• Man Who Once Said “If You’re Innocent, Why Are You Taking the Fifth?” Takes the Fifth

    Niyi Fote/TheNEWS2/Zuma

    Perhaps you remember when, in 2016, then-not-yet-President Trump disparaged Hillary Clinton for taking the Fifth during a congressional investigation into her private email server. “The mob takes the Fifth,” he said at a campaign rally. “If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?”

    The comment was hypocritical then, and it’s hypocritical now. Today, Trump refused to answer questions under oath in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ civil investigation into his business dealings. It was one part of a very bad week for the former president.

    Trump tried his best to get out ahead of the allegations of hypocrisy.

    “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?'” he wrote in a statement. “Now I know the answer to that question. When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice.”

    I never thought I’d see the day when Trump admitted he was wrong. I guess we both stand corrected.

  • An Obscure Law Is Sending Oklahoma Mothers to Prison in Droves. We Reviewed 1.5 Million Cases to Learn More.

    Mother Jones illustration; Getty

    “Failure to protect” laws punish parents for not shielding their children from abuse. These laws aren’t talked about very much, but they appear across the country, and in certain states, like Oklahoma, they are associated with especially harsh penalties.

    In Oklahoma, failure to protect is the only child abuse charge levied predominantly against women, and it is disproportionately charged against women of color. People charged with the crime there are less likely to have a previous felony record than defendants in firsthand child abuse cases—a sign of just how much more dangerous abusers are than those accused of failing to stand in the way of their abuse. Since 2009, when the latest version of the state’s law went into effect, at least 139 women have been imprisoned solely for failure-to-protect charges. At least 55 are still incarcerated. 

    It would be impossible to know any of this without the exhaustive review of Oklahoma court records I undertook for Samantha Michaels’ groundbreaking investigation of the state’s failure-to-protect law. I wrote computer programs that systematically reviewed every criminal felony and misdemeanor case available on each of the the state’s two court websites, ultimately reviewing 1.5 million cases to identify 955 charges for enabling or permitting child abuse filed against 662 individuals in 612 cases in Oklahoma since 2009. Another “web scraper,” as the programs are commonly known, collected demographic information for every incarcerated person in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ Offender Database.

    But these counts were not enough to say just how common these cases are in Oklahoma. It’s easier for prosecutors to prove failure to protect than a general child abuse charge, so prosecutors often charge abusers with both, making it difficult to filter out these cases. Prosecutors often use various terms like “enabling” and “permitting” child abuse to refer to the failure-to-protect law. Charge information on case-details pages always includes a text description but only sometimes includes a statute number, necessary to confirm the exact charge. In some cases, the statute lists subsections, clear identifiers of exactly what conduct is alleged, but it does not always match the text. 

    On the advice of the ACLU of Oklahoma, we filtered for defendants with two types of characteristics to overcome these limitations:

    • Defendants whose charges include subsections that only reference “enabling abuse” and who are not also charged with a text or statute that alleges direct child abuse. Only 25 percent of charges fit this description.
    • Defendants who are the only person in their case charged with failure to protect and are not charged with direct abuse. 

    Of all Oklahomans charged with failure to protect, 2 out of 3 were women. Using only the cases we verified, we found that 9 in 10 were women.

    There are some other limitations to our methodology. Generally speaking, cases were discovered using the search engines in Oklahoma State Courts Network and On Demand Court Records. Lists of URLs of case-details pages generated by the search were used to download each HTML page. Case numbers are generally sequential. We assumed missing case numbers were unavailable after we extensively tested to verify that all publicly available cases were captured. Some cases in our database were expunged after we scraped them in November and February and are included in our count. Cases expunged before then are not.

    We attempted to use sentencing data in the Offender Database to calculate sentencing outcomes by case type, but multiple spot checks proved it unreliable for systematic analysis.

