Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Rewriting January 6th: Republicans push false and misleading accounts of Capitol riot. IWaPo)

 




Rewriting January 6th: Republicans push false and misleading accounts of Capitol riot

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Monday, March 01, 2021

Opinion by Greg Sargent: Trump’s big CPAC lie unmasks a vile truth. Democrats ignore it at their peril. (WaPo)

 Republicans know that the only way to win elections is to suppress Democratic voters.  Listen to the rants of the likes of DONALD JOHN TRUMP, LEE ATWATER, and  and local and Florida Republican arachnid apparatchiks.  They want to end democracy.

From The Washington Post:


Opinion: Trump’s big CPAC lie unmasks a vile truth. Democrats ignore it at their peril.

At CPAC, Trump reasserts his control of the GOP

Amid the stream of delusion, depravity, malevolence and megalomania that characterized Donald Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, one message should be regarded as arguably more important than all the others combined.

It’s this: The former president told his audience that the Republican Party’s success in coming years depends, in no small part, on its commitment to being an anti-democracy party.

Trump didn’t say this in precisely those words, of course. But that message blared through all the background noise like a loud, clanging alarm bell.

This will require Democrats to redouble their focus on passing their big package of pro-democracy reforms as soon as possible — and to be prepared to nix the legislative filibuster to get it into law. It may be tempting to dismiss or ignore Trump’s deranged rantings, but Democrats should see this one message as an actionable one.

Trump reveals an important truth

As expected, Trump’s CPAC speech doubled down on the big lie that the election was stolen from him — and then some. Aaron Rupar tallies up at least five different wayshe told this lie, which drew at least one standing ovation.

But embedded in that big lie was an unintentional truth. It was revealed when Trump uncorked an extended riff suggesting that the GOP’s future prospects depend on what he called “election reforms.”

“Another one of the most urgent issues facing the Republican Party is that of ensuring fair, honest, and secure elections,” Trump declared. “We must pass comprehensive election reforms, and we must do it now.”

By “election reforms,” Trump actually meant a redoubled commitment to making it harder to vote. We know this, because he said so: He went on to declare that Democrats had used the “China virus” as an “excuse” to make vote-by-mail easier.

“We can never let that happen again,” Trump said. “We need election integrity and election reform immediately. Republicans should be the party of honest elections.”

This is absurd (GOP legislatures also facilitated vote-by-mail) and full of lies (the election’s legitimacy was upheld in dozens of courts). But that doesn’t change its underlying meaning, which is unambiguous: Trump lost because voting wasn’t hard enough; Republicans must push as forcefully as possible in the opposite direction; this is “urgent.”

The rub of the matter is that all across the country, Republicans are acting on exactly this reading of the situation.

Republicans are acting on the big lie

In a good piece, the New York Times reports on the extraordinary new barrage of efforts by GOP lawmakers to make voting harder in many states. These include sharp cuts to early voting; restricting vote-by-mail in numerous ways; and in the most extreme cases, proposals to allow state legislatures to appoint presidential electors in defiance of the state’s popular vote.

Meanwhile, in numerous states, Republicans are gearing up to use this year’s decennial redrawing of electoral maps to entrench extreme gerrymanders. They have openly declared that this will help them win back the House in 2022, and some experts believe redrawn maps might ensure that this happens even if Democrats again win the national House popular vote.

Crucially, these efforts are increasingly animated by the same lie about the election’s illegitimacy that Trump told at CPAC. As the Times reports, they are “led by loyalists who embrace” Trump’s “baseless claims of a stolen election.”

In other words, Republicans are widely acting upon this lie as their excuse to continue entrenching anti-democratic and anti-majoritarian advantages wherever possible.

Democrats must respond

This simply requires Democrats to pass the For the People Act in the Senate and House. It includes numerous provisions that would make voting and registration easier; curb restrictions on voting and vote-by-mail; mandate nonpartisan redistricting commissions; and restore voting rights protections gutted by the Supreme Court.

The GOP actions also require Democrats to be prepared to end the legislative filibuster when Republicans block the package in the Senate. Yes, Democrats face major obstacles to this in the form of Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).

But a case must be made to those holdouts that Democrats cannot allow Republicans to grind their agenda to a screeching halt — in the face of multiple short and long term crises facing the country — through the exercise of minority rule, facilitated by what has become yet another cynically-wielded tool of counter-majoritarian obstructionism.

“The Big Lie about 2020 is built on an ugly truth: Trump and the Republican Party have turned their backs on our constitutional vision of government of, by, and for the people,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told me in an emailed statement.“You heard it from Trump himself,” Merkley continued. “We’ve got to get the For the People Act signed into law ASAP so the next elections are decided by the will of the voters, not rigged by corrupt politicians.”

