Mark Sumner

Exposure Of Trump’s coup attempt reveals Steve Bannon as a central figure

When it comes to events surrounding the January 6 insurrection, there are some whose involvement remains unclear. Did Rep. Lauren Boebert lead future insurgents on a tour of the Capitol in order to help them identify the shortest route to the people they wanted to hang? Not certain. There are others who will pretend that their calls to storming the Capitol and spilling a swimming pool of patriotic blood were purely metaphorical. Right, Rep. Mo Brooks?

And then there's Steve Bannon.

The Trump campaign chair, shining with the glow of his last-minute pardon from the fraud he definitely committed, didn't just assist a few would-be Mike Pence-hangers. He didn't just get up there and sound the horn to get out there and fight like there was nothing but a commie-filled America-free tomorrow. He worked to create both the political crisis and the maddened crowd that placed the United States within a few seconds, and a handful of steps, of seeing members of Congress marched to a gallows on the Capitol lawn.

On Friday, Bannon was the undoubtedly proud recipient of one of the first four subpoenas handed out by the House Select Committee. However, giving the head of a Brussels-based fascist movement—tastefully called "The Movement"—a couple of weeks to decide whether he wants to make an appearance before a Congress he dismisses, or a court system he sneers about, seems like far too mild an approach.

Here's a checklist of "fun" Steve Bannon moments, over just the last couple of years.

But that's just the small stuff. Because Bannon's involvement in the events around January 6 easily trumps (yes, pun intended) even trying to abscond with an 800-year-old monastery as a base for bringing down the Catholic church and creating baby Hitlers.

To a large extent, the whole idea of using January. 6 as a lever to tip over democracy came from Bannon. As the recent book Peril reported, Bannon called up Trump on December 30 and told him, "'You've got to call Pence off the f**king ski slopes and get him back here today. This is a crisis."

The point of dragging Pence back—which happened—was to explain how January 6 could be turned into "a reckoning." Bannon explained to Trump how upsetting the prescribed process on January 6 could "cast enough of a shadow over Biden's victory" that it would cause millions of Americans to consider Biden an illegitimate president. They didn't actually have to prove any election fraud. They only had to create a spectacle that would destroy faith in the system.

"People are going to go, 'What the f**k is going on here?'" said Bannon. "We're going to bury Biden on January 6th, f**king bury him."

But it doesn't take going to the pages of a book to discover Bannon's involvement in the attempted overthrow, because Bannon himself just keeps talking about it.

Wow — Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon says on his War Room podcast he met with Trump and Giuliani the night befor…
— Hugo Lowell (@Hugo Lowell)1632417930.0

Bannon met with Trump and Rudy Giuliani in advance of the insurgency, with an open goal of destroying the American government.

As Newsweek reports, Bannon's open admission is that he told the others "it's time to kill the Biden presidency in the crib." On his podcast platform, Bannon went on to brag about the success of his plan, claiming that "42% of the American people think that Biden did not win the presidency legitimately"—a belief supported by the actions on Jan. 6 to deliberately undermine that presidency.

As Professor Lawrence Tribe points out. "It'd be hard to justify DOJ inaction in the face of this rapidly mounting evidence of a criminal conspiracy to commit sedition against the US Government and to give aid and comfort to an insurrection. See 18 USC secs. 2383 & 2384."

Tribe's name has recently been in the news because Trump attorney John Eastman distorted Tribe's past statements in his attempt to declare Trump the "winner" by simply leaving off as many Biden states as it took to get the numbers they wanted. But there's no misinterpreting what Tribe is saying here:

18 U.S. Code § 2383 - Rebellion or insurrection
Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
18 U.S. Code § 2384 - Seditious conspiracy
If two or more persons in any State or Territory, or in any place subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Bannon, Trump, Giuliani, Eastman … they all engaged in a seditious conspiracy, a plan that Bannon spelled out with the declared intent of destroying the lawful government of the United States.

It's worth noting that, in their schemes, neither Bannon nor Eastman even attempted to make a case that Trump had actually won, or that there had been anything like the level of fraud Giuliani was claiming. Both plans were simply to cripple the United States by creating confusion and distrust.

It's almost what you might expect from someone who said this:

"Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that's my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today's establishment."

It's past time to stop sending Steve Bannon subpoenas and start sending him to jail. Let Eastman fight with Giuliani over who has be his cellmate.

Internal Trump campaign memo shows Giuliani and Powell knew everything they spewed was a lie

A memo obtained by The New York Times makes clear that the Trump campaign not only spread propaganda and misinformation about the results of the 2020 election, they did so with full knowledge that what they were telling the American people was simply a lie.

Long before Jan. 6, in the days immediately following the election, Trump's team was aware that claims about voting machines made by Dominion and Smartmatic were utterly false. The interal memo, prepared by Trump's communication team, includes a thorough debunking of claims about the software, hardware, origins, and political connections of each company, One by one, everything circulating in the fever swamp of right-wing claims about the election was stood up, and just as quickly shot down.

Despite this, Trump's legal team would step forward six days after that memo was circulated and make exactly the claims they already knew not to be true. That included false claims about how the companies were connected to antifa. False claims about how the software had originated in Venezuela. False claims about the connections between the two companies. False claims about connections to George Soros. And false claims about votes being counted overseas.

Now that memo has surfaced in court papers as part of a defamation lawsuit against Trump's campaign. And a quick look at the information suggests that another, very brief, memo could be written. The title of that memo: Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell are f***ked.

