Press is Way Behind on Social Security FlimFlam Prime Badge

With the future of Social Security and Medicare back under discussion — and not in a good way — we need to review a few points about how these subjects are discussed in the nation’s capital. This morning I saw some very solid, level-headed reporters noting that Rick Scott didn’t say Social Security and Medicare should be sunsetted after 5 years. He said all government programs should be sunsetted. And it just happens that Social Security and Medicare are government programs. In other words, these folks suggested, while Biden’s claim was technically true it amounted to a kind of cheap shot.

That’s malarkey.

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Quick Take on Biden’s Speech Prime Badge

Watching State of the Union addresses is one of my least favorite parts of what I do at TPM. I find them a mix of tedious and stressful to watch. By and large they don’t matter. I’d prefer not to watch them. But it’s part of the job. This was very different from any of the State of the Union addresses I’ve seen in 40-plus years of watching them.

Joe Biden isn’t a particularly rousing public speaker normally. The first 10 or 15 minutes of his address were fairly boilerplate, occasionally halting. The substance was pitched toward mid-sized and small towns in post-industrial America. This was unsurprising but well-executed. But then it went somewhere entirely different, not in substance but in presentation, energy and tone.

I don’t need to describe the speech to you because you presumably saw it. Here are the two points that stood out to me.

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SOTU Blogging Second Thread Prime Badge

10:18 PM: We may try to put some of this together later. But there seem to be a lot of prestige reporters tonight not quite willing to say what happened on the floor in that exchange about Social Security and Medicare, with Republicans hooting and hollering. We all saw what happened.

10:05 PM: There were some feral Republicans there yelling about the border.

10:00 PM: “Equal protection under the law is a covenant we have with each other in America.”

Okay, Let’s Do This Prime Badge

9:47 PM: He’s doing considerably better than I’d anticipated. I didn’t have low expectations. I just find most of these speeches by most Presidents kind of meh. He’s enjoying himself and skewering the opposition with a bear hug.

9:45 PM: Joe, Medicare and Social Security saver …

9:43 PM: A lot of Republicans really don’t like the facts.

9:37 PM: Oy …

9:34 PM: He seems jazzed.

9:29 PM: ‘Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back.’

9:23 PM: “We came together” seems to be the theme.

9:20 PM: McCarthy is trying to follow the GOP vow never to clap but he seems to kind of give in toward the end. Can’t quite manage it.

9:11 PM: I guess we’re charm offensive-ing. I always have equivocal feelings about this. On the one hand, don’t bring a noodle to a knife fight. On the other, the audience isn’t the members in the building. It’s the public at home. That’s what’s important to remember.

9:08 PM: Apparently Biden and Santos made locked eye contact but didn’t say anything or shake hands. The news has been delivered.

Finally A Decent Balloon Article Prime Badge

Unlike a lot of reporting on the Chinese balloon, this piece in the Post contains new and interesting information. The Pentagon believes the flight is part of a fairly extensive global effort that has been going on for about five years: Low-tech balloons, married to high-tech communications tools. Notably, according to the Post, the U.S. military doesn’t believe the flight across North America is an accident, as I’d speculated. But they also don’t believe it was a provocation. On the contrary, the Chinese were surprised that it was detected and chagrined that it led to the cancelation of Tony Blinken’s scheduled trip to Beijing.

Even based on this article, it still seems to me to be something of a mystery just how valuable the intelligence collected by these balloons really is. Experts seem divided on this point. Part of the answer may simply be that they’re vastly cheaper than launching satellites. So dollar-for-dollar they may still provide some value. Countries around the world now appear to be matching the balloon flights to what were past instances of unidentified objects in their airspace.

Back to Florida Prime Badge

Back to my Miami Herald reading list. This evening I got a new headline via email: “Florida high school board to hold emergency meeting after menstruation question controversy.” What’s the “menstruation question controversy,” you ask? Since I’m up to date on Florida politics, I can clue you in.

The Florida High School Athletic Association recently ruled that on the standard form to play high school sports in Florida there will now be a mandatory question about whether a student athlete menstruates: Date of first period, days between periods, most recent period. The strong suspicion is that this was a way to ferret out trans athletes, since it’s not clear why the coaching staff or the schools (where the records would be stored) would have any medical need for this information. Others feared it would be used to find proof of illicit abortions. These forms aren’t protected by anything like HIPAA. Coaches, staff or whoever else can just pull them out of the bank box and see what they say.

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In The News Prime Badge

From The Springfield News-Leader

Federal law enforcement officers say they seized 11 guns, a silencer, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, body armor plates and several pounds of a binary explosive from a Springfield man with ties to the Boogaloo extremist anti-government group.

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The DeSantis Era on the Ground Prime Badge

I subscribe to a bunch of regional papers, mainly in swing states or states that tend to be politically kinetic. It comes in handy at election time and it keeps me up to speed on things outside the national news generally. One of those papers is The Miami Herald. In the DeSantis Era that turns out to be quite a trip. Almost every day I get an email about some new gambit of his, each of which seems aimed generally at paving the way for his 2024 presidential campaign and specifically at owning the libs. That’s his program, essentially.

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Nicole Parker/Fox News Jim Jordan’s Headliner Prime Badge

Like all upstanding Americans I’m eagerly awaiting the first hearing of the House GOP’s new “weaponization of the federal government” investigations committee. That first hearing will feature former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Sens. Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley and what is being presented as an FBI whistleblower of sorts, a former FBI agent named Nicole Parker who says she left the FBI three months ago in the face of growing politicization and unprofessionalism from the FBI brass. She’s now a regular on Fox News. So she’s the one who will reveal how the FBI has become a haven of wokeness during her 12-year tenure.

I looked her up and saw this opinion piece she wrote for Fox News. And in addition to a lot of verbiage about wokeness and how the Bureau changed during her time there, her one example of politicization was fairly revealing. Parker was offended that during the George Floyd protests in D.C. on June 4 a group of FBI agents in tactical gear kneeled before protestors in what they apparently saw as a deescalation effort.

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Can We Be Ready? #2 Prime Badge

TPM Reader TC has a more optimistic view of the avian flu issue. I don’t think this is really in contradiction with the earlier post. These are not likely scenarios. But the stakes are high enough that we should be prepared even for very unlikely ones. From TC

Long-time reader here, wanting to throw in my $0.02 regarding Josh’s recent piece ‘Can We Be Ready‘ about the ongoing avian influenza epidemic. For reference, my doctorate focused on improved/next-generation influenza vaccine design. 

Overall, I appreciate Josh’s measured approach to discussing infectious diseases, but would like to make a few additional points:

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