  • Clogging Toilets and Wanting “Totally Loyal” Nazi Generals: Today In Trump Book Discourse

    Brandon Bell/Getty

    I regret to inform you that the Trump book canon continues apace with new excerpts out today from not one, but two, forthcoming insider accounts. The first is from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman and builds upon the only genre of Trump-era gossip I’m interested in: the infamous clogged toilet.

    Haberman recently obtained what appears to be photographic evidence that Donald Trump did in fact regularly clog White House toilets with Oval Office documents. As you might remember, the habit reportedly prompted frequent plumbing disasters, and more consequentially, added to Trump’s long record of mishandling official White House communications. Axios has the toilet scoop and it includes the rather hilarious accusation from Trump world that Haberman staged the toilet photos in order to sell some books. “You have to be pretty desperate to sell books if pictures of paper in a toilet bowl is part of your promotional plan,” Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich told Axios. Those cursed photos below:

    In an equally dark note of an entirely different hellscape, we also have an excerpt from The Divider: Trump in the White House that confirms, yet again, Trump’s admiration for authoritarian figures including Adolf Hitler. Here’s what Peter Baker and Susan Glasser report Trump once said about the Nazi dictator amid frustration that “his generals” weren’t blindly following batshit orders:

    The President’s loud complaint to John Kelly one day was typical: “You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?”

    “Which generals?” Kelly asked.

    “The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.

    “You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly said.

    But, of course, Trump did not know that. “No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him,” the President replied. In his version of history, the generals of the Third Reich had been completely subservient to Hitler; this was the model he wanted for his military. 

    It’s the kind of anecdote, equal parts horrifying and endlessly unsurprising, that prompts a bit of an eye-roll for me especially if this is the kind of story that inspires one to hit preorder. Hear me out:

    When the subject is Trump, a man who often appears physically incapable of exercising any restraint, the insatiable appetite hits strangely. After all, What more can be evinced from insider accounts about a man who doesn’t keep anything close to the chest, whose horrifying nature is routinely up for public consumption anyway? The appeal reflects a deeper emptiness among an audience hyper-vigilant to the unprecedented nature of these times but who apparently depend on these books for further saturation. Sure, such accounts might make for a good headline, but is a perverse boredom behind their overwhelming popularity? 

    Anyway, that’s the latest on our toilet-clogging, Nazi-inspired former president. Wake me up when we have evidence that Trump really did eat the paper.

  • A Fake Jail Cell, a Real January 6 Defendant, Tears, Prayers, and Marjorie Taylor Greene

    Think you've seen performance art? You haven't been to CPAC.Zach D Roberts/AP

    On Friday, a real-life January 6 defendant cosplaying as a January 6 defendant sat sobbing in a fake jail cell at CPAC while wearing an orange jumpsuit and praying with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) The full story is even weirder.

    As Tess Owen, who witnessed the immersive theater experience at the conservative convention held this week in Dallas, explains for Vice:

    Attendees at CPAC, the massive annual conservative activist conference, were given bluetooth headphones, emblazoned with the word “silence,” where they were invited to listen to audio accounts from January 6 defendants who have been jailed due to the Capitol riot. 

    Some spectators wept. Some threw money into the cage. Others came up close to mutter words of comfort and support to the emotionally distraught man inside, who was alternating sitting on a bare cot with his head in his hands, and writing sad slogans on a blackboard like “Where is Everyone?” Among those in the audience was Zuny Duarte, mother of Enrique Tarrio, the jailed ex-chairman of the Proud Boys facing seditious conspiracy charges for his role in the Capitol. One man, wearing a T-shirt saying “Correctional Officers for Trump 2020” pointed at his chest, making sure the “jailed” activist saw, and said “”I know how it works, man.” 

    An actor played the January 6 defendant on Thursday. But on Friday, the role was filled by Brandon Straka, a Stop the Steal activist who recently pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor disorderly conduct for his role in trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election during the January 6 insurrection. As Owen reports:

    The surreal scene around the cage in the CPAC exhibit hall was only made more bizarre when security guards began parting the crowds for extreme-right Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The “jail guards” unlocked the cage and allowed her in. She hugged Straka, before falling to her knees in front of the chair he was sitting on. They clasped hands and prayed together. 

