Thursday, April 29, 2021

Nicolle Wallace gets it - 'what Trump revealed the Republicans to be'

Nicolle Wallace on Republicans: Fear of Trump was the excuse. We were wrong. They are Trump. reports Egberto Willies in the Daily Kos. (Thanks to our roving Editor-at-Large Sherry.)

It’s been clear for some time that Donald Trump gave the Republican Party permission to be who they are. Nicolle Wallace got it.

I really love how Nicolle Wallace can be pretty tough on herself, the media, and others to make her point. Today she told an unfortunate truth. It is one where too many in the media are hard-pressed to articulate vociferously.

After discussing Minority leader Kevin McCarthy sucking up to Donald Trump, Wallace made a few prescient statements.

“This is the conversation that needs to be had.” Nicolle Wallace said. “We covered this incorrectly. Fear of Trump was the excuse. For all of Mitch McConnell and Rob Portman and Kevin McCarthy and all these weenies who looked the other way when Casey Hunt and Leanne Caldwell and Garrett Haake were there with a camera saying, ’Do you believe with this outrageous thing that Donald Trump tweeted today and our frame was they must be afraid of our cameras because they’re scared of Trump.”

Nicolle was not done.

“We were wrong,” Nicolle said. “They are Trump. And you are right. This story is no longer about Trump. It’s what they, it’s what Trump revealed the Republicans to be.”

While Wallace has been bold as she gets these epiphanies, too often mainstream media journalists are stuck in their ways providing the cover for those whom the status quo is most effective.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

NRA VIPs Wayne and Susan LaPierre bagged their endangered elephants ... while filling their pricey shopping bags

Here are two overlapping stories in the New Yorker about how Wayne LaPierre cannot shoot straight but, boy, can he spend big bucks on shopping sprees.

The Secret Footage of the N.R.A. Chief’s Botched Elephant Hunt Wayne LaPierre has cultivated his image as an exemplar of American gun culture, but video of his clumsy marksmanship—and details regarding his Rodeo Drive shopping trips—tells another story.

BEGIN QUOTE

After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in 2012, Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, told Americans agitating for new gun regulations, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Less than a year later, LaPierre and his wife, Susan, travelled to Botswana’s Okavango Delta, where they hoped to show N.R.A. members that they had the grit to take on a different adversary: African bush elephants, the largest land mammals on Earth. The trip was filmed by a crew from “Under Wild Skies,” an N.R.A.-sponsored television series that was meant to boost the organization’s profile among hunters—a key element of its donor base. But the program never aired, according to sources and records, because of concerns that it could turn into a public-relations fiasco.

The Trace and The New Yorker obtained a copy of the footage, which has been hidden from public view for eight years. It shows that when guides tracked down an elephant for LaPierre, the N.R.A. chief proved to be a poor marksman. After LaPierre’s first shot wounded the elephant, guides brought him a short distance from the animal, which was lying on its side, immobilized. Firing from point-blank range, LaPierre shot the animal three times in the wrong place. Finally, a guide had the host of “Under Wild Skies” fire the shot that killed the elephant. Later that day, Susan LaPierre showed herself to be a better shot than her husband. After guides tracked down an elephant for her, Susan killed it, cut off its tail, and held it in the air. “Victory!” she shouted, laughing. “That’s my elephant tail. Way cool.”

For three decades, LaPierre has led the N.R.A.’s fund-raising efforts by railing against out-of-touch “√©lites” and selling himself as an authentic champion of American self-reliance and the unfettered right to protect oneself with a gun. But the footage, as well as newly uncovered legal records, suggest that behind his carefully constructed Everyman image, LaPierre is a coddled executive who is clumsy with a firearm, and fearful of the violent political climate he has helped to create. The N.R.A. did not respond to requests for comment.

The N.R.A. is weathering an existential crisis, which began with revelations of rampant self-dealing first reported in 2019 and extends to an ongoing legal fight with the New York Attorney General and a humiliating bankruptcy trial. Now, the video and other materials offer a glimpse of the stage-managed, insular, and privileged life of the N.R.A.’s top official.

The footage of LaPierre in Botswana first shows him walking through the bush dressed in loose-fitting safari attire and an NRA Sports baseball cap. He is accompanied by several professional guides and his longtime adviser, Tony Makris, a top executive at the N.R.A.’s former public-relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, and the host of “Under Wild Skies.” The heat, at times, causes LaPierre to sweat. As he walks, his wire-framed glasses slide down his nose. After a guide spots an elephant standing behind a tree, LaPierre takes aim with a rifle. As LaPierre peers through the weapon’s scope, the guide repeatedly tells him to wait before firing. LaPierre is wearing earplugs, doesn’t hear the instructions, and pulls the trigger. The elephant drops. “Did we get him?” LaPierre asks.

The guide at first says yes, but then, as he approaches the elephant, it appears that the animal is still breathing. The guide brings LaPierre within a few strides of the elephant, which lays motionless on the ground. He tells LaPierre that another bullet is needed. “I’m going to show you where to shoot,” the guide says. “Listen, hold your rifle—I’m going to tell you when. Just hold it up.” The guide pushes the rifle’s barrel skyward as other men involved in the expedition move around in the distance. “I’m going to point for you where to shoot. Just waiting for these guys.”

The guide walks over to the elephant, crouches down, and points near the animal’s ear, telling LaPierre to shoot the elephant there. Makris directs LaPierre to shoot low, accounting for the rifle scope.

LaPierre fires and a confused expression comes over his face. Once again, he shoots the elephant in the wrong place. It’s still alive. The guide tells LaPierre to sit down and reminds him to reload, as he physically moves LaPierre into place. Now on one knee, the N.R.A. leader asks, “Same spot?” and then shoots again. The bullet misses the mark.

“I don’t think it’s quite done yet,” the guide says to Makris. “Do you want to do it for him?” The guide then says to LaPierre, “I’m not sure where you’re shooting.”

“Where are you telling me to shoot?” LaPierre responds, sounding frustrated. The guide again walks over to the elephant and points toward the ear. “Oh, O.K.,” LaPierre says. “Alright, I can shoot there.” He takes a third shot at point-blank range.

“Uh-uh,” the guide says, indicating that LaPierre has missed his mark again.

“No?” LaPierre asks.

As the guide chuckles, Makris asks, “Do you want me to do it?”

“Go ahead, finish him,” the guide says.

Makris cocks his rifle and shoots. “That’s it,” the guide declares, before turning to the N.R.A. chief to congratulate him.

Makris, ignoring his own role, praises LaPierre’s marksmanship, “You dropped him like no tomorrow.”

Later, LaPierre and the guide chat beside the dead elephant, a species that was declared endangered earlier this year. LaPierre acknowledges that his initial shot wasn’t “perfect.” The guide encourages him. “He went down, so that’s what counts.” Looking sheepish, LaPierre lets out a laugh and says, “Maybe I had a little luck.”

Over the course of LaPierre’s tenure at the N.R.A., Makris was one of his two most important advisers. The other was the late Angus McQueen, who, until he died, in 2019, ran the firm that bore his name. For forty years, Ackerman McQueen devised combative messaging campaigns that successfully placed the N.R.A. at the forefront of the culture wars. The once-close relationships unravelled in a series of bitter legal battles over contracts, unpaid bills, and allegations of deceptive business practices.

In September, 2019, LaPierre sat for a private deposition in one of the cases involving Ackerman McQueen. Although the document remains sealed, The Trace and The New Yorker reviewed a copy. In his sworn testimony, LaPierre’s manner is inconsistent with the swaggering, confrontational public persona he has cultivated for decades. When asked about lavish spending, he pleaded ignorance or blamed his advisers.

LaPierre’s life style, as described in the deposition, is a stark contrast from the Americans the N.R.A. claims to represent. Lawyers pressed LaPierre about nearly three hundred thousand dollars in payments that Ackerman McQueen made to Ermenegildo Zegna, a luxury men’s fashion retailer on Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills, to dress LaPierre between 2004 and 2017. According to an N.R.A. ad, the group’s coalition includes “steelworkers,” “cowboys,” “hard-rock miners,” “swamp folks in Cajun country who can wrestle a full-grown gator out of the water,” “the mountain men who live off the land,” and “the brave cops who fight the good fight in the urban war zones.”

When a lawyer for Ackerman McQueen asked LaPierre about the upscale suits, he said, “Angus told me, ‘Wayne, get wardrobe. Go get wardrobe.’ Angus actually set up the billing.”

The lawyer replied, “But, let me just say, you’re a big boy, right?”

“Yes.”

“You can make your own decisions about what clothes you need and what clothes you don’t need,” the lawyer said. “You’ve been dressing yourself for a number of years.”

LaPierre then defended the purchases, arguing that he was the N.R.A.’s “primary brand spokesperson” and that he “didn’t see anything wrong with it” since his job required “looking good on TV in terms of your image.” He said that McQueen recommended certain types of suits. “There was a period where Angus wanted me in light suits because he thought that women responded better in light suits. There was another period of time where he thought my suits were outdated because style—style had changed.”

LaPierre said that he called McQueen “Yoda,” after the “Star Wars” character that serves as a symbol of unparalleled wisdom. “I thought that from a branding and imaging and crisis management skill,” LaPierre elaborated, “I thought that he had a certain amount of exceptional, unique, genius quality.”

