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Friday, May 27, 2022
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  • ANDERSON - Late last year, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote an article for the website FiveThirtyEight titled “What Americans really think about abortion.” The answer, she discovered, is not much. “Given the longstanding, intractable division on abortion, one might think that Americans hold murky views because they’re actively, even painfully, wrestling with the matter,” she wrote. “But that’s not what I found when I dug into the issue. The truth is that many Americans just don’t like talking or thinking about abortion.” That might soon change. The U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to overturn a 49-year-old precedent in Roe vs. Wade, and at least some voters are mad about it. Listening to the noise, you might get the idea that America is split down the middle. The reality is significantly more complicated. The folks who care deeply about this issue make up less than half of the U.S. population.
  • ANDERSON – Did you ever wonder what would happen if a loyal Fox News viewer suddenly started watching CNN? Well, two political science professors decided to find out. Joshua Kalla of Yale University and David Broockman of the University of California at Berkeley lined up a sample of 763 Fox News viewers for their study. They randomly chose 304 of these individuals and paid them $15 an hour to watch CNN. They made sure their participants were actually watching through a series of quizzes, and they measured the opinions of both groups in three waves of surveys. Those watching CNN were six percentage points less likely to believe then-candidate Joe Biden supported eliminating all funding for the police. They were seven percentage points more likely to support voting by mail and nine percentage points less likely to agree that mail-in voting would generate widespread fraud. The experiment took place in the late summer of 2020, smack dab in the middle of a presidential election. “I think the real key finding here from our perspective is we find that partisan media is hiding information from voters,” Broockman said during an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
  • ANDERSON – The commentator Michael Kinsley invented the term in 1984 in a column about presidential candidate Walter Mondale: “The dictionary defines ‘gaffe’ as a social error or faux pas, …” Kinsley wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “A ‘gaffe’ is the opposite of a ‘lie’: It’s when a politician tells the truth.” Kinsley called it the “political gaffe.” Others have labeled it the “Kinsley gaffe.” Perhaps it should be known as the Biden gaffe. After all, Joe Biden once referred to himself as a human gaffe machine. At any rate, the latest example came in an off-the-cuff remark about Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president was delivering a speech in Warsaw, Poland, just hours after he had met with Ukrainian refugees. “A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty,” he said. “Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. For free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness.”
  • ANDERSON – My dad once accused me of trying to wean my car off of gasoline. I had again run out of gas while trying to stretch that last bit of fuel a little farther. I still press my luck occasionally. Just the other day, I coasted into a gas station with the gauge registering just above empty. I had seen the price going up, of course, but the total was still a shock. I had grown accustomed to a full tank of gas setting me back less than $40, but the price on this particular day was nearly $60. And that was before the price of a gallon went above $4. I’m not alone in complaining. If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve no doubt seen lots of people lamenting the price of gas. Some blame Joe Biden. They point out that the United States was energy independent under the leadership of Donald J. Trump only to lose that distinction after Biden took office. Those folks might want to check out the headline on Robert Rapier’s recent article for Forbes. “Surprise!” it says. “The U.S. Is Still Energy Independent.”
  • ANDERSON – Republicans disagree over the right way to win back control of the U.S. Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the election should be about the party now in control, the Democrats. His approach is reflected in a message on the website of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “STOP NANCY PELOSI AND CHUCK SCHUMER!” it reads. “Can we count on YOU to help stop them from destroying our country?” Rick Scott, chair of that committee, has a different approach. He wants to talk about his 11-point plan to rescue America. “This is not the time to be timid,” he told the Conservative Political Action Committee. “This is the time to be bold. Our nation’s future can be bright, but we need a plan to take this country back. I warn you before you read it, though. This plan is not for the faint of heart. It will trigger a lot of the people. Based on how Democrats are attacking me this week, I’d say we’ve hit the bullseye.”
