Only Chaos Now

Florida is a strange place. One thinks of shuffleboard and rednecks and alligators, and hanging chads. And everyone is old, except in Miami – South Beach and all that. But it’s the politics that’s odd. From the Tampa Bay Times:

Federal health officials have approved the first passenger cruise from the U.S. from Fort Lauderdale in June – but Florida’s governor insists he will block company plans to require passengers be vaccinated.

He’ll have none of that, but it’s complicated:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday gave Royal Caribbean Group approval to start seven-night cruises to the Caribbean on its Celebrity Cruises brand ship, Celebrity Edge, on June 26, according to an agency spokesperson. The ship is the first to win Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approval for revenue cruises since the COVID-19 pandemic began…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all cruise passengers be vaccinated, but doesn’t require it. The agency has given cruise companies two options: meet vaccination thresholds of 98 percent of crew and 95 percent of passengers on the ship and start revenue cruises immediately, or forego the thresholds and first perform test cruises to ensure COVID protocols are working. Cruise ships that meet the threshold will have more relaxed mask and social distancing rules.

Celebrity Cruises spokesperson Susan Lomax said the company has opted to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccination threshold and will require all crew and passengers 16 years old and older to be vaccinated. The age requirement will drop to 12 years old on Aug. 1.

But that’s now against the law in Florida:

The restart plans clash with a law recently passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature and promoted by Gov. Ron DeSantis that bars businesses, schools and government entities across Florida from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination. Under the new law, which takes effect on July 1, businesses can be fined up to $5,000 per violation. The only exemption in the law is for licensed healthcare providers.

“We’ve been very clear, the law is clear in Florida,” said Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for the governor. “You can’t mandate vaccine passports. We are interested to see how the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) works with them so that they don’t get these exorbitant fines.”

Ron DeSantis is sure the CDC will back down, humiliated and embarrassed. He passed a law! But no one is cooperating:

DeSantis sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month, asking a judge to force the agency to drop its cruise safety requirements and allow cruises to begin immediately. The judge instead sent the case to mediation, which begins Thursday.

DeSantis has indicated he will not accept the result of any mediation. The CDC will back down, humiliated and embarrassed, and if Trump doesn’t run for president in 2024, he will. He has his fans.

Jonathan Chait isn’t one them. He offers this perspective:

A few years ago, conservatives became obsessed with the legal travails of a bakery that refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. Until its more recent eclipse by cancel culture, the anti-gay bakery was the premier symbol of conservative cultural martyrdom. And, to be sure, the case did pit two sympathetic values against each other: on the one hand, a gay couple’s right to enjoy the same ability as a straight couple to walk into a bakery and order a wedding cake, and on the other, an individual business owner’s freedom of conscience to abstain from actively endorsing ideas they disagree with.

Now we are facing a different kind of conflict between freedom of contract and the government. In this case, the conflict revolves around state requirements that businesses allow unvaccinated people as customers, even if the business operates in tight indoor quarters. Only now the Republican Party stands firmly on the side of heavy-handed state regulation.

Republican-run states have enacted laws forbidding private businesses from requiring proof of vaccination.

They must comply. They have no choice, which Chait finds odd:

Cruise ships are, of course, a well-known vector for the coronavirus. They inherently pack a lot of people into a confined space, and have terrifyingly high rates of infection. Aside from the public-health ramifications, it’s difficult to imagine cruises luring anything close to their pre-pandemic number of customers without being able to give them the assurance that their fellow passengers will be vaccinated.

The DeSantis position is that both the public interest in suppressing virus transmission, and the private interest of businesses in protecting their workforce and reassuring customers, are overridden by an even more compelling interest: safeguarding the rights of individuals who refuse to get vaccinated.

So it comes down to this:

Nobody is even contemplating requiring anybody to take a vaccine. The question is whether you can refuse the vaccine and still walk into any room you wish, whether or not the owner of that room and the other people there want you.

And think of that cake:

Suppose you owned a bakery. And instead of refusing to sell a couple a cake because it’s for a gay wedding, you refuse to sell them a cake because they are potentially carrying a deadly virus into your shop that may infect or kill you, your fellow employees, or your customers.