On Nov. 19, 2020, Rudy Giuliani stepped out to deliver another round of nonsense claims, random non sequiturs, and outright lies concerning the 2020 presidential election. It was on this occasion that Giuliani explained the legal basis of his claims about voter fraud. "I know crimes," said the former prosecutor. "I can smell them. You don't have to smell this one, I can prove it to you 18 different ways. I can prove to you that Trump won Pennsylvania by 300,000 votes. I can prove to you that he won Michigan, probably by 50,000 votes." Needless to say, he provided no such proof.

But other than Giuliani's crime-sniffing nose, that press event is mostly remembered for two things.

First, that a steady stream of dark hair dye trickled down Giuliani's face as he spoke, lending his overt lies about how Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had blocked votes in Pennsylvania or how Michigan's most populous county had decertified its vote total an extra air of comic desperation. Again and again, Giuliani threw out numbers along with a claim that he could "prove" some level of malfeasance on the part of election officials and voting machine companies. Again and again, he offered absolutely no proof.

Second, it was at that event that Powell, until then best known for her judge-infuriating defense of disgraced general Michael Flynn, stepped forward to present a jaw-dropping collection of claims that included how Democrats had engaged in a multistate conspiracy to "inject" hundreds of thousands of Biden votes by using voting machines built to appease Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez with the help of wealthy Jew George Soros and sent American votes overseas to servers in Germany, where they could be altered according to orders from antifa. Powell was detailed, if little short of deranged, in her claims about connections between Dominion and Smartmatic, the origins of their systems as a means of ensuring the election of long-dead dictator Hugo Chavez, the control of mysterious figures from antifa, and a connection to this Biden-Venezuelan-Jewish-Cuban-antifa conspiracy and the Clinton Foundation.

The simple amount of hogwash, hooey, and absurdity in the statements from Giuliani and Powell would have been amusing had all that propaganda not been in service of a lie that led directly to the Jan. 6 insurgency and fueled ongoing claims of election fraud now supported by a majority of Republicans. In the course of the morning, Giuliani and Powell managed to hit Every. Single. One. Of the claims that the Trump team had already investigated and found to be false.

It was if they had taken the internal memo and used it as a checklist to be sure they punched every button on the defamation elevator.

Clearly, someone on Trump's team was listening well enough to hear all the alarms that the claims—particularly those made by Powell—were setting off. Just three days later, Giuliani issued a statement in which he made another false claim: "Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own," wrote Giuliani. "She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity."

Unfortunately for them, not only had Giuliani introduced Powell and appeared with her in front of the nation's cameras while she went on her everything-but-the-kitchen sink rant; Powell had been introduced by Trump attorney Jenna Ellis as part of "an elite strike team that is working on behalf of the president and the campaign to make sure that our Constitution is protected."

And there was some other fellow. Some guy on Twitter. What did he say?

"I look forward to Mayor Giuliani spearheading the legal effort to defend OUR RIGHT to FREE and FAIR ELECTIONS! Rudy Giuliani, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, a truly great team, added to our other wonderful lawyers and representatives!"

Within days of Trump's "distancing" from Powell, she was right back at the center of his representation, acting as the lead attorney on lawsuits filed in December and January. Any claim that she was not connected to the Trump campaign is less believable than Hugo Chavez and George Soros counting votes in Spain using an antifa-branded server.

What's absolutely clear is that both Giuliani and Powell were members of Donald Trump's legal team, who not only stepped forward on Nov. 19—and on many other occasions—to make false claims about the 2020 president election, they did so knowingly. In particular, despite having investigated and found the claims about Dominion and Smartmatic absolutely false, Trump's team went on to file at least four lawsuits against the company and publicly accuse it of crimes in statements they were well aware did not reflect reality. Those accusations generated threats of violence about the companies and their employees, as well as interfering in the ability of the companies to do business.

The only real question should be, will Dominion get the pleasure of taking Giuliani's last dime before the FBI finally completes their actions?

And just in case someone thought either of these two was being more sensible these days …

Unvaccinated are 5 times more likely to be infected and 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19

That's it. That's the post. There's really not a whole lot left to say after the headline.

But … a new compilation of available data put together by the CDC shows the stark difference between being vaccinated and unvaccinated in the time of COVID-19. Despite all the news of breakthrough infections, people who have been fully vaccinated are much less likely to get infected. if they do get infected, they're less likely to become seriously ill. These are things that doctors already knew, but it's nice to see these definitive numbers even though the delta variant is now prevalent everywhere.

Vaccinated people are much less likely to get sick from delta. Get. Vaccinated.

If you're reading this site, then the odds are you're already one of the majority of Americans who have been vaccinated. The latest data from Civiqs shows that 91% of Democrats fall in camp "Already Vaccinated," with another 4% saying they intend to be vaccinated. That's the kind of number that keeps measles and mumps in check, and both of those diseases are much more transmissible than any form of COVID-19. If everyone was vaccinated the way Democrats are vaccinated, we would not be having a new wave of infection.

Of course, we are having a new wave of infection; one that, on Friday, saw the U.S. rack up another 171,000 cases and 1,761 deaths. Florida and Texas once again led the way, as Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott continue their neck and neck competition to be the worst governors in America. However, they face some stiff competition from someone who hasn't gotten nearly as much press—Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

Tennessee is home to that school where men followed a doctor into the parking lot and threatened his family because the doctor had the audacity to simply testify and answer questions for school board members. That school, Williamson County, was out all last week after so many kids and staff members came down with COVID-19 that classes became impossible. Good job there.

