Quick hits (part I)

1) How your balance and mobility after 50 can predict your life expectancy.  I had never heard of the sitting-rising test before.  It’s hard! But, I just managed to get maximum points. 

“The idea here was just to come up with a really simple test that might be an indication of a person’s ability to balance,” said Dr. Jonathan Myers, a professor at Stanford University, researcher at the Palo Alto VA Health Care System and an author of the balance study. He said the inability to perform this task was powerfully predictive of mortality. In the study, one in five people could not manage it.

“With age, strength and balance tend to decrease and that can result in frailty. Frailty is a really big thing now that the population is aging,” Dr. Myers said.

Balance problems can be caused by a variety of factors, many of them age-related, said Dr. Lewis Lipsitz, a professor of medicine at Harvard University and the director of the Marcus Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife.

When your vision is affected by cataracts, or the nerve signals from your feet to your brain slow down, this makes it more difficult to balance. While it’s impossible to prevent all types of age-related decline, you can counteract the impact on your balance through specialized training and building strength.

“There’s a downward spiral of the people who don’t go out, who don’t walk, who don’t exercise, who don’t do balance training, and they become weaker and weaker. And muscle weakness is another important risk factor for falls,” he said.

Researchers have previously connected balance and strength with mortality, finding that the ability to rise from the floor to a standing position, balance on one leg for 30 seconds with one eye closed and even walk at a brisk pace are all tied to longevity.

2) Okay, my energy policy expert friend says this take is a little unfair to the left, but, I think there’s some really good points in here, “Why Internet Leftists Are So Pissed About Democrats’ Historic Climate Bill: The legislation is a win for the planet—and a loss for an entire philosophy of fighting climate change.”

In the end, there are essentially four main ways that a country can cut back on greenhouse gas emissions:

• It can put a price on carbon, using schemes like a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system.

• It can simply force businesses and utilities to emit less via regulations.

• It can try a supply-side approach by shutting down the development of new fossil fuels, in order to increase their costs.

• Or, it can just throw money at the problem by subsidizing cheap renewables so that they take over the market.

Climate groups have tended to advocate for some mix of all these approaches. But the most hardcore corners of the movement are deeply attached to supply-side solutions; they’ve spent years on efforts to keep fossil fuels buried and stop the construction of new oil and gas infrastructure, such as the lengthly battles against the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines as well as efforts to limit fracking.  In the process, “keep it in the ground” has become an international rallying cry…

Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity have warned that these lease sales will effectively lock in oil production on federal land for years to come. Analysts have concluded that offering additional leases is unlikely to make a major difference in U.S. oil drilling, most of which happens on privately owned land, and is easily a worthwhile price to pay for the rest of the bill, which would amount to the biggest climate investment in American history. Multiple forecasts have concluded the legislation could roughly double the speed at which the U.S. is reducing its carbon emissions, bringing us reasonably close to the commitments the government made under the Paris climate accords. According to a preliminary study by the think tank Energy Innovation, for each ton of emissions added by its oil and gas provisions, the rest of the bill cuts 24.

For the most part, the bill achieves those reductions by subsidizing clean energy and transport—or, as I put before, throwing money at the problem. This, in the end, has turned out to be the core of Manchin’s approach to fighting climate change; rather than make fossil fuels more expensive, his philosophy has been to make zero-carbon power much, much cheaper, while allowing oil and gas to flow…

In some ways, this is as much a rebuke to Washington’s technocratic class as it is to climate activists; the biggest names in economics, for instance, have in recent years all rallied around carbon taxes as the most cost-effective and efficient ways to combat climate change, even as they’ve fallen out of public favor. It also has some obvious downsides of its own; subsidizing solar and wind costs money, whereas something like a carbon tax and dividend scheme—where revenue raised by the levy is sent back to taxpayers—is basically free.

