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The Hill serves up what may just be the most absurd headline in media history

The "just wait, he's gonna turn presidential any moment now" crowd is still at it, months after Donald John Trump skulked away from the White House with his schwanz between his atrophied, KFC-bucket-balancin' gams.

For more than five years after his rambling, racist campaign launch speech, Trump has had every opportunity to prove there was more to him than meets the eye. There isn't. I've looked. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Trump's are more like splotchy peepholes into John Wayne Gacy's crawlspace. There's nothing there but rank evil, soul-crushing emptiness, and half-slurped McNugget sauces.

Sure, it's possible Trump could still see the light, renounce his numerous past outrages, and embrace Western liberal democracy. It's also possible I'll suddenly improve upon my 4-inch vertical and join the Milwaukee Bucks roster just in time to snag an NBA championship ring. (Go Bucks! As a native Wisconsinite, I need something to distract me from Ron Johnson's perpetual awfulness.)

That said, Trump's legion of apologists is keeping the faith. The guy was president for four years, after all. He must have learned something along the way about fair and effective governance. (Narrator: He didn't.)

Witness one Conrad Black, the author of A President Like No Other: Donald J. Trump and the Restoring of America. Black apparently thinks there's still something salvageable in this tire fire of a human being, and he's decided to die on this Hill.

Buckle up, folks. This will get weird, starting with the headline. Unless you want to spray your beverage halfway to Alpha Centauri, make sure you're not drinking anything when you read this. You've been warned.

"How Trump can win again: Become the calm, moderate candidate," Black posits. It just gets goofier from there.

First, the lede:

The political scene is evolving so quickly that I presume to offer some advice to President Trump: He can now win in 2024 by being the potential candidate of calm and moderation.

Sure, Trump can do that. Or he can suggest nuking hurricanes, try to overturn a free and fair election, incite a deadly riot, lobby for putting alligator-filled moats at the southern border, promote unapproved drugs, act like a freshly gelded howler monkey when asked anodyne questions by the media, and generally behave like a marginally less grounded Randy Quaid.

The uncharacteristically incautious comments of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that, in effect, the dreadful Trump specter had passed and they could all go back to being the good-natured losers of the Bush-McCain-Romney eras was effectively retracted within a few days. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) has disgraced herself by joining the Trump-hate operation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and, in Republican terms, is sinking without a ripple as a consequence.

Hmm, the Bushes won three out of four of the elections they competed in after becoming their party's nominees. John McCain and Mitt Romney lost just as many elections as Trump. And George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush both won the popular vote at least once, whereas Trump never did. What on Gaia's green globule is this fucknut talking about?

Black rambles on for a half dozen anti-Democrat paragraphs before arriving at the pièce de résistance.

Now, as time passes, the public irritation with Trump's bombastic behavior, of his being in the nation's face day and night for four years, will recede and gradually be replaced by the spectacle of a comatose Biden administration, floundering and dissembling, fecklessly struggling with the various crises it has created. There will be, soon enough, nostalgia for Trump instead — and if he is wise, he can become a winning figure of comparative Olympian serenity.

Nostalgia for Trump? Uh, no. The guy is seared into our memories, I'll give you that. But "nostalgia" implies fond memories. I have nostalgia for eating Cracker Jack on a picnic bench during the summer of '76. I don't have nostalgia for the raucous pink belly I received from my reprobate siblings 10 minutes later.

But this. This! "… if he is wise, he can become a winning figure of comparative Olympian serenity."

Trump isn't wise, and never will be. (See also: nearly every news story from the past half-decade.)

Trump's a loser. Full stop.

A "figure of comparative Olympian serenity?" Next to Trump, Crispin Glover circa 1987 was a figure of comparative Olympian serenity. But Trump himself never, ever will be.

It's normal for historians and especially partisans to want to rehabilitate a former president's image and reputation, but Trump's rep is trashed. He might as well have smeared those feces on the inner walls of the U.S. Capitol himself. There's no forgetting Jan. 6—or any of the other 1,460 days he cosplayed as president.

And no amount of gaslighting after the fact can possibly make us forget, no matter how much devotees like Conrad Black try.

Trump reportedly 'shocked' his former chief of staff with refusal to stop praising Nazi leader Adolf Hitler

Back in 2017, the inventor of Godwin's Law made it clear that comparing someone to a Nazi, when they are literally praising the Nazis, was completely fair. That came during the sequence of events at Charlottesville, where violent white supremacists marched to Nazi slogans and one deliberately killed peaceful protester Heather Heyer by driving over her with a car. Trump responded by a statement that there were "very fine people" on both sides of the events, then he doubled-down on that statement with a claim that he was only supporting the Nazis in their praise for a Confederate traitor.

In 2018, Trump explicitly declared "I'm a nationalist," in a speech ostensibly supporting Ted Cruz. "You know, they have a word," said Trump. "It sort of became old-fashioned. It's called a nationalist. And I say really, we're not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I am a nationalist. Use that word."

So when The Guardian published an account on Wednesday morning that Trump defended Hitler while on a tour of military cemeteries … is anyone really surprised?

