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

New Texas Law Shields Online Hate Speech, Terror Threats, And Holocaust Denial

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's been a busy couple of weeks for the one-star state. In addition to gaining the cooperation of the Trump-flavored Supreme Court to strip away women's rights, Gov. Greg Abbott has been right on top of the threat to the coronavirus, promising to protect COVID-19 from any effort to slow its spread. It's that kind of dedication that has allowed Texas to both seize the top spot from Florida in new cases and hospitalizations, and support the local mortuary industry with more than 400 deaths per day.

Truly, for Texas energy speculators and mortuary truck rentals, Abbott has brought on a golden age. But even though the governor spent much of his day complaining that President Joe Biden insisting that people get vaccinated was a violation of the rights of businesses—unlike executive orders that forbid companies from requiring that people get vaccinated—he did have time for other things.

One of those things was signing HB 20, a bill that severely limits the ability of large social media platforms to remove disinformation, harmful propaganda, hate speech, and incitement of violence.

This bill is a response to the mythical claims that social media sites are somehow suppressing conservative speech, despite repeated analysis that shows that these sites actually selectively promote conservative voices and place conservatives in positions of power, while actively soliciting for more Republican content. Despite all this, Republicans are certain that, were it not for some "shadow banning" and other devious actions, the brilliant words of conservative tweeters would surely be getting many, many more likes.

And since modern Republican statements are indistinguishable from disinformation about an ongoing pandemic, shot through with vile racism, xenophobia, and misogyny, the bill makes sure that all of those things are protected.

On first reading, the text of the bill might seem to be offering some level of protection. For example, here's what it says about the kind of things that social media can remove. Platforms can take down or edit material that is:

"the subject of a referral or request from an organization with the purpose of preventing the sexual exploitation of children and protecting survivors of sexual abuse from ongoing harassment; directly incites criminal activity or consists of specific threats of violence targeted against a person or group because of their race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, sex, or status as a peace officer or judge; or is unlawful expression."

That long list at the end of this passage—including color, disability, sex, etc.—might seem as if it's offering the kind of protections usually afforded when platforms take down hate speech. But look again. All of those other words are just window dressing. The bill actually allows sites to remove such speech only if it "consists of specific threats of violence." This is the very narrowest definition of incitement to violence. It's the kind of very narrow requirement that has protected both KKK leaders and Tucker Carlson when calling for violence or other harmful acts against groups, without making a specific threat,

By prohibiting social media platforms from removing text that doesn't feature a specific threat, they have created a "must carry" situation, one in which the social media platforms that fit their definition (which seems to be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, and Snapchat, but could expand to Google, Apple, and others thanks to some broad language) can not remove hate speech or disinformation, no matter how malignant.

To see how intentional this result is takes no more than looking at the amendments that were rejected.

  • Here's one that would have allowed sites to take down posts that promoted "any international or domestic terrorist group or any international or domestic terrorist acts."

That amendment was rejected.

  • Here's another that would have at least allowed sites to take down a post that "includes the denial of the Holocaust."

That amendment was rejected.

  • Here's a third that would have allowed sites to remove information that "promotes or supports vaccine misinformation."

Of course that amendment was rejected.

Seriously. Texas just passed a law (and Abbott just signed it) which prohibits social media sites from removing hate speech, or posts that promote terrorism, or intentional misinformation about vaccines, orholocaust denial.

And it doesn't stop there. Because Texas doesn't just require that sites leave these posts intact: the state also prohibits platforms from "censoring" these posts in any way. That includes "demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to ..." That requirement means that not only do sites have to carry a post, no matter how vile, they have to promote it and pay for it equally with other posts.

So, if someone in Texas were to post a YouTube video that was full of holocaust denial, revived every antisemitic claim in history, and called for driving Jews out of the country and burning down synagogues—but didn't mention a specific time and place for people to gather with torches—YouTube would not only be forbidden from removing it, they wouldn't be allowed to add any warning, would have to promote it equally with other videos, and would have to pay the creator if it got enough racists to watch.

As the tech industry group Chamber for Progress puts it: "This law is going to put more hate speech, scams, terrorist content, and misinformation online."

Naturally, platforms and organizations have already announced lawsuits, mostly focused on the idea that the Texas law redefines social media platforms as "common carriers." It's unlikely that any of these platforms will ever be bound by this law.

Even so … it gives great insight into the type of speech Republicans are really out to promote.

Suffer, Little Children: Anti-Vax, Anti-Masking, And The Faces Of Evil

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The origin of evil is an issue that would seem as difficult to fathom as the meaning of life, or the purpose of the universe. It's not. Evil is not simply when something bad happens. Hurricanes aren't evil. Not even a disease is evil. Evil takes understanding. Evil is when someone displays indifference or experiences pleasure in the face of suffering.

The worst sort of evil comes when empathy and consideration are replaced with a perverse joy, one that doesn't just refuse to acknowledge someone else's pain, but takes pride in dismissing the thought that others deserve consideration. And it looks like this.

What's happening in that Tennessee school board meeting is a tiny subset, a pixel in the larger picture, of what's happening on multiple issues across the country. Another part of that greater image can be seen when CNN asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about a statement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And in the responses of a school superintendent from Mississippi.

As CNN reports, children too young to be vaccinated now make up 26% of all new cases of COVID-19 cases. That number has grown enormously as schools have reopened for in-person instruction in districts where masks are not mandated and vaccination for staff is not a requirement. In fact, the total number of children infected across the course of the pandemic has grown by 10% in just the last two weeks.

That's because the reopening of schools, especially in areas where school boards have bowed to pressure—or the executive orders of Republican governors—and refused to institute mask mandates or vaccination requirements and are seeing an "explosions of cases." That explosion generated over 14,000 cases among students in Florida within the first week of classes. It resulted in thousands of cases in Texas, where district after district has been forced to suspend classes.

Florida and Texas may have been grabbing the headlines thanks to the deeply twisted statements from Govs. Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, but they're far from alone. In just four days in August, the Clarion Ledgerreports that over 5,700 students tested positive in a single week, putting over 30,000—6.5% of the state's total student population—into quarantine.

In this interview, Mississippi school superintendent John Strycker explains that he doesn't require masks in his school, even after a teacher died. Strycker says, "I'm confident in what we're doing."

Strycker: I wept. Okay? It's very hard on me. But when I'm making my decisions, I need to do the best I can to make non-emotional decisions.
Reporter: But your non-emotional decision is to do nothing.
Strycker: Right.

Strycker then claims that the children in his care are "safe relative to the other schools." In the first three week of school there, 6.4 percent of students have tested positive for COVID-19.

Following this interview, CNN moves to looking at the large Los Angeles unified school district where the superintendent has made very different decisions. At that school, every member of the staff is required to report their vaccination status and everyone—students, teachers, and visitors—is required to wear a mask. Over the same period, the infection rate in Los Angeles schools was 0.5 percent.

What's become clear across the nation is simply this: School districts that do not have a mandatory mask policy are very likely to see a high incidence of COVID-19 cases within a period of a few weeks. Those levels are very likely to lead to that school district being forced to quarantine a substantial subset of its student and staff population, and almost as likely to result in classes being suspended for a period.

The reason is simple enough: As much as anti-mask forces want to make wearing a mask an emblem of personal fear, it's not. The mask is simply societal responsibility. Masks reduce the rate of transmission of COVID-19, as well as other viruses, but they are really only highly effective if nearly everyone is wearing them. One person wearing a masks in a sea of bare faces gains very little, if anything, in the way of personal protection. If everyone is wearing masks, there is a large decrease in the spread of disease.

The same rule applies to vaccines. As NPR reports, DeSantis has repeatedly dismissed the role of vaccines as anything more than personal protection.

"At the end of the day though," said the Florida governor, "it's about your health and whether you want that protection or not. It really doesn't impact me or anyone else."

And as Dr. Anthony Fauci has made clear, DeSantis is "completely incorrect." Vaccines, like masks, do provide some protection to the individual, but their greater role is in breaking the chain of transmission. A high level of vaccination doesn't just protect the vaccinated, it protects everyone. Whether someone has been vaccinated definitely affects those around them.

"When you're dealing with an outbreak of an infectious disease, it isn't only about you," said Fauci. "There's a societal responsibility that we all have."

And there's that phrase again: societal responsibility—the need to take action that protects not just yourself or your family, but everyone in the greater society. What's missing from every insistence that masks or vaccines are a "personal choice" is that these choices have an impact on others. Saying that masks or vaccines don't affect anyone else is like saying that driving drunk doesn't affect anyone else. Or firing a weapon through a loaded room doesn't affect anyone else. These actions may nothave an immediate impact, but there is a recognized societal responsibility that makes them illegal even if they don't result in immediate loss.

What does evil look like? It looks like someone standing in front of a camera and saying that a decision that can cost the lives of thousands is a personal choice. It looks like that.

It also looks like these events at a charter school in Boise as reported by the Idaho Statesman.

At the beginning of the year, the board of the Peace Valley Charter School passed a mask mandate. But they rolled back that mandate after hearing from Dr. Ryan Cole—the same doctor who referred to COVID-19 vaccines as both "fake" and "needle rape." Following that statement, Cole was made a member of Idaho's Central District Health Board.

