Patterico's Pontifications

9/30/2021

Constitutional Vanguard: Here We Go Again: CDC Urges Pregnant “People” to Get Vaccinated

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:59 pm



This one goes out to the paid subscribers only, who are owed some extra content. The missive is prompted by a recent CDC announcement, as the headline suggests. But later in the newsletter I drift a bit more into policy. Here is a taste:

Coleman Hughes discussed many of the relevant issues in the podcast I recommended in my recent ACLU post, and one of the topics I found intriguing is the way that the New Orthodoxy actually seems to pigeonhole people into unyielding sexual stereotypes. In the old orthodoxy, if you were a boy who didn’t really like sports all that much, or if you were a girl who hated wearing dresses but enjoyed hanging out with the guys and rolling around in the dirt, some people might have disapproved of your nonconformity, but many others (like myself) would have recognized that you are one of many, many people who don’t fit the neat gender stereotypes that society tries to impose on us all. And that’s great! A consequence of individualism is that people won’t always adhere to the expected pattern.

But now, it seems, the boy who doesn’t like sports will inevitably be questioned about whether he thinks he is really a girl. A girl who would have been called a “tomboy” in the old days will, in the New Orthodoxy, be bombarded with suggestions that she might secretly feel herself to be a boy.

Whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing is dependent on whether the current explosion in people declaring themselves to be transgender is principally the result of the lifting of a societal taboo on a healthy development (identifying as a different gender or sex) that makes people more well-adjusted, on one hand, or whether it is the result of a sort of social contagion that causes many teens to take irreversible steps like hormone therapy that many later regret, on the other. It seems beyond debate that both phenomena occur. The question is the relative measure of each. I have my own suspicions, but at the very least the jury is still out. And so it’s not necessarily clear whether an insistence on labeling people with the sex they claim to prefer is helpful or harmful.

As always, anyone issuing confident pronouncements regarding the newsletter based on an excerpt is doing something they should not do. Twitter has a button for people who retweet articles they have not read, asking: “Would you like to read the article first?” If I had the technical ability, I would present a button to critics of my excerpts that asks: “Would you like to subscribe and read the whole thing first?”

It’s been a while since I put out free content, which I feel less guilty about, but I have been working on a long piece responding to David French’s Sunday piece for The Dispatch. When that comes out, it will likely be free.

The Proliferation of Garbage Academic Work in “Peer-Reviewed” Journals

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:04 am



[guest post by JVW]

The Chronicle of Higher Education carried a remarkable account (note: article behind a paywall but you can sign up for an account and get one freebie) by Tom Bartlett about how a journal published by the venerable academic publisher Springer found itself recently appending “editorial expressions of concern” to hundreds of “research” articles they have recently published which can almost certainly be categorized as, to use a fancy publishing industry term, utter bullshit:

A peer-reviewed journal recently published a mind-bending paper. It begins with a highly technical section about groundwater seepage before delving into a lively discussion of dance training. The paper shifts back and forth between the two topics, informing the reader about rare-earth elements before urging dancers to “tighten buttocks” during warm-ups. There are tables and graphs, citations and hyperlinks. It’s all very sober and scientific-seeming and yet, at the same time, completely bonkers.

The paper appeared last month in the Arabian Journal of Geosciences, which is one of several thousand journals put out by the publishing giant Springer Nature. If this was just one weird paper in an obscure journal, it probably wouldn’t be noteworthy. But hundreds — 412, to be exact — of equally bizarre or suspicious papers have popped up in the same journal in recent months. One examines college sports-injury insurance along with rainfall on the Loess Plateau, in China. Another deals with sea-level height and aerobics teaching. In what purports to be a legitimate geosciences journal there are at least five papers on swimming and seven on basketball.

Is this a prank, meant to highlight the ubiquity of mindless postmodernism in today’s academy like the Sokol Hoax of a quarter-century ago and the more recent Sokol Squared controversy at Portland State University? It doesn’t seem so. For one thing, the groundwater/athletics papers are a bit too arch and dull to actually be funny in a parodic way, jumbled and incoherent though they may be, and they don’t particularly deliver a lot of the Foucaultian and Derridan nonsense upon which the Sokol hoaxes were built. Also, nobody as of this writing has stepped up to take credit for the massive spamming of this journal. What other clues might we have?

[. . . ] Some of the papers, though not all, were published as part of a special issue of the journal edited by Sheldon Williamson, a professor of electrical, computer, and software engineering at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Williamson told Retraction Watch that his email account had been hacked.

