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Rep. Hinson Wins Stolen Infrastructure Valor Award! Prime Badge
Freshman Rep was against it before she was for it!

We have another ‘Stolen Infrastructure Valor’ All Star in the form of Rep. Ashley Hinson of Iowa. Hinson voted against the Bipartisan Biden Infrastructure Bill which passed late last year. In a press release from November 8th Hinson denounced the bill as a “socialist spending spree” and “Washington Gamesmanship, Spending at its Worst.” But she’s letting bygones be bygones. Or I guess she was just against it before she was for it. Because now Rep. Hinson seems to think it’s seriously awesome. And she’s bragging to constituents about almost a billion dollars she claims to have “secured” for upgrading locks and dams on the Upper Mississippi River.

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Filibuster or No Filibuster is Not a Binary Choice Prime Badge

We’re now watching the final parts moving into place as two Senate Democrats making a unmovable stand in favor of preserving the filibuster. You can see our live-blogging of the nitty gritty details here. I want to return to a more general point. Filibuster or no filibuster is not a binary choice. The current filibuster is the product of an incremental evolution over many decades. To the extent it matters, the framers of the constitution never envisaged anything like it. We know this because they included a few special cases where a super-majority would be required – for treaties, for removal from office, etc. If they thought it should be required for ordinary legislation they would have said so. But again, it’s not a binary choice.

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Oath Keepers
Trump Demands Supporters Cheat in 2022 and 2024 Elections Prime Badge

I was scanning through my email this morning when I found this article from Roll Call rounding up what was new in ex-President Trump’s rally Saturday in Arizona. The claims about white people being replaced or deprived of COVID medications in favor of Blacks or Hispanics have gotten more focused and intense, which isn’t terribly surprising based on what I told you back on the 5th; efforts to stop “amplifying” Trump have largely allowed him to further radicalize without any scrutiny. But I really got interested after I read way down into the piece and saw that Trump is now explicitly exhorting his supporters to cheat in elections to counter Democrats’ (of course non-existent) cheating.

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This is Must Read Prime Badge

I hope you’ll take a moment to read this amazing piece by Josh Kovensky. In short, the Oath Keepers – the group at the center of the insurrection whose leaders were just charged with seditious conspiracy – got the idea for storming the Capitol from a Serbian scientist living in Europe who said that Trumpers could use the model of the ouster of Slobodan Milosevic to overturn the election of Joe Biden. It came in the form of a viral video and the Oath Keepers went from there.

Certainly the Oath Keepers didn’t need a lot of encouragement to get violent on behalf of Trump. But the viral video encouraging Trumpers to drive Biden from power like Milosevic seemed to coalesce their thinking into a plan of action and gave them a historical antecedent that showed the good guys winning. The Serbian scientist, Aleksandar Savic, relocated to Texas not long after Joe Biden’s inauguration and Josh Kovensky tracked him down for a conversation. Read it here.

Make A Note of It Prime Badge

Make a note of this for future reference. Axios’s Sara Fischer notes that Al Jazeera seems to be sidelining or perhaps even shuttering “Rightly”. What’s that? It’s yet another right-leaning niche publication, launched in February of last year to “provide fresh voices that are too often left out of the mainstream media space.”

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Fast And Furious Prime Badge
The Omicron surge in New York City is closely following the chronology seen in South Africa.
COVID testing

New York City was one of the first parts of the United States hit by the Omicron variant. The trajectory of the city’s surge now appears remarkably similar to the pattern we saw earlier in South Africa and other countries.

Data out of South Africa showed a roughly four week interval between the start of the Omicron surge and its peak. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “It was a flash flood more than a wave.”

New York City numbers appear to match this pattern almost exactly.

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COVID Notes #9 (Special Antigen Test Edition) Prime Badge

So many people are getting COVID, trying to figure out whether they have COVID or trying to figure out how long to isolate whether they have COVID or suspect they might. So I wanted to share with you some examples of positive and negative antigen tests. There’s nothing surprising or groundbreaking about what I’m going to show you. But it can just help to see some examples if you’re trying to make sense of this stuff in your own home, workplace or family.

These are six tests from a COVID infection that was antigen positive for 9 days.

