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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: covid 19

Public Approval Of Unions At Highest Point Since 1965, Again

Public support for unions is at its highest level since 1965, according to Gallup’s annual pre-Labor Day survey. And if that headline sounds familiar, it’s because last year Gallup also found the highest public support for unions since 1965.

In 2021, 68 percent of people surveyed said they approved of labor unions. In 2022, 71 percent said they approved. That’s a “statistically similar” number, as Gallup puts it, but before the pandemic, the number was 64 percent. That’s part of an ongoing trend in the right direction: “Support for labor unions was highest in the 1950s, when three in four Americans said they approved,” Gallup notes. “Support only dipped below the 50% mark once, in 2009, but has improved in the 13 years since and now sits at a level last seen nearly 60 years ago.”

Recent years have seen a series of teacher uprisings against education budget cuts and low wages—teachers face a significant pay penalty in comparison with other equivalently educated workers—and, this year, a remarkable string of union wins at Starbucks along with one enormous win at Amazon. The COVID-19 pandemic also spurred many workers to reconsider their relationships with their work and their employers, as workers dubbed “essential” early in the pandemic soon saw themselves treated as disposable and workers faced the competing pressures of care work, health and safety, and the demands of their employers.

Over the past decade-plus, unions have also led fights for policies like an increased minimum wage and paid leave—extremely successful initiatives at the state level, even if those policies remain stalled at the federal level—that benefit all workers, not just union members. Even if you don’t pay attention to the data showing that unions reduce economic inequality, the old right-wing attacks on unions as purely self-interested very obviously don’t hold water.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

How (And Why) The Far Right Demonized Dr. Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official and a public health adviser to seven presidents, announced on Monday that he plans to retire in December after more than 50 years of public service. President Joe Biden toasted Fauci as “a steady hand with wisdom and insight honed over decades” and praised his “unparalleled spirit, energy, and scientific integrity,” while top scientists touted his record of “sav[ing] countless lives.”

While Fauci once earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom from then-President George W. Bush, his impending retirement was not greeted with plaudits from the right. On Fox News that night, Tucker Carlson’s opening monologue described him as “a dangerous fraud, a man who has done things that in most countries, at most times in history, would be understood perfectly clearly to be very serious crimes.” The New York Post headlined its editorial the next day “Good riddance to dangerous Dr. Fauci,” while The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board concluded that “his legacy will be that millions of Americans will never trust government health experts in the same way again.”

Fauci, like everyone else involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 1 million Americans, does not have a perfect record. But he spent his career trying to remain impartial, avoid partisanship, and offer the best advice he could, and for decades, he was respected on both sides of the political aisle. That reputation ultimately could not survive the relentless propaganda of the right-wing press, which needed a coronavirus scapegoat and found one in the octogenarian scientist.

Right-wing propagandists began turning Fauci into their latest hate object in March 2020. At the time, states had imposed stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures that were recommended by the Trump administration to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Fox and other pro-Trump outlets consistently downplayed the threat posed by the virus and promoted a minimalistic response that dismissed such efforts in favor of snake oil miracle cures.

Trump’s media supporters could not or would not try to directly challenge the president, and settled instead on targeting Fauci, who was a face of the administration’s response. He initially drew their ire as a critic of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, the malaria drugs that Fox hosts and then the president had recommended as a coronavirus treatment (numerous studies have found the drugs ineffective) and as part of the supposed “ruling class” that could weather a long-term economic shutdown.

At the time, even right-wing pugilists like Fox’s Tucker Carlson were still pulling their punches. “Imagine another year of this,” he said on his April 3, 2020, show. “That would be national suicide, and yet, that is what Anthony Fauci is suggesting, at least.” But Carlson went on to acknowledge that Fauci wasn’t trying to “hurt America,” saying that he “seems like a very decent man” who was simply misguided.

That gentility would not last. The pro-Trump media — and Carlson in particular — became increasingly unhinged and vituperative toward Fauci as the pandemic wore on. Ultimately, the right-wing attacks on Fauci had dramatic impacts for the country.

By mid-May of 2020, Fox’s prime-time stars had decided that the crisis was over. When Fauci said in congressional testimony that it was not, and that the virus was likely to recur in the fall and winter, they began pushing for Trump to fire him. On programs that the Fox-obsessed president watched religiously, they portrayed Fauci as power-mad and using his influence to “favor what the Democrats want.” Those attacks continued over the following weeks and months.

