Daily Kos

Sunday shows are a relic of a lazy low-stakes era

On one of the now unwatchable Sunday "news" shows, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd introduced a segment on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by—I'm just kidding. It wasn't about the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a segment about the most favorite of all Sunday show segments, and indeed largely the only segment any of the Sunday shows ever do: How will This Thing, the major news of the day, Affect Mah Politics?

"The economy's inability to fully recover from the shock of COVID-19 is both an economic story and a political one," intoned Todd.

The economy's inability to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is in large part due to anti-distancing, anti-mask, vaccine-skeptical, pro-virus-spreading policies from Republican politicians who have been using conservative frustration with safety measures as a rallying cry for their own careers, resulting in a new wave of overwhelmed hospitals and dead victims that was entirely preventable if sociopathic politicos had not turned pandemic crisis protocols into the latest spite-riddled "culture war."

"All those economic problems add up to a big political problem for the president. Is all of this his fault? Of course not, but it is now his responsibility. And he and fellow Democrats are in real danger of suffering some serious political consequences. Mr. Biden ran on a promise of a basic return to normal—or at least a path to normalcy. But with the midterm elections just over a year away—"

Stop. Just stop. Fine, we get it. We're doing this again. Republicans continue to get their constituents killed at elevated rates; let's now turn to our panel of experts to determine what the political implications of Republicans killing off their constituents will be for the Democrats who, uh, failed to convince them not to die to own the libs.

"Whadda think, Bob? Think all those surviving family members are gonna punish Democrats in the midterms?"

"I dunno, Steve, but between that and Americans quitting their dangerous bullshit pandemic poverty-wage jobs to look for better ones, there's real chaos out there on the streets. And it doesn't look good for anyone waiting for a Tickle-me-Elmo toy because the container ships are real backed up over on the left coast. And what if Republicans decide to start shooting constituents in the face? That'd look real bad for Joe Biden, who's run on a platform of not shooting people in the face."

And it ain't just that. Another of the Todd segments scraped up another entry in the "obsessively arch-right fascist Trump supporters still like Trump" press compulsion. Hey, the guy may have attempted to end our democracy through hoaxes and violence, but a bunch of Jesus-punchers think, if anything, that just makes him even more awesome.

We've been here before. This ain't new, and Matt Negrin, in particular, has brought all the necessary receipts and then some to show that Chuck Todd's Meet the Press, in particular, is a relentless promoter of Republican frames, one that uses the "panel" format to mix hard-right Republican strategists and figures in with neutral journalists while studiously avoiding Democratic guests. Most insipidly, Todd has been a prime rehabilitator for the Republican supporters of an election hoax that led to a violent insurrection.

Why? Is that "neutrality"? Is it "news"?

The problem with Meet the Press is the problem with all political journalism: It shouldn't exist. It's lazy. It's cheap, hackish, phone-it-in programming cobbled together because doing journalism is hard but talking about the "political implications" of any news story is easy. Ask how the ongoing mostly Republican-state COVID-19 crisis is affecting social programs and you'll have to do research to find out. Ask whether the stance of anti-mask politicians like Ron DeSantis is morally defensible and you'll have to expose your own moral convictions.

Ask how the widespread death and economic chaos will affect the political winds when whatever-the-next-election-is rolls around, though, and you don't need to know a damn thing. It's easy. It's trivial. Pick out whichever guests will most reliably say something "exciting" and you've got yourself a show.

"Hey, Trump campaign spokesguy Jason Miller, the price of chicken went up by ten cents over the last six months. How do you think that's gonna play among [spins wheel] Evangelical voters in [throws dart] Wyoming?"

"I think this is great news for Donald Trump, and I'd also like to mention here that Wyoming Evangelicals are also very worried about Joe Biden's surrender to the mole people that happened last Thursday but that nobody here is reporting. Also, Joe Biden eats children."

"Thanks, Jason, we'll have to leave it there."

Anyone can opine about politics. It requires no expertise. It requires little thought. On television, where nobody in front of or behind the cameras gives a particular damn whether or not a guest just lies outright to the nation because they'll already be three lies beyond that one before anyone else can get a word in edgewise, there is absolutely no penalty for being wrong. Or lying. Or undermining democracy. Or egging on violence. Or anything else.

The Sunday shows are the worst thing politics can be: no-stakes. It is all just a game, a little game among the wealthy professional class to fill time while questions of morality and decency are pooh-poohed as the naive domain of the common rabble. True political journalism covers democracy and fascism as neutral ideological combatants; considers death ancillary to poll numbers; judges economic policy based on the analysis of whoever has the most money to spend on analysis; considers false propaganda to be Reasonable, if it can be made Effective; and, above all, dodges all policy considerations in favor of meta-debate about which political figures will most have their images buffed or tarnished from the policy's defeat or acceptance.

Would it be economically wise to avoid a worldwide climate catastrophe that sinks Florida, burns much of the West to a cinder, causes widespread crop failures, and renders certain parts of the globe literally uninhabitable if the air conditioners fail? There's not even a question! Set aside every moral and environmental question, and you're still left with the unambiguous case that moving national energy policy toward less-polluting alternatives will save the country from unfathomable economic costs in the decades to come.

We're not going to get that conversation on Meet the Press, ever, because no non-journalist booked on Meet the Press knows a damn thing about it. We're not going to get the kind of hard-edged reporting that the profession idolizes in fictional stories but shudders with contempt at providing itself, reporting in which political figures are confronted about their astonishing ineptitude in managing this or any other of the existential issues of the day.

