Emerging Data on Omicron Prime Badge

For the last few days the world has been waiting for scientists to make sense of Omicron. Today we appear to have some new information and it’s not encouraging. I’m no scientist. So I’m going to do as little characterizing as I can. I am recommending this Twitter thread and this one, both from trustworthy people, one a journalist following COVID and another a computational biologist at the KU Leuven in Belgium.

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Where Things Stand: We’re Living In A ‘Slow Motion’ Jan 6 Prime Badge
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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) sounded the already scream-worthy alarm this week.

It was a stark warning about something TPM has been covering with our hair-on-fire for some time: that the Jan. 6 attempt to steal an election was the culmination of months of President Trump’s stoking of the Big Lie, and not an isolated incident. What’s more, the attempted heist never ended.

Griswold outlined the various threats to our current democracy — like a slew of new state level restrictive voting laws and ongoing threats of violence against election workers — and observed that the election-stealing crusade is continuing as we speak. Just, perhaps, in slow motion.

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Abortion Could Be Illegal in Wisconsin, Michigan and AZ as Soon As Next Summer Prime Badge

Earlier I noted that a number of purple and even blueish states will likely end up banning abortion in a post-Roe world. People assume it’s just red states. But many of these states are so effectively gerrymandered that Republicans have a lock on state legislatures. But I just realized I greatly understated the situation. TPM alum Eric Kleefeld mentioned that Wisconsin never repealed its pre-Roe abortion ban. So the moment Roe is overturned, which will likely happen next June or July, abortion will be banned in Wisconsin, except in cases where necessary to protect the life of the mother.

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Where Things Stand: GOPers Signal How They’ll Justify A Gov’t Shutdown Prime Badge
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Conservatives are trying to get ahead of the impending bad optics that will come with obstructing their way into a government shutdown. And, it appears, they have a plan: Placing the blame squarely on the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

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Abortion Will Be Outlawed in Purple States Too Prime Badge

The only mild saving grace to today’s SCOTUS arguments is that the pretenses are removed. These are ideologues and politicians. Their entire political movement has been propelled by the goal of overturning Roe v Wade and outlawing abortion. The conservative legal movement which birthed and swirls around The Federalist Society has many legal fish to fry. But its political potency, the engine that transformed the federal judiciary and made it more than a genteel debating society, was abortion. Of course they’re going to overturn Roe. It’s good to have that be crystal clear to anyone who wasn’t paying attention.

It’s a corrupt Court. It’s good to understand that.

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Kevin McCarthy’s Never-Ending Dignity Loss Derby Prime Badge
The would-be Speaker is leaving no dignity on the field.

With all the rush of new news and information I wanted to flag something for your attention that is at least slightly under the media radar. All signs point to a strong Republican midterm election in 2022, with the House the better prospect for Republican control. That means Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy becomes Speaker. Or actually maybe it doesn’t. A bunch of Republicans have started making clear that’s not at all a sure thing.

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Where Things Stand: Another Alleged Jan 6 Rioter Runs For Office Prime Badge
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A Texas man who has been charged for his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection was just approved by the state Republican Party to run for a state House seat during the Republican primaries this spring. He is not alone in this endeavor.

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COVID Miscellany #4 Prime Badge

Governments, financial markets and … oh yeah, ordinary people are trying to make sense of what new risks are posed by the Omicron variant. It’s the classic dynamic of intense hunger for information meeting far too little data to satisfy the need. Today executives from Pfizer and Moderna gave interviews which respectively reassured and spooked. Most notable however is that both said essentially the same thing. Or at least they said things which are very compatible with the same set of facts.

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Where Things Stand: Ronny Jackson Has It All Figured Out Prime Badge
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Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), the physician and rear admiral who successfully rode the coattails of MAGA world to land a seat in the House, is spinning up a new Big Lie for the 2022 midterms – and it’s a doozy.

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COVID Miscellany 3 Prime Badge

A reader pointed me to this article that appeared in this morning’s Washington Post. It makes the case against vaccine boosters for the whole population, as opposed to targeting to particularly vulnerable populations. Two of the authors were until very recently heads of the FDA’s vaccine research unit and the third is a member of one of the outside panels that gives the expert recommendations I referenced in the post below. Given those backgrounds, this is a good case of the expert opinion which has generally been more cautious in approving boosters for the whole population. It’s also an example that there’s a lot of expert opinion that remains against universal boosting, even as the weight of opinion has swung in the opposite direction.

