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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Biden Lays Down the Law
      •  Garland Picks His Angle
      •  Boxer Has Some Advice for Feinstein
      •  This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
      •  This Week in Schadenfreude
      •  (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part IV--The Biden Administration

Biden Lays Down the Law

After the Civil War concluded, Americans generally concurred that fighting the war had been a pretty good idea. After World War I concluded, Americans generally concurred that fighting the war had been a pretty good idea. After World War II concluded, Americans generally concurred that fighting the war had been a pretty good idea. And yet, each of those wars featured a military draft. Those drafts were only necessary because while the war was going on, there weren't enough people available to do the job without the government stepping in and compelling some of them to do their duty.

When the government sent someone to fight at Gettysburg, or Belleau Wood, or Anzio, that person was taking on enormous risks, including the very real possibility that they would pay the ultimate price. And the positive benefits of their service, while clear in retrospect, were far from certain while the fighting was underway. This is part of the reason that so many vaccinated Americans are so upset with unvaccinated Americans: Compared to wartime draftees, the unvaccinated are being asked to assume a considerably smaller risk and burden, and in exchange for a considerably more certain upside. And yet, there remain an estimated 75 million Americans who could be vaccinated, but are not.

Reader D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, brings to our attention this essay written for McSweeney's by Wendy Molyneux. We do not know what Molyneux did before becoming an essayist, but sailor is a real possibility, as the piece...vividly illustrates the irritation that she and many others feel. We don't love to print four-letter words, but we also don't want to undermine her authorial intent, so we're going to use a little programming trickery. You can see the unexpurgated version if you highlight the text:

Hi, if you are reading this essay then congratulations, you are still alive. And if you are alive, then you have either gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, or you still have the opportunity to get the vaccine against COVID-19. And holy fuck, if you aren't fucking vaccinated against COVID-19, then you need to get fucking vaccinated right now. I mean, what the fuck? Fuck you. Get vaccinated. Fuck.

The fucking vaccine will not make you magnetic. Are you fucking kidding me? It just fucking won't. That's not even a fucking thing, and that lady who tried to pretend the vaccine made her fucking magnetic looked like a real fucking fuckwad and a fucking idiot, so get fucking vaccinated. Jesus. Fuck.

Hopefully that programming trickery worked correctly, though you may need to force-reload to get a fresh copy of our CSS style sheet. The title of the essay, incidentally, is "OH MY FUCKING GOD, GET THE FUCKING VACCINE ALREADY, YOU FUCKING FUCKS."

Anyhow, we note Molyneux's essay because Joe Biden can't speak like that in public, but it was clear from his address yesterday that he's equally cranky. "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us," he declared. He's also decided that since reason, patience, cash rewards, appeals to people's better angels, etc. aren't working, it's time to force the issue. If Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt could order young men to take up arms, then Biden can certainly order Americans to present arms.

In an effort to shorten the pandemic, then, Biden announced six new policies that he will implement on his authority as president:

  1. Invoking the authority that has been bestowed upon the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, businesses with 100 employees or more will be required to mandate either vaccination or regular testing (or both) for their workforces. Such business concerns employ approximately 80 million Americans, or a bit more than half of the U.S. workforce.

  2. Federal government employees, and employees of federal contractors, will have to get vaccinated. They have 75 days, and there is no "or else take regular tests" exemption.

  3. In an effort to keep schools open, the federal government will cover the salary of any school official punished for imposing mask mandates, and will require the 300,000 teachers who work for the federal government (Head Start) to be vaccinated.

  4. Invoking the Defense Production Act, the administration will accelerate the production of rapid-COVID tests, and will send 25 million of them to free clinics across the U.S.

  5. The government will make additional money available to businesses that have been hurt by the pandemic.

  6. The government will do everything it can to hasten the availability of new medicines that can help COVID-19 patients. Well, those medicines "recommended by real doctors, not conspiracy theorists," at least.

Maybe you agree with Biden's choices, and maybe you don't, but this is what leadership looks like.

