated with it. They’re outside Wuhan, inside Wuhan, at the abandoned mine / bat cave, at the captured animal food market, and so on. The pattern is what you’d see if a virus mutated to be able to infect people, but wasn’t very good at it yet, and had been moving through the population for a while. In the course of simmering through the population, the most successful virus would be the one that changed enough to infect people easily.

It had enough time to do that, and that was exactly the threat the Wuhan lab, and also CDC people there, were looking for. (Trump, by the way, cut funding for both of those because what the hell do we need to be paying people in China for.) The danger was noticed by Chinese doctors (one of whom soon died of the disease) who tried hard to alert the world. They were squelched by the government. If the CDC people had still been there, it would have been a lot harder to squelch.

So tl:dr; no evidence covid19 was an intentional bioweapon thing. Poor evidence that it could have unintentionally leaked. It’s a fact that the attempted coverup by the Chinese let the pandemic get going. If procedures at the lab need improving, they certainly should be.

The other things you mention about China are all true. (Tibet too. Never forget Tibet.) It’s been obvious for decades that China was going to abuse whatever power it could get. But that’s another whole train of thought.

As bad as they are, covid19 does not fit the lab leak story at all well. Both things can be true: they’re bad and covid was an incompetent accident made infinitely worse by self-serving dictators all over the world, including China.

I agree that there certainly is no evidence for the lab leak theory. The only reason I thought there could be something to it was that several people in the lab got sick with something that looked like Covid-19 and were hospitalized. I thought they could have gotten the virus from the cave samples–not that the virus was engineered in the lab–and that somehow the virus got into the population that way. But there is no way to ever know if this happened, as China would never cooperate with any investigation.

Now that Biden has ordered an investigation, we will likely hear more about this, but I can’t see how we’re ever going to know for sure how the virus originated. The crossover from animal to human explanation makes the most sense.

It’s also worth checking out this thread on Twitter by a China expert.

In other Covid-19 news, The New York Times reports that two studies have found that Immunity to the Coronavirus May Persist for Years.

Immunity to the coronavirus lasts at least a year, possibly a lifetime, improving over time especially after vaccination, according to two new studies. The findings may help put to rest lingering fears that protection against the virus will be short-lived.

WehavecompassionCovid19Suzon

19 Faces of Covid-19, by Suzon Lucore

Together, the studies suggest that most people who have recovered from Covid-19 and who were later immunized will not need boosters. Vaccinated people who were never infected most likely will need the shots, however, as will a minority who were infected but did not produce a robust immune response.

Both reports looked at people who had been exposed to the coronavirus about a year earlier. Cells that retain a memory of the virus persist in the bone marrow and may churn out antibodies whenever needed, according to one of the studies, published on Monday in the journal Nature.

The other study, posted online at BioRxiv, a site for biology research, found that these so-called memory B cells continue to mature and strengthen for at least 12 months after the initial infection.

“The papers are consistent with the growing body of literature that suggests that immunity elicited by infection and vaccination for SARS-CoV-2 appears to be long-lived,” said Scott Hensley, an immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.

Read more at the NYT.

There was another mass shooting yesterday–so what else is new? 

It’s also not new that the perpetrator had a history of violence against women. Fox News: San Jose shooting leaves 9 dead, deceased suspect identified; victims shot in separate buildings.

The eight people initially killed by a gunman at a Northern California rail yard Wednesday morning were shot in two separate buildings before the suspected shooter took his own life, authorities said Wednesday. 

A ninth victim died in a hospital late Wednesday evening, authorities said.

The mass shooting epidemic, credit Dana Gornall

The mass shooting epidemic, credit Dana Gornall

Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith expressed her grief for the families of the victims before praising the quick response of law enforcement officers who went into a Valley Transportation Authority building as the active shooting was happening. She said deputies and San Jose police officers were the first on the scene. 

The suspect was identified Wednesday as Samuel Cassidy, 57, who was a VTA employee, officials said. No motive is known for the shooting at this time.

An ex-girlfriend told the San Francisco Chronicle he was prone to alcohol-fueled mood swings and had been accused in a March 2009 court filing of rape and abuse. The documents were filed in response to a domestic violence restraining order that Cassidy had filed earlier that month. 

