By Sakura Murakami TOKYO (Reuters) - An earthquake struck northeastern Japan on Saturday, hitting areas devastated by the 2011 disaster, generating a tsunami of 1 metre and shaking buildings. The quake, with a magnitude of 7.2, hit the coast of Miyagi Prefecture at 6:26 p.m. (0926 GMT) at a depth of 60 km (40 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. All tsunami alerts were lifted about an hour later, broadcaster NHK said after warning the public not to go near the shore. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. Tokyo Electric Power said it had found no irregularities at its ...
Jack Dorsey announced today plans to step down as head of Twitter. That prompted Candace Owens to say the following: “I’ve been telling people for years. Jack Dorsey is not your enemy. He is a prisoner at his own company. Good thing the Parler app is finally working properly and looks amazing. The communists will fully run Twitter soon.”
If you don’t already know Candace Owens, all you need to know is that she’s a koshering virtuoso. Like some Jewish people who make anti-Semitism seem respectable, Owens, who is Black, makes white supremacy seem fine and dandy. She appears to think Jack Dorsey had been some kind of bulwark against liberal sensibilities. Now that he’s leaving, she said, “the communists will fully run Twitter soon.”
I don’t care what Owens thinks about anything. Neither should you. Every word she says -- including “a” and “the” -- is a variety of bad faith. Even hyping Parler is deceptive. Authoritarians can’t succeed on the margins of media and society, where Parler is. To sabotage their enemies, they must appear as respectable as a Black woman koshering white supremacy. By blaming the “communists,” Owens is reminding followers of what they already believe true: they are the real victims.
While I don’t care about Owens, and neither should you, we should care about the use of the right’s rhetoric of slander, of which the word “communist” has long played a part in American history. Liberals and progressives first looked to the government as a force of social reform in the early 20th century. Around that time, the Russian Revolution occurred (1917). Since then, the American right has smeared liberals by associating their policies and objectives with godless communism.
The history of the rhetoric of slander is so pernicious it’s hard, if not impossible, for a lot of (white) Americans to see what might be obvious otherwise. When the right accuses liberals of being communist (or socialist), they are covering up the common purpose they share with actual communists. Both factions are collectivist. Both are implacable. Both aim to replace the established order. Both regard the process of democratic reform as liberal decadence requiring the purifying violence of revolution. The difference is origins. Communism is mob rule arising from the left. Fascism is mob rule arising from the right.
That such slander is so pernicious as to prevent most (white) Americans from seeing what might be obvious otherwise means there’s an opportunity for international media outlets to say what needs saying. Such is the case for The Globalist. Though based in Washington, the publication takes an international view of economics, politics and culture in order to inform readers “how the world hangs together.”
And as far as I know, editor Stephan Richter, who is German, and senior editor Alexei Bayer, who is Russian, are the only writers to connect the Republican Party and the Russian Revolution. In a piece posted this month, they said: “The parallels between the Leninist power usurpation in early 20th century Russia and the Trumpian brigades in today’s United States are becoming ever more eerie.”
Nothing in modern Western history has ever come so close to the storming of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg as the events of January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC, when a riotous mob stormed the US Capitol. Ironically, these forces were out to preserve the rule of their “Czar”, Donald Trump, who had been defeated for re-election.
Most Americans associate mobs with the left on account of the right aggressively slandering the left for decades. Bayer and Richter, both of whom lived under the shadow of the Soviet Union, know better. While “the mob on the left also showed up in the summer of 2020 [and] turned legitimate protests against police brutality into a violent mob bacchanal,” they wrote, it’s the people ready to accuse the Democratic Party of being a den of communists who are the true heirs of chaos.
“The mainstream Democratic Party has denounced those riots,” Bayer and Richter wrote on Nov. 6. “Meanwhile, the Republican Party has transformed itself into the Party of Trump and therefore into the Party of Mob Rule. It is channeling its inner Leninist and baiting the mob.”
[The Democrats] passed an infrastructure bill and are proposing many long overdue measures to improve the lives of ordinary people. To this end, they are offering better health care, services for the elderly and educational assistance. Meanwhile, their Republican “colleagues” are stirring hatred in the mob toward all those measures — just like Lenin did back in 1917.
It’s an imperfect analogy. Like I said, the GOP is mob rule arising from the right. It seeks to maintain, to the point of open warfare, the hierarchies of power by which rugged white individuals stand on top. Lenin and his revolutionaries were mob rule arising from the left. They sought to flatten Russian society to the point of wholesale murder.
That it takes, however, an international media outlet that sees American politics from a European perspective to point out the similarities between them is instructive. The right’s rhetoric of slander has such a hold on Americans, most can’t see what’s in front of them.
Little is known at this point about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that is causing worldwide panic and last week's stock market crash — except that it's a reminder of the importance of people getting vaccinated. Vaccination can help prevent such variants from evolving in the first place, and vaccinated people are probably still much safer than unvaccinated people in the face of the variant. As President Joe Biden's office told the press, his top infectious disease advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci "continues to believe that existing vaccines are likely to provide a degree of protection against severe cases of Covid."