In July, Trump began publicly echoing the right-wing media’s concerns about Fauci. The following month, the president appointed Scott Atlas, a radiologist and right-wing think tanker who caught his attention through frequent Fox appearances, to the White House coronavirus task force.

Atlas effectively displaced Fauci as Trump’s top coronavirus adviser, and used that position to promote a “herd immunity” strategy for coping with the virus. His actions ultimately helped bring about the very wave of hospitalizations and deaths Fauci had earned the opprobrium of the right for warning about months earlier.

But the right’s attacks on Fauci continued over the months and years to come.

Carlson was the scientist’s most implacable media foe. He described Fauci as an “elderly power-drunk epidemiologist”; “capricious and transparently political”; a “hypocritical buffoon”; an “oily politician on an ego trip”; and an “even shorter version of Benito Mussolini.” He denounced the scientist’s recommendations as “authoritarian,” falsely claimed that Fauci “helped to create” the coronavirus, and called for him to “never work in public policy again.”

Other right-wing pundits demonized Fauci as “one of the great criminals of our civilization” and a member of the “medical deep state” who was “on a jihad” against Trump and behaves “more like a monarch.” They called for an investigation into his purported crimes and fantasized about him being put in “leg irons” or even beheaded. They even accused him — falsely — of killing puppies, with one describing him as “the dog-murdering and orphan-killing doctor, Anthony Benito Fauci.”

Fox’s attacks on Fauci have become so habitual that they often seemed to serve as background noise on the right-wing channel. But at times, the network’s talking heads have issued comments so abhorrent that they trigger widespread public outrage and even a response from the network brass. Fox sidelined Lara Logan, a host on the network’s streaming service, after she compared Fauci to the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele during a November 2021 appearance. The following month, the network publicly defended host Jesse Watters after he drew controversy for exhorting an audience of young right-wing activists to “ambush” Fauci with a rhetorical “deadly” “kill shot.”

Amid the flurry of often violent public criticism, Fauci divulged that he regularly received threats. Earlier this month, a man was sentenced to more than three years in prison for sending Fauci emails with comments like “You and your entire family will be dragged into the street, beaten to death, and set on fire.”

Fauci’s retirement announcement has opened a debate about who might succeed him. But senior members of the U.S. medical establishment are warning that the right’s attacks on Fauci may limit the pool of applicants willing to try to fill his shoes.

“What keeps the former surgeon general [Jerome Adams] up at night is his fear that talented candidates won’t want these jobs after what Fauci and other public health officials have faced over the last few years,” Politico reported on Monday. “Fauci has received death threats, and his daughters have been harassed — and Adams worries that this vitriol is a big part of why Fauci is stepping down.”

When the next pandemic hits, the U.S. response might thus be hobbled, thanks to the right-wing media’s impulse to destroy a vital public servant for political gain.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Ron Johnson Hits Trump For 'Failure' To Approve Quack COVID Treatment

Sen. Ron Johnson said in an interview on Thursday with the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist host of a podcast that President Donald Trump's COVID-19 response team got in the way of what he considered the best approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic. But, the Wisconsin Republican said, he kept quiet about it at the time so as not to hurt Trump's reelection campaign.

Johnson made the comments in a nearly 90-minute interview with anti-vaccine figure Del Bigtree on his program "The Highwire" that was flagged by the political opposition research group American Bridge 21st Century.

Criticizing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the experienced expert on infectious diseases who clashed with Trump and others on the right, as well as Dr. Deborah Birx and others on Trump's COVID team, Johnson discussed hearings he led in 2020 as chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, during which he himself was criticized for inviting anti-vaccine activists to testify in favor of unproven and medically risky treatments for COVID such as the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been shown to be ineffective against the virus.

"I don't expect the general public to really listen to hearings. It's kind of the aftermath, and what news reports are written about it. Again, from my standpoint, we were making news, but I wasn't Fauci, I wasn't Birx — they had a different narrative here. And so I realized I wasn't making a whole lot of headway and this was kind of out of my control at this point in time. And you know, quite honestly, I wanted to make sure that President Trump got reelected and I didn't want to get too overly critical on his administration, to be quite honest," he said. "I had some real problems with what was happening inside the administration. I mean, again, he was not obviously aware of these things. But he couldn't get it done. His team wasn't serving him well."