The former girlfriend alleged his mood swings worsened when he drank alcohol and that he played “several mind games which he seems to enjoy.” She listed several incidents of alleged sexual assault in which he would hold her arms and force his weight onto her. 

He would apologize and promised to never do it again afterward, the report said. 

(Emphasis added)

Cassidy’s ex-wife said he had threated workplace violence years ago. KCRA3.com: What we know about Sam Cassidy, the suspect in the San Jose VTA shooting.

The man who opened fire Wednesday at a rail yard in San Jose, killing nine other people and ending his own life, has been identified as 57-year-old Sam Cassidy. He was an employee of the Valley Transportation Authority, which provides bus, light rail and other transit services throughout Santa Clara County, authorities said.

RS31736_Photo-Jul-06-11-30-19-AM-qut-520x293Cassidy was identified as a maintenance worker at the Valley Transportation Authority….

According to The Associated Press, Cassidy had talked to his ex-wife about killing people at work more than a decade ago.

“I never believed him, and it never happened. Until now,” a tearful Cecilia Nelms told The Associated Press.

She said he used to come home from work resentful and angry over what he perceived as unfair assignments.

“He could dwell on things,” she said. The two were married for about 10 years until a 2005 divorce filing and she hadn’t been in touch with Cassidy for about 13 years, Nelms said.

I’m still perplexed and fascinated by the Q-Anon phenomenon. There a couple of stories about it today.

NBC News: Study finds nearly one-in-five Americans believe QAnon conspiracy theories.

Washington, we have a problem — politically, informationally and societally — when 15 percent of Americans agree with the QAnon statement that the U.S. government, media and financial worlds “are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.”

Or when 20 percent agree with this statement: “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders.”

Or when another 15 percent agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

These are the results of a PRRI-IFYC study that was conducted online March 8-30, but that was just released Thursday.

And the study finds that Republicans, those who trust far-right news outlets like OANN and Newsmax, and white evangelicals and Hispanic Protestants are all more likely to believe these statements than other Americans.

It’s hard to call something fringe when approximately one-in-five Americans believe these statements, especially one that true patriots “may have to resort to violence” to save the country.

Here’s the PRRI story: Understanding QAnon’s Connection to American Politics, Religion, and Media Consumption.

Three Components of the QAnon Conspiracy Movement

The far-right conspiracy theory movement known as QAnon emerged on the internet in late 2017 and gained traction throughout former president Donald Trump’s time in office. QAnon’s core theory revolves around Satan-worshipping pedophiles plotting against Trump and a coming “storm” that would clear out those evil forces, but the movement has also been described as a “big tent conspiracy theory” that involves a constantly evolving web of schemes about politicians, celebrities, bankers, and the media, as well as echoes of older movements within Christianity, such as Gnosticism.

e7d48eefa41a0d5dd2b2ae4f7062823421-QANON-COVER-NO-TYPE.rvertical.w1200To understand how this loosely connected belief system is influencing American politics, religion, and media, we fielded three questions, each containing a tenet of the QAnon conspiracy movement….

QAnon Beliefs and Partisanship

A nontrivial 15% of Americans agree with the sweeping QAnon allegation that “the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation,” while the vast majority of Americans (82%) disagree with this statement. Republicans (23%) are significantly more likely than independents (14%) and Democrats (8%) to agree that the government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex trafficking operation.

Similarly, one in five Americans (20%) agree with the statement “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” while a majority (77%) disagree. Nearly three in ten Republicans (28%), compared to 18% of independents and 14% of Democrats, agree with this secondary QAnon conspiracy theory. Trends among demographic groups are similar to those of the core QAnon conspiracy theory.

Fifteen percent of Americans agree that “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country,” while the vast majority (85%) disagree. Republicans (28%) are twice as likely as independents (13%) and four times as likely as Democrats (7%) to agree that because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence.

Click the link to read the rest.

So…that’s a mixed bag of news for you. What else is happening? As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Leonard Campbell Taylor

Good Morning!!

On Thursday, I wrote about the Trump holdovers at the Social Security Administration who sabotaged the delivery of stimulus checks to 30,000,000 Social Security recipients who don’t have enough income to file taxes, people on disability programs SSDI and SSI, and those receiving veterans or railroad retirement benefits.