But that's not all. In a hearing this week, Gov. Lee's ban on school masks went to court after parents of immunocompromised students sued the state for putting their kids in danger. As education site Chalkbeat reports, the attorney for the state argued that schools should use "creative scheduling" to see that those kids could attend classes without encountering any children who were intent on being free to spread disease. Because sure, schools have no problem re-scheduling classes and moving students around based on who is or isn't wearing a mask on a particular day.

It's this kind of creative thinking that has generated such a surge in COVID-cases in the Volunteer (to be sick) State, that Tennessee has actually moved to the top of the pack when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases by population. For a long time, the Dakotas hung tight to that spot, along with Rhode Island, which got battered in the initial outbreak, but now Tennessee has surged ahead. A full 16.5% of Tennesseans have now tested positive for COVID-19, and with a statewide rate of positive cases at 21%, there's no doubt that number still has room to grow.

But DeSantis is not going to be dismissed so easily. Florida has also surged ahead (literally) of North Dakota and now holds the number two spot with 16.1% of the state's population having tested positive. In terms of raw numbers, it's no competition, Florida has had 3.4 million cases to Tennessee's 1.1 million. Still, it seems that the Sunshine State might have a little trouble making the top of the sickest state chart, since it's positivity rate is down to "only" 14% and it's actually vaccinated at a rate quite a bit higher than Tennessee.

With just 43% of the state's population vaccinated, several counties below 30%, red hot levels of positivity, and Bill Lee running point on terrible policies, it seems there is a good chance that Tennessee might hold onto the crown as America's Sickest State. Congratulations. I guess.

In any case, this is where we are. So take the CDC image above, cut it out, keep it in your pocket, and wave it at everyone you know who might possibly not be vaccinated. With 36% of Republicans still saying no there are, unfortunately, plenty of opportunities.

It really shouldn't take Joe Biden strapping someone down and putting a needle in their arm to make this happen. Common sense should be way, way more than enough. However, the well known problem with common sense is just how uncommon it can be.

Oh, and while 5x better odds than the unvaccinated are great … wear your mask.

DeSantis 'triples down' on fight to protect virus, $5,000 fines for schools that require vaccination

For decades, Florida schools have required vaccinations. The Florida Department of Health currently lists vaccinations against at least seven different diseases that are required for both public schools, private schools, and even daycare facilities. Both students and teachers are required to be vaccinated against everything from polio and pertussis to chickenpox and hepatitis B.

But Gov. Ron DeSantis has informed these same schools—along with every government agency and private business in the state—that they will be fined $5,000 it they ask for proof of vaccination against COVID-19. As WJXT in Jacksonville explains, DeSantis says he doesn't want a "biomedical security state" in which people are forced to produce proof of vaccination. To underscore this desire, Florida's Republican-dominated legislature passed, and DeSantis signed, a bill saying that no business, school, or agency can "require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination."

The maximum fine that bill allows is $5,000. Letters sent this week have made it clear that DeSantis intends to begin fining people the maximum amount immediately. Meanwhile, as WFLA reports, two children died in Florida from COVID-19 on Thursday—including a newborn who was just two weeks old. The director of a pediatric intensive care unit confirmed that children "do get severe conditions and we are seeing more and more of them in the ICU."

DeSantis' actions on both masks and vaccines aren't just unsupportable in terms of science or public health, they're actively destructive. At some point, if a policy looks like it's trying to kill people, and it acts like trying to kill people, it's just trying to kill people.

What did DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske have to say when gloating over the announcement that fines were about to be levied? She offered a very Trumpy "Promises made, promises kept."

If that promise is that DeSantis will do everything possible to promote his profile to the ragged edge of Trump-supporting extremists who are willing to see children get sick rather than require decent public health practices … then yes, that promise was definitely kept.

The absolute proof that the fines against COVID-19 are a triumph of politics over public health can be found on the Department of Health's web site.

These are the requirements for a child entering daycare:

  • Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP)
  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV)
  • Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Pneumococcal conjugate (PCV13)
  • Hepatitis B (Hep B)

Students progressing through the grades are required to have multiple doses of vaccines. In addition, teachers must be regularly tested for tuberculosis, and these tests can be extended to students if there is a positive case in the community.

COVID-19 vaccines are currently available to every teacher, every staff member, and to every student over the age of 12. Every high school, college, and university in Florida could—should—require vaccination for all of the above. Because that would not just save lives at those schools, it would also help to slow the spread of the virus in the broader community. In addition, it would simply make good business sense, as it would help the schools avoid situations where they were forced to shut down after outbreaks sidelined teachers and students—something that has been happening repeatedly. As The Miami Herald reported on Friday, two more districts in the northern part of Florida shut down when teachers, food workers, and bus drivers were all caught up in a "worsening spread" of COVID-19.

Florida continues to be the first or second state in the nation when it comes to new cases of COVID-19. Despite how the state has changed reporting of deaths to make it seem that improvement is always underway, it's clear that Florida is actually logging record numbers of COVID-19 deaths each day. Schools are closing. Children are dying.

Despite a court ruling that DeSantis' blocking school mask mandates is an unconstitutional overreach of his power, DeSantis is both challenging that ruling in court and going ahead with blocking funds to schools that require masks. Now DeSantis is fining schools and private businesses if they ask for proof of vaccination.

