Depending on whose metrics you believe, the U.S. passed a grim milestone this week. Or possibly several weeks ago. Or maybe even a couple of months ago. In any event, all of the various entities keeping track are now in agreement: More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19. From the first reported case of the virus within the nation's borders, that took a total of 27 months.
These days, of course, the U.S. is moving into post-pandemic mode, even if the disease hasn't actually been conquered. Although the daily mortality figures are considerably down from their height, it remains the case that about 350 Americans are dying every day. That's about 3½ 9/11 attacks every month. There is no particular reason to think that number will shrink anytime soon; the emergence of new variants and an increasingly casual attitude about prevention, balanced against reasonably broad immunization and/or immunity due to infection, means that a sort of stasis has been reached.
It's also worth noting that nobody actually thinks the COVID toll is 1 million. It's surely higher; 1 million is just the number of confirmed U.S. deaths from the disease. In fact, the World Health Organization announced just yesterday that its statisticians have crunched the numbers, looking at deaths in excess of normal during the past 2½ years, and concluded that the real worldwide tally is about triple what's been reported. The U.S. is much better about collecting data and reporting it than many other nations, so WHO is not suggesting that the true American tally is 3 million. But 1.5 million? Very possibly. (Z)
Roe v. Wade is, of course, about to be struck down. And the reasoning that Associate Justice Samuel Alito employed in the draft opinion is so broad that—despite his insistence to the contrary—it opens the door to gutting a whole bunch of other rights and policies that, until this week, were taken for granted as settled law. And conservatives are absolutely drooling over the possibilities.
For example, it's no secret that folks on the right are not big fans of America's educational system. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) reminded everyone of this when he said the quiet part out loud this week, and blamed this week's pro-choice protests, in part, on "over-educated" women. It is unclear how much time he thinks women should be able to spend in the classroom before, presumably, commencing the barefoot-and-pregnant phase of their existence. Ah, the good old days!
Gaetz, of course, is a blowhard with no meaningful power to implement or influence policy. The same is not true, however, of Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX), who has apparently never met a right-wing policy proposal that is too radical for his tastes. And he's talking about taking a run at Plyler v. Doe (1982), in which the Supreme Court said that states (specifically, Texas) must educate all of the children who reside within state borders, and cannot exclude non-citizen children.
Officially, Abbott says that educating undocumented immigrant children is very expensive, and he doesn't want the Lone Star State to have to pay for it anymore. However, it is considerably less than a hop, skip, and a jump from there to getting rid of all state-funded public education. One can imagine a situation where that allows conservatives to achieve their pet project of using vouchers to fund education, which would give a boost to private, religious schools and to homeschooling.
Meanwhile, the right-wing commentariat is currently obsessed with the possibility of getting rid of Obergefell v. Hodges, and thus LGBTQ marriage. For example, Ben Shapiro used yesterday's podcast to go on a rant on the subject: "Obergefell is a bad Supreme Court decision and if we had a Supreme Court worth its salt they would overturn Obergefell." The same thought has come up on the shows of Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Will Cain, and a couple of the FOXers.
We will just point out a couple of thoughts for your consideration here. The first is that the looming SCOTUS decision is sure to produce a left-wing backlash. We don't know how powerful it will be, but it could certainly be as substantial as the right-wing backlash to Barack Obama and Obamacare that swept Donald Trump into office. And if conservatives keep pushing the envelope, and pursuing other regressive policy goals, then the backlash will only grow more powerful.
Second, it's still a mystery who leaked the draft decision. However, Chief Justice John Roberts & Co. are certainly getting a useful object lesson in exactly which portions of the ruling are going to be the worst-received, and thus might stand for revision or softening. Since this is going to be the most controversial decision to come from the Supreme Court in decades, there is some utility in having a pre-announcement trial balloon. And so, it's another motivation that might possibly point to a conservative justice, including the Chief himself, as the leaker. (Z)
On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. testified before the 1/6 Committee. It is not yet known what he said, or how many hundreds of times he invoked the Fifth Amendment. However, he's now the fourth member of the family to chat with the Committee, following his sister Ivanka, brother-in-law Jared Kushner, and fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle. And then there is Rudy Giuliani, who was supposed to testify today, but who canceled at the last minute. Negotiations are reportedly ongoing, but the Committee is also making noise about holding him in contempt. Perhaps Giuliani will be cowed by that threat, since he doesn't exactly have the money to be paying yet another set of lawyers.