We will get an unending parade of professional know-nothings to discuss how Joe Manchin's posturing or Bernie Sanders' gruffness might bump off-year poll numbers in the span between now and the future crisis, because that's the sort of talk that allows charlatans who don't believe in anything to have opinions on everything.

I'm tired. We're all tired. These shows are astonishingly tired, shambling along like brainless zombies wandering past thickets of political violence, environmental cataclysm, mass disease, widespread government failure, and the alteration of the nation's democratic discourse into, literally, an arena of professional hoax-promotion. The old formats were designed for sleepier times when the nation could coast along, ineffective and only a little bit corrupt, with no wars that affected the Important People or economic tragedies that the Important People could not weather. Now that we have passed through decades of ambivalent puttering to come face-to-face with genuine crisis, we learn that none of the shows are built to grapple with crises. They were a child's toy, a little playground in which the powerful could snip playfully at each other on camera before going to eat in the same tony restaurants and golf at the same posh resorts. They were not meant to tackle true problems—only to provide small, timed skits showing what tackling problems might look like, according to the fictions of the day, while making sure that none of it ever truly solved anything or even moved the conversation forward.

Those are not the formats in which a nation can grapple with a pandemic that will likely kill a million of its citizens. It would be farcical in the case of, say, a predicted asteroid strike or supervolcano eruption. It would be rendered so grotesquely absurd, if God Himself were to saunter down with a message or if alien life punched a hole through dimensions to invite us to dinner, that it would pass only as low comedy. Nobody on these shows gives a damn if the nation falls or the atmosphere burns. It was only meant to be a club for idle banter, nothing bold enough as to even scrape the lines of are laws based on overt bigotries bad or just a cultural choice, the sort of vapid dorm room debates on "are seat belts good" or "does unleaded gas represent government tyranny" that nobody involved would give two shits about, on their way home from the studio.

Meet the Press found itself confronting an actual insurrection—and folded. It couldn't cope. It had no tools for the job. So Chuck Todd invited the insurrectionists onto the program and helped redeem even election hoaxes, party-backed propaganda and candidate-organized insurrection as a reasonable political choice to be made. Not because he or anyone else involved gave a particular damn either way, and not because they did not, but because there is no Sunday morning format that can handle violent insurrection except as fodder for the professional know-nothings to banter aimlessly about. It was never meant to have actual stakes. Nobody, in any of the network executive suites, even knows what such a thing would look like.

AT&T has yet to answer for its support of OAN — and customers have had it

NAACP President Derrick Johnson is set to meet with AT&T leadership at the company's Washington, D.C. headquarters today to discuss AT&T's relationship with One America News (OAN). Johnson condemned AT&T after a Reuters investigation published earlier this month found that a lucrative contract with AT&T-owned platforms was responsible for 90% of OAN parent company Herring Networks, Inc.'s funding, and that AT&T even had a hand in creating OAN when it launched in 2013.

"We are outraged to learn that AT&T has been funneling tens of millions of dollars into OAN since the network's inception," Johnson said. "AT&T has as a result caused irreparable damage to our democracy."

OAN head Robert Herring Sr. revealed in a 2019 deposition obtained by Reuters that AT&T executives were the ones who approached him about founding OAN. "They [AT&T] told us they wanted a conservative network," Herring said. "They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one."

Herring hasn't been shy about the editorial freedom and support AT&T has given his far-right network since then. During an interview on OAN last week, Herring showered AT&T with praise and even called on viewers to thank the company.

A full video of the interview also shows Herring outright lying about the controversy surrounding the Reuters report. When pressed by correspondent Pearson Sharp, Herring said that "all of our funding comes from the Herring Networks." Technically true, but much of the funding Herring Networks received appears to come from that AT&T contract.

OAN began airing on U-Verse in 2014. It only started appearing on DirecTV in 2017 after parent company Herring Networks settled a case with AT&T over AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV in 2015. Herring Networks claimed that AT&T had gone back on an oral agreement that would allow OAN to be broadcast on DirecTV once the acquisition went through.

AT&T cited the settlement as the only reason DirecTV even broadcasts OAN. "When we acquired DIRECTV, Herring pressured us for months to carry OAN. We rejected their offer and in response, Herring Networks sued us, claiming we deliberately intended to injure Herring," the company said in a statement. "Only as part of the settlement of that lawsuit did DIRECTV consent to a commercial carriage agreement with OAN four years ago."

OAN is available on other providers, including Verizon FiOS, GCI, and CenturyLink Prism. Those companies appear to be facing minimal backlash compared with AT&T. One source told media consultant Timothy Burke that 20% of the DirecTV cancellations they'd received were because of AT&T's support for OAN.

AT&T really has been hit in the pocketbook lately. The company's stocks have been on a steep downturn since the Reuters report was published Oct. 6, though investors have been wary to hold onto it since the company announced a merger with Discovery Inc. in May. Last week, MarketWatch reported that AT&T was headed for an 11-year low. AT&T's Q3 earnings call today didn't exactly give it the boost the company was expecting, either. The stock rose slightly then continued tumbling and is currently .85% lower than it was when markets closed yesterday.