    According to mistakenly unsealed court documents, Straka avoided jail time after providing “significant information” to the FBI. Straka has tried to claim that he was not a “snitch.” But the court documents, which show that he cooperated at each of his three meetings with the FBI, tell a different story. 

    On Friday, despite all his rage, Straka was still just a rat in a cage.

  • I Also Have to Work in August

    Michael Brochstein/Zuma

    If I were an 88-year-old millionaire who wanted to spend August relaxing with my family, I would simply retire.

    Instead, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)—who is running for reelection in November—took to Twitter on Friday to complain about having to miss his family reunion for the second year in a row because he has to be in DC “to fight Dems irresponsible tax&spend bill.” Surely his constituents can sympathize.

    Ever since Democrats decided to actually start legislating, Republicans have been doing everything in their power to stop them, from opposing a same-sex marriage bill to briefly stymying legislation that would enhance benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits overseas. But with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) apparently on board for the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act of 2022,” it’s unclear what exactly Grassley hopes to accomplish in DC this weekend. He might be better off in Iowa, after all.

  • Enjoy This Video of Dick Cheney Saying, “A Real Man Wouldn’t Lie to His Supporters”

    Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld

    Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in 1975Harvey Georges/AP

    In a new campaign ad for his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), former Vice President Dick Cheney warns viewers of the dangers of Trumpism and states that “a real man wouldn’t lie to his supporters.” Real rich, coming from the guy who, in a false pretext for invading Iraq, told America, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” 

    Clad in a cowboy hat and a vest with an “I Voted” sticker, the man who literally has no heart is now attempting to play the part of a wise old cowboy warning of the threats Trumpism poses to our democracy. “In our nation’s 246-year-history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump,” he says. “He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him.”

    The hypocrisy notwithstanding, it seems doubtful that the former veep will hold much sway in a state that Trump won in 2020 with nearly 70 percent of the vote. One recent poll saw Cheney’s primary opponent, Trump-backed attorney Harriet Hageman, leading with 52 percent to Cheney’s 30. That’s OK, though: Cheney already has her sights set on 2024.

    “Lynne and I are so proud of Liz for standing up for the truth, doing what’s right, honoring her oath to the Constitution when so many in our party are too scared to do so,” the elder Cheney said. “There is nothing more important she will ever do than lead the effort to make sure Donald Trump is never again near the Oval Office, and she will succeed.”

  • Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison

    Mikhail Voskresensky/TASS/ZUMA

    Today, after spending nearly six months in the custody of the Russian government, Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison after being found guilty of drug smuggling and possession charges. The outcome is the latest development after the WNBA star was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after officials said they discovered vape canisters containing cannabis oil in Griner’s luggage.  

    During her sentencing, Griner directly appealed to the judge and pleaded for leniency. “I know everybody keeps talking about ‘political pawn’ and ‘politics,'” she said. “But I hope that is far from this courtroom.”  

    The sentencing was widely expected and could be the next step in negotiations for a potential prisoner swap. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Friday that he had urged Russia to accept a proposal that would bring home Griner, as well as Paul Whelan, who in 2020, was arrested on espionage charges. It’s been reported that in exchange for Griner and Whelan, the Biden administration is offering to release convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. 

    In a statement on Thursday, President Joe Biden slammed Griner’s sentencing as “unacceptable.” “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

  • Carolyn Maloney Gives the Second Worst Performance of Her Career

    Should Joe Biden run for reelection? It’s the question looming over Democrats as the president’s hemorrhaging poll numbers drive fears they’ll be swept away by a red wave this November. 

    But for Carolyn Maloney, who is currently locked in a nasty primary fight against Jerry Nadler, the question of Biden’s reelection has plunged the New York congresswoman into an 11th-hour damage control campaign that somehow manages to get worse with every passing day. 

