Saturday, July 31, 2021

This is why we needed the January 6 commission

 Many of the opponents of the January 6 commission cited the other ongoing criminal investigations as a reason why a congressional investigation was not needed. The argument went that the DOJ and law enforcement agencies were already doing much of the work that a commission would do and that Congress would needlessly politicize the investigations into the Capitol insurrection. Yesterday, however, a piece of information dropped that shows why the criminal investigations were insufficient for the events of January 6.

Yesterday, House investigators released notes made by Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue during a December 27, 2020 phone call with President Trump and Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who became head of the DOJ after the resignation of Bill Barr. The notes provide a smoking gun that President Trump pressured the DOJ, not to investigate possible fraud in the election, but to simply agree without evidence that the election was corrupt. (A PDF of the nine pages of handwritten notes can be viewed here.)

Donoghue’s notes record the president instructing the DOJ to “Just say that the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen.”

Taken in total, the handwritten scrawl memorializes a conversation in which the president launched into a diatribe of conspiracy theories about the state with close electoral outcomes and reamed out the DOJ for not providing the same take on the investigation as conspiracy websites.

“You guys are not following the internet the way I do,” Donoghue’s notes quote the president.

To their credit, Rosen and Donoghue pushed back, telling the president, “We are doing our job. Much of the info you’re getting is false [emphasis in the original].”

The pair went on to correct Trump on the counting error rate in Michigan (0.0063 percent rather than 68 percent) and that there were no suitcases of ballots in Georgia, among other items.

Trump responded by saying, “We have to tell the people that this was a corrupt, illegal election.”

He also added an implicit threat, saying, “People tell me Jeff Clark is great and I should put him in.”

Jeffrey Clark was an assistant attorney general at the time. It was reported in January that Trump had met with Clark, who was more sympathetic to the president’s efforts to paint the election as corrupt and overturn the results, to discuss possibly replacing AAG Rosen.

The phone call ended with President Trump praising Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) for “getting to the bottom of things” and reiterating many of the same conspiracy theories that Rosen and Donoghue had just refuted.

“The people who [are] saying the election isn’t corrupt are corrupt,” Trump said.

I’ve had many Trump supporters tell me that Donald Trump was not trying to overturn the election and that January 6 was not about overthrowing the constitutional order. Donoghue’s notes are compelling evidence to the contrary and it is entirely possible that will be corroborated with recordings.

The notes paint a picture of a president who was out of control and basing his information on unverified internet allegations rather than the facts gathered by the DOJ. If you followed the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency closely, this picture is not surprising. It’s nothing new and it might never have come to light without the congressional inquiry.

What is new and disturbing is the lengths that Trump was willing to go to pressure Justice Department officials to join in his paranoid delusions. While it’s likely that this sort of thing happened at other times during the Trump Administration, the stone walls erected by Sessions, Barr, McConnell, and others meant that there was little hard evidence to show the inner workings of the Trump White House. We had anecdotal evidence of Trump’s interference with the DOJ Russia investigation and holding the Ukraine aid package hostage, but because DOJ and White House agencies were in the hands of Trump’s allies, written evidence was hard to come by as congressional subpoenas were ignored.

That is changing now. The Biden Administration has little interest in helping to cover up Donald Trump’s abuses of power (and potential crimes). The Biden White House is unlikely to exert executive privilege over matters like Trump’s attempts to throw out election results and the DOJ has already cleared the way for former Trump officials to testify about January 6. Even Trump’s tax returns, which are required by law to be released to Congress and were the subject of two Supreme Court cases, are finally being given up by the IRS. The stone walls are falling.

And this is appropriate. Executive privilege was not intended to help protect government officials who try to steal elections or incite insurrections. People who broke the law should pay the consequences even if they are government officials. Especially if they are government officials.

As to politicizing the investigation, it would be difficult for Democrats to make the investigation more political than Republicans have already done. It is understandable why Republicans didn’t want the January 6 commission. The skeletons from the Trump Administration’s closets are embarrassing and possibly incriminating. This is especially true since the party is still fixated on Donald Trump as its messiah and very few sitting Republicans have not been tainted by the former president.