The information the IRS needs to send out the payments was finally delivered on Thursday morning after threatening letters sent to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul and his Deputy David Black by leaders of the House Ways and Means and Oversight Committees. There is still no word on when the deposts/checks will go out. The latest estimate is that those of us in these categories will still have to wait at least 10 days to see the money.

Meanwhile, calls on Biden to fire Saul and Black are growing louder.

The American Prospect: Trump Appointees Are Sabotaging Biden’s Stimulus Checks. Will he let them sabotage Social Security as well?

Weeks after the American Rescue Plan had been signed into law, while many Americans had already received payments, the Social Security Administration’s inaction was standing in the way of millions of beneficiaries receiving desperately needed cash aid. After escalating pressure on Saul to no avail, the letter gave him 24 hours to remedy the holdup. A few hours later, the SSA announced that they’d be sending the information the next day.

This delay is just the latest in an array of extremely troubling decisions under the leadership of the Social Security Administration’s commissioner Saul, and his deputy David Black….

Commissioner Saul and Deputy Commissioner Black were appointed by President Trump, alongside Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy Mark Warshawsky, to self-fulfill the Republican promise about the failure of government, and destroy the departments they were tasked with managing. Warshawsky, a veteran of the American Enterprise Institute, was pegged as an early candidate to be fired by the Biden administration for his work undercutting the program; he retired from the post in late January.

The Biden administration has set to work rolling back some of those Trump appointees’ designs on Social Security, including a proposed rule that would have subjected disability insurance recipients to even more frequent and stringent eligibility reviews, which would make an already challenging process even more difficult for people with disabilities to secure and maintain cash benefits. That move was widely celebrated among advocates. But President Biden has not heeded the call from those same advocates to fire Saul and Black, who have clear track records of working against the very department they’ve been tasked to head up, and against Democratic ambitions on Social Security.

Frank O’Sullivan

Now, a growing number of congressional Democrats are joining the chorus calling for Saul and Black’s ousters. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for their resignation as his first act as chair of the Social Security and Pensions Subcommittee, and has since urged Biden to fire them. He’s joined House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John Larson, Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny Davis, and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell Jr. in demanding Saul’s immediate removal. Both Saul and Black are serving terms that don’t expire until 2025….

On the campaign trail, Biden insisted (straining against historical fact) he had never and would never vouch for cuts to Social Security. He, and the Democratic Party broadly, have made protecting and expanding Social Security a main plank of the party’s policy platform going forward.

That ambition is irreconcilable with a leadership regime that has, as was reported by Yahoo News, put “illegitimate political pressure on Administrative Law Judges to reduce the rate of Social Security disability case approval,” as one such judge recently claimed. That alone should be scandal enough to imperil Saul and Black’s positions at the agency, and give the Biden administration the space to fire them for cause. But the Trump years have built up a tolerance for scandal, which means that the incident hasn’t even deterred them.

Meanwhile, Saul and Black have openly pursued a number of reforms aimed at aggressively curtailing benefits. Their attempted rule change, which the Biden administration rolled back, was a Reagan-era reform that would have led to tens of thousands of people losing benefits. When President Reagan enacted it, it led to a rash of suicides, and was deemed so cruel that it led to a unanimous Senate ruling to overturn it. Elsewhere, they’ve sought to deny benefits for older and severely disabled non–English speakers, resulting in an estimated 100,000 people being denied more than $5 billion in benefits.

See my Thursday post for more about Saul and Black’s efforts to destroy Social Security on Thursday.

Pressure is also building for Biden to get rid of Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

The Washington Post: Democrats introduce ‘DeJoy Act’ in opening salvo against USPS leader’s mail-slowing plan.

A group of House Democrats on Friday introduced legislation to prohibit the Postal Service from lengthening mail-delivery windows and require it to adhere to present service expectations. They named the bill the Delivering Envelopes Judiciously On-time Year-round Act, or DEJOY Act.

Carl Larsson: Brita, Cat and Sandwich

One House aide involved in postal reform legislation introduced in February said some members of the caucus are leery of proceeding with efforts to address the Postal Service’s financial obligations given that DeJoy’s 10-year plan includes sharp reductions in service, including slower timetables for mail delivery and reduced post office hours.

Separately, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) threatened to take legal action to block the service cuts. His office said in a statement Friday that it was encouraged that DeJoy recognizes the legal obligations to secure limited regulatory approvals, but said it remained concerned about timely mail delivery….