    The botched clean-up effort started Tuesday during a debate for New York’s 12th congressional district when Maloney was asked whether Biden should run again in 2024. “I don’t believe he’s running for reelection,” Maloney answered, instantly prompting speculation that perhaps she had insidery knowledge of Biden’s thinking on the issue. It was rather frank, particularly when compared to Nadler’s response to the same question: “It’s too early to say,” he said. “It doesn’t serve the purposes of the Democratic Party to deal with that until after the midterms.” The next day, likely sensing that she had screwed up, Maloney stood by her remarks but added that she’d support Biden if he did run.

    That should have been the end of that news cycle but Maloney on Thursday decided to give this performance:

    It’s been a minute since I’ve seen such frightened fealty, wrapped in a groveling non-apology. But I guess that kind of Trump-era relic emerges when you’re battling for your political career. In any event, I was about to call this the most absurd performance of her career but then I remembered this atrocity.

  • Alex Jones’ Lawyers Accidentally Sent the Opposing Counsel a Copy of His Entire Phone

    Bob Daemmrich/Zuma

    Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones just might have the most incompetent lawyers on the planet.

    The red-faced Infowars founder is currently on trial to determine how much his website owes Sandy Hook parents for its defamatory claims that the 2012 school shooting was a hoax. He had previously testified under oath that he had not sent any text messages about Sandy Hook. But, according to an attorney for the Sandy Hook parents, Jones’ own lawyers accidentally sent him proof of the opposite. The video of Jones learning of his lawyers’ mistake is absolutely nuts:

    “Mr. Jones,” the plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Bankston said, “Did you know that 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone, with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years, and when informed, did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protect it in any way, and as of two days ago, it fell free and clear into my possession, and that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn’t have text messages about Sandy Hook. Did you know that?”

    Jones, looking baffled, responded, “See? I told you the truth. This is your Perry Mason moment. I gave them my phone.”

    The attorney continued, asking Jones: “In discovery, you were asked, ‘Do you have Sandy Hook text messages on your phone?’ And you said, ‘No,’ correct? You said that under oath, Mr. Jones, didn’t you?”

    “I mean, if I was mistaken, I was mistaken, but you’ve got the text messages right there,” Jones replied.

    “You know what perjury is, right?” Bankston said, before reminding a dumbstruck Jones that he was free to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

    If that’s not enough schadenfreude for you, enjoy this clip of Bankston showing Alex Jones a video of himself on Infowars referring to the jurors selected for that very trial as “extremely blue-collar folks.”

    Buckle up for some The Rehearsal-level discomfort:

    The cherry on top? The January 6 committee is reportedly planning to subpoena Jones’ texts and emails to learn more about the planning behind the attempted insurrection. 

    Did you know that, Mr. Jones?

  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg Showed Us How to Champion Abortion Rights on Live TV, 29 Years Ago

    Ty O'Neil /ZUMA

    On this day in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was officially confirmed to the Supreme Court.  A trailblazer for women’s rights, it was during Ginsburg’s confirmation hearings that she issued a now iconic speech defending abortion rights. Now 29 years later, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to turn Roe v. Wade, those words carry even greater urgency.

    “It’s a decision that she must make for herself,” Ginsburg said at the time. “And when government makes that decision for her, she’s being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

    At least 14 states currently have abortion bans in place, including Texas where everyday citizens have also been incentivized to sue people they suspect of helping “facilitate” an abortion. In many states where the procedure is still accessible, conservative lawmakers are actively seeking to restrict that right. But the future of abortion rights is far from a foregone conclusion. In the first post-Roe vote on abortion, Kansas voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected an effort to amend the state constitution to remove abortion rights.

    It’s against this backdrop that you should listen to Ginsburg’s words today.

    Correction, August 3: An earlier version of this story misstated 1993 as being 28 years ago. Math is hard.