But I’ll say it again: Sunlight is the best disinfectant. And hiding Republican corruption from the light of day may be a good short-term course for the GOP, but it isn’t good for the country in the long term.

The best course for the country is to expose the Trumpian abuses of power and just how close we came to having a president use the government to try to steal an election. In all likelihood, government intervention to overturn the election results would have precipitated widespread violence or possibly a civil war. People like Rosen, Donoghue, and even Bill Barr who held the line against Trump’s demands deserve credit, but those who were willing to toss out the will of the people because they didn’t like the result should be exposed and face consequences for their actions.

And that’s where the January 6 commission comes in. These unethical actions might not fit the criminal code. For example, we know that Donald Trump, Mo Brooks, and others encouraged the crowd to March on the Capitol to disrupt the Electoral College proceedings and persuade Vice President Pence to “send it back,” something he had no authority to do. These exhortations may not reach the legal bar of incitement, but they were clearly wrong and clearly contributed directly to insurrection.

It may be that the January 6 commission unearths enough evidence to charge some members of the Trump Administration and/or Congress with criminal acts in connection with the events of January 6. The congressional investigation will pursue threads and uncover evidence that would not be applicable to criminal investigations of individual rioters or accessible to law enforcement. Evidence like the notes of Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.

But even if their actions are not prosecutable or don’t reach the level of criminal conduct, Americans deserve to know what was going on behind closed doors in the White House and halls of government last winter. We deserve to know who risked their career to hold the line against Trump and defend the Constitution. We need to know who was ready to toss out the Constitution and pledge loyalty to Donald Trump.

Donoghue’s notes won’t be the last bomb to drop on the Trump Administration and Republicans. The damage that the investigation will do to the Republican Party makes it easy to understand why Republicans wanted to cover up Trump’s activities and pretend the attack on the Capitol was no big deal.

But as each successive revelation about Donald Trump’s attempted coup hits the presses, it will be increasingly obvious why the congressional investigation was vital. It won’t be easy to hear, especially if you’re a Republican, but it will be information that we as a country need to hear.


Can I ask you something straight up?

Will you subscribe if you’re reading this and would like to see more? If you are a subscriber, can I ask you to share The Racket News with your friends? We have the distinction of being totally independent, and therefore we can annoy everyone without fear of losing advertising dollars or backers. We speak our minds. We encourage you to speak yours.

Share The Racket News

Erick Erickson recently pointed out that January 6 was not the first time that the Capitol had been under attack. One of the incidents that he cited was the 1983 bombing of the Capitol by a communist group. Personally, I don’t think that comparing the MAGA insurrection to a communist bombing is as mitigating as Erickson and others seem to think it is. This is in no small part due to the fact that no sitting president has even instigated an attack on the Capitol in order to subvert the peaceful transfer of power. This was a very big deal and unprecedented in our history.

And with all due respect to Erick Erickson and others who deny that January 6 was an insurrection, the January 6 events meet the definition of the word “insurrection” as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government” with the synonyms “revolt,” “uprising,” and “rebellion.” What part of that does not sound like January 6?

From the Racket

Friday, July 30, 2021

To put away masks, adopt proof of vaccination

 Steve had a great point this morning. He and his family have all had COVID-19 and he and his wife are both vaccinated. There really is no good reason for the two of them to have to wear masks as they go about their business in Atlanta. Their odds of getting infected with COVID again or spreading the virus to anyone else are extremely low. So why are the Bermans being subjected to a universal mask mandate once again?

The answer is that we have no good way to determine who has survived COVID and/or been vaccinated and who is simply running around without a mask despite being unvaccinated. The key to getting things back to normal in a world of the Delta variant is going to be telling the difference between the people who are doing the right thing with respect to vaccinations and the people who would be hiding a zombie bite if this were a zombie apocalypse movie. I know people who are unvaccinated but who are running around like they are invincible and I’m sure you do too.

By N509FZ - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Share The Racket News

Like everything else related to this pandemic, the phrase “vaccine passport” has taken on political implications. In the past, most of us haven’t had a problem with the use of vaccination records for school, work, travel, or military service, but now, thanks to conspiracy theories and the sinister rebranding of vaccination records as “passports,” it’s suddenly an issue of personal rights. This is wrong on two counts.