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COVID Miscellany #2 Prime Badge

Today we’re seeing a host of experts, public health officials and more saying that we need to speed up giving everyone booster shots, with or without Omicron. Now apparently we’re behind on boosters. We lost time. But let’s slow down a second here: The Biden White House has been full speed ahead on boosters since the late summer. Indeed, they’ve gotten a lot of grief for jumping the gun and being ‘ahead of the science’. The push for boosters from the White House got slowed down at the CDC and FDA.

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COVID Miscellany #1

A small point. But, as we batten down the hatches on the COVID front, it’s worth remembering that as it does in politics, looking at America’s COVID epidemiology through the prism of states is as frequently misleading as not. Here in Manhattan (New York County), where I’m writing this morning, 87.2% of the population has had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. Over the age of 18 that percentage jumps to 94.3%. But in Allegany County, far to the west, that one dose number drops to 45.3%. Might as well be different country, let alone a different state.

That’s Allegany County. But in almost bordering Erie County (the home of Buffalo) the one dose number is 70.1%.

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Where Things Stand: Fauci Is Getting Increasingly Annoyed With A Few Specific Conspiracy Theorists Prime Badge
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His recent remarks of disdain, aimed at Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, left no room for interpretation.

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Not Nimble Enough? Prime Badge

I’m not sure whether I agree with this. But TPM Reader JB knows the ins and outs of government and follows things closely …

While I’m thinking of it….I’ve observed the Biden administration doesn’t maneuver quickly in response to changed circumstances, often waiting until an issue became controversial in the national press.  It’s had this problem since the beginning of the year.

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Where Things Stand: Governor’s Mansion Is Apparently The GOPs Only Safe Perch For Trump Criticism Prime Badge
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Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan threw himself into the small chorus of GOP governors willing to distance themselves from former President Trump this week.

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Where Things Stand: Now Look What We’ve Gone And Done Prime Badge
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Jake A, 33, aka Yellowstone Wolf, from Phoenix, holds a QAnon sign, as he presents himself as a shamanist and consultant for the Trump supporters gathered in front of the Maricopa County Election Department where ballots are counted after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020. - President Donald Trump erupted on November 5 in a tirade of unsubstantiated claims that he has been cheated out of winning the US election as vote counting across battleground states showed Democrat Joe Biden steadily closing in on victory. (Photo by OLIVIER  TOURON / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER  TOURON/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s all Matt Shuham’s fault.

Back in May, Matt interviewed the lawyer for the most high-profile Jan. 6 defendant of them all: Jacob Chansley, the QAnon shaman. The quotes from the lawyer were enough to peel your hair back.

Now they may*** be the basis for an ineffective assistance of counsel appeal from Chansley, who has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

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The ‘Great Resignation’ is in Fact … Well, Great Prime Badge
It's not knowledge workers with burnout. It's low wage workers finding higher paying jobs.

Behind inflation and supply-chain driven supply shortages one of the biggest topics in 2021 economics discussions is the so-called ‘Great Resignation’. This is a phrase increasingly used to describe the historically high levels of people quitting their jobs. Most often this is treated as one of the many ills facing the COVID and post-COVID economy. It’s also blamed what are frequently described as labor shortages. And it’s even blamed for inflation.

In fact, virtually everything we know about the Great Resignation is a good thing. And we should embrace it. It’s not knowledge workers reevaluating work life balance. It’s low wage workers in grueling and thankless jobs finally telling their bosses to go F themselves, quitting and finding better paying work.

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Are They Up To the Challenge? Prime Badge
The Biden White House now has the makings of powerful messaging to turn the tide against the GOP.

Public life – which is to say, politics – is an interplay between society’s foundational realities and the stories we tell about them – the facts and the messaging. Democrats have been in a collective funk since late summer and a central part of that funkish freakout has centered on their belief that they lost the plot on the messaging front. In fact, we stumbled on our path to national recovery – both on the economic and COVID fronts. And just as that happened Democrats fell into an escalating argument with themselves. There wasn’t really a message or any clear messaging at all. It was an intensifying Groundhog Day-like “keep having the same argument each day but getting nothing done” while the country went off course. That did send a very clear message. And we’ve seen the results in the President’s and his party’s poll numbers for the last five months.

So what happens now?

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Where Things Stand: House GOPers Roll Out Bad Faith Spin On FBI Plan To Track School Threats Prime Badge
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The DOJ announced in October that it would launch a task force aimed at helping local law enforcement track and investigate threats against teachers and school staff. We knew this.

But this week House Republicans released information about a new FBI tracking program reportedly designed to help the DOJ field these threats. The GOP campaign was, seemingly, part of a broader attempt to push a bad faith narrative: that the Biden administration is seeking to intimidate and silence parents and community members who disagree with local school policies.

That framing is, of course, not true or fair.