Last month, CEO John Stankey said the company would focus on a "multi-year effort" to rehabilitate its image. Sticking with OAN doesn't exactly help with that. It remains to be seen what AT&T will do about Herring Networks following the meeting with Johnson. For now, many customers are more than happy to pull the plug on DirecTV and other AT&T-owned ventures instead of waiting for an answer to come.

The states where the most people are quitting their jobs have these 2 things in common

The business owners whose blood, sweat, and tears—or at least their fancy, high-priced educations, family connections and access to venture capital—built this country, dammit were hellbent and determined to show American workers who was boss. This COVID-19 nonsense was not going to interfere with their profits any longer. It was time to take a stand.

So they all had their administrative assistants conference in their favorite state legislators, the same ones who helpfully passed legislation a few years back, keeping pesky unions out of their states. They called in their chits for all those campaign contributions to the governor. They called their Republican House reps and senators. Damn that Fauci, they complained. My business is hurting. No more lockdowns, no more of this "social distancing "crap. This state is going to open for business and I don't want to hear another word about body counts or stressed hospitals. I need workers and I need them now. I paid for your damn campaigns, so do something!

And those state representatives and senators leapt into action. In a matter of a few weeks we saw state after state brimming with self-appointed medical experts in their legislatures, railing about the tyrannical mask mandates and business lockdowns. CEOs and white-collar professionals cracked their whips—many still from the comfort of their fine second homes and pools. And thus the support staff, the retail clerks and the service workers, many of whom who had once been adoringly lionized as "essential" at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, were told it was time to return to work. And for added good measure, Republican governors in those states cut off their unemployment aid. That'll show them, they thought ...

But strangely enough, not all of those workers heeded the call. In fact, a good many of them quit.

As reported by Alyssa Fowers and Eli Rosenberg, writing for The Washington Post:

Kentucky, Idaho, South Dakota and Iowa reported the highest increases in the rates of workers who quit their jobs in August, according to a new glimpse of quit rates in the labor market released Friday.

The largest increase in the number of quitters happened in Georgia, with 35,000 more people leaving their jobs. Overall, the states with the highest rates of workers quitting their jobs were Georgia, Kentucky and Idaho.

As The Post points out, the interesting thing about this data is that service-sector jobs are most highly concentrated in urban areas. So why would people be quitting their jobs at such astronomical rates in such relatively rural states as Kentucky, South Dakota, Iowa and Idaho?

Fowers and Rosenberg offer a clue:

Employees quit or were hired at rates matching or exceeding the national average in the ten states with the highest rates of new infections that month: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee.

So the highest rate of turnover in August—employees quitting or getting hired—was found in the states which had the highest rate of COVID-19 infection for that month. Logically, that seems to make sense. Workers who live in one of those states were also likely to have a governor or, in the case of Kentucky, a Republican-dominated legislature who opposed business closures, even while the delta variant ravaged the state's population. Such workers were essentially forced by these states policies to return to work if they could not work from home.

Those people forced back to work in an unsafe environment simply decided to quit—many of them likely before ever venturing back into their workspace. After all, they saw a job the other day that was offering more money. Or their next-door neighbor's cousin got a job that pays more and allows them to work from home. The Post article quotes Nick Bunker, an economist for the job search portal Indeed, who notes that the high quit rate in these red and rural states "may be a sign there's more competition in those parts of the country than other parts."

The other interesting point about all of the states having both the highest level of turnover and the highest infection rates? They are all so-called "right to work" states, where legislatures passed legislation to disincentivize and discourage unions. So these workers have essentially no protection, no one to turn to for help remedying unsafe conditions, and no collective bargaining power; they can, for the most part, be terminated at will. That's what "right-to work" has always been about.

As one commenter to The Post story points out:

So, when you have a crappy job, for crappy wages, and a crappy employer who doesn't value you at all, and all of a sudden you find yourself in a labor market situation that actually encourages you to look for work elsewhere--what do you think is going to happen? The 'Great Resignation' is largely about working class people attempting to use what little leverage they have in order to make a moderately better wage for themselves in a mostly hostile, oppressive national work environment.

For employers, the downside of "right to work"— one they never saw coming—was the fact that workers in those states had little, if any, incentive to stay, especially when once-in-a lifetime opportunities arose for them to leave, while competition for higher wages and better working conditions further drove that exodus.

Some employers are responding by antagonizing would-be applicants.

In Missouri, a group of businesses, still frustrated by labor shortages more than three months after the state cut off the $300-a-week federal jobless checks, paid for billboards in Springfield that said: "Get Off Your Butt!" and "Get. To. Work."

The state has seen no growth in its workforce since ending emergency benefits.
"We don't know where people are," said Brad Parke, general manager of Greek Corner Screen Printing and Embroidery, who helped pay for the billboards. "Obviously, they're not at work. Apparently, they're at home."

The attempt to force workers back to dangerous, unsafe pandemic working conditions—brought on by short-sighted Republican policymakers for political ends—has collided with a culture where workplace protections and the ability to bargain have been completely devalued (also by Republican politicians), leaving workers as essentially dispensable commodities.

No wonder they're quitting for greener pastures in those states. Republican elected officials and their business donors in those same states have no one to blame but themselves. They created this environment, and now they're going to have to cope and adjust with workers who want more out of their jobs … and know they can get it. They have to keep up and do better, or see their businesses go under.

Funny how that worked out.