As you might imagine, folks on the right definitely do not like what they heard on Thursday, and are already slurring the President as an evil tyrant. Some examples:

Oops, wait. We seem to have made a mistake here. Those headlines aren't about Biden at all. Nope, those are from the Obama presidency. These are some of the right-wing responses to Biden's speech:

We trust our point is clear. Opponents were going to call Biden a tyrant no matter what he did. They've already been calling him a tyrant, at virtually any provocation, the exact same way they did with Obama. Of course, Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt were slurred as tyrants, too.

Naturally, various red state AGs and governors are falling all over themselves to be the first to file a lawsuit. So, those are coming, and some of them will probably be in the courts' hands by the end of the day today. We shall see what comes of them; in a world where the Texas abortion law passes (at least temporary) muster, any outcome is possible. That said, the Biden administration is more cautious than its predecessor, and is likely to make certain that it's on pretty strong legal ground before doing something like this. Also, even if a judge says that companies do not have to comply for now, they may take this as the writing on the wall, or simply as cover, and may implement mandates regardless of what the courts say.

As you might have noticed, Biden waited until the weekend was close in order to make an announcement. That may just be a coincidence, but we doubt it. There will be a furor today, and lots of posturing on the Sunday news shows, and then...who knows? The red-state lawsuits will move forward, of course, but it's possible that the timing here will otherwise mute the response a fair bit. Especially if, say, folks spend a little time reflecting on the anniversary of 9/11, and decide that a vaccine shot (which, by the way, the great majority of Americans has already had a large number of when they were kids) is relatively small potatoes, and perhaps not worth pitching a fit about, as compared to what happened 20 years ago. (Z)

Garland Picks His Angle

There was absolutely no doubt that the Department of Justice would find a way to push back against the new Texas abortion law. And on Thursday, AG Merrick Garland laid his cards on the table. He and his department are suing in federal court, on the basis that the law is unconstitutional. More specifically, that it interferes with "the statutory and constitutional responsibilities of the federal government." The filing also accuses the Texans of engaging in a "statutory scheme designed specifically to evade traditional mechanisms of federal judicial review."

Trying to guess what judges will do is usually a fool's errand, as they like to play things close to the robe. But since something like 98% of legal analysts think the Texas statute is laughably bad law, it figures that there will eventually be a federal judge who agrees. One of our lawyer-readers, A.R. in Los Angeles, further points out that the case is before Judge Robert Pitman, who was previously set to rule on an injunction before the Fifth Circuit stepped in and ordered that hearing canceled. So, now he gets another bite at the injunction apple if he wants it. He's a well-respected jurist, according to another of our lawyer-readers, R.E.M. in Brooklyn, so presumably he'll rule on the merits.

It's at least possible that Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), et al., will be rooting for an injunction, regardless of their public stances. Slate's Mark Joseph Stern has written an interesting piece arguing that red states passed all these aggressive anti-abortion laws because it was great red meat for the base that, at the same time, came free of charge because the Republican legislatures and governors "knew" that their laws would never actually survive court challenges. Now, one has, at least temporarily, catching everyone by surprise. Stern thinks that the red state politicians fear the optics of actually enforcing the laws, and that they are also none too excited about the social and economic implications of having a bunch of unwanted kids that will have to be educated in state schools, and will certainly absorb other sorts of resources as well. We are unlikely to know for sure, since Abbott is never going to have a "Thank goodness that law was stayed" party. But Stern may be on to something here. (Z)

Boxer Has Some Advice for Feinstein

"Do I want to cling to my job as U.S. Senator representing California, or do I want to bow to the fact that Father Time is undefeated, and yield my seat to a younger person?" That's the question facing Dianne Feinstein right now. And there is nobody walking the planet today who understands the dilemma better than the Senator's former junior colleague, Barbara Boxer. Boxer confronted the same issue 5 years ago, and at a younger age (75 instead of 88). She, of course, decided that the time had come to step down.