Democrats keep telling us that the prospects for civic renewal in the wake of Trumpism’s continued degradations — and the GOP’s ongoing slide into authoritarianism — depend on making government and democracy more functional and responsive. If they really believe this, that imposes obligations on them to do just that.

Put another way, Democrats constantly point out that the GOP is increasingly captive to Trump and that Trump and his party remain captive to his destructive mythology about the stolen election. But this can’t be reduced to mere partisan messaging.

Who gets vaccinated next? Florida’s the only state that doesn’t tell you. Clear, accessible information on where people stand in the vaccination line is hard to come by in Florida. “We have a lot of confusion.” (Tampa Bay Times)

 Governor RONALD DION DeSANTIS is politicizing coronavirus vaccinations, while keeping his cards close to his chest.  From Tampa Bay Times:


Who gets vaccinated next? Florida’s the only state that doesn’t tell you.

Clear, accessible information on where people stand in the vaccination line is hard to come by in Florida. “We have a lot of confusion.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is silhouetted as he speaks to the media while residents line up at a coronavirus vaccination site in the Lakewood Ranch area earlier this month.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is silhouetted as he speaks to the media while residents line up at a coronavirus vaccination site in the Lakewood Ranch area earlier this month. [ CHRIS O'MEARA | AP ]

Who gets vaccinated next? Florida’s the only state that doesn’t tell you.
Clear, accessible information on where people stand in the vaccination line is hard to come by in Florida. “We have a lot of confusion.”
By Megan Reeves
Published Feb. 23
Updated Feb. 24


Soon after coronavirus vaccines arrived at the Brooksville Publix store last month, employee Rose Landis was manning the check-in table.

“This is the light at the end of the tunnel,” she told seniors as they awaited shots, expecting that as an essential worker who spends lots of time face-to-face with strangers, she would soon have access, too.

Landis, 21, finally asked her boss when she would be vaccinated. The store’s pharmacists already had been, she said. But the manager told her he had no idea, and as of this week, there was still no word.

Florida is the only state that hasn’t told its residents who will get shots next, when more doses are available, according to an analysis of state rollouts by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues. Instead, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been laser-focused on vaccinating seniors, telling other groups to wait their turn.


RELATED: Florida is better off without a detailed vaccination plan, DeSantis says
“Most states are providing information,” said Jen Kates, Kaiser’s vice president. “Maybe they haven’t put it out for all phases, but at least for the next phase coming up. All but one state, and that’s Florida.”

No clear statement on who’s next in line

DeSantis said at a Miami area news conference Tuesday that sworn law enforcement officers and classroom teachers will get access to vaccines next, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency opens new vaccination sites in Florida on March 3. But the statement, like many made by DeSantis through the pandemic, was non-specific — and his staff rarely responds to follow-up questions seeking more details.

“Because we have these extra doses … we want that to be open not just to seniors, but to sworn law enforcement and classroom teachers,” the governor told reporters Tuesday. “We’ll start with probably 50 and up.”

The lack of clear messaging has left millions of essential workers confused about when they might have access to vaccines. Neither they nor other groups recommended as key for vaccination by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — like those younger than 65 who are medically vulnerable — have been told when their time will come.

Some other states haven’t prioritized those groups, either, and limited supply of vaccines has caused distribution schedules to stall across the country. But Florida is one of just two that gave the 65-plus population vaccines first, which has dragged out the first phase even longer and made the state one of only four that hasn’t moved on to new groups, Kates said.


Florida’s only public plan for vaccine distribution is a draft from October, and spokeswomen for DeSantis and the CDC both said it’s the only one that exists. So far, rollout in the state has strayed from the plan, which said that both essential workers and people who are medically vulnerable would be among the first to get shots. Instead, DeSantis signed an executive order Dec. 23 to launch a “Seniors First” campaign, and about 76 percent of the state’s doses have gone to that group.

RELATED: Florida's vaccine rollout so far: Not enough doses, 'no real plan'
Florida, which has one of the largest concentrations of seniors in the country, falls in the middle when it comes to how quickly states are distributing vaccines overall. As of Feb. 22, about 13 percent of Florida residents had received a first dose, and about 7 percent had received a second.

Some of the state’s doses have gone to people other than seniors, like health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes. But fewer than 30,000 of the nearly 3 million shots administered have gone to medically vulnerable people younger than 65, barely scratching the surface of demand by that population, experts say.

Questions to the governor’s office about the state’s distribution schedule have gone unanswered for months. Before Tuesday’s mention of law enforcement and teachers, the only other indication of who gets vaccinated next was a statement by DeSantis last week that the state will move on to other groups once demand from seniors “starts to soften.” He suggested that would happen within the next month, once nearly 3 million of the state’s 4.3 million people 65 and older get shots.


Other states, meanwhile, have updated their distribution plans multiple times and kept the public apprised of where vaccine rollout stands. Arizona, for example, released its third version last month. Kentucky has a website where residents can enter their information to find out where they fall in line.