That part is just delicious isn’t it? The computer science professor whose email is hacked. Or was it?

When I spoke with Williamson, he said he didn’t know for sure that his email had been hacked, but he assumed it had been. He said he was just as perplexed as everyone else about how so many ridiculous papers, with his name listed as the responsible editor, had made it into the journal. “I don’t know which ones are legitimate and which ones are not,” he said. As for what happened here, he said: “I believe people are desperate to publish. I don’t know. It could be anything.”

It helps if you attempt to view Professor Sheldon Williamson of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology as played by the late great Peter Sellers. But that’s neither here nor there. Back to the narrative:

[. . .] I also spoke to Abdullah Al-Amri, the founder and editor in chief of the journal, and a professor of geophysics at King Saud University, in Saudi Arabia. He assured me that he reads every paper that appears in the journal, which is remarkable considering that it publishes two issues each month. In September alone, the journal published 276 papers. At that clip, Al-Amri would be reading roughly 10 papers a day, every day, including weekends.

“You have to believe there are some people hacking the journal,” he told me. “I know which papers I have to approve, and which papers I have to disapprove. I know my job for the last 30 years. But if some people sign into the Springer system on my behalf, I don’t know how this happens.”

And that’s a pretty good insight into the editorial processes of modern academic journals. Is it any wonder that so much of their output later turns out to be either intellectual piffle or outright fraudulent? Here’s some more bad news for Springer:

What happened with the geosciences journal is extreme, but it isn’t unique. Springer also recently found that another of its journals, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, had published 24 papers that appear to be nonsense. In May, yet another Springer journal, Current Psychology, retracted more than a dozen articles that had been part of a special issue due to “problems with editorial handling and peer review.” Again, some of the articles seemed to have little to do with the journal’s topic and, as detailed in notes on each article, were riddled with errors and methodological problems.

You will be elated (or perhaps exasperated) to learn that Springer is not alone in suffering the humiliation of publishing journals which carry debased and decrepit work:

And it’s not just Springer. Elsevier, another journal-publishing giant, recently issued editorial expressions of concern about some 400 articles that had fallen “beneath the high standards” for one of its journals. Meanwhile, Taylor & Francis retracted a special issue because the guest editor had been “impersonated by a fraudulent entity.” One lesson here seems to be that handing the keys of a journal over to an unpaid guest editor might be a bad idea.

Speculation is that much of this bogus output comes from China, where PhD students are required to publish in a journal before they are awarded their doctoral degree, and current PhDs are paid bonuses by the state for being published in [ahem, ahem] prestigious academic journals. China has managed to infiltrate and subvert a great deal of English-language academia, so at some point the world’s leading universities — especially those here in the United States — are going to have to ask themselves the difficult question of whether all of that Chinese tuition and research money is worth debasing your academic standards.

Mr. Bartlett clearly gets this, and he is brave enough to call out the unsustainable and unnecessary (those are my words, not his) growth in graduate studies in marginal topics that has taken place over the last few decades, leading to esoteric research into subjects that virtually no one cares all that much about. Though this phenomenon is most prevalent in the social sciences, where buttressing the dominant ideological narrative and trendy woke posturing are far more important than using the discipline to solve long-standing problems, this whole scandal with the Arabian Journal of Geosciences shows that the sciences can also produce its share of meaningless dreck.

[. . .] [T]his strange episode brings to mind broader questions about academic publishing, including whether way too much subpar research is being pumped out each year and whether peer review is all it’s cracked up to be. I spoke to one of the PubPeer commenters, Nicholas Wise, who helped uncover the nonsense papers in the geosciences journal. He asked a question that’s worth contemplating: “Is anyone actually reading this journal?”

As long as we continue to expand graduate programs to the extent where second-rate minds are in faculty positions mentoring third-rate students who are doing research in minutiae simply because it’s a field as of yet unexplored, expect this kind of flim-flam to continue. Dialing back the issuance of questionable advance degrees which provide a financial windfall to the university community without really benefiting society as a whole is an educational reform that is long overdue.

– JVW

9/29/2021

Manchin Pulls the Plug on Dems’ Ambitions [Updated]

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:29 pm



[guest post by JVW}

I have a feeling I am going to regret putting up this post when some eleventh-hour deal is struck saving the day for the Dems, but for the time being I think this is a pretty definitive response (bolded emphasis added by me):

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) released the following statement about infrastructure and reconciliation negotiations.