There are only possible reasons for this:

  • Ron DeSantis is promoting the spread of COVID-19 because he feels that destroying sound public health practices is beneficial to his political career, no matter the cost in lives or health.
  • Ron DeSantis is promoting the spread of COVID-19 because he enjoys seeing people suffer and die.

Which one of these is worse is open to debate. The objective results of DeSantis policies are not.

Kevin McCarthy is terrified that the truth will come out about his Jan. 6 phone call to Trump

The best solution to investigating the events related to the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol would have been a nonpartisan outside commission, which was used several times to examine critical issues and key events. But Republicans shot that effort down in the Senate, using the filibuster to defeat the proposal. With an independent commission off the table, Democrats in the House turned to the next best option: a select committee that would have the authority to reach beyond the limitations of standard committees to collect the evidence necessary to understand the events that led up to a vicious mob of paramilitary white supremacists creeping through the halls of Congress hunting for political opponents to hang.

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi formed the House Select Committee investigating the insurgency, Republicans had another chance to cooperate. Instead, minority leader Kevin McCarthy attempted to sabotage the committee by planting it with people who were not only dedicated to seeing the effort derailed but representatives who are extremely likely to end up as witnesses testifying before that committee.

And now that the committee—the bipartisan committee, which includes two Republicans who defied McCarthy to join in finding the truth—has requested electronic records on Jan. 6 to discover who was communicating with Trump and with the insurgents, McCarthy has stepped in again. Only this time, he's not trying to threaten Pelosi or break the committee. That ship has sailed. This time, McCarthy is threatening telecommunications companies and social media companies, telling them that if they cooperate with the investigation, they will be punished when and if the Republicans return to power.

It's a desperate, ugly ploy—that only shows exactly how terrified Kevin McCarthy is of the truth coming out.

As CNN reports, McCarthy has issued a statement claiming that if the companies turn over information in response to a congressional subpoena, they would be "in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States." However, when asked about what last the companies would be violating, McCarthy had no reply. Instead, he just ended with the ominous threat that "a Republican majority will not forget."

The problem for McCarthy is that federal law lies with the committee, which is fully within its rights to issue subpoenas for records connected to the topic of the investigation. And in fact, the committee hasn't yet asked for telecom records from anyone. Despite McCarthy's blunt attempt to bully companies into noncompliance, all that the committee requests is that telecom companies preserve these records in case they are needed.

Even so, just edging around these requests has already promoted Jim Jordan to get nervous enough to admit that he talked to Donald Trump multiple times on Jan. 6. It now appears that Jordan, along with Matt Gaetz, called Trump while huddled in the House "safe room" and begged him to call off the insurgents.

But the real call that McCarthy doesn't want to talk about is the one he made to Trump on Jan. 6. As NBC News reported in February, McCarthy and Trump engaged in an "expletive-filled" call in which McCarthy got pissed off after Trump breezily claimed that it was Antifa ransacking the Capitol. "Who the f—k do you think you are talking to?" McCarthy is reported to have said. But when it came down to getting Trump to halt his followers before they got their hands on a Representative or two, Trump just replied. "Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are."

For a few days following these events, McCarthy maintained his concern about the potential fall of democracy, or at least the potential stretching of his own neck. But within a few weeks, he was at Mar-a-Lago, apologizing to Trump for having the temerity to allow something as unimportance as the continuation of representative democracy to get in the way of Trump's fun.

In response to reporters' questions about that day, McCarthy has given answers like "my conversations with the president are my conversations with the president," which sounds like McCarthy is claiming executive privilege—except he can't. Executive privilege does not extend to conversations held with members of the legislative branch.

The truth is, if the select committee asks telecoms to turn over McCarthy's phone records for that day, they are legally obligated to provide them. Chairman Bennie Thompson has made it clear that the contents of that conversation between Trump and McCarthy are of interest to the committee. At an absolute bare minimum, calls like the one McCarthy and Jordan made show that: 1) Republicans understood that the people attacking the building were not Antifa and were Trump supporters, 2) those Republican representatives believed the insurgents were acting at Trump's request and could be halted by Trump.

If McCarthy is called to testify before the committee, he has two options: testify or claim the right not to testify under the Fifth Amendment. Of course, that second claim would be an admission that McCarthy believes he might be charged with some crime in connection with the events, which would in itself be … not the best look.

Even so, it's a better look than threatening U.S. companies with destruction because they obeyed a legal request. Seems like the best thing these companies, and every other company concerned about the rule of law, can do is to help make sure there never is another Republican majority.

Biden gives a powerful response to critics as US leaves Afghanistan: 'Not going to extend this forever war'

On Tuesday afternoon, President Joe Biden stepped in front of the cameras to address the nation on the end of the war in Afghanistan. Anyone who turned up the volume expecting Biden to be quietly introspective or spend this time in apologetic contemplation is now deeply regretting that decision, as Biden made what might be the boldest, least political decisions in recent American history — he told the truth, nothing but the truth, and the whole damned ugly truth when it came to ending this war.

A forceful, determined, and deadly serious Biden faced the camera and made it clear that what America has done in the last two decades was largely a mistake. The primary objective of the invasion, ending the haven for al Qaeda, was complete within weeks of the war's outset. The secondary objective, to kill Osama bin Laden, was completed over a decade ago.