"Hitler," said Trump, "did a lot of good things."

The pro-Hitler conversation is from a book titled Frankly, We Did Win This Election, by Wall Street Journal reported Michael Bender which is slated for publication next week.

On a 2018 trip to Europe in which Trump was supposed to go to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery to visit the graves of 2,300 Americans who were killed in World War I. Instead, Trump skipped out on the visit, claiming it was too wet, while actually telling his advisers that he had no interest in visiting soldiers who were "losers" and "suckers."

During that visit, it was already known that then chief of staff John Kelly tried to explain the circumstances of both World Wars, to explain how the actions taken after World War I contributed to the rise of the Nazis, and how that led to World War II. Trump responded by saying that he "didn't understand why the United States would intervene on the side of the Allies."

But the new book goes further. It explains how Trump "stunned" Kelly by his direct support of Hitler. Kelly reputedly told Trump that he was wrong to support the murderous dictator, "but Trump was undeterred." Instead, Trump kept pointing to how Hitler supposedly pulled Germany out of its economic slump in the 1930s.

Kelly grew explicit in his response, telling Trump, "you cannot ever say anything supportive of Adolf Hitler. You just can't."

Even then, Trump continued to praise Hitler. Kelly was reportedly disgusted, as were other unnamed senior officials who described Trump's "understanding of slavery, Jim Crow, or the Black experience in general post-civil war as vague to nonexistent."

Trump has, according to Kelly, a "stunning disregard for history." But then, why should anyone expect anything else? Trump has been rewarded for ignoring history. He lost no support among Republicans for attacking veterans, prisoners of war, or Gold Star families. He lost no support for his embrace of the term nationalist, or for his often-expressed love for modern-day dictators like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, or Rodrigo Duterte. Trump actively gained support in the party for white supremacist positions that insist that white people are the real victims of racism, and that Blacks and immigrants are not real Americans. The Republican Party is marching ahead with those principles in every state, making rolling back voting rights and villainizing immigrants the cornerstone of their 2022 effort.

Don't expect to see any criticism from Republicans over Trump's statement. Instead, expect them to first claim that it's all made up—then to embrace it.

Trouble in GOP paradise: The Trump-DeSantis alliance frays

Ever since Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis edged out Donald Trump for the top spot in a presidential straw poll last month, it seemed inevitable that tensions between the once-chummy camps of both men would flare. Indeed, that appears to be the case in the latest squabbling over who told whom to do what regarding Trump's Sarasota rally last weekend.

After DeSantis reportedly begged Trump last week to delay his campaign-style rally out of respect for the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts in the Surfside condominium collapse, things started getting murky in terms of which Florida Man flipped off the other one first.

Had DeSantis snubbed Trump by saying he would not attend the rally, or had Trump stiff-armed DeSantis into keeping his distance? That depends on whom you ask. In the world according to Trump, he was the one who told DeSantis not to attend the rally, which was being held some 200 miles away from the site of the Surfside tragedy.

"We mutually agreed. He is working very hard. He is doing a very good job. He should be there," Trump told Newsmax. "I told him: 'You should stay there, this is not that important for you.' He of all people should be there."

But DeSantis aides told the New York Times it was the Florida governor who made the call. "He spoke with President Trump, who agreed that it was the right decision, because the governor's duty is to be in Surfside," said DeSantis press secretary, Christina Pushaw, who also denied any effort by the governor to delay the rally.

Whatever the case, Trump held the rally, DeSantis did not attend, and somehow Trump shockingly forgot to give DeSantis even a single mention in his 90-minute stemwinder—despite thanking other local GOP officials in Florida.

What Trump did manage to work in was a teaser about his own potential 2024 presidential bid. "We are looking at the election, more than looking at it," Trump said to an eruption of cheers from the crowd.

Some allies of both men have been trying to downplay talk of tensions between the two. But the Times' Annie Karni confirms what we all know to be true—Trump's tragically tiny ego simply cannot tolerate the notion of anyone cutting into his limelight.

People close to Mr. Trump said he had become mildly suspicious of a supposed ally. He has grilled multiple advisers and friends, asking "what's Ron doing," after hearing rumors at Mar-a-Lago that Mr. DeSantis had been courting donors for a potential presidential run of his own. He has asked aides their opinion of a Western Conservative Summit presidential straw poll for 2024 Republican presidential candidates, an unscientific online poll that showed Mr. DeSantis beating Mr. Trump.
In case you didn't get your fill of fireworks over the 4th, don't fret! There's sure to be an epic display over the coming months courtesy of the GOP's elite force of Florida Men

Engineer found collapsed Florida condo had 'major structural damage': 2018 report

At least 159 people remain unaccounted for in the Champlain Towers South condo collapse, with four reported dead as of this writing. As hope dwindles, and first responders navigate dangerous conditions as they search for survivors, those personally affected are searching for an answer to one simple question: "Why?" Why did this happen? Could it have been prevented?