Every Member of Congress has a solemn duty to vote for what they believe is best for the country and the American people, not their party. Respectfully, as I have said for months, I can’t support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March. At some point, all of us, regardless of party must ask the simple question – how much is enough?

What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity. Suggesting that spending trillions more will not have an impact on inflation ignores the everyday reality that America’s families continue pay an unavoidable inflation tax. Proposing a historic expansion of social programs while ignoring the fact we are not in a recession and that millions of jobs remain open will only feed a dysfunction that could weaken our economic recovery. This is the shared reality we all now face, and it is this reality that must shape the future decisions that we, as elected leaders, must make.

Since the beginning of this reconciliation debate, I have been consistent in my belief that any expansion of social programs must be targeted to those in need, not expanded beyond what is fiscally possible. Our tax code should be reformed to fix the flaws of the 2017 tax bill and ensure everyone pays their fair share but it should not weaken our global competitiveness or the ability of millions of small businesses to compete with the Amazons of the world. Overall, the amount we spend now must be balanced with what we need and can afford – not designed to reengineer the social and economic fabric of this nation or vengefully tax for the sake of wishful spending.

In August, I recommended we take a strategic pause to provide time to develop the right policies and to continue to monitor how the pandemic and economic factors are affecting our nation’s fiscal situation before we spend more. Throughout September, I have made it clear to all those who would listen the need to means test any new social programs so that we are helping those who need it the most, not spend for the sake of spending.

While I am hopeful that common ground can be found that would result in another historic investment in our nation, I cannot – and will not – support trillions in spending or an all or nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces. There is a better way and I believe we can find it if we are willing to continue to negotiate in good faith.

If there is one final lesson that will continue to guide me in this difficult debate ahead it is this: America is a great nation but great nations throughout history have been weakened by careless spending and bad policies. Now, more than ever, we must work together to avoid these fatal mistakes so that we may fulfill our greatest responsibility as elected leaders and pass on a better America to the next generation.

That strikes me as a definite “No,” leaving the Dems stuck at 49 votes (I swear, Sen. Murkowski, no monkey business this time around, OK?). In case you think he is wavering, note the very dismissive tone he takes towards his President’s plan which I highlighted above in bold. Those aren’t the kind of statements a guy makes if he expects to play nice in the end. If the Kennedy family is looking for a candidate for one of their dopey “Profile in Courage” Awards, which allegedly goes to a statesman/stateswoman who bucks the zeitgeist of their party in order to do what they believe is correct, this is a pretty strong contender.

Progressives now are required to respond by junking the stupid infrastructure deal in retaliation, leaving the Biden-Pelosi-Schumer Axis of Banal without any sort of substantive success that they can point to in this first year. The only other option is for progressives to fold their tent and accept their status as junior members of the coalition, and I would imagine that the egos of Comrade Senator, Lieawatha, Shelly WhitesClub, Our Neiman-Marxist Niece, the Congresswoman from Hezbollah, and the Minneapolis-St. Polygamist are way too fragile to accept humiliation of that magnitude. But they’re politicians — some of them professionally even — so you never know.

Joe Manchin would make a fine Vice-Presidential nominee on a sane third-party ticket. The top slot on my dream ticket is yet to be named, but I have a pretty good idea of whom I would like to see.

UPDATE 8:36 pm: According to NRO, Manchin is also demanding that any expansion of Obamacare in the reconciliation bill must restore the Hyde Amendment. It sounds like another nail in the coffin for reconciliation, as it is nearly impossible to imagine House progressive agreeing with this. And it also sounds more and more like Manchin is going to end up a Republican by Thanksgiving weekend, doesn’t it?

– JVW

J.D. Vance: Hey, Let’s “Seize the Assets” of Left-Wing Think Tanks

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



I actually think he’s using the term “seize” as a dramatic way to say “tax” rather than saying we should seize their assets and then tax them. But judge for yourself:

Even though I think my interpretation is correct, I watched the clip half expecting Vance to go full Castro in an enthusiasm for seizing private assets. More and more, people who seek to associate themselves with the Trumpy ideology are looking to flex the muscles of government in a fascistic manner, whether it’s passing blatantly unconstitutional restrictions on social media, constructing a system of local election officials eager to employ myths about the 2020 election as a pretext to steal the 2024 election . . . you name it. The enthusiasm for outright fascism is growing.

