The New York Times does Trump vs. DeSantis

My friend who reads the New York Times called my attention to this frontpage piece about tension between Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. It’s by Times stalwarts Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, who probably had plenty of fun writing it.

They report that Trump has become unhappy with DeSantis because the Florida governor won’t say he’d step aside if, as seems likely, Trump decides to run for president in 2024. According to the Times, Trump believes (with justification, I think) that he put DeSantis on the map. From this, Trump concludes (without justification, I think) that DeSantis should not stand in the way of the former president’s future political ambitions.

Trump hasn’t yet blasted DeSantis by name. However, he ripped “gutless” politicians who dodge the question of whether they have been vaccinated against covid, fearing blowback from vaccine skeptics. DeSantis hasn’t said whether he’s received anti-covid shots.

“The answer is ‘Yes,’” Trump said in an interview last month, “but they don’t want to say it because they’re gutless — you got to say it, whether you had it or not, say it.”

I agree with Trump. Governors who have been vaccinated should say so to reassure the public that the vaccine is safe. Governors who reject the vaccine out of safety or other concerns should share those concerns with their constituents.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, presumably responding to Trump’s pointed remarks about vaccination and guts, criticized Trump’s early response to the pandemic, in which he backed lockdowns. According to the Times, DeSantis said he regretted not being more vocal in his complaints.

It’s fair, I suppose, to criticize Trump’s early support of lockdowns. However, we’re talking here about March and April of 2020, before much was known about the Wuhan coronavirus and how its spread might be stopped or slowed. Everyone was shooting in the dark back then.

That DeSantis is looking at the matter with 20-20 hindsight is clear. He admits not being vocal enough in his complaints.

But it’s actually worse than that, from an anti-lockdown perspective. DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order in April 2020.

From where I sit, then, Trump has the better of his jousting with DeSantis on covid. But then, the jousting isn’t about winning my support which, by the way, would go to DeSantis in a contest against Trump. It’s about winning support from people whose views on vaccination and, to some extent, lockdowns diverge from mine.

Meanwhile, Haberman and Martin couldn’t resist providing Ann Coulter’s entertaining take on the Trump-DeSantis mini-clash. Coulter tweeted:

Trump is demanding to know Ron DeSantis’s booster status, and I can now reveal it. He was a loyal booster when Trump ran in 2016, but then he learned our president was a liar and con man whose grift was permanent.

Contacted by the Times for more commentary, she added:

Trump is done. You guys should stop obsessing over him.

This strikes me as wishful thinking. Trump isn’t done and even if were, the Times wouldn’t stop obsessing over him.

Massive Shift From Dems to GOP

Gallup’s polling finds a massive shift in party allegiance from the Democrats to the Republicans over the course of 2021. The rapidity of the shift is remarkable; Democrats began the year with a nine-point advantage, and the year ended with Republicans holding a five-point edge. Gallup’s data points are quarterly during the calendar year 2021:

Party affiliation has usually tilted toward the Democrats for decades. But why did they enjoy such a substantial advantage at the beginning of 2021? Notwithstanding that he was a very good president in my opinion, and that of most conservatives, Donald Trump was unpopular by that time. He was a millstone around the neck of the GOP.

What happened in a short time to work such a change in party loyalty? Joe Biden:

Shifting party preferences in 2021 are likely tied to changes in popularity of the two men who served as president during the year. Republican Donald Trump finished out his single term in January, after being defeated in the 2020 election, with a 34% job approval rating, the lowest of his term. His popularity fell more than 10 points from Election Day 2020 as the country’s COVID-19 infections and deaths reached then-record highs, he refused to acknowledge the result of the election, and his supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to prevent Congress from counting the 2020 Electoral College votes.

Democrat Joe Biden enjoyed relatively high ratings after taking office on Jan. 20, and his approval stayed high through the early summer as COVID-19 infections dramatically decreased after millions of Americans got vaccinated against the disease. A summer surge of infections tied to the delta variant of the coronavirus made it clear the pandemic was not over in the U.S., and Biden’s approval ratings began to sag. Later, the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan caused Biden’s ratings to fall further, into the low 40s. His ratings remain low as the U.S. battles rising inflation and yet another surge of COVID-19 infections, tied to the omicron variant of the virus.

Gallup’s recitation fails to capture the full catastrophe that the Biden administration has become, and it doesn’t mention the growing realization that the Democrats are bats**t crazy, which undoubtedly plays a part in their steep decline. Still, it seems basically correct. Given this history, it is a little hard to understand why some Republicans want to run Trump out for another go in 2024. Meanwhile, though, let’s enjoy the ongoing collapse of the Democratic Party as we head toward the midterm elections.

Everton fires “Agent” Benitez

When Everton hired Rafa Benitez as its manager last summer, I felt he already had three strikes against him. First, he was the former manager of Liverpool, the enemy across the park.