DeJoy hopes to save the Postal Service $160 billion over the next decade through a combination of austerity measures, postage price increases and projected package volume growth. But the largest single piece of his plan is dependent on Congress repealing its pre-funding mandate for retiree health care costs, which runs about $5 billion a year. Instead, the agency wants to wind down those payments and enroll future retirees in Medicare, a proposal worth $44 billion.

A bill introduced by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, chair of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, includes both components.

But DeJoy’s designs to slow the mail — even as the Postal Service attempts to rebound from generationally poor service metrics in recent months — and perceived animus toward lawmakers in recent hearings have made those prospects more difficult.

Read more details at the WaPo.

Following up on Dakinikat’s reporting on the outrageous Georgia anti-voting bill, here’s a piece by Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer: Georgia governor signed a voter suppression law under a painting of a slave plantation.

Sometimes America’s legacy of white supremacy is hiding in plain sight, literally. When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a hastily passed voter suppression law that many are calling the new, new Jim Crow on Thursday night, surrounded by a half-dozen white men, he did so in front of a painting of a plantation where more than 100 Black people had been enslaved.

Lady reading with cat-Albert Roosenboom

The fitting symbolism is somehow both shocking and unsurprising. In using the antebellum image of the notorious Callaway Plantation — in a region where enslaved Black people seeking freedom were hunted with hounds — in Wilkes County, Ga., as the backdrop for signing a bill that would make it a crime to hand water to a thirsty voter waiting on Georgia’s sometimes hours-long voter lines, the GOP governor was sending a clear message about race and human rights in the American South.

The portrait of the plantation was the starkest reminder of Georgia’s history of white racism that spans slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the rebirth of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and today’s voter purges targeting Black and brown voters — but it wasn’t the only one. At the very moment that Kemp was signing the law with his all-white posse, a Black female Georgia lawmaker — Rep. Park Cannon — who’d knocked on the governor’s door in the hopes of watching the bill signing was instead dragged away and arrested by state troopers, in a scene that probably had the Deep South’s racist sheriffs of yesteryear like Bull Connor or Jim Clark smiling in whatever fiery hellhole they now inhabit.

Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) is placed in handcuffs by Georgia State Troopers after being asked to stop knocking on a door that lead to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office while Gov. Kemp was signing SB 202 behind closed doors at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021.Alyssa Pointer / AP

Indeed, Twitter was on fire Thursday night with posters drawing the straight line from notorious past segregationists like George Wallace to the 2021 actions of Kemp and the GOP-led Georgia Legislature in passing — at great speed and with little debate — a lengthy bill that also limits easy-access drop boxes for ballots and places onerous voter-ID restrictions on voting by mail, and which the New York Times reports “will have an outsized effect on Black voters.”

On one level this new voter-suppression law — “voter integrity,” in the modern GOP’s Orwellian branding — is inspired by the current and possible future events of ex-President Donald Trump’s Big Lie about fraud in the 2020 election, the narrow upset wins in Georgia for President Biden and two new Democratic senators, and the threat that voting icon Stacey Abrams poses to Kemp in the 2022 election. But there’s also a powerful pull back to Georgia past. That link is made clear by the history hanging right behind Kemp on Thursday.

There’s much more at the link.

From Ari Berman at Mother Jones, a reminder that we can thank John Roberts for the many Republican voter suppression efforts around the country: John Roberts Said “Things Have Changed Dramatically” in the South. Georgia Shows Why He’s Wrong.

“Things have changed dramatically” in the South, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2013 when he authored the majority opinion gutting the Voting Rights Act, ruling that states with a long history of discrimination no longer needed to have changes to their voting procedures approved by the federal government.

Voter suppression in Georgia is Exhibit A for why he is wrong.

After Joe Biden carried the state in November and Black voters turned out in record numbers in the January runoffs to elect Democrat Raphael Warnock as the state’s first Black senator and Democrat Jon Ossoff as the state’s first Jewish senator, Georgia Republicans passed a sweeping rewrite of the state’s election laws on Thursday to make it harder for Democratic constituencies to vote and have their ballots counted.