Maybe Vance is only talking about taxing private assets now. But he really, really wants to “seize” those assets. Give the Trumpers more power, and they reach that point sooner rather than later.

9/28/2021

Down to the Wire (Supposedly) with Infrastructure and Reconciliation

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:11 pm



[guest post by JVW]

As we’re now well into the dying days of September, these are the make-or-break moments for the Biden economic agenda, specifically his bipartisan infrastructure proposal and the go-it-alone-Democrat budget reconciliation bill. We’ve tracked the progress of both pieces of legislation here, here, here, and here, so at this point let me just provide some quick updates on where things stand:

* The so-called “moderate” Democrats in the House, i.e. those who are a bit leery about spending $3.5 trillion on a dopey left-wing list to Santa Claus, had negotiated in advance with party leadership that a vote on the infrastructure bill (which somehow garners a modicum of bipartisan support) would take place before a vote on the reconciliation bill. This gives them the opportunity to bloviate about how awesome bipartisanship can truly be when both sides come together, and blah, blah, blah, before being forced to fall on their swords and vote yes for the huge reconciliation bill (or not). They had arranged for a vote on the infrastructure bill to take place yesterday, September 27.

* That vote did not happen. House leftists and their Senate allies are demanding that the House moderates commit to voting for the reconciliation bill before the reconciliation bill passes. Obviously, Congressional leftists believe that they will be abandoned by the moderates once they get their bipartisan infrastructure bill.

* Rumor has it that Sen. Krysten Sinema had told her Senate colleagues that she won’t agree to any corporate or individual tax increases as a means of funding the reconciliation bill. This has Arizona activists absolutely apoplectic.

* President Biden hosted the moderate Democrats in his office last week to try to work some of that alleged Irish charm he possesses to win them over. Reports are that his attempts floundered when the group politely refused the President’s pleas to name a number to which they would commit.

* One problem the Dems are dealing with on the reconciliation bill is that it has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office. The bill’s proponents peg the costs at $3.5 trillion, which the media has dutifully repeated, but there are indications that it could be substantially higher. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group who in the past has criticized Administrations and Congresses from both parties for spending well beyond revenue, believes the reconciliation bill as currently construed could cost as much as $5.5 trillion, and they point out that the spending initiatives in these bills such as free community college, expanded day care, and the rest are highly likely to become permanent after the funding ostensibly expires in ten years.

* Everyone’s favorite cranky old Marxist Great-Uncle wants the whippersnappers in the House to block the infrastructure bill until moderate Democrats cave on the full amount that the left demands in the reconciliation bill. This seems to me to almost ensure that both bills fail: If you are Krysten Sinema or Joe Manchin don’t you think you would welcome a fight with Bernie Sanders over taxes and spending?

* All of this takes place as a potential government shutdown looms at the end of this month unless Congress agrees to increase the debt ceiling. Though the increase in the debt ceiling is certain to come, GOP Senators are forcing the Democrats to provide all of the votes to increase the ceiling. It’s a cynical move undertaken by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — force the Dems to wait until the last possible moment to raise the debt ceiling and then dare them to try and pass a massive tax-and-spend bill — but given the myriad of lies with which the Democrats have handled the reconciliation bill up to this point, it somehow seems appropriate.

Next stop is the Thursday vote. Will Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have somehow worked out a compromise between the warring factions in their party? Will the infrastructure bill be approved by the House that day and sent on the President for his signature? Or will the whole edifice crumble as the Democrats’ impossible promises — all sorts of new goodies fully paid for but not by tax increases on any family making less than $400,000 per year — collapse underneath their own weight? Could the bill be rescued by moving towards funding it entirely with a carbon tax rather than income taxes? (Spoiler alert: No, and Hell no.)

Lots of luck (no, not really) to the blue team for squaring this tough circle. Keep in mind, no matter what you read this week, that this is a mess entirely of the Democrats’ own making.

– JVW

ACLU: Yeah, Maybe We Screwed Up By Altering a Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote to Make Every Reference to Women Gender Neutral

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



The other day, the ACLU gave us this goofy tweet:

They now, shockingly, are apologizing:

Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Monday that he regretted that a tweet sent out recently by his organization altered the words of a well-known quote by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The A.C.L.U. tweet, which was sent out Sept. 18, changed Justice Ginsburg’s words, replacing each of her references to women with “person,” “people” or a plural pronoun in brackets. Justice Ginsburg, who died last year, is a revered figure in liberal and feminist circles and directed the A.C.L.U.’s Women’s Rights Project from its founding in 1972 until she became a federal judge in 1980.