Earlier this week, Boxer had a chat with the Los Angeles Times, which the paper published yesterday. Still a politician, Boxer told the Times: "If Sen. Feinstein were to call me today and asked my advice, I would say only you can decide. But from my perspective, I want you to know I've had very productive years away from the Senate doing good things. So put that into the equation." That's very diplomatic. It's also clear-as-a-bell senator speak for "Time to go, Dianne."

The pressure on Feinstein, which was quite intense as recently as a few weeks ago, has abated a bit. In part, that is because it looks like Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) will retain his office, and thus will pick the replacement if Feinstein dies or is compelled to resign due to ill health. In part, that is because even if Newsom gets broomed by the people of California, it's really too late to replace her at this point. Yes, she could resign this weekend and Newsom could pick a replacement on Monday, right before Tuesday's special election, but that would look icky. And Democrats rarely have the stomach for things like that.

That said, there is no person in politics more likely to get Feinstein's attention than Boxer. Further, 88 is way up there, age-wise, for someone in a high-pressure job like that, and the Senator has shown clear signs of mental decline. Now that stepping aside would be done on her own terms, as opposed to being done in response to external pressure, we would not be at all surprised to see her throw in the towel. And the Congress' winter break would seem to be an ideal time for it, if that ends up being the decision. (Z)

This Week's 2022 Candidacy News

It was a relatively quiet week, as candidates presumably did not want to get overshadowed by Afghanistan, abortion, and vaccinations. However, there was still a bit of news on this front.

  • U.S. House: This week, the House Ethics Committee announced that it was launching investigations of Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) and Alex Mooney (R-WV). The potential violations are, respectively, insider trading, improper use of influence, failure to report campaign donations and self-dealing. The big news here is the Malinowski investigation, since he is one of the Democrats' most vulnerable members, representing a D+1 district (NJ-07) that he won by just 1.2 points last year (50.6%-49.4%). Even if he's exonerated, his 2022 opponent will wield this like a hammer, and that alone can be enough to swing a couple of points' worth of voters (as Kelly Loeffler just learned).

  • U.S. House, Arkansas: Rep. French Hill (R) is an incumbent serving his fourth term as representative of a district (AR-02) that is R+7, that has not elected a Democrat to congress in a decade, and that has not gone for a Democratic president since native son Bill Clinton was last on the ticket. We could see him being challenged from the right, since he supported the joint 1/6 commission, but this does not seem a great opportunity for someone on the left. Apparently, others disagree, because the Democratic primary field now has two contenders in it. Nick Cartwright, who has experience at the city council level, had already tossed his hat into the ring. And yesterday, Quintessa Hathaway jumped in as well. We obviously don't know the state or the district as well as they do, so perhaps Hill is more vulnerable than he seems.

  • U.S. House, New York: Under normal circumstances, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) would not be vulnerable, as an incumbent who represents an R+8 district (NY-21). However, it is possible that "normal circumstances" does not apply here, since she was elected as one kind of candidate (traditional Republican), and then pivoted on a dime to become a fire-breathing Trumper. Some of her voters might not be too happy about her new political alignment, or they might be turned off because her "awakening" seems phony and opportunistic. That is what military veteran and 15-year CIA counterterrorism expert Matt Castelli is hoping, as he announced a run in the Democratic primary on Wednesday. There are already several other declared Democrats in the race, but Castelli looks to be the strongest of them by a fair margin, and the one likeliest to pose a threat to Stefanik. The Democrats control the redistricting process in New York and might try to make her district somewhat less Republican in the new map, but it is a very large district and getting it much less Republican won't be easy.

  • U.S. House, New York: This is very sad news, so consider skipping it if that might be upsetting. Afghanistan War veteran Kyle Van De Water ran unsuccessfully for the House last year, in hopes of representing NY-19, and he announced a second bid this year. He dropped that second bid very suddenly a couple of weeks ago, and on Tuesday was found dead in a local cemetery; the presumption is that he took his own life. We do not pass this on as political news, but instead because it affords us an opportunity to remind everyone that there are a lot of good organizations out there that try to help veterans with PTSD and other challenges, should you wish to support one of them with your time and/or money, and also to ask that if you are yourself in the same sort of bad place that Van De Water was (whether you are a veteran or not), please reach out for help.

