Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: California recall wrap up and lots of FP

Gustavo Arellano of The Los Angeles Times says that the California GOP effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom was doomed from the start.

Nearly every big move that the state GOP has done to wrest power from Democrats — term limits, bigoted propositions, selling its soul to Trump — has spectacularly blown up in their face. Back in April, I wrote: “I’ll wager a roll of pesos that the ultimate loser will, again, be the Republican Party. The house — in this case, history — is on my side.”

The attempted Newsom coup was the worst laugher yet — because it had the best chance of the many Hail Marys that California conservatives have thrown to actually work.

The placement of the recall question on the ballot this summer was an upset in and of itself and galvanized not just conservatives but also middle-of-the-road voters and even Democrats who didn’t agree with Newsom’s COVID-19 strategy of mandated shutdowns and maskless dinners at fancy restaurants. There was enough discontent in California’s air mixed in with wildfire smoke early this summer that it looked like the recall had a fighting chance.

Charles Blow of The New York Times reports that the trend of Black and Hispanic men being somewhat more supportive of the GOP continued Tuesday night in California.

In CNN’s exit poll, nearly half of the Hispanic men surveyed and nearly a quarter of the Black men voted to support the recall. The largest difference between men and women of any racial group was between Black men and Black women.

Even if these numbers are later adjusted, the warning must still be registered.

For many of these men, saying Republicans are racist or attract racists or abide racists isn’t enough.

For one thing, never underestimate the communion among men, regardless of race. Men have privileges in society, and some are drawn to policies that elevate their privileges.

For instance, many Black and Hispanic men oppose abortion.

Some men liked the bravado of Donald Trump and chafed at the rise of the #MeToo movement. Some simply see trans women as men in dresses and want to carry guns wherever they want.

The question for Democrats is how do they lure some of these men back without catering to the patriarchy. From a position of principle, the party can’t really appeal to them; it must seek to change them.

Krutika Amin and Cynthia Cox of Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker estimates that “preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations” have cost the country billions of dollars.

Our analysis of HHS and CDC data indicates there were 32,000 preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations in June, 68,000 preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations in July, and another 187,000 preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults in the U.S. in August, for a total of 287,000 across the three months. We explain more on how we arrived at these numbers below.

If each of these preventable hospitalizations cost roughly $20,000, on average, that would mean these largely avoidable hospitalizations have already cost billions of dollars since the beginning of June.

Based on our estimates, described below, we find preventable COVID-19 hospitalizations cost $5.7 billion from June to August in 2021.

We used counts of adult hospitalizations with confirmed COVID-19 in recent months reported to HHS to estimate preventable hospitalization costs for unvaccinated adults. We focus on hospitalizations of adults (ages 18+) with COVID-19 because many children are still ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and even those minors who are eligible may need parental consent to get the vaccine. We made assumptions that result in a conservative estimate of costs attributable to preventable, unvaccinated hospitalizations.

Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell of STATnews report that the FDA continues to be cautious in recommending widespread use of COVID-19 booster shots.

In the documents, the FDA’s own scientists seemed to strike a cautious position about the need for widespread booster shots. Overall, they said, “data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States.”

Other data released Wednesday, both in briefing documents for the Friday panel and by other researchers, add to the swirling debate over a question that will affect millions of people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 around the world: If the effectiveness of the vaccine wanes, do people need to top it off with an additional dose? If so, when should that happen given that much of the world has not received a first dose of vaccine yet? And should that decision vary by age and by whether people have other health conditions that could make Covid worse if they do become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus?

On one side are drug companies and some researchers, who point to data showing the efficacy of the vaccines to protect all infections is waning and that a third shot will provide additional protection. On the other are those who point out that these vaccines are still keeping people out of the hospital and preventing them from dying, indicating that a booster is not needed yet.

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post reports on the 2021 version of the Republican Party’s debt limit games.

If the debt limit is not suspended or raised, the United States will default, with horrible consequences, and Republicans are threatening to vote no.

McConnell spelled out his position in new detail in an interview with Punchbowl News. He says Democrats must suspend or raise the debt limit as part of their multi-trillion-dollar reconciliation bill, where they can do so by simple majority, without any Republicans.

If they do not, McConnell says, no Republicans will support suspending it or raising it as part of some other process, say, via a “clean” debt limit bill, or as part of a continuing resolution funding the government at the end of September (which would require 60 votes to overcome a GOP filibuster).

