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:
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)
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)
"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)
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.
That's the candidate news for now. We would tend to expect a bit more than this next week, but you never know. (Z)
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)
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:
The next list is on the shorter side, and covers the Supreme Court. (Z)