  • Biden Tests Positive for Covid, Again

    Back to isolation you go, Mr. President.Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Zuma

    President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid again on Saturday morning and will return to isolation, according to a White House physician.

    The president initially contracted the virus on July 21, but had been testing negative since Tuesday, according to his doctor, Kevin O’Connor. Biden says he is not experiencing symptoms.

    O’Connor said the president appears to have a “rebound” case after taking the antiviral drug Paxlovid. About 5 percent of patients who have taken Paxlovid have experienced such rebound cases, according to the White House Covid-19 response coordinator.

    Biden has canceled his planned trips to Delaware and Michigan this week.

  • Crosswalks Aren’t Enough to Keep Cars from Killing

    A "ghost bike" in Brooklyn, New York, marks the spot where a cyclist was killed.Mark Lennihan/AP

    Last week, Michael Weilert, a 13-year-old boy on a bicycle in Parkland, Washington, pressed a button to activate a blinking pedestrian signal, entered the crosswalk, and never made it to the other side of the street.

    The intersection where Michael Weilert was killed

    Google Maps.

    Weilert had the right of way, but one of the crosswalk lights was broken. A driver failed to yield, despite another car stopping at the intersection. The car struck Weilert, killing him.

    Still, officials implied that the victim was responsible. “He all of the sudden appeared in front of her car,” Trooper Robert Reyer of the Washington State Patrol told the News Tribune, “and she [the driver] was unable to stop.”

    Even though the driver failed to yield, she was not ticketed or charged, though the county prosecuting attorney could still press charges in the future. “Charges would only be forwarded if there was a criminal offense, such as being impaired and killing somebody, or driving in a manner that is, basically, reckless,” Reyer said. “We could completely exclude both. There was no impairment, and there was no reckless driving.” 

    As Weilert’s mother has pointed out, failure to yield is, by definition, reckless. She also noted that another driver had already stopped to allow her son to cross. “I can’t imagine knowing that someone is stopped—any car is stopped—at a crosswalk and you wouldn’t stop too. Just that behavior alone…is reckless,” she told local TV station KIRO 7. Now, she’s calling on the state to pass a law requiring crosswalk signs to flash red, so drivers know they need to stop.

    Reyer’s comments—and the lack of repercussions for the driver—are part of a larger infrastructure designed to allow cars to control the roads, even if it means imperiling pedestrians, cyclists, and wheelchair users.

    Seattle Bike Blog points out an effective way to reduce cars’ dominance: Eliminate community roads with multiple lanes of traffic. “Traffic engineers across the world have found that one lane in each direction with turns lanes where appropriate can carry a large number of vehicles per day far more safely,” Tom Fucoloro writes. Traffic engineers already know how to design roads to save lives. They just have to implement those changes.

    On the other side of the country, in Durham, North Carolina, Matt Simpson, a 40-year-old father, was killed in a crosswalk in awfully similar circumstances earlier this month. He was crossing the street—two lanes in either direction—on his bike, with his wife and two children in tow. He had the right of way, too. A driver ran the red light, struck Simpson, and left the scene of the crash. While authorities search for the suspect, safe streets advocates are calling for protected bike lanes and narrower roads that would encourage drivers to reduce speed.

  • Verizon Says Good Riddance to One America News

    Good night, sweet prince.Richard B. Levine/Levine Roberts/Zuma

    Verizon just dealt One America News, former President Trump’s favorite far-right “news” network, a death blow.

    Starting Saturday, Verizon Fios will stop carrying OAN, depriving the cable network’s 3.5 million subscribers of their daily dose of conspiracy-mongering bullshit. The move follows DirecTV’s decision to drop OAN earlier this year, robbing the network of its biggest revenue stream.