This is being widely portrayed as creating a dilemma for Democrats. And that’s true, if only in the sense that epic Republican bad faith is creating a dilemma for the more responsible party.

Lindsey McPherson of Roll Call reports on Senate “tweaks”  to the House reconciliation package.

The Senate Finance Committee wants to directly tie energy tax credits for business to a reduction in their carbon output, to ensure millionaires and billionaires cannot pass on stocks and other assets to heirs without having to pay taxes and to increase financial reporting for tax compliance. Those are goals panel Democrats say the House Ways and Means Committee legislation does not meet.

The Finance panel, which also has jurisdiction over health care entitlements, also wants to accelerate the expansion of Medicare benefits, potentially through vouchers, compared to the House version of the bill that does not begin new dental benefits until 2028.

Other Senate panels are eying different ways to structure spending on child care, a Civilian Climate Corps and workforce development programs, among other differences.

The House is much further along in the process, with all 13 committees that received reconciliation instructions under the fiscal 2022 budget resolution scheduled to conclude their individual markups Wednesday. Those pieces will be transmitted to the Budget Committee to package together, likely next week. The package is then sent to the Rules Committee, where significant changes are likely to be made before the legislation goes to the House floor.

Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker profiles one of the originators of critical race theory, Derrick Bell.

Bell spent the second half of his career as an academic and, over time, he came to recognize that other decisions in landmark civil-rights cases were of limited practical impact. He drew an unsettling conclusion: racism is so deeply rooted in the makeup of American society that it has been able to reassert itself after each successive wave of reform aimed at eliminating it. Racism, he began to argue, is permanent. His ideas proved foundational to a body of thought that, in the nineteen-eighties, came to be known as critical race theory. After more than a quarter of a century, there is an extensive academic field of literature cataloguing C.R.T.’s insights into the contradictions of antidiscrimination law and the complexities of legal advocacy for social justice.

For the past several months, however, conservatives have been waging war on a wide-ranging set of claims that they wrongly ascribe to critical race theory, while barely mentioning the body of scholarship behind it or even Bell’s name. As Christopher F. Rufo, an activist who launched the recent crusade, said on Twitter, the goal from the start was to distort the idea into an absurdist touchstone. “We have successfully frozen their brand—‘critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category,” he wrote. Accordingly, C.R.T. has been defined as Black-supremacist racism, false history, and the terrible apotheosis of wokeness. Patricia Williams, one of the key scholars of the C.R.T. canon, refers to the ongoing mischaracterization as “definitional theft.”

Julian Borger and Dan Sabbagh of The Guardian report on a new defense alliance including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The initiative, called Aukus, was announced jointly by US president Joe Biden and prime ministers Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison, joined virtually by videoconference. They presented it as the next critical step in an old alliance.

Morrison said teams from the three countries would draw up a joint plan over the coming 18 months for assembling the new Australian nuclear-powered submarine fleet, which will be built in Adelaide. The project will make Australia only the seventh country in the world to have submarines propelled by nuclear reactors.

“This will include an intense examination of what we need to do to exercise our nuclear stewardship responsibilities here in Australia,” the Australian prime minister said, referring to the international treaty obligations on handling nuclear fuel. Morrison added: “But let me be clear. Australia is not seeking to acquire nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability.”

None of the three leaders mentioned China, but there was no doubt that the initiative was a response to China’s expansionist drive in the South China Sea and increasing belligerence towards Taiwan.

Neri Zilber of Foreign Policy reports that Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz says that Israel might accept a U.S.-Iran deal on Iran scaling back its nuclear program.

Gantz, asked about efforts by the Biden administration to get back to an agreement with Iran, said: “The current U.S. approach of putting the Iran nuclear program back in a box, I’d accept that.” […]

Gantz estimated that Iran was two to three months away from having the materials and capabilities to produce one nuclear bomb. Iran has steadily ramped up its nuclear work since the United States withdrew from the deal, despite a so-called maximum pressure campaign advanced by Trump and Netanyahu that included sanctions and sabotage efforts.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett criticized Netanyahu on that very issue Tuesday, telling Israel’s Channel 12 News: “Israel inherited a situation in which Iran is at the most advanced point ever in its race to the bomb. … The gap between [Netanyahu’s] rhetoric and speeches and actions is very big.”