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A Telling Sign Prime Badge

Notwithstanding Sen. Sinema’s speechlet this afternoon I certainly hope they will still force a vote on the rules change itself. But another point occurs to me, one we’ve discussed before: there will never be another Democrat elected to the Senate who supports the current filibuster. This is obvious for a number of reasons. But I was reminded of it when I got a fundraising email from Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) who’s running for the open Ohio Senate seat. Like you, I get a million of these. Ryan’s just one. But here’s how the email starts …

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This Is Why You Call the Vote Prime Badge

Newsflash: perfidious silly person Kysten Sinema has now told a friendly reporter at Politico that she’s “weighing” or “considering” or some other chin-scratch-full but meaningless gerund that she may go to the floor of the Senate and give a speech denouncing any changes to Senate rules that will allow Democrats thin majority to do anything. This as President Biden goes to the Senate to press his case for a rule change that will allow democracy-protecting legislation to come to a vote.

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McCarthy Refuses to Testify About Trump’s Confession Prime Badge

Kevin McCarthy has now refused to appear voluntarily before the select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. What’s important about this is that McCarthy is likely one of the few people with direct knowledge of Trump’s efforts to assist the insurrectionists as they were ransacking the Capitol building. According to numerous published reports, the ultimate source of which is almost certainly McCarthy himself, Trump told McCarthy in real time that he was barring the US military from stopping the insurrection in order to give his violent supporters time to ransack the Capitol and bring the official vote tabulation to a halt.

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Readers on Schools #7 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader JS

I’m sure you get a lot of people emailing you who don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m sure I have written on topics I’m in the Dunning-Krueger zone on, and many where I seem that way. I’m a strange guy. Right now, I’m a high school teacher. I am also a lawyer. I now only practice law for family and as a guardsman for the military. I was also involved in politics, have been elected to office, and was on California’s Democratic Central Committee.

I made the change because teaching was the first job I had that I really liked. I avoided it because everyone in my family is or was also an educator. I also have degrees in stuff unrelated to what I teach now, which is Calculus and Spanish, another weird combo. I’ve done peer-reviewed, published research on language acquisition. Most of this comes up if you Google me.

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Readers on Schools #6 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader DT

I am also an educator, teaching at a R1 university as a research active professor. Last year at this time, I was one of a select group told that I was teaching in person whether I liked it or not (I didn’t) and managed to make it to the other end of that experience intact thanks to sparse attendance and an enormous room to teach in. I have very complicated feelings about that experience: it left me with a very big grudge against the admin, but I also realized that in-person education is truly best for the students. That being said, CN‘s letter struck a couple of nerves that I have to let loose on:

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Readers on Schools #5 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader TH

I have a take on this from a slightly different POV. My wife & I have 2 young children in daycare. A week ago, the older one was found to be exposed to COVID by his teacher, who took a regular and precautionary at-home test that night (she was/is asymptomatic). We live in PA (Philly burbs), and per the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), his whole classroom had to be shut down and everyone quarantined for 5 days. Yesterday (Sunday), I gave him a precautionary (he’s asymptomatic) home test which came back positive. We informed his daycare, who thanked us for the extra step, and reiterated new guidelines for return to daycare from OCDEL – specifically, he needs to have a negative test along with a signature from a Dr or CNP certifying it. We call his healthcare provider today to set up what will hopefully be a negative test later this week. Welp, they don’t do that (and this is the preeminent childrens’ healthcare provider in the region). They just say to quarantine for 10 days from symptoms or positive test. Why 10 days when OCDEL is 5 days? Reasons.

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Readers on Schools #4 Prime Badge

TPM Reader GE‘s emails started with a headline “pandemic of the working class” and then referenced a tweet that referenced the same argument …

I am a 69 year old physician who my hospital “aged” me out of in-patient care at beginning of pandemic. I still have frightening outpatient exposures, and I saw/see my younger colleagues recover after they get sick, despite vaccines.  I also have 4 children, 2 of whom are in-classroom teachers, and grandchildren attending in-person classes.   There is a huge element of unfairness in the workforce today, and I foresee a future bitterness that could explode.

I had a back and forth with GE over this to try to frame the point. What we’re describing here isn’t ‘working class’ precisely, a phrase usually defined in occupational and educational terms while also signifying a set of cultural values. After all, a physician is definitionally not ‘working class’. What we’re describing here is a stark divide between people who can relocate their work and in most cases work from home and those who – in the nature of the work – cannot. In that sense, physicians and really all health care workers, educators and various caregiving and mission-driven jobs fall on the ‘in person’ side of this divide – even though some are highly educated and highly paid. However you define it or what labels you use it is a stark divide in terms of how people have experienced the pandemic, what life or political lessons they’ve drawn from it and how those views impact the future.

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Readers on Schools #3 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader CN

I wanted to respond to your recent email from a reader LF, published in your editorial piece “Warzone Workplace.”