Conservatives say the state can force you to make that transaction anyway. Objecting to their homosexuality is a legitimate basis for excluding them, but objecting to their potential transmission of a deadly virus is not.

Go figure. But that’s Florida, or it’s everywhere now:

As a coronavirus vaccination tent was set up in the hope of inoculating more residents in Maryville, Tenn., sheriff’s deputies working at the site this week saw an SUV speeding their way – and the person behind the wheel wasn’t slowing for a shot.

Instead, Virginia Christine Lewis Brown was protesting the vaccine by driving her Chrysler Pacifica “at a high rate of speed” through a vaccine tent in a mall parking lot, police said.

“No vaccine!” she yelled Monday as she plowed through the tent, according to witness accounts to sheriff’s deputies.

That’s not going to work out for her:

Brown, 36, was arrested for driving through a vaccination tent and “placing the lives of seven workers in danger,” the Blount County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday. She’s been charged with seven counts of felony reckless endangerment. Tennessee attorneys claim each count carries penalties that include a possible prison sentence of 1 to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Perhaps she will claim justified reckless endangerment as a defense. Some things just have to stop, and a true patriot will stop them. Her initial defense was a statement to the arresting officers that she really wasn’t driving fast at all. She only meant to scare them and stop them from doing what they were doing?

That would be a harmless protest. But that sort of thing is real trouble:

A federal judge on Wednesday wrote that Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him could still inspire some of the former President’s supporters to take up arms, as they did in January during the deadly US Capitol insurrection.

Forget vaccinations. This stolen-election thing is getting out of hand:

The judge’s blunt assessment of the current, charged political climate came in a legal decision about a defendant who was drawn to Washington, DC, in January. And it adds to a growing chorus of warnings from the officials most closely weighing the aftermath of the Capitol riot about what the threat level still might be.

“The steady drumbeat that inspired defendant to take up arms has not faded away; six months later, the canard that the election was stolen is being repeated daily on major news outlets and from the corridors of power in state and federal government, not to mention in the near-daily fulminations of the former President,” Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the DC District Court wrote in an opinion to keep defendant Cleveland Meredith Jr. in jail because he could endanger the public if released.

Meredith allegedly had texted that he wanted to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, on live TV and had hauled a trailer of guns and ammo to Washington in January. He has pleaded not guilty.

He only meant to scare them and stop them from doing what they were doing. He didn’t shoot anyone, did he? That seems to be his defense. That’s dangerous:

Federal judges have for weeks been warning that the continued push of Trump’s baseless claim that the election was “stolen” – sometimes called “the Big Lie” – from right-wing media, Republicans and the ex-President himself may be keeping alive the same grassroots zeal that led to the insurrection in January. Because of this, some of the alleged rioters are still considered potentially dangerous. Judges have had to make decisions case by case on keeping the defendants in jail.

The Justice Department, as it argues to keep them in jail, has noted that Trump supporters – especially when they’re affiliated with extremist groups like the Proud Boys – could attempt another insurrection.

But this gets tricky:

Judge Paul Friedman, in considering whether to release a man who had driven cross-country with guns then allegedly assaulted police at the Capitol, considered prosecutors’ assertion that defendant Nathaniel DeGrave could still be a threat because even after the riot, he idolized Trump and believed lies about election fraud.

“Of course, Mr. DeGrave has a First Amendment right to express his views on politics, the 2020 election, and the government. The Court need not consider Mr. DeGrave’s political preferences to conclude that he poses a serious risk of committing acts of violence in the future. His conduct speaks for itself,” Friedman wrote. “Mr. DeGrave was not carried away in the excitement of the moment; rather, his statements show that he planned to confront and perpetrate violence at the Capitol.”

He loves Trump. Fine. Good for him. But he can’t do that other stuff. And then there’s this:

Jackson, in another Capitol riot defendant’s case, noted in April in the case of Joshua Black that he had claimed he had been called upon by God to enter the chamber and had said he would take up arms in a revolution if needed.