DeSantis has repeatedly defended his choice to prioritize residents 65 and older, even in the face of criticism that the move was politically motivated. “Yes, we are aggressively vaccinating seniors, and I don’t care who you vote for,” he said Tuesday. “We’re proud of vaccinating seniors, and we’re going to keep doing it.”

Limited supply, hard decisions

It isn’t easy to decide who gets coronavirus vaccines first when they’re so limited, said Cindy Prins, a public health expert at the University of Florida. But it’s reasonable for residents to want to have some idea of when they’ll get their turn, and more information would cut down on the frantic scrambling for shots, she said.

“We have a lot of confusion,” Prins added. “If people knew where they were in the line, I think they would feel much more content.”

Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from Miami, has been pushing state leaders for months to release a more detailed plan. He said he wishes he had a graph or pyramid — anything from the state — to explain vaccine distribution to his frustrated constituents.


“When people can visualize and they can actually see that there’s something in place, then they don’t have to be anxious because they know their time is coming,” he said.

Giselle Alvarez, chief operating officer of Hitchcock’s Market, an independent grocery chain with 12 locations across Florida, has tried to make changes to keep her employees safe from the coronavirus, like offering delivery and curbside pickup, and requiring masks. But that hasn’t brought the same relief that vaccines would, she said.

“Our employees are putting themselves out there every day, being exposed, working hard and not complaining,” she said. “The state definitely should have included grocery workers in the first group for vaccines. We’re the ones who stayed open when everything else shut down.”

Desire for shots from Florida teachers has grown, too, as more students return to in-person schooling, said Pinellas County School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook. The board recently sent a letter to DeSantis, asking that educators be prioritized for vaccines along with health care workers and seniors.

“We ask that as decisions continue to be made for distribution of the vaccine that you add prioritization for school district employees,” it read. “They, too, are front-line heroes who serve their students, families and community daily.”


Teachers are concerned about their health and safety, Cook said, and vaccines would give them, and the families of their students, peace of mind. It would also ensure the school district has enough teaching staff to go around, she said.

“We are managing to get the classrooms covered,” Cook said, but only with the help of substitute teachers. And many full-time educators are having to split their time between in-person and online instruction to reach every student, because so many others have taken leaves of absence.

As of Feb. 18, Florida was one of 23 states that hadn’t provided shots to teachers, and one of 19 that hadn’t made them available to law enforcement and other first responders, according to the Kaiser analysis. It is one of 37 states that have not made grocery workers eligible, one of 38 that haven’t given shots to transit workers, and one of 35 that haven’t made vaccines available to all vulnerable residents, Kaiser found.

Most experts agree that essential workers and people who are medically vulnerable should, and will, be among those who get access to shots next. Those are the people DeSantis “skipped over” when he declared seniors would be the state’s for vaccines, said Michael Teng, an immunologist at the University of South Florida.

“Gov. DeSantis imposed his view of vaccinations, which was 65 and older, which there’s a reasonable basis for,” he said. “But there are a whole bunch of other people out there ... who have to come to work and be among people. Grocery workers, teachers ... trash collectors. And people with underlying medical conditions.”


Different groups need simultaneous access to the vaccine for Florida to reach herd immunity, the scientific term for what happens when a large enough proportion of a population has enough immunity to slow the spread of a virus to a halt, said Prins, the UF professor. Prioritization of doses must be based not only on the vulnerability of certain groups, but also on those groups’ likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus.

For example, while seniors might be more vulnerable to COVID-19, they are less likely to spread it, Prins said. Younger people, meanwhile, are less vulnerable, but more likely to transmit the virus — and more likely to work jobs that put them at higher risk.

“We can’t look at seniors as a group in which they alone need to have community immunity because they’re interacting with other groups as well,” she added.

It’s a complicated set of decisions. Opening up shots to essential workers presents other questions, like who is considered part of that group, and which professions will get access first if supplies are still strained.

As of Tuesday, the state had not answered either.

Staff writers Natalie Weber and Allison Ross contributed to this report.



Florida’s only public plan for vaccine distribution is a draft from October, and spokeswomen for DeSantis and the CDC both said it’s the only one that exists. So far, rollout in the state has strayed from the plan, which said that both essential workers and people who are medically vulnerable would be among the first to get shots. Instead, DeSantis signed an executive order Dec. 23 to launch a “Seniors First” campaign, and about 76 percent of the state’s doses have gone to that group.

RELATED: Florida's vaccine rollout so far: Not enough doses, 'no real plan'

Florida, which has one of the largest concentrations of seniors in the country, falls in the middle when it comes to how quickly states are distributing vaccines overall. As of Feb. 22, about 13 percent of Florida residents had received a first dose, and about 7 percent had received a second.