    As my colleague Ross Choma wrote at the time:

    From the beginning, the network has positioned itself far to the right of even Fox News, regularly featuring pundits who aren’t welcome on other channels and aggressively promoting stories involving conspiracy theories, including the Seth Rich conspiracy, COVID denialism, and anti-vaccine disinformation. OAN cemented its position as former president Donald Trump’s favorite network after the 2020 election by continuing to question the election results well after Fox and other major news networks declared Joe Biden the winner.

    Soon, OAN will be available only to a few hundred thousand subscribers to smaller cable providers and streaming providers—which still strikes me as a hell of a lot of people to be consuming this stuff.

    Verizon told the Daily Beast that it was dropping OAN because the network refused to agree to a new contract. But Dan Ball, host of the OAN program “Real America,” said on-air that Verizon had told his bosses, “We don’t think you’re a credible news organization, so we’re dropping you.” Only in the Bizarro World of OAN would the network’s patent lack of credibility be easier to admit than its refusal to agree to a contract. And only in the Bizarro World of OAN would Ball imply that he and his colleagues are pillars of journalistic integrity. “For any of you liberal activists online over at the Beast or Media Matters or all those stupid-ass liberal rags online that’s gonna take this segment, try to twist it, and say I’m out there, pleading for this, begging for that, blah blah blah,” he said, “do me a favor, will you folks please act like journalists for one damn minute?”

    I’m sorry, what?

    OAN’s Alison Steinberg had another final message: “If you’re watching this, and you’re laughing and scoffing because you think that you’re immune to what’s coming, you just wait. Enjoy your freedoms while you’ve still got ’em.”

  • Nancy Pelosi’s Proposed Taiwan Trip Is a Bad Idea, Even If She Doesn’t Go

    Patrick Semansky/AP

    Nancy Pelosi wants to visit Taiwan, which, if you know almost anything about the current state of US-China relations, is about the last thing Joe Biden’s administration wants. 

    Any US move regarding Taiwan is fraught with tension, due in part to the island’s unique diplomatic status. China has long considered Taiwan a breakaway territory—a position the United States purposefully does not accept or dispute. Though the United States continues to sell Taiwan weapons and send informal delegations to its leaders, few high-ranking US officials have visited the island since 1979, when Jimmy Carter officially recognized China’s Communist government for the first time.  

    Asked about Pelosi’s plan for a visit, Biden flatly said last week, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.” Behind closed doors, his administration has “been working to spell out the potential risks of a visit in meetings with Pelosi and her team,” CNN reported

    Pelosi, who has long been critical of China’s repressive government, would be the first House speaker to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich, who himself urged Pelosi to go in a Fox News appearance this week. “She cannot allow the Chinese communist dictatorship to think that it can bully an American Speaker of the House,” he said. “And frankly, she ought to tell the Pentagon and the State Department to shut up.”

    The Biden administration certainly is not a fan of any move that may provoke China this summer, as Chinese leader Xi Jinping prepares for a momentous Party gathering in the fall that will likely cement him as leader for life. Facing domestic backlash over China’s controversial “zero Covid” strategy, “appealing to raw patriotism, particularly over Taiwan” might help Xi shore up support, the Associated Press explained

    Party mouthpieces have already suggested as much. Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson (and the subject of this great New York Times Magazine profile), said if Pelosi goes through with the visit, “China will take firm and resolute measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the US will be responsible for all of the serious consequences.” 

    What does that mean? Most likely, some display of force. Hu Xijin, another influential Party propagandist, took to Twitter to suggest that Chinese aircraft “accompany Pelosi’s plane” into Taiwanese airspace. 

    No matter the chatter from Beijing’s newly assertive diplomats, Pelosi’s visit would be pockmarked with trouble. If she goes through with it, Biden, who is set to speak to Xi this week, will have to navigate another diplomatic fracas at a time when Xi is emboldened to act aggressively toward the United States for domestic reasons. If she cancels the trip, China succeeds at its effort to isolate Taiwan and can keep stigmatizing outreach from other countries looking to do business there. 