“It’s not as if the effort by some political leaders and media figures to stoke this sort of anger has abated in any way,” Jackson said at a court hearing for Black. “Isn’t it fair to say that the same political issues and the same political concerns are being pumped out into the airways on a daily basis?”

She released Black, before warning him that even if he felt called back to Washington by a higher power, he could not violate the court’s orders without consequence.

She was clear. God may say to do this, but the court will then set the ordinary earthly price for doing any of it, which you will pay. God will understand.

But who ARE these people? That’s becoming clear. Tommy Beer, at Forbes, covers the new polling:

More than 15% of all Americans – including nearly three in ten Republicans – agree with many of the core tenets of the widely debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, according to a new PRRI-IFYC study published Thursday, lending credence to the idea that although QAnon’s internet presence is diminishing, support for the conspiracy movement persists.

All it took was three questions:

One in five Americans, and 28% of Republicans, agree that there is a “storm coming soon,” which will “sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders,” according to the poll.

Shockingly, 28% of Republicans also say that “because things have gotten so far off track” in the U.S., “true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to save the country.

Some 23% of Republicans, and 15% of all Americans, say they agree with the baseless QAnon allegation that “the government, media and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.”

Somehow, this got real:

The QAnon conspiracy theory is suspected of having been started on the anonymous message-board platform 4Chan in 2017. Since its inception, Q has adopted aspects of many other conspiracies, including claims related to the 9/11 “truther” movement and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

QAnon Anonymous, a podcast about the QAnon movement, has referred to it as a “big-tent conspiracy theory,” due to its propensity for festooning it with new claims.

Last October, according to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, 50% of then President Trump’s supporters said they believed top Democrats are involved in child sex-trafficking rings. An even higher percentage professed a belief that Trump was working to dismantle these rings. While in office, Trump retweeted four congressional candidates who had promoted QAnon and claimed he knew “nothing” about the conspiracy theory except that they were “very much against pedophilia.”

The FBI has identified QAnon conspiracy theorists as “extremists” who pose a domestic terrorism threat. Following the attack on the Capitol on January 6, Twitter announced the banning of more than 70,000 accounts linked to QAnon to suppress misinformation and “attempts to incite violence.” On Wednesday, a report published by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab determined that as a result of the Big Tech crackdown, QAnon-related “chatter,” including catchphrases and secret messages related to the conspiracy theory, were “evaporating from the mainstream internet.” Yet, the New York Times and other outlets have reported that QAnon has “seeped into the offline world.”

That’s success, and the New York Times’ Giovanni Russonello does the interview:

Fully 20 percent of respondents said that they thought a biblical-scale storm would soon sweep away these evil elites and “restore the rightful leaders.”

“These are words I never thought I would write into a poll question, or have the need to, but here we are,” Robby Jones, the founder of PRRI, said in an interview.

But this is real now:

The teams behind the poll determined that 14 percent of Americans fall into the category of “QAnon believers,” composed of those who agreed with the statements in all three questions. Among Republicans only, that rises to roughly one in four. (Twelve percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats were categorized as QAnon believers.)

But the analysts went a level further: They created a category labeled “QAnon doubters” to include respondents who had said they “mostly disagreed” with the outlandish statements, but didn’t reject them outright. Another 55 percent of Republicans fell into this more ambivalent category.

Which means that just one in five Republicans fully rejected the premises of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

That’s not good news:

Mr. Jones said he was struck by the prevalence of QAnon’s adherents. Overlaying the share of poll respondents who expressed belief in its core principles over the country’s total population, “that’s more than 30 million people,” he said.

“Thinking about QAnon, if it were a religion, it would be as big as all white evangelical Protestants, or all white mainline Protestants,” he added. “So it lines up there with a major religious group.”

But this is not a religion of peace:

He also noted the correlation between belief in QAnon’s fictions and the conviction that armed conflict would be necessary. “It’s one thing to say that most Americans laugh off these outlandish beliefs, but when you take into consideration that these beliefs are linked to a kind of apocalyptic thinking and violence, then it becomes something quite different,” he said.