This may be the first time that the nation got a speech that wasn't all about justifying the actions in Afghanistan—or any war, for that matter. Biden bluntly spelled out the cost in injuries, the cost in lives, and the incredible cost in dollars that came with every single day of an occupation that no one knew how to "win." Biden made it clear that the only choices he had were to ignore the deal made with the Taliban and go back into Afghanistan with tens of thousands of troops and no end in sight, or to leave as quickly and efficiently as possible.

And in the process, he delivered a solidly pro-military and anti-war speech, celebrating the soldiers for their sacrifice while making it clear that the point of all that sacrifice was not worth it. Biden's message was both strong and unflinching, "I was not going to extend this forever war, and I was not extending a forever exit," declared the President of the United States.

President Biden delivers remarks on ending the war in Afghanistan — 8/31/2021

Throughout the speech, Biden repeated the same sets of facts driving home that the soldiers, diplomats, and intelligence teams on the ground had done outstanding work. They had given their all, and they deserve the nation's gratitude. The fault with Afghanistan was not in the military or Afghanistan; it was in Washington D.C., and with an American government that, having locked itself into an undefined task, couldn't find its way to a definitive end.

Until now. If there was any doubt, it has been removed. Joe Biden ended the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Decisively.

And then he took a big red marker and underlined exactly why in a way that may have been shocking to Americans who become accustomed to a soup of lies and platitudes. "To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask, 'What is the vital national interest?'" said Biden. "I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars in Afghanistan."

Biden was explicit in saying that the mission had started with a purpose but lost that purpose long ago, turning into something that could only generate endless expense in pursuit of an unattainable goal. "We saw a mission of counterterrorism in Afghanistan … morph into a mission of counterinsurgency, nation-building, trying to create a democratic and cohesive and united Afghanistan — something that has never been done in many centuries."

Where Republicans and media—and not just right-wing media—have been taking apart every aspect of the Afghan airlift and wearing out their keys for spelling "chaos" and "disaster," Biden praised all those involved and trumpeted the airlift as both an extraordinary success and another example of how everyone on the ground in Afghanistan had put their lives and hearts into making things right. Biden pushed back on all those who tried to treat the accomplishments of the airlift as anything less than a massive success and again lavished praise on both the military and diplomatic teams involved.

In two decades, no president has been as forthright in explaining the need to take action as Biden was today in describing the end of this war, and no president has been as unflinching in laying out the cost.

"We no longer had a clear purpose in an open-ended mission Afghanistan. I refuse to send another generation of America's sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago," said Biden. "After more than $2 trillion spent in Afghanistan … a cost estimated to be over $300 million a day for twenty years." To underline this astounding number, Biden hit it again. "Yes, the American people should hear this: $300 million a day for two decades."

"What have we lost as a consequence, in terms of opportunities?" asked Biden. "I refuse to continue a war that was no longer in the vital national interest of our people. And most of all, after 800,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan … after 20,744 American servicemen and women injured, and the loss of 2,461 American personnel—including 13 lives lost just this week—I refuse to open another decade of warfare in Afghanistan."

It's not a speech that's likely to get widely replayed. It wasn't a speech full of poetry. It didn't celebrate the glories of war or pound the drum of patriotism. But in many ways, it was the best and most important speech anyone has delivered since the war began. The only problem is that it's a decade too late.

Republicans are pretending there's a cure for COVID-19 so they can justify their monstrous acts

On Tuesday, authorities in Texas revealed that Gov. Greg Abbott had tested positive for COVID-19 after participating in multiple campaign events in which Abbott, along with other Republicans present, neither wore masks nor practiced any social distancing. Those same authorities already made it clear that, though Abbott tested positive, he is not displaying any symptoms related to his infection. Not only that, but Abbott has already told people that he, unlike almost every American, has already received a booster shot of vaccine. So why is Greg Abbott getting a costly treatment available only under an Emergency Use Authorization and intended for those most at risk of developing severe illness?

Abbot's treatment with Regeneron's REGEN-COV monoclonal antibody treatment seems completely contradictory to the EUA under which it was made available. There seems to be no reason a man who is asymptomatic and has already had a booster vaccine shot should be getting this treatment.

Like Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Abbott has been pushing Regeneron's treatment as a solution to the COVID crisis. Texas has nine infusion centers in the works. Not all of them are open right now, but they'll be able to handle about 1,350 patients a day when they are. Which is less than 7% of the Texans testing positive for COVID-19 each day. So why was Greg Abbott, whose danger appeared to be low, given access to a treatment denied to 93% of the people in his state? Why should he get something that was not provided to the 17,000 Texans currently hospitalized for COVID-19?

The CDC has currently only authorized boosters for Americans who have serious immune deficiency issues when it comes to the booster shot. Even that authorization only came last week. When or why Abbott got a booster hasn't been revealed. According to NBC News, Abbott's office has not responded to requests for information about how the Texas governor was allowed to get an additional jab unavailable to everyone else.

In Florida, where the second-largest investor in Regeneron also happens to be DeSantis' largest donor, REGEN-COV is currently available to less than 4% of those testing positive for COVID-19 each day. If the treatment were given to all COVID-19 patients, the cost would be more than $80 million per day—just for Texas and Florida.