First, some background on myself – I taught third grade during the pandemic at a private school in the SF Bay Area. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, like public schools across the state, we immediately were mandated to stop meeting in-person. Unlike California’s public schools, however, our administration pursued an aggressive policy of returning to in-person teaching as soon as we were allowed to do so, and we were back meeting in person in September of 2020, six weeks into the new school year, for those who were comfortable with it, while those who were not attended an online program we also offered. I and the other instructors asked to teach in person did our best, and at the end of the 2020-2021 school year our campus was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School.

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Readers on Schools #2 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader EA

I’m sure you’re getting a lot of good responses. I think that mostly the problem here is Twitter and when you actually talk to most people you get a lot more nuance in the conversation on both sides.

Big Amen to your writer. I think he/she articulates a completely just and fair position. There’s nothing really to disagree with.

The “other side” of this debate is me – I am a parent of two young kids and I desperately need them to be in school. Even if I were to concede that remote and in-person education are equivalent developmentally (I wouldn’t concede that – they are not), there’s still the matter of how the hell am I supposed to do my job?

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Readers on Schools #1 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader AN (not their real initials) …

I’m a public school educator in Wisconsin and I offer this perspective:

When we shut down in March of 2020, we fundentally broke what it means to go to school in this country. All the years building and refining and trying new things . . . broken. We attempted to pivot, but the results were uneven at best and everyone was sacred and we didn’t know what else to do.  We did what we thought was best under terrifying circumstances.

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A Report from the Schools Prime Badge

Yesterday we discussed the ‘schools must never close’ diehards who dominate much of the current COVID policy debate. I wanted to give you an update on the situation in the New York City public schools because I think it illustrates some Omicron-specific dynamics which haven’t really become part of that discussion. I don’t know precisely how far New York City and DC and other parts of the Northeast are ahead of the rest of the country right now. Maybe it’s like this everywhere. If not, likely it soon will be. But I know it’s like this here and in much of the Northeast. I’m going to reference some personal experiences but only to illustrate things I know are widespread if not universal throughout the city and region.

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Warzone Workplace Prime Badge

A follow-up from TPM Reader LF

In your recent post about Covid and school closures, I think you get something very right when you talk about the PhD and elite scolds demanding schools remain open no-matter-what. There is one element in all of this that I think you do not fully appreciate—the anger and legitimate fear that teachers have been living with for the entirety of the pandemic.

I am a college teacher, my partner teaches high school, my friends teach at every level of the educational system. During the pandemic, many have retired early or quit, many of those who have stayed have only done so because they are too young to retire and too old to do something else. Just to be clear, the kids are alright. Almost all teachers love teaching–given how shitty the job is, why else would we do it?

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Who Are the Ivy League Glossy Mag Freedom Fighters Lecturing You About Schools? Prime Badge
The conventional wisdom about liberal influencers clamoring for school closures is all wrong.
Students and parents wait outside Perry Elementary School on the first day of school. At Perry Elementary School in Shoemakersville, PA Thursday morning August 27, 2020 for the first day of in person school of the school year. The Hamburg School District, which Perry Elementary is part of, is the only school district in Berks County that is opening 5 days a week for in person instruction during the coronavirus / COVID-19 outbreak.

There’s a deep conventional wisdom out there which has it that liberal Twitter and the broader Blue State commentariat is a hotbed of demands for school closures. The reality is almost diametrically opposed to this. From mid-2020 the country’s most esteemed and prestigious liberal/cosmopolitan publications, electronic broadcasts and university programs have been dominated by voices of highly educated, affluent and mostly white people demanding schools never close, even for brief periods, and almost always in the name of students from minority and/or marginalized communities.

But there is an upside down character to the image these demands create. In fact, during the pre-vaccine period, when significant sections of the country remained in remote leaning, it was precisely these communities which were most resistant to going back to in-person education. The blunt reality is that the staunchest voices against school closures of any sort for any duration are people with PhDs working from home. That’s just the fact.

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Look What We Got By Not ‘Amplifying’ Trump Prime Badge

Follow-on overnight reporting suggests that ex-President Trump canceled his January 6th celebration event because top lackeys and toadies lobbied him hard against it and he gave way. I doubt it was any fear of legal jeopardy – it’s hard to say Trump and his top supporters have ever pursued a legal strategy per se. They were just smart enough to see that the spectacle of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago celebration and cheering for freedom and vindication for the insurrectionists wouldn’t be helpful. It would put members of Congress in an awkward position. But the biggest insight was from TPM alum Benjy Sarlin, now of NBC News. As he put it, “I don’t think people quite get how far out his daily comments are already mainly because outlets are reluctant to publicize them.”