It becomes something like a cult:

The Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core found a strong correlation between where people get their news and how much they believe in QAnon’s ideas. Among those who said they most trusted far-right news outlets, such as One America News Network and Newsmax, two in five qualified as full-on QAnon believers. Fully 48 percent of these news consumers said they expected a storm to wipe away the elites soon.

That puts these news consumers far out of alignment with the rest of the country – even fans of the conservative-leaning Fox News.

That doesn’t matter. They’ve taken over the Republican Party:

While QAnon followers continue to be a minority among Republicans, some of the party’s most visible figures — and most successful fund-raisers – have publicly flirted with the conspiracy theory.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who is currently on a speaking tour with Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, expressed support for QAnon before she was elected; she has since publicly walked that back. Ms. Greene raised upward of $3 million in the first quarter of this year, an uncommonly huge sum, especially for a freshman lawmaker in a nonelection year.

That happens when you capture the zeitgeist:

Those who expressed belief in QAnon’s premises were also far more likely than others to say they believe in other conspiracy theories, the poll found. Four in 10 said they thought that “the Covid-19 vaccine contains a surveillance microchip that is the sign of the beast in biblical prophecy.”

That might explain that woman in Tennessee plowing into those vaccinating the sheep she was saving from the beast in biblical prophecy, or something like that, but this is just sad:

Paul D. Ryan, the former Republican speaker of the House, re-entered the political arena on Thursday night with a speech obliquely criticizing Donald J. Trump and warning Republicans that the only viable future for the fractured party was one unattached to the former president.

“Here’s one reality we have to face,” Mr. Ryan said during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. “If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere.”

Mr. Ryan said he had found it “horrifying to see a presidency come to such a dishonorable and disgraceful end,” although he did not specifically refer to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 or to Mr. Trump’s repeated election falsehoods.

He added that Republican voters would “not be impressed by the sight of yes-men and flatterers flocking to Mar-a-Lago.”

Then he tried to be nice, and got slapped down:

The former speaker tempered his criticism by avoiding any mention of Mr. Trump by name – except to say that the former president’s brand of populism, when “tethered to conservative principles,” had led to economic growth, and to credit him with bringing new voters to the party.

A senior adviser for Mr. Trump, Jason Miller, responded to early excerpts from the speech with a terse brushoff: “Who is Paul Ryan?” he said in a text message.

He’s nobody at all:

Mr. Ryan’s political re-emergence, and his relatively gentle warning of the dangers of a party crafted in Mr. Trump’s image, came as the former president has said he plans to return to the campaign trail this summer with rallies for Republican House and Senate candidates supportive of his agenda and his election falsehoods. Mr. Trump is also still hinting at a potential presidential run in 2024.

Each of those rallies might be another January 6 again, one right after the other. The violent overthrow of the duly elected government then becomes more likely. Not one Republican would dare to object to that now.

And if not Trump:

Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who is currently the subject of a Justice Department investigation into whether he had sex with a 17-year-old girl and transported her across state lines in violation of sex trafficking laws, is considering a run for president in 2024.

Gaetz made that disclosure Wednesday in a text message to the New York Post.

“I support Donald Trump for president. I’ve directly encouraged him to run and he gives me every indication he will,” Gaetz told the paper. “If Trump doesn’t run, I’m sure I could defeat whatever remains of Joe Biden by 2024.”

That might work:

Whether Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to proceed with an indictment against Gaetz remains to be seen. But with the belief among Republicans that all investigations targeting pro-Trump politicians amount to a “witch hunt,” a term Gaetz has echoed in reference to the allegations against him, even formal charges of sex trafficking may not preclude him from seeking the highest office in the land.

That might be an assist now. The evil communist libs are just picking on him and thus insulting every QAnon Trump patriot. He’d have their vote. And the qualifications for the job, listed in Article Two of the Constitution, include being a natural born citizen, being at least thirty-five years old, and having lived at least fourteen years as a resident of the United States. That’s it. Any potential candidate’s carceral status is not listed in the Constitution as a requirement, nor is a candidate’s criminal record. So, even if convicted, he could run from jail using Zoom or something. And he could also run the country from jail. But then so could Trump.

It has come to that. Now what?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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