    There is no easy option here and, as US-China relations grow worse, bad options will often be the only ones available. Lev Nachman, a fellow at Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, laid out the calculus well:

    The only inevitable aspect of this entire standoff is that Taiwan looks to be increasingly under threat of invasion. The New York Times reported Monday that Biden officials expect China “to move against” the island in the “next year and a half.” If that is the case, it may help if the top Democrat in the House and the Democrat in the White House got on the same page. 

  • I’m Giving You Permission to Stop Talking About Elon Musk’s Sex Life

    Britta Pedersen/AP

    A sordid tale of two tech-lords, an alleged affair, and a potentially fractured friendship is making the rounds, forcing us mere mortals to consider the private parts of billionaires. The offending party is Elon Musk, rendering this entire news cycle yet another trap to think about Musk’s little life—and, in this chapter, an even littler part of it: his sex life.

    But I’m here to set you free. We don’t have to wonder about the Wall Street Journal’s report that Musk carried out a brief affair with the wife of one of the Google founders. They seem to be having a fun, expensive time together without your concern. Forget that he now claims he hasn’t “had sex in ages” or whether or not he recently had twins.

    Billionaire trolls with absurd personalities are basically law in capitalism. But Musk is neither attractive nor interesting enough to explain the recent deluge of coverage over his private life. I’ve seen his chest. I’ve had enough. Here’s a list of stuff it seems like Elon Musk has fucked that does warrant your attention:

    But hey, life is a ledger. When it gives you Joni Mitchell’s first full set in over twenty years, it also creates mind-melting traps that force you to wonder about Elon Musk’s sex life. I’m sorry.

  • At Least There’s Joni Mitchell

    Unequivocally good things don’t tend to happen these days. Moments so impervious to the horrors of modern-day living that they manage to break the sense that everything sucks. But such an event arrived when Joni Mitchell appeared at the Newport Folk Festival this weekend for her first full set in over two decades. 

    As you may recall, Mitchell has dealt with a series of illnesses in her later years, most notably a 2015 brain aneurysm. Her ability to perform has slowed. But the artist Brandi Carlile has stuck with her and, on Sunday, turned her concert into a Mitchell spectacle. (You can read more about their friendship here.)

    It’s rare to see anyone, let alone Mitchell, completely in their element, beaming and present, basking in whatever joy comes with knowing you’ve lived an extraordinary life. So please enjoy this performance of my personal favorite, “Both Sides Now.”

  • Jackie Robinson Made the Hall of Fame 60 Years Ago. His First Year in the Big Leagues Was Hell.

    Diamond Images/Getty

    Sixty years ago today, Brooklyn Dodgers superstar Jackie Robinson, who’d broken baseball’s color barrier just 15 years earlier, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his induction speech in Cooperstown, New York, Robinson singled three people for helping him make it through that hellish first year with the Dodgers: team president and general manager Branch Rickey, his mother, Mallie, and his wife, Rachel.

    “I want to thank all of the people throughout this country who were just so wonderful during those trying days,” he added. “I appreciate it at no end. It’s the greatest honor any person could have and I only hope that I’ll be able to live up to this tremendously fine honor.”

    Robinson’s impressive play on the field speaks for itself: He was the National League’s most valuable player in 1949, and he helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series title in 1955. But he did that in the face of at-times viciously racist taunts from opposing players and fans who deeply wanted baseball’s first Black player in the modern era to fail, and to fail publicly.

    As Robinson wrote in Jackie Robinson: My Own Story, published in 1948, Rachel Robinson had warned him about his temper heading into that first spring training in 1947. “Because I was a Negro, I knew I had to remain calm all the time,” he wrote. “My wife also knew it, and she kept drilling the admonition into my mind. I guess she half-believed I was hot-headed, because she had been present several times when I had encountered discrimination and had seen me get so angry that I had almost blown up.”