At another point in the deposition, an attorney asked LaPierre if he ever wore the suits to non-N.R.A. events. “I hardly ever—I don’t really put on a suit except when I have to for N.R.A. work,” he said. “I get so harassed. The minute I put on a suit, I get I.D.’ed and somebody starts yelling at me.” LaPierre then became emotional. “So to tell you the honest truth,” he said, “I’m walking around most of the time—almost all the time in jeans and sunglasses and a ball cap because I am sick and my family is sick and tired of being yelled at, shouted at, screamed at, harassed, swatted, hacked, and generally abused.”

Lawyers also asked about spending related to Susan LaPierre. An unpaid volunteer at the N.R.A., she is one of the organization’s most visible fund-raisers. Susan co-chairs the Women’s Leadership Forum, a program designed to reward and cultivate high-dollar female donors. Though she doesn’t draw a salary, full-time N.R.A. employees work on her projects, and the organization also provides her with ample resources. At a 2015 fund-raising luncheon, for example, records show that the organization paid the country band Rascal Flatts three hundred and fifteen thousand dollars to play a half-hour acoustic set.

The deposition reveals, for the first time, the name of a makeup artist, Brady Wardlaw, who was hired in May and September of 2016, for an N.R.A. convention in Louisville, Kentucky, and a retreat in McLean, Virginia. Wardlaw is based in Nashville, and his clients have included Taylor Swift, LeAnn Rimes, and other country music stars. Bills for the makeup services for the events amounted to seventeen thousand dollars.

In response to questions from lawyers, LaPierre stated that he wasn’t sure whether Susan specifically requested Wardlaw for the events. He claimed that Ackerman McQueen “recommended the makeup” and that his wife, “who is a complete volunteer,” was not the only woman at the events who received Wardlaw’s services. When Susan later learned the cost of the makeup, LaPierre asserted, she put a stop to it.

It is important to the N.R.A. that supporters view Susan as a genuine member of the hunting and outdoor community. During the bankruptcy trial, LaPierre testified that his wife’s attendance on the Botswana trip was “part of projecting her image for the N.R.A.” Internally, some N.R.A. employees derided the Women’s Leadership Forum as the “Susan LaPierre Life Legacy Project.”

In the video footage from Botswana, Susan’s hair is pulled back in a ponytail, her nails are manicured, and her large stud earrings sparkle in the sun. She walks through the dry vegetation, until two elephants come into view and a guide sets up a stand that Susan uses to steady her rifle. The elephant in front stares directly at Susan and the guide. “O.K., you want to do a front or you want to do a side?” the guide whispers. “Which one do you feel more comfortable with?”

“Well, right now I’ve got him right in the front,” she says.

The guide tells her to aim for a crease between the elephant’s eyes. When she fires, the bullet enters the creature’s head, its trunk immediately flops toward the sky, and it collapses onto its belly before rolling onto its side. The elephant appears to be dead, but Susan, from closer range and at the guide’s direction, fires one more bullet in its chest “for insurance.”

“That was amazing,” Susan says, patting her chest. “Wow. My heart is racing. I feel great.” She walks over to the elephant. “That was awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.” She inspects the elephant, bends at the waist, and seems to think the elephant is still alive. “Aww, he’s still there. Look at his eyes.” She places her hand on her chest, laughs, walks around the elephant, and pats one of its tusks. “Beautiful animal,” she says, and then, speaking to the elephant, “You’re a good old guy. A real good old guy.”

She grows emotional and appears to choke up, then asks a guide about the elephant’s age.“Must be close to fifty years old, I would say,” the guide says. “You think so?” she asks. “That’s exactly what I wanted. An old bull. Near the end of his age.”

The guide tells her she’s allowed to cry. “What an experience this is,” she says. “Once in a lifetime.” She rests a hand on the elephant’s forehead. “I was practicing this shot all day long.” She laughs again. “He wasn’t sure what we were doing. Amazing. That’s just incredible. Quite a day. Two beautiful African elephant in one day.” Susan touches the animal’s feet. “He’s so wrinkly… . Wow. A podiatrist would love working on him.”

Soon, Wayne enters the frame. He hugs his wife, congratulates her, and says, “I’m proud of you. That is really neat.” A person off-camera asks Susan if the elephant looked like it was going to charge her, and she says no, but that the animal “was checking us out.” Wayne responds, “But if he was looking at you like that, he could’ve charged.”

Later, a guide invites Susan to cut off the elephant’s tail, a ritual he says hunters performed in the “olden days” to claim their animal. Susan hesitates, but begins cutting the tail with a knife. “Oh, it’s like a fish almost, with the center cartilage,” she says.

Once the tail is off, she raises it in the air, and stretches out her arms, the bloody knife in one hand and the tail in the other. “Here in Botswana, in the Okavango Delta, with ‘Under Wild Skies,’ ” she says, and then laughs again.

Hunts in Botswana can cost tens of thousands of dollars per person, and, according to testimony in the bankruptcy case, a company that belongs to Makris covered the LaPierres’ costs. After the trip, in late September of 2013, footage of Makris shooting an elephant on a different expedition aired on NBC Sports, which then hosted “Under Wild Skies.” The episode caused an immediate public backlash.

The footage of the LaPierre hunt never aired, but records show that the couple still wanted their trophies. To avoid bad publicity—and at Susan’s written request—body parts from both elephants were shipped to the U.S. in a hidden manner. A man travelled two hours to Johannesburg to remove the couple’s names from shipping crates. The Master Airway Bill was in the name of a taxidermist, whom Makris’s company paid to turn the animals’ front feet into stools for Wayne and Susan’s home.

The Trace is a nonprofit newsroom that covers gun violence in America.

END QUOTE

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

AZ, crazy AZ, hands over 2.1 million ballots to fraudster

You really cannot make this sh!t up. Well, I guess you can if you are a Republican in Arizona.

Charlie Sykes, in the morningshots.thebulwark.com, has some observations on your batsh!t crazy Arizona’s mishandling of 2.1 million ballots on a totally worthless audit. Now the reason I say “your” is because I’m too ashamed of our state and its throughly crazy GOPlins. Therefore it must be someone else’s fault for the ongoing fraudit.

Nothing, Gerard Manley Hopkins once observed, “is so beautiful as Spring/ When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush.” It is, as Tennyson wrote, the season when “a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”

It is also, apparently, the time for crackpots to bitterly cling to their delusions and push bizarre audits of an election that took place nearly 6 months ago.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Arizona election audit, which is surely one of the most guana-soaked bits of weirdness in our never-ending Season of Crazy.

The story so far: the AZ GOP Senate, pondering ways of keeping alive the Big Lie that the state’s electoral votes were stolen from TFG, “used its subpoena power to take possession of all 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County and the machines that counted them, along with computer hard drives full of data.”

They ordered the “audit,” despite the fact that three previous recounts had shown no problems, and no evidence of fraud. Despite that, the GOP senators insisted on a hand recount of 2.1 million ballots cast in the county that represents two-thirds of the vote statewide.

This is where it gets even stranger. “They’ve handed the materials over to Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based consultancy with no election experience, run by a man who has shared unfounded conspiracy theories claiming the official 2020 presidential election results are illegitimate.”

The NYT has some details:

The head of Cyber Ninjas, the Florida-based firm that Republican senators hired to oversee the audit, has embraced Mr. Trump’s baseless theories of election theft and has suggested, contrary to available evidence, that Mr. Trump actually won Arizona by 200,000 votes. The pro-Trump cable channel One America News Network has started a fund-raiser to finance the venture and has been named one of the nonpartisan observers that will keep the audit on the straight and narrow.

Predictably, the “audit” has so far been a clusterf*ck.

The audit has been beset by amateur mistakes that critics view as evidence the auditors are not up to the task. Hand counters began the day using blue pens, which are banned in ballot counting rooms because they can be read by ballot machines. For days leading up to the audit, a crew from a group of Phoenix television stations, azfamily, had unfettered access to the supposedly secure facility as auditors were setting up equipment and receiving ballots and counting machines.

**

The Arizona story is worth keeping an eye on for at least two reasons: (1) It will likely be used to feed the Big Lie and sundry conspiracy theories, and (2) it is an indication of the metastasizing Crazy in the GOP. Notes the NYT:

Critics in both parties charge that an effort that began as a way to placate angry Trump voters has become a political embarrassment and another blow to the once-inviolable democratic norm that losers and winners alike honor the results of elections.

“You know the dog that caught the car?” said Steve Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the Republican-dominated Maricopa Board of Supervisors. “The dog doesn’t know what to do with it.”

Sunday, April 25, 2021

We owe Anthony Fauci a lot ... but not the grief from idiots like Rep. Jim Jordan

Frank Bruni, NY Times Opinion Columnist, explains why we owe Fauci a lot. So Anthony Fauci Isn’t Perfect. He’s Closer Than Most of Us. We owe him gratitude, not grief. (Thanks to my Editor-at-Large Sherry.)

The phrases “public servant” and “public service” are exhausted to the point of meaninglessness. They’re tics. They roll off politicians’ tongues as readily as requests for money, suggesting that adulation and power aren’t the more potent draws to elected office. They’re invoked in regard to other government workers, as if decent paychecks and generous pensions weren’t a significant lure.

But if anyone ever deserved to be described in those terms, it’s Anthony Fauci. That was true before the coronavirus. It’s truer now — despite the times when he has revised his message on how to deal with it, despite assessments of the pandemic that didn’t bear out and despite Republicans’ efforts to use all of that to turn him into some bespectacled Beelzebub.