Second, while with the Red Shite, Benitez had gone out of way to insult Everton. Once, he compared us to Extremadura, a Third Division Spanish side he managed early in his career.

It was possible to view Benitez’s trash talk as showing respect for the Merseyside rivalry. After all, other Liverpool managers tended simply to ignore Everton. But that was not how most Everton supporters, including me, took it.

Third, Benitez hadn’t been particularly successful in recent years. He spent three undistinguished seasons at Newcastle, before moving to the wasteland that is Chinese football.

Everton started this season smartly, though, and Benitez seemed almost to be winning over the supporters. One successful season would have won me over.

But then came a series of dismal results, culminating on Saturday with a loss to Norwich City, an awful side. The defeat left us in 16th place, just six points above the drop zone.

By now, some fans were calling the manager “Agent Benitez.” The insult harked back to Peter Johnson, the wealthy Liverpool fan who purchased Everton in the late 1990s.

In a match against Liverpool during a particularly dire time for Everton, a fan of the Shite held up a sign saying “Mission accomplished, agent Johnson.”

Johnson wasn’t actually trying to sabotage Liverpool’s rivals. He made a number of quality, big-money (for the era) signings to help the club. Among them were Marco Materazzi, later (and infamously) a World Cup winner for Italy; John Collins, who played for Scotland in the 1998 World Cup: and Olivier Dacourt, who played 21 times for France.

Benitez wasn’t a Liverpool agent either. By all accounts, he tried desperately to improve the club.

Benitez was undermined in part by injuries to key players. But he also seemed ill-equipped to manage in the contemporary English game.

Under Benitez, Everton tried to play defensive-minded football favored by top managers fifteen years ago, but eschewed by the top ones (e.g. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp) these days. I’m no connoisseur of soccer tactics, but something seemed off about that approach given the shakiness of our back line and the use of only two central midfielders most of the time.

Benitez clashed with Lucas Digne, an attack-minded left back. Digne, a star for Everton a few seasons ago, was still good enough to make France’s Euro 2020 team last summer.

When he balked at Benitez’s instructions not to push forward, the manager exiled him. Benitez’s old captain, Steve Gerrard, brought him to Aston Villa and Digne looked good on Saturday attacking Manchester United down the left flank.

Who will replace Benitez? One rumor is that Everton has contacted Roberto Martinez, one of the club’s many recent former managers.

It was only six years ago that Everton fans staged a post-match sit-in to agitate for Martinez’s sacking. Since then, Martinez has had considerable success managing Belgium’s national team, though some Belgian fans complain that the team hasn’t fully lived up to its considerable potential.

One thing’s for sure. Under Martinez, there would be no complaints about playing too defensively. Everton fans turned against him for not being sufficiently defense conscious.

I assume that Belgium’s never-ending potential will keep Martinez with the national team for this year’s World Cup. Everton, while better than a 16th place team, is short on potential.

Two Everton legends are being mentioned as possible managers — Duncan Ferguson and Wayne Rooney. Ferguson inspired Everton to success in a few matches as interim manager in late 2019.

Rooney has impressed managing in England’s second tier trying, against all odds, to keep Derby County afloat. He says he is “happy and focused” in his role at Derby but he would find it difficult to turn down an opportunity to manage Everton given his association with the club.

I think that, if selected, either legend would have the “interim” tag. I think that Everton would prefer a manager who has enjoyed more success than either legend managing a first tier club — someone like Frank Lampard, Graham Potter, or Niko Kovac. But I think it may be difficult to lure such a manager to Goodison Park in the middle of a season that has gone pear shaped.

If that’s the case, I would try to get by with Ferguson or Rooney on an interim basis, since I believe we’re probably too good to be relegated and probably too buried to have any real success this year. In the summer, we should be able to bring in a more experienced, more accomplished manager, assuming the interim guy is still deemed not up to the job on a permanent basis.

In all events, I’m glad Agent Benitez is out.

Endless Vaccination “A Waste of Time”

Today it takes three shots to be “fully vaccinated;” who knows how many it will take in the future? Britain’s Dr. Clive Dix throws cold water on the idea that we can vaccinate covid into oblivion:

Dr. Clive Dix, who played a key role in helping pharmaceutical firms create the COVID-19 vaccines, told LBC radio on Jan. 16: “The Omicron variant is a relatively mild virus. And to just keep vaccinating people and thinking of doing it again to protect the population is, in my view, now a waste of time.”

Dix said the focus now should be on protecting vulnerable people, such as those over 60, 2 percent of whom remain unvaccinated.

Most people hoped that the vaccines would stop transmission of the coronavirus. Remember herd immunity? But they don’t, so where are we now?

Though he supports the ongoing booster campaign, he said he has been “critical” of boosting everybody as he is not convinced “it was needed or is needed” for younger people.

Dix said, “I think the thinking of the time was very much to stop infection and transmission where clearly these vaccines don’t do that.”