Though it will take time to gain certainty about cause of the deadly building collapse, answers are starting to emerge. The town of Surfside, Fla. released a nearly three-year-old inspection report for the collapsed Champlain Towers South high-rise condominium on Friday night. Conducted in October 2018 by Morabito Consulting, the assessment uncovered the need for significant repairs to the building, and identified "systemic" design flaws that were leading to "major structural damage" to the 13-story building.

An attorney for the Chaplain Towers South condo board, which is led by residents of the building, told The New York Times that multi-million-dollar repairs were just about to begin.

Before anyone could put on their hardhat, the building collapsed in the earliest hours of Thursday morning, while most of the community slept.

Champlain Towers South is a beachfront property in the tiny town of Surfside, near Miami. Built in 1981, the building has endured decades of hurricanes and climate change, but according to the newly released 2018 report by Morabito Consultants, the worst and most significant damage to the building was due to "a major error" in the design of the pool deck.

(T)he waterproofing below the Pool Deck & Entrance Drive as well as all of the planter waterproofing is beyond [its] useful life and therefore all must be completely removed and replaced. The failed waterproofing is causing major structural damage to the concrete structural slab below these areas. Failure to replace the waterproofing in the near future will cause the extenft of the concrete deterioration to expand exponentially.

[...]
The main issue with this building structure is that the entrance drive/pool deck/planter waterproofing is laid on a flat structure. Since the reinforced concrete slab is not sloped to drain, the water sits on the waterproofing until it evaporates. This is a major error in the development of the original contract documents ...

The report also notes that replacing the existing pool deck waterproofing would be "extremely expensive" and "create a major disturbance to the occupants" of Champlain Towers South.

Surfside's Mayor told The New York Times that he was unaware of the nine-page Morabito report, and wanted to review it before making comment. However, the owners of the building were aware.

Kenneth S. Direktor, a lawyer who represents the resident-led association that operates the building, said this week that the repairs had been set to commence, based on extensive plans drawn up this year.
"They were just about to get started on it," he said in an interview, adding that the process would have been handled much differently if owners had any indication that the corrosion and crumbling — mild instances of which are relatively common in many coastal buildings — were a serious threat.
Eliana Salzhauer, a Surfside commissioner, said that while the cause of the collapse was unknown, it appeared to her that the problems identified by the engineer in the 2018 report could have contributed to the structural failure.
"It's upsetting to see these documents because the condo board was clearly made aware that there were issues," Ms. Salzhauer said. "And it seems from the documents that the issues were not addressed."

As those with loved ones trapped in the rubble begin to let go of their dreams of miracle rescues, the focus on the whys of this tragedy has crept in.

Sergio Lazano, who lived a block away in another Champlain Towers building, told The Daily Beast that "there's no hope" for his parents, and he's moved on to trying to convince himself that they died instantly, in their sleep. He, along with another resident who didn't care to be named, told The Daily Beast that the building had long exhibited signs of damage—signs that were reportedly ignored.

According to them, steel reinforcing bars were protruding from the walls, cracks were forming on supporting beams, chunks of concrete were falling from one balcony to another, and the condo's pool was starting to leak into the parking garage below—evidenced by the white stains on cars left by dripping water that had mixed with concrete powder.
[...]
However, one person told The Daily Beast that years of attempts to have the building's condo board take on expensive repairs was met with stiff resistance from unit owners who were reluctant to spend the funds.
It's still unclear what caused the sudden splintering of the structure, and it could be months before any determination is made. But at least one witness account that the condo's pool had disappeared into a sinkhole is generating theories that the building was pulled down into disintegrating limestone, a natural occurrence that has long plagued Florida.

Here's the sinkhole account, given to The Miami Herald:

Early Thursday morning, Mike Stratton awoke to the sound of his cellphone ringing. It was his wife, Cassie Stratton, on the other end, speaking frantically about their condo building shaking. She told him she saw a sinkhole where the pool out her window used to be. Then the line went dead.
"It was 1:30 a.m., I'll never, never forget that," he said.

Stratton last saw his wife on Monday, just before he left for a business trip in Washington, D.C. They'd lived in the high-rise for about four years.

The wreckage of a partially collapsed building in Surfside north of Miami Beach, Florida on June 25, 2021. - Four people are now known to have died in the collapse of an oceanfront apartment building near Miami Beach, officials said Friday, while the number of unaccounted for has risen to 159 -- fueling fears of a much higher death toll. (Photo by Gianrigo MARLETTA / AFP) (Photo by GIANRIGO MARLETTA/AFP via Getty Images)

At least one lawsuit related to the collapse has been filed; it's a class action in the name of the victims and survivors, and asserts that

[Champlain Towers South Condominium Association Inc.]"failed to adequately secure the building, placing the lives and property of its occupants and visitors ... at risk resulting in the collapse of the building."

Further, the lawsuit declares that

"At all relevant times, defendant was aware, or reasonably should have been aware that the plaintiff's and the class's lives and property were at risk due to the lack of precautions taken at Champlain Towers South."

An attorney for the condo association was quick to dismiss the lawsuit.