Shocker of shockers: Fauci isn’t perfect. But he has been perfectly sincere, perfectly patient, a professional standing resolutely outside so many of the worst currents of American life. More than that, he has been essential. We owe him an immeasurable debt of gratitude, not the mind-boggling magnitude of grief that he gets.

If anything, that grief has grown more intense of late. It was on garish display during a House hearing just over a week ago, when Representative Jim Jordan, doing a fan dance for Fox News, tore into Fauci as a doomsday addict less intent on saving people’s lives than on scrapping people’s liberties.

I am not going to give Jordan, a real scum bag, any more press. He deserves nothing from America but disdain. But if you want to sample that, you can read Bruni’s column on your own.

… We live in times that are viciously partisan and oratorically sloppy — but Fauci is neither.

He’s consistently cool, answering the rants of Jordan and others with expert insights and logical analyses.

He’s generally cautious, and the people constructing scorecards of his correct and incorrect predictions disingenuously conflate him with Oscar-pool contestants placing bets on best supporting actress. Fauci wasn’t making wagers, wasn’t saying sooths. He was giving his best educated guesses, based on what was knowable at that juncture. His guesses evolved as his — and our — education improved. Informed guidance like his is better than no guidance at all, and information isn’t static.

Over three and a half decades as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci, now 80, has advised and earned the trust of Republican and Democratic presidents. He managed somehow to correct Trump and yet not be replaced with a sycophant who would have fed the former president’s delusions and further endangered Americans’ lives.

That’s more than public service. That’s magic. And he was thanked for it with death threats, issued not just to him but also to his family, and with a piece of mail that, when he opened it, sprayed an unidentified white powder all over him. He sat there covered in it while a hazardous materials team swept in.

“My wife and my children were more disturbed than I was,” he told The Times’s Donald McNeil in an interview in January. “I looked at it somewhat fatalistically. It had to be one of three things: A hoax. Or anthrax, which meant I’d have to go on Cipro for a month. Or if it was ricin, I was dead, so bye-bye.”

Why didn’t he say bye-bye to this awful role and the nonstop vitriol, given how much he’d contributed to the country from the AIDS epidemic onward and given that most 80-year-olds like him are taking it just a tad easier?

“I always felt that if I did walk away, the skunk at the picnic would no longer be at the picnic,” he told McNeil, referring to his ability to challenge the happy talk of Trump administration officials who wanted simply to wish the coronavirus away. “Even if I wasn’t very effective in changing everybody’s minds, the idea that they knew that nonsense could not be spouted without my pushing back on it, I felt was important. I think in the big picture, I felt it would be better for the country.”

He felt correctly. That assessment would be self-aggrandizing only if it weren’t true, just as his many media interviews would smack of preening if there weren’t such clear educational purpose to them. The key to his temperament — and to the greater measure of humility than of hubris in it — lies in how, even now, he talks about Trump. Although Fauci has ample cause for venom, there’s little trace of it in his words. He faults Trump without mocking him. That shows a discipline that’s rare. I never achieved it.

Sure, Fauci won a $1 million prize [from an Israeli philanthropy], but he didn’t agitate for it, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that during many points over the years, he could have left government for the private sector, traded on his stature and connections, and become an exponentially wealthier man. He refrained from that as surely as he has from the pettiness that most of the rest of us can’t resist.

“He has no other ambition or agenda than the health of the country and world,” wrote the Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, who, as a senior official in the George W. Bush administration, became acquainted with Fauci.

I understand — and personally feel — any American’s frustrations with the continued caveats regarding masks and gatherings and such. But it’s Fauci’s mandate to urge the safest possible behavior. I understand how maddening it can be to get different answers at different times. But uncertainty is the nature of this beast.

I don’t understand the rage at a remarkable public servant, and I’ll let Gerson have the last words on that. “Fauci is practicing epidemiology,” he wrote. “His critics are practicing idiocy. Both are very good at their chosen work.”

Saturday, April 24, 2021

'Scary' - New 'super variants' may prolong the COVID-19 pandemic

Three countries are featured in the Australian morning bulletin: India, Brazil, and Tanzania. Here are the shorts:

  • Scientists are freaked! “It’s really very scary.”
  • Tanzania has a “largely undocumented epidemic” with “few public health measures in place”.
  • Brazil has been described as a “biological Fukushima” due to the uncontrolled spread
  • India is hitting record levels of infection with more than 200,000 new cases every single day

Scientists’ horror over new COVID strain’s ‘escape mutation’. Following is the text of the Bulletin report.

BEGIN QUOTE

Scientists have detected what is believed to be the world’s most mutated COVID strain as fears grow that new super variants may prolong the pandemic.

The team of experts revealed their findings in a preprint research paper, which reports the coronavirus variant carries 34 mutations.

And among those changes are 14 with the spike protein - the part of the virus which it uses to get inside human cells and make people sick.

The Brazilian variant has 18 mutations total, with 10 mutations in the spike, while the UK strain has 17 mutations, including eight in key protein.

The apparent new variant also contains the worrying E484K change - referred to as an “escape mutation” - which helps the virus beat antibodies and is coming in other worrying strains.

The variant of interest (VOI) was discovered in three air travellers who arrived in Angola from Tanzania in the middle of February.

Both countries have been on the UK red list since January.

Scientists from the Angola Ministry of Health, the Africa CDC, the Universities of Oxford and Cape Town, and multi-institution research body KRISP warned the variant needs “urgent study”.

They also warned the danger as Tanzania has a “largely undocumented epidemic” with “few public health measures in place”.

The country’s official case count is just 509 infections with 21 deaths - although it is expected the actual figures are much higher.

Tanzania’s government has engaged in COVID denialism and President John Magufuli called for prayers and herbal-infused steam to beat the virus up until his sudden death in March.

It is feared the rampaging spread of the virus as cases increase fuels these mutations - which may allow the bug to become more deadly, more transmissible and more adept at dodging antibodies.

Dr William A Haseltine, a former Harvard professor, told The Sun Online the new variant is of “considerable concern” due to its high number of mutations, the type of mutations and the fact it appears to come from a different virus “lineage”.

Most of the notable variants can be traced back to the B1 strain - but the new variants appear to have evolved from a different source.

He also raised concerns over the “vacuum of information” coming out of Tanzania which is hampering the monitoring of the potentially dangerous new mutations.

“These mutations could increase the concentration of the virus in infected people, which may help prolong the infection and increase transmissibility,” Dr Haseltine told The Sun Online.

“The Tanzanian variant demonstrates the enormous versatility of this virus. Originally, many expected this virus to be relatively stable but it is showing to us with this variant and others, that this is not actually the case.”

In the paper, the team warned the “constellation of mutations” could mean the variant is more resistant to antibodies and vaccines and also could be more infectious.

NED–3586 How Coronavirus mutates - 0

The new VOI has been temporarily dubbed A. VOI. V2, while Dr Haseltine has called it the “Tanzania variant”.

The Human Vaccines Project said the virus carries “more mutations” than any previous strain.

It comes as fears grow that rampant COVID outbreaks across the world - such as in Brazil and India - could derail efforts to beat the pandemic.

Brazil has been described as a “biological Fukushima” due to the uncontrolled spread, while India is hitting record levels of infection with more than 200,000 new cases every single day.

Both have spawned new variants such as the P1 from Brazil and the “double mutant” COVID–19 from India.

World Health Organisation (WHO) chiefs have warned the global outbreak as “nowhere near finished” as super variants continue to surge.

Global daily case counts are now hitting highs not seen since the very peak of the pandemic last year, with more than 800,000 daily infections.

New mutations on the coronavirus can make it harder for the body’s immune system, which has been primed to look out for the “original” strain either through vaccination or prior infection, to recognise it.

Antibodies - proteins produced by the immune system to fight the virus - may be weaker against new strains.

The threat of new coronavirus strains also means masks and social distancing could be needed well into 2022, despite the vaccine rollout, and it is not clear when border controls will be relaxed.

It’s feared should a new variant take hold, further lockdowns may be needed to clamp down and stop the spread.

Studies have shown the current vaccines do still work against new variants, but may be less effective.

Scientists are already working on tweaked vaccines to help deal with new mutations in future, much like the flu vaccine which is altered every year.

Dr Haseltine said it is “absolutely critical” the rampant spread of COVID in nations like Brazil and India are reined in to beat the pandemic.

And he warned areas where there are holes in the global monitoring of COVID, such as in Tanzania, could throw up more surprise mutations.

“The more the virus spreads, the more variants arise, and the greater the chance the virus may increase in transmissibility, evade our immune response, and increase in virulence,” he said.

"In addition to the outbreaks in Brazil and India, we would add outbreaks in Eastern Europe, South America, North America, including here in the US.

“There is a vacuum of information coming from Tanzania, which needs to be addressed promptly for Tanzanians and for the health of the world.”

The leading expert warned virus mutations pose a “serious threat” to our current arsenal of vaccines - and there may already be variants out there which dodge first generation jabs.

“We believe, because of a lack of systematic surveillance that there are, as of yet, unobserved variants with enhanced properties to increase transmission, disease, and immune evasion,” he said.

However, he added it is “critical” that as many people as possible get vaccinated as soon as possible.

