Super Bowl LV: Take the Bucs and the 3 points

You can thank me later. Enjoy the game.

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The lies conservatives tell themselves

Some of Donald Trump’s most fervent supporters are feeling a sense of betrayal after the transfer of power went smoothly and Joe Biden is now president of the United States.

The Proud Boys, who were once told by the president to “Stand back and standby,” are now calling him “weak” for letting Biden take the reins of power. “Trump will go down as a total failure,” a Proud Boy member wrote on one forum.

Fervent adherents of QAnon are disillusioned because an Inauguration Day coup to keep Trump in office failed to happen, even though some held out hope until the very end. Even as Biden prepared to take the oath of office, one supporter tweeted, “I don’t think this is supposed to happen,” and wondered, “How long does it take the fed to run up the stairs and arrest him?”

Members of both groups, along with outfits like the Three Percenters and Oath Keepers, felt a sense of betrayal after finding themselves in jail or on the run after answering what they believed was their leader’s call to action, and stormed the Capitol. The lawyers for some of them wanted Trump to issue pardons before he left office.

But you would be wrong to think this kind of clueless behavior is limited to the fanatical fringe of the conservative movement. Recent polls reveal that just 24% of Republicans say they trust the outcome of the presidential election, and 61% think Trump should not have conceded the election to Biden. Another poll showed 87% of Republicans still back Trump, even after the Capitol riots.

Much of this magical thinking can be traced to Trump and his enablers, who exploited his followers’ misguided sense of patriotism to feed them a steady stream of lies about a corrupt election they could overturn. Those fantasies were reinforced by conservative media that are more interested in advancing an agenda than giving consumers anything resembling the truth.

Fortunately, there are limits to our First Amendment free speech rights, and some of these outlets are now learning the legal and financial consequences of straying too far from the facts. Leading the parade is the usual suspect, Fox News and its comrade in arms, Fox Business.

Lou Dobbs of Fox Business, who can easily match his counterparts at Fox News when it comes to shilling for the former president, was forced on air to debunk his own lies about Smartmatic voting machines when the company threatened to sue him and Fox. Smartmatic’s equipment was used by some states in the November elections.

Then on Nov. 24, Fox News announced the settlement of a suit brought by Joel and Mary Rich that included a retraction and apology from Fox along with a reported seven figure financial settlement.

The case involved the death of the Richs’ son, Seth, who worked for the Democratic National Committee when he was murdered in Washington, D.C., in July of 2016. Police believe he was the victim of an armed robbery, but no perpetrator has been arrested and the reason for his death remains unclear.

That created the opening conservative propagandists were looking for, who started making claims that Seth Rich was killed because he—not Russian operatives—leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks. That led to a series of broadcasts on Fox News involving Newt Gingrich and others that tried to validate the claims.

Prime time Fox talking head Sean Hannity called the story an “explosive” development “that might expose the single biggest fraud, lies, perpetrated on the American people by the media and the Democrats in our history.”

The Rich family suit against Fox dragged on until the judge in the case scheduled Hannity and several Fox News executives for depositions, which would have required them to tell the truth under penalty of perjury. That’s when Fox’s attorneys began settlement talks with the Rich family.

Fox News issued an apology, but specified the settlement could not be announced until after the November elections. Fox apparently thought the announcement would hurt its credibility before election day, assuming it has any.

But that wasn’t the end of it. The Richs’ other son, Aaron, was accused of complicity in theft of the emails and his brother’s murder when he tried to defend Seth against the smears circulating in conservative media.

That prompted Aaron to sue frequent Fox News commentator Ed Butkowski and pro-Trump blogger and self-proclaimed investigator Matt Couch for defamation. He also sued the Washington Times for making similar claims in an op-ed piece; the paper retracted the article and apologized.

Butkowski and Couch retracted all of their claims last month. “I never had physical proof to backup such statements or suggestions, which I now acknowledge I should not have made,” Butkowski said. Couch, who has almost 500,000 Twitter followers and who has been retweeted several times by Trump, said Butkowski was the source of his reports.

Fox News has lost conservative viewers to Newsmax and One America News Network, mainly because they have refused to concede that Trump lost the election and launched repeated attacks on the integrity of the election. Many of those attacks have involved Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems, which supplied voting equipment to 28 states.

But the companies weren’t willing to remain silent while their reputations were trashed. In addition to the Dobbs recantation, both companies sued Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for libel and demanded retractions from Newsmax and OANN.