Donna Berger, another attorney with Becker Lawyers, told NBC News that it was "disappointing" for a lawsuit "to be the focus right now of any owner in Champlain Towers South, when almost 100 of their neighbors are still unaccounted for."
[...]
"I feel as a culture we've become so accustomed from moving from one tragic event to another, and there's often a rush to judgment," she said. "This was a community that was functioning well and doing the right things and just struck with a freak tragedy."
[...]
"How in the span of less than a day could an attorney file a lawsuit alleging anything? Every expert on the site doesn't know what happened, yet some attorney has decided that he has figured this all out," Berger added. "Certainly, if there's culpable parties, they should be held accountable, but first and foremost our focus is on the search and rescue efforts."

Berger also implied that nearby construction of another condo may have been to blame.

It will take weeks, if not months, before a final verdict on the cause of the collapse will come down from teams of investigators and engineers, providing some sort of closure for those who've lost loved ones and their homes in the collapse. Then, perhaps, that question of "why" will finally be answered for those left behind to ask.

DeSantis beats Trump in presidential straw poll

Want to nip Ron DeSantis' likely 2024 presidential bid in the bud? Tell the kaiser of GQP-land there's another rooster in the henhouse. If there's one thing a cult leader won't abide it's a threat to his authority.

It's way too early to determine which malodorous heap of seething white grievance and unworkable ideas will rocket to the head of the Republican pack in 2024, but at least one straw poll indicates Donald Trump's vise-like grip on the party's pendulous, purpling nads could be loosening in favor of one of the big man's most loyal surrender-generals in his non-fight against COVID.

Ron DeSantis, who did more than any other governor to spread freedom phlegm throughout the lower 48, was the winner of a recent straw poll asking conservatives about their 2024 presidential preferences.

The Week:

On Saturday ... Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) edged Trump in a straw poll taken at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver. In-person and online attendees were asked to vote for all the potential candidates they approve of out of a 31-person field. Trump and DeSantis were neck-and-neck at the top, but there was some hefty distance between them and the third-place finisher, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Former Vice President Mike Pence finished 10th.
Obviously, at this stage, a straw poll could simply be a mirage, but DeSantis has looked like a contender elsewhere, finishing second to Trump in the 2024 straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Trump has also said, if he does make another bid for the White House, he'd consider the controversial, but popular governor as a potential running mate.



Up until now, DeSantis has been a loyal Trump acolyte, but knowing Trump, this has already gotten underneath his skin. DeSantis can expect a severed manatee head on his pillow any day now.

Interestingly, Mike Pence, the man who perfected the art of assembling IKEA furniture inside Donald Trump's sigmoid colon, was way down the list in 10th place—probably for the same reason he got heckled at an ultra-conservative Faith & Freedom convention last week. His political career turned a whiter shade of pale as soon as he refused to overturn the 2020 election in his own favor—a show of insolence that enraged his master. And now he's milquetoast. (Or more so, anyway.)

Even Donald Trump Jr., who's more amphetamine than man at this point (maybe; people are saying; many, many people), edged out Pence.

But Donald Trump can only screw over one potential rival at a time, and for the moment, that appears to be DeSantis.

Do your thing, baby-man. Cut DeSantis off at the knees. You know you want to.

Trump's tour with Bill O'Reilly conflicts with August reinstatement theory — driving QAnons bonkers

Seeing QAnon adherents puzzle their way through reality is a bit like watching Donald Trump try to sound out a raw vegan menu. Eventually he orders the portobello mushroom steak—and then we sit back and wait to see his face contort into ever-lower depths of bafflement as he deluges his entree with enough ketchup to drown a baby rhino. And that's before the German carob cake shows up.

At some point, the Q folks all changed their internal default font to Zapf Dingbats, and now literally nothing they say makes any sense to anyone—except their fellow travelers.

The latest? They can't imagine why Donald Trump is promoting a December tour with Bill O'Reilly when he's supposed to be back in the White House in August and O'Reilly is presumably scheduled for a series of painful face-splotchectomies.

Newsweek:

QAnon supporters have acted with dismay and confusion after Donald Trump announced the December dates of his upcoming speaking tour with Bill O'Reilly, which coincides with when he is meant to have already been reinstated as president.

The announcement was shared by a number of popular QAnon telegram accounts, one of which has nearly 75,000 subscribers on the encrypted messaging service app.
Supporters of the radical movement expressed concerns that Trump going on a speaking tour later this year surely means that he will not be returning as president—a false claim they have continued to believe since he lost the 2020 election more than seven months ago.

I really wonder what these people will do when Sept. 1 comes around and Trump is still ensconced, Taft-like, in his toilet. How many times can they move the goalposts before they—like the QAnon people themselves—are on another planet?

According to the announcement, Trump and O'Reilly have several December dates scheduled in Florida and Texas. But if Trump really thinks he'll be back by then—which has been widely reported to be the case—then why is he fixin' to go on tour with Pile O'Bile-y?

Newsweek collected several alarmed responses from QAnon cultists posting on Telegram about this vexing bait-and-switch.