Though some Georgia Republicans, most notably Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, defended the integrity of the 2020 election, the “Election Integrity Act of 2021” heavily restricts mail ballot drop boxes, adds new ID requirements for mail-in voting, throws out ballots cast in the wrong precincts, and makes it a crime to give voters food and water while they’re waiting in line.

In addition to making it harder to vote, the new law allows the GOP-controlled legislature to appoint a majority of members of the state election board and gives the board the power to take over county election boards, making it easier for Republicans to challenge election results, take over election administration in large Democratic counties, and even decline to certify the results if Democrats win close races—which Trump tried and failed to get the state to do in 2020.

Click the link to read the rest.

Finally, Adam Gopnik writes at The New Yorker: The Return of Mass Shootings. Will there be a way forward this time?

La Femme au chat, 1955, by Fernand Leger

One of the small, rueful truths that many Americans held in the back of their minds throughout the pandemic year was that, for all of its horrors, it had at least reduced, or even eliminated, the spectacle of the gun massacre. School closings had momentarily ended school shootings; curbside delivery had, it seemed, halted in-store assaults. It is true that gun fatalities were disturbingly trending upward in big cities, for reasons that are as yet as mysterious as those for the great decline that preceded them, and that, according to the Gun Violence Archive, last year saw the highest number of shooting deaths in decades. In fact, keyed, perhaps, by a general sense of panic marked by the pandemic and a bizarrely unsettled election year—with that strange American certainty that they’re coming for you—gun sales soared, even amid groups that are not normally associated with buying firearms in numbers.

The gun massacre, however—five or twenty or fifty people murdered at a time—had, briefly, vanished. Yet, alongside the knowledge that mass shootings had gone stood the knowledge that they would, inevitably, reëmerge. And here they are, right on schedule, as the country “opens up,” and with a vengeance: seven in the past seven days, with eight people killed in three shootings in Atlanta, and ten in a grocery store in Boulder. With those shootings come back all the usual, understandable, and all-too-human reactions—above all, our urge to give them some kind of meaning by making them an index of a larger issue. Violence this blankly nihilistic needs a point projected into it, to redeem it as a subject of discussion….

Countries that resemble ours in every way except for the availability of guns have much lower levels of gun violence and far fewer gun massacres. Yet these truths, demonstrated again and again, meet the same resistance, over and over. The Second Amendment guarantees private ownership of even military-style weapons. (It doesn’t, or rather, until very recently, not even conservative Justices imagined that it did.) Guns are essential for self-protection. (They aren’t.) The way to stop mass shootings is to arm more people, such as teachers. (A “colossally stupid idea,” according to the co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.)

All this, even as the sheer psychic damage done by the omnipresence of guns in America is self-evident (no healthy society should have to train its children in active-shooter drills), while the social damage extends far beyond the immediate casualties. A reason for the prevalence of police shootings in America is that the police go about armed, in levels unique to our society, in order to deal with the uniquely over-armed civilians they fear encountering, with the frequently fatal results, we know too well, for the unarmed and the innocent.

Sorry this isn’t a more cheerful post. I’ll probably be up for something more upbeat if I finally get that promised $1400. What’s on your mind today?

Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

President Biden is going to have a press conference this afternoon, and I wish someone would ask him why around 30,000,000 people on Social Security, disability, veterans, and railroad pensions haven’t gotten their stimulus payments yet. Furthermore, why hasn’t he fired two Trump holdovers at the Social Security Administration who are holding up the payments and who are trying to destroy Social Security?

HuffPost: Democrats Say Agency Run By Trump Holdover Is Delaying Stimulus Checks.

Millions of disabled and retired Americans are still waiting for their $1,400 stimulus payments because of a holdup at the Social Security Administration, House Democrats said Wednesday.

Social Security hasn’t handed over payment information that the Internal Revenue Service needs to send the coronavirus relief checks to nearly 30 million people receiving retirement or disability benefits, Democrats said.

“We understand that these beneficiaries are waiting because the Social Security Administration has not sent the necessary payment files to the Internal Revenue Service,” House Ways and Means Committee chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a letter to Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.

Several Democrats, including Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), had previously urged President Joe Biden to fire Saul, a Donald Trump appointee whose term doesn’t expire until 2025. Biden has hesitated to do so even though he’s fired other Trump holdovers in other agencies before their terms have ended.

The IRS has sent more than 127 million payments so far. Neal and other members of his committee earlier this week asked Social Security and the IRS to explain the delayed payments to Social Security beneficiaries.