  • ANDERSON – While other networks were covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Fox News host Laura Ingraham was interviewing Donald J. Trump. The conversation took a wrong turn when the former president apparently misunderstood Ingraham’s announcement that Russia had launched an invasion. “It’s a very sad thing, but you know what’s also very dangerous is you told me about the amphibious attack by Americans,” he told Ingraham. “You shouldn’t be saying that because you and everybody else shouldn’t know about it. They should do that secretly, not be doing that through the great Laura Ingraham. They should be doing that secretly. Nobody should know that, Laura.” Ingraham moved quickly to clear up the confusion. “That was the Russians,” she said. “No, no, no, no, no, that would be news.” As the interview continued, Ingraham suggested Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, had been weak in his response to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I think you’re exactly right,” Trump said. “I think that’s what happened. He was going to be satisfied with a peace, and now he sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration, and, as an American, I’m angry about it, and I’m saddened by it.”
  • ANDERSON – Some of us might like to see Joe Rogan stripped of his podcast and left with no place to spread all of those conspiracy theories. We cheer when Neil Young says it’s either him or Rogan. We offer high fives when more musicians line up to join the fight. Rogan, after all, is spreading lies. He should be silenced. Maybe we ought to rethink. In an essay for the Daily Beast, philosophy instructor Ben Burgis of Georgia State University suggests progressives shouldn’t be so comfortable with the idea of a private business such as Spotify denying a guy like Rogan a platform. Burgis rejects the suggestion that private businesses should have every right to limit free speech. He also rejects the common refrain that free speech protections shouldn’t apply to misinformation. He insists it’s not that simple.
  • ANDERSON - Forty-two years after its initial release, the hardback version of Art Spiegelman's book “Maus” is sold out on Amazon. Nothing makes a book more appealing, it seems, than to have someone say it’s off limits. That someone, in this case, was a school board in McMinn County, Tennessee. The book, the first and only graphic novel ever to win the Pulitzer Prize, features Spiegelman as a young man coaxing his aging father into sharing his experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust. The book is illustrated with cartoons. Jews are depicted as mice. Nazis are cats. During an appearance on CNN, Spiegelman said he was struggling to understand the decision to remove his book from an eighth-grade language arts curriculum. “I moved past total bafflement to try to be tolerant of people who may possibly not be Nazis,” he said. “Maybe.” School board members insisted they didn’t object to students learning about the Holocaust. They just didn't like those eight curse words and that one instance of “nakedness.” The “nakedness” the board was concerned about is a drawing illustrating the suicide of Spiegelman’s mother. He described it as a “tiny image” showing his mother in a bath after she had cut her wrists. And, again, she is depicted in the book as a mouse.
  • ANDERSON – The subject line of the email telegraphed what was coming. “It’s a hoax!!!” it said. The writer didn’t hide his lack of credentials. “Listen, I’m no doctor or expert or the like,” he wrote, “but, BUT, I’ve read five books on this medical corruption in western civilization and two on masks. Masks are not at all safe. Period!” My reader was doing his own research. He was in the process of reading a sixth book, this one by vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “The title sez it all: ‘The Real Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health,’” he wrote. “WOW!!! Read it!!!” I was tempted to ask how many books this fellow thought Fauci had read during his long career in public health, but I decided it would be a wasted effort. I’m sure we could have gone back and forth discussing the man’s so-called experts. He mentioned Dr. Robert Malone, who claims to be the inventor of the mRNA vaccine, and Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winner and developer of the test used to determine whether a patient has contracted COVID-19.
  • ANDERSON — A lot of Democrats are mad at Joe Manchin these days. Less than a week before Christmas, Manchin appeared on Fox News to reveal his opposition to President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better initiative. “If I can’t go home and explain it to the people in West Virginia, I cannot vote for it,” he said, “and I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation, I just can’t. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there.” The news drew angry reactions from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Minnesota accused Manchin of moving the goal post. “He has never negotiated in good faith,” she said, “and he is obstructing the president’s agenda.” The reality, though, is that the president’s agenda isn’t all that popular in West Virginia. Donald Trump trounced Joe Biden there with almost 70% of the vote. That leaves progressives with little leverage in this fight. In fact, making folks like Pressley mad might make Manchin more popular in his home state, not less.