The Trump administration's response to the pandemic failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths due to COVID in the United States.

In the early days, Trump belittled the threat of the virus, falsely claiming that it was "under control" and would not spread in the United States and that it would quickly go away when the weather warmed up.

He admitted to journalist Bob Woodward that he intentionally misled the public, telling him, "I wanted to always play it down."

As the virus spread across the world and shut down the U.S. economy, Trump falsely said the seasonal flu was worse than COVID, pushed hydroxychloroquine as a "miracle cure," refused to wear a mask and mocked those who did, and hosted events that ended up as "superspreaders" of the virus while flouting his own safety guidelines.

Johnson, who has long pushed false claims about the supposed dangers of COVID-19 vaccines and touted dangerous and unproven treatments, had nothing to say about the actual failings of the Trump administration's response, instead arguing that the COVID team's failure to push hydroxychloroquine was because it would make have made it harder to get actual vaccines against the virus approved.

"I can't explain it. But it sure seems at some point in time, the cabal — I call them the COVID cartel — decided, no, it's going to be vaccine," Johnson said. "And, and of course, that's one of the explanations of why they'd want to tank and sabotage early treatment, which they did, was if you have an effective therapy, you're not going to get emergency use authorization on a totally novel therapy that's not a vaccine."

According to a November 2020 article in the scientific publication Microbes and Infection, Bigtree's program frequently presents similar “government and the media are lying to you" themes, like Johnson's, in its continued opposition to vaccination.

Johnson, who had previously promised not to serve more than two terms in the Senate, is facing an uphill race this November against Democratic Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes in his quest for a third six-year term. Polls show Johnson is widely unpopular, with the second-lowest approval ratings of any senator in the country after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Johnson frequently reminds supporters that he has been endorsed by Trump.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Facebook And Instagram Kick RFK Jr's' Anti-Vax Outfit Off Platforms

During the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-vaxxers have been, to a large degree, far-right MAGA Republicans and evangelical Christian fundamentalists — although former President Donald Trump himself has encouraged vaccination, and former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has tried to put a pro-MAGA spin on the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by describing them as “the Trump vaccine.” Democrats have, for the most part, joined President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top White House medical adviser, in encouraging vaccination for COVID-19. But one well-known Democrat who is known for his anti-vaxxer views is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who now finds himself at odds with Facebook and Instagram for spreading what those social media outlets consider misinformation.

Kennedy leads the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), a nonprofit anti-vaxxer group. And on Thursday, August 18, its accounts were removed for both Facebook and Instagram, according to the New York Times. Those platforms are owned by their Silicon Valley-based parent company Meta.

Sheera Frenkel, a technology reporter for the New York Times and co-author of the 2021 book An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination, explains, “In an e-mailed newsletter, Children’s Health Defense said Facebook and Instagram had taken down its accounts after a 30-day ban by the social networks. The nonprofit, which Mr. Kennedy has run since 2018, accused the apps of censorship.”

Kennedy, in an official statement, complained, “Facebook is acting here as a surrogate for the federal government’s crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies.”

That sounds like the type of rhetoric that Infowars’ Alex Jones or former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, both far-right MAGA Republicans and anti-vaxxers, would make. Jones, in fact, is so angry over Trump’s support of COVID-19 vaccines that he is calling for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, not Trump, to be the 2024 GOP presidential nominee. But the 68-year-old Kennedy is hardly an Infowars employee. Kennedy comes from the Democratic Party’s most famous political dynasty; he is the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, Sr. (who was assassinated in June 1968 only two months after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination) and a nephew of President John F. Kennedy, Sr. (who was assassinated in 1963). One of his uncles was the late Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, and his cousins include former Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island (one of Ted Kennedy’s sons) and the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.

The Kennedy family is synonymous with the Democratic Party and synonymous with liberal politics in New England. But CDF, Frenkel notes, is “widely regarded as a symbol of the vaccine resistance movement.”