But what Manchinism has going for it, perhaps above all else, is political palatability. The Inflation Reduction Act hasn’t aroused much opposition from industry, because it offers mostly carrots and few sticks. (Exxon’s CEO is perfectly happy with the legislation, as are most power companies.) And it’s been difficult for Republicans to attack, because the legislation doesn’t ask voters to make sacrifices. Instead, it does things like lower electricity costs by pouring money into renewables, giving Democrats a kitchen-table win to brag about at a moment of high inflation. For better or worse, it’s a lot easier to sell that sort of climate bill than it is to convince people that they should pay more to fill up their SUV.

3) I think I was bitten by a copperhead last year, but it was just a very mild bite reaction.  A snake expert friend/student, says that’s the best explanation and that many copperhead bites actually are pretty mild.  I’ve been trying to get some confirmation on this and finally have in the N&O:

Half of copperhead bites are dry or really mild. About 46% of the bites Poison Control was involved in treating received antivenom, Beuhler said, though the absolute treatment rate is unknown.

“You can get a tetanus shot from your pharmacy and clean the wound yourself — why take a trip to the ER and pay ER bills if you don’t have to? Let us help you make that decision and save you a potentially really expensive few hours,” he said.

Some disagreement on who/when to get antivenom.  There’s be more disagreement if it wasn’t insanely expensive:

Antivenom at WakeMed costs between $11,000 and $14,000 per vial, spokesperson Kristin Kelly said. For the typical initial dose of four to six vials, this costs at least $44,000.

UNC Health charges between $76,000 and $115,000 for the typical initial dose, The N&O previously reported. Duke Health declined to share current figures, but The N&O reported in 2020 that 12 vials cost $200,000.

4) And I really don’t quite understand why we still have to rely on horses making antibodies to actual snake venom to make this all happen.  I’m surprised our biotechnological abilities haven’t fully solved this by now. 

5) German Lopez with a good summary of the climate bill (aka IRA):

The bill’s climate provisions are mostly a collection of subsidies for energy that does not emit any carbon, like solar, wind and nuclear power. Without those subsidies, polluting fossil fuels are often still cheaper. The subsidies try to give cleaner energy an edge.

“I don’t mean this as an exaggeration: This really changes everything,” said Jesse Jenkins, a climate policy expert at Princeton University. “It is effectively going to shift the financial case away from dirty energy toward clean energy for everyone.”

For consumers, the subsidies will reduce the prices of electric vehicles, solar panels, heat pumps and other energy-efficient home improvements. You can claim the subsidies through tax filings; as a separate rebate if you don’t file taxes; or, in some cases, immediately when you make a purchase.

Let’s say you want to buy one of the cheaper, new electric vehicles on the market right now, priced around $40,000. To get the subsidy, you will first want to make sure the car qualifies; the bill requires, among other things, that the vehicles are assembled in North America. (Ask the car dealer or manufacturer to find out.) Then, make sure that you qualify; individual tax filers cannot make more than $150,000 a year, for example. And, given high demand, you might have to order a car well in advance.

If you meet the requirements, you can claim up to $7,500 in tax credits — effectively bringing the price of a $40,000 vehicle to $32,500.

That is the tax credit for new cars. For used cars, there will be a smaller tax credit of up to $4,000. The goal of both credits is to even the playing field: Cars that burn fossil fuels are still generally cheaper than electric vehicles. With the credits, electric cars will be much closer in price to, if not cheaper than, similar nonelectric vehicles.

For home improvements, the process will be different, but the basic idea is similar. For a typical $20,000 rooftop solar installation, tax credits will cut the price by up to $6,000. There are also subsidies for heat pumps, electric stoves and other energy-efficiency projects. The hope is to make all these changes much more affordable for everyday Americans, leading to less reliance on fossil fuels and expanding the market for cleaner energy…

The bill does include a compromise: It requires more leasing of federal lands and waters for oil and gas projects. Senator Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, demanded this provision.

But experts say that it will have only a modest impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the bill will subtract at least 24 tons of carbon emissions for each ton of emissions that the oil and gas provision adds, according to Energy Innovation, a think tank.