At a special meeting of the school board, Cole testified that masks didn't work and that there was "not one study" showing that masks could help stop a viral disease. Cole also testified that masks "retain carbon dioxide" and can cause "inflammation in the brain." None of these things has any basis in fact. (For reference, here's a large study showing that masks work and here's a broad review of the topic which confirms that effectiveness).

At that meeting, board members were also given a packet of documents, which included one titled "COVID-19 Masks Are a Crime Against Humanity and Child Abuse." The board reversed its vote, eliminating the mask mandate.

What does evil look like? It looks like a woman snickering at a child talking about his dead grandmother. It looks like a doctor knowingly passing along false information that places children and teacher in danger. Most of all, it looks like a governor denying that individuals have any obligation beyond self preservation, and pretending that societal responsibilities do not exist.

'Completely incorrect': Dr. Fauci pushes back on DeSantis' vaccine claim www.youtube.com

Wednesday, Sep 8, 2021 · 11:59:27 AM EDT · Mark Sumner

And as that Idaho school votes to drop mask mandates in response to disinformation …

Most-Cited Study Promoting Ivermectin Appears To Be Fraudulent

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Everyone wants the same thing when it comes to COVID-19: A cheap, effective, reliable treatment that can be easily administered to anyone who shows symptoms, with good assurance that they'll quickly recover. There are existing treatments for COVID-19 in the form of monoclonal antibody treatments from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Vir Biotechnology, but those treatments are expensive, difficult to administer, and available in limited quantities. Unless those factors change, these treatments will never become the kind of panacea we need.

If there was something that could be packaged into a pill, or even an EpiPen-style injectable, and handed to everyone as soon as they received a positive test for COVID-19, it would be great. Every health professional wishes that hydroxychloroquine had turned out to be that safe and effective treatment. It just didn't. Every health professional wishes the same about ivermectin. Widely available? Check. Easily administered? Yes. Safe and effective? Well …

For months, fans of ivermectin persuaded by online enthusiasm have been pushing the anti-parasitic based on the same kind of evidence that was once behind the hydroxychloroquine buzz: small, non-clinical "trials" that mostly consist of anecdotal results from a single doctor or proactive. More recently, there have been supposed "metanalyses" that, unfortunately, have lumped a lot of low-reliability data together and given it a veneer of respectability. Some of those involved in these studies have even been invited to the Senate as guests of Republicans, where they have claimed ivermectin is 100 percent effective in stopping COVID-19, and included completely false data to create the impression of a "wonder drug."

The claims about ivermectin have been so pervasive—and apparently, so persuasive—that they've made regular appearances in Daily Kos comments. Doctors are being pushed to prescribe the stuff by patients who refuse to accept other treatment unless they're first given ivermectin. And the refusal to accept the truth about ivermectin is costing lives.

Here's the truth about ivermectin: It's a widely prescribed drug used in treatment of parasites in both humans and animals. With proper dosages and duration of treatment, it has a very good safety record, and it is extremely effective at treating everything from common roundworm to the parasites that carry river blindness.

If someone is getting ivermectin in normal doses, using genuine pharmaceutical-grade drugs that don't contain ingredients not meant for human consumption (many veterinary formulations do have such ingredients) and sticking to the standard timeline of treatment, they are unlikely to suffer lasting harm. As with almost any drug, ivermectin has common side effects: skin rash, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. It also has some rarer side effects, including severe liver damage. If you need ivermectin because you are facing a parasite for which it is the standard treatment, take it.

Here's the other truth about ivermectin: If it has any positive effect on the treatment of COVID-19, that effect is small, difficult to detect, and far from universal.

How is it possible to know this? Because the National Institutes of Health have compiled a list of studies on the use of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19. What that list shows, over and over again, is results such as this:

  • "A 5-day course of IVM did not improve time to resolution of symptoms in patients with mild COVID-19."
  • "A 5-day course of IVM in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 did not result in clinical improvement at the end of treatment, and no reduction in mortality was observed."
  • "Use of IVM did not reduce risk of oxygen requirement, ICU admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, or death in hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19."
  • "IVM showed no effect on symptom resolution in patients with mild COVID-19."
  • "Compared to SOC, use of IVM did not lead to faster recovery from mild to moderate COVID-19."
  • "Patients who received IVM showed no difference in viral clearance compared to those who received placebo."
  • "In hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia who were not critically ill, neither IVM nor HCQ decreased the number of in-hospital days, rate of respiratory deterioration, or mortality."

Several of these were studies where the original authors suggested that there had been positive effects from treatment with ivermectin, but these effects disappeared on closer analysis from researchers at the NIH.

Among the list of studies, there are a handful that do appear to indicate positive results.

  • A study that supposedly demonstrated that ivermectin combined with doxycycline was a superior treatment to hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, but the actual results showed no statistical difference or evidence that either treatment was an improvement over standard of care.
  • A very small study showed some evidence that the level of virus was reduced when ivermectin was given at three times the normal dose.
  • Another very small study indicated that ivermectin shortened hospital stays, but didn't have a placebo group or consider co-morbidities.
  • Another very small study indicated that a handful of patients had reduced hospital stays, but the number being treated was so small it easily could have been a statistical fluke.
  • The best of the studies showing some durable positive result involved about 250 patients, with a lowering of both hospital stays and mortality after a single dose of ivermectin.

And that's pretty much it. That's what the real literature has to show when it comes to studies, including most of those in pre-print that have not faced peer review. That handful of positive results is enough that the NIH is continuing studying the effectiveness of ivermectin and working it into a large trial. The U.K. is also adding ivermectin to its massive RECOVERY trial.

Either of these trials, or other large trials going on around the world, may find positive benefits from ivermectin. But those benefits, if they exist are going to be marginal, not miraculous. We know that, because that's what the data—positive and negative—already makes clear. In addition to the data examined by the NIH, the World Health Organization reviewed available data and indicated that there was "very low certainty" of any net positive effect from ivermectin.

Of course, this result doesn't match what's circulating widely in social media, and even on broadcast media. That includes how Japan has supposedly seen such good results from ivermectin, they've made it standard of care for all COVID-19 patients. Except they haven't. As NHK World reports, Japan's ministry of health has placed ivermectin "in a category of drugs whose efficacy and safety have not been established." A quick Google search on Japan will bring up studies like this one titled "wonder drug from Japan," but it refers to how the treatment was originally extracted from bacteria located near a Japanese golf course—and earned its discoverer a Nobel Prize. Ivermectin really is very good against parasites.

What about [Insert Country Here]? The answers in most cases are the same as in Japan. There are some countries, particularly in South America, which have authorized the use of ivermectin against COVID-19. Those authorizations appear to be connected to a study that came from Argentina. That study, referenced by many of the positive "meta analyses" as well as figures like vaccine skeptic Joe Rogan, indicated that ivermectin was that dream drug: easily administered, almost universally effective, and safe.

However, as BuzzFeed makes clear, there are some problems with that study. In fact, that study is nothing but a problem. That includes the study taking place at a hospital that says it never happened, along with basic patient data that changes from page to page. The researcher behind the study refuses to share notes or data.

In short, it doesn't look like the study was just badly put together. It looks like it was completely fabricated. And this is the study. The one that's been cited over and over as the justification for going all in on ivermectin.

There have also been claims, including testimony before the Senate, that Peru added ivermectin to its standard of care and immediately saw a decrease in COVID-19 cases. Only that testimony has the timeline completely backward. When it comes to ivermectin, Peru is where America is now back in the fall of 2020. That's when Nature reported on how rumors and false claims had driven a nationwide fury for ivermectin. Doctors could not prescribe it fast enough. Thousands of doses of animal-grade ivermectin were seized from smugglers. So many people were taking ivermectin that one researcher had trouble beginning a controlled trial. "Of about 10 people who come, I'd say eight have taken ivermectin and cannot participate in the study."

All of this came before cases in Peru soared. The same is true of Bolivia. The same is true of Guatemala. Widespread use of ivermectin in all these countries did not stop them from experiencing massive spikes in disease, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Finally, ivermectin in the U.S. has been pushed heavily by groups like Front Line COVID Critical Care (FLCCC), who are—and this is putting it mildly—scam artists. Before they were handing out scripts for ivermectin, they were all in on pushing hydroxychloroquine. Before that, their founder was busy explaining that ovarian cysts were caused by demon sperm. In this pandemic, FLCCC is nothing but war profiteers of the worst kind and the disinformation and propaganda they are spreading, including attacks on the FDA and NIH, are designed to generate false hope of a miracle cure for the purpose of lining their pockets.

The idea that any treatment is being suppressed by some coalition of U.S. government agencies, the World Health Organization, and the health care agencies of practically every nation on the planet is a conspiracy theory. If there was evidence of ivermectin's efficiency, it would be used. It's not used because there is no such evidence.

It is not being held back because it's cheap and other treatments are expensive. Ivermectin actually costs more than any of the available vaccines. Other treatments, like anti-inflammatory steroids, have become part of standard of care exactly because they have proven effective.