NED–2974-UKs-Mutant-Covid-Strain - 0

Addressing the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh last week, WHO special envoy Dr David Nabarro said new variants will be a “regular” occurrence while the virus is still prevalent around the world.

“The pandemic is nowhere near finished. Each week we have seen four and a half million cases being reported and know those are an enormous underestimate,” he warned.

"And we are still seeing a really significant number of deaths - nearly three million.

“What I want to stress is that the pandemic is surging forward everywhere.”

Dr Tony Lockett, from King’s College London’s Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, previously told The Sun Online about the prospect of a devastating new mutation emerging from the rampant spread worldwide.

“The effect - well it could be devastating - much worse than the original as younger people could become sicker and those who have had the virus get reinfected with the new strain,” he said.

“It’s really very scary.”

His comments come as it was warned coronavirus mutations could render vaccines redundant in less than one year, according to a survey of epidemiologists by The People’s Vaccine Alliance.

END QUOTE

Thursday, April 22, 2021

At the Bulwark

In this (Apr 22) morning’s Bulwark Charlie Sykes features The GOP Attacks the 1st Amendment Plus, he adds, see the Update on a boondoggle.

Please stop what you are doing and go read Sarah Longwell’s piece in this morning’s Bulwark, “Did We Forget Our Democracy Is Still Under Threat?” While you are there, you also need to read Olivia Troye’s essay, “How the GOP Absorbed Far-Right Extremists”.

Here’s a snippet (or 2 or 3).

… despite all the fulsome rhetoric about protecting free speech from the cancel culture, the GOP is waging a two-front war on the First Amendment.

The party that formerly believed in private property rights is now rallying around proposals that would compel private companies to engage in certain kinds of speech; and calling for retaliation against ideological miscreants. Some on the far right openly reject the idea of a “marketplace of ideas.”

But this is merely one front. With even less subtlety, GOP legislatures and governors are moving hard to vitiate the rights of protesters; even going so far as to create protections for motorists who run into them

The Foxconn Boondoggle.

Who could have seen this coming, apart from just about everyone?

Remember when Donald Trump and Scott Walker touted the massive Foxconn plant in Wisconsin as the “the eighth wonder of the world”? Or the lavish promises of massive investments and an army of new jobs? Or the gargantuan taxpayer subsidies that made the whole deal into a poster child for unrestrained corporate welfare?

This is worth your time for a read.

Taiwan electronics manufacturer Foxconn is drastically scaling back a planned $10 billion factory in Wisconsin, confirming its retreat from a project that former U.S. President Donald Trump once called “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Manufacturing LCDs in Wisconsin never made economic sense, yet abandoning the plan risked incurring Trump’s wrath. Instead, the company spent years pivoting wildly from idea to idea. The enormous “Gen 10.5” LCD factory specified in the contract became a far smaller Gen 6, then was canceled, then came back. The company announced it was building something called “the AI+8K+5G ecosystem,” to be developed in a network of “innovation centers,” buildings that the company purchased only to leave empty. It looked into building fish farms, exporting ice cream, storing boats. It announced plans to build coffee kiosks and ventilators that never moved forward. Most recently, it said it would build electric cars — though maybe, the company acknowledged, that will happen in Mexico.

The case for secure vaccine passports

Scriber’s roving Editor-at-Large, Sherry, tags this column by Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post: We should soon stop catering to the vaccine holdouts.

Scriber thinks secure vaccine passports would be a worthy federal investment.

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When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced a “pause” in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of a tiny number of instances in which women developed blood clots after getting the shot, many recoiled in horror. The vaccine rollout will be jeopardized! They will only fuel vaccine hesitancy! No, and no.

The latest Axios-Ipsos survey finds it had the opposite effect, as predicted by Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser. “Ninety-one percent of Americans have heard of the pause, showing a clear breakthrough of the issue in our collective consciousness in a very short period of time,” the poll reported on Tuesday. “Nearly the same number, 88%, feel the FDA and CDC are acting responsibly by recommending a pause in the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine (among those that have heard of the pause).” It was not even close — even among Republicans: “Americans, regardless of political affiliation, feel health officials are acting responsibly by recommending the pause in the one-dose vaccines; 87% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats agree.”

In other words, no one can blame responsible health-care officials for residual, militant vaccine hesitancy. The number of those who do not want the vaccine (roughly 20 percent) has been immovable since January, suggesting these people — which includes as much as 40 percent of Republicans — are impervious to reason and facts.

In fact, a recent focus group of vaccine-hesitant voters found that some of these people would lie about being vaccinated. The Post reports: “Most participants said they would want a fake vaccination card that would allow them to claim they had received shots, after [GOP pollster Frank] Luntz granted them anonymity to speak honestly.” Given the existence of such self-destructive, selfish and potentially deceitful people, secure vaccine passports are warranted.

Fortunately, Biden announced on Wednesday that the United States had reached 200 million shots administered — well in advance of his presidency’s 100-day mark and double his original goal of 100 million in his first 100 days. That means more than half of adults have received at least one shot, including more than 80 percent of seniors. Among teachers, school personnel and child-care workers, more than 80 percent received one shot in a month.

After making dramatic progress in mitigation and vaccination efforts, committing billions of dollars and supplying a constant flow of indisputable medical evidence that, once fully vaccinated, you have near 100 percent immunity, Biden went a step further. He asked employers to give workers paid time off to get the shot or to recover from the side effects — and then offered to reimburse employers.

At some point, only the willfully ignorant and destructive will remain unvaccinated. Once that happens, employers, retail establishments, entertainment venues, public buildings, public transportation, colleges and (when vaccines are approved for children) K–12 schools should insist that people present a secure form of proof of vaccination before entering.

The resolutely anti-vaccination crowd will holler about their “freedom” being taken away. Nonsense. Schools already require an array of vaccinations for children. Public and private establishments can require shoes and shirts. Employers can require safety equipment be worn. The ornery holdouts won’t be mandated by the government to get shots, but they should not be able to enjoy the benefits, privileges and access that responsible Americans have earned by getting vaccinated.

There is no right to remain a breeding ground for dangerous coronavirus variants or a threat to the small number of people still susceptible to the virus despite their vaccinations (known as breakthrough infections). The country is approaching the point when it should stop catering to those bent on being a danger to themselves and others. We have all sacrificed too much for too long to indulge reckless conduct.

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We know that your COVID-19 protection will run out. The question is when.

The Scribers got their two COVID–19 shots from Pfizer. Will we need another, “booster” shot? And if so, when?

How long does protection from COVID–19 vaccines last? The AP answers.

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Experts don’t know yet because they’re still studying vaccinated people to see when protection might wear off. How well the vaccines work against emerging variants will also determine if, when and how often additional shots might be needed.

“We only have information for as long as the vaccines have been studied,” said Deborah Fuller, a vaccine researcher at the University of Washington. “We have to study the vaccinated population and start to see, at what point do people become vulnerable again to the virus?”

So far, Pfizer’s ongoing trial indicates the company’s two-dose vaccine remains highly effective for at least six months, and likely longer. People who got Moderna’s vaccine also still had notable levels of virus-fighting antibodies six months after the second required shot.

Antibodies also don’t tell the whole story. To fight off intruders like viruses, our immune systems also have another line of defense called B and T cells, some of which can hang around long after antibody levels dwindle. If they encounter the same virus in the future, those battle-tested cells could potentially spring into action more quickly.

Even if they don’t prevent illness entirely, they could help blunt its severity. But exactly what role such “memory” cells might play with the coronavirus – and for how long – isn’t yet known.

While the current COVID–19 vaccines will likely last for at least about a year, they probably won’t offer lifelong protection, as with measles shots, said Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, a vaccine expert at the University of Maryland.

“It’s going to be somewhere in the middle of that very wide range,” she said.

Variants are another reason we might need an additional shot.

The current vaccines are designed to work against a particular spike protein on the coronavirus, said Mehul Suthar of the Emory Vaccine Center. If the virus mutates enough over time, vaccines might need to be updated to boost their effectiveness.

So far, the vaccines appear protective against the notable variants that have emerged, though somewhat less so on the one first detected in South Africa.

If it turns out we need another shot, a single dose could extend protection of the current shots or contain vaccination for one or more variants.

The need for follow-up shots will also depend partly on the success of the vaccination push globally, and tamping down transmission of the virus and emerging variants.

END QUOTE

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Why Republicans are afraid of the vote

Jennifer Rubin (WaPo) reports that Two stats show why Republicans are so fixated on suppressing the vote. Here are my takes on the essence of Rubin’s reasoning.

Why are Republicans so willing to incur the wrath of civil rights groups, to risk alienating college-educated voters and to alienate big business by engaging in flagrant voter suppression? Two statistics provide clarity.

The first comes from TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm that has compiled information on more than 98 percent of those who cast ballots last year from individual voter files. The firm finds: “Non-college educated whites dropped from 53.8% of the electorate in 2016 to 49.2% in 2020.” … TargetSmart’s chief executive, Tom Bonier, told me this means that non-college-educated Whites increased turnout over 2016, but just not as fast as other groups. In other words, the GOP is “running out” of non-college-educated Whites.

The second statistic behind the Republicans’ collective panic attack has to do with their solid core of supporters: White evangelical Christians. As I pointed out last month, Gallup finds that the percentage of those attending any religious institution has dropped below 50 percent, the first time in 80 years of its surveys. Churches are losing younger Americans at a remarkable rate … If Republicans cannot find enough non-college-educated Whites and, worse for them, cannot count on White evangelicals (more than 80 percent of whom voted for the MAGA party) to keep pace with the growth of nonreligious voters, their nativist party — driven by fears of an existential threat to White Christianity — will no longer be viable at the national level.