A sampling:

  • "OK I GUESS MY QUESTION IS TRUMP COMING BACK? WHY WOULD HE BE DOING A TOUR THRU THE END OF THE YEAR WITH O'REILLY. HMMMMMMMMM SOMETHING DOESN'T FEEL RIGHT?" — Telegram user Peace Lilly
  • "So nothing will happen until December?" — Tina N.
  • "Man I sure hope we don't have to wait that long before you're back in office." — Jack Miller
  • "So basically the August thing is a bunch of bull because a reinstated President doesn't go on tour." — Angela Baldwin

Oh, Angela Baldwin, you are sharp. I imagine that's exactly how Archimedes felt just before shouting "Eureka!"

Of course, many QAnoners and other Trumpy dead-enders are hanging their hopes on either Pillow Man Mike Lindell's barmy assurances or the Arizona fraudit, which they believe will touch off a domino effect wherein one blue state after another falls back into Donald Trump's column. Because there's zero chance that the most vulgar, deceitful man on the planet—a man who never polled over 50% percent approval at any time during his presidency—could have possibly lost a national election.

Of course, some QAnoners appeared to be hedging their bets: "It's only a few dates close together...it could be done if it works out like it should...could cancel....but yup..kinda a gut punch statement," one wrote. "But we are in an information war, so who the hell knows."

Who the hell knows? Not you, that's for sure. But most of us do, oddly enough—because we're not getting our information from rando kookaburras on Telegram.

And, yes, it's possible that Trump will cancel his serial sexual harasser tour with O'Reilly, but not because he'll be president. It'll be because his muscles have taken on the texture of Gerber's mashed pears and he can't get through the auditorium doors without a crowbar and a can of Crisco.

Or maybe—just maybe—he'll be defending himself in court. A man can dream, right?

Fallout from Trump Justice Department data seizures on reporters and members of Congress continues

Attorney General Merrick Garland is meeting with leaders from CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, and he's going to have some explaining to do. All three media organizations have recently learned that, under Donald Trump, the Justice Department seized email records of some of their reporters, and stories about other questionable records seizures—including of Democratic members of Congress and even the underage child of a member of Congress—were in the headlines over the weekend.

President Joe Biden has said he won't allow secret seizures of reporters' records, but one big question is what's stopping the next Republican administration from doing so. "What we're asking the attorney general tomorrow is to try to bind future administrations," CNN Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist said. "Don't just send a memo. Change policy."

But seizures of reporters' records aren't the only questionable thing the Trump Justice Department was up to, and there are also big questions about what's been going on there. The DOJ inspector general has opened an investigation into the the use of subpoenas "and other legal authorities" to obtain phone records of members of Congress and their families.

Trump White House counsel Don McGahn was also swept up in the records seizures, The New York Times reported, but Marcy Wheeler argues that that report is largely a distraction from the truly problematic subpoenas—and buries the key information that a House Intelligence Committee staffer appears to have been the actual target of the investigation that pulled in Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

And, Wheeler argues, the issue here goes beyond the fact that Schiff and Swalwell's records were seized to begin with. First, once prosecutors realized that they had records for members of Congress, the records should have been sealed. Second, William Barr's denials of involvement don't hold up, because he's denied things he can deny without addressing what he did do. The records were seized before Barr became attorney general, but he returned to them for a later investigation of … something.

"Barr never denied having focused on Members of Congress when he resuscitated his investigation in 2020 (nor has he said for sure that it remained a 'leak' investigation rather than a 'why does this person hate Trump' investigation, like so many others of his investigations," Wheeler writes. "Barr denied telling Trump about it. But he didn't deny that Members of Congress were investigated in 2020."

She adds that this incident exposes problems with Schiff's own approach to intelligence investigations: "That's why Adam Schiff's reassurances that Section 702 of FISA doesn't 'target' Americans have always been meaningless. Because once FBI ingests the records, they can go back to those records years later, in an entirely different investigation. And no one has denied such a thing happened here."

There's a lot that needs investigating here—and denials or no-comments from Barr, fellow former attorney general Jeff Sessions, and especially former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged. But just as it's not enough for the Biden administration to say that it will not secretly seize reporters' records, the responses to this need to go beyond saying it won't happen during this administration. The protections people get, whether reporters or members of Congress or regular people, can't depend on the goodwill of a presidential administration. The rules and policies themselves need to be stronger.

COVID-19 is on its way to becoming a predominantly Republican disease

Vying for least surprising news of the day are two extremely unsurprising news stories, both about the pandemic. Try to contain your non-surprise, please, no matter how difficult it may get.

The first story is from The Washington Post, and uses data to again confirm the bloomin' obvious: States with high vaccination rates are now seeing fewer COVID-19 cases, while places with lower vaccinates are seeing pandemic infections "holding steady or increasing."

Yep. The vaccines are working—but only among the people that actually, you know, get them. The Post was able to determine that in counties with at least 40% of residents vaccinated, COVID-19 infection rates that were "low" and "going down." In counties with fewer than 20% of residents vaccinated, "not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing."