If ivermectin works against COVID-19 at all, its value will almost certainly be marginal. That's okay. Almost every drug that comes to market is of marginal, and sometimes picayune, benefit. If taking ivermectin provides even a small benefit in protecting COVID-19 patients, it will become part of the standard of care. That's how this works.

That doesn't mean there isn't a conspiracy that's killing those infected with COVID-19. There is. It's the one pushing ivermectin as a miracle cure. That false idea is getting people killed.

I wish that wasn't the case. The FDA wishes that wasn't the case. Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci and every doctor in every ICU in America wishes that wasn't the case. But it is.

Follow The Money: How Trump's Campaign Financed Jan. 6 Pre-Riot Rally

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

"Follow the money" is a handy bit of kit in a lot of situations. When it comes to looking at the events of January 6, it's good advice. Because, as OpenSecrets.org has revealed, Donald Trump's various campaign funds paid out over $4.3 million to the people who organized the insurgency warm-up rally on January 6. In fact, running down the list of people, there seems to be considerable overlap in the "staff" for Trump and the supposedly grassroots protest. That includes Trump's campaign director of operations, his national finance consultant, and at least half a dozen other people on the payroll of Trump's various campaign PACs.

In fact, the web of connections between Trump's campaign and the rally where he stepped up to urge the crowd's assault on Congress seems so entangled that the whole thing can be read as just another front stretched over Trump's campaign of self-enrichment. Not all of the names on the overlapping list of Trump and January 6 rally organizers have been targeted by the House Select Committee's latest requests for documents, but they ought to be.

It's past time for someone to turn on the lights and reveal just where the "dark money" that funded Women for America First, the "nonprofit group" that secured a permit and locked down a handy launchpad for insurrection.

Last week, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurgency sent out a long list of requests for documents. That list included documents related to almost every adult member of Trump's family (excluding Tiffany), several long-time campaign advisors including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, and a long list of others involved in planning or executing events on that day. Several of those who worked for both Trump's campaign staff and the various organizations that put together the "Stop the Steal" event were included on that list, but far from all.

This only shows that, as sweeping as the committee's requests were, they're still insufficient to come close to capturing the full scope of individuals and organizations involved, which should be no surprise. After all, the Republican Party has spent decades setting up a seemingly infinite number of "institutes" and "foundations" and "think tanks" through which a handful of extremely wealthy donors can turn their money into action. Add to this a Citizen's United-fueled PAC infrastructure and the kind of morass of entangled power and money that people visualize when talking about "the swamp" absolutely exists—on the right.

Now introduce to this Donald Trump, a man whose 100 percent one-man-owned "empire" consists of over 500 companies and corporations created expressly to disguise his own real worth, moving money around without visibility, and creating the illusion of actions necessary to generate tax breaks. Trump really was out to drain the swamp … right into his personal swamp.

From the look of the connections on January 6, he succeeded.

That document request wasn't, and won't be, the last. As The Washington Post reported, the committee has already followed up with a request to tech companies that could generate even more pages of text. On that document, it may not be the exact list of names that's drawing the biggest attention, but the request for communications records related to "any Member of Congress or congressional staff" who put in a call to Trump or the White House on that day.

That request has made GOP leader Kevin McCarthy very upset. For good reason. After all, the news has already come out about how Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz phoned Trump from the Capitol and begged him to call off his goons. Again and again, it seems that Republicans understood two things very well on January 6: The people who were attacking the Capitol and threatening their lives were working for Trump, and Trump had the ability to tell them to stand down. But beyond showing how Republicans in Congress understood who was pulling the strings, the committee's review should also show how many were directly involved in planning or executing the assault on the Capitol.

The actions of the Select Committee won't drain the Republican swamp. It's been dredged out over decades, and exploring its labyrinthine bayous of purposeful obfuscation is work that might never be complete. But this much is clear just from the outset:

  • The Trump campaign and the supposedly separate entities that not only planned the January 6 rally but also conducted attacks on democracy across the country were connected by both money and people.
  • Trump's team created a media company to supposedly pay consultants, then lined up to take checks for themselves.
  • Trump's campaign and PACs put out at least $4.3 million to pay those who set up the Washington, D.C. rally.
  • Behind all of this was "dark money" whose sources have not been revealed, hiding behind the farce of nonprofit groups.
  • The members of Congress who are now defending Trump understood—and understand—that he was behind the assault and that the mob and their organizers answer to him.
  • As members of Congress, none of them can hide behind executive privilege, even in attempting to protect their conversations with Trump.
  • Kevin McCarthy is a wiener.

That last part may seem unconnected, but it's always worth noting. Especially since McCarthy's taking the Fifth rather than admitting that he was one of those begging Trump to call off his mob is likely to be one of the highlights of the Select Committee's work.

For Republicans, Afghanistan Is Merely Another Way To Damage Biden

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Thursday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation after an explosion outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport took the lives of 13 American service members. In that speech, Biden sent condolences to the families of those lost, promised to track down the terrorists behind the attack, reaffirmed his commitment to carry on with the evacuation in Afghanistan, praised the sacrifice and dedication of the all-volunteer military, took full responsibility for his decisions, and doubled-down on bringing the 20-year conflict to a close.

In response, Republicans made it clear that they have a strategy of their own. That strategy won't get one more person out of Afghanistan. It won't save the lives of a single service member. It's not concerned with finding the ISIS-K terrorists behind the explosion. It isn't concerned with taking any responsibility. It most certainly doesn't want the war to end. Nope. The Republican plan for Afghanistan is blindingly simple: With the help of the media, use it to damage Joe Biden.

As CNN reports, the only thing bothering Republicans about Afghanistan is a divide over just how they can leverage the death of American service members as political fodder.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan sent 800 U.S. Marines into Lebanon to help push leftist Palestinians out of the country and protect gains made by the Christian Phalange militia in a long-running civil war. Afterward, a Marine was killed by a bomb, snipers killed several more Marines, 63 people were killed when a suicide driver cruised an explosive-laden van into the U.S. embassy, and 241 service members were killed when another terrorist drove a sophisticated truck bomb into the central Marine barracks. It was the most significant single-day number of American Marines lost since the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Post-bombing reports showed that the Marines had not been allowed to maintain a secure perimeter for pollical reasons. Still, Reagan went in front of the nation and vowed that the Marines would stay until the mission was complete. Except they didn't. After four months of no progress, Reagan pulled the Marines out. The identities of the terrorists who drove a van into the U.S. embassy and the terrorists who drove a truck into the Marine barracks were never established. It was never clear where they came from or what group they supported.

Following this, Reagan was reelected by a record margin in November 1984. But that, of course, was a different time. Also, Reagan managed to squeeze a whole second war into the time between pulling out the Marines and Election Day. And in that second little war—which even Margaret Thatcher thought was ridiculous—only 20 Marines got killed. Reagan ran on these examples of his willingness to expend American lives.

Currently, there's a civil war in the Republican Party between those who want to impeach Joe Biden (or call on him to resign right now ) and those who are willing to wait until Republicans gain an expected House majority in the 2022 election.

Few things could illustrate the total lack of concern that Republicans hold for the actual situation in Afghanistan better than a press briefing McCarthy held on Friday morning. As NBC News reporter Jake Sherman reported, McCarthy didn't bother with checking to see if he had a coherent statement concerning what was actually happening. Instead, the Republican leader called for every troop to come out of Afghanistan while simultaneously insisting that Bagram Airbase be reoccupied. Then he said that America should keep some troops in Afghanistan, but we shouldn't be negotiating with the Taliban. And when it was pointed out that Trump negotiated with the Taliban, McCarthy just moved on to debate the best time to impeach Biden. McCarthy doesn't have a position on that, either, because McCarthy's position is never more than what the crowd is calling for at that exact second.

When it comes to developing an actual proposal on what to do in Afghanistan, Republicans have one clear position: Why?

Why should they? Why bother when, as Huff Post pointed out on Thursday, Republicans can simultaneously make calls for actions that would require Biden to reinvade the entire country, and at the same time, criticize him for not getting every single person out of the nation without a scratch. The media won't challenge the lack of reason or consistency. Why do anything more? As long as Republicans can see that networks will gladly put them on the air and echo their statements about "chaos" and "failure," having an actual strategy on Afghanistan would only be a liability.

That frees Republicans to concentrate on the one thing that genuinely concerns them: 2022. Untethered from either the necessity of governing or the need to have a coherent platform, Republicans can be all-attack all the time. That allows statements like this from Republican Rep. Mark Green, "I'd put more military in there, I'd get every single American out, and I'd start killing bad guys." Or Sen. Ben Sasse writing a note in which he declares that America needs to "reverse course" and occupy most of Afghanistan because ending the war shows "weakness."

None of it makes sense. It doesn't have to make sense. Because Republicans don't consider their enemy to be either the Taliban or ISIS-K, they don't consider their goal to be getting Americans out safely. They certainly aren't interested in ending the war.

They're only interested in evacuating Democrats from the House, Senate, and White House. And in that scheme, they seem to have plenty of allies.