Some of the state’s doses have gone to people other than seniors, like health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes. But fewer than 30,000 of the nearly 3 million shots administered have gone to medically vulnerable people younger than 65, barely scratching the surface of demand by that population, experts say.

Questions to the governor’s office about the state’s distribution schedule have gone unanswered for months. Before Tuesday’s mention of law enforcement and teachers, the only other indication of who gets vaccinated next was a statement by DeSantis last week that the state will move on to other groups once demand from seniors “starts to soften.” He suggested that would happen within the next month, once nearly 3 million of the state’s 4.3 million people 65 and older get shots.

Other states, meanwhile, have updated their distribution plans multiple times and kept the public apprised of where vaccine rollout stands. Arizona, for example, released its third version last month. Kentucky has a website where residents can enter their information to find out where they fall in line.

DeSantis has repeatedly defended his choice to prioritize residents 65 and older, even in the face of criticism that the move was politically motivated. “Yes, we are aggressively vaccinating seniors, and I don’t care who you vote for,” he said Tuesday. “We’re proud of vaccinating seniors, and we’re going to keep doing it.”

Limited supply, hard decisions

It isn’t easy to decide who gets coronavirus vaccines first when they’re so limited, said Cindy Prins, a public health expert at the University of Florida. But it’s reasonable for residents to want to have some idea of when they’ll get their turn, and more information would cut down on the frantic scrambling for shots, she said.

“We have a lot of confusion,” Prins added. “If people knew where they were in the line, I think they would feel much more content.”

Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from Miami, has been pushing state leaders for months to release a more detailed plan. He said he wishes he had a graph or pyramid — anything from the state — to explain vaccine distribution to his frustrated constituents.

“When people can visualize and they can actually see that there’s something in place, then they don’t have to be anxious because they know their time is coming,” he said.

Giselle Alvarez, chief operating officer of Hitchcock’s Market, an independent grocery chain with 12 locations across Florida, has tried to make changes to keep her employees safe from the coronavirus, like offering delivery and curbside pickup, and requiring masks. But that hasn’t brought the same relief that vaccines would, she said.

“Our employees are putting themselves out there every day, being exposed, working hard and not complaining,” she said. “The state definitely should have included grocery workers in the first group for vaccines. We’re the ones who stayed open when everything else shut down.”

Desire for shots from Florida teachers has grown, too, as more students return to in-person schooling, said Pinellas County School Board Chairwoman Carol Cook. The board recently sent a letter to DeSantis, asking that educators be prioritized for vaccines along with health care workers and seniors.

“We ask that as decisions continue to be made for distribution of the vaccine that you add prioritization for school district employees,” it read. “They, too, are front-line heroes who serve their students, families and community daily.”

Teachers are concerned about their health and safety, Cook said, and vaccines would give them, and the families of their students, peace of mind. It would also ensure the school district has enough teaching staff to go around, she said.

“We are managing to get the classrooms covered,” Cook said, but only with the help of substitute teachers. And many full-time educators are having to split their time between in-person and online instruction to reach every student, because so many others have taken leaves of absence.

As of Feb. 18, Florida was one of 23 states that hadn’t provided shots to teachers, and one of 19 that hadn’t made them available to law enforcement and other first responders, according to the Kaiser analysis. It is one of 37 states that have not made grocery workers eligible, one of 38 that haven’t given shots to transit workers, and one of 35 that haven’t made vaccines available to all vulnerable residents, Kaiser found.

Most experts agree that essential workers and people who are medically vulnerable should, and will, be among those who get access to shots next. Those are the people DeSantis “skipped over” when he declared seniors would be the state’s for vaccines, said Michael Teng, an immunologist at the University of South Florida.

“Gov. DeSantis imposed his view of vaccinations, which was 65 and older, which there’s a reasonable basis for,” he said. “But there are a whole bunch of other people out there ... who have to come to work and be among people. Grocery workers, teachers ... trash collectors. And people with underlying medical conditions.”

Different groups need simultaneous access to the vaccine for Florida to reach herd immunity, the scientific term for what happens when a large enough proportion of a population has enough immunity to slow the spread of a virus to a halt, said Prins, the UF professor. Prioritization of doses must be based not only on the vulnerability of certain groups, but also on those groups’ likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus.

For example, while seniors might be more vulnerable to COVID-19, they are less likely to spread it, Prins said. Younger people, meanwhile, are less vulnerable, but more likely to transmit the virus — and more likely to work jobs that put them at higher risk.

“We can’t look at seniors as a group in which they alone need to have community immunity because they’re interacting with other groups as well,” she added.

It’s a complicated set of decisions. Opening up shots to essential workers presents other questions, like who is considered part of that group, and which professions will get access first if supplies are still strained.

As of Tuesday, the state had not answered either.

Staff writers Natalie Weber and Allison Ross contributed to this report.