This is right on the mark. Booted off social media and mostly ignored in the mainstream press, Trump’s comments and positions have radicalized greatly over the course of 2021. In a sense it’s hard to say he’s “radicalized” in his increasingly explicit support for January 6th when after all, he led it in the first place. But Benjy’s right: most people don’t get how wild his regular comments are. His biggest supporters on Fox and Capitol Hill would prefer to keep it that way. Yes, Trump is still covered in the political news media. But you don’t generally hear directly what he’s saying.

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Morning Omicroning Prime Badge
COVID testing

Times columnist Zeynep Tufekci has a good column this morning running through a number of key Omicron related pandemic issues, especially the continuing poor messaging and guidance on rapid tests and masks. This is more detail and commentary on issues we’ve discussed – how do you know which mask is best to use, shouldn’t we be using rapid antigen tests to tailor shorter isolation periods, how is it that we’re still facing widespread test shortages two years into this?

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Are We Back to This? Prime Badge

This again? After months of categorically ruling out any changes to the Senate legislative filibuster, Manchin is now saying any changes to the filibuster would be a “heavy lift” and that his “absolute preference” is to get Republican buy-in for making changes that would prevent Republicans from preventing any Democratic legislation other than budget reconciliation bills from coming to a vote. (Got that?) This comes after Democrats seem back to negotiating over the President’s Bill Build Back better bill which died back in December but is now back as some kind of zombie legislative discussion with Joe Manchin. The only thing that makes me think this might be kind of something real is that Mitch McConnell thought it was necessary to roundly denounce the idea today.

So is this real? Are we back to this?

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More on the CDC Prime Badge

I wanted to share this note from TPM Reader CD (not their real initials). The person’s background will become clear through the note itself. I do not and am not in a position to endorse the viewpoint. But this is one of those readers backgrounders I pass along not because I’m in a position to vouch for all the viewpoints but because they are knowledge and providing an informed personal perspective that helped me deepen my understanding of an important issue – in this case the evolution of the CDC in recent decades.

It’s hardly the main point of it. But I was intrigued CD‘s point that the “CDC, unlike FDA, operates through soft power—making clinical recommendations and setting up surveillance and case definition systems that often are adopted by professional orgs, international bodies, other federal agencies etc.” This wouldn’t be a new point to people like CD who come out of this world. And it’s actually an implicit in most of the reporting on the pandemic over the last two years. But I hadn’t quite understood this point before or had it explained to me in that way. This must be in large part due to the firmer statutory footing of the FDA which goes back to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. The CDC has a more evolutionary or agglomerative history, as we noted here.

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Jan. 6 One Year Out Prime Badge
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: President Donald Trump is seen on a screen as his supporters cheer during a rally on the National Mall on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Donald Trump

PBS Newshour and Marist have a poll out headlined as “Americans don’t agree on what to call Jan. 6 attack.” Unsurprisingly the actual details of the poll tell a somewhat different story, which might be summarized as “Republicans now mostly support the Jan. 6 insurrection.” The data show a less wishy washy verdict. About half the public, overwhelmingly Democrats and left-leaning independents, call it an insurrection while 25% says it was 1st Amendment-protected protest. The critical segment in the middle, 19% of respondents, agrees that “it was an unfortunate event, but in the past.” I’d call this the “not great but let’s not rock the boat” group.

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Into the Great Unknown (2022 Edition) Prime Badge

Back in 2016 there was a knowing social media go-to about how 2016 was the year from hell – one that would come to an end when Trump was defeated in November. Of course, that didn’t happen. It was followed by 2017, the beginning of Trump’s dismal and destructive presidency. Then there was 2020, a year of historic disruption, mortality, economic displacement and social chaos and unrest, which was to be followed by renewal in 2021. And well, here we are. We’ve run through a succession of ‘hell years’ beneath which rumbles a growing trepidation or assumption that maybe none of this stuff is the exception. Maybe this is just a downward trajectory with no snapback to something more normal, something more on a progress toward betterment.

On the eve of a new year where do we fall on this terrain of doomism?

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Do We Need a Wartime CDC? Prime Badge

I’ve spent the last couple days writing posts I’ve then set aside about what we’ve learned in two years about the CDC and FDA and whether they are, institutionally, up to the challenge of managing the crisis of pandemic response. To paraphrase Sonny Corleone, during a pandemic we need a wartime CDC. And it’s clear we don’t have one. The institutional apparatus designed for managing ‘ordinary’ infectious diseases, researching and improving care for chronic maladies simply isn’t designed for what we’ve confronted in the last two years.

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