“It’s a trade-off,” my colleague Coral Davenport, who covers energy and environmental policy, told me. “But in terms of emissions impact, it’s a good deal.”

The bottom line

The bill will make cleaner energy and electric vehicles much cheaper for many Americans. Over time, it will also likely make them more affordable for the rest of the world, as more competition and innovation in the U.S. lead to cheaper, better products that can be shipped worldwide.

And it will move America close to President Biden’s goal of cutting greenhouse emissions to half their peak by 2030, according to three independent analyses.

Modeling for the new climate bill is based on draft legislation from July 27, 2022. | Source: REPEAT Project, E.P.A. | By Nadja Popovich

The bill is also a sign that the U.S. is starting to take climate change seriously. That will give American diplomats more credibility as they ask other countries, such as China and India, to do the same.

Still, many scientists believe the U.S. will eventually need to do more to prevent severe damage from climate change. “This bill is really only the beginning,” said Leah Stokes, a climate policy expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

 

6) Two of my kids are unhealthily obsessed with the idea of “favorite children” in our family.  I did enjoy this Caroline Hax discussion of the issue:

Dear Carolyn: I have three kids. I love them all.

But one of them is my delight. I don’t admit this to anyone, not even my husband. I try so hard not to favor her in any way. There are big age gaps between all three kids, so it’s reasonably easy to hide. Plus, I’m seriously motivated.
In all my courtside, backstage, poolside, deck-chair conversations with other moms, no one EVER talks about this, no matter how many margaritas have been swirled. Is this the dirty little secret of parenting? Or are most people really fair in their affections?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: I’m choosing against any answer that requires purity of “most people.”

I do think it’s common to feel and highly uncommon to express. Not because I have insight into a statistically significant sampling of parents, or specific firsthand knowledge (of course!), but because it makes too much sense.

Take the feelings people do express freely: We prefer one parent to another, one sibling to others, one grandparent, aunt, colleague, neighbor, dog, barista, TV character to others. Are you friends with a couple? Then you like one half better. The Earth is round, the sky is blue and some people fit better than others.

Follow the logic, and having equal feelings for multiple children would be the affront to nature, yet the reverse seems to earn that distinction.

It’s obvious why: Children are different. There are many reasons, but it’s mainly because there’s no greater power than a parent’s over a child. A good parent knows this, knows the weight of it, and wants to use it to uplift, not to crush. And how better to crush Sammie than to reveal her own mommy likes Pammie better?

So, you summon the same enthusiasm for their different strengths. Your kids will figure it out regardless, but it will matter that they never heard it from you.

7) The Greensboro News & Record used to be a really good paper.  Like most local papers… not so much any more.  The story of it’s decline and how the loss of local news is just so bad for democracy. 

8) A painted bunting hanging out in Raleigh.  Would’ve been so cool to see.

Birders converge on Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh to photograph a rare painted bunting in Raleigh, NC. BOB KARP ZUMA Press

9) Really cool NYT interactive feature on why restaurant meal prices have gone up so much.  You really should check this out– gift link

10) I’m not going to be watching Yellowstone anytime soon, but I did enjoy this discussion of tv shows and political views:

Paramount Network’s “Yellowstone”is a prime example. While liberal audiences mostly ignore it, this soapy conservative prestige television juggernaut is gobbling up audience share. An informal survey of my own filter bubble bears witness. When I asked my roughly 220,000 Twitter followers for television and movie recommendations, many offered up the usual award-winning and buzzy fare. Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy,” Amazon Prime’s “The Boys,” Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” and HBO’s “Hacks” were givens. Critical darlings “Stranger Things,” “The Bear” and “Only Murders in the Building” rounded out the list. I saw only one person suggest “Yellowstone,”and only in a private message. I dare say my bubble leans coastal elite.