More broadly, with vaccinations providing limited protection for six months or perhaps less, what is the most viable strategy for the future?

Dix told The Observer newspaper last week that mass vaccination against COVID-19 should come to an end and the UK should focus on managing it as an endemic disease like flu.

“We now need to manage disease, not virus spread,” he said. “So stopping progression to severe disease in vulnerable groups is the future objective.”

The UK government’s medical advisers have already acknowledged that it is “untenable” to jab the population every three or six months.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said on Jan. 3 that it is not the government’s “long-term view” to give everyone a booster vaccine every few months.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and chair of the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), told The Telegraph that it’s “not sustainable or affordable” to “vaccinate the planet every four to six months.”

That seems rather obvious. So what is left? First, continuing to protect the vulnerable, i.e., the very elderly and the immunocompromised, through vaccination and other means, like quarantine (them, not the rest of us).

Second, focusing on identification and development of effective treatments. I fail to understand why relatively little attention has been paid to treatment, as opposed to futile efforts to prevent the virus from spreading. Now that Dr. Fraudci has admitted that covid will eventually infect “just about everybody,” perhaps a long-overdue focus on treatment will ensue.

And, finally, accepting the fact that covid, like the common cold, which is also a group of coronaviruses, will be with us indefinitely. Happily, it is a relatively benign virus, especially in the current omicron variant and most likely in future versions, as viruses tend to become less dangerous over time. (The virus doesn’t want to kill you or make you sick enough to stay home; it wants you feeling pretty good and walking around, spreading the virus to others.) Once we get over politically-inspired and media-driven hysteria, living with covid should be more or less indistinguishable from living with the common cold.

Midnight Trains and Daylight Crime

One of the signs that Ronald Reagan noted as an indication that the Soviet Union had entered a state of advanced decrepitude socially and economically were news reports in late 1980 in both the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times about three separate freight trains bound from Moscow to Odessa that simply disappeared, victims apparently of piracy.

One wonders whether Russia, currently contemplating reassembling the Soviet empire starting with the Ukraine perhaps at any moment, is looked out at events in the United States and wondering if we’re slipping into a similar decadence and decrepitude. I refer to the shocking photos out of Los Angeles of widespread thievery from freight trains.

Even the Los Angeles Times has noticed:

Union Pacific has complained directly and bluntly to LA’s soft-on-crime district attorney George Gascon, who does nothing. See especially the circled part on the second page, which is unusually blunt for a private company:

This is liberal America, 2022.

King Would Be Expelled From the Civil Rights Movement Today

It is not news that today’s so-called “civil rights movement” has turned fully away from Martin Luther King’s vision of a color-blind America. Today’s evidence comes from Psychology Today magazine:

Colorblind Ideology Is a Form of Racism

Monnica T Williams Ph.D.

At its face value, colorblindness seems like a good thing—really taking MLK seriously on his call to judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity.

However, colorblindness alone is not sufficient to heal racial wounds on a national or personal level. It is only a half-measure that in the end operates as a form of racism.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. And Martin Luther King was a racist.

The FBI’s statement about the Texas terrorist and the Jews

In a briefing about the terrorism at a synagogue in Texas, an FBI spokesman said the demands of the hostage taker, Malik Faisal Akram, were “specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community.” There is a sense in which this is true. The issue the terrorist specifically focused on was the imprisonment of a jihadist, Aafia Siddiqui. He demanded her release.

That issue obviously has implications for the Jewish community, especially given the blatant anti-Semitism of Aafia Siddiqui, but it arguably is not specifically or directly a Jewish issue. The imprisoned jihadist is a threat to Jews and non-Jews. Her conviction was for trying to murder American soldiers and officials in Afghanistan

The FBI’s statement has been attacked as an attempt to portray the terrorism at a synagogue as not targeted at the Jewish community — as not specifically or directly anti-Semitic. Lindsey Graham construes it to mean the FBI “does not believe the hostage taker’s demands had anything to do with the Jewish faith.”

The FBI might have been trying to say something along those lines. But its statement actually conveyed, at least to me, is quite the opposite.

That a terrorist would select a synagogue as the target of an attack “not specifically focused on an issue directly connected to [Jews]” demonstrates anti-Semitism of the most free-floating, virulent, and dangerous kind. And it precludes the frequent dodge that the terrorist’s quarrel is with Israelis and Zionists, rather than Jews.

A jihadist demanding, say, an end of U.S. support for Israel would naturally pick a Jewish target. A jihadist demanding the release of a prisoner could take any sort of hostages to use in a trade.

That this jihadist selected Jewish hostages makes the case, if anything, all the more disturbing for Jews. And, of course, it reaffirms the link between jihadism and anti-Semitism that the FBI may have been trying to obscure.

The FBI has now acknowledged the obvious — that, whatever the focus of the terrorist’s demands, “the Jewish community was targeted.” It would have been well advised to do so at the outset.