Corpses ‘Stacked To The Ceiling’ In Florida As Delta Variant Explodes

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

An NBC poll out on Tuesday tells you what Civiqs has been saying for months: Trump voters are five times less likely to get vaccinated than Biden voters. In fact, with the exception of children under 12 who have no choice, the terms "unvaccinated" and "Trump supporter" might as well be synonyms. In the latest Civiqs data, 40 percent of Republicans still say no to vaccine in spite of the Delta variant wave, and in spite of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcing full approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The numbers from NBC's new poll match those from Civiqs almost exactly, with 91 percent of Biden voters saying they've already been vaccinated but just 50 percent of Trump voters saying the same.

Just as the unreasoning vaccine hostility of Trump supporters shouldn't be a surprise at this point, neither should this: According to WFLA in Tampa Bay, the bodies of COVID-19 victims are "stacked to the ceiling" at area funeral homes and crematories. Even though the overall fatality rate from this wave of COVID-19 has been much lower so far than in previous disease surges, Florida is something of a special case. The large population and relatively low rate of vaccination when compared to states like California or New York has left Florida once again dealing with not just a spike in cases, but a staggering amount of death. Funeral directors are having to delay burials to accommodate an overloaded schedule, and stunned families who are losing ever-younger members are finding it impossible to get assistance or secure arrangements.

As the station reports, Florida is seeing a "death care industry struggling to meet demands at a level they've never seen before, and families struggling to cope with grief at a level a community has ever seen before."

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is still working to punish schools and fighting against federal efforts to protect students. And, as CNN notes, he's doing it because imperiling children "helps him with a narrow but politically powerful segment of the Republican Party, boosting his national prominence ahead of a 2022 reelection campaign and a widely expected 2024 presidential bid."

DeSantis is far from the only Republican courting the kill-kids-for-votes caucus. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose state came in second to Florida for new cases of COVID-19 again on Tuesday, is certainly in the race for the people who Hillary Clinton very accurately named "deplorables." South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has to be relieved that the unmasked, unvaxxed, unhinged Sturgis motorcycle rally has given her state a massive boost—after all, it's hard to participate in the extremist Olympics if you don't have some children to dangle over the flames.

Over 70,000 Evacuated From Kabul As CIA Chief Meets With Taliban Leader

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

On Tuesday morning, the Pentagon provided an update on the number of people who have been airlifted out of Kabul since the U.S. began evacuations in the last week of July. In that time, 63,900 people have left Afghanistan on U.S. military flights. However, the more impressive number might be what's happened in the last few days. As the Taliban moved in, the U.S. and allies have accelerated operations.

The media may be focused on claims of "chaos," but what the numbers show is a military evacuation flight leaving Kabul every 45 minutes and a flight coming in or out every two minutes. In just the last 24 hours before the morning briefing, 37 U.S. military evacuation flights carried 12,700 away from Kabul. Another 57 flights involving allies, commercial, and charter aircraft carried out 8,900. That's 21,600 people flying out in a day.

The previous day military spokesmen reported over 10,000 evacuations. It may not match the kind of traffic seen in many major U.S. airports, but then, Kabul's airport has, along with other difficulties, only a single runway. The Pentagon describes it as "an exhausting pace" that involves over 200 aircraft and 6,000 troops from the U.S. along with allied forces. With a week to go before the current "red line" for U.S. forces to leave the country, Army Gen. Stephen Lyons said he was confident that the military can keep up, or even increase, the pace of people coming out.

On Tuesday morning, NBC News reported that Kabul International is now an "extremely busy airfield" where departures were "orderly" with no one cutting lines, bags being searched, and "even candy for the kids." They also reported that "the Taliban are helping make it go smoothly by providing security outside the airport." But while that segment ran on the Today show, it would be hard to find anything equivalent on any news site, including NBC's, where all the headlines are of "chaos," "pressure," and how how this supposed failure is crashing approval ratings for President Biden.

In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, President Biden noted that 50 flights have left Kabul in the last 12 hours. That included 19 U.S. military evacuation flights and 31 other flights from coalition partners. In total, 70,700 people have now been evacuated. Biden said that he had held extensive discussions with G7 partners, praised allies for the evacuees they were taking in, and explained that Afghan coming to America will have undergone background checks. Biden also took a moment to mention that Trump had destroyed the SIV program, causing some delays in clearing Afghan evacuees.

Biden also mentioned, as had previously been discussed, that he has asked the military and State Department to prepare contingencies if the U.S. is unable to evacuate those who want to get out by August 31. However, he acknowledge that the longer the U.S. is present on the ground, the more inviting a target Kabul's airport comes for militants who want to strike a blow against both the U.S. and the Taliban.

On Tuesday morning The Washington Post reported that CIA Director William Burns held a covert meeting on Monday with the Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar—the same man that Donald Trump pressured Pakistan to release from jail. Baradar not only led the negotiations with Trump that created an agreement which excluded the existing Afghan government, he is now expected to take over as the new president when the Taliban leadership settles in.

That meeting likely means the U.S. has informed Baradar that, despite previous announcement that the U.S. would be out by August 31, that deadline may be extended if necessary to get Americans and Afghans who worked with the American military out of the country. Even though it was Biden who gave the August 31 date for when he expected operations to be complete, he has been definitive in saying that those Americans and Afghan allies who want to leave will get that opportunity. Despite the accelerating pace of evacuations, that may require staying more than the week that remains.

On Tuesday morning, military advisers stated that the U.S. should attempt to stick with the August 31 date, and anonymous sources told Politico that Biden agrees with that decision. There is absolutely no doubt that the U.S. will attempt to get everyone out in that time. There's also no doubt that, no matter what date the U.S. leaves, there will still be reports of Americans or others who got left behind. That's inevitable. But no matter what's being said publicly, the meeting between Burns and Barador is a good indicator that in private the Taliban is being informed that, in spite of threats, the U.S. will remain at the Kabul airport if there are still lines of people attempting to leave.

That meeting might also serve another purpose: getting the Taliban to provide more assistance in getting people out of the country. In fact, there might be a direct relationship between that meeting between Burns and Baradar, and NBC reports that Taliban forces are helping evacuations run "smoothly."

That's because, no matter how quickly the Taliban rolled over the U.S.-trained Afghan forces, the last thing they want is to actually reengage with the U.S. military. Baradar doesn't want to give the U.S. any excuse to take actions such as bombing military bases now occupied by the Taliban, or pushing U.S military forces back toward the heart of Kabul to provide an expanded corridor. More than anything, Baradar simply wants the U.S. to be gone. So hearing that the U.S. might need to extend their departure date should light at least as big a fire under Baradar as it is for leaders at the Pentagon.

Staying around past the end of this month is a contingency that no one wants to deal with. The increasing pace of departures from Kabul International Airport make that contingency less likely. And the best thing about the meeting between Burns and Baradar may have been that it reminded the Taliban to save their gloating until after the U.S. military is not around.

Tuesday, Aug 24, 2021 · 12:45:00 PM EDT · Mark Sumner

This is a big deal.

Study Finds DeSantis And Abbott Culpable In Nearly 5000 Excess COVID Deaths

What happens when Republican governors institute policies that are 100 percent about showing their Trumpism, and zero percent about taking care of the people in their state? Here are two good examples.

In Texas, Greg Abbott has declared that no one can require proof of vaccination, As a direct result of this decision, the Texas Tribune reports that only half of workers at Texas nursing homes are vaccinated. And as a direct result of that, "The number of nursing homes across the state with at least one active COVID-19 case has shot up nearly 800% in the past month."

That's right. Remember all the work that was put into trying to protect people in nursing homes? The desperate scramble to buy protective gear from anywhere on the planet? All those tragic images of elderly family members isolated from their children and grandchildren for month after month? Yeah. Greg Abbott has sabotaged every moment of time and every ounce of effort by issuing a rule that any business that requires vaccination can't get a state contract — which directly impacts every nursing home in the state.

In Florida, Ron DeSantis has not just failed to institute mask mandates in the most COVID-riddled schools in the nation, but has spent the last weeks threatening any school that attempts to protect its students. As a direct result of that, hundreds of school boards have bowed down and sent kids off to classrooms they know are unsafe. That includes Pinellas County where, as the St. Pete Catalyst reports, the board sent kids back into classrooms without masks in spite of 204 cases of COVID-19 in just the first two days of school. That board directly cited DeSantis' order as the reason they couldn't take the simplest, cheapest, most effective step in protecting the children under their care.

Back in March, researchers calculated that the polices of Donald Trump were responsible for at least 400,000 deaths in the United States. But Trump's biggest contribution to the pandemic was having the federal government just sit it out—no national testing effort, no national lockdown, no rules on masks or anything else. When it comes to the individual states, it turns out there are some bonus deaths to be allocated to those governors who went above and beyond in placing their political ambitions ahead of their states—especially Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis.

A study conducted by Yale researchers and published at Commonwealth Fund, looked specifically at how policies around vaccination converted into hospitalizations and deaths. For a cluster of Northeastern states—Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island—the rate of vaccination average 74 percent in residents over the age of 18 by the end of July. Those states have turned out to be among the lowest in the nation when it comes to new cases during the wave of delta variant cases. On Friday, every one of those states was in the bottom seven in terms of cases per capita.

On the other hand, Florida and Texas once again topped the charts. As of the same time those other states were hitting 74% of their adult populations vaccinated, Florida reported 59 percent and Texas 56 percent. Those aren't the lowest levels in the nation, but they're in the bottom half. Considering the size of Florida and Texas, it shouldn't be surprising that the combination of high population, low vaccination, and destructively bad policy has kept the pair at the top of the charts for new cases of COVID-19.