Newsmax host John Tabacco appeared on-air in December to recant the network’s claims, stating the two companies did not have a business relationship, and did not use or reprogram software that manipulated votes in the general election. He also stated that Dominion has no connection to the Pelosi, Feinstein or Clinton families, or to George Soros.

OANN, which was suspended by YouTube for repeatedly posting misinformation about COVID-19, has developed a reputation for airing baseless conspiracy theories and spreading false information. That hasn’t stopped Trump from referring to OANN as “Great News, not Fake News.”

NewsGuard, a network of journalists that evaluates news sites for reliability, urges readers and advertisers to “proceed with caution” when it comes to OANN, claiming the network “severely violates basic standards of credibility and transparency” and “regularly includes false or distorted information.”

If you detect a pattern in this, so does Mathew Sheffield, founder of NewsBusters, the preeminent conservative web site devoted to exposing liberal media bias. While Sheffield finds plenty of liberal media bias, he has developed a more nuanced view of conservative media.

“Truth for conservative journalists is anything that harms ‘the left.’ It doesn’t even have to be a fact. I eventually realized that most people who run right-dominated media outlets see it as their DUTY to be unfair and to favor Republicans because doing so would somehow counteract perceived liberal bias,” he wrote. “The tens of millions of people who vote Republican are not deplorable. They are misled.”

If conservatives believe what these television networks tell them, they’ll believe anything Trump tells them.

Observations from the center stripe: Honeymoon edition

THE EARLY media coverage of the Biden administration has a “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” vibe to it, but the honeymoon won’t last. Just ask Obama and Clinton…BIDEN HAS started out with a whirl-wind of activity, but that will soon grind to a halt. Nothing moves more slowly than the gears of Congress and the federal bureaucracy…LOCAL TEACHERS have been moved to the head of the vaccination line, presumably so students can return to their classrooms full-time. Are the teachers’ unions onboard with this?…THE COUNTY should spend some of that big reserve it likes to brag about on a part-time professional who can write clear, coherent press releases. It’s clear that nobody in the Rood Center can do it…SUPERVISORS CHAIR Dan Miller’s criticism of Gov. Gavin Newson won’t make it any easier for county health officials to sweet talk state bureaucrats into giving us more vaccine…HERE’S A tip for dealing with bureaucrats: The longer the title, the less important the job…

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COVID-19 shots are available, just not around here

I got my first coronavirus vaccine shot Saturday (the Pfizer vaccine, for those who care) and everything went much smoother than I expected.

I received an email notification Thursday that shots were available for those over 75, and I reserved a spot then. I walked in the door right on time Saturday and moved quickly through the four stations—registration, shot/vaccination record, appointment for second shot, and observation.

Everybody was obviously well trained and knew what they were doing. I didn’t feel the shot going in and had no adverse reaction to it. In fact, I didn’t notice anybody having a problem with the shot during the time I was in the observation area. I’m getting my second shot Feb. 20 and will be fully protected two weeks later, March 6.

Needless to say, none of this happened in Nevada County. After 20 years of living in Lake of the Pines, we developed a network of doctors associated with Sutter Health, and that’s who provided the shot I got Saturday. I did have to drive to Roseville to get it, but I was looking for an excuse to visit Trader Joe’s anyway.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has been silent on what they are going to do with their vaccines. Presumably the shots will go to the patients of doctors affiliated with Dignity Health. They have said they have 1,400 shots, but haven’t said what they’re going to do with them, or if Dignity is going to get them any more. Sutter has several mass vaccination sites around the area. If Dignity is doing the same thing, it’s keeping it quiet.

But that’s been typical of the local response to when and how vaccinations will be distributed. Residents have been counseled to be patient, but nobody has spelled out exactly what is going to happen. Instead of developing a detailed plan before the first shot was shipped, you have a sense local officials are making it up on the fly.

Take, for example, the MyTurn software program being launched by the state so people can sign-up for shots. Nevada County said it will use the program, but it won’t be available for a couple of more weeks—another example of what could have been done in early December.

There is plenty of off-the-shelf medical appointment software available that can easily be activated, but country officials have typically done nothing they can lay-off on the state.

The state has so thoroughly botched the roll-out to the point that it is bringing in Blue Shield to get things going. But what happens if Blue Shield decides it doesn’t like the MyTurn program, and implements something else? More delays for Nevada County, particularly the 25% of the population that’s most vulnerable to COVID-19.