First, as I described a while back, the Supreme Court has upheld mandatory vaccinations and recent lower court rulings have affirmed the authority of organizations to require vaccines. It would be legal to mandate the vaccine and it is legal to limit the public actions of those who refuse to be vaccinated.

Second, at this point, you do have a right not to get a COVID vaccine, but you don’t have the right to escape the consequences of refusing to be vaccinated. There’s nothing new about this. Even before the pandemic, if you didn’t get your shots, you couldn’t enroll in school, travel to certain destinations, or hold certain jobs. Decisions have consequences.

This is not new. If you look closely at the picture that accompanies this article, you’ll see that it is a polio vaccination certificate from 1963 rather than a 2021 COVID vaccination card. Polio vaccines were mandated in the 1950s and you would have had to show a card like this to enroll in school.

All this matters because it is the unvaccinated who are driving the current stage of the pandemic. Statistics show that the most serious COVID cases and deaths in the US are now almost exclusively among the unvaccinated.

Even though the vaccines are less effective at preventing infection by the Delta variant than they were against previous strains, they still help to reduce the chance of infection as well as to help prevent a serious illness in the case of a breakthrough infection. Further, vaccines seem to greatly reduce the chances of spreading the disease to others in a breakthrough infection, although this seems to be lessened in the case of Delta as well.

The bottom line is that it is the unvaccinated who are most vulnerable to all of the variants of COVID-19. They also seem to be the ones doing the most to spread it.

This has taken on a new personal importance to me. If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, why not?), you may already know that my wife tested positive for COVID yesterday. This is despite the fact that our entire family is fully vaccinated.

As with many of the COVID infections, my wife’s case seems to have begun at church. We went to church after it reopened last summer but then went back to virtual church as the virus surged over the winter. We started back a second time after being vaccinated last spring.

On Wednesday, we got an email from our church saying that someone who was at the service on Sunday had tested positive. Citing privacy concerns, the email didn’t say who the person was so we didn’t know if we were in close contact or not. Later that night, my wife started developing allergy-like symptoms like sneezing. Since we had planned to visit our parents this weekend, she decided to get tested. Yesterday, she got a positive result. The nurse at the clinic said that my wife was the first person that she had seen who had tested positive after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. (That may be a result of the smaller number of J&J jabs rather than its efficacy. Who knows?)

So far, her case is mild. That’s good news as far as COVID is concerned, but still, nothing that you’d really want to endure if you didn’t have to. The rest of the family is still free of any symptoms and we are once again all quarantined at home. Due to my flying schedule, it is possible that I’m a couple of days behind the rest of the family on the exposure timeline.

Even though we’ve had one breakthrough infection in the family, I’m glad that we are a fully vaccinated family. I can be more confident in my wife’s recovery since she is vaccinated. I can hope that the rest of the family will not get infected since we are all fully vaccinated and my wife may not be as contagious as she would otherwise. All in all, there really is no downside to being vaccinated even though our family beat the odds with a breakthrough infection.

Public policy right now is about balance. We have to balance nudging the unvaccinated to take their shots with rewarding those who have been responsible. We have to balance promises made in the past with mitigating an even more deadly new variant. We have to balance privacy rights with the need to slow the spread once again.

The best way to do that is to allow government and private organizations to require proof of vaccinations for employees and customers. This idea is based on the conservative notion that actions (or inactions) have consequences. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, you don’t have to, but you also don’t get to go to concerts this summer or football games this fall. You might also have to find a job or school that matches your beliefs about vaccines.

This is not a new idea and it is not unconstitutional. It is an idea whose time has come once again.

Just don't call them "vaccine passports."

From the Racket

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The return of the debt ceiling

 Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, another debt crisis is looming for the federal government. Unless Congress acts by August 2, the Treasury Department will have to resort to extreme measures to avoid hitting the federal borrowing limit known as the debt ceiling.

The last big debt ceiling fight was in 2013 but in 2019 Congress quietly suspended the debt ceiling until August 2021. President Trump signed the bipartisan deal as part of a budget bill that raised spending by $324 billion.

Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

Can I ask you something straight up?