But what it if, in some alternate universe, Texas and Florida had been governed by competent people. Yes, it seems like science fiction, but hang in there. What if these two states had competent leadership; leadership that rather than fighting against vaccination, encouraged it. What if Texas and Florida had vaccination rates as high as those of states in the Northeast? What kind of difference might it have made?

It's not as outlandish as it may seem. Yes, both Florida and Texas have millions of deep red voters who have folded anti-mask and anti-vaxx into the general anti-science / anti-sense philosophy that has come to dominate the Republican Party. But it didn't have to be that way. At any point in the pandemic, either Abbott or DeSantis could have demonstrated leadership [ lee-der-ship ]. They might have chosen to stop bowing down to the demands of the worst in their party, spoken forcefully in favor of good public health practices, and differentiated themselves from the rest of presumed 2024 field by doing the right thing. The Republican embrace of anti-mask and anti-vaxx could have been changed had any of the party's "rising stars" chosen to go with saving lives instead of appealing to the worst.

That didn't happen.

Instead, Florida had 39,000 unnecessary hospitalizations and 2,806 more deaths than it would have if DeSantis hadn't championed every wrong policy. And across the Gulf in Texas, Abbott might have saved his state from 32,000 additional vaccinations and over 1,900 deaths. These are, of course, just estimates. But if anything, the numbers they represent are low for several reasons.

First, the study looked only at vaccination rates. That's certainly reasonable considering how both governors have persecuted businesses, schools, and governments that have tried to institute any kind of vaccine policy. Whether it's cruise ships in Florida, or universities and nursing homes in Texas, facilities that elsewhere would have insisted on vaccination have backed away. Because they had to. DeSantis and Abbott didn't just voice an opinion, they blackmailed these businesses and schools into either operating an unsafe environment, or going out of business.

These numbers don't include the number of hospitalizations or deaths generated because both governors have failed to institute mask mandates and blocked the use of mandates by schools and local governments. The numbers also don't include the damage done by forcing businesses to reopen and schools to conduct in-person classes even though conditions had pointedly not reached the guidelines each state had put in place. And these numbers only run through July, meaning they don't catch hospitalizations and deaths from the ongoing wave of delta variant cases.

It's not that Ron DeSantis caused 2,800 unnecessary deaths in Florida and Greg Abbott caused 1,900 deaths in Texas. It's that they caused at least that number. Oh, and no one should forget that 700 Texans who died because the power grid failed due to a design that makes it purposefully fragile. Greg Abbott deserves his share of those, as well.

Nation Grows Impatient With Unvaccinated As Mandates Expand

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

One thing that's rising even more quickly than COVID-19 cases in Florida is the frustration with the unvaccinated across the nation. Back in the spring, vaccination rates reached over 4 million doses in a single day. With President Joe Biden ensuring adequate supplies for every person in the country, an army of healthcare workers (including the actual Army) engaged in giving vaccines, and a series of targets met (100 million doses! 200 million doses!) it seemed everyone was on their way to a relaxing beach vacation, or that long-delayed visit with distant relatives. And then came the vaccine resisters. Or to be more clear, Republican vaccine resisters. Fueled by a raft of social media rumors, the exhaust from Tucker Carlson's auxiliary anus, and pure cussedness, a solid 40% of Republicans sat down on the second base line and refused the play the game with the rest of America.

While they pouted about whatever Fox News last told them to pout about, the vaccine hostile were really counting on one simple thing, something they've counted on their whole lives: Reasonable people would save them. What the holdouts really expected was that things would be fine. Because they're always fine. They get to scream and make claims about pizza tunnels, while Reasonable People make the world keep spinning.

They could be as vaccine hostile as they wanted, because everyone else would get the vaccine. Then they could go around wagging their finger over how America was populated by sheep and robots, while leaning back on the knowledge that those sheep and robots were saving their unvaccinated necks. But the delta variant came along and screwed up that little plan. With an R0 value roughly the same as a googol (not Google), the "wave my gun and scream about freedom" faction soon found that, this time at least, the Reasonable People could not drag the unmasked ship of fools across the finish line.

And now, dammit, it's get vaccinated or else. Because the Reasonable People are tired of being reasonable.

On Friday, a number of companies threw up their hands and declared that they were going to require vaccination for employees. As The New York Timesreported, the list of companies slapping down a mandate included some big names. Names like Walmart and Disney. Those are two names that could be especially fun for certain red state governors who have made being the most unreasonable a point of honor.

Disney has already demonstrated that it's willing to thumb its giant Mickey nose at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Though when it comes to the state legislature, the House of Mouse doesn't really have to worry—the state carved out a giant Disney-shaped exception when pushing businesses to pretend the pandemic was over.

There is no such exemption for Walmart, though that Walmart news isn't as big as it might sound. Because the company is actually only moving to protect workers in its corporate offices, and managers who travel between stores. The actual workers at the Walmart nearest you will continue to be treated as disposable commodities, more easily restocked than the toilet paper aisle. As always. So the Walmart problem will actually just fall on the shoulders of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and there is nothing more reliable than that Republican officials in Arkansas will do as Bentonville tells them.

The ruling from the DOJ that vaccine mandates by local governments and business are legal opened the floodgates this week. As The Wall Street Journalreports, several Wall Street banking firms have instructed their employees to take the jab. Some of those companies, like Citigroup, are following revised CDC guidelines and requiring everyone to wear masks in the office, regardless of vaccination status. On the big tech side, Google and Facebook have also announced they will require all employees at their U.S. campuses to be vaccinated.

Businesses aren't alone; some universities and private schools are announcing that all staff will be vaccinated. As the Lansing State Journalreports, Michigan State University will require vaccinations for all staff and students when classes begin on Sept. 1, and will also require everyone to wear a mask when indoors. The California State University system has also announced vaccination will be required for all faculty, staff, and students who attend in-person classes.

What's not happening is a federal mandate that would force every American to be vaccinated, regardless of how it's being reported over at the National Review. CDC director Rochelle Walensky has already made it clear that she was talking about a mandate for federal workers and contractors, not a federal vaccine corps marching to every door in America. And that, of course, will mean that Republicans will drop this claim that was already exploding across right-wing media (spoiler alert: They won't).

Republicans are already working hard on the unreasonable response. As the Associate Press reports, Republican state legislators in Wisconsin are trying to pre-empt the university there by blocking them from instituting requirements for vaccination, masking, or even testing. Take that, student safety! As The Guardian notes, the Oklahoma Republican Party didn't hesitate to whip out their Nazi metaphors, comparing COVID-19 vaccine mandates "to the persecution of Jewish people in Nazi Germany." That included placing a yellow star of David on the Party's official Facebook page, and calling for a special session of the state legislature to pass bills prohibiting prohibit employers from requiring vaccination.

But Texas is, as usual, ahead of the unreasonable curve. As NBC reports, Gov. Greg Abbott moved quickly in response to new CDC guidelines suggesting that children wear masks in school, and that everyone wear masks in COVID-19 hot spots (which would include the entire Lone Star State). Abbott soon dashed off an executive order that blocks schools from requiring either vaccination or masks. That executive order ends with the claim that it was done to "provide clarity and uniformity in the Lone Star State's continued fight against COVID-19."

If what Abbott's order is trying to say is that Texans are not going to fight at all, and intend to passively hand their children over to the virus—sure, that's clear. And it does fit in with Texas' founding tradition of getting people pointlessly killed in boneheaded stands over causes favored by white supremacists.

Texas had over 13,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, exceeded only by the 17,000+ in Florida. Both states are now back to where they were in February, with cases still climbing. Maybe that's making both Abbott and DeSantis think that being on the side of the virus is the winning team.

They might want to think again.

Vaccine Or Viagra: COVID-19 Can Cause ’Severe Erectile Dysfunction’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

For more than 18 months, it's been clear that the SARS-CoV-2 virus—originally better known as the "novel coronavirus"—can cause serious lingering illness, as well as death. Many people whose initial brush with COVID-19 appeared to be mild have found themselves suffering lingering effects, including heart issues, lung issues, joint pain, dizziness, hearing loss, and memory problems that can mimic or lead to Alzheimer's. COVID-19 has also led directly to thousands of instances of amputations. COVID-19 patients have found themselves needing kidney, lung, double-lung, or heart-lung transplants. And then there's the little matter of over 600,000 deaths (more likely close to a million) in the United States alone.

It might seem that all of that would be enough to make anyone rush to the nearest available source of vaccine and elbow their way to the front of the line. In fact, that seems to be happening in other countries. In Canada, 71 percent of the total population is at least partially vaccinated. That's a full 15 percent higher than the United States. But then, Canada—though it certainly has vaccine protesters—doesn't have a major faction of its people dedicated to the idea that accepting rationality is surrendering to the enemy.