From the very beginning, the treatment has been provided to Republican politicians with utter disregard for how it is supposed to be administered. Donald Trump got four times the prescribed dose while also on oxygen, which violates the EUA. Chris Christie received the treatment while in hospital—which is a violation of the EUA. Now Greg Abbott is getting REGEN-COV despite a booster shot and no symptoms. And at the same time, a very, very high percentage of Americans infected have absolutely no access to this drug, despite promises from Trump, Abbott, and DeSantis.

A costly treatment that takes hours to administer by IV is never going to be effective in limiting the number of people who need hospitalization from widespread disease. For that, there needs to be something cheap, something that can be administered quickly, something whose efficacy is very high. Fortunately, that something exists. It's called the vaccine.

Even as breakthrough cases increase, vaccination continues to be the most effective means of ensuring that patients don't end up contracting severe illness. In fact, even if every patient did get Regeneron's treatment, its efficacy was 70% in preventing severe illness. That's considerably less effective than vaccines. And the results from Regeneron were from a point before the delta variant became prominent. How effective it is against the delta variant isn't yet clear.

If Regeneron's REGEN-COV were 70% effective on hospitalized patients, that would be fantastic. However, a U.K. study released in June saw a 20% mortality reduction when Regeneron was used in the hospital. That's certainly a genuine benefit, and anyone facing severe COVID-19 would be foolish to turn down the opportunity to receive treatment—even if offered in violation of the EUA. However, it's far from a get-out-of-COVID-free card. REGEN-COV remains costly, uncommon, and utterly unable to address the current crisis.

The problem isn't really with Regeneron's treatment. The problem is how Republicans are using Regeneron's treatment as an excuse to fail in protecting residents of their states. REGEN-COV is a valuable tool, but it does absolutely nothing to slow the spread of COVID-19. In fact, dangling the idea that a cure is available only encourages that spread.

What's needed is vaccination, masks, and social distancing. The chain of transmission has to be broken. Because no matter how many articles are written about how "COVID-19 is here to stay," it simply can't be. We can't learn to live with it. A disease that regularly sends this nation (and every nation) into cycles of ICU-or-death is not a condition that can persist long term. It's a prescription for failure. Of the healthcare system. Of the economy. Of Everything. Big 'E.'

COVID-19 must be fought as an existential threat. The means of waging that battle is clear enough — vaccines, masks, and social distancing. Mask mandates are necessary. Proof of vaccination is necessary. Quarantines are necessary. Testing and case tracking are necessary.

Right now, Republicans are hiding behind Regenron's antibody treatment. Just like they previously hid behind hydroxychloroquine. While REGEN-COV may have the huge advantage of actually generating some benefit, both serve the same purpose—to allow Republican politicians to downplay the costs of the pandemic and encourage people to act as if COVID-19 doesn't exist because a cure is available. But there is no cure. Republicans are still selling the same lie that Trump was pushing when he refused to institute national testing. The same lie that DeSantis pushed when he reopened businesses without meeting any of the guidelines his own team had put down. The same lie that Republican governors from Texas to Tennessee to Florida to Iowa to Arizona are pushing in blocking mask requirements at public schools.

In the bigger scheme of what's happening in the pandemic, Regeneron might as well not exist. It's simply too uncommon, too difficult to administer, and not effective enough to have a significant impact. That's not to say it's not playing a role — only that role is negative. That's because it's being treated as "Cure of the Week" to justify the continuation of monstrous acts.

Don't worry. They'll make another "cure" next week. But in the meantime, let's get answers to a couple of questions:

  • Why did Greg Abbott get a booster shot?
  • Why did Abbott get treatment with REGEN-COV despite that booster and despite having no symptoms?
  • What does Abbott have to say to the 17,000 Texans currently in hospital beds who did not get a chance to receive the treatments he did?
  • Why is he continuing to push people to catch a disease for which there is no actual cure?

Biden extends vital lifeline to Florida schools

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made it clear that, when it comes to COVID-19, he has one priority: Punishing anyone who gets in the way of spreading the virus. In particular, DeSantis has focused on making sure that school children and teachers are as exposed as possible by both mandating that schools have to hold in-person classes and declaring that schools cannot implement either mask mandates or vaccine requirements. In order to drive home his pro-virus policies home, DeSantis has threatened both the funding for school districts and the pay checks of school board members or school administrators who vote to protect their students.

These actions had already earned DeSantis some direct criticism from President Joe Biden. As WTSP in Tampa reported earlier this week, Biden said, "...It's clear to me and to most of the medical experts that the decisions being made – like not allowing mask mandates in school and the like – are bad health policy." In response, DeSantis sneered about "media hysteria" and said that Biden was "obsessed with Florida." Then DeSantis went right on threatening school districts and making it clear he was serious when it came to punishments.

The results of DeSantis' persecution is situations like that reported by the St. Pete Catalyst, where the Pinellas County school board voted not to have a mask mandate despite 204 confirmed cases in the first two days of school. At that school board meeting, the district pointed directly to DeSantis' orders, saying that it can't require either staff or students to wear a mask.

But on Friday evening, Biden fired back in a way that shows serious support for districts already defying DeSantis, and could provide a much needed backbone injection for those afraid of the governor's efforts to defund the schools. A letter from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, sent directly to DeSantis, makes it clear: If he tries to cut funds to schools that institute mask mandates, Biden will send them federal funds.

Saying that "safe return to in-person instruction requires that school districts be able to protect the health and safety of students and educators," the letter from Sec. Cardona expresses that he is "deeply concerned about Florida's July 30 Executive Order prohibiting school districts from adopting universal masking policies."