Will you subscribe if you’re reading this and would like to see more? If you are a subscriber, can I ask you to share The Racket News with your friends? We have the distinction of being totally independent, and therefore we can annoy everyone without fear of losing advertising dollars or backers. We speak our minds. We encourage you to speak yours.

Share The Racket News

Now, two years later, the bill is coming due for the can that Congress and the president kicked down the road. This time Republicans, who have once again discovered fiscal conservatism now that they are out of power, say that they will not support another increase to the debt ceiling.

"I can't imagine there will be a single Republican voting to raise the debt ceiling after what we've been experiencing," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Punchbowl News, citing “this environment that we’re in now -- this free-for-all for taxes and spending.” 

The Economist amusingly compares this threat to the scene from “Blazing Saddles” in which a Western town’s new black sheriff holds his own gun to his head saying, “Nobody move or the n- gets it.” This doesn’t mean that the threat is empty, however. Republicans have demonstrated in the past that they are more than willing to shoot themselves in the foot to make a point.

The truth is that the massive amount of borrowing that the federal government has undertaken under both parties is bad for the country. It’s also true that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be worse.

Failing to raise the debt ceiling would ultimately lead to a financial crisis in which the US government defaulted on its obligations, something that has never happened in all of American history. When Congress got into a debt ceiling fight with President Obama in 2011, the stock market lost four percent of its value and Standard and Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating for the first time in history.

Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan, explained to CNBC that the real damage might come in the form of destroying the market for US bonds. Many contracts require parties to post collateral based on securities from non-defaulting entities. So far, that has included the US government. However, if the US defaults it could kill much of the demand for Treasury bonds from these buyers. As a result, the Treasury would have to raise interest rates, making the national debt more expensive to maintain. And we still wouldn’t be able to pay off debt already incurred.

It is possible that some Republicans might not mind causing a financial crisis and a market collapse. After all, Joe Biden, a Democrat, is president. This is very short-sighted thinking, however, and I’m skeptical that the entire caucus would join the suicide squad.

For one thing, both parties should want what is best for America. There is no serious argument that defaulting on our debt and collapsing the economy is best for the country.

Second, if Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling and that refusal leads to recession or depression, the GOP‘s fingerprints will be all over the financial crisis. The voting public will remember that it was the Republicans who refused to authorize more borrowing and kicked off the collapse. That won’t play well at the polls. Republicans shouldn’t delude themselves that it will.

Voters generally don’t like it when politicians upset their daily lives and a financial crisis would certainly do that. The political impact would probably be similar to a government shutdown although probably more pronounced. In general, both parties usually look bad in a shutdown, but the party deemed to be at fault bears the brunt. If the Republicans crater the economy, they had better hope that something worse emerges to distract voters.

So, should Republicans give Democrats a blank check - or more accurately a credit card with no credit limit? No. There’s a lot of wiggle room between refusing to authorize any debt increase and a limitless authorization.

The model for the Republican response should be the fiscal cliff negotiations and the sequestration. Republicans should not and probably cannot stop the debt ceiling increase, but they can exact a price for their cooperation. That price should be meaningful budget cuts.

The sequestration got bad press at the time but it turned out to be John Boehner’s triumph. Boehner was considered by many Republicans to be a RINO and a “squish” but his tough negotiations resulted in cuts to the federal budget in consecutive years (in real dollars, not projected increases) for the first time since the 1950s. Boehner saved taxpayers trillions of dollars. Of course, all that went out the window when Republicans took control of the government in 2016.

Republicans do have a point that it isn’t conservative to run up trillions of dollars in debt that will be passed on to younger generations until we finally lose the ability to keep borrowing. On the other hand, it isn’t conservative to stop paying your bills and go into national bankruptcy either.

From the Racket

Monday, July 26, 2021

The little infrastructure bill that could

 Well, “little” may not be the best adjective to describe the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, but the bipartisan package keeps chugging along like the fabled train that once struggled to deliver its load of toys over the mountain.

“I think I can, I think I can,” the bill and its backers seem to say.

Photo by Manny Ribera on Unsplash

Can I ask you something straight up?