Yale professor and expert on authoritarianism says 2024 Trump coup is 'underway'

If U.S. democracy falls this century, it will likely be at the hands of a stubby-fingered sack of extra-piquant donkey farts who likely never bothered to read the Constitution he swore to uphold—and certainly didn't understand it if he did bother. In other words, we're at the stage in the Siegfried & Roy show where the tiger starts picturing Roy as a semi-ambulant canned ham.

Donald Trump is a buffoon, but he's an evil buffoon, and it doesn't actually take a smart man to demagogue against democracy. You simply need zero shame, a preternatural instinct for bullying, and a party full of Q-besotted quislings to go along with your rotten plans.

On Friday's episode of The Beat With Ari Melber, Yale history professor Timothy Snyder didn't mince words when it came to the ominous, anti-democratic forces that are currently gathering to storm the gates of our venerable republic.

After Melber noted that several Big Lie proponents are running—with the backing of the ocher abomination—for secretary of state positions in several U.S. states—which would give them a great deal of control over the 2024 election in some key swing states—he had an unsettling talk with Snyder, an expert on authoritarianism and author of the book On Tyranny.



ARI MELBER: "When you see this effort to put this much pressure on installing partisan officials who've embraced lies and tried to overturn elections in these official positions for next election, how concerned should we be? What, if any, foreign analogs do you see?"
TIMOTHY SNYDER: "Well, as someone who follows contemporary Russia, there is a Russian phrase that comes to mind, which is 'the administrative resource.' What the administrative resource means in Russian is that, sure, you have an election, but the people who are running the election are going to determine how the election turns out. What the Republicans are going for is precisely that thing—the administrative resource.
Historically speaking, what we know about a big lie is that, because of its very scale, it's not about truth or not-truth, it's about living in a kind of alternative reality. And what we're looking at is people who believe in or pretend to believe in this Big Lie actually carrying out our elections. And the problem with this, or one of them, is that, since these people have already claimed that the other side cheated, that basically legitimates their cheating. In other words, if you talk about the Big Lie now, you're basically promising to cheat the next time around, and that's very concerning."

Snyder has special insight into authoritarian regimes and movements, but anyone who watches sports also recognizes this tactic. It's called "working the refs." By complaining about every call, this theory goes, you're more likely to get favorable treatment in the future. Now imagine if every Super Bowl was decided by referees who were handpicked by one side because they thought their team had been ripped off the previous year.

MELBER: "How worried are you that the United States could face a situation where coordinated efforts by these kind of officials could actually swing an election?"
SNYDER: "Oh, we don't need the 'could' ... I mean, I would say we should be thinking of this as what is happening, and then ask ourselves what we can do to prevent it. I mean, it's very clear that some combination of people who talk about the Big Lie being in important administrative posts, along with nonlegal or extralegal reviews of the election, perhaps along with states claiming for themselves the right to allocate electoral votes against the wishes of their own people. Some combination of that is clearly in the works, alongside voter suppression, which has a long and dark history in our country.
The scenario for 2024, for most influential people around Donald Trump, which unfortunately means one of the political parties, is precisely to be installed without winning the election. That's very consistent with everything Mr. Trump has ever said—in 2016, 2020, and now. So I don't think it's something that could happen; I think it's something that's underway, and the question is, can we accept this reality in time to take the measures we need to take to prevent it?"

It can be easy to forget that Donald Trump has been undermining confidence in our elections for at least six years. He claimed fraud in the election he won. He also tried to claim Ted Cruz stole the Iowa Caucus from him. This is what he does. Part of it is just garden-variety childishness. His ego can't sustain the kind of wound that comes with losing a presidential election. But he also appears to be plotting to rig the game ahead of time. The guy pulled out all the stops in the last election, and only the actions of a few brave election officials and secretaries of state saved us from a full-blown constitutional crisis. What if those people are sidelined next time around?

And the potential problems aren't simply at the secretary of state level. On Thursday, Talking Points Memo explored Michigan Republicans' recent efforts to place Big Lie adherents on local boards of canvassers.

For example, Robert Boyd, a new member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, which certifies vote totals for the Detroit area, is still convinced the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

Talking Points Memo:

[Boyd is] one of several new members of such boards around the state, chosen by local Republican leaders, who are replacing incumbents who voted to certify the last election under immense, nationwide pressure from their party. The Detroit News first reported on the wave of replacements last week, including incumbents who wanted to be renominated but weren't.
Unlike the canvasser he's replacing, Boyd says he would not have certified the 2020 vote. Even now, after numerous local audits and a Republican-led state Senate investigation found no basis for Donald Trump's lies about a stolen 2020 election, he remains unconvinced.
"That's one side," Boyd said of the investigation. "The other side, as I say, is thinking that there was some hanky panky going on."

Donald Trump doesn't tell the truth for the simple reason that he doesn't care about it. It's irrelevant to his fantasy, in which he's the greatest president, human, and sentient being in the history of the universe. He wants a rigged game, and he's been greasing the skids for fascism by constantly accusing the other side of exactly what he's doing.

As Snyder warns, we need to wake up now, because democracy is on a razor's edge, and the bleeding has already started.

The Jan. 6 probe is getting very, very uncomfortable for Republicans

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio loves few things more than a bombastic interrogation, so long as he's doing the interrogating. But when it came to answering a few meaningful questions while on the witness stand at a congressional hearing Wednesday, Jordan folded like an amateur in Vegas.