  • U.S. House, Wyoming: As we wrote, Donald Trump has picked his candidate in Wyoming: It's trial lawyer and former RNC member Harriet Hageman. And yesterday, that news pretty much cleared the field. A couple of declared candidates dropped out, and a bunch of others who had hinted at a run explained that they were just kidding. It would seem that with the traditional Republican votes going to Rep. Liz Cheney (R), and the Trumpublican votes going to Hageman, there just aren't that many votes left, especially in the nation's least populous state. So, looks like it's going to be Old School vs. New School going head-to-head, and a very interesting test of Trump's coattails.

  • Governor, Illinois: The Republican primary in next year's Illinois gubernatorial race is going to be bloody. There were already three candidates in the race, including two who have served in the Illinois state legislature. This week, a well-heeled tech entrepreneur decided that four is not, in fact, a crowd and so announced his candidacy. That would be Jesse Sullivan, who already has nearly $11 million in the bank courtesy of his Silicon Valley buddies, and who began his campaign by sharing his highly controversial view that...Abraham Lincoln was a pretty good president. He certainly went way out on a limb there. In any event, Illinois is a blue state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) is pretty popular, and he is not likely to draw any serious primary opposition. So, he's going to stock up on popcorn and enjoy the show as the Republicans give each other black eyes and burn through millions in donations.

  • Governor, Wisconsin: Like Pritzker, Gov. Tony Evers (D) is reasonably popular (roughly 50% approve, 43% disapprove), is running for reelection, and leads a state that leans blue (albeit not as blue as Illinois these days). The Republican bench there is a little thin, since many of the most prominent party members in the state (Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, etc.) are personae non gratae for various reasons. Still, the GOP got the candidate it wanted on Thursday when former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) announced a bid for Evers' seat. If elected, she plans to deploy police officers more aggressively in inner cities, send Wisconsin national guard troops to the Mexican border, ban sanctuary cities, and ban the teaching of critical race theory in the state's schools. You know, the sorts of substantive things that make people's lives better. We'll give you one guess as to which presidential candidate she voted for in 2020.

    We don't know if running on an ultra-Trumpy platform is a winner in a state that barely went for him in 2016, and that went for his opponent in 2020. However, if Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) decides to run again, then he and Kleefisch are de facto going to be joined at the hip, and the 2022 Wisconsin midterms will be a referendum on Trumpism. Incidentally, the Wisconsin Democratic Party was well prepared for Kleefisch's entry into the race; they've already launched an anti-Kleefisch website with the URL

That's the candidate news for now. We would tend to expect a bit more than this next week, but you never know. (Z)

This Week in Schadenfreude

There's a study that's getting a lot of attention right now, particularly on social media, which purports to show that 85% of men who take Ivermectin in high doses (i.e., the doses needed to "cure" COVID-19) suffer some sort of infertility or erectile dysfunction. Quite a few readers sent it in as a possible schadenfreude item. And it's certainly tempting to write about a real, live example of Darwinism in action. However, the story was just a bit too good, especially since ivermectin is a legitimate treatment for other conditions (like, say, schistosomiasis, if you happen to be someone who likes to walk like an Egyptian). A close look at the study itself reveals some red flags, like that it was published in a "scientific" journal that even a historian can tell is dubious, and that it had a sample size of...37 people. Ah, well. That's why we fact-check, especially when something doesn't pass the smell test.

And so, we will go with this item about Donald Trump getting back to his boxing roots. No, he's not going to get punched, nor did he ever lace up gloves. Back when he was a remarkably incompetent casino owner, he hosted and/or promoted several prizefights. Those are the roots in question. What he will be doing tomorrow—as noted above, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks—is serving as commentator for four boxing matches on Fite TV pay-per-view.

So, where is the schadenfreude? It's not in the commentating, per se. If Barack Obama decided to take a turn calling an NCAA Tournament basketball game, or George W. Bush dropped in on the Texas Rangers' broadcast booth, we wouldn't say "boo," even if it was on a kinda tacky day for frivolity. No, the schadenfreude comes in because everything about this boxing event is, to be blunt, pathetic.