In the second story, we see the predictable effects of the first. From NBC we learn that people coming into local hospitals with severe COVID-19 symptoms are almost all Americans who haven't been vaccinated, from unvaccinated adults to children too young to be eligible for any of the current vaccines. So-called "breakthrough" cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated individuals are both rare and seldom require hospital treatment—except among immunosuppressed patients, for whom vaccines not may generate sufficient or long-lasting immune response.

From this, we can deduce several things. If you're vaccinated, you have very low odds of contracting COVID-19 and very low odds of it becoming severe enough to require emergency medical care. If you're not vaccinated, you're either just as likely or more likely to catch COVID-19 right now as you were through much of the rest of the pandemic.

And if you do get it, you're going to be the vector by which other Americans get sick and possibly die. The virus is spreading among children because children can't get the vaccine yet. The virus is killing immunocompromised patients because people who haven't been vaccinated are spreading it to them.

Once again, then, we're seeing the predicted real-world results from a buffoonish and incompetent Dear Leader figure attempting to pretend his way out of a world health crisis while stoking paranoia about actual health professionals and safety measures. We previously learned that masks have indeed been working quite well at stopping pandemic spread, thus turning Donald Trump's anti-mask fetishes into another way for his party to kill off its own voters.

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting closer and closer to becoming a primarily Republican disease in this country. It can never be a fully Republican disease because the virus does not verify voting status, when traveling from one person's cough to the next person's lungs. But in places with high vaccination rates, herd immunity may soon come close to eradicating the virus by giving it few places to viably spread.

In pockets of vaccine resistance, meanwhile, whether it be Q-styled conspiracists, avid Trump supporters who still believe the pandemic is a hoax, or deplorables whose principle objection to getting vaccinated is that it appears to be what the liberals and book-learners want them to do, Americans are going to continue to die.

There's still good news even in those pockets, however. The good news is that every percentage of vaccinated adults translates to fewer hospital services needed in an area, even in deep-red communities, so local hospitals will be far less susceptible to becoming overwhelmed this fall than during the pandemic's first year. There will be plenty of ventilators and oxygen, and if there is not then there will still be more resources to take patients out from Republican-dominated locales and drive them to places that have the pandemic better under control.

That's assuming a lot, though. A complicating factor here may well be the "delta" virus variant, the virus mutation that first took hold in India and is now threatening to become the dominant strain elsewhere. It seems 10% of all U.S. COVID cases are now of the delta variant, and it is expected to become the majority strain "at some point." Delta appears to be both more contagious and more deadly than other strains, making herd immunity a more challenging bar to reach.

It's these mutations that continue to threaten a full unraveling of all pandemic progress made so far. The longer the virus is allowed to stew inside unvaccinated populations, the more genetic variants will be naturally produced; the more produced, the more likely it becomes that any one of them will be able to evade current vaccines and reinfect even the vaccinated. The virus may this summer be reduced to a predominantly Republican illness, but it's not assured to stay that way.

So we know the vaccines work. We know masks work. We know social distancing works. We know even if the vaccines let an infection through, it will almost never require hospital intervention. And we know that it's unvaccinated people who will be letting the virus spread despite all that.

What's next, then? It's unclear. I still say that if we can convince Republican-leaning communities that "antifa" is trying to keep the vaccine from them, flag-waving patriots will be demanding to be needle stuck ten, twenty, or thirty times. You'll have Greg Abbott supporters hoarding spare vaccine in their cheeks like squirrels.

It's either that plan or darting people from helicopters, and ... oof. You may say that's a dumb idea, but it still beats nine tenths of what the Trump team came up with.

Here's why Manchin's insistence on bipartisan voting protections is ludicrous: study

When Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia shot down Democrats' signature voting rights legislation in an op-ed last week, he said that protecting voting rights "should never be done in a partisan manner."

But a new Brennan Center analysis of the voter suppression laws sweeping the nation shows what a preposterous and indeed hypocritical position that is. The center's examination of the 24 state-level voting restriction laws enacted as of early June proves the suppression efforts have been an almost exclusively Republican enterprise.

"Overall, we find that these new laws were enacted as part of an overwhelmingly partisan Republican push," reads the report. "Republicans introduced and drove virtually all of the bills that impose new voting restrictions, and the harshest new laws were passed with almost exclusively Republican votes and signed into law by Republican governors."

Still somehow Manchin insists that GOP lawmakers at the federal level are both interested in and fundamental to playing a corrective role to their counterparts in the states.

In Iowa, where one of this session's most restrictive bills passed on a party-line vote, Jennifer Konfrst, Democratic whip in the Iowa House of Representatives, is practically tearing out her hair over Manchin's intransigence.

"It is unfathomable to me that we would look at this issue and say we have to bring Republicans along, in this political climate, in order to make true change," Konfrst old The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein. "I don't see anywhere where Republicans are inviting Democrats along, or inviting Democrats to the table. Why are some Democrats saying 'I won't do this unless it's bipartisan?'"