In recognizing the threat to both students and teachers, and the way that some school districts have put themselves on the line by defying DeSantis, Cardona puts this sentence in bold:

The Department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely reopen schools and maintain safe in-person instruction.

Then Cardona notes that the American Rescue Plan Act that Biden ushered through in the first month of his administration includes over $7 billion in funds for education in Florida, as well as the authority to address issues concerning the ability of schools to operate safely during the pandemic. That means, writes Cardona, that he is prepared to "pay the full salaries of educators (including superintendents) and school board members, regardless of whether the state moves to withhold some of their salary ..."

Cardona goes on to note that the ARP required Florida to make funds available to school districts by May 24. It didn't. In fact, DeSantis and the Florida Dept. of Education decided to starve schools of funding to help keep them on a short leash when it came to following DeSantis unreasonable and deadly rules. So, if any school district wants to use those funds, Cardona will see that they go straight to the schools, not the state.

In the immortal words of every man, woman, and unvaccinated child who just dropped a mic … Boom.

July 2021 was the single hottest month in the entire history of mankind—for now

It's easy to break records when you just keep going faster. Put the foot on the accelerator and now you're going faster, and now you're going faster, and now you're going faster. Every moment is a new "record" until something gives out. This works whether you're headed down the highway, or directly off a cliff.

When it comes to the climate crisis, the regularity of "the hottest [insert time period here] ever" has become almost monotonous. That's not hard when last year tied for the hottest year on record. And when the year it tied with came just four years earlier. Or when, as NASA reports, the last seven years are the seven hottest years. For seven years in a row, every July has been both the hottest July on record, and also the coolest July going forward. It. Just. Keeps. Getting. Hotter.

So, NPR's reporting of the latest data from NOAA should hit no one as a great surprise—this July set records again. But this July didn't just edge past every other July, it outpaced every other month to capture a new crown: The hottest month in human history. Or at least, it was the hottest month in the 142 years that NOAA has kept records. And while right wing think tanks have been pushing a line that "most of the last 10,000 years" have been warmer than the past century … it will surprise no one that those claims are simply wrong. As NASA's Earth Observatory makes clear, temperatures now are easily warmer than at any time in the last 1,000 years, and there are good reasons to think that record extends back much longer—perhaps longer than human beings have been carving symbols into stone or pressing them into clay tablets.

And we know exactly why. Because in June, the Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory recorded a level of 419 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. That's the highest level ever observed. The highest level since at least the middle of the Pliocene epoch, some 4.1 million years ago.

The information that NASA and NOAA had already released going into 2021 should have been more than enough to make anyone sit up and realize that the climate crisis is a genuine existential threat, one that demands immediate, massive, and urgent action.

Temperature changes since 1880

But the news of July's record-shattering temperatures comes just days after the results of the Sixth Assessment Report on the status and effects of the climate crisis. As Reuters reported, that report signals a "code red for humanity." It's not just that the temperatures are now hotter than ever. It's not that they're edging upwards every year. It's that the continued pouring of carbon into the atmosphere is threating to send the climate into a "death spiral" that drives temperatures rapidly upward and causes "deadly heat waves, gargantuan hurricanes and other weather extremes" to become even more frequent and severe.

As it turns out, the NASA chart is really underselling the full impact of what's happened already, because the last century of human-driving climate change is so unusual, that it's hard to put it into context.

On a longer scale, the severity of this change becomes clear

Not only is the change over the last century severe, the when looked at over a longer term, the unprecedented speed of this change becomes clear. There really is absolutely no doubt that this change is triggered by human activity, and only a change in human activity can address it.

NPR sums up this report in three quick points:

  • Humans are causing rapid and widespread warming
  • Extreme weather is on the rise and will keep getting worse
  • If humans cut emissions, the worst impacts are avoidable

This news also comes right on the heels of a report showing that the Gulf Stream—the ocean current responsible for shifting heat around the Atlantic and which controls weather over a large slice of the planet—is on the brink of collapse. It's long been understood that this was possible, and the failure of the Gulf Stream has been one of the most feared possible effects of melting polar ice and warming seas. Without this redistribution of heat, extreme weather events could become far, far more extreme. Climate could radically shift across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Both rainfall patterns and temperatures could be shifted around the world in ways that destroy agricultural areas, turn forests into deserts, and generate millions of climate refugees.

As The Guardian reported on August 5, the new research found ""an almost complete loss of stability." It confirms that the movement of the Stream is already the weakest in 1,600 years and suggests that a collapse of the system could come in the next decades. Scientists involved in the study indicated that they were surprised by how close the system is to failure. And that they were scared.

They're scared in part because the failure of the Gulf Stream is just one of several major tipping points that are happening, not at some distant time in the future, but right now. That includes the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the end of the Amazon rain forest as a mechanism for carbon capture, and the increasing release of methane from arctic sources. If it seems like we're being battered constantly by drought, fires, storms, and radical shifts in weather, it's because we are. The cost of these aren't just already higher than what it would take to address the climate crisis, those costs have already included hundreds of lives in the United States in just the last year.

The assessment of the IPCC study is that the best outcome looking forward is a 3.1° F increase in temperature. That's a change that will generate significant, lasting impact, including producing rising sea levels and lasting droughts that could make cities currently home to millions of Americans, and hundreds of millions around the world, unlivable. But at the other end of the scale, the possibility is a world that's 7° warmer in just the next few decades. That's a path to an Earth that's genuinely unrecognizable—and to a future where water, food, and other resources won't just generate refugees, but major conflicts.