There isn't all that much to say here, since most of these conversations and discussions are not public knowledge. However, the participation of the Trumps is certainly very interesting. At a certain point, once enough other witnesses spill their guts, stonewalling no longer makes sense, and it's time to make sure that you get your version of events out there. Maybe the 1/6 investigation has reached that point. Whatever the case might be, one cannot help but notice the dynamic that no members of the Trump family are currently in danger of criminal prosecution for contempt, but several of their close associates are. Letting non-Trumps take the fall for Trumps is a longstanding family tradition, of course. (Z)
Current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced her departure from the job over a month ago. Next week, it becomes official, as she decamps the White House for the greener (and presumably much-higher-paid) environs of MSNBC. Yesterday, the name of Psaki's successor was announced: It's Karine Jean-Pierre, who currently serves as the White House's principal deputy press secretary, which seems the obvious job to be next in the line of succession.
There have been 35 people to officially hold the job, plus another three who held it on an acting or de facto basis, since the position was created during the Hoover administration. And it's been an overwhelmingly white, male and straight crowd. Jean-Pierre was introduced yesterday as the first Black press secretary, though we're trying to figure out who it is that's keeping her from being the first minority press secretary of any sort. Was Ari Fleischer part Latino? Is Sean Spicer part space alien? We could certainly believe that.
Jean-Pierre is also the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve as White House Press Secretary. She's a lesbian and has a daughter with partner Suzanne Malveaux, who works for CNN and has served as a White House correspondent for that outlet. Presumably, that won't be happening while Jean-Pierre is serving as press secretary. Anyhow, we shall learn soon how well Jean-Pierre is able to handle the unruly White House press corps, particularly Fox's Peter Doocy, who has earned quite the reputation for peppering Psaki with "gotcha" questions. The new press secretary is also trilingual; for our part, we are hoping she eventually gets the opportunity to conduct a briefing in either French or Haitian Creole. "Fèmen fout la, Peter," perhaps? (Z)
Would-be Nebraska Governor Charles Herbster (R) will not easily be able to escape the sexual assault complaints that have been lodged against him. Indeed, state Sen. Julie Slama (R) has filed suit, and he is supposed to be deposed for that case today. Note the word "supposed," however; Herbster has already announced he'll be a no-show, as he has very important campaigning to do.
Herbster, as we have noted a couple of times before, has the full-throated endorsement of Donald Trump. And Trump is apparently quite invested in the campaign, as he held a second rally on Herbster's behalf yesterday. J.D. Mandel, or whatever his name is, didn't even get one rally, and his race is far higher profile than the governorship of Nebraska. If Herbster does not win next week, then we wonder if the media will back off on all that "Trump is a kingmaker" talk. We may well learn, since yet another poll, released yesterday, has Herbster trailing, 31% to 26%.
What's certain is that whatever happens in Nebraska next week, Trump will find a way to brag about it. He spent some time this week crowing about having gone 22-0 with his endorsements this past Tuesday. That is, unusually for him, an entirely truthful and accurate statement. It does, however, omit a little bit of information that might be of interest. First, 13 of those "winners" were unopposed. Another seven of them won landslide victories, claiming at least two-thirds of the vote. That means that the former president went 2-0 in races that were close; the Ohio Senate race and the Republican primary in OH-13, where Madison Gesiotto Gilbert (28.6%) beat Gregory Wheeler (23.4%). But "I went 2-0" doesn't have quite the same impact as "I went 22-0," now does it? (Z)
On Wednesday, we had an item about Lieutenant Governor-designate Antonio Delgado (D-NY), who is going to give up a seat in the House of Representatives in order to assume his new post. Although his district is in limbo due to the Empire State's gerrymandering lawsuits, we were a little confused as to why he would give up a job with long-term prospects for one that was set to expire in 8 months or so.