As Civiqs shows, Republicans are still locked into a vaccine hostile position, with 44 percent saying they will not take the vaccine. This number has not been dented by the Delta variant surge, or by the lukewarm endorsements of the vaccine cautiously mouthed by GOP politicians. It seems there may be nothing that will change Republicans' minds and get them to take action that's not only vital for the nation, but for themselves. We might as well give up and …

Oh, wait a sec … Dear Republican men, COVID-19 makes your dick limp. Please form an orderly line.

Market Watch may not seem like the first place to turn for medical news, but Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, the author of the Market Watch article, is also one of the members of a team which found that COVID-19 causes both erectile dysfunction and infertility in men.

For months, rumors have been circulating about the COVID-19 vaccines causing such issues. Those rumors are simply untrue. There is no evidence that the vaccines can cause infertility among men or women.

But the disease certainly can.

In a study that included dissecting the testicles of six men (all dead, so stop screaming), Dr. Ramasamy and a team or urologists found that half of those tested had reduced sperm count. Oh, and sampling from a survivor (you can resume screaming now) showed that not only were sperm counts reduced, COVID-19 can continue to live in the testes months after the initial infection.

And that isn't even the part of this news that will cause most men to flinch. Because another study involved "an analysis of penile tissue" from two men who needed "penile implants" after COVID-19 led to severe erectile dysfunction. The suspected cause here is the same thing that is thought to be behind much of the damage COVID-19 can do to the heart, brain, and other organs—blood clots. Those clots lead to decreased blood flow. Decreased blood flow leads to frustration and embarrassment.

On the other hand, a new study shows that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are fine for the male reproductive system. That's something that Republicans might want to keep in mind going forward, especially as they hammer their "no votes for the childless" theme. Those who have been vaccinated will at least have that option, those catching COVID … maybe not so much.

From the beginning, there have been Republicans out there screaming about how the vaccine involved "population control." And it turns out they're right. Because by turning down the vaccine, Republicans may be not just putting their lives at risk, but taking themselves right out of the gene pool.

Why Is Tucker Carlson Still On The Air?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Honestly, a better question might be "Why is Tucker Carlson not in jail?"

On Friday night, Carlson was back on Fox News to welcome COVID-19-"truther" Alex Barenson to his program. Together, the two said that "masks are useless" and nothing more than a symbol that someone is obedient to the government, and claimed that mask mandates have no intention other than to make people scared, and are doing "psychological damage." They then moved on to say that the vaccines are "declining in effectiveness very quickly," and that the truth about vaccines was being blocked by "tremendous financial pressure."

Decades ago, the Supreme Court determined that the United States should live with a very expansive view of the First Amendment's promises of free speech; in fact, that view has continually expanded. Until the 20th century, the primary test was of "bad tendency"; that is, speech could be outlawed if it could be seen as causing harm to the public welfare. Then, for most of the last century, the test was "clear and present danger," meaning that speech didn't have to just be something that was considered a threat, but an imminent and specific threat. That requirement was made even sharper after 1969 when a series of decisions moved the stakes to a requirement that speech be designed to generate "imminent lawless action." Under that requirement, speech is not protected only if it is intended to create an incident that is both "imminent and likely."

That expansion of First Amendment rights has been a good thing, in part because it has protected the speech of those arguing for civil rights and those protesting war. But it's also been used for bad purposes, to protect speech designed to create schisms in the nation and to build up racist hatred. However, even the most extreme interpretation of the First Amendment should not protect the acts in which Carlson is currently engaged. His words are, by any standard, causing harm to the public welfare, generating a clear and present danger, and creating an imminent threat to the very lives of Americans.

Whether or not Carlson could be successfully prosecuted is an open question. Whether he should be on the air is not.

Back in 2017, one of those strange and harmful trends swept through the nation: the Tide Pod Challenge, a fad in which people—mostly teens posting on social media—bit into Tide's single servings of squishy laundry detergent.

As Snopes explains, the earliest videos of the "challenge" went back to 2012, and at different times over the years people had resurrected the idea that Tide Pods were edible in ways that included a supposed Tide Pod pizza and a fake Gordon Ramsay review. But suddenly, around the end of 2017, the idea seemed to catch on in a big way, particularly the idea of teens filming themselves biting down on a Pod until it sprayed out the highly toxic liquid inside. In a few months at the end of 2017, there were 200 cases of teens at least partially swallowing detergent. In just the first 11 days of 2018, there were 40 more. Approximately 10 deaths resulted.

Strange doesn't begin to cover it, but here's the important part: Every social media platform reacted by removing every Tide-challenge related video and banning posters. Those platforms then moved swiftly to post warnings that the challenge was life-threatening. As news of the challenge became general knowledge, every major media outlet responded by running programs warning against the practice, and calling out the videos as unsafe. From CBS News to Good Morning America, the phenomenon was examined, the dangers made clear, and those pushing the idea were shamed. Networks didn't feel any embarrassment about calling out those involved, even those who were under 18, and pointing out the dangers of what they were encouraging.

Now, let's move to another event that took place in 2017. That's when Harley Branham, a manager at the local Dairy Queen in Fayette, Missouri, was charged with encouraging the suicide of a 17-year-old employee. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, Branham harassed the employee over a period of three months, making fun of his weight, his appearance, his way of speaking, and his intelligence. In 2019, Branham pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree assault in the youth's death, and was sentenced to two years' probation after making a deal with prosecutors.

Branham's case is not unique. In 2014, 18-year-old Conrad Roy climbed into his pickup, closed the doors, and ended his life through carbon monoxide asphyxiation. For months in advance of that day, his girlfriend Michelle Carter had been sending Roy messages encouraging him to kill himself. At one point in the middle of his death, Roy texted Carter that he had gotten out of the truck. "Get back in," she texted in reply. He did. In 2017, Carter was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. She was released in 2020, after spending just over a year behind bars.

In May 2021 alone, over 18,000 Americans died of COVID-19. Of those who died, only about 150 were people who had been vaccinated. In the same month, more than 107,000 Americans were hospitalized for severe illness attributed to COVID-19. Only 1% of those people had been vaccinated.

It may be too much to charge Tucker Carlson directly with 18,000 counts of manslaughter for his actions over the course of that month, but there is one thing certain: What Carlson is doing is much closer to the actions of Branham or Carter than it is to the teens laughing over the Tide Pod challenge. The frozen food heir is fully aware of the consequences of his actions, He is fully aware of the falseness of his claims. He is fully culpable in the deaths of thousands of Americans.

This is not a case of a broadcaster repeating a mistaken claim, or someone rushing forward with information that is incomplete. Carlson is deliberately, frequently, and constantly providing disinformation to the public that generates real and lasting harm—including death on a massive scale.

There may be no prosecutor in the country willing to charge Carlson for his involvements in these days—though honestly, there should be. But if that's too much to expect, then certainly it should be a bare minimum that Carlson be treated with the kind of seriousness that was given to a disorganized group of kids that generated 0.1 percent as many deaths over eight years as Carlson and his ilk produced in a single month, a month that was the least deadly month of the entire pandemic.

Every single platform should feel an obligation to not just disown Carlson, but to prominently feature material correcting his false claims. Every single news program should feel obligated to call out this threat regularly, until it no longer exists. And every single sponsor who puts up a dime for his program should be considered a co-conspirator in his acts.

Cyber Ninjas Whine As Arizona 'Audit' Is Proved Utterly Pointless

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's been three weeks since the Arizona "audit"—a process that involved the most partisan of Trump partisans searching for "bamboo ballots" and the ghostly fingerprints of Hugo Chavez, under the supervision of a firm created expressly to bolster conspiracy theories—apparently came to a close. That is, the audit farce is still officially underway, but three weeks ago Cyber Ninjas tweeted out an announcement that they were done pretending to count ballots, and had moved onto the most critical part of the process: terminal whining.

As CBS News reports, Cyber Ninjas is now complaining that they "don't have enough information" to complete the audit. Because getting to finger every single ballot, take control of the voting machines (which will now be discarded after the auditors did who knows what to them), and initiating a plan to go door-to-door asking people how they voted just isn't enough. As has happened several times in the process, the Ninjas, along with supporters in the Arizona Senate, are directing fingers at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors—the Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors—for failing to "cooperate" enough in an audit where they've turned over every ballot, every machine, and every scrap of paper related to the election. That's not enough, say the Ninjas. They want … well, it might be easier to say what they don't want.

Until they get everything on their unreasonable list, and whatever unreasonable list comes after this, the "auditors" insist that they are not going to issue a report. Since July 2, all the ballots, machines, and accoutrements of Ninjaing have been parked at an unairconditioned building on the Arizona state fairgrounds. It's unclear whether anyone is actually working there.

And on Friday afternoon, the Associated Press made it clear why this is so: Arizona's county election officials have also been going through the ballots, not just for Maricopa, but for every county. And what they've found knocks the sword right out of the Ninja's hands.

After looking through more than three million ballots from the 2020 election, 182 cases turned up that were confusing enough that they were referred for further review. Four of these cases have led to actual charges of voter fraud. None of them involve someone voting more than once—though several of the cases involve people who tried to vote more than once and were stopped. These numbers are exactly in line with would be expected in any election, and show absolutely nothing special about what happened in Arizona, no matter what the county.

If all 182 cases involved an incidence in which a Trump vote was switched to Biden—and there's no evidence that's the result of any of these cases—Joe Biden would still have won the state by 10,218 votes. Of the four cases charged, two involved Democrats and two involved Republicans.