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No More Dying From COVID Prime Badge
New treatments will drastically reduce the death toll from COVID.

I’ve mentioned a few times recently both Merck and Pfizer have new COVID-targeted anti-viral medications which dramatically reduce the chances of severe disease and death if taken early in the course of illness. Merck’s pill (molnupiravir) reduced the risk of hospitalization by 50% if taken within 5 days of symptom onset; Pfizer’s pill (paxlovid) reduced the risk of hospitalization by 85% if taken with 5 days onset and 89% if taken within three days.

Both treatments showed 100% efficacy against death.

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Where Things Stand: GOPers Are Giving Us History-Rewriting Deja-Vu Prime Badge
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Remember the last time Republicans took credit for legislation they actively opposed?

We reported earlier today that anti-BIF Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) lauded the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after President Biden signed it into law this week, praising at least one element of the package that will provide crucial funding to complete construction work on one of his “top priorities” as a lawmaker — the Birmingham Northern Beltline, a six-lane bypass route around Birmingham, Alabama.

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Where Things Stand: There’s Now A Bounty On Teachers Who Dare To Touch Race Issues In Classroom Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

The far-right’s push to make America the Wild West again continues.

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Boosters and Expertise Prime Badge
The debate about COVID boosters is a good prism for judging when expertise is relevant and when it's not.
A man receives a H1N1 swine flu vaccine at XXXXX on October 27, 2009 in Seoul, South Korea. The Korea Food and Drug Administration approved domestically developped vaccines last week, the government plan to vaccinate 35 percent of South Korean population until next February.

Over the last half dozen years the rightist-populist (shorthand: Trumpist) war on expertise has created a highly polarized conversation about the role of expertise in democratic public life. But the debate about booster shots shows how those of us who are on Team Expertise have perhaps slightly overshot in this contentious public conversation. Or perhaps ‘overshot’ isn’t the right word. It shows how once we set aside conversations with idiots and bullshit artists there are real nuances, as there always has been, in the balance between expertise and democratic self-governance.

Let’s start by making a few points clear. Especially in the hard sciences we really should defer to people with professional expertise. Not sign off all decision-making, mind you, but really show great deference to the organized and systematic accumulation of knowledge which is a centerpiece – perhaps the centerpiece – of our civilization. The question is often on what questions specifically is the expertise relevant?

Here’s where you get to the booster question.

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Boosters May Be Key Prime Badge
Emerging science suggests a third shot months after initial vaccination may have been the optimal vaccine regimen all along.

There’s little question that a COVID booster shot increases your immunity to COVID infection. Data out of Israel from the late summer and early fall leaves little question about that. The public debate – setting aside questions of global vaccine equity – has been about how long that increased protection lasts and whether it matters. Let’s take the second part first. The most important protection you get from COVID vaccination is protection against severe illness and death. A year’s worth of data shows that protection against bad outcomes remains robust even though protection against infection declines substantially after about 6 months. For healthy people under 65 is it worth another round of vaccination, especially if that top off of increased protection only lasts a few months?

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Where Things Stand: Docs Confirm What We Saw In Real Time – Trump’s COVID Handling Was An Intentional Disaster Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the earliest days of the virus’ spread in the U.S., was an unmitigated disaster. We covered this as it unfolded for months and months.

But new media reports and documents released by a congressional committee probing the prior administration’s steering during 2020 confirm jarring new details about just how far the Trump White House went to interfere with the release of crucial public health-related information to the American people.

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Thinking about Rittenhouse and Right Wing Murder Safaris Prime Badge

Court observers appear divided on whether the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is headed to a hung jury or an outright acquittal. Very few seem to think the case is headed toward a conviction. That’s very jarring because many of us see it as obvious that Rittenhouse is unquestionably the guilty party, even if precisely what he is guilty of may be open to interpretation and despite the fact that the nature of self-defense laws in many states give the defense plenty of room to work with even in a case like this. Setting aside the technical components of first degree murder charges where this trial seems deeply unjust. Rittenhouse traveled to Wisconsin loaded for bear looking for trouble, found it and the law says that’s okay. That is compounded by the way the right in the US has made Rittenhouse into a folk hero.

But I’ve tried to distill down just what gets to me about this case. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

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Where Things Stand: New DHS Bulletin Lines Up With Violence Themes We’ve Been Covering For A While Prime Badge
This is your TPM evening briefing.

Domestic extremists are still capitalizing on the spread of disinfo to encourage violence in online forums, according to a new anti-terrorism bulletin from the Department Of Homeland Security set to be released today.

And in promoting online violence, domestic extremists are targeting entities we’re all a bit too familiar with: members of Congress, public health officials and school board members.

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