As has been said before, there's no question that we can afford the cost of addressing the climate crisis, because we definitely can't afford the cost if we don't.

DeSantis and Abbott are responsible for at least 4,700 unnecessary deaths in FL and TX: study

What happens when Republican governors institute policies that are 100% about showing their Trumpism, and 0% about taking care of the people in their state? Here are two good examples.

In Texas, Greg Abbott has declared that no one can require proof of vaccination, As a direct result of this decision, the Texas Tribune reports that only half of workers at Texas nursing homes are vaccinated. And as a direct result of that, "The number of nursing homes across the state with at least one active COVID-19 case has shot up nearly 800% in the past month."

That's right. Remember all the work that was put into trying to protect people in nursing homes? The desperate scramble to buy protective gear from anywhere on the planet? All those tragic images of elderly family members isolated from their children and grandchildren for month after month? Yeah. Greg Abbott has sabotaged every moment of time and every ounce of effort by issuing a rule that any business that requires vaccination can't get a state contract — which directly impacts every nursing home in the state.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis has not just failed to institute mask mandates in the most COVID-riddled schools in the nation, but has spent the last weeks threatening any school that attempts to protect its students. As a direct result of that, hundreds of school boards have bowed down and sent kids off to classrooms they know are unsafe. That includes Pinellas County where, as the St. Pete Catalyst reports, the board sent kids back into classrooms without masks in spite of 204 cases of COVID-19 in just the first two days of school. That board directly cited DeSantis' order as the reason they couldn't take the simplest, cheapest, most effective step in protecting the children under their care.

Back in March, researchers calculated that the polices of Donald Trump were responsible for at least 400,000 deaths in the United States. But Trump's biggest contribution to the pandemic was having the federal government just sit it out—no national testing effort, no national lockdown, no rules on masks or anything else. When it comes to the individual states, it turns out there are some bonus deaths to be allocated to those governors who went above and beyond in placing their political ambitions ahead of their states—especially Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis.

A study conducted by Yale researchers and published at Commonwealth Fund, looked specifically at how policies around vaccination converted into hospitalizations and deaths. For a cluster of Northeastern states—Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island—the rate of vaccination average 74% in residents over the age of 18 by the end of July. Those states have turned out to be among the lowest in the nation when it comes to new cases during the wave of delta variant cases. On Friday, every one of those states was in the bottom seven in terms of cases per capita.

On the other hand, Florida and Texas once again topped the charts. As of the same time those other states were hitting 74% of their adult populations vaccinated, Florida reported 59% and Texas 56%. Those aren't the lowest levels in the nation, but they're in the bottom half. Considering the size of Florida and Texas, it shouldn't be surprising that the combination of high population, low vaccination, and destructively bad policy has kept the pair at the top of the charts for new cases of COVID-19.

But what it if, in some alternate universe, Texas and Florida had been governed by competent people. Yes, it seems like science fiction, but hang in there. What if these two states had competent leadership; leadership that rather than fighting against vaccination, encouraged it. What if Texas and Florida had vaccination rates as high as those of states in the Northeast? What kind of difference might it have made?

It's not as outlandish as it may seem. Yes, both Florida and Texas have millions of deep red voters who have folded anti-mask and anti-vaxx into the general anti-science / anti-sense philosophy that has come to dominate the Republican Party. But it didn't have to be that way. At any point in the pandemic, either Abbott or DeSantis could have demonstrated leadership [ lee-der-ship ]. They might have chosen to stop bowing down to the demands of the worst in their party, spoken forcefully in favor of good public health practices, and differentiated themselves from the rest of presumed 2024 field by doing the right thing. The Republican embrace of anti-mask and anti-vaxx could have been changed had any of the party's "rising stars" chosen to go with saving lives instead of appealing to the worst.

That didn't happen.

Instead, Florida had 39,000 unnecessary hospitalizations and 2,806 more deaths than it would have if DeSantis hadn't championed every wrong policy. And across the Gulf in Texas, Abbott might have saved his state from 32,000 additional vaccinations and over 1,900 deaths. These are, of course, just estimates. But if anything, the numbers they represent are low for several reasons.

First, the study looked only at vaccination rates. That's certainly reasonable considering how both governors have persecuted businesses, schools, and governments that have tried to institute any kind of vaccine policy. Whether it's cruise ships in Florida, or universities and nursing homes in Texas, facilities that elsewhere would have insisted on vaccination have backed away. Because they had to. DeSantis and Abbott didn't just voice an opinion, they blackmailed these businesses and schools into either operating an unsafe environment, or going out of business.

These numbers don't include the number of hospitalizations or deaths generated because both governors have failed to institute mask mandates and blocked the use of mandates by schools and local governments. The numbers also don't include the damage done by forcing businesses to reopen and schools to conduct in-person classes even though conditions had pointedly not reached the guidelines each state had put in place. And these numbers only run through July, meaning they don't catch hospitalizations and deaths from the ongoing wave of delta variant cases.

It's not that Ron DeSantis caused 2,800 unnecessary deaths in Florida and Greg Abbott caused 1,900 deaths in Texas. It's that they caused at least that number. Oh, and no one should forget that 700 Texans who died because the power grid failed due to a design that makes it purposefully fragile. Greg Abbott deserves his share of those, as well.


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