“Facebook’s and Instagram’s actions are a blow to Mr. Kennedy, who is the son of the former senator and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy,” Frenkel observes in an article published on August 19. “But the account removals do not completely block him from speaking online. While Mr. Kennedy was personally barred from Instagram in February 2021, his personal Facebook page — with nearly 247,000 followers — is still up. Other Facebook pages dedicated to Children’s Health Defense, including those of its California, Florida and Arizona chapters, also remain online and have thousands of followers, according to a review by The New York Times.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s views put him at odds with many of his fellow Democrats, and vaccine proponents have accused him of spreading dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines — which they credit with saving lives.

First reported in Wuhan, China in late 2019, COVID-19 has, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, killed more than 6.4 million people worldwide, including over 1 million people in the United States — making it the world’s deadliest health crisis since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918/1919. Vaccine proponents such as Biden and expert immunologist Fauci have emphasized that while vaccines don’t eliminate the possibility of being infected with COVID-19, they are likely to prevent a more dangerous infection. Biden and Fauci have both been infected with COVID-19 in 2022 despite receiving vaccines and booster shots; they are examples of what health experts call “breakthrough” infections, but both of them had milder cases and did not require hospitalization.

Frenkel observes, “Over the course of the pandemic, Children’s Health Defense has repeatedly questioned the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, falsely saying that the vaccines cause organ damage and harm pregnant women. The organization has also tried sowing doubt about other kinds of vaccines. Over the last two months, it claimed that vaccines for tetanus caused infertility and that polio vaccines were responsible for a global rise in polio cases.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Biden Again Tests Positive For COVID-19 But Is 'Feeling Fine'

By Jarrett Renshaw and Pete Schroeder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden tested positive for COVID-19 again on Saturday in what the White House doctor described as a "rebound" case seen in a small percentage of patients who take the antiviral drug Paxlovid.

Biden, 79, who emerged from COVID isolation on Wednesday after testing positive on July 21, said he was feeling fine.

He will now return to strict isolation and will cancel planned trips to his home in Wilmington and to Michigan, the White House said. Biden held public events on Wednesday and Thursday, but none on Friday.

The forced isolation comes as the White House is hoping to celebrate some recent legislative victories to help boost Biden's slumping poll ratings.

Biden had planned the Michigan trip to tout Thursday's passage of legislation to boost the U.S. semiconductor chips industry.

Biden's positive test is believed to be a "rebound" experienced by some COVID patients who take the anti-viral drug Paxlovid, according to White House physician Dr. Kevin O'Connor. Paxlovid is an antiviral medication from Pfizer Inc that is used to treat high-risk patients, such as older patients.

A small but significant percentage of people who take Paxlovid will suffer a relapse or a rebound that occurs days after the five-day treatment course has ended, studies have shown.

White House officials had previously suggested a rebound case of COVID was unlikely, based on reports of cases around the country. However, Biden continued to be tested and monitored.

Biden tweeted about his positive case, saying it can happen to a "small minority of folks." He later posted a video on Twitter where he said he was "feeling fine" and "everything's good."

A White House official said contact tracing efforts were underway Saturday after Biden's positive COVID-19 test.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci also experienced rebound COVID-19. His symptoms got worse when they returned after treatment, and his doctors prescribed another course of Paxlovid.

O'Connor said Biden tested negative for the last four days, and there is no plan to reinitiate treatment given his lack of symptoms.

Biden previously described his experience with COVID as mild, saying he was able to continue working while in isolation and attributed his relative ease with the disease to vaccines and other treatments.

O'Connor had previously said Biden would be tested regularly to watch for a potential "rebound" COVID-19 case, which can be experienced by some patients who have been treated with Paxlovid, the drug the president received.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder, David Shepardson and Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Aurora Ellis, Alistair Bell and Diane Craft)

News Outlets Fail To Identify Anti-Mandate Judge As Unqualified GOP Hack

On Monday, a Republican-appointed federal judge struck down the Biden administration's regulation requiring travelers to wear masks on trains, airlines, and other forms of mass transportation. Major network news broadcasts largely failed to include crucial details about the situation — namely that the judge has already been the subject of controversy owing to her lack of qualifications, the timing of her appointment, and her personal ties to the Trump administration.