Here's a snapshot of the Brennan Center findings courtesy of Brownstein:

  • 14 states have passed 24 laws restricting voting access so far this year (with dozens still pending in another 18 states)
  • 17 of those passed in nine states are deemed "highly restrictive" by the Brennan Center
  • All nine of those states are under unified GOP control with the exception of Kansas, where Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the law only to be overridden by the Republican-dominated state legislature
  • No Democrat co-sponsored any of the 17 bills
  • Not one Democrat voted for 13 of those 17 laws. Another three of those laws drew support from a single lonely Democratic lawmaker in the legislatures of Arkansas, Montana, and Wyoming. (The only highly restrictive bill to receive meaningful Democratic support was a voter ID law enacted in Arkansas)
  • Among all the state House/Assembly Republicans who voted on these 17 bills, just 12 of 1,143 voted against them; among state Senate Republicans, just seven of 458 voted no on them.

Here is the one freedom the Constitution doesn't ever allow

Over the past year and a half, we've learned an awful lot from Republicans about "freedom." We learned, for instance, that refusing to wear a mask in public places to protect others from a deadly virus was a symbol of such "freedom." We learned that carrying automatic weapons into state capitals to intimidate lawmakers (and by extension, ordinary citizens) into doing whatever a small, gun-toting group of people demanded was also an expression of "freedom." We learned from many vocal parents that shutting down schools and transitioning to online learning to protect children from coming home and infecting their parents and grandparents was a gross infringement on their "freedom."

And finally, we learned from many folks that carrying out a violent assault on our nation's capitol in order to try to nullify a lawful election was another example of "freedom."

In a sense, I agree that all of these things are valid expressions—or critiques—of our freedom. The Constitution that forms the entire basis for this country's existence allows all types of freedoms, no matter how self-destructive or ill-used those freedoms might be. You even have the freedom to commit acts of sedition or treason, as long as you're prepared to face the framework of serious legal consequences for exercising that freedom as provided by that same Constitution.

But there's one freedom the Constitution doesn't allow, because it can't. If this freedom is allowed, the whole rationale for the Constitution—and for this country itself—goes up in a puff of smoke. Jonathan Schell, writing forThe New Yorker as the Watergate scandal unfolded in 1973, put it very simply: "In a democracy, we are not free to ignore the truth."

At the time, Schell was referring to the fact that, while the majority of Americans had concluded that President Richard Nixon had committed a grave and serous offense in authorizing what ultimately became known as the Watergate break-in, 10 months after the incident itself, the general public remained unmoved to do something about it … almost to the point of willfully ignoring it.

But Schell pointed out that was simply not a viable option.

The public had not ruled out the possibility that high Administration officials were involved in planning and then in covering up the incident. Rather, a large portion of the public believed these things to be true, but, in a striking reversal of its traditional response to governmental corruption, it did not care to pursue the matter any further. This was, one hopes, the nadir of public opinion as an institution in our national life. When public opinion has lost the will to compel a thorough investigation into the apparent subversion of a Presidential election by officials of the Administration in power, it has been neutralized as a voice in the basic affairs of the Republic.

Schell argued that in a democracy, public opinion cannot be allowed to dictate whether truth itself can be ignored. If public opinion, whether informed or misinformed, tries to do that, it must immediately be disregarded if the country is to continue to exist. In 1973, the irrefutable truth of the matter at hand—in that case, Nixon's perfidy and involvement—had become non-negotiable.

In effect, the public was dragged from willful ignorance by the truth. In Hannah Arendt's words, "truth has a despotic character." The truth is that which compels our minds' assent. And in a democracy certain forms of truth do more than compel our minds' assent; they compel us to act. In a democracy, we are not permitted to seek out the truth about our affairs and then to ignore what we learn. When evidence of murder comes to light, indictments must be brought and a trial held. Our system is arranged to make such action reflexive. We must hold the trial whether we want to or not.

Schell distinguished between voluntary, desirable ideals—such as the idea of decency or compassion—from adherence to this principle of truth.

Decency and compassion belong to the large category of ideals which float above our heads as a reproach to our actual behavior. Truth and justice, on the other hand, are rooted as powerful forces in the heart of our political system. They have shaped and determined the fundamental structures of our institutions. Thus, the system of justice is the mechanism whereby certain forms of truth compel us to act. In a democracy, we are free to do many things, but we are not free to ignore the truth. It holds the system itself, and our individual liberty, hostage. In the end, it is by virtue of this power of truth that our nation consents to march to the tune of a piece of paper—the Constitution.

(emphasis supplied)

As explained by author and professor of foreign affairs Mark Danner, writing for the New York Review of Books, with the insurrection of Jan. 6, the two principles that establish legitimacy to our democracy—a government allowed by elections rather than violence, and respect for and honoring the outcome of those elections by the losing party—are now held in disfavor by a substantial percentage of the American electorate. As Danner points out, the last time in history that these principles were abandoned on this scale led directly to the carnage of the Civil War, and they were not re-established for a bitter decade in its aftermath. Even their re-establishment came at a terrible cost, with the defeated southern states instituting nearly a century of racist oppression on their Black citizens in spiteful revenge for their defeat.