[So …] Republicans, in essence, are trying to eke out as many election cycles as they can with its shrinking base. Deathly afraid of alienating the most rabid MAGA supporters, they continue to stoke racial resentment, fear of immigrants and bizarro conspiracy theories — all of which push away non-Whites, women, college-educated voters and younger voters. In sum, Republicans’ base is vanishing and they haven’t the slightest idea what to do about it — other than a possibly self-destructive effort to disenfranchise voters.

Why we need a fast rail system - and why we won't get one

A few years ago, the Scribers toured Japan. The public transportation system, especially the trains, is impressive. Here is a story about why we should have such a system in the US - and reasons why we do not.

The Daily Star reprinted this one.

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John M. Crisp: Trains will be a hard sell

Full disclosure: I like trains.

In fact, I wouldn’t have minded if America had not taken such a sharp turn in the mid–20th century away from public transportation — such as trains and buses — toward the private ownership of automobiles.

It was a national choice. Eventually nearly everyone was on board. In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower advocated for an extensive interstate highway system. Congress agreed. Gas was cheap and seemingly inexhaustible. Soon every family had a car; some even had two.

As private automobiles became essential to Americans’ lives, they began to reshape Americans’ lives in new ways. We invented the suburbs and motels and drive-thru fast food. Jack Kerouac, Bonnie and Clyde and “Fast and Furious” became possible.

We fell in love with the freedom to go anywhere, anytime, alone or with our families, rather than with strangers on a bus or train. Americans discovered the romance of the open road; teenagers discovered the romance of the backseat.

But the bargain had Faustian elements: To accommodate our cars, we paved millions of acres for roads and parking lots. Automobiles required a dependable supply of petroleum, and thus our foreign policy has been largely shaped by the need to keep oil flowing from some of the most volatile parts of the earth. In the process some of those areas became even more volatile. Few elements of modern life have had a bigger impact than private ownership of automobiles on the world economy, climate, air quality and the congestion of our cities.

The flip side of the independence provided by the automobile is insularity. A natural consequence of driving in increasingly congested conditions is road rage. Cities became dangerously inhospitable for pedestrians. And hundreds of millions of miles driven by millions of drivers — many of whom are sleepy, drunk, inept, speeding or texting — guaranteed that the carnage on our roadways would be impressive. And it is: About 100 people are killed every day in traffic accidents.

The inevitable consequence of our preference for automobiles was a steady, downward-spiraling deterioration of public transportation. Train service became scarce, slow and erratic. It disappeared completely in many places. The same with bus service, and bus stations became shabby, dreary places haunted by those who can’t afford to drive.

Public transportation became trapped in a vicious cycle: It deteriorated because fewer people used it, and fewer people used it because it was deteriorating.

Those of us who like public transportation are encouraged by suggestions that the Biden administration is interested in reimagining the choices that Americans have for getting around in ways that will remedy some of the downsides of our car culture.

Indeed, the administration’s proposed infrastructure plan includes money for upgrading Amtrak and improving and increasing rail service to more cities. At the same time, the plan reflects our deep commitment to the private vehicle: it includes funds for 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, reinforcing the idea that everyone still has to have her own car.

Is our choice of personal vehicles over public transportation irrevocable? I fear that it is.

We have embraced the freedom of the automobile, and we will be loath to relinquish it, even for modes of transportation that are faster, more comfortable, more efficient, safer and easier on the environment.

Unfortunately Americans’ preference for our current way of getting around is prejudiced by our unfamiliarity with good public transportation; we haven’t seen it in our country for years. For that we have to look elsewhere.

Here’s one example: Around 20 times per day, a train leaves central Barcelona. Fewer than three hours later it arrives in central Madrid, a distance of 314 miles. The traveler reclines in a seat that is much roomier and much more comfortable than on any airplane. He doesn’t have to check his bags. He can sleep, read, watch movies or surf the internet.

He can stroll down to the bar car and have a drink. He is served delicious fare with his choice of five wines. Meanwhile the Spanish countryside glides past at 192 mph.

One wonders: If Spaniards can have this, why can’t we?

END QUOTE

Monday, April 19, 2021

Scriber's message to Republicans - what in the hell is wrong with you.

In the April 18, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson answers the question I would have posed.

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According to CNN, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has scrapped the idea of the “America First Caucus” after considerable pushback, now claiming that she had not approved the platform released on Friday and announced by her own spokesperson.

I have been thinking a lot about Republican lawmakers like Greene lately, and about the Republican Party these days. As I sort through it all, I find myself absolutely gobsmacked that today’s party is shaping itself around the Big Lie that Democrat Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election. This is a lie. There is no doubt that this is a lie. Trump or his surrogates filed and lost at least 63 lawsuits over the 2020 election, most of which were dropped for lack of evidence.

When voting company Dominion sued Sidney Powell, one of those arguing Trump won the election, for defamation, her lawyers argued that “No reasonable person would conclude that the statements were truly statements of fact.”

And yet, despite the fact that Biden beat Trump by more than 7 million votes and by 306 to 232 electoral votes, Trump insisted, and continues to insist, that he really won the election.

In part, this appears to have been a fund-raising ploy. Thanks to a terrific story by Shane Goldmacher in the New York Times, we now know that the Trump campaign boosted revenues by tricking donors into making recurring donations before the election, replenishing its badly depleted funds. When unsuspecting donors found out and complained, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee ended up having to make more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million. That money came in after the election, as Trump promised to fight the election results because, he said, he had been cheated.

“In effect,” Goldmacher writes, “the money that Mr. Trump eventually had to refund amounted to an interest-free loan from unwitting supporters at the most important juncture of the 2020 race.” To keep the money to cover the refunds coming in, the former president had to maintain that the election had been stolen.

But, as the January 6 insurrection proved, that stance was much more than a grift. Trump and his spokespeople urged supporters to come to Washington, D.C., and somehow pressure Vice President Mike Pence to count the certified ballots not for Biden, as they were prepared, but for Trump. Pence had no authority to do such a thing, and he told Trump so, in writing, prompting Trump to tell his supporters that Pence had let them down. So they took matters into their own hands.

When the Capitol was finally cleared and Congress got back to counting the certified ballots, 8 senators and 139 representatives voted to challenge at least one of the state ballots, turning what is normally a formality into the suggestion that there was something wrong with Biden’s election. At the time, pundits suggested that they did not dare to fall afoul of Trump’s voters, who were the only solid Republican voters, and whom many of the Republicans hoped to be able to count on in their own next elections.

And yet, they have not repudiated that stance. One hundred and forty-seven of our lawmakers—people sitting currently in Congress, listening to reports from the intelligence committee, shaping our foreign policy—have signed onto the lie that the 2020 election was tainted.

Their support for Trump’s outlandish lie had enabled it to metastasize. Now Republican legislators in 47 states have proposed 361 voter restriction bills with the argument that they need to address concerns about voter fraud. That is, without evidence, they have convinced their voters that the 2020 election was stolen, and now they are attempting to change laws to address that conviction. Not coincidentally, the new laws are expected to strengthen Republican power: had it been in place in 2020, for example, the new law Georgia passed would have enabled Republicans to hand the election in that state to Trump.

But the more they harden Trump’s base by pretending that the former president won the 2020 election, the harder it is for them to move away from Trump. In Republican primaries in Republican states, candidates are vying to get Trump’s endorsement.

It is a vicious downward spiral, based on a lie. As Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who was the Republican candidate for president in 2012, said after the insurrection, “The best way we could show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.” And yet, Republican lawmakers continue to feed the narrative that Trump won in 2020.

Last month, six in ten Republicans in a Reuters/Ipsos poll said they believed the election was stolen. Where do Republican lawmakers think this is going to end?

END QUOTE

'The problem is too many guns' - and our bizarre gun culture.

Tim Miller writing at thebulwark proposes that Guns Should Be Safe, Legal, and Rare And: The problem is too many guns.

I’ll pick out a few passages that, IMHO, best show off Miller’s view.

… I do want to say something that I know for a fact certain people of the conservative persuasion or background think, directly.

There are too many fucking guns in this country.

The way our culture treats them is perverse.

And we need to do something about it.

… these days American “gun culture”—or put more precisely, the kinkification of deadly hand-penises—has spiraled out of control. From kids in our cities who are getting killed pretending to be hardcore, to the “hunters” collecting hand cannons, to the lonely boys importing their first-person-shooter video games to real life, to a member of Congress using a rifle cross for her backdrop like she’s fucking American ISIS.

It’s way, way too much.

Mass shootings, suicides, urban bloodshed, police violence—they all lead back to this fundamental issue.

I’m sure that everyone reading this is familiar with the recent mass shootings at the massage parlors in Atlanta and at King Soopers in Colorado. These have shocked our consciences, again.

But did you know that since those shootings, eight people were killed at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis? A former NFL player killed four people in South Carolina? Two brothers killed four family members and themselves in Texas? A gunman killed four people—including a 9-year-old boy—at a real estate office in California? A guy killed his parents, two others, and himself at a convenience store in Maryland? A man was shot to death at a “shot house”? Another in a drive-by shooting at a strip mall? Another in a drive-by at their home? Another during a domestic argument? A 19-year-old was shot and killed trying to break up a different domestic argument; another shot and killed on the sidewalk; another shot and killed in his car?