Several readers wrote in to clarify, and to point out a rather important detail that was not in any of the several stories about the Delgado appointment that we read. The day before appointing him, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) signed a new law that makes late changes to the ballot permissible. So, Hochul solved her problem of being shackled to alleged crook Brian Benjamin. And she solved Delgado's problem of facing unemployment come Jan. 3 of next year. Presumably he will run for reelection, and presumably he'll be the favorite to win a term in his own right. (Z)
The humorist Dave Barry observed: "People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them." A pretty decent corollary to that might be: "People who want less separation between their church and the state rarely want less separation between your church and the state. It is in that spirit that we offer up some news out of the city of Boston.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that Boston had violated the First Amendment rights of a Christian group when it refused to fly their flag outside of city hall. Maybe you heard about it, and maybe you didn't. Apparently, there was some other news out of the Supreme Court this week that might have drowned out this particular story. We're not sure what it was, but we'll definitely have the staff researcher look into it.
Anyhow, now that it is within the First Amendment rights of religious groups to insist their flags be flown, there are... other groups that want to be recognized. And so, the Christian flag may soon hang outside of Boston city hall, right alongside this one:
Actually, the petitioners have not specified which flag they want to fly; this one might also be suitable:
Or possibly this one, which you might describe as "another piece of the puzzle":
We think it's safe to guess that the folks who filed the Supreme Court suit were interested in their own religious freedom, and were not so keen on religious freedom in general. If so, well, when folks like that rapidly reap what they sow, it certainly inspires a bit of schadenfreude. (Z)
Many of our readers have asked/commented over the years about the long-term viability of a site built primarily on the labor of just two people. Others have asked about various sorts of content that we might add to the site, or various functions we might incorporate. We think about these things, too. And, as we suggested a couple of months back, we have reached the conclusion that we can't address these things without bringing in some money to help finance the further development of the site.
As many/most readers know, we've actually been accepting donations for many years via PayPal. However, we rarely promote that option, and we also committed to only using those funds for site advertising. What will change, going forward, are three things: (1) We'll be using a service, probably Patreon, that allows readers to sign up to make contributions on a regular (monthly/annual) basis, (2) We'll be promoting that option a bit more than we did with PayPal, and (3) We will use the funds for things beyond just promotion.
Please be very clear that what is free right now will remain free going forward. We are educators first and foremost, and keeping the main site free of charge is in line with our duties as academics and our personal philosophies. We did consider adding some premium, subscriber-only content as a thanks to those who lent financial support. If we had done this, it would have been material adjacent to what we do on the site, but not identical (for example, reviews of politics-themed books). However, as you may recall, we asked readers for their thoughts on this possibility a couple of months back. And the response was unanimous (or nearly so): Folks are willing to chip in, but they do not want any sort of paywall or velvet rope separating out "premium" content. We like that answer very much, and so while we will eventually add some new content, it too will be free to all readers.
Anyhow, with the school year coming to an end, which means time to focus on E-V.com-related-matters, we're trying to build something of a to-do list that will guide us as we work to improve the site. And to that end, we'd like your assistance. First, we welcome ideas about what types of content readers might like to see. For example, some readers have asked us to add a podcast. Others would like to see guest columnists. We also welcome ideas about site functions/features that readers might like to see. For example, some readers have said they would like to be able to "like" or "thumbs up" individual posts. Others would like us to aggregate posts on a particular theme, like all of the "best movies ever" posts.
Please send in whatever you've got, even if you think we're already aware of the idea. It can't hurt to hear ideas more than once. After we collect some feedback over the course of the next few days, we will take the ideas and suggestions that seem plausible/promising, add a few ideas we've been bandying about, and put together a survey, so we can get a finer-grained sense of what things are most wanted.
As always, thank you for reading, and we look forward to hearing your ideas as we work to make the site into the best site it can be. (V & Z)