In a bizarrely written ruling that appears to have been drafted explicitly to achieve a policy outcome, U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle engaged in a feat of semantics by which the government’s legal authority over “sanitation” would not include keeping things clean, only the act of cleaning them when already sullied. “Wearing a mask cleans nothing. At most, it traps virus droplets,” Judge Mizelle wrote. (By such terminology, Mizelle thus rejected the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent and control the spread of a disease.)

The Biden administration has indicated that it could potentially appeal the ruling, if the CDC determines that the mandate was still necessary. Such a move would likely also be well within the political mainstream, with a new Associated Press-NORC poll finding that 56 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring masks on mass transportation versus only 24 percent who are opposed. (The poll was conducted days before Mizelle’s ruling.)

Mizelle’s peculiar reasoning in her decision to discard effective public health measures should have been a national scandal. But, instead, mainstream coverage of the ruling simply treated it matter-of-factly.

On Monday’s edition of ABC World News Tonight, ABC News correspondent Eva Pilgrim briefly noted, “The decision by the judge, appointed by former president Donald Trump, signals another sweeping change for Americans,” in a report noting that the CDC continues to recommend wearing masks in mass transit in light of the BA.2 subvariant. NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams also referred to Mizelle simply as “a Trump appointee” during a brief segment on NBC Nightly News.

During Monday’s edition of CBS Evening News, anchor Norah O’Donnell failed to even mention Judge Mizelle’s connection to Trump, stating simply that “a federal judge in Florida today ruled that the CDC exceeded its authority and failed to follow proper rulemaking.” The report by CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste included a useful comment from infectious disease specialist Dr. Celine Gounder, who continued to advise plane travelers to wear a mask.

Network news should explain that anti-mask mandate judge is a Trump-aligned political hack

Network news should explain that anti-mask mandate judge is a Trump-aligned political hack

The network coverage on Tuesday night focused largely on the fact that medical experts are distressed by the ruling, citing continued dangers from contagious variants of the virus, and that immunocompromised travelers and children too young to get vaccinated are now at risk when traveling. But only NBC Nightly News noted that the judge in the case had been appointed by Trump — a fact that was neglected by both CBS and now ABC, which had included that information the night before. And even NBC failed to explain any further details about the controversial judge in question.

The problem with this coverage, which simply describes Mizelle as “a federal judge” or even as a “Trump appointee,” is that it ignores crucial details about the obvious personal and political biases driving the ruling. In short, the ruling was handed down by an unqualified and extremely partisan political appointee with significant personal connections to the Trump administration and family.

Mizelle, who is just 35 years old, was confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench on November 20, 2020 on a party-line vote held two weeks after Trump had lost reelection. Mizelle was confirmed despite the American Bar Association (ABA) rating her as “not qualified” for her nomination, due to a lack of professional legal experience. (She was also confirmed despite the fact that the president appointing her was actively engaged in an attempt to overturn the election and illegally install himself as president.) The ABA recommends that federal judicial nominees have at least 12 years of experience, while Mizelle had only graduated from law school and passed the bar exam eight years earlier. The ABA further noted that Mizelle had “not tried a case, civil or criminal, as lead or co-counsel.”

Mizelle instead built her résumé on close ties to Republicans, including in private practice at Jones Day, a firm known for its links to Republican politics, along with a position in the Trump-era Justice Department, clerkships for conservative federal judges including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and a membership in the right-wing Federalist Society.

Judge Mizelle is also married to Chad Mizelle, a former general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration. During his time at the DHS, Chad Mizelle levied personal attacks against the Government Accountability Office’s determination that the Trump administration had illegally filled top positions at DHS. (Chad Mizelle is also reportedly employed by Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s shady investment firm Affinity Partners, which seems designed to help the disgraced former president and his family cash in on the deferential policies they pursued with foreign autocrats while in office.)

Chad Mizelle has also been publicly described as an “ally” of Trump adviser Stephen Miller, a white nationalist who played a public role in the administration’s efforts to illegally overturn the 2020 election. Miller applauded Judge Mizelle’s ruling Monday night, telling readers on Twitter to “please vote Republican" in order to stop more mandates.

In an ironic twist, Fox News was one major news outlet that actually compiled a long list of complaints about Mizelle’s qualifications in the context of an online article headlined “Liberal reporters attack judge's age, background after she tossed federal mask mandate for public transport.”