And those last seven all happened in a single small city—Birmingham, Alabama (population 210,000)—in the last 10 days.

How is this an acceptable state of affairs?

Gun absolutism is one of the few dogmas still in place in conservatism. There are conservative politicians and pundits and voters who feel the way I do. I’ve met them. These are people who respect gun rights and individual freedoms but are deeply alarmed and horrified by the amount of carnage in our country and believe we need to rebalance the equation.

But saying that out loud is akin to self-deporting from the conservative movement.

This language is policed aggressively by the NRA, Dana Loesch, conservative politicians, and media personalities who immediately shoot down (intended) even minor restrictions or reasonable reforms that are proposed.

Every proposal to try to rationalize gun laws fails one of the (many) litmus tests that have been set up by the gun fetishists.

… Any proposed reform is useless unless it solves every problem. Any proposed reform that solves every problem can’t work. Any proposed reform that can work is an abridgment of God-given liberty. And anyone who can’t field strip a pistol with their eyes closed like Gene isn’t allowed to have an opinion.

And here’s the thing: It’s true that any one individual reform isn’t going to make a big dent in the problem—because the problem is:

  • We have way too many fucking guns in this country and too many people treat them like they’re cool toys.
  • Humans are fallible creatures who when given easy access to cool deadly weapons at scale will use them to kill themselves and others.

That’s the problem.

But saying this out loud on the right is verboten and politically toxic.

As a result, any discussion about proposals that attempt to manage the problem turn into the same Thoughts & Prayers, it won’t make a difference, Armalite & Costello routine that everyone is tired of hearing.

So we end up back here, heartsick over Adam Toledo and Anthony Thompson Jr. and Matthew Farias and Tahijer Lafleur and Samaria Blackwell and all the rest. But feeling like there’s no hope for it to ever stop.

A line from the song that a pair of students wrote for the Columbine memorial stuck with me.

Columbine, friend of mine, peace will come to you in time.

That was written 22 years ago.

I never could have imagined that two decades on not only would peace not come, but that the horror of that day would become a weekly occurrence and nothing would be done.

It needs to stop.

Our gun culture itself is the problem.

Solving it starts with people saying that truth out loud.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Why COVID-19 immunization might need a 'booster'

Because of the Scribers’ travel plans we were looking forward to the development of effective COVID–19 vaccines. We rushed to get our shots - even knowing that there is a real possibility that we might need a booster at some time in the future. We think of the COVID–19 booster as analogous to the yearly flu vaccine. That’s an over-simplification, perhaps. So, here is a report from the National Geographic on-line magazine to bring you up to date on boosters and why they may be needed.

Why annual COVID–19 boosters may become the norm. To keep the coronavirus in check and stay ahead of new variants, people may need yearly shots like they do for the flu.

Following are highlights from the National G report.

Even as tens of millions of inoculated Americans breathe a collective sigh of relief after receiving either the one or two-dose COVID–19 vaccine, some wonder whether one round of shots is enough, or if they’ll need another—and another.

Scientists don’t yet know how long protection from the current cohort of coronavirus vaccines will last. Since the discovery of the original strain in late 2019, the virus has continued to mutate, yielding variants—similar-but-distinctive versions of the virus with the potential to be more infectious, deadly, and escape the antibody safeguards provided by the existing COVID–19 vaccines. To stay ahead of virus evolution, some vaccine creators are racing to design new shots to beat back variants while working to determine how long immunity lasts from current doses.

And the new “normal,” some experts say, could mean routine inoculation, or boosters, against COVID–19.

What’s a booster, anyway?

A booster shot is “a repeat dose of a vaccine that you’ve already received to literally boost your immunity,” says Susan R. Bailey, an allergist and clinical immunologist and president of the American Medical Association. The immune system creates virus-fighting memory from repeat exposure. It’s common that a second or third encounter with an antigen, a molecule that prompts antibody production, creates a “greater and more long lasting” immune response, Bailey says.

In February, Pfizer-BioNTech launched a study of a third dose of its now two-dose regimen. And yesterday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that people would “likely” need a third shot, 12 months after the initial dose.

The COVID–19 vaccines are brand-new, which means scientists don’t know yet how long they will remain effective without additional intervention. Researchers have monitored the effectiveness of the vaccines in inoculated people, and studies show that they remain highly effective for at least six months.

“Unfortunately, many people have misunderstood that to mean that it lasts only six months,” says Bailey, when, “all that information means is that we know that it lasts six months, and we expect it to last longer.” To know exactly how long protection endures, “we just have to wait and see.”

But, “it’s not obvious that every type of vaccination requires a booster,” says Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. For example, the yellow fever vaccine offers lifelong protection after a single shot. And while the tetanus vaccine has long required a booster shot every 10 years to maintain its effectiveness, researchers have recently questioned whether additional doses are necessary.

The ethical issues of boosters

Teneille Brown, a professor of law and adjunct professor of internal medicine at the University of Utah, says “asking or requiring people to get a booster might be a tougher sell for some,” because it “reflects an ongoing obligation and not a one-time thing.” Take the influenza vaccine, which is recommended for almost all people: only 45 percent of American adults got their annual shots during the 2017–2018 season; 48 percent got them for the 2019–2020 season.

While the U.S. government has not mandated COVID–19 vaccines, vaccine mandates are already taking shape: So-called “vaccine passports” may be required to board airplanes, for example, or to enter foreign countries. Some colleges are requiring on-campus students to be inoculated. And employers can require employees to get COVID–19 vaccines, though it’s unclear how many will.

If additional shots are needed, it’s conceivable that they could also be mandated in these same or similar ways. The burden of vaccine proof raises some ethics concerns, says Faith E. Fletcher, a public health ethicist in the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine, and has the potential to exacerbate existing social and health inequities.

For example, essential workers and Black and Hispanic people have struggled more than their white counterparts to get initial vaccinations. Without finding ways to “make vaccines available and accessible to marginalized populations,” Fletcher says, “we’re going to see disparities down the line related to this issue,” including with any future COVID–19 shots, mandated or otherwise.

Brown and Fletcher agree that the cost of future doses should be covered. “There would need to be some requirement that the booster shots are covered by insurance, waiving copays, or they will not be equitably distributed,” Brown says, “and we will see gross inequities of who’s getting the booster and who’s not.” Even a $20 copay, she says, could keep people from getting a shot.

But for those who simply don’t want to follow work or private sector mandates for any future shots, “the law is not on their side,” Brown says. Existing laws permit mandates so long as exemptions are available for religious and medical reasons — for example, having an allergy.

Even so, Brown likens such mandates to driving a car.

“If you want to drive, you have to get a license, insurance, etc.,” Brown says. “It isn’t a one-time thing. The privilege of driving creates ongoing obligations to get your car registered, to get your emissions tested, and to continue to comply with changing traffic laws. You might disagree with these laws … but that doesn’t give you permission to ignore them at your choosing.”

Brown says that she is hopeful that any maintenance to keep COVID–19 at bay will become as routine as renewing a license or registration. “I actually think that the ongoing nature will help,” she says, because “resistance will fade with time and [as] vaccines become less politicized.”

One can hope. We remain puzzled as to why a public health matter would ever be “politicized”.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Dr. Fauci takes down Nitwit Jim Jordan

Watch Dr. Anthony Fauci Tell Off Scientifically Illiterate Jim Jordan. David Gordon at Blog for Arizona reports.

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You go Dr. Fauci.

Minutes ago at a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis (on April 15, 2021,) Dr. Anthony Fauci artfully defended his views on the necessity of wearing masks and social distancing to one of the most scientifically illiterate and vocal bombastic asinine poster boys for the fringe right- Ohio Representative Jim Jordan.

This is not the first time the two extremes of the human evolutionary scale have clashed.

They had a heated exchange in late July 2020 over the Coronavirus.

During the April 15, 2021 back and forth, Dr. Fauci responded to Jordans whining about when Americans will get their liberties back by stating:

“My response Congressman Jordan is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can. To get the level of infection in this country low so it is no longer a threat. That is when and I believe when that happens, you’ll see…”

Jordan then interrupted Fauci about what determines when.

Fauci, in a professional way, then went off on Jordan, saying:

“You know, you’re indicating liberty and freedom. I look at it as a public health measure to prevent people from dying and going to the hospital…”

Jordan interrupted again about liberties and freedoms getting assaulted.

Fauci then rightfully lost his temper, saying:

“I don’t look at this as a liberty thing Congressman Jordan. I look at this as a public health thing…”

Jordan interrupted again, telling Fauci that people’s First Amendment rights like attending church and assembling or censoring government released videos were being assaulted due to the public safety mitigation measures stemming from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Fauci responded:

“I don’t think anything was censored because they felt they couldn’t disagree with me. I think you’re making this a personal thing and it isn’t.”

Jordan says he was not making this personal to which Fauci replied he was. The Doctor then said:

“My recommendations are not a personal recommendation. It’s based on the CDC guidance which is…(Jordan interrupted again repeating his rant) Right now we have about 60,000 infections a day which is a very large risk for a surge. We’re not talking about liberties. We’re talking about a pandemic that has killed 560,000 Americans. That’s what we’re talking about.”