Gantz was skeptical about the chances of diplomacy successfully reversing Iran’s progress. He outlined what Israel would view as a “viable” back-up plan: political, diplomatic, and economic pressure imposed on Tehran by the United States, Europe, Russia, and—crucially—China.

Lili Bayer of POLITICO Europe reports the EU will issue new safety regulations to combat increasing media violence in Europe.

Violent attacks, a series of murders, online threats and verbal abuse are putting media professionals under pressure across much of the Continent.

Just over the past two months, anti-vaccination demonstrators broke into the studios of Slovenia’s public broadcaster RTV. A video journalist for Italy’s La Repubblica was punched in the face during a protest against coronavirus restrictions. A Dutch journalist woke up to Molotov cocktails being thrown into his home. Demonstrators threw firecrackers and torched cars at a Cypriot television station. […]

It’s a problem that cuts to the core of the EU — an institution built on pledges to defend democratic principles, including media freedom. Any failure to live up to these pledges risks eroding trust in an institution that is already struggling to prevent democratic backsliding among several of its own members.

This week, the European Commission will issue new media safety recommendations for EU countries. The goal: improve legal services and government protections for journalists facing violence. A valuable potential byproduct: help preserve the bloc’s principles.

Ted Regencia of AlJazeera reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has officially opened a probe into official crimes against humanity taking place in the Philippines’ “war on drugs.”

The court said that its judges considered the evidence presented on behalf of at least 204 victims, and what they found suggested that a “widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population took place pursuant to or in furtherance of a state policy”.

The ICC also noted that they have reviewed supporting materials that indicate that Philippine authorities “failed to take meaningful steps to investigate or prosecute the killings.” It also noted that that perpetrators of the killings were even offered “cash payments, promotions or awards for killings in the so-called ‘war on drugs’ campaign.”

Former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda filed the request to investigate just before her retirement in June, alleging that “state actors, primarily members of the Philippine security forces, killed thousands of suspected drug users and other civilians during official law enforcement operations.”

Bensouda’s successor, Prosecutor Karim Khan, will now oversee the actual probe and possible trial of the case.

Jérôme Doyon reports for Le Monde diplomatique on the professionalization of the Chinese Communist Party.

The CCP, which continues to grow and now has some 95 million members (around 6.5% of the population), has gradually transformed itself into a ‘white-collar’ organisation. In the early 2000s, then President Jiang Zemin lifted the ban on recruiting entrepreneurs from the private sector, previously been seen as class enemies, so that the CCP would no longer represent only the ‘revolutionary’ classes — workers, peasants and the military — but also the country’s ‘advanced productive forces’.

The selected businessmen and women become members of the political elite, ensuring that their businesses are at least partially protected from predatory officials. Their enrolment into the CCP has accelerated under President Xi Jinping (from 2013 onwards), with the aim of forming ‘a group of individuals from the business world who are determined to march with the Party’ (2).

As a result, the CCP has rapidly become more and more elitist. In 2010 ‘professionals and managers’ with higher education qualifications already equalled peasants and workers in number. Ten years later, they have overtaken them, making up 50% of the membership, compared to less than 35% of workers and peasants (3).

Sounds like a case for CNN’s Kasie Hunt.

Finally today, The Angry Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer on the significance of Philadelphia’s/SE Pennsylvania’s SEPTA transportation system changing the fonts on all of its signage.
Fonts are like subversive punctuation. They have a profound, largely unnoticed effect on how you read. Before any word hits your eye, a designer — whose work is so intertwined with grammarians’, we ought to form a club — has decided what it should look like in order to make you, the reader, do the least amount of work. Because you’re lazy.

Take this column. If you’re reading it in print, you’re reading a serif font. Serifs are tiny extensions of letters — hands and feet that help a character stand up, making it appear sturdier, stronger. Times New Roman is the most well-known serif font, and serifs — like punctuation marks — deliberately slow down the reader, making your eye linger on each word imperceptibly longer. If you’re reading the print Inquirer, you’re probably taking your reading a little slower.

If you’re reading it online, unless you’ve deliberately instructed your browser otherwise, you’re reading a sans serif (“without serifs”) font. Online readers are scrollers who spend less time. As you scroll, a serif would create a drag on each letter, muddying your screen and making your eyes work harder. Sans serif fonts are designed to impact you less: They literally use less ink, so each character is in and out of your life faster.

Everyone have a great day!

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