Danner's point is that when the country behaves the way it is now, history suggests that the country will not endure in its present form. What Schell wrote about in 1973 was witnessing our system self-correct, as Democrats and Republican agreed that however uncomfortable the facts of Nixon's criminality were, the truth of them could not be ignored. As a result, the nation survived.

But that is not the situation the country faces today, in the wake of Jan. 6. Not at all, in fact.

Danner writes:

In the case of the Capitol coup we have thus far ignored the truth. The coup was a crime against the state, and because it unfolded live on television as a grand public spectacle, Americans believe they know the truth about it. But we do not. We do not know what kind of planning preceded the assault and who was involved. We do not know why Pentagon officials for several hours refused to send troops to the Capitol. We do not know what the president was doing as the violence he unleashed was unfolding on Americans' television screens. And much more. We do not know because there has been no thorough public investigation of what happened. Supporters of the former president within the political system have thus far worked hard to block such an investigation.
[...]
The result is a metastasizing corruption at the heart of the polity. About the Capitol coup there is no shared reality. Nor is there a shared reality about the integrity of the election or of the legitimacy of the president it produced. To millions of Americans the legitimate president remains Donald Trump. A quarter-millennium of American history offers no precedent for this.

Danner also quotes former CIA analyst Martin Gurri, who emphasizes that all of our focus on Trump himself ignores the weaknesses of our institutions which allowed his destabilizing influence to fester and propagate throughout the American population. As Gurri wrote in his 2018 book, The Revolt of the Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium , "The right level of analysis on Trump isn't Trump at all, but the public that endowed him with a radical direction and temper, and the decadent institutions that proved too weak to stand in his way." In Trump, we witnessed what Danner characterizes as not necessarily the emergence of a traditional autocrat, but rather the triumph and "embodiment-as-leader" of the online troll, the ones who, by perpetually railing against "elites" and stoking regional prejudices have eroded the institutions of former democracies such as Hungary, effectively transforming them into breeding grounds for autocracies.

In the U.S., a country that has never shaken off its strongest cultural impulse, racism, Trump has accomplished this erosion by harnessing the fears and antipathy of millions of Americans towards their fellow Americans of a darker shade of skin, and by exploiting their fears of "replacement" by immigrants. That's why Lachlan Murdoch's Fox News finds such a perfect target in Vice President Kamala Harris, who represents for its audience an amalgamation of everything they've been taught to fear. Fox News' relentless focus on Harris isn't simply an effort to thwart her chances at future election; it's to consolidate and intensify the xenophobic hatred necessary to keep Trump's Big Lie in circulation. Meanwhile, Murdoch is limited, by Biden's unbearable whiteness, to merely mocking his age and implying a decline in mental acuity.

In closing his essay, aptly titled "Reality Rebellion," Danner observes that the road-show aspect of the fraudulent "audit" of votes currently underway in Arizona, as well as similar efforts to sow distrust of valid electoral processes around the country, are all of a piece: namely, a strategy to tie that distrust to a concrete, physical event, no matter how fictitious or fanciful that event is. Danner quotes Special FBI Agent Clinton Watts, who explained on MSNBC how this "alternative reality" is being created for the purpose of stoking potential violence. Watts calls it a "Reality Rebellion," and describes it as: "[E]ssentially trying to create an entire atmosphere, a complete show ... Because if you create an action in the physical world it makes it seem all the more legitimate to use violence and to strike out."

According to Danner, the manifestation of violence is now all but assured as the formerly winking-embrace by the Republican Party of such domestic terrorists organizations as the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and Three Percenters has given way to a more fulsome acceptance; these groups are now coalescing as the necessary paramilitary wing that's characteristic of all fascist movements. With the groundwork for contesting all elections that do not end in their favor being laid, all that is necessary to galvanize the support of millions of Republican voters may be a single spark of violence.

Whatever they might do—kidnapping or assassinating public figures, staging bombings or mass shootings—it would take the efforts of only a handful of determined violent actors to overturn the politics of the country. Such actions would be intended to provoke the security organs of the "deep state" to overreact and make widespread arrests, thereby revealing its repressive character and encouraging more sympathy for the terrorists' cause. This dynamic would further radicalize those whose anger has already been stoked by the delegitimizing rhetoric of the Republican Party. Potential terrorists, perhaps for the first time in this country, have what is vital to make violent actions politically successful: a pool of millions of willing sympathizers.

When such violent acts occur, Danner believes they "will feed the radicalization of Republican policy in a fervid feedback loop."

Danner's point is that the consequences of ignoring the truth, of failing to move forward to fully address and condemn what occurred on Jan. 6, and failing to prosecute and condemn those who funded, planned and inspired it, have already begun to manifest themselves. The strategy evinced by President Biden, which seems to hope to quell such passions simply by demonstrating the virtues and competence of government, cannot possibly make up for that failure.

Our country is facing an unprecedented time, and it it is getting late in the game to stop what Trump and the Republican parties have set into motion. We continue to ignore the truth about these people at our own peril.

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