In Wednesday’s letter, Democrats said they became “aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021” ― and that Social Security still hasn’t provided the information.

People in these categories are the poorest of the poor, including Social Security recipients who don’t have enough income to file tax returns.

Yahoo News: Trump-appointed Social Security Administration officials test Biden’s ability to forge new agenda.

President Biden is facing increasing pressure to remove two Social Security Administration officials appointed by his Republican predecessor, a standoff that could test the limits of his ability to undo Donald Trump’s legacy.

The brewing controversy surrounds Andrew Saul and David Black, the agency’s commissioner and deputy commissioner, whom Trump appointed to fixed-term positions that don’t end until 2025. As term appointees, they can’t be removed by Biden except for cause, but unions and Capitol Hill alike are demanding that Biden find a way to remove them, accusing them of creating a toxic work environment, contributing to low morale due to staff cuts, and sidelining the agency’s administrative law judges.

The continued presence of the Trump appointees underscores the difficulties the Biden administration faces when trying to roll back some of the previous administration’s efforts to reshape the federal government. While traditional political appointees must resign or face being fired when a new administration comes in, presidents are also able to install fixed-term employees to boards and other government positions that can outlast their administration.

Saul, a New York businessman and Republican donor, and Black, a former Bush administration staffer, have been in their positions since 2019. According to critics, the two officials have engaged in “no-holds-barred union busting” and eliminated the agency’s pre-pandemic telework program, forcing over 10,000 employees to commute to work — a rule change that continues despite the onset of COVID-19. (That did not apply to Saul, who reportedly continued to work from home as thousands of his employees commuted during the onset of the pandemic.)

There’s more at the Yahoo News link.

As we all know, there’s another Trump holdover working as quickly as he can to destroy the Post Office.

The Washington Post: USPS chief DeJoy cuts post office hours, lengthens delivery times in new 10-year plan.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Tuesday unveiled the largest rollback of consumer mail services in a generation, part of a 10-year plan that includes longer first-class delivery windows, reduced post office hours and higher postage prices.

DeJoy presented his long-awaited strategic vision for the U.S. Postal Service during a Tuesday webinar. Portions of the initiative already made public have raised alarms from postal advocates, who say they could further erode agency performance. Mailing industry officials warn that substantial service cuts could drive away business and worsen its already battered finances.

Louis DeJoy

But DeJoy has cited the need for austerity to ensure more consistent delivery and rein in losses. The agency is weighed down by $188.4 billion in liabilities, and DeJoy told a House panel last month that he expects the Postal Service to lose $160 billion over the next 10 years. Without the plan, Postal Service Board of Governors Chairman Ron Bloom said, the agency’s future was “profoundly threatened.”

DeJoy’s plan to make up that projected shortfall largely depends on Congress repealing a retiree health care pre-funding mandate and allowing postal workers to enroll in Medicare. The agency also will ask President Biden to order a review of how much the Postal Service should have paid into its pension funds, and credit the mail agency with any overpayments.

DeJoy projected these steps would save the agency $58 billion over the next decade, and the agency could make up the rest through postage rate increases ($44 billion in new revenue), “self-help” cost cutting in mail processing, transportation and administrative efficiencies ($34 billion), and revenue from package volume and price increases ($24 billion).

USA Today has an interesting piece on Biden by Paul Brandus: Biden is using FDR as his role model. He’s made the no-drama Obama era look wild.

Presidents get to decorate the Oval Office any way they want, and it’s usually telling. Joe Biden for example, requested that five portraits be hung around the fireplace. There’s George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and one of the greatest Americans who never became president: Alexander Hamilton.

And in the middle of this esteemed group is a fifth portrait in a place of honor over the fireplace: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Biden, who will be the last president who lived during FDR’s momentous era, deeply admires our 32nd president, and it shows in both his style and way of governing.

No president since Roosevelt inherited the kind of mess that confronted Biden, and he has responded as FDR did: By throwing big money at problems. The ink on the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan is barely dry, and now the White House is set to unveil a $3 trillion infrastructure plan.

There’s also talk of reforming the biggest federal program of all: Social Security, which Roosevelt launched in 1935, and which is now paying out more cash than it’s bringing in. In Washington, the word “reform” is usually a code word for more spending.