To start, it's not a prizefight. Heck, it's arguably not even a professional boxing match, since the two headliners (and most of the folks on the undercards) are long retired. Those two headliners are Evander Holyfield, a former heavyweight champ who is now 58 years old and who hasn't won a fight since May of 2011, and Vítor Belfort, a former MMA champ who is now 44 years old and who was forced into retirement after winning just two of his last seven matches (with the last of those wins coming in 2017). There are some sports—golf, bowling, sometimes tennis—where the folks who have aged out of the regular tour can still put on a decent, competitive show. But this is boxing, which is about strength, stamina, and reflexes. Neither of these two men is capable of mounting even a poor facsimile of a boxing match. In fact, they are putting themselves at no small risk of being killed or seriously injured. A 20-year-old can usually take it on the chin and be ok, but there's a reason that none of the major boxing commissions will sanction a fight involving a boxer who is AARP eligible.

And it's not just the fight itself that is a sad joke. Because California wouldn't touch something like this with a 10-foot pole (nor would Nevada or New York, among others), the promoters had to move the event from a top-tier venue (Staples Center in Los Angeles) to a third-tier venue (Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL). That change of venue came after boxer Oscar de la Hoya, who is a decade younger than Holyfield, was forced to bail out due to COVID. In addition, Fite TV is a bottom-feeder operation, the OANN of sports networks, which saw its chance to get a bunch of publicity by throwing a bunch of money at Trump. Oh, and Trump isn't actually going to be the main commentator; he and his son Donald Jr. are going to be shunted off to an alternate feed that, as far as we know, won't be called the "MAGA feed," but might as well be.

In short, being involved with something like this is humiliating. This is Bobby Riggs allowing himself to be thrashed on national TV by Billie Jean King. This is Nicolas Cage cranking out direct-to-video movies because he ran up huge debts and the A-list roles dried up. This is Orson Welles drunkenly shilling a second-rate wine brand. This is The Romantics, still touring county fairs 40 years after their one enduring hit, performing "What I Like About You" and a whole bunch of songs that aren't "What I Like About You."

Trump knows it's humiliating, which is why he's made a big point of telling anyone and everyone how much money he's being paid. But he's doing it nonetheless. Either he's starved for attention, or he's strapped for cash. Maybe it is both. Whatever it is, there's certainly some schadenfreude in seeing the Donalds Trump perform the sporting world's equivalent of starring in the latest Sharknado film. (Z)

(Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part IV--The Biden Administration

There were lots of predictions. For every one we run in the next couple of weeks, there are 10 we didn't run. Here are the subjects we've covered so far:

And now, here's what readers foresaw for Team Joe when they looked into their crystal balls:

  • A.S. in Hanover, NH: On December 31, Joe Biden's most recent Gallup poll approval rating will be 70%. This will be attributed to his strong pandemic response, a booming economy and a feeling of improved unity and restored international standing.

  • J.P. in Kansas City, KS: Biden will have an approval rating closing out 2021 around 60%.

  • E.P. in Gunma, Japan: By the end of the year, Joe Biden will have had a higher approval rating, a higher stock market, and higher economic growth than Trump had in any of his four years in office.

  • B.D. in Victoria, MN: Joe Biden will fall ill and resign the office. Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the 47th President of the United States. Republican heads will explode as a result (figuratively).

  • R.O. in Peaks Island, ME: Biden's health will actually improve over the course of the year. Ironically, VP Harris will have to leave office due to serious illness, and Biden will replace her with an exasperated Michelle Obama, just until he can figure out who else can fill that role.

  • J.C. in Philadelphia, PA: A serious attempt will be made on Biden, Harris, or both of their lives. Most likely this will come from an enraged Trump supporter who firmly believes the election was stolen.

  • D.C. in Delray Beach, FL: Kamala Harris will emerge as the strongest VP ever as she acts as a combination power broker in congress, staff liaison, cabinet enabler, and popular speaker. Joe Biden will be a helpful mentor but will husband his energy.