County officials say they’re lobbying state authorities to get more shots, but Supervisors’ Chair Dan Miller’s recent criticism of the state’s allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds for small counties won’t help our cause.

While the state auditor concluded bureaucrats miscalculated the rate of infections in each county to determine how much money they got, Miller went out of his way to specifically criticize Gov. Gavin Newson, suggesting the allocation of funds was pure politics. Good move, Dan.

I’m glad we kept our Sutter Health doctors.

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Dr. Rebane promotes his own Big Lie

George Rebane, the closest thing to sophisticated thinking you’ll find among our motley collection of local conservatives, has been busy detailing the shortcomings of new President Joe Biden, aka Bumblebrain.

In his latest broadside (“Bumblebrain’s latest Big Lie,” Rebane’s Ruminations, Jan. 25), Rebane claims that Biden can’t deliver on his campaign promise to fix the shortcomings of Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the one thing that got him elected.

“…he has no plan of his own that is better than what President Trump achieved with both the historically rapid development of multiple vaccines (Project Warp Speed) (sic) and the meticulously planned distribution of the vaccines to the states using military logistics,” Rebane wrote in his broadside.

“(Biden) has admitted his Big Lie with ‘there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.’ So on what he got elected, he can’t deliver.”

Rebane makes his case by employing the same tactics he says discredits the “lame stream” media: Ignoring the facts to advance his own narrative, and employing one the biggest sins of journalism, quoting a speaker out of context. But what do you expect from an avid viewer of Fox News?

For starters, Rebane gives Trump more credit than he deserves for rapid development of the two vaccines currently being used. Drug companies had already started work on a vaccine before Trump “launched” Operation Warp Speed (as Rebane keeps reminding us, companies are motivated by the animal spirits associated with capitalism), they took no upfront money from the government, and the rapid development of the vaccines had more to do with the application of mRNA science than any whip applied by the president.

In fact, they were so alarmed by Trump’s ham-handed approach the major drug companies pledged they wouldn’t be bullied by Trump into offering a vaccine before it was ready. They made this pledge publicly as a group (they rarely even talk to each other) and even bought advertising to drive home the message.

As for the “meticulously planned distribution of the vaccine,” initial deliveries to the states were 20% to 40% short of the quantities promised, creating confusion and delaying vaccinations. “The ripple effect is huge,” said Claire Hannon, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “The planning piece is critical. We cannot role this vaccine out on the fly.”

So what happened to the military logistics implemented by the Trump administration? Well, General Gustave Pena, ceo of Operation Warp Speed, didn’t take  into consideration the time it would take for the completed vaccinations to go through the Food and Drug Administration’s quality control certification, which must be completed 48 hours before the drug manufacturer can ship the batch.

“Where I failed—I failed, nobody else failed—is to have a clear understanding of that cadence,” General Pena said. (To his credit, he was willing to admit he was at fault, something you would never hear from Pena’s former commander in chief.)

But this is still an issue for Trump’s militarily precise distribution system. States continue to complain that they get short notice on how many vaccines they can expect in the next shipment, making it impossible to efficiently organize the administration of the vaccine.

Biden has promised to fix this problem by telling the states three weeks in advance how much vaccine they can expect. And that’s one example of how Biden will improve on Trump’s plan: Fixing the shortcomings of the ex-president’s botched effort.

We know the Trump administration passed on the chance to purchase an additional 100 million vaccinations before Pfizer started signing up other customers. Now Biden is pushing to purchase another 200 million doses to speed up vaccinations in the country.

We were told by the Trump administration that almost half of the vaccines were being held in reserve for the follow-up shots required. That turned out to be about the last lie we heard from the administration—no such reserves exited.

Then there were the directions the Trump administration gave to the states, which were then left on their own. “The biggest state mistakes so far have been adhering too much to the federal government’s initial guidance…,” as the Wall Street Journal noted in a recent editorial. “The federal government’s Jan. 12 decision to follow states and throw open eligibility to anyone over 65 is an admission that the feds were wrong.”

But what do you expect from an administration that played down the seriousness of the pandemic since the day it began, and was populated by White House officials who thought the whole thing was hoax that would disappear after Election Day.

Take the recent comments of Dr. Deborah Birx, who was the Trump administration’s coronavirus response coordinator. They took such little interest in her work that Birx was given no staff, her advice was ignored, Trump foisted “parallel” data on the public she had never seen, and her access to the media was severely restricted. Like Dr. Anthony Fauci, she was pressured to be more positive.