The tweet by the A.C.L.U. occasioned mockery and some anger on social media from feminists and others.

“We won’t be altering people’s quotes,” Mr. Romero said in an interview on Monday evening. “It was a mistake among the digital team. Changing quotes is not something we ever did.”

The editing was part of a language jihad amongst the hyper-woke to redefine words such that “men” can get pregnant — therefore if RBG talked about “women’s” reproductive rights, she was being a bigot and needed to be corrected. Many wokesters have a Humpty Dumpty attitude towards the language: when they use a word, it means just what they choose it to mean. You can put an elephant in your fridge if you call a beer an “elephant.”

We’re headed that way. We just haven’t quite gotten there yet, as the ACLU apology shows.

For a good, balanced discussion of the issue of gender identity and language, check out Coleman Hughes’s discussion with Helen Joyce, whose recent book Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality is available on Amazon. I just ordered it on Kindle.

9/27/2021

Never Mind

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:29 am



Legend has it that Larry David once walked out to do a stand-up act, looked at the audience, and said “never mind.” Then walked off stage.

I feel like that today, except about the news stories. (Not about you folks!)

Something about Trump Trump Trump? Nah.

Something about Ben Garrison getting COVID? Nope.

Something about Biden’s plan to spend us into oblivion? Mmmmm . . . boring.

Matt Gaetz on one side? People calling everything they don’t like “white nationalism” on the other?

Never mind.

9/26/2021

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 73

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:34 pm



It is the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir” (Lord, as you will, so let it be done with me).

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 9:38-50:

Whoever Is Not Against Us Is for Us

“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Causing to Stumble

“If anyone causes one of these little ones — those who believe in me — to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’

Everyone will be salted with fire.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

The text of today’s piece is available here. It contains these words:

Ah, our will remains perverted,
quickly contrary, quickly dashed,
never considering death;
but a Christian, educated in God’s spirit,
teaches itself to sink into God’s will
and says:

Lord, as You will,
then squeeze, you pangs of death,
the sobs out of my heart,
if my prayer is only acceptable before You.

Lord, as You will,
then lay my limbs
down in dust and ashes,
this most corrupted image of sin.

Happy listening! Soli Deo Gloria.

9/25/2021

Help Me Settle This Controversy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:10 am



A controversy which I just created on my own, but so be it.

When Paul Rodgers sings the words:

Now he’s in a rock and roll outfit
And everything’s all right

Has Johnny:

a) Donned the clothing of a rock and roll star? or
b) Joined a rock and roll band?

You can register your vote in the comments or vote on Twitter here:

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:55 am



[guest post by Dana]

Let’s get started!

First news item

Chris Cuomo is accused of sexual harassment by his former boss Shelley Ross, then an executive producer at ABC News 20 years ago when the alleged incident took place:

“When Mr. Cuomo entered the Upper West Side bar, he walked toward me and greeted me with a strong bear hug while lowering one hand to firmly grab and squeeze the cheek of my buttock. “I can do this now that you’re no longer my boss,” he said to me with a kind of cocky arrogance.”

In response, Ross said he can not do that, and quickly left the party with her husband. Later, Cuomo sent her an email with an apology, according to the essay.

Second news item

Untitled

No whips:

The photographer who took controversial photos at the Texas border says that the images have been dramatically misinterpreted.

Despite hysterical accusations that mounted Border Patrol agents chased migrants with whips, photographer Paul Ratje says that he saw nothing of the sort at the border in Del Rio on Sunday.

‘I’ve never seen them whip anyone,’ Ratje told KTSM-TV. The still images actually depict the mounted agents swinging the long reins of their horses, not holding whips.

‘He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture,’ said Ratje, who shot the photos from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande river…

‘Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,’ Ratje explained of his photos.

Here is video:

While the entire fiasco at the border with the Haitians is a hearbreaking humanitarian crisis that is in great part the result of President Biden’s mixed-messaging on immigration, let’s be very clear that whips were not used. But that does not mean that the images were not upsetting. (They were to me.)

The U.S. Border Patrol has been using horses to patrol the border region since 1904. Whether this was an appropriate geographical site in which to use them appears up for debate.

Third news item

More inconsistent wishy-washy-mixed-messaging from Biden’s administration:

Fourth news item

Without comment:

Fifth news item

Utterly unsurprising:

Democratic Rep Debbie Dingell, of Michigan, who was with Ms Ocasio-Cortez, said she and Ms Ocasio-Cortez was upset because of the way the Iron Dome’s funding was brought to the House floor, saying how it never went through committee.