Will you subscribe if you’re reading this and would like to see more? If you are a subscriber, can I ask you to share The Racket News with your friends? We have the distinction of being totally independent, and therefore we can annoy everyone without fear of losing advertising dollars or backers. We speak our minds. We encourage you to speak yours.

Share The Racket News

The bill failed a vote last week that would have opened debate in the Senate, but that loss did not kill the bill outright. Negotiations have continued and the bill may come to another vote as early as this week.

Reuters reported on Friday that Democrats are considering dropping a provision that would have created an infrastructure bank that would be intended to foster public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. The rub was that Democrats wanted to apply the Davis-Bacon Act, a law that requires government contractors to pay prevailing wages, to apply to the private side of the public-private partnerships.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said that he expects a dozen Republican senators to ultimately support the bill. USA Today reported that 11 Republicans signed a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in which they committed to supporting debating the bill, rather than killing it with a filibuster.

Earlier concerns about the two parallel Democratic infrastructure bills seem to have evaporated. A core group of Republicans seems committed to finding an agreement on the bipartisan bill while opposing the larger, strictly Democratic bill which includes climate and social spending rather than the traditional infrastructure items.

The details of the bipartisan bill are still in flux as negotiations continue, but earlier reports say that the bill includes:

  • $109 billion for repairs to roads and bridges

  • $66 billion for passenger and freight rail

  • $49 billion for public transit

  • $25 billion for airports

  • $73 billion for electric and power infrastructure

  • $65 billion for broadband expansion

  • $55 billion for water and sewer projects

There is broad support for improving our roads and bridges. The highrise building that collapsed in Miami last month was privately owned, but publicly owned and maintained bridges are aging and have collapsed as well. One of the most famous was the 2007 collapse of I-35W in Minneapolis that killed 13 and injured 145, but just last month a pedestrian bridge collapsed onto a major road in the District of Columbia, injuring five.

As I’ve written in the past, the highway trust fund, which is made up of gas tax revenues, has been hit by inflation and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The purchasing power of the trust fund has declined, even as more vehicles hit the roads, resulting in a $50 billion shortfall in funds needed to maintain and repair bridges and roads.

One of America’s great competitive advantages is in our transportation infrastructure, but it has to be maintained and upgraded over time. Most of us (with the exception of Libertarians and anarchists) agree that roads are a worthy item for government largesse. This is especially true if you are a commuter in a big city.

Another item that is near and dear to my heart is broadband expansion. For about a decade now, I’ve lived in places that do not have access to high-speed internet. Americans who live in cities might be surprised to know that almost a quarter of the country lacks high-speed internet.

When I lived in Texas, even though we were in the shadow of Houston, no cable or wired internet was available. We were forced to rely on mobile phones and satellite internet service. Later, when we moved to Georgia, I made sure to check on whether high-speed internet was available in the house that we decided to buy. The company assured me that it was, but after the closing it the availability suddenly disappeared. [Sarcastic “thanks!” to AT&T as I shake my fist at the sky.] We were suddenly back to satellite internet.

This made things difficult when the pandemic struck. In our county, lack of internet access is a widespread problem for two reasons. First, the county is heavily rural even though it is adjacent to one of Georgia’s largest cities, and very few homes are wired for cable. Second, due to the mountains and hills in the area even mobile data access can be a problem.

When we decided to enroll our children in virtual classes for the Fall 2020 term, we had to do a major overhaul of our internet infrastructure. This involved junking the satellite service for a mobile hot spot with unlimited data and changing our mobile phone service to a more expensive carrier that had better service at our house. [Thanks again, AT&T, albeit not totally sarcastic this time.]

The pandemic showed the importance of national internet access. Not only did the internet make it possible for a large portion of America’s children to stay in school without transporting the Coronavirus around their communities, it also made it possible to keep many parts of the economy humming. Doctors could see patients without having them come into the office where they could be exposed to (or transmit) COVID-19.

Going forward, internet expansion to rural areas will make it easier for productive businesses to grow away from the already-congested cities. Traffic and pollution can be reduced if workers can do at least part of their jobs at home via the internet rather than driving to work. Even shifting hours spent at the office or school to off-peak times would be beneficial. Rural patients can see medical specialists without spending hours or days on the road.