  • F.L. in Denton, TX: The vice president with the most tie breaking votes is John C. Calhoun with 31. I predict VP Kamala Harris will break this record by December 31, 2021.

  • K.K. in Salt Lake City, UT: Kamala Harris will cast more than 5 but fewer than 25 votes in the Senate.

  • J.M. in Seattle, WA: Kamala Harris will be an active vice president in the mold of Dick Cheney, but mostly behind the scenes.

  • K.C. in West Islip, NY: Media reports will start to stir late in the year and an announcement may also be made before the end of 2021 that Pete Buttigieg is going to leave his role as transportation secretary to run for the US Senate against Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) in the 2022 race.

  • I.K. in Queens, NY: I predict that we will, at long last, have an infrastructure week! Amtrak Joe will whip up votes with lots of new train routes in the middle of nowhere in red states, finally will the new Gateway Tunnel into existence, and save New York's MTA from their perpetually looming bankruptcy.

  • P.B. in Boston, MA: The new administration will attempt to pass an infrastructure/jobs bill. If it passes, it will be underfunded and inadequate.

  • J.C. in Monteverde, FL: Cannabis will be legalized at the federal level and many states will work on freeing those who are in prison for cannabis-related crimes. Biden will pardon vast swaths of the rest.

The next list is on the shorter side, and covers the Supreme Court. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep09 Schumer Calls Manchin's Bluff
Sep09 Raising the Debt Ceiling Will Not Be in the Reconciliation Bill
Sep09 Florida Judge Rules against DeSantis
Sep09 Trump Picks a Horse in Wyoming
Sep09 Harris Campaigns for Newsom
Sep09 Pennsylvania Wants to Copy Arizona's Election "Audit"
Sep09 When The News Breaks--Today's News Media, Part II: Politico Has Itself Become Political News
Sep09 School Boards Are the New Battlegrounds
Sep09 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part III--Right-wing Politicians and Media
Sep08 Time for Some Answers on Afghanistan
Sep08 Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
Sep08 America's Next National Nightmare May Come Right on Schedule
Sep08 Well, That Pretty Much Settles That
Sep08 Let's Run the Newsom Numbers
Sep08 The South Will Fall Again
Sep08 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part II--Donald Trump's Family and Supporters
Sep07 For Every Action...
Sep07 Unemployment Benefits End for Millions
Sep07 Abbott Is Sinking
Sep07 One Week to Go for Newsom Recall
Sep07 Proposed Colorado Map Is...Interesting
Sep07 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part I--Donald Trump
Sep07 Happy Labor Day! (Answers)
Sep06 Manchine Politics
Sep06 A Tale of Two Afghanistans
Sep06 And The Grift Goes On
Sep06 Donald May Be In, but Melania Is Out
Sep06 Some Progressives Find a Soft Spot in the System
Sep06 Happy Labor Day!
Sep05 Sunday Mailbag
Sep04 Saturday Q&A
Sep03 Supreme Court Finally Speaks Up...Kinda
Sep03 Biden's Approval Rating Sags
Sep03 Some Good News, Some Bad News for Herschel Walker
Sep03 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Sep03 Newsom Is Surging in Polls
Sep03 Angelenos Are Underwhelmed by Their Mayoral Options
Sep03 This Week in Schadenfreude
Sep02 Biden Blasts Texas Abortion Law
Sep02 Early Snapshot of Recall Election Looks Good for Newsom
Sep02 Iowa Is Full
Sep02 A Simple Fix to the Voter ID Issue that Nobody Wants
Sep02 The Electoral Count Act Needs Some Updating
Sep02 Why Southerners Aren't Vaccinated
Sep02 Miami-Area House Races Will Be a Key Battleground in 2022
Sep02 2024 Senate Map is Deadly for Democrats
Sep02 The Battle of the Fed Heats Up
Sep01 Biden Speaks on Afghanistan
Sep01 FEAR in America, Part II: Afghanistan
Sep01 Abortion Is Now Basically Illegal in Texas