The article seemingly gloated that “left-leaning reporters melted down” at Mizelle’s anti-mask ruling. But even as the article collected a variety of these complaints, the author did not make any attempt to rebut the central charge that Mizelle was an unqualified, partisan activist — instead, the entire point here seems to be the right-wing national pastime of “owning the libs.”

Published with permission from Media Matters from America.

Legal Experts Blast Trump Judge’s Mask Mandate Ruling

Legal experts are hammering U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle for axing the federal government's COVID-19 mask mandate based on her own flawed elucidation of the word "sanitation."

The Biden administration argues that masks are categorized as a form of "sanitation," according to the law, but Mizelle argues otherwise. Instead, NPR reports that she's opted "for a much narrower definition of the term that would exclude measures like face coverings;" an interpretation with which legal experts strongly disagree.

According to, President Joe Biden's administration has supported its action to keep the mask mandate in place by focusing on key clauses in the U.S. Public Health Service Act of 1944. That law grants the federal government "certain powers to respond to public health emergencies." which is why the administration has been able to maintain the mandate on public modes of mass transportation such as aircraft.

Per NPR: "Specifically, the law says that if the government is trying to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, it can 'provide for such inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings, and other measures, as in his judgment may be necessary.'"

Now, legal experts are criticizing Mizelle's stance. Erin Fuse Brown, a Georgia State University law professor, also offered her opinion of the judge's legal argument. "If one of my students turned in this opinion as their final exam, I don't know if I would agree that they had gotten the analysis correct," Brown said.

"It reads like someone who had decided the case and then tried to dress it up as legal reasoning without actually doing the legal reasoning," she added.

James Hodge, an Arizona State University law professor, also weighed in with a critical opinion of Mizelle's ruling. "If this particular type of opinion took on greater precedential value as it rises up through the court system, if that happens, it's big trouble for CDC down the road," Hodge said.

NPR reports that Hodge argues, Mizelle "substituted her own definition of 'sanitation'" while "brushing aside a legal norm known as 'agency deference' that compels judges to yield to the interpretation of federal agencies when a law's language is unclear."

"This is really a serious deviation from not just what we're trying to do to protect the public's health, but a misstatement of federal authority in emergencies to a great degree," Hodge said.

Brown also agreed with the sentiment. "Even if we're skeptical about agencies or even about Congress's ability to make good judgments in this ... time," she said, "we certainly do not want these decisions to be in the hands of a single unelected judge."

Published with permission from Alternet.

Fox News Promotes Fake Covid Report To Boost Red State Policies

Murdoch media outlets are promoting an economic report declaring that Republican-led states did better than their Democratic-led counterparts in the COVID-19 pandemic. But the supposed “study” is simply an engineered conclusion produced by a political front group, which gives extra credit to Republican policies to not implement public health guidance or restrict normal life. And on top of that, it manipulates the typically higher death rates in red states by artificially adjusting them downward, while dishonestly fabricating higher death statistics in blue states.

The report, with the grandiose title “A Final Report Card on the States’ Response to COVID-19,” is the brainchild of right-wing pundit Stephen Moore, along with conservative political organizer Phil Kerpen and libertarian University of Chicago economist Casey Mulligan. (Both Moore and Mulligan served as political appointees in the Trump administration.) The report was released through the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a conservative group advocating the discredited principles of “supply-side” economics that has also promoted “pro-growth and liberty-based responses to COVID-19.”

The report, which is not peer-reviewed, also includes a note on the first page thanking Dr. Jay Bhattacharya “for his review of this study and his instructive advice.” Bhattacharya is a Stanford medical professor associated with the right-wing Hoover Institution, who has also informally advised Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) — a potential GOP presidential candidate in 2024 — and has appeared multiple times on Fox News and undermined the COVID-19 vaccines and public vaccination campaigns. Bhattacharya also co-authored the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a reckless libertarian proposal for loosening public health measures in the midst of the pandemic to achieve global “herd immunity.”

Fox’s Special Report covered this rigged “study” as if it were straight news

The study was touted on Monday’s edition of Fox’s flagship “straight” news program, Special Report with Bret Baier. A chyron on screen claimed, “Red states fare better on economic and health outcomes.” But as a close examination of the study reveals — briefly alluded to by Fox News correspondent Jonathan Serrie — this conclusion exists only after the authors made some creative adjustments “for age, obesity, and diabetes.”