It is a fair question as to whether internet access is within the federal bounds set by the Constitution. Unlike roads, the Constitution does not specifically authorize spending on internet infrastructure. Or airports for that matter. How could it since neither was invented until later? It could be argued persuasively that both do “provide for the… general Welfare of the United States,” however.

A better question might be how the First Amendment would be applied to government-funded internet. The implications could be significant if the government becomes the ISP for rural parts of the country.

The two parties seem likely to find agreement on the infrastructure bill, something that would be applauded by most Americans. After all, working with each other to get things done is what most voters send people to Congress to do.


The latest on the Tucker Carlson spying tempest-in-a-teapot is that an internal investigation found that there was no spying on Tucker.

The Record reports that “the Fox News host’s communications were not targeted — as the NSA has previously stated publicly — nor intercepted through so-called ‘incidental collection,’ where the U.S. government sometimes obtains the emails or phone calls of Americans in contact with a foreign target under surveillance.”

“Instead,” the report continues, “The nation’s top electronic spy agency found that Carlson was mentioned in communications between third parties and his name was subsequently revealed through ‘unmasking,’ a process in which relevant government officials can request the identities of American citizens in intelligence reports to be divulged provided there is an official reason, such as helping them make sense of the intelligence documents they are reviewing.”

The report cites sources that gave details about the internal investigation, which was prompted by congressional inquiries. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

It’s possible that the report is a coverup, but outrageous claims require evidence. The onus is on Tucker at this point.

Unlike his report on the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, Tucker may not have intentionally misled people on the surveillance report. He may have simply reported what he was told by his own sources.

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt to this point, but his future claims need to be supported by evidence.

I’m not sure that I’ll write anything on the Olympics. I’m not much of a fan, but we’ll see what develops.

Personally, I’ve always thought that the games would be much more interesting if the various countries played for world domination. Think about it. The Cold War could have ended with Team USA’s 1980 hockey victory over the Soviet Union. And France’s basketball win over the USA would have more interesting implications.

From the Racket

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Sympathy for the unvaccinated

 A Twitter friend responded to my piece about court decisions upholding mandatory vaccinations earlier this week by saying that it is an outrage to force vaccinations on students and criticizing me for not being sympathetic to the concerns of those who are unsure that the vaccine is safe.

First, let me say that I wholeheartedly support the right of private organizations to require their employees and customers to be vaccinated. I’ll echo the Texas judge’s statement that the students and employees in question are not being forced to take the vaccine. They are being given a choice. They can either choose to protect themselves and others or they can go to another school or find another employer.

A mechanical ventilator being used to treat a patient in an intensive care unit. (Rcp.basheer/Wikimedia)

Share The Racket News

Second, I do have sympathy for people who are uncertain about the vaccine’s safety. I am particularly sympathetic to those who have health issues that might actually make the vaccine risky. For the vast majority of us, that is not the case.

My sympathy for the others is more akin to my sympathy for those who have been taken in by a con man. Most people are afraid of the vaccine because they have been getting bad information about it. To a great extent, this is a self-induced problem since there is an abundance of reliable information available.

I’m likewise sympathetic to people who fall for Nigerian email schemes. They may lose their life’s savings and have their families impoverished by the con men, but often the marks fall for the con because they don’t question outrageously good claims, do real research, and exercise some skepticism about what they were told. There is blame for the victims as well as for the people who lied to them.

It’s the same with the anti-vaxxers. There is good and reliable information is out there. People are trying to educate them, but they refuse to listen, often because of a reflexive distrust of government and media. And the damage that can be done on a societal or global level by millions of people who refuse to vaccinate or otherwise protect themselves against a deadly disease extends far beyond their own family.

I’ll pick on Tucker Carlson. Pradheep Shanker had an excellent explanation of Carlson’s misuse of data from the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) in National Review. Carlson was assuming that preliminary data was definitive and claiming a much higher number of vaccine-related deaths and illnesses than is reflected by official statistics.

Essentially, after claiming that COVID deaths were deaths “with COVID” rather than “from COVID” for the past year or so, people like Carlson are now claiming that any death after a vaccination is a result of the vaccine. This is an example of moving the goalposts and its only purpose seems to be to generate revenue through fear-based clicks and views.