These asymmetrical responses match findings from a working paper by two sociologists, Clayton Childress at the University of Toronto and Craig Rawlings at Duke University. The paper is titled “When Tastes Are Ideological: The Asymmetric Foundations of Cultural Polarization.” It is part of the subfield of sociology that studies how culture reflects and reproduces inequality. Childress and Rawlings draw out several asymmetries in how liberals and conservatives consume cultural objects like music and television…

“People on the left like more pop culture than people on the right,’’ Childress said. “And people on the left don’t dislike what people on the right dislike.” Liberals watch, read and listen to more stuff than conservatives do. They also do not necessarily reject a cultural object because conservatives like it. That is not because liberal audiences are more accepting. Anyone who has ever argued with a Grateful Dead or Phish fan can tell you otherwise.

But when it comes to identity and tastes, Childress said it is a “mark of social status for liberals to be culturally omnivorous.” In contrast, conservative audiences do not consider reading, watching or listening around a mark of status or identity. And they are more likely to dislike what liberals like than liberals are to dislike what conservatives like.

11) Speaking of which, BB says I really should be watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”  Three episodes in and… it’s pretty good, but I don’t love it.  I’ll watch more though.  That said, if you’ve got Amazon Prime, I thought the new Ron Howard movie about the Thai boys soccer team trapped in a flooded cave was terrific.  Really loved it. 

12) Interesting take from Yglesias on Trump and Republicans’ candidate quality problem:

Donald Trump is the GOP’s biggest candidate quality problem

That’s a dismal performance considering that it’s a midterm with an unpopular incumbent Democratic Party president. And that dismal polling reflects the fact that Republicans have fielded a ton of individual candidates who are underperforming expectations. Some of those underperforming candidates, like JD Vance in Ohio, are clearly favored to win anyway. But others, like Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, stand a real chance of blowing clearly winnable races. And there are two common threads among the currently underperforming GOP Senate candidates:

  • The party nominated an “unconventional” candidate rather than a sitting House member or down-ballot state officeholder.

  • Donald Trump personally intervened to help the candidate win.

In most of these cases, there is no Meijer-like martyr figure. Nobody is totally sure why Trump favored Oz in the Pennsylvania race, but it wasn’t because there were no anti-impeachment, pro-insurrection Pennsylvania Republican politicians available. Trump just decided he wanted to support a Turkish dual citizen who lives in New Jersey.

Normally you expect party leaders to prioritize electability over ideological considerations. And to the extent that they do prioritize ideological considerations, you expect there to be some kind of logic to their actions.

But Oz doesn’t have any unusual policy views at all, as far as I can tell. He’s running as a standard-issue conservative Republican who just happens to live in New Jersey and lacks political experience. He’s a veteran, which is a good resume item for a non-politician, but he’s a veteran of the Turkish military — normally American political parties try to nominate people who served in the American military. It’s just a weird blunder of a choice. I’d say Trump is looking for sycophants and personal loyalists, but Vance once argued that Trump is like heroin, poisoning the communities he claims to represent. I thought it was an insightful article, but again, an odd choice when there are plenty of banal Republican politicians kicking around Ohio.

I’m inclined to believe that a lot of people in D.C. underestimate Trump’s smarts and that there’s some kind of angle he’s working that I just don’t quite see. But whatever the angle is, it’s not the best interests of the Republican party as conventionally defined. And that, much more than anything Democrats are doing, is the proximate problem facing the GOP.

13) This is good, too, from Yglesias, “What do Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis think about federal abortion policy?”

Abortion is a quintessential culture war issue. It’s not totally without technical nuance, but broadly speaking, some people want to ban abortion in all cases with no exceptions. Some favor narrow exceptions for rape or to save the life of the mother. Others favor a broader health exemption to allow for therapeutic abortion. Most voters seem to favor legal abortion for the first trimester (when the vast majority of abortions take place) and pretty strict restrictions after that. This is the kind of thing that’s relatively easy to discuss in plain language and doesn’t require a lot of math or technical models.

So it’s really weird that I have absolutely no idea what either Trump or DeSantis thinks about federal abortion policy.

The dog that caught the car

 

To some extent, this reflects the fact that the Republican Party had a bit of a “dog that caught the car” moment once the Dobbs opinion was handed down.