Nearly three months ago, Jordan admitted in an interview with Spectrum News that he had spoken with Donald Trump on Jan. 6, but he also maintained he couldn't recall exactly when. Jordan has had 84 days since that interview to go back and check the record for specifics, as House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern of Massachusetts noted during Wednesday's hearing on whether the House should take up Trump adviser Steve Bannon's contempt charge. (On Thursday, the House voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in contempt, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to send a criminal referral to the Justice Department.)

"Did you talk to the former president before, during, or after the attack on the Capitol—or was it all three?" McGovern asked Jordan, who was testifying against sending the contempt resolution to the House floor.

Jordan dodged. "Of course I talked to the president—I've been clear about that. I talk to him all the time," he offered. "This is not about me, Mr. Chairman."

Au contraire, Congressman. In fact, Jordan may have dodged his way right into a subpoena, a prospect that Rep. Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania called a "very serious possibility" on MSNBC following the Rules Committee hearing.

Dean doesn't sit on the Jan. 6 committee, but she noted, "What we see from somebody like a Jim Jordan is an inability to string together a sentence because he would have to be trying to tell the truth or hiding the truth."

Well said. When you're under oath, flat-out lying about the truth becomes perilous, which is why Jordan declined to directly answer the question.

Jordan's moment in the hot seat is emblematic of how fraught the Jan. 6 investigation has gotten for Republicans this week. The discomfort has House GOP leadership circling the wagons, pushing their caucus to vote in support of flouting a congressional subpoena and being able to walk away scot-free. Why?

Because virtually no House Republicans want Bannon spilling the beans about the planning of the Jan. 6 attack. No one wants Bannon talking about the Jan. 5 Willard Hotel war room, where Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, coup architect John Eastman, and others worked the phones to convince congressional Republicans to vote against certifying the election results the following day. Ultimately, roughly two-thirds of the House GOP caucus opposed certification without a shred of verifiable evidence to support their objections.

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice chair of the select committee on Jan. 6, has also been absolutely sticking it to her GOP colleagues. Before the Jan. 6 panel voted to hold Bannon in contempt Tuesday, Cheney posited that Trump and Bannon may have been "personally involved" in organizing the Capitol attack and urged her GOP colleagues to do their "duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law."

On Wednesday, Cheney came straight back at House Republicans as she testified before the Rules Committee in favor of sending the contempt resolution to the House floor.

"As you think about how you will answer when history asks, What did you do when Congress was attacked, when a mob, provoked by a president, tried to use violence to stop us from carrying out our constitutional duty to count electoral votes—when a mob, provoked by a president, tried to overturn the results of an election?" Cheney said, in remarks aired on MSNBC. "Will you be able to say you did everything possible to ensure Americans got the truth about those events? Or did you look away? Did you make partisan excuses and accept the unacceptable?"

Cheney also revealed that GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has been putting the squeeze on House Republicans to help cover up details about the Capitol siege.

Her colleagues, Cheney noted, "don't want to anger Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader, who has been especially active in attempting to block the investigation of the events of Jan. 6, despite the fact that he called for such a commission the week after the attack."

On Thursday, Cheney was back on the House floor making sure Americans know that Bannon forecasted the mayhem of Jan. 6 even before it happened.

"I urge all Americans to watch what Mr. Bannon said on his podcast on Jan. 5 and 6. It is shocking and indefensible," Cheney said, during debate before the House vote on Bannon's contempt charge. "He said, 'All hell is going to break loose.' He said, 'We are coming in right over the target. This is the point of attack we have always wanted.'"

Later on Thursday, the House voted 229-202 to hold Bannon in contempt, with nine Republicans joining Democrats to send a criminal referral to the Justice Department.

Whatever heat Republicans are feeling now, it's about to get a whole lot hotter. Their brazen attacks on democracy are going to be peeled back like an onion over the course of what by all appearances will be an aggressive investigation by the Jan. 6 panel.

Trump himself will only make things worse, as he continues to demand unequivocal fealty from congressional Republicans. Amid an already tense week in the probe for Republicans, Trump poured more gas on the fire.

"The insurrection took place on November 3, Election Day," Trump said Thursday in a statement. "January 6 was the Protest!"

That puts the Republican Party squarely in the anti-democracy camp. Exercising one's peaceful right to vote against Republicans is now treasonous, according to Trump and his lock-step GOP allies. And the "protest," as Trump put it, will include a trip to the gallows for anyone who falls afoul.

Fox News host has COVID-19, tells America to ‘get vaccinated, for yourself and everyone around you’

Fox News' Neil Cavuto announced that he has tested positive for a break-through case of COVID-19. Cavuto released a statement saying that as he has a series of underlying conditions, including multiple sclerosis, the fact that he was vaccinated probably saved his life. "While I'm somewhat stunned by this news, doctors tell me I'm lucky, as well. Had I not been vaccinated, and with all my medical issues, this would be a far more dire situation. It's not, because I did [get vaccinated], and I'm surviving this because I did."

The fact that a Fox News anchor is vaccinated, considering all of the misinformation the fake news outlet promotes concerning vaccines and public health policies, is unsurprising. A memo of Fox News' on-site vaccine requirements leaked to the press in September, and the conditions were stringent, "requiring all unvaccinated employees to be tested each day—not just once a week—in order to work in company facilities." Fox News' misinformation and viewership have been tied directly to lower vaccination rates in our country.