The question of whether to vaccinate or not is a question of risks. At almost any age (possibly excluding young children), there is a much greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 than from the flu and far more than from the COVID-19 vaccines.

The VAERS data cited by Carlson reported 6,079 reports of death after vaccinations. This represents only 0.0018% of the 334 million vaccine doses administered. This is already a much lower rate of deaths than from the Coronavirus, but that number is not a vaccine death toll.

The total death toll attributable to COVID vaccines is - wait for it - three. Not three hundred or three thousand, but one, two, three. Three. All from blood clots related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Tucker Carlson is a smart person and presumably has a large staff of experts that he can call upon. If he didn’t know he was using the data incorrectly, he should have.

That leaves two possibilities. Tucker is either a liar or incompetent. Either way, he deserves to lose his platform.

So yes, I’m sympathetic to people who are getting sick and dying because they have been lied to by people they trusted to tell them the truth. There is an argument that these people should have figured out at some point over the past few years that they were being lied to, but the modern bubbles of confirmation bias can make this difficult.

There are signs that conservative media is starting to hesitantly embrace the vaccines. As I mentioned earlier this week, Sean Hannity recently endorsed vaccinations (although he has subsequently somewhat walked his comments back), but it is going to take a lot of work to overcome the months of reports that have minimized the danger of COVID-19 and hyped alleged dangers about vaccines. Mitch McConnell strongly endorsed vaccinations and warned that new lockdowns might be necessary if vaccination efforts didn’t improve. Even Ron DeSantis got into the act with a statement that, “These vaccines are saving lives.”

Alabama’s Kay Ivey was uncharacteristically direct for Republicans when she said Thursday, “It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

But the one person who could have the greatest effect on Republican holdouts remains silent. This man takes credit for the rapid development and deployment of the vaccines, but refuses to endorse their use.

People who are just realizing that they’ve been lied to about the pandemic and vaccines should question some of the other things they are being told by these anti-vaccine sources. If these pundits and politicians will steer you wrong about one thing, they’ll probably steer you wrong on other things as well.

As always, I advocate listening to both sides of the argument and researching primary sources when possible. Stay away from the outrage media on both sides that take snippets out of context and use them to fuel your anger. Look to more evenhanded and objective sources.

It’s fair to ask for sympathy for the vaccine skeptics, but when skepticism becomes willful ignorance and conspiracy mindedness then sympathy can finally run out. Sometimes it isn’t forbearance and patience that is needed but tough love.

If grandma sends thousands of dollars to Nigerian scammers, I’d feel sorry for her. But if she keeps sending money after she knows she’s almost broke and getting no return, there reaches a point when you might have to take away her checkbook for her own good.

There is a valid argument for education and outreach to the vaccine skeptics, but if COVID cases and deaths continue to rise and vaccine resistant strains spread, we may reach a point where education is not enough. More forceful measures ranging from requiring proof of vaccination for public events and travel, allowing insurance surcharges for the unvaccinated, and maybe even vaccine mandates may eventually be needed.

In the end, vaccines are partly an individual choice, but they are also a matter of public health. In a pandemic involving a dangerous and deadly disease, the public health aspect should win out.


Can I ask you something straight up?

Will you subscribe if you’re reading this and would like to see more? If you are a subscriber, can I ask you to share The Racket News with your friends? We have the distinction of being totally independent, and therefore we can annoy everyone without fear of losing advertising dollars or backers. We speak our minds. We encourage you to speak yours.

The Cleveland Indians will soon be history. After the 2021 season, the team will be renamed the Cleveland Guardians.

There will be the people who lament the change, saying, “They made Cleveland ditch the ‘Indians’ name. While there are good arguments on both sides of the name change, the important thing to remember is that no one forced the team to change its name. They did it on their own.

You can believe that the name change is a PC travesty, but you also should understand that the change is a private property rights issue at its core. We may feel like professional sports franchises are communal city property, but in reality they are businesses that are the property of their owners. As a traditionalist, I hate to see the Cleveland Indians name go away, but it’s the team’s call to make.

Personally, the Guardians name seems a little uninspired to me. If I was going to rename the team, I would have called it the Cleveland Rocks.

From the Racket