Monday, December 6, 2021

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

Attorney General Merrick Garland is making good on his promise to defend voting rights on a second front in the Lone Star State by going after Texas's obviously racially-motivated Republican gerrymander, and I hope North Carolina is next on his list.

The Justice Department on Monday sued Texas for the second time in a month over new voting laws, this time alleging that Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Latinos and other minorities when they approved new congressional and state legislature districts that increased the power of White voters.

Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement marked the department’s first major legal action on redistricting at a time when Democrats have warned that GOP-controlled state legislatures are seeking to improperly redraw voting precincts to aid Republican candidates ahead of the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.

“This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens. Decade after decade, Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act,” the Justice Department said in its lawsuit. “In enacting its 2021 Congressional and House plans, the State has again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans.”

Texas GOP leaders have said the congressional maps were approved by lawyers who determined the districts complied with voting rights laws.

But the maps have also drawn two legal challenges from advocacy groups, including one filed last month by a group affiliated with Eric H. Holder Jr., who led the Justice Department in the Obama administration.

Garland’s decision to pursue litigation comes just weeks after the Justice Department sued Texas over a separate law that federal officials would disenfranchise eligible voters, including older Americans and people with disabilities, by banning 24-hour and drive-through voting and giving partisan poll watchers more access.

Texas lawmakers approved the new congressional boundaries in October after a redistricting process led by Republicans, who control the state Senate and House.
As utterly dismantled as the Voting Rights Act is right now in the Roberts Court era, the one part of the legislation that remains is the "one person, one vote" standard...for now. We'll see how long that holds.

Myanmar, Military Coups, And Menace

Deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing four years in prison on COVID-19 "violations" and incitement charges as UN Human Rights head Michelle Bachelet is blasting the trial and verdict conducted by the country's military junta.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday denounced a four-year jail term handed down to Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi after a "sham trial" and called for her immediate release.

The conviction of Suu Kyi "closes yet another door to political dialogue" in Myanmar, where the military took power on Feb. 1, and "will only deepen rejection of the coup", Bachelet said in a statement in Geneva.

A court jailed Suu Kyi for four years on Monday on charges of incitement and breaching coronavirus restrictions, said a source in a case that critics described as "farcical".

“The conviction of the State Counsellor following a sham trial in secretive proceedings before a military-controlled court is nothing but politically motivated,” Bachelet said.

“The military is attempting to instrumentalize the courts to remove all political opposition."

Ravina Shamdasani, a Bachelet spokesperson, told Reuters Television that the proceedings had failed to meet the country's domestic and international legal obligations for a fair trial.

Suu Kyi, 76, still faces charges of corruption and electoral fraud, Bachelet said.

She also said that the army, known as the Tatmadaw, had detained more than 10,000 opponents since the coup and that at least 175 people, including many members of Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy (NLD) party, were reported to have died in custody "most likely due to ill-treatment or torture".

She called for the immediate release of all those unlawfully detained.
At least five people have died so far in the junta's resulting crackdown on protests, and it's only going to get worse.

And, as I keep saying, "putting their political enemies in jail" is something I absolutely expect from the next inevitable GOP administration. Trust that the Republicans in Trump's orbit are paying attention.

The Winter Of Discontent

As the pandemic now heads into the winter months for the second year, with the COVID Omicron variant already on our shores, nobody should be surprised that it is the rural Trump counties, with the fewest resources and most disinformation, who are seeing skyrocketing per capita death rates.

Since May 2021, people living in counties that voted heavily for Donald Trump during the last presidential election have been nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 as those who live in areas that went for now-President Biden. That's according to a new analysis by NPR that examines how political polarization and misinformation are driving a significant share of the deaths in the pandemic.

NPR looked at deaths per 100,000 people in roughly 3,000 counties across the U.S. from May 2021, the point at which vaccinations widely became available. People living in counties that went 60% or higher for Trump in November 2020 had 2.7 times the death rates of those that went for Biden. Counties with an even higher share of the vote for Trump saw higher COVID-19 mortality rates.