Hmmm….I hope that will involve lifting the cap on the payroll tax so that rich people have to contribute more to Social Security and Medicare.

Biden’s style — specifically how he communicates with the American people — is also a page from the FDR playbook. Two months into his presidency, he has been surprisingly disciplined and economical with his words and appearances. The verbal gaffes that dogged him throughout his long career in Washington are nowhere to be seen. I’m sure he’ll make a boo-boo eventually (he’s Joe Biden, after all) but after four years of a president who lied about everything, a gaffe on Biden’s part these days will be seen as an honest mistake, humanizing, even charming to a certain degree.

Roosevelt is remembered for his famous Fireside Chats. Forgotten, however, is how infrequently he gave them. During his 12 years in office — bookended by America’s greatest  20th century crises, the Great Depression and World War II — he took to the airwaves just 30 times. Just two or three times a year. The rarity of his appearances amped up the drama and attention when he did speak.

But, unlike Biden so far, FDR gave lots of press conferences, Brandus writes. He recommends that Biden make his first formal appearance before the D.C. press corps as boring as possible.

The news media is trying to gin up the drama for this, and Biden will certainly be asked about tough issues that already are challenging his smooth operation — including immigration problems at the southern border and the mass shootings in the Atlanta area and Boulder, Colorado. But he knows this and will be prepared.

If Biden’s lucky, his first news conference will be a dull affair. It will also likely be a rare one. Why? Here’s the deal. With platforms like Twitter, Facebook and all the rest at their fingertips, modern-day presidents need reporters and the press less than ever. We saw this during the campaign, when Biden gave individual interviews but rarely held news conferences. The pandemic was a good excuse to pull back even further.

In other news, There’s been an attempted copycat supermarket shooting in Georgia; fortunately it was short-circuited.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Man took 6 guns, body armor into Publix at Atlantic Station, cops say.

Just two days after a mass shooting left 10 people dead at a Colorado supermarket, Atlanta police arrested a 22-year-old man who walked into a Publix at Atlantic Station with six guns and body armor.

Police were called to the grocery store on Atlantic Drive just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and met with a manager who told them a man came in with a rifle and headed straight toward a bathroom, authorities said.

“A witness observed the male and alerted store management, who then notified police,” Atlanta police spokesman Officer Anthony Grant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Officers at the scene spotted the man leaving the bathroom and quickly took him into custody. According to police, his weapons included two long guns and four pistols, all of which were concealed.

Police identified the man as Rico Marley. He was booked into the Fulton County Jail on multiple charges of criminal attempt to commit a felony and weapons possession. Marley is scheduled for a first appearance before a judge Thursday morning.

Remember the elderly Asian woman who fought back against her attacker in San Francisco? She’s in the news again.

NPR: Asian Grandmother Who Smacked Her Attacker With A Board Donates Nearly $1 Million.

Xiao Zhen Xie, the 75-year-old woman who was punched by a white man in San Francisco — and then fought back by smacking him with a board — will not keep the nearly $1 million that has been donated for her medical expenses. Her grandson says Xie insists on donating the money to help defuse racism against the Asian American community.

“She insists on making this decision saying this issue is bigger than Her,” John Chen wrote in an update on the fundraising site GoFundMe.

Xiao Zhen Xie, 75, is recovering after she was punched by a man in San Francisco. Her family says that despite being hurt, she fought back to defend herself.
Dennis O’Donnell/Screenshot by NPR

Xie was attacked on San Francisco’s Market Street last Wednesday, the morning after six women of Asian descent were killed in a shooting rampage in the Atlanta area — the worst incident in a broader spike in incidents that have targeted the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Xie, who is originally from China, had been waiting to cross the street when she was suddenly hit in the face. San Francisco Police say the suspect, Steven Jenkins, punched Xie minutes after he assaulted an 83-year-old Asian man. The suspect was being chased by a security guard when he hit Xie.

In the moment, her instinct was to fight back, her family told TV station KPIX. They said that Xie, while badly hurt, responded by grabbing a wooden board and hitting the man.

Jenkins, 39, was left with a bloody mouth and is facing charges of assault and elder abuse.

I’ll end with this argument that violence against women is a hate crime. Click the link to read the article at The Atlantic.

As always, this is an open thread. What’s on your mind today?