I don’t really follow the logic of anti-abortion theology, but one of its core tenets is that a fertilized embryo has rights that override any considerations of social consequences and of a pregnant woman’s bodily autonomy.1 This means that sentimental ideas like “you shouldn’t have to carry your rapist’s child to term” or “you shouldn’t have to continue a pregnancy that carries major risks to your health” are out. This is a view that very few Americans — but all of the intellectual leaders of the anti-abortion movement — adhere to…

Most conservatives I know think that it’s dirty pool for liberals to run around talking about rape victims because, in practice, rape victims constitute a very small share of abortions. By the same token, it would be trivially easy for Republicans to address that concern by allowing the exception. They don’t because the leading lights of the anti-abortion movement believe this is an important matter of principle.

But most Republicans also don’t want to lose elections by coming out and saying that they adhere to the FRC/USCCB position on this. Yes, every once in a while a state legislator will pop off about how pregnant women should be forced to carry non-viable fetuses to term. But in general, that’s considered amateur hour stuff, and savvy politicians don’t do it. They just also don’t come out and say, “okay, here are some situations in which I think abortion should be legal.”…

But that’s why it’s a little curious to me that very prominent and frequently discussed people like Trump and DeSantis haven’t been asked to clarify their views on federal abortion policy.

Now that Dobbs is the law of the land, what should the United States Congress do about abortion?

To an extent, I’m annoyed that none of the journalists who cover these guys have bothered to ask some pretty basic questions.

But more broadly, I think our ignorance on this point highlights an important asymmetry between the party conditions. I just don’t think you could run for president as a Democrat without articulating a public position on any issues that have dedicated advocacy groups. Planned Parenthood and NARAL ask candidates for office to publicly support the Women’s Health Protection Act, and they’d be very mad at someone who didn’t. And that’s not unique to abortion. Across a whole range of issues, advocacy groups have policy asks, and on the Democratic side, those asks tend to take the form of demands for public pledges of fealty.

Republicans are not generally like this.

I think it was understood during the 2020 primary that any Republican Party president would ease regulation of air and water pollution relative to the Obama administration’s policies. But industry groups never asked the candidates to publicly outline a specific agenda for increasing pollution. And the candidates didn’t get on stage at the debates and try to one-up each other with different specific agendas for allowing more air pollution. Marco Rubio said Trump had a small penis, and Trump dunked on Jeb Bush’s brother, but the test of one’s true commitment to conservatism was never a willingness to explicitly swear allegiance to unpopular and politically unrealistic activist demands.

The progressive side does things very differently, and we spent a lot of the 2020 primary engaging in a pointless debate over which candidates would and wouldn’t enact a ban on private health insurance.

It’s to the right’s credit that they don’t go that far overboard on this kind of thing. But the opposite extreme — no debate at all over the anti-abortion party’s abortion policy goals and platforms — is very odd. And I’m not sure how tenable it is.

14) Hard agree with this, “The F.D.A.’s Misguided War on Vaping: The government is putting stricter restrictions on vaping than on smoking. That’s bad for public health.”

People smoke primarily to experience the effects of nicotine—for stimulation and pleasure; to reduce stress and anxiety; and to improve concentration, reaction time, and cognitive performance. For some people, these effects improve their quality of life. But on the dark side, nicotine use can lead to dependence.

Crucially, however, it is smoke, not nicotine, that causes the overwhelming burden of disease and death.Inhaling the toxic particles and gases from the burning tip of a cigarette exposes the body to thousands of chemicals, of which hundreds are known to be hazardous. The result is widespread death and disease, with cigarettes killing 480,000 Americans annually and leaving around 16 million suffering from a smoking-induced disease. Without the harmful effects of smoking, nicotine use starts to look more like moderate alcohol consumption—a modest substance use that fits within the normal risk appetites of modern society.