In October, the reddest tenth of the country saw death rates that were six times higher than the bluest tenth, according to Charles Gaba, an independent health care analyst who's been tracking partisanship trends during the pandemic and helped to review NPR's methodology. Those numbers have dropped slightly in recent weeks, Gaba says: "It's back down to around 5.5 times higher."

The trend was robust, even when controlling for age, which is the primary demographic risk of COVID-19 mortality. The data also reveal a major contributing factor to the death rate difference: The higher the vote share for Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.

The analysis only looked at the geographic location of COVID-19 deaths. The exact political views of each person taken by the disease remains unknowable. But the strength of the association, combined with polling information about vaccination, strongly suggests that Republicans are being disproportionately affected.

Recent polling data that show Republicans are now the largest group of unvaccinated individuals in the United States, more than any other single demographic group. Polling also shows that mistrust in official sources of information and exposure to misinformation, about both COVID-19 and the vaccines, run high among Republicans.

"An unvaccinated person is three times as likely to lean Republican as they are to lean Democrat," says Liz Hamel, vice president of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy think tank that tracks attitudes toward vaccination. Political affiliation is now the strongest indicator of whether someone is vaccinated, she says: "If I wanted to guess if somebody was vaccinated or not and I could only know one thing about them, I would probably ask what their party affiliation is."

It was not always this way. Earlier in the pandemic, many different groups expressed hesitancy toward getting vaccinated. African Americans, younger Americans and rural Americans all had significant portions of their demographic that resisted vaccination. But over time, the vaccination rates in those demographics have risen, while the rate of Republican vaccination against COVID-19 has flatlined at just 59%, according to the latest numbers from Kaiser. By comparison, 91% of Democrats are vaccinated.
I said this months ago, that reaching the 40% of Republicans who refuse to get vaccinated is not something that will be allowed to happen while the disinformation merchants on the radios, TVs, and computers and mobile phones continue to convince a third of Americans that the vaccine is poison.

Death and tragedy only turn it around for those when it is far too late, and then even when the worst-case occurs, their family and friends refuse to get the vaccine.

Millions more are going to die in the months and years ahead until the disinformation networks are ripped out, and we know that disinformation is driving vaccine refusal.

Misinformation appears to be a major factor in the lagging vaccination rates. The Kaiser Family Foundation's polling shows Republicans are far more likely to believe false statements about COVID-19 and vaccines. A full 94% of Republicans think one or more false statements about COVID-19 and vaccines might be true, and 46% believe four or more statements might be true. By contrast, only 14% of Democrats believe four or more false statements about the disease.

Belief in multiple false statements highly correlates with vaccination status, Hamel says. "If you believe that the vaccines can damage your fertility, that they contain a microchip and that the government is inflating the number of COVID-19 deaths, you're going to think really differently about whether to get vaccinated."

Perhaps the most pernicious pieces of misinformation have to do with the perceived severity of COVID-19 itself. The most widely believed false statement was: "The government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths."

Hamel says that underestimating the severity of COVID-19 appears to be a major reason why Republicans in particular have fallen behind in vaccination: "We've seen lower levels of personal worry among Republicans who remain unvaccinated," she says. "That's a real contrast with what we saw in communities of color, where there was a high level of worry about getting sick." 
The two major lies spread about COVID were that one, the government was lying about the death toll, and two, that only "fat, lazy diabetic/sickle cell" Black folk were susceptible to actually dying from the disease. Those two lies all but guaranteed that rural America was going to tune out every message. Indeed, sites threw around words like "comorbidities" and "genetic mutations" to frighten and anger millions, taking full advantage of the dark history America has had with medicine and Black community, one that still exists to the present.

And now we have people literally willing to die rather than to admit they were conned.

A few months ago I would have said that there was nothing to be done, that you cannot reason with those who want to see you enslaved or exterminated, even at the cost of their own lives, to maintain the deadly, adamant grip of white supremacy, and that the goal was simply to survive the next several years.

I will tell you now that doing nothing but hiding and hating will never improve the situation.


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