As for Maricopa County, the actual election supervisors identified one case of potential voter fraud. That case involves a voter who might have also been registered to vote in another state, The case has been sent to the state attorney general for investigation.

Not only do the 182 cases show that large scale vote fraud is non-existent, they show just how good the system is at stopping even small-scale cheaters. People who tried to vote in multiple districts were stopped. People who tried to vote remotely as well as in-person got just one vote. People who tried to cast mail-in ballots for dead relatives were caught. Even cases that were unclear—like the voter who could have potentially voted in another state—were flagged and investigated.

The detail and exactness with which all these cases were handled shows just how impossible it is that voter fraud on the scale claimed by Trump and his supporters could have occurred. The system immediately flagged one woman who tried to cast a ballot for her recently deceased mother, so how possible is it that the 74,000 ballots that Cyber Ninnies are insisting demand a door-to-door reckoning might have a genuine issue?

The actual review by actual officials showed that the two things most cited by Trump supporters—false mail in ballots and votes "from dead people"—are rare, easily detected, and mostly stopped before they could have even a tiny effect on Election Day results.

None of this gives Trump what he wants, of course. So, just as in Georgia, where Trump readily attacked Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Republican Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger when they failed to produce the numbers he wanted, the Arizona Ninnies have fallen back on the claim that "The main reason the forensic audit is taking 2.5 months is because Maricopa County Supervisors and Recorder have obstructed the audit and refused to cooperate." That was half a month ago. Now they're simply at the point where they claim they can't go forward with vote counting because they've examined every ballot. They need more.

In the end, it's clear the Maricopa "audit" won't have an end. It is designed never to end. Which is fine. Because it was never about finding any evidence of real fraud. It was only ever about giving Trump justification for his claims, and eternal victimhood suits that purpose perfectly.

So the Arizona audit will just remain open eternally, acting as a north star that will unfailing attract Trump's orange finger when he's pointing out "campaign fraud."

Gaetz And Greene’s ‘America First’ Tour Booted Out Of Three Venues

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The leaders of the Republican Party—Rep. Matt Gaetz and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—have been touring the nation. Whether this is part of Gaetz's plans for expanding his sex trafficking ring, Greene's recruiting drive for terrorists, or simply a cash grab by both, isn't clear (except for the part where it definitely is a cash grab). What is clear is that it's a keen demonstration of the GOP is making a "star" out of anyone who is merely willing to be disgusting on a regular basis.

As a quick reminder, Greene was taken off her House committee assignments for continually promoting the Big Lie in a way that encouraged violence, and downplaying the events of January. 6. Meanwhile, Gaetz is under investigation for his involvement in a multi-state scheme to recruit young women, provide them with fake IDs, and jet them around the country for sex in exchange for cash and prizes—a scheme that is complicated by the fact that at least one of these women was underage. Both these things together, and you have the makings of a modern Republican dream team.

The two have been touring the country making appearances that allow their followers to own the libs by showing that they don't care about details like rape or insurrection, so long as they get to hear jokes about Nancy Pelosi and watch Gaetz sputter on in his obsession with AOC. They also have been talking up a proposed political caucus to defend "Anglo-Saxon" culture by strictly limiting immigration.

But a funny thing has happened when it comes to the West Coast edition of the Gaetz and Greene show. Funny in the "ha ha" sense. Because nobody wants them. For the third time in a week, venues have put out the Not Welcome mat, leaving the pair looking for somewhere to gestate their hate supposedly right on the eve of their next appearance.

The plan was to slide into Orange County, home to John Wayne Airport and a Republican Party that regularly plays up ideas that everyone who is not from Orange County is descending into a morass of immigrant-fueled crime. So … not the worst possible fit.

Then, as the Orange County Register reported, the Laguna Hills event center found out who was actually going to be heading up the "America First" rally slated for their venue, and cancelled. That was strike one.

With the event scheduled for Saturday, July 17 (as in yesterday), Greene's team scrambled and found another venue in nearby Riverside. Only that proved to be a very short-lived booking. On Friday evening, the Riverside Convention Center said "no thanks".

That left Gaetz and Greene with less than 24 hours to find somewhere that could hold all their hate. How madly they worked the phones isn't clear, but they found a place wiling to take them in Anaheim. And then, less than eight hours before show time, that connection went up in smoke.

Just think. Whenever and wherever Gaetz and Greene actually find a place willing to let them in, they'll have so many more cancel culture jokes to tell. Maybe they can just go straight to Mar-a-Lago. They should feel right at home there, for so many reasons.

Military Chiefs Planned Joint Resignation To Thwart Trump’s ‘Gospel Of The Fuhrer’

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Previously released excerpts from I Alone Can Fix It, a new book by twoWashington Post reporters, indicated tension between members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Trump White House. However, additional material released by CNN takes this to a new and terrifying level. According to Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, senior military officers were so concerned that Donald Trump might drag the military into a coup, that they developed a plan to resign, one by one, rather than accept an order to take part in such a plot.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley appears to have been particularly concerned about the idea Trump might simply refuse to leave office, and that in his final days in power, he would use the military to carry out his schemes. Milley, who took part in Trump's Bible-waving stroll across Lafayette Square, was disturbed at how Trump inserted sycophants into key roles at the Pentagon following the election and saw this as a sign of an upcoming attempt to maintain power at the point of a gun.

According to the authors, Milley grew so concerned that he discussed the possibility not just with his friends, but with other generals and with members of Congress. "They may try, but they're not going to f**king succeed," Milley told his staff. "You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."

The book also indicates that Milley had specific concerns about Jan. 6. Trump's calls for supporters to come to D.C. for a "wild" event, and intelligence showing that militia members were planning to attend in numbers, left Milley fretting Trump was deliberately "stoking unrest" and that he was trying to create an incident that would justify the use of the Insurrection Act along with military force.

"This Is A Reichstag Moment"

Seeing Trump as a "classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose," Milley became convinced he'd seen this story before. With Trump calling for a "Million MAGA March" following his loss in November, Milley feared it "could be the modern American equivalent of 'brownshirts in the streets." In addition to referencing incidents in which Nazis had used violence to bring Adolf Hitler to power, Milley supposedly referenced the incident that Hitler had staged, then leveraged as a means of using violence against his enemies. "This is a Reichstag moment. The gospel of the Führer."

One of MIlley's colleagues, quoted anonymously, confirmed to him that "this is all real" and warned the general, "What they are trying to do here is overturn the government. ... You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff."

The book's revelations show a last minute scramble at the White House, with Trump clutching at every conspiracy theory and working to put in place those who might go along with a scheme to defy the outcome of the election. According to the authors, Milley was instrumental in preventing Trump from replacing FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, with Milley regarding both of those positions as pivotal to the success or failure of any coup.

According to the book, Trump's spiral into darkness was so severe that even Mike Pompeo came to Milley for a "heart to heart" talk in which he complained, "you know the crazies are taking over."

The incidents described in the book go beyond disturbing. They describe a nation well beyond the brink, with a White House actively working to position assets for an end of democracy and military leadership developing a pushback that was not at all certain of success. The revelations are terrifying enough that "shocking" seems an all-too-insubstantial term.

But there is one thing that isn't completely clear. Though the article states that the book developed from over a hundred interviews conducted by Leonnig and Rucker, it doesn't make clear when this information was known to them. If Washington Post reporters were aware in the final days of Trump's occupation of the White House, that he was plotting to keep control of the nation, shouldn't the nation have been made aware? And if there were reports that top military officials were convinced that Trump's actions following the election were intended to generate violence, shouldn't that information have been provided to case managers in Trump's second impeachment?

There are a number of upcoming books on the final awful days of Trump, and the revelations will continue. But the first question these books need to answer is why are we just hearing about this now?

A Peek Behind Boebert's Hilarious Sock Puppet Screwup

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

It's always nice to have someone who agrees with you on every point. Someone who will take up your battles for you. And maybe someone who will like or retweet those really weird statements that were maybe just a bit to embarrassing to put your name beside. For Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, that person is Freedom Fighter aka @freedom53597835 aka Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Boebert isn't the first Republican to be caught sockpuppeting to make her opinions seem more popular, to take secret jabs at enemies, or do whatever Boebert is doing when retweeting these posts. Not by a long shot. But there is something particularly interesting about finding out that this Republican has sockpuppet tendencies.

So, Lauren Boebert set up what's clearly a throwaway sockpuppet account to boost her own posts, retweet some decidedly odd comments about men, and to follow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (oh yes, Freedom Fighter follows AOC). But mostly what Boebert's sockpuppet points out is that there's a mystery out there that needs to be solved — and it's all about a date.

Boebert's sockpuppetry was discovered by comedy writer Toby Morton in a way that's almost as hilarious as Morton's work on South Park. In a solid Karen moment, Boebert came to chase Morton away when he was filming a bit at a location that Boebert felt was too close to her Colorado bar. During this encounter, Boebert used her phone to video Morton. But where did that video actually pop out at a time when Boebert wanted to shore up her position in an argument with Morton? From @freedom53597835.