Cavuto's statement included a plea to the public, something that his statement would likely only be read and reported on in media outlets not called Fox News, saying, "I hope anyone and everyone gets that message loud and clear. Get vaccinated, for yourself and everyone around you. Everyone wins, except maybe my wife, who thought I was back in the city for good for live shows. Maybe not so fast now."

It's funny because it's true.

I mean, who would want to have Neil Cavuto hanging around the house all day? This guy, Cavuto himself? To be fair, Cavuto, unlike most Fox News personalities, has had moments of integrity, even on the rare occasion attacking Donald Trump. Cavuto, like many conservatives, knew (despite the benefits of the tax cuts) Trump's incompetence as a leader was not good for business. Most of the time, Cavuto's job is to run out billionaires in front of his audience who want to tell Americans that food stamps are bad and Donald Trump is the greatest president ever. Before that, Cavuto's job was to attack labor in service of big business interests.

Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson has spent the past few weeks and months passing around every grand conspiracy theory ever in service of scaring Fox News viewers from getting the COVID-19 vaccine. He's said things like mandates for the vaccine are a way for the Biden administration to identify "sincere Christians in the ranks, the freethinkers, the men with high testosterone levels, and anyone else who does not love Joe Biden, and make them leave immediately. It's a takeover of the U.S. military."

Recently it was reported that Fox News programming almost never goes a single day without trashing the COVID-19 vaccines in some way or another. And in undermining the science behind the vaccines and the purpose of public health policies for the past six months, Fox has helped lead to a completely politicized response to getting life-saving vaccinations.

All that said, good on Cavuto for getting vaccinated and for putting out a statement that says, in no uncertain terms, that the vaccination helped save his life.

The QAnon movement was always based on neo-Nazi conspiracy theories — now the mask is slipping

We have noted in the past that the "QAnon" movement is not a set of new conspiracy theories, but a recasting of some of the most popular neo-Nazi, white supremacist, antisemitic themes of the last century for broader conspiracy consumption. Nazi-era antisemitic conspiracy theories declared that "Jews" were secretly controlling the world, that they were working to undermine governments and cultures, and that they drank the blood of children in secret rituals.

QAnon's version is identical: A shadowy cabal of "globalists" is secretly controlling the world, is working to undermine governments and cultures (for example, through a "great replacement" of Americans with new nonwhite immigrants, as supposedly funded by wealthy Jewish American George Soros), and is secretly trafficking children to harvest compounds from their blood. The most bizarre of Nazi and neo-Nazi themes have found eager new homes in the brains of supposed "real" Americans who have invariably settled on the same targets and solutions as their neo-Nazi enablers: Round up the "globalists"—meaning liberals, socialists, Democrats, those who fight for LGBT rights, those who treat immigrants with decency—and jail them. "Lock them up." Purge them.

The "everyday" Americans who have adopted QAnon beliefs as their own, insisting that the "child trafficking" or blood "harvesting" or something-something George Soros conspiracies are real, are Good Nazis. They are the sort of citizens who made Nazi Germany tick. They are sweet, patriotic parents of somebody, or children of somebody, and all they know in life is that their enemies must be defeated, even if defeating them means toppling democracy and/or supporting the most incompetent of tax-dodging lying rapist perverts.

Whether they can be reformed once they've gone down that rabbit hole is a subject for others to engage. Myself, I expect not. Human beings do not accidentally fall into believing their not-white or not-Christian or not-Republican neighbors are barely human saboteurs plotting behind the scenes to do whatever evil you might imagine. They started out that way, then fell into conspiracy holes that were pleasing because they ticked off all the boxes their previous paranoias needed to tick off.

The movement itself, however, has been drifting back to the rawer antisemitism that first crafted it.

VICE News reports that John Sabal, the influential QAnon promoter who will this week host a major QAnon conference at which four aspiring Republican lawmakers are scheduled to speak recommended on Sunday to his followers a notorious neo-Nazi conspiracy film blaming Jews as the architects of communism, World Wars I and II, and the sabotage of Naziism. "The most important historical film of all time," Sabal touted.

The posts were removed after they were "highlighted by extremist researchers," reports VICE—and Sabal claims through his partner that he never actually watched the film or knew that it was antisemitic. And yes, this is the "QAnon" provocateur with enough clout to collect Republican candidates from across the nation.

This isn't an isolated incident. VICE reports that other QAnon figures have similarly embraced the film, though none as prominent as Sabal has been. The "Q" movement is also attracting much attention and support among German neo-Nazis, who after all have a closer connection to many of the Q-adopted tropes now being exported by American conspiracists.

It hasn't stopped national Republicans from courting conspiracy leaders and allied militias, either.

QAnon may have taken some of its heaviest hits from being uniformly and absurdly wrong in all its preelection and post-election predictions about, well, everything, and from its top founder and likely Q pretender Ron Watkins, who distanced himself slightly after Trump's loss. (He's now running for Congress himself—in Arizona, of course.) That doesn't mean it's dead.

It's unclear, however, if QAnon believers are becoming more enamored with antisemitism than they once were or if the movement is sloughing off now-bored, less-radical Americans, leaving behind a more radical, neo-Nazi-adjacent core. Conservatism in general is increasingly flirting with antisemitic speech and candidates: In Idaho, a Republican with a long history of antisemitic speech, one who claims "all Jews are dangerous," is enjoying his local party's support for joining the local school board.