From this exchange between one of the country’s most respected scientists and the nations most notorious dim wits, it should be clear that the most important way to stem the tide of the Coronavirus is to:

  • Get vaccinated as soon as possible.
  • Continue to practice public safety measures like wearing masks and social distancing.
  • Do not listen to scientifically illiterate imbecile-reactionaries like Jim Jordan. They are worse than the virus because they are needlessly putting people in danger with their big lies that personal freedoms are being stomped on because people have to wear masks or attend church services online.

END QUOTE

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Trump the Snake Bites the GOP

Why Trump’s latest tantrum, targeting his own party, matters (to Steve Benen, MSNBC/MaddowlBlog). Watching Republican reactions to Trump’s weekend tirade, in which he attacked his own party, “The Snake” parable keeps coming to mind. Read on for excerpts and additional commentary

When Donald Trump appeared at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) about a month ago, the former president boasted, “The Republican Party is united…. I think we have tremendous unity.” About a week later, Trump’s lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters to the Republican Party’s three most powerful campaign entities, including the Republican National Committee, asking that they stop using the former president’s name and likeness in fundraising appeals and merchandise.

Trump soon after made clear that he wants supporters to send their money to him, not his party.

It wasn’t long before RNC leaders, eager to please the former president who’d just threatened them, announced plans to reward Trump, holding an event at one of his private clubs. Indeed, the RNC reportedly paid more than $100,000 for the privilege of using Mar-a-Lago and hearing directly from the former president.

The result was utterly predictable.

Former President Donald Trump again lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., calling the top Republican a “dumb son of a b—-” and a “stone cold loser” in a long rant at a Republican donor event Saturday night in which he reiterated his false claims that he won the election last fall. Trump, according to a source familiar with his remarks, said “a real leader” never would have accepted the electoral results.

By all accounts, the former president had a prepared text, which he repeatedly ignored. Instead, Trump spoke his mind, which meant Republican attendees heard him attack his own party’s Senate leader. And former Vice President Mike Pence (R). And Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R). And former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (R). And Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Trump also lied about his 2020 defeat. And the crowd size on Jan. 6. And unnamed Democrats whom he says secretly know he won the election he lost. And his responsibility for the development of COVID vaccines. And the illegal extortion scheme he hatched against Ukraine.

Remember, the Republican National Committee paid for all of this. It was effectively a reward for Trump threatening to sue his own political party for fundraising with his likeness.

Does anyone seriously believe Trump cares about what is or isn’t “helpful” to the Republican Party?

Gauging some of the partisan reactions to the former president’s weekend harangue, I was reminded of Trump’s favorite parable, “The Snake.”

As regular readers may recall, the story is simple: a “tender woman” rescues a “vicious snake,” who repays her generosity by biting her. When the dying woman asks why, the snake explains with a grin, “Oh shut up, silly woman. You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”

As Republican officials are once again forced to come to terms with Trump’s latest divisive harangue, much of which targeted Republicans, it’s awfully tempting to respond, “Oh shut up, silly party. You knew damn well he was a snake before you took him in.”

For all the chatter about how the Republican Party needs to move on, the fact remains that it isn’t even trying to remove the snake. On the contrary, it’s paying him $100,000 to bite them.

The GOP could have saved themselves lots of money and morbidity if they had paid attention toTrump’s “primal flaw.”

… we should never forget Trump’s primal flaw - he has nothing but contempt for the vast majority of Americans. This is from NY Times report on Trump’s biographer’s tapes.

Who earns his respect? “For the most part,” he said, “you can’t respect people because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

So there it is - what Trump really thinks about his fellow humans, both Democratic and Republican, both liberal and conservative, both rich and poor, both soldiers and bureaucrats, both sick and well.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

'Economic boom' predicted by economists and Corporate America

Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post) believes that Republicans made a foolish bet on the Biden agenda. Here are excerpts.

The economy looks ready to take off in a way we have not seen for 30 years. The International Monetary Fund predicts that the U.S. economy “will surpass its pre-pandemic size as growth reaches 6.4% this year …. up 1.3 percentage points from the group’s forecast in January,” CNN reported. The IMF predicts the $1.9 trillion rescue plan will ”deliver a strong boost to growth in the United States in 2021 and provide sizable positive spillovers to trading partners,” and, as a result, the “recession is likely to leave smaller scars than the 2008 global financial crisis.”

This was precisely the argument the Biden administration made: The risk was spending too little, not too much. The key to a robust recovery was crushing the pandemic. With Biden’s “whole of government” approach, mass vaccination offers a realistic chance for returning to workplaces, schools and public venues. It is the new confidence in a post-pandemic world that promises to unleash an economic boom.

With more than 900,000 jobs added in March and a manufacturing boom underway, some economists anticipate a 10 percent growth in the second quarter. Corporate America sounds downright giddy about the economic prospects. CNBC reported:

JPMorgan CEO [Jamie] Dimon commented at length on the economy in his annual letter to shareholders Wednesday, and his remarks echoed what many economists expect.

“I have little doubt that with excess savings, new stimulus savings, huge deficit spending, more QE, a new potential infrastructure bill, a successful vaccine and euphoria around the end of the pandemic, the U.S. economy will likely boom,” Dimon wrote. “This boom could easily run into 2023 because all the spending could extend well into 2023.”

And the Democrats will get the credit for it. And the Republicans?

If this comes to fruition, Republicans will be hard-pressed to come up with a justification for their utter intransigence on spending plans. And it will be difficult to convince voters that their fake cultural wars — from their attacks on trans youth to complaints about discontinuing some Dr. Seuss titles — are more important than an economic recovery.

Republicans’ game plan of obstruction and distraction seems poorly designed to address the real possibility of economic success and post-pandemic elation. The Biden administration’s bet going into its first 100 days was that competency could deliver real results that mean more to voters than contrived cultural memes. For now, the “Go big!” strategy seems to be on track. No wonder Republicans sound so angry these days.

Following the money as the FloodGaetz open

Still more details emerge showing that Matt Gaetz was using his pal Greenberg to pimp young women reports Mark Sumner of the Daily Kos Staff.

Below are some excerpts from Sumner’s report.

The story of Rep. Matt Gaetz is like one of those horror films that generates an extra large jolt of fear by first tossing up something that causes laughter. It’s clear that what Gaetz has done is genuinely criminal, and that the way his crimes were systematically ignored by Republicans at every level in both Florida and Washington, D.C. speaks to an incredible level of hypocrisy and corruption. On the other hand, the details are … ridiculous.

For example, Gaetz has repeatedly put out statements saying that “Rep. Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex.” It turns out this may be true. Technically. Because as Daily Beast reports, records show that Gaetz only paid his friend Joel Greenberg. It was Greenberg who then actually paid for the sex. This is the kind of logic that’s certain to make heads nod on the couches of Fox & Friends. “See? Gaetz was telling the truth.”

But to take this claim and turn the facepalm level to 11, it turns out that Gaetz paid Greenberg $900 using the cash app Venmo. Greenberg then sent cash along to three women, also using Venmo, that totaled $900. And before anyone starts up the Fox-brand coincidence engine, Gaetz included a memo along with his payment saying “hit up _” where “_” was the name of one of the women involved.

SNIP

… perhaps the most disturbing part of this story. Not what Gaetz did, but that he did it so loudly. From the sex games he played in the Florida House—where sleeping with interns was a goal and finding virgins scored extra “points”—to the nude videos he has circulated on the flood of the U.S. House, Gaetz was absolutely open with his fellow Republicans. Gaetz walked around preaching family values while apparently jetting off to visit sex workers in the Bahamas, or working with Greenberg to generate fake IDs for underage girls, or paying for those girls to fly to hotels where Gaetz could be “generous” to them with “gifts.”

SNIP

Republicans in general shouldn’t be feeling too comfortable. Unfortunately, they are.

When it comes to Joel Greenberg and the trio of women to whom he distributed Gaetz’s funds, there is no direct mention of their age. However, the terms that Greenberg placed in the memos of their payments might give a clue: “Tuition,” “School,” and “School.”

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Following the money in GaetzGate

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports:Matt Gaetz under new pressure to resign following new revelations. Before last night, the grand total of GOP lawmakers calling for the Florida congressman’s ouster was zero. That’s no longer the case.

As the scandal surrounding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) grew more serious, there was no shortage of House Republicans quietly celebrating his crisis. These intra-party critics, however, had one important thing in common: they preferred to remain anonymous. Indeed, before last night, the grand total of GOP lawmakers calling for the Florida congressman’s ouster was zero.

That’s no longer the case. Politico reported overnight:

Rep. Adam Kinzinger called on fellow Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz to resign Thursday night, making him the first Republican to do so since it was revealed that the Justice Department is investigating the Florida congressman over sex trafficking allegations. Kinzinger (R-Ill.), an Air Force veteran and one of former President Donald Trump’s fiercest critics within the party, has previously targeted Gaetz, along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), with the creation of a political action committee that aimed to help fund Republican candidates who have separated themselves from Trumpism.

Kinzinger shared his new position by way of a simple, five-word tweet that read, “Matt Gaetz needs to resign.”

The Illinois congressman published the brief missive in response to this Daily Beast report, which alleged that Gaetz sent his friend, accused sex trafficker Joel Greenberg, money through a mobile money-transfer service called Venmo in May 2018, and the next morning, Greenberg used the same app to send the same amount of money to three young women.

