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Lunchtime Photo

Kevin Drum - Mon, 01/18/2021 - 15:30

I’ve posted a couple of pictures of the Basilica de Santo Cristo de Ubaté before, but this one was taken from a hill in the south part of town and shows just how it towers over everything else. It’s not just higher by far, but it also practically glows compared to the griminess of all the other buildings.

August 7, 2019 — Ubaté, Colombia
Categories: Politics

Fox News Is the Source of All Evil

Kevin Drum - Mon, 01/18/2021 - 12:51

Seth Rich is one of the best examples of how Fox News doesn’t operate as a legitimate news outlet. Rich, as you might recall, was a DNC staff member who was killed in the early morning in Washington DC, probably as the result of a botched robbery, and that’s how every other news outlet reported it. But not Fox. They insisted on peddling an insane conspiracy theory that Rich had leaked DNC emails and been targeted for murder because of that. The Rich family finally got tired of the lies and sued, but just before Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs were about to testify in the case, Fox settled for millions of dollars.

This is all sleazy enough, but Ben Smith reports that there’s more:

There was one curious provision that Fox insisted on: The settlement had to be kept secret for a month — until after the Nov. 3 election. The exhausted plaintiffs agreed.

Why did Fox care about keeping the Rich settlement secret for the final month of the Trump re-election campaign? Why was it important to the company, which calls itself a news organization, that one of the biggest lies of the Trump era remain unresolved for that period? Was Fox afraid that admitting it was wrong would incite the president’s wrath? Did network executives fear backlash from their increasingly radicalized audience, which has been gravitating to other conservative outlets?

The unusual arrangement underscores how deeply entwined Fox has become in the Trump camp’s disinformation efforts and the dangerous paranoia they set off, culminating in the fatal attack on the Capitol 11 days ago. The network parroted lies from Trump and his more sinister allies for years, ultimately amplifying the president’s enormous deceptions about the election’s outcome, further radicalizing many of Mr. Trump’s supporters.

Smith goes on to say that members of the legitimate media have been beating themselves up over minor aspects of their reporting while ignoring the elephant in the room: Fox News.

As we in the media reckon with our role in the present catastrophe, Fox often gets left out of the story. You can see why. Dog bites man is never news. Fox’s vitriol and distortions are simply viewed as part of the landscape now.

….And so let me take a break from beating up well-intentioned journalists and even the social media platforms that greedily threw open Pandora’s box for profit. There’s only one multibillion-dollar media corporation that deliberately and aggressively propagated these untruths. That’s the Fox Corporation, and its chairman, Rupert Murdoch; his feckless son Lachlan, who is nominally C.E.O.; and the chief legal officer Viet Dinh, a kind of regent who mostly runs the company day-to-day.

Fox News—not social media, not think tanks—is the primal source of racism, xenophobia, polarization, and reckless lying in American media. Until we somehow put a stop to this, it will be hard to ever recover the country we used to have. Not a perfect country by any stretch, but at least one where we all had a roughly similar idea of what was true and were willing to talk openly about it. Rupert Murdoch has earned billions of dollars for destroying American politics, and he’ll keep doing it until the money hose goes away. Let’s start turning it off.

Categories: Politics

Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: January 17 Update

Kevin Drum - Mon, 01/18/2021 - 10:28

The y-axis of the charts now maxes out at 20 in order to accomodate Great Britain, which blew past the old 16 deaths per million max over the weekend. Sweden looks like it might not be far behind. The US is, for the moment, plateauing at about 10 deaths per million. All of these, as usual, are averages of the past seven days.

Here’s the officially reported coronavirus death toll through January 17. The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.

Categories: Politics

It’s Pardons for Dollars as Trump Era Draws to a Close

Kevin Drum - Mon, 01/18/2021 - 00:15

From CNN:

President Donald Trump is preparing to issue around 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the matter, a major batch of clemency actions that includes white collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others but — as of now — is not expected to include Trump himself.

Well, that’s fairly ordinary. Most presidents issue a blizzard of pardons at the very end of their—

As President Trump prepares to leave office in days, a lucrative market for pardons is coming to a head, with some of his allies collecting fees from wealthy felons or their associates to push the White House for clemency, according to documents and interviews with more than three dozen lobbyists and lawyers.

….One lobbyist, Brett Tolman, a former federal prosecutor who has been advising the White House on pardons and commutations, has monetized his clemency work, collecting tens of thousands of dollars, and possibly more, in recent weeks….Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer John M. Dowd has marketed himself to convicted felons as someone who could secure pardons because of his close relationship with the president, accepting tens of thousands of dollars from a wealthy felon….A onetime top adviser to the Trump campaign was paid $50,000 to help seek a pardon for John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer….And Mr. Kiriakou was separately told that Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani could help him secure a pardon for $2 million.

I don’t ever want to hear about Marc Rich again.

Categories: Politics

Cash for Clunkers Is Back!

Kevin Drum - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 16:35

Check this out:

The incoming administration is embracing some of California’s most pioneering initiatives, such as programs for rapidly decarbonizing the electricity grid and tuition-free college, as well as more obscure, incremental policies. Also on the new White House agenda will be measures to ban mandatory arbitration clauses in employee contracts and a revival of a “Cash for Clunkers” program aimed at providing incentives to get polluting cars off the road — signature California policies.

Cash for Clunkers! My favorite stimulus program of all time. Sure, I agree with the experts who say that it’s not all that great purely as stimulus, but as a way of making stimulus popular it couldn’t be beat. More like this, please.

Categories: Politics

Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: January 16 Update

Kevin Drum - Sun, 01/17/2021 - 10:51

Here’s the officially reported coronavirus death toll through January 16. The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.

Categories: Politics

Who’s Rolling Out the COVID-19 vaccine the Fastest

Kevin Drum - Sat, 01/16/2021 - 18:44

You have probably heard that Britain is kicking our butt when it comes to vaccinating their population from COVID-19. And they surely are. But before you think the ghost of Isaac Newton must be helping them along, take a look at this chart:

I have placed three large red dots at the point approximately two weeks after mass vaccinations started in each country (December 7 for Britain; December 15 for the US; and approximately January 4). As you can see, just about everyone is performing equally well: after two weeks, about 1 percent of the population has been vaccinated. And don’t be fooled by Europe. The reason for the wide spread in results is primarily because rollouts were scheduled differently in different countries. (Although the population-weighted average for all of Europe is a bit over 1 percent, which is slightly better than either the UK or the US.)

The big outlier, which I didn’t show on the chart, is Denmark, which is around 2 percent. The reason is twofold: (1) many countries rejected the Pfizer vaccine because of it extreme refrigeration requirements. Denmark set up cold storage units early and took all of the Pfizer vaccine it could get. (2) They didn’t hold back half their supply for second jabs. They just distributed every vial they had as soon as they got them.

Anyway, the gist of all this is that, roughly speaking, everyone is rolling out the vaccine about as well as everyone else.¹ The only difference is how long they’ve been doing it.

¹Except for Denmark, Israel, and Bahrain, which are kicking ass.

Categories: Politics