With vaping, we have a solution to two related problems. First, millions of American smokers have the option of switching from smoking to vaping, greatly improving their health prospects. Second, people in the future who want to use nicotine will be able to do so with considerably reduced consequences.

In a liberal society, we should not prohibit or aim to eliminate drug use or pretend that it can be risk-free, but we should try to limit the risks to the extent possible. Vaping is the best opportunity we have to do that for nicotine.

15) Yes, I do think it is insane for a social science organization to require a DEI statement for you to get on their conference program.  This is bad. “Mandatory Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statements at SPSP”

A series of Orwellian emails recently appeared in my inbox. It all started sensibly enough. Much to my surprise, Jonathan Haidt, founder of Heterodox Academy and staunch defender of the type of liberal science advocated by JS Mill, Robert K. Merton, and Jonathan Rauch,1 had emailed a letter to Laura King, President of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP is a high-profile professional society for this group) protesting SPSP’s mandate that its members produce DEI statements if they wish to present at its prestigious and influential annual conference.2

No longer would acceptance of proposals be based exclusively on evaluations of scientific merit. Everyone had to state how their work advanced Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); and this would be included in evaluations of which proposals SPSP would accept for presentation.

16) Similarly, Jeffrey Sachs and FIRE on misguided DEI ideological litmus tests at U of Oregon.

17) Investing in the IRS is another great feature of the IRA:

f the $80 billion total allotment to the tax agency, $45.6 billion will go to enforcement, marking a projected return-on-investment of $4.50 in revenue for every dollar spent on enforcement.

Experts say that figure — which is much lower than what the IRS typically brings in — has two potential explanations.

The first is that it could simply be a conservative estimate; with resources to hire hundreds, if not thousands, of employees, the agency could significantly exceed its revenue projections by both pursuing more tax cheats and by improving taxpayer services to make it easier for Americans to voluntarily comply with the tax code.

“If you are able to bring on a cadre of people who are really thinking forward … if they’re able to bring on the technology that allows them to bring on some of the data that they already have, that would have a compliance effect and help them going forward,” said Nina Olson, who served as national taxpayer advocate, the IRS’s internal consumer rights watchdog, from 2001 to 2019. “That would help, and I hope that’s what they’re planning to do.”

18) And a helluva photo essay on how incredibly outdated the IRS is as Republicans have quite intentionally starved their budget.  Apparently, law and order is good except for 1) Donald Trump and 2) rich people who want to cheat on their taxes.  Check it out— gift link

19) Jane Mayer, (Republican) “State Legislatures are Torching Democracy”

20) A (rare) conservative with some integrity on Trump: “Do We Believe Our Own Dogma?”

The FBI’s serving a search warrant on Donald Trump’s residence is not — in spite of everything being said about it — unprecedented. The FBI serves search warrants on homes all the time. Donald Trump is a former president, not a mystical sacrosanct being.

If we really believe, as we say we believe, that this is a republic, that nobody is above the law, that the presidency is just a temporary executive-branch office rather than a quasi-royal entitlement, then there is nothing all that remarkable about the FBI serving a warrant on a house in Florida. I myself do not find it especially difficult to believe that there exists reasonable cause for such a warrant. And if the feds have got it wrong, that wouldn’t be the first time. Those so-called conservatives who are publicly fantasizing about an FBI purge under the next Republican administration are engaged in a particularly stupid form of irresponsibility.

There are no fewer than five different congressional committees with FBI oversight powers. I’m not especially inclined to take federal agencies and their officers at their word in almost any circumstance, and so active and vigorous oversight seems to me appropriate here, as in most other cases. But if it turns out, in the least surprising political development of the decade, that Donald Trump is a criminal, then he should be treated like any other criminal.

21) It’s also insane that Republicans should be upset because Cracker Barrell is simply offering plant-based sausage to patrons who may want to eat it:

The blowback was immediate and intense. Comments, hundreds and hundreds of them, were split along ideological, generational and political lines.

The more conservative takes:

“All the more reason to stop eating at Cracker Barrel. This is not what Cracker Barrel was to be all about,” one person wrote.