[Also reported:]… Greenberg moved toward a plea deal with federal prosecutors, creating new dangers for Gaetz. Indeed, Greenberg’s lawyer briefly spoke to reporters outside an Orlando courthouse yesterday and said, in unsubtle terms, “I am sure Matt Gaetz is not feeling very comfortable today.”

We must preserve the scenic Santa Ritas. Another open pit mine is not needed

The Daily Star published this op-ed by Gayle Hartmann: Save the Santa Ritas: Don’t let Hudbay destroy even more of the Santa Ritas.

BEGIN QUOTE

In a recent guest column, Andre Lauzon, an executive with Toronto-based Hudbay Minerals Inc., suggested that the United States will not realize a “green future” without the Rosemont Mine, their proposed, open-pit copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson.

Shortly after Mr. Lauzon’s op-ed, Hudbay announced with great fanfare that it is considering expanding the Rosemont project beyond the existing footprint to include even more of the northern Santa Ritas, including the ridgeline and the west slope.

Residents of Sahuarita and Green Valley could be surrounded by massive open-pit mining operations and their corresponding mine waste if Rosemont’s plan comes to fruition.

These latest developments underscore why it is more important than ever that we stop the Rosemont Mine.

It is remarkable arrogance and cynicism for a foreign mining company’s senior official to claim Hudbay’s proposed mine will be good for the environment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hudbay’s current proposal is to blast a mile-wide, half-mile deep crater into the Santa Ritas’ northeast crest and pile mine waste 800 feet high over 2,500 acres of Coronado National Forest. The waste dump would be in a watershed that provides significant groundwater recharge to the surrounding area and the Tucson basin.

If Hudbay were to follow through on its expansion plans, Rosemont would sprawl over the top of the Santa Ritas and spill over onto the western slope, where the 24-hour a day mining operation would be visible from Green Valley and Sahuarita.

The Rosemont Mine would use 4.8 million gallons of Southern Arizona drinking water to, among other things, control dust. Rosemont’s expansion to include an open-pit mine on the west side of the Santa Ritas would only increase groundwater pumping from the Rosemont wells in Sahuarita.

A fundamental review of copper economics undermines Mr. Lauzon’s absurd claim that a country unable to meet its domestic copper demand will pay higher prices.

First, copper is a basic commodity, and international markets set its price. Unlike oil, there is no copper cartel. It doesn’t matter how much or little a country produces when it comes to the price of copper.

Second, while the U.S. imported 680,000 tons of refined copper in 2020, the Rosemont Mine would not reduce imports and would very likely cause imports of refined copper to increase. Why? Because the U.S. already produces more raw copper from domestic mines than it can process at its three U.S. copper smelters.

The U.S. Geological Survey reports U.S. copper mines produced 1.2 million metric tons of copper ore, also called concentrate, in 2020. Most of that copper ore was sent to U.S. smelters to produce 860,000 metric tons of refined copper. But nearly one-third of the U.S. copper ore production, or 390,000 metric tons, was exported.

Third, it is doubtful that the United States will construct new copper smelters that are notoriously high emitters of sulfur dioxides and heavy metals. And it is implausible that Rosemont’s copper concentrate would be refined at any of the three existing smelters as they have little if any excess capacity and are owned by competing companies.

The lack of smelting capacity is why Hudbay intends to ship Rosemont’s copper concentrate by train or truck to Mexico, where it will likely then be exported to overseas smelters, most likely China.

America doesn’t need Rosemont to achieve its renewable energy goals.

And Arizona doesn’t need another massive copper project that destroys the landscape while depleting and polluting scarce desert water supplies. The Santa Ritas are a superb sky-island mountain range; they deserve to be preserved and protected.

END QUOTE

Friday, April 9, 2021

All voters are equal, but some voters are more equal than others

The title of this post is adapted from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

In the April 7, 2021 edition of Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson exposes the Mudsill theory of elite rule.

Last night, commentator Kevin Williamson published a piece in National Review justifying voter suppression by suggesting that “the republic would be better served by having fewer—but better—voters.” Representatives, he says, “are people who act in other people’s interests,” which is different from doing what voters want.

Additional excerpts follow.

This is the same argument elite slaveholder James Henry Hammond made before the Senate in 1858, when he defended the idea that Congress should recognize the spread of human enslavement into Kansas despite the fact that the people living in that territory wanted to abolish slavery. …

The theory of government that lies behind the argument for limiting the vote to “better” voters was also articulated by Senator Hammond in his 1858 speech. He explained that the South had figured out the best government in the world. It had put a few wealthy, educated, well-connected men in power over everyone else: those he called “mudsills,” workers who produced the capital that supported society but had little direction or ambition and had to be controlled by their superiors. In the South, Hammond explained to his northern colleagues, the mudsills were Black, but in the North they were wage workers. …

In 1859, Abraham Lincoln rejected this vision of government by wealthy elites and replaced it with one of his own. Government worked best not when it protected the property and thus the power of a few wealthy elites, said this poor man’s son, but when it protected equality of access to resources and equality before the law for everyone. …

Throughout our history, adherents of these two different visions of what constitutes the best government for the U.S. have struggled. On the one hand are those who say that the country operates best when the government is controlled by a few wealthy, educated, well-connected, and usually white and male leaders. The argument goes that they are the only ones with the skills, the insight, and the experience to make good decisions about national policy, particularly economic policy. And it is important that wealth concentrate in their hands, since they will act as its stewards, using it wisely in lump sums, while if the workers who produce wealth get control of it they will fritter it away.

On the other hand are those like Lincoln, who believe that government should reflect the will of the majority, not simply on principle, but because a wide range of voices means the government has a better chance of getting things right than when only a few people rule.

In today’s world, Americans appear to be siding with the popular measures of the Democrats. A Morning Consult/Politico poll today says that 65% of Americans support higher corporate taxes to pay for infrastructure and that 82% want infrastructure in any case. To make matters worse for the Republicans, counties that voted for Biden provide 70% of the nation’s gross domestic product, the value of goods and services in the nation. The large corporations Republicans used to be able to count on for money and support are now eager to court these young, liberal producers.

So, to combat the nation’s drift toward popular government, it appears the current-day Republican Party has taken up the cause of elite rule.

Like Williamson, Arizona state representative John Kavanagh has mused that getting rid of voters might be good for the nation. He has said of voting that “[q]uantity is important, but we need to look at the quality of votes as well.”

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Coming soon to a Republican Party organization near you. MAGA's crazy coups.

Daily Beast Congressional Reporter Sam Brodey exposes ’A Whole Bunch of Crazy’: Inside the South Carolina GOP’s MAGA Coup. Local Tea Party leader Pressley Stutts said Trump’s instructions to the faithful were clear: “‘Go purge, get rid of the RINOs in the Republican Party.’ So we took him seriously.”

Following is the opening part of Brodey’s report.

When Lenna Smith arrived at her precinct’s annual Republican Party organizing meeting last month, she didn’t expect to be greeted by a dozen strangers.

Smith has been a fixture in GOP politics in Greenville, South Carolina, for 30 years. As a prominent anti-abortion activist, she has in her rolodex nearly everyone notable or influential in conservative circles in the state’s most populous county. She is on a first-name basis with past governors.

So, when Smith walked into a church function room for her precinct meeting on March 22 and saw people who’d never participated in local GOP politics, she was a little unnerved. As precinct president, it was Smith’s job to run the meeting, and she simply chalked up the new faces as “neighbors I’ve never met.”

But what happened next was totally out of her control. When it came time to elect the precinct’s president for the coming year, one of the newcomers nominated a fellow newcomer, but not a single person nominated Smith. Stunned, she had to nominate herself. “That was a little disheartening,” she said.

When it came time to vote, the outcome was a foregone conclusion: Smith had lost the president position she’d held for years. For the vote on the next most senior office, the same thing happened, and then the next, until there were no more offices left. Smith had been totally shut out.

“I came home, and told my husband, I was just booted out,” Smith told The Daily Beast. “Do these people see me as what I’m not?” she recalled wondering. “Did I offend them?”

What happened in Smith’s precinct was no one-off oddity; that night, longtime party activists were similarly ejected from their positions at meetings across Greenville County after hundreds of new faces showed up, seemingly out of the woodwork. The GOP loyalists did not know them, but the newcomers seemed to know the process, and they took advantage of it to jettison longtime officials.

Smith, and others, seemed to offend simply by having a whiff of experience in local politics, a black mark that was linked to the worst possible offense to the GOP base: not doing enough to support Donald Trump in the wake of the 2020 election.

Since Trump’s defeat and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the MAGA faithful around the country have been restless. State-level activists have led the charge nationally in loudly criticizing and plotting against any Republican perceived to be an enemy of the Trump movement, from members of Congress who voted to impeach the ex-president to local officials seen as being weak or soft when it counted.

The phenomenon is not unique to this pocket of South Carolina, but the fight unspooling here is a powerful microcosm of the dynamics in a national tug-of-war over the direction of the Republican Party after Trump’s presidency.

“A behind-the-scenes battle is happening,” said a Republican operative in the state, “between establishment forces, such as they are in the current GOP, and the far-right, QAnon-believing Trump supporters who want to take over this county party.”

“It’s frustrating to think the party may be turned over to people who have different goals from what we’ve had for years. Their goal is to replace us all. They may succeed. ”Suzette Jordan, longtime South Carolina GOP activist

See Brodey’s report for more, many more, instances of GOP warfare that seems certain to result in MAGA victories.