Extremist rhetoric in general is being rewarded rather than scorned by Republican voters. It's probably not surprising that the Republican slide into fascism could not help but stoke the same antisemitic sentiments that past versions have relied on. The QAnon, Trump, and Republican movements are all coalescing into one ball of hate and hoaxes; in the House and Senate, party leaders are at worst helping to promote the conspiracies, and at best remaining silent in efforts to ride the hate to new election victories.

Joe Manchin pushes back on party-switching story — but he's still a major threat to Biden's agenda

Sen. Joe Manchin could be signaling that he's willing to President Joe Biden's entire agenda hostage, according to journalist David Corn, by having associates spread the word that he's got a plan to leave the Democratic Party if his ransom demands for the big reconciliation bill on Biden's plan are not met. It can entirely be a bluff on his part, and since the outlet reporting it is Mother Jones, that's definitely a possibility.

For the record, Manchin told reporters after the story came out "It's bullshit," and "I have no control of rumors." On the other hand, he might very well have control of rumors and whether he has someone drop word a detailed plan for his exit into a journalist's ear. He's made threats like this before, like in 2018 when he was telling colleagues he was going to retire. On the other hand, Joe Manchin is an asshole.

Corn reports that sources say Manchin is threatening to leave the Democratic Party if Biden and 269 other Democrats in Congress "do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion. […] Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an 'American Independent.'" He has also plotted a two-step "exit strategy": first, a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer removing himself from leadership and if that doesn't get the concessions he's demanding, he'd change his voter registration to independent. Then, presumably, he'd hold out on a decision to either caucus with Democrats or with Republicans, the latter decision would make Mitch McConnell majority leader.

Whether or not this is a possibility, he has been making obnoxious demands on Biden. Manchin has supposedly come up from what he's insisted was his ceiling of $1.5 trillion for the already negotiated-down package—progressives said $6 trillion was necessary to fulfill Biden's agenda, but dropped that down to $3.5 trillion. Now he's supposedly willing to go $1.75 trillion. That's on the condition that every program be means tested, "everything from paid family medical leave to elder and disabled care." Manchin's insistence that the continued child tax credit payments be both means-tested and subject to work requirements had already made news.

That's not flying with Manchin's Democratic colleagues in the Senate, like Sherrod Brown, another red state Democrat who has never felt the need to punish working people in order to keep his seat. Brown told The Washington Post's Greg Sargent that he had a long talk with Manchin, reminding him that the child tax credit payments are helping both of their constituents. "It's dropped the child poverty rate by 40 percent in West Virginia and Ohio—I made that case to Joe," Brown told Sargent. "Why change something that's working so well?"

"He was listening," Brown said of Manchin, and maybe he was. Brown said he would work with Manchin on potential phase outs of the child tax credit for high earners, but that Manchin's proposal to end payments for households making $60,000 annually and add work requirements would set the nation's families back, and punish people. "He has seen a number of families, as I have, in Appalachia and everywhere I guess, where parents couldn't take care of their kids and grandparents stepped in," Brown told me. "A work requirement makes no sense for grandparents." Manchin "emphasized that the money should follow the child, which of course it should," Brown continued. "I think he was listening."

We'll see. As for the larger package, here's where things stand as of Wednesday: two years of free community college is likely entirely out of the package. The tax credits included in the COVID-19 relief plan to make health insurance more affordable will be shortened, as would the duration of the expansion of CTC monthly payments, possibly to a year. Biden is now looking at around $2 trillion for the package.

Manchin's means testing for the child tax credit, one source told CNN, would stay in, though it might look more like Brown's phase out for higher incomes than Manchin's harsh and unrealistic $60,000 limit. Biden told lawmakers that providing an expansion of home healthcare for the elderly and disabled would be cut from an already skinny $400 billion to less than $250 billion. He talked about the expansion of Medicare to include vision, dental, and hearing care as a "pilot project," suggesting that it will be scaled significantly back from what lawmakers have envisioned. A paid leave benefit would be shrunk drastically, from 12 week of leave down to four.

Biden has been meeting with House progressives, along with House conservative Democrats, Manchin, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and seems to be leaning with the progressives' argument that all of these programs are worthy, and doing most of them for a shorter duration is preferable to doing too little. "I think he is with us that we need to invest in as many of those transformational areas as possible, even if it means for some of them a shorter amount of time," Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal told Roll Call after meeting with Biden Tuesday. On the CTC: "I don't think it will be as many years as we want," Jayapal said. "There was some pushback on having it be too short, so we'll see where that ends up."

What's entirely up in the air is the climate provisions in the bill, and how to meet the goal of cutting carbon emissions in half this decade when Manchin has nixed Biden's $150 billion "clean electricity performance program." That's the program Manchin has been supposedly working with Sen. Tina Smith from Minnesota on for months. He pulled the rug out from all that work, and from his colleague Sen. Smith, last week. He's not offered any alternatives.

"We have to continue to have these conversations and I can't point to anything specific that he's offered," Smith said of Manchin. Since he's not offering anything, one potential solution Democrats have returned to is the idea of a carbon tax, charging polluters for the greenhouse gas they emit. Manchin seems to also be ruling that out, telling reporters Tuesday that it is not on the table.

There's lots of encouraging talk from negotiators that they can have a "framework" for putting the reconciliation bill together by the end of the week. But who knows what else might be in store from Manchin. Or for that matter, Sinema. She's been suspiciously absent from the news lately.