Thanks to Trump’s denigration of masks, his unwillingness to practice social distancing, and his promotion of quack remedies, we have turned a pandemic that should employ our best science to limit its spread into a political debate.

That’s why the United States has the most deaths of any country in the world, and Joe Biden has been handed the task of stopping an aircraft carrier that’s running at full throttle.

That’s what promoted Biden to level with the public and proclaim that “there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months.”

That’s not the admission of failure Rebane would have you believe. That statement was made in the context of the mess Biden has been handed.

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QUICK HITS: Biden’s media honeymoon won’t last long

–The early media coverage of the Biden administration has a “Ding dong, the witch is dead!” vibe to it, but that won’t last. Just ask Obama and Clinton.

–Biden has started out with a whirl-wind of activity, but that will soon come to a grinding halt because the gears of Congress and the bureaucracy move slowly.

–On the other hand, Trump set such a low bar handling the pandemic and rolling out the vaccines that it will be easy for Biden to look like a hero.

–You can add California’s botched distribution of the coronavirus vaccine to the list of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s failures. It is inexcusable that actions that could have been taken before the first shots were delivered still haven’t been done.

–If Nevada County has a plan for distribution of the vaccine shots, it’s doing a good job of hiding it from the rest of us. If they’re going to use a shot-by-appointment system, it will take forever to vaccinate the locals.

–Nevada County’s teachers are supposed to go to the head of the line, presumably so all students can get back to school. Are the teachers’ unions onboard with this?

–How should I feel about reports that many health care and nursing home workers are refusing to get vaccinated?  Concerned is one word that comes to mind.

–Local media coverage of Nevada County’s vaccination effort has been silent on the role of local clinics and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. For example, I know that Chapa-De currently have a limited supply of vaccines for its members. Maybe one of the clueless reporters at The Union can get off his or her ass and make some phone calls.

–Speaking of clueless, The Union ran a 12-inch story—actually, a press release—in today’s edition announcing the earnings of River Valley Community Bank. Too bad the press release didn’t include details like revenue and profit or loss.

–Maybe the numbers were omitted because net income for the year was actually down slightly in a year when most banks did well, and return on equity was down 18%.

–Supervisors chair Dan Miller and other county officials are trying to lobby the state for more vaccines. The county’s cause won’t be helped by Miller’s recent criticism of Newsom for how the state allocated COVID-19 relief funds to the counties.

–Hall of Fame pitcher Don Sutton, who died recently at the age of 75, played for several teams over his long career. When asked once about loyalty, he said: “I’m the most loyal employee money can buy.”

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LaMalfa will be remembered for the insurrection…if at all

The voters of Nevada County have decisively rejected Congressmen Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock in the last couple of general elections, wisdom borne out by events surrounding the Capitol riots.

Still, we paint with too broad a brush when we lump LaMalfa and McClintock together. While neither was happy with the victory of Joe Biden, the two staunch conservatives parted ways in a manner that shows who puts the well-being of the country before the extremist fantasies of some Americans.

LaMalfa and McClintock questioned the integrity of the vote in several states, and both signed on to a suit brought by Texas that attempted to invalidate the vote in four swing states that went to Biden. They parted ways when the Supreme Court summarily rejected the suit.

McClintock gave up the fight and sided with the “surrender caucus,” saying in part: “I believe that fraud may indeed have occurred and that some states and courts have done a poor job of assuring the integrity of the vote and investigating allegations of fraud. But that does not give Congress the power to seize the power accorded to the states and the courts to itself. Period.”

As McClintock correctly noted, the text of the original charter, elaborated by the 12th Amendment, gives state legislatures the power to appoint electors. Nobody else, whether it’s the courts or the vice president, has the power to change that.

But LaMalfa, who has no discernible training in the law, helped reinforce the lie fed to millions of gullible Trump supporters that Congress could overturn the election results. “After the election,” he said, “it became a political issue and courts sidestepped the question using ‘standing,’ ‘procedure,’ and some sloppy work by the Trump legal team.”

More than 50 actions brought by lawyers in support of Trump were rejected by the courts, many by conservative judges appointed by Trump. The president’s political defenders didn’t allege specific acts of fraud. Instead, they cited “allegations of fraud and irregularities” that feed “deep distrust” of the results—distrust they and the president have fed.  

LaMalfa is right about sloppy legal work. Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, L. Lin Wood and others promoted claims of fraud, asserting evidence of corruption and insisting they had proof of a massive conspiracy to elect Biden. But their purported eyewitnesses and experts repeatedly failed to produce actual proof that could satisfy judges.