“It’s very upsetting to people like she and I when it’s not in regular order, there were a lot of different opinions,” Ms Dingell, who voted yes on the legislation, noting how Ms Ocasio-Cortez has a significant Jewish community in her district. “The way that it was handled, and several of us have made it very well-known to leadership, it should never have been brought up that way and it should not have been out of regular order.”

[Ed. Ah, those pesky Jews cramping her style… Perhaps a pretty new gown with a righteous slogan earnestly emblazoned on it would help ease the poor girl’s distress.]

Sixth news item

A divided house and all that:

It is, however, possible to trace the roots of the current Democratic disarray. It comes down to a fundamental misunderstanding of a central political truth, offered by former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In turning her Conservative Party in a sharp rightward direction, she argued: “first you win the argument, then you win the vote.”

In shaping their sweeping social spending legislation, with a putative price tag of $3.5 trillion, President Joe Biden and the Democratic congressional leaders have argued that this is what the voters chose last November. And polls do show broad support for universal pre-K, lower prescription drug prices and expanded health care, paid for by higher taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations. In essence, the argument goes, “We won the argument and the vote and now it’s time to turn these ideas into law.” The problem is that the Democrats did not win the vote — at least, not in the sense that mattered, given the unique nature of our system of government. And Biden has not even won the argument widely enough in his own party.

The lesson? Democrats not only have to come up with some unifying compromise, but with a “story” that centrist and progressives alike are willing and eager to tell: “We’re doing what we promised, your lives will be better, and not a single Republican helped make this possible.” There’s no guarantee that this will win them the argument and the vote next year. But what other chance do they have?

Seventh news item

The crazy train continues to jump the tracks:

Trump allies had spent months building up hope that Arizona would offer proof of their lies about the election, raising money along the way. Absent that proof, they did what they always do and spun reality.

“The Fake News is lying about the Arizona audit report!” Trump said in a statement Friday. “The leaked report conclusively shows there were enough fraudulent votes, mystery votes, and fake votes to change the outcome of the election 4 or 5 times over.”

By midday, Trump world was calling for more audits and investigations to build on the “proof” found in Maricopa County. Trump’s spokesperson, Liz Harrington, called for a “full forensic audit of the entire state,” saying “Arizona is only the beginning!” Trump-aligned candidates for Arizona secretary of state and governor called for a sequel to the audit in Pima County, which Biden also won.

This was always where the audit was going: If you can’t find conclusive evidence of fraud, at least keep the specter alive. It’s been the pattern for nearly a year. The true fraud was supposed to come out in dozens of lawsuits, then the Kraken was going to be released, and Mike Lindell would offer proof at his “Cyber Symposium” in South Dakota; none of it amounted to anything, but the “Stop the Steal” train continues on.

One would think that this massive embarrassment and enormous fail would compel the Republican Party to cut ties immediately with Trump and his quacksters and begin to work its way back to being a viable political party.One would think...

Eighth news item

Booster boost:

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in certain populations and also recommended a booster dose for those in high risk occupational and institutional settings.

CDC recommends:

65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings…at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
50–64 years with underlying medical conditions…at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
18–49 years with underlying medical conditions…at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks,
18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting…at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

As he announced Friday that booster shots would be available to some Americans, President Joe Biden made a prediction: The administration is likely to soon provide third doses of covid-19 vaccine “across the board” to anyone who wants one.

“In the near term, we’re probably going to open this up,” he told reporters.

But that assessment — a politically popular one in a country where most vaccinated people say they are eager for a booster — was the latest example of how Biden and some of his team have been ahead of the nation’s top public health scientists, who have emphatically said in recent days that there is simply not enough evidence to suggest that boosters are necessary for the entire U.S. population.

Ninth news item

I’ll believe it when I see it:

It’s almost certain that Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers won’t get to speak at this year’s U.N. General Assembly meeting of world leaders.

The Taliban challenged the credentials of the ambassador from Afghanistan’s former government, which they ousted on Aug. 15, and asked to represent the country at the assembly’s high-level General Debate. It began Tuesday and ends Monday, with Afghanistan’s representative as the final speaker.

Consider that the UN has previously welcomed high-profile despots : Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Raul Castro, and President Hassan Rouhani…

Have a good weekend!

–Dana

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