  • ANDERSON – In a recent speech, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy chastised President Joe Biden for failing to deliver on his promise to get the pandemic under control. “I took President Biden at his word,” he said. “I took him at his word when he said he was going to get COVID under control. Unfortunately, more people have died this year than last year under COVID.” McCarthy didn’t mention, of course, that it has been mostly members of his own party standing in the way of delivering on that promise. A survey in mid-September found that 90% of adults identifying themselves as Democrats had been vaccinated compared to 58% of adults identifying as Republicans. This divide has caused Republican politicians across the country to engage in a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, many call on constituents to follow public health recommendations and get vaccinated. On the other hand, some of these same politicians actively fight administration efforts to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
  • ANDERSON – Appearing on “Fox & Friends,” Tucker Carlson defended his three-part documentary as “rock-solid factually.” Fellow Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera would beg to differ. “There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated,” he told The New York Times. “And I worry that – and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this – but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.” He’s not alone. Even before the series “Patriot Purge” began to air, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to Fox News expressing “deep alarm.”

    “Let’s call this what it is,” he wrote, “an abject, indisputable lie and a blatant attempt to rewrite history. 
  • ANDERSON – A recent Facebook post from an affiliate of the conservative Heritage Foundation accuses Senate Democrats of mounting a crusade against election integrity. It calls the Freedom to Vote Act the “Freedom to Cheat Act,” and it nicknames an earlier bill, the For the People Act, “The Corrupt Politicians Act.” Both bills, it says, would “automatically register ineligible voters.” That’s not exactly true. “While there is a provision in the Freedom to Vote Act that requires states to offer automatic voter registration,” the fact-checking website PolitiFact states, “the goal is to make it easier for eligible citizens to register at their state motor-vehicle offices, and the wording in the bill repeatedly clarifies that only eligible citizens can vote in federal elections.” Scary stories are nothing new in this fight. Speaking at a hearing before the Senate Rules Committee last spring, Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas labeled the For the People Act  “Jim Crow 2.0.” “This legislation would register millions of illegal aliens to vote,” he said. “It is intended to do that.” Cruz claimed the measure would “dilute the legal votes of American citizens.” “This bill doesn’t protect voting rights,” he said. “It steals voting rights from the American people.” PolitiFact says none of that is true. “Although glitches and malfunctions of automatic registration systems have been recorded, they are rare and easily corrected,” the website states. “We rate this claim Pants on Fire.”
  • ANDERSON – Poor Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder already had enemies on both sides of the political aisle. He already had folks blaming his creation for much that is wrong in the world today. And then along came Frances Haugen, the former employee who says she was recruited in 2019 to be the lead product manager on Facebook’s civic misinformation team. She joined the company, she told a Senate subcommittee, because she thought it had the potential “to bring out the best in us.” “But I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” she said. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help.”

  • ANDERSON – One reader made clear he was getting tired of hearing about the pandemic. “Maybe if everyone didn’t write about the same thing every day it would be more effective?” he wrote. “Trust me. The constant hounding is NOT getting more of us to vaccinate. It’s annoying and just bullying at this point!” He’s right that some folks have made up their minds. They won’t budge no matter what a guy like me might say. They also ignore guys like Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Jha describes himself on his Twitter page as an advocate for the notion that an ounce of data is worth a thousand pounds of opinion. He noted in a recent tweet that the world had administered 6 billion doses of COVID vaccines to 3.4 billion people. “For people waiting for more data before getting the shot,” he wrote, “the data is in. We’ve vaccinated nearly half of all humanity. The vaccines are safe.”
  • ANDERSON – The note suggested I had left something out. “You failed to mention the thousands of people that have had severe reactions, even death from this experimental drug,” it said. I felt obligated to respond. “The people spouting those claims are lying,” I wrote. Just to be clear, I wasn’t talking about your Aunt Martha or that cousin who says he’d rather lose his job than roll up his sleeve. I was talking about the people spreading this misinformation, the talk radio hosts and others trying to build an audience or, worse yet, to make a profit. Millions of people have taken the COVID-19 vaccines with minor side effects or none at all. The overwhelming majority of people getting seriously ill or dying in this pandemic are the ones still resisting the shots. But that message isn’t getting through to everyone. Many still believe the shot is more dangerous than the virus. One post on social media insists a study from the Francis Crick Institute in London found the Pfizer vaccine destroyed T cells and weakened the immune system. Actually, Dr. David Bauer, one of that study’s authors, says that’s not at all what the research showed. “Our work to date has not studied T cells at all,” he told The Associated Press in an email.