At the moment, Boebert is still feeding posts into the burner account in a hilario-pathetic effort to prove that it's so, so not her burner account. But, as the activists at Meidas Touch point out, the discovery of this account from Boebert only fires the starting gun for the real search—her other accounts. In particular, the Freedom Fighter account was created in February, meaning that it was created after the events of January 6 and after Boebert was aware that she had been accused of leading insurgents on tours of the Capitol that were designed to show them how to subvert the building's security.

So the question is not just: How many other such accounts does Boebert have, but what accounts did she have before January 6? Also, since Boebert has already tweeted to say "if this was really Lauren's burner account don't you think it would have a lot more tweets?" that opens the question of how many tweets on this account, and others, Boebert has deleted.

But it is nice to know she's on a first name basis with herself.

Pushing Big Lie, Brooks Says Trump Urged His Violent Jan. 6 Speech

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Some time between 7:30 and 8:30 PM on January 5, a person wearing a gray hoodie and pricey Nike Air Max sneakers placed a pipe bomb on the bench outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. They placed another behind the HQ of the Republican National Committee. The discovery of those pipe bombs took place between noon and 1 PM the next day, making them a great distraction for police who were at that moment struggling to respond to Trump supporters smashing through security lines around the Capitol.

Though the primary purpose of those bombs might have been to draw police away from the Capitol, the devices themselves were quite real. Each was made from an 8-inch length of galvanized steel pipe, each contained a generous amount of black powder, and each included a kitchen timer that was designed to explode the device at … actually, that information has not been made public. Six months later, that pipe bomber has not been arrested. If there is an official suspect, that news has not been made public.

The pipe bomber isn't the only person still laughing up their gray cotton sleeve six months after thousands of Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol chanting "Hang Mike Pence," erected a gallows on the Capitol lawn, and went inside to break into congressional offices and hunt members of the House and Senate. Though the very first cases are now coming to trial, many of those involved in Jan. 6 events have not been charged. That includes those most responsible: the politicians who took to the "Stop the Steal" stage and encouraged the attack.

If you've not watched The New York Times' "Day of Rage" video, you should spend 40 minutes doing so now. For all the well-deserved criticism the paper receives, this is a fantastic example of the kind of journalism of which they are still capable. The work the Times has done in putting this together is extremely valuable, and the charges that it makes are well-aimed.

How Trump Supporters Took the U.S. Capitol | Visual Investigations www.youtube.com

Six months in, America has seen plenty of stories of insurrectionists pulled into police stations through their own blind hubris. Those staging the attack included a West Virginian legislator who helpfully filmed himself invading the Capitol (including giving his name on camera for anyone who needed confirmation) and a Proud Boys supporter whosigned his name on screen.

But, as the Associated Press reports, in spite of hundreds of arrests, a large number of those involved have still not been brought in. The Justice Department is still hunting "scores" of insurrectionists, including many who, like the pipe bomber, were involved in some of the most serious incidents of violence and threat. Some of these people were previously not on police radar as they were not involved in violent extremism before becoming entangled with Trump. Others simply haven't yet been identified, losing themselves in a similar set of thousands dressed in pseudo-military tactical gear and Trump paraphernalia.

But some of those people were right in front of everyone, and their names are well-known. That includes Rep. Mo Brooks, who took the stage that morning to prod the crowd with direct calls for violence. A judge gave Brooks a break today in the lawsuit filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell, ruling that he had not been unresponsive despite avoiding process servers for weeks.

Brooks' Jan. 6 speech included telling the crowd they should "stop at the Capitol" to prevent the a vote that would "turn America into a godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation on the decline, or they will join us and they will fight and vote against voter fraud and election theft and vote for keeping America great."

Brooks then followed up for anyone who might not be clear on what he was saying: "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass," said Brooks. "Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you. Are you willing to do the same?" Brooks then repeatedly shouted at the crowd, "Will you fight for America?" before saying, "We, American patriots are going to come right at them!"

Brooks has been insisting that he did nothing wrong, and that this actions that day "represented his district." However, in a new filing connected to his civil suit, Brooks pushed all the blame onto someone else: Donald Trump.

According to the filing from Brooks' attorneys: "Brooks only gave the Ellipse Speech because the White House asked him to, in his capacity as a United States Congressman. But for the White House request, Brooks would not have appeared at the Ellipse Rally." The filing also claims that Brooks coordinated his statements with the White House.

But if this sounds like either Brooks or his attorneys are about to be reasonable … nope. This is the prelude to claims that calls for violence against Congress were completely justified. "The evidence is overwhelming that the Nov. 3, 2020, elections were the subject of voter fraud and election theft on a scale never seen before in America," reads the filing, "and that, if only lawful votes cast by eligible American citizens were counted, Donald Trump should be serving his second term as President of the United States."

Brooks didn't just push the Big Lie from the Stop the Steal stage, he's still pushing it in court. He's not blaming Trump for the insurgency, he's blaming America.

Trump Gang Encouraged White Supremacists To Join Jan. 6 Action

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The idea that the January 6 assault on the Capitol caught everyone by surprise is a recurring theme. The Metro D.C. Police claimed they had no expectation of violence, though two previous Trump rallies had ended in that way. The Capitol Police said they had no reason to expect violence, except they had intelligence indicating that it was likely. That intelligence community passed along relatively sparse information, though they had reams of social media showing that they were following significant planning by white supremacist militias.

Congressional committees have discussed failures of all these groups when it comes to failing to plan for events on January 6. But it now appears there was another group that was well aware of what was likely to happen on the day of Trump's big "Stop the Steal" rally — staffers inside the Trump White House.

As ProPublica reports, Trump's internal team was in touch with two competing groups that were looking to gain the limelight on January 6, and they were helping them both. The first group appears to have been the same "Women for Trump" group that was behind other rallies—including two previous D.C. rallies that ended in violence. The second was the "Stop the Steal" team, which was openly advocating for actions that would generate chaos.

Put in charge of the rally was Katrina Pierson, who had been a spokesperson for Trump going back to the 2016 election, and who might best be remembered for defending Trump's lack of diversity by pointing out the lack of Black members in Abraham Lincoln's cabinet. Or maybe it was for the time that Pierson said that slavery was part of America's "good history." Either seems to be top-notch qualifications for dealing with Roger Stone, Alex Jones, and a collection of Proud Boys.

Even the organizers from Women for Trump tried to warn the White House that things were getting out of hand. They got ignored. Because chaos is exactly what Trump wanted.

In fact, rather than see that the Capitol was secure, Trump's team helped push away hurdles to permits and a speaking spot for the most radical of those attending.

ProPublica shows how, immediately following the election, Ali Alexander began assembling "Stop the Steal" as a worst of the worst team — a Suicide Squad of politics, without the humor, and where the biggest thing that could be blow up was America. Alexander made it clear he was open to "working with racists." And racists signed on. Alexander made connections with Alex Jones and Roger Stone. With white nationalist Nick Fuentes. With an army of "Groypers," or, as Alexander called them, "America First young white men."

And he seemed to realize that these were "bad people." Only, he was okay with that. "Why can't bad people do good tasks? Why can't bad people fight for their country?"

Mix in Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, and Alexander had assembled this whole sorry team under the banner of Stop the Steal. Everyone involved knew who they were. Everyone knew what they could do.

If there were concerns, Trump's team was more impressed by the ability of these white nationalists to turn out sizable crowds on a moment's notice. What did it matter if these were brutal, fascist, racist, what supremacists? They came when called and, really, wasn't that Trump's base in any case?

But while the Pierson and the members of Trump's White House team were fully aware of what was coming on January 6, they didn't share that information with police. The permits continued to indicate that there would be a number of small, disconnected events. And even though intelligence indicated that violence could happen, the scale of what they were anticipating seemed to make that threat seem miniscule.

An intelligence report from that day obtained by ProPublica shows that the Capitol Police expected a handful of rallies on Capitol grounds, the largest of which would be hosted by a group called One Nation Under God.
Law enforcement anticipated between 50 and 500 people at the gathering, assigning it the lowest possible threat score and predicting a 1% to 5% chance of arrests. The police gave much higher threat scores to two small anti-Trump demonstrations planned elsewhere in the city.

That the police were more concerned about two anti-Trump rallies seems … typical. But the suggested difference between what happened, and what was expected appears to be much larger than hearings and testimony have previously indicated. However, the police were set up.

One Nation Under God was a fake name used to trick the Capitol Police into giving Stop the Steal a permit, according to Stop the Steal organizer Kimberly Fletcher. Fletcher is president of Moms for America, a grassroots organization founded to combat "radical feminism."

Fletcher was seriously amused by how the police called to find out who was behind the rally and she was able to keep them away from the truth.

That name may have fooled the Park Police and Capitol Police into handing out a permit, and lulled everyone into a sense of false security on the morning of January 6. However, Pierson and the White House team were perfectly aware of the truth.

This means that Trump's White House staff — and likely Trump — were aware that a large group of white supremacists and militia were coming to town with plans to conduct a march on the Capitol. They not only didn't share this information with police, it seems highly probable they were also aware of, or involved in, creating the fake name that got Stop the Steal onto the ellipse. The whole rally that Trump encouraged to "fight like hell" was a rally that was never supposed to exist.