The study was also promoted in stories on Fox’s website, as well as in the editorial pages of the network’s corporate cousins: the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal. and the New York Post both mentioned the metric of “age-adjusted death rates,” while the Journal was a bit more forthcoming in noting that the study also made adjustments for “the prevalence of obesity and diabetes (leading co-morbidities for Covid deaths).”

The reports in these three Murdoch publications all pointed to the report’s praise of Florida as supposedly one of the best-performing states — a possible sign of Bhattacharya’s influence on both Florida’s policies and this report’s verdict. By contrast, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank has run through numbers from health care analyst Charles Gaba, which found that Florida is actually one of the worst-performing states in COVID-19 death statistics, even accounting for the state’s older population.

Moore also appeared on Monday morning’s edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., during which he claimed, “The big takeaway is that the lockdown strategy was pretty much a total failure. … States that remained open did not have higher death rates from the virus than states that completely shut down.” Serrie later mentioned Moore’s study again, on Tuesday morning’s edition of America’s Newsroom.

Moore has built a career as possibly the worst economist in the media, making serially wrong pronouncements and false calculations in service of his political agendas. In March 2019, then-President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Moore to the Federal Reserve Board, only for Moore to eventually withdraw from consideration due to multiple controversies over his past political comments.

Committee to Unleash Prosperity rewrites death numbers in red states with a fake statistic: “Metabolic-health adjustment”

In order to arrive at the favored conclusion, the Committee to Unleash Prosperity report actually looked at more than just health outcomes. The group’s press release explains that it used three metrics for its findings — COVID-19 deaths, economic performance, and school openings — and declared they were “equally weighted” in the analysis. The result is that the question of saving lives accounts for only one-third of the calculation. The study also essentially just rehashes in pseudo-scientific form Moore’s long-standing contention that saving lives in the pandemic might not be “worth trillions of dollars of losses” and that simply allowing the virus to spread was “a better strategy” than enduring the economic costs of lockdowns.

The concept of age-adjusted deaths across populations is a tricky issue. While it is a legitimate line of inquiry, Fox News has exploited it ever since the start of the pandemic to create a nonchalant response to COVID-19 deaths among the elderly. Looking at this metric from a neutral source does show some interesting effects, but the ranks of worst-performing states would still be Republican-led ones such as Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Moore and his compatriots at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity have gone even further, however, by setting up a new metric in the fine print of their supposed study. They call it an adjustment for “metabolic health” in different populations — “the pre-pandemic prevalence of obesity and diabetes.” But what it really amounts to is a manipulation of the statistics to declare that higher death tolls should be discounted in populations that were less healthy to begin with, and to act as if public health responses can be separated from the overall health of the public.

Much of the discourse around the role of obesity in COVID-19 deaths has framed it as “another ongoing pandemic,” and the role of diabetes has been addressed in media as a “public health train wreck” and evidence of “America’s diabetes crisis.” But the Committee to Unleash Prosperity instead treats these deaths as somehow a mitigating factor in the public health responses of the states most affected. It’s almost as if, by the standards of Moore and his co-authors, the deaths of unhealthy people are not a problem at all.

As a result of this statistical chicanery, death rates in the South and some other Republican-led states were magically revised downward, while deaths were “adjusted” drastically higher in many Democratic states — skewing the data to make blue states look like the worst offenders.

“NV, NY, NJ, and DC were the four states with the highest metabolic-adjusted mortality, even though none is in the top four without the adjustment,” the report says — as if that were a good thing for the authors’ credibility — because those four places all have obesity and diabetes rates that are below the national average. By contrast, in the real-world statistics they began with, the worst contenders were all red states.

Fox News has waged a two-year propaganda campaign against public health, in which it has lied about COVID-19 vaccines, promoted fake cures, encouraged the spread of the virus, and turned people defying public health measures into culture war heroes even as their actions have gotten them killed. Fox also clearly does not believe any of what it preaches — see its own corporate vaccination and testing policies — but the network nevertheless pursues this framing because it is “great for ratings.”

Who knows, perhaps the network will be able to come up with a study showing that watching Fox News is good for surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, once the analysts can adjust for the comorbidities associated with watching Fox News.

Printed with permission from MediaMatters.