GOP rep shows he prioritizes being a good Republican over being a good doctor with latest ivermectin claims

Republican Rep. Andy Harris is a doctor, too, but it's pretty clear that if he had to choose which of those identities is more important to him, he'd go with Republican. The Maryland congressman once again offered Very Bad medical advice about dealing with COVID-19—and not just bad advice. Harris said on a radio show that he has been prescribing ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment.

"I wrote a prescription for ivermectin—I guess it's now three weeks ago, four weeks ago—and yeah, couldn't find a pharmacy to fill it," Harris said on a call-in show in September, The Washington Post reports. "It's gotten bad. [...] The pharmacists are just refusing to fill it."

Go, pharmacists!

Studies have repeatedly shown that ivermectin does not work as a COVID-19 treatment. The most-cited study suggesting it might has been revealed as seriously flawed, if not a complete fabrication. There are formulations of ivermectin that are safe and widely used to treat parasites in humans, but that doesn't make it a good idea to take the drug in place of things that can actually prevent COVID-19 deaths—vaccines—let alone to take veterinary formulations of the drug in massive quantities, as too many people have done. The American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists have warned against taking ivermectin to combat COVID-19.

But as far as Dr. Andy Harris, a member of the United States House of Representatives, is concerned? Those national organizations that say people shouldn't take an anti-parasitic veterinary drug to treat a human virus are being "ridiculous." This isn't a first for Harris. He previously touted the supposed benefits of hydroxychloroquine, which not only didn't work to treat COVID-19, it had deadly side effects. And Harris wasn't promoting the drug before the facts were in—he was doing so after the FDA revoked its emergency use authorization.

Harris is an anesthesiologist. He's not a primary care doctor, an infectious disease doctor, a critical care doctor, a heart or lung doctor, an obstetrician. Anesthesiologists play a very important role in COVID-19 care, though: They're the doctors who intubate people going on ventilators. But that critical role, if Harris has filled it in his continuing part-time anesthesiology work or has even talked with his fellow anesthesiologists who have done so, should show him the stakes when it comes to prescribing and publicly recommending drugs that do not work to treat this virus.

The hospital where Harris practices (as part of an independent physician group, not as a direct employee), said in a statement, "Ivermectin is not authorized or approved by FDA for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications."

If Harris is not acting as a responsible doctor, though, he is acting very much as a Republican politician. At one point he promoted vaccines, only to turn around and oppose vaccination for children in addition to opposing mandates requiring both vaccines and masks. In that he's being a typical Republican, joining Rep. Jim Jordan and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others in howling about vaccine mandates despite all the evidence that they work.

"The only thing I'm worried about is because of the media push and all of the hype about covid is that the majority of Americans actually agree with these mandates," Harris said on the radio show where he promoted ivermectin. "What are we, a bunch of lemmings?" He said, encouraging people to engage in stereotypical lemming behavior by taking drugs shown not to work by multiple studies and advised against by the major medical associations rather than taking a thoroughly documented, effective vaccine.

The thing is, Republicans know they need some kind of answers to COVID-19 beyond "eh, it's just like the flu." No matter how much they trot out that lie, it doesn't convince enough people. But Republicans are opposed to the things that actually work to fight the pandemic, like vaccination and masking, so they keep coming up with these other answers, which may not work and may even be dangerous, but make it look like they're offering solutions. They don't give a damn about the reality of the pandemic, so they're treating it as a political problem that can be addressed with lies.

Two-thirds of voters say GOP isn't doing enough to control pandemic — including 31% of Republicans

One number that really stood out in last month's Daily Kos/Civiqs poll was the large number of voters who say GOP elected officials aren't working hard enough to get the pandemic under control. It may seem obvious to progressives, but Republican lawmakers were really an outlier in the poll when compared to President Joe Biden and Democratic elected officials.

Here was the data on whether voters thought the following were doing enough to control the pandemic:

  • President Biden: 48% yes, 41% no
  • Democratic officials: 44% yes, 44% no
  • Republican officials: 26% yes, 64% no

    Biden is above water by 7 points, Democrats break even, but Republicans are notably 38 points underwater.

    On the one hand, of course they are! Very few GOP lawmakers are actively and consistently touting vaccination as a crucial weapon against the coronavirus, and most Republicans—or at least those making the biggest spectacle of themselves—are actively attacking pandemic mitigation efforts like vaccine and mask mandates.

    But part of what underlies those dismal GOP numbers is the fact that at least some Republican voters don't think their party is doing enough to control the pandemic—31% of registered Republicans, in fact, according to the crosstabs. That's a sizable number of GOP defections in these partisan times, and presumably many of them are vaccinated Republicans who are dismayed by their party's downright lethal, pro-plague policy stances.

    Only a bare majority of GOP voters, 52%, think their leaders are doing enough to combat the virus and, again, presumably the bulk of them are pandemic-denying anti-vaxxer mask-refusers anyway. Here's the partisan breakdown of whether voters think GOP elected officials are doing enough to control the pandemic:


    The reason this seemed worth revisiting is that it's possible that the GOP death squad could manage to alienate a sliver of their own voters by their flagrant disregard for public health and human life alike. In other words, could vaccination status start to become some sort of fault line within the GOP on a greater number of issues, leaving Democrats an opening with a sliver of those voters?

    That's a completely unproven theory, but certainly vaccination status is more predictive than partisanship of whether someone supports the president's vaccine mandates, for instance.

    Whether that pandemic dismay among a segment of GOP voters could bleed into other policy areas is the question.


    Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.