Vaccines save lives and are the best path forward to ending the pandemic and returning to normal. Despite this — or really, because of this — Republicans not only continue to sabotage efforts by the Biden administration to get the public vaccinated, but are doubling down on the sabotage.
As Axios reported Monday morning, the concerted efforts to keep shots from going in arms have escalated in red states, with Republican politicians now openly bribing constituents not to get vaccinated. "Republican officials around the country are testing a creative mechanism to build loyalty with unvaccinated Americans while undermining Biden administration mandates: unemployment benefits," the short piece explains. "Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have changed their unemployment insurance rules to allow workers who are fired or quit over vaccine mandates to receive benefits."
Since early spring, a number of commentators — including myself — have been pointing out that Republican politicians and media are deliberately undermining Biden's pandemic response by convincing their base to reject the vaccines. The reason isn't particularly mysterious. Republicans understand that if death rates remain high, the economic recovery remains stagnant, and unpleasant mitigation measures like mask mandates and school shutdowns continue into 2022, a pandemic-weary public is going to start blaming the guy in charge for not doing more to fix the situation.
But still, there are many who simply refuse to believe that Republicans could be that sinister, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In August, Jonathan Chait of New York magazine scoffed that "Republican covid denialism is idiocy, not a plot." He continues to insist on this take, tweeting Sunday that to argue otherwise is overrating "the intelligence of the Republican party base." This is an incoherent argument, as Crooked Media editor Brian Beutler pointed out, as it requires believing that gullible people are somehow impervious to manipulation, when "easy to manipulate" is literally what defines gullibility.
But even the New York Times, which has a long-standing habit of refusing to accept the depths of depravity Republicans will sink to, is facing up to this grim reality. Last week, Jonathan Weisman reported that "Republicans have hit on a new line of attack" — blaming Biden for the pandemic — even though it's Republicans who "spent months flouting mask ordinances and blocking the president's vaccine mandates."
Breaking things and then blaming Democrats for things being broken is a long-standing GOP political strategy. It works because, as Paul Krugman of the New York Times recently explained, voters "tend to support the incumbent party when things are going well, oppose it if things are going badly." So, when the GOP is out of power, they do what they "can to make bad things happen," knowing Democrats will be blamed. So it has been on the economy, and so it is on the pandemic.
Now there's a scary new variant that could prolong the pandemic, and many Republicans can barely hide their glee.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas continues to bash Dr. Fauci, tweeting on Sunday that he's "an unelected technocrat who has distorted science and facts in order to exercise authoritarian control over millions of Americans," and spreading a repulsive conspiracy theory insinuating that Fauci somehow had a hand in creating the virus. "I'm just going to do my job and I'm going to be saving lives and they're going to be lying," Dr. Fauci said in response to GOP conspiracy theories about him — theories clearly meant to undermine his authority when he continues to advocate for vaccination.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also doubled down on vaccine discouragement in response to the Omicron variant, insisting that the horse deworming drug ivermectin is the real solution. She even encouraged her followers to sue hospitals for COVID-19 deaths because doctors won't prescribe this useless drug. That's the modern GOP in a nutshell: First, get people killed by telling them to refuse vaccines, and then blame the only people who actually tried to save those lives for the deaths.
That this is a deliberate strategy and not just idiocy was confirmed yet again over the weekend through the actions of Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who gave two separate interviews — one on Fox News and one on CNN — where she offered extremely different claims about the vaccine. For her Fox New audience, Mace claimed "natural immunity gives you 27 times more protection against future COVID than a vaccination." On CNN, while trying to hoodwink the Jonathan Chaits of the world into thinking Republicans aren't that bad, she claimed she wanted people to get vaccinated.
And Donald Trump Jr., always ready to be the sweaty id of the GOP, went on Fox News and praised the anti-vaccine rioters in Europe, claiming they're standing up for "freedom." In reality, it has little to do with freedom and more to do with far-right groups in Europe spreading the same conspiracy theories about the vaccine as the right in America does.
This is the same GOP that has supported Donald Trump despite his attempted coup and instigating a violent riot on the Capitol. Indeed, this is the same party that, inspired by Trump, is rewriting election laws and reorganizing election boards to make it far easier for Trump to succeed when he tries to steal the 2024 election. They care not one bit about this country or its people, just their own pursuit of power. So of course the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, which could kill way more people, isn't giving them any pause.
The Republican strategy now is what it has been for months: Encourage the base to reject vaccination and to spread COVID-19, with the hopes that a weary public will blame Democrats and punish them at the ballot box in the 2022 midterms. The frightening thing is the GOP's nakedly pro-COVID strategy may very well work, especially if this new variant draws out the pandemic for that much longer.
Nothing short of horrific: Republicans continue their cynical anti-Biden strategy despite its tragic consequences
Americans woke up on Black Friday this year to more than a food hangover and big crowds at the malls. Along with the rest of the world, we were greeted with news of a frightening new COVID variant that appears to have characteristics that may make it more dangerous than the previous strains. After the stock market fell out of bed, the news networks went on full "breaking news alerts" all day, before governments around the world reacted with travel bans. Within hours, the World Health Organization named the new variant Omicron, B.1.1.529, and put it into the category of "variant of concern" citing the possibility that it has greater potential to escape prior immunity. Great. Just what we need.