“I just lost respect for a once great Tennessee company,” another injected.

“If I wanted a salad … I would in fact order a salad … stop with the plant based ‘meat’ crap,” wrote a third.

“Oh Noes … the Cracker Barrel has gone WOKE!!! It really is the end times …,” another commented.

 

22) And Never-Trumper Mona Charen, “Republicans Are Rooting for Civil War”

Executing a valid search warrant, FBI agents arrived in the morning to search the office. The word “unprecedented” was on everyone’s lips. They seized business records, computers, and other documents related to possible crimes. An enraged Donald Trump denounced the FBI and the Justice Department, saying not that they had abided by the warrant issued by a federal judge, but rather that agents had “broken into” the office.

The year was 2018, and Trump was livid about the FBI’s investigation into his longtime attorney/fixer, Michael Cohen.

At the time, many observers, including me, assumed that the investigation would yield bushels of incriminating documents about Trump. Cohen was his personal lawyer, after all, the guy who wrote the hush-money checks to porn stars and presumably had access to many of Trump’s dodgy or downright illegal acts. It didn’t turn out that way. Yes, Cohen was prosecuted and pleaded guilty to eight counts of criminal tax evasion, campaign finance violations (that was the Stormy Daniels piece), and other frauds. But Trump himself? Nothing. He skated while his faithful minion became a guest of the Bureau of Prisons in Otisville, New York. It was soon thereafter that we learned from Cohen that Trump keeps few records, shuns emails, and speaks not in commands but in Mafia-esque insinuations. Trump doesn’t give direct orders, Cohen testified, he “speaks in code and I understand that code.”

So, there may be less than meets the eye in those crates the FBI carted off from Mar-a-Lago on Monday. Or it could be a motherlode of incrimination. We don’t know, we can only speculate. But what is not open to doubt is that the Republican party, which seemed to be flirting with post-Trumpism just a few weeks ago, has now come roaring back as an authoritarian cult. Trump has not changed. But he has changed Republicans….

Now, as a substantive matter, McCarthy’s tweet is meaningless. The House of Representatives, along with the Senate, already exercises oversight authority over the Justice Department. The Judiciary Committee asks the attorney general to testify regularly. That’s how the system works. And if McCarthy is truly concerned about “following the facts,” Merrick Garland has nothing to fear. But the importance of the tweet is not its substance but its tone—the call for vengeance. McCarthy displays zero interest in whether Trump actually committed a crime. The clear message is “You’ve gone after our leader so we’re coming for you.” The merits of Garland’s actions are irrelevant. The facts are irrelevant. It’s war.

For some in the wooly precincts of the MAGA right, the call to arms was literal. As Vice reported, some Trumpists were explicit: “‘Civil War 2.0 just kicked off,’ one user wrote on Twitter, with another adding, ‘One step closer to a kinetic civil war.’ Others said they were ready to take part: ‘I already bought my ammo.’” Steve Bannon, who was pardoned for bilking Trump supporters who thought they were building a wall, declared that “This is war” and called the FBI the “Gestapo.”

Trump is a sick soul who cannot imagine a world in which people act on principle or think about the welfare of others. While in power, Trump wanted to use the FBI to punish his political opponents (“Lock her up”) and reward his friends (“Go easy on Michael Flynn”). He projects his own corrupt motives onto others and assumes that the FBI investigation is nothing but a Democratic power grab. It would be pathetic if he had not dragged an entire political party into the fever swamps with him.

This experiment in self-government requires a minimum amount of social trust to succeed. With every tweet that spreads cynicism and lies, with every call to arms that welcomes civil conflict, Trumpist Republicans are poisoning the nation they so ostentatiously claim to love.

 

 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

4 Responses to Quick hits (part I)

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    #12 Could it be that Trump favored Dr. Oz because of their kinship in starring in a TV show and in Dr. Oz’s being an effective snake oil salesman?

  2. Pingback: August 2022 Coverage - Birnbach Communications

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