  • ANDERSON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out a recent warning via Twitter. “You are not a horse,” it said. “You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.” Days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a similar warning, describing what it saw as an alarming increase in prescriptions for ivermectin, a drug typically used by veterinarians to get rid of worms in large animals such as horses and cows. This probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. For months, conservative media personalities have been promoting this so-called miracle drug as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Among them was Phil Valentine, a Nashville-based radio personality who went from vaccine skeptic to vaccine promoter after coming down with the virus. In announcing his illness, Valentine told listeners he was “taking vitamin D like crazy” and had begun using ivermectin. Neither treatment worked. Valentine died Aug. 21. While the drug is generally safe in low doses, the FDA warns that large doses can cause side effects including “skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, facial or limb swelling, neurologic adverse events, sudden drop in blood pressure, severe skin rash potentially requiring hospitalization and liver injury.”
  • ANDERSON – Mitch McConnell and I don’t agree on much, but we agree on this. “I think for everyone who is eligible, vaccines, vaccines, vaccines are the solution to the problem,” he said during an appearance at Eastern Kentucky University. The Senate minority leader has been beating the drum on vaccines for months, even launching an advertising campaign in his home state of Kentucky. The 60-second commercial began airing on 100 radio stations July 29. In the message, McConnell recalls his bout with polio as a child. Then, he says, it took decades to develop a vaccine. “This time, thanks to American investment and ingenuity – and especially thanks to the tireless work of our scientists, doctors and health care heroes – it took less than a year for us to develop three highly effective COVID vaccines,” McConnell says. “It’s nothing short of a modern medical miracle.” It’s worth noting, of course, that the messenger RNA vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna were actually three decades in the making.
  • ANDERSON –  I’m still getting the occasional email from defenders of coronavirus vaccine critic Dr. Michael Yeadon. The most recent noted that my column in mid-April had relied on Snopes, “a known purveyor of disinformation.” That’s actually the opposite of what Snopes does. The article I cited pointed out that Yeadon was never actually the chief science officer at Pfizer and he had no real expertise in vaccines. The division he once led focused on developing drugs to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The library at American University has assembled a guide for identifying fake news. It calls Snopes “an independent, nonpartisan website that researches urban legends and other rumors.” “It is often the first to set the facts straight on wild fake news claims,” the library says. Snopes got its start in 1994, before many of us even knew about the internet, and it soon built a reputation as a reliable place to go for the real scoop on urban legends, hoaxes and folklore.
  • ANDERSON – The whole thing started with a report circulating on conservative media that a Virginia public school district had banned students from reading books by famed children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel. Things got so crazy that Loudon County Public Schools felt obligated to post a denial online. “Dr. Seuss books have not been banned and are available to students in our libraries and classrooms,” the announcement read. The rumor had been that the school board demanded all mention of the author be eliminated from the annual Read Across America Day held on Geisel’s birthday, March 2. What the school board actually did was to suggest that its schools “not connect Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss’s birthday exclusively.” The rationale was simple. “Research in recent years has revealed strong racial undertones in many books written/illustrated by Dr. Seuss,” the school district said in its statement.
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  • NRA donations to Sens. Braun and Young
    "Horrified by the senseless murder of 14 children and a teacher in Texas. My heart is with the parents and the community bearing this unimaginable anguish. We have to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, which is why I support Indiana’s red flag law, which works well when it is utilized." U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, tweeting after 19 students and two teachers were murdered in their Uvalde, Tex., school on Tuesday. According to Brady United, Braun has received $1.249 million from the NRA, while U.S. Sen. Todd Young has received $2.89 million from the NRA.
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