Over the weekend, things calmed down a bit as the experts weighed in and told everyone to be patient and wait for real evidence before panicking. Most seemed to think that the vaccines would still have at least some effect and there were even those who suggested that the news that 10% of people testing positive in the Netherlands following flights out of South Africa, where the mutation is believed to have originated, may mean that Omicron is actually less virulent than those that came before.
The fact is that we just don't know much at the moment.
Quite a few public health experts sounded alarms that the U.S. and other countries are needlessly banning people from certain African countries, arguing that it unfairly punishes them even though the virus doesn't respect borders or passports in any case. As critics noted, there are already Omicron cases in Europe and Asia — and it's almost assured that it's in the U.S. already.
Still, as Zeynep Tufekci in the New York Times points out in an excellent piece on Sunday, a time-limited travel ban buys a little time for countries to prepare for this new strain if it does turn out to be a major setback. She offers a number of suggestions, from mass rapid testing (apparently, this new variant can easily be detected by the standard PCR test which is a lucky break) to getting vaccine manufacturers working on a specific vaccine immediately. In fact, Pfizer put out a statement that they could get a new vaccine online in about three months. Her point is that this early warning will be of little use if all countries do with it is offer what she calls "pandemic theater" instead of a tangible response that's flexible enough to pull back quickly if this fizzles out. That seems like sound advice and we'll find out soon enough if all this is going to be necessary.
But the fact is that you can't divorce politics from this problem.
For all the concern about punishing countries with travel bans, I don't think there is a lot of choice in moments like these. As public health expert Dr. Leana Wen told CNN, "imagine the counterfactual if the Biden administration did not at this point and there were a major spike in cases due to this variant, what would we have said? We would say they should have taken action much more promptly."
All you have to do is look back to last week to see how perilous the politics of COVID have become. Consider the Wall St. Journal editorial that ripped the Biden administration for failing to contain COVID as it passed the milestone of more deaths in 2021 than 2020. (This is a fatuous complaint, of course. The virus didn't take off until April of 2020 and the worst spike, so far, began peaking in January of 2021, just as Biden was taking office.) The editorial excoriated Biden for running on the promise of dealing more effectively with the crisis than Trump did and now it turns out that people died in great numbers anyway.
This is an old Republican trick. They leave the country in shambles when they are voted out of office, obstruct the Democrats every step of the way when they try to fix it and then blame them for failing to fulfill their promises. And they're doing it again:
The Times' David Leonhardt recently laid out the tragic consequences of this cynical strategy:
The gap in Covid's death toll between red and blue America has grown faster over the past month than at any previous point.
In October, 25 out of every 100,000 residents of heavily Trump counties died from Covid, more than three times higher than the rate in heavily Biden counties (7.8 per 100,000). October was the fifth consecutive month that the percentage gap between the death rates in Trump counties and Biden counties widened...
The true explanation is straightforward: The vaccines are remarkably effective at preventing severe Covid, and almost 40 percent of Republican adults remain unvaccinated, compared with about 10 percent of Democratic adults.
That's a hell of a thing to do just to make Biden look bad but, apparently, there is nothing Republicans and their propagandists in the right-wing media won't do to secure power in Washington again.
And lest anyone forget, the Trump administration's record on the pandemic was nothing short of horrific. From his obsession with not testing in order to "keep his numbers down" to pushing snake oil cures and sabotaging public health measures, his performance was an epic failure that ended up persuading his own followers that they should ignore the experts and listen to quacks and con artists instead. The results speak for themselves. They would rather die than get life-saving vaccines.
The Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is chaired by Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., has been holding hearings and releasing documents showing that it was even worse than we knew in real time. Trump senior officials repeatedly leaned on the Centers for Disease Control to keep the public uninformed about the pandemic for political reasons. David Corn of Mother Jones reminds us of this horrific data point:
As researchers from UCLA noted in March 2021, the United States could have avoided 400,000 COVID deaths if the Trump administration had implemented a more effective health strategy that included mask mandates, social distancing, and robust testing guidelines. [Dr. Deborah]Birx made a similar statement at that time.
Blaming President Biden for the ongoing COVID tragedy when efforts to contain it have been sabotaged at every step of the way by Republicans is predictable. It's what they do. And anyone who says that this is not something that the administration has to consider when they try to fashion responses to the crisis, whether it's desperately trying to persuade these anti-vaxxers to save their own lives or reacting to a possibly dangerous new variant, are not living in the real world.
This obscene dynamic is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the United States and the stunning fact that despite our advanced health care system and easy access to life-saving vaccines, we have still lost more people in this pandemic than any other country in the world. You cannot blame the administration for acting with an abundance of caution under these circumstances.
IN OTHER NEWS: 'Put it in full context': Jen Psaki shoots down Fox News reporter Peter Doocy after his false attack on Biden
'Put it in full context': Jen Psaki shoots down Fox News reporter Peter Doocy after his false attack www.youtube.com