One suit that involved Powell and Wood alleged Michigan election officials used software designed by foreign dictators to manipulate the vote. Powell is currently being sued for libel and slander by Dominion Voting Systems, which supplied election equipment in several states.

Trump and his enablers can’t explain why other Republicans did so well on the ballot, cutting into the Democratic majority in the House and holding onto the Senate until Trump, is an act of spite, torpedoed the two Georgia Senate races. Democrats tried to flip 10 Republican state legislatures in November, and went 0-10.

Yet we are expected to believe that people who threw out Trump votes or created fictitious Biden votes gave Republicans a free ride elsewhere on the ballot. I suppose you can make the case—and I’m sure somebody did—that they let the Republicans win other races to cover the fraud. The more likely case is that people were tired of four years of buffoonery in the White House.

LaMalfa could not be unaware of the dangers created by the lies he and others validated with their repeated assertions of massive voting irregularities that would overturn the election results. Social media was filled with threats to elected officials and calls for people to mass in Washington, D.C., leading up to Jan. 6.

Many law abiding citizens may well have attended the “Stop the Steal/Save America” rally that preceded the invasion of the nation’s Capitol, but there were plenty of others who were bent on mayhem and destruction. Why else would they show up with long guns, stun guns, machetes, Molotov cocktails, explosive devices and zip ties?

When his fellow Republicans incited the crowd with comments like “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and start kicking ass” (Rep. Mo Brooks) or who referred to Biden as an “illegitimate usurper” and Trump as the victim of a “coup” (Rep. Paul Gosar), did it occur to LaMalfa that perhaps this has gone too far?

You wouldn’t know it from his statements and actions. LaMalfa voted to challenge the electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona (McClintock opposed both motions) after issuing a statement from his “secured location” that the violence “no matter by who or for what reason is inexcusable and must be dealt with immediately, forcefully and with the full force of the law.”

LaMalfa was feinting concern for the fire after putting down his flamethrower, and made no mention of the man who lit the match. McClintock, appearing Jan. 6 on Fox Business, said twice that he needed to be careful about what he said because he was “so angry,” but made it clear he was not happy with Trump’s actions that day.

When the House debate on impeachment began last week, LaMalfa wrote on his Facebook page, “…there simply hasn’t been an impeachable offense that was committed by the president.” (He might want to consult with minority leader Kevin McCarthy, whip Steve Scalise, and conference chair Liz Cheney, the top-ranking Republicans in the House. All three pinned the blame on Trump, and Cheney voted for impreachment.)

It’s hard to fathom why LaMalfa continues to support behavior that’s injurious to the country he professes to love, but three possibilities come to mind:

–He truly believes the irrational fantasy that enough votes were compromised in the election to make Joe Biden the winner. If that’s the reason, he’s incompetent to serve in office.

–He views his position as a cynical political ploy. A poll taken after the Capitol riots showed that 87% of Republicans surveyed still back Trump, and if there’s one thing all politicians read, it’s political polls.

–He fears for his life. When Lindsey Graham is taunted as a “traitor” and the rioters at the Capitol chanted “Hang Mike Pence!,” any elected Republican is justified in thinking twice before casting an anti-Trump vote.

LaMalfa has always been a reliable foot soldier for Trump, content to do his bidding in the one-way process that passes for loyalty with the president. His one attempt at meaningful bipartisan legislation to ease the worker shortage for farmers got the cold shoulder from the White House.

Until Jan. 6, Doug LaMalfa was just another anonymous cipher, part of a long-line of mediocre elected officials who will be little noted or long remembered. Now, if he’s remembered at all, it will be as part of the Republican insurrection cabal.

Observations from the center stripe: Insurrection edition

REP. DOUG LaMalfa was one of nine GOP congressmen who didn’t wear masks while waiting out the Capitol riot in his “secured location.” Three congressmen in that group have since been diagnosed with COVID-19…MIKE PENCE is being hailed as a hero for doing what the Constitution said he was supposed to do. No wonder he’s a pariah with Trump…SHE MAY be new, but Rep. Lauren Boebert shows the potential to become the biggest looney in Congress since Michele Bachmann retired…REPUBLICANS ARE being disingenuous for opposing impeachment because it will be divisive. They were silent for four years while Trump did everything he could to foster an “us” versus “them” environment…THERE ARE reports that Trump is stiffing Rudy Giuliani for his legal fees. If true, it’s another example of Trump’s one-way loyalty… 

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