    Robinson went on to describe what he calls “the first racial ‘incident,'” in a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies in Brooklyn that April:

    The Phillies, led by their very able manager, Ben Chapman, are great bench-riders. The first time I stepped up to the plate, they opened up full blast. “Hey, you black Nigger,” I heard one of them yell. “Why don’t you go back where you came from?” Then I heard another one shout: “Yeah, pretty soon you’ll want to eat and sleep with white ball players!” As the jockeying continued on this level, I almost lost my head. I started to drop my bat and go over and take a sock at one of them. 

    Robinson elaborated in a later autobiography, 1978’s I Never Had It Made: An Autobiography:

    For one wild and rage-crazed minute I thought, “To hell with Mr. Rickey’s noble experiment.” It’s clear it won’t succeed…I thought what a glorious, cleansing thing it would be to let go. To hell with the image of the patient Black freak I was supposed to create. I could throw down my bat, stride over to that Phillies dugout, grab one of those white sons of bitches and smash his teeth in with my despised Black fist. Then I could walk away from it all.

    Of course, he didn’t stomp over to the Phillies dugout and start a brawl. As he wrote in his first book, “I remembered Branch Rickey’s warning me of what I’d have to take without losing my temper. So I pretended I didn’t hear them. I gritted my teeth and vented some of my anger on a solid single.” 

    Robinson faced dozens of incidents like this through his first year in the big leagues. But by the end of 1947, he was baseball’s rookie of the year, and the Dodgers won the pennant.

  • The WHO Just Declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency

    Hollie Adams/Getty

    The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on Saturday, with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu citing a “clear risk of further international spread.”

    The WHO issued its declaration despite its emergency committee—charged with deciding on the emergency status—failing to reach a consensus.

    The monkeypox virus has spread mostly among men who have sex with men. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cautioned that people can contract the virus—which causes symptoms like a pimple-like rash, fever, headache, and chills—if they come in close contact with someone with monkeypox. So far, 2,891 cases have been confirmed in the United States, and more than 16,000 around the world. 

    In a throwback to the early Covid-19 era, experts have been discouraged by how slow the vaccination and testing processes have gone in the United States. As my colleague Jackie Mogensen wrote earlier this month:

    First, there’s the vaccine: As CNN reported on Thursday, there are approximately 1.5 million people who are eligible to receive Jynneos, a vaccine that protects against monkeypox and smallpox. So far, more than 132,000 doses have been distributed, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, but health officials on the ground say it hasn’t been enough. “We got an allotment of 200 vaccines,” Dr. David Holland, the chief clinical officer of the Fulton County, Georgia, Board of Health, told CNN, “and the appointments for that went in about an hour and a half.”

    Similarly, New York Mayor Eric Adams has also said the city hasn’t received enough vaccine doses, even as it reportedly makes up about a third of all monkeypox cases nationwide. “While we appreciate the approximately 7,000 vaccine doses that have been sent to New York City thus far, and the approximately 14,500 vaccine doses we expect to receive by the end of the week, we urgently need far more to slow [the] spread and protect at risk populations,” Adams wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday. “Within less than 10 minutes of releasing new appointments for our vaccine clinics last week, all appointments were taken.”

    Obtaining monkeypox treatments and tests has also been a headache for local health officials. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that in order to prescribe the antiviral Tpoxx to patients, doctors say they must fill out dozens of pages of paperwork per patient. “There’s a ton of paperwork, there’s a ton of assessments that are required, there’s a tremendous amount that one has to do to be able to administer this drug to someone,” Roy Gulick, a New York City physician told the Post.

    HHS says it now has delivered more than 191,000 vaccine doses to states and city health departments, and that the federal government will have access to 6.9 million doses by the middle of 2023.

  • Josh Hawley, Caught Running Away From the Jan. 6 Mob, Says He Won’t Run From Liberal Critics

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

    Sen. Josh Hawley, the Missouri Republican who infamously pumped his fist at the pre-riot Capitol crowd on the morning of January 6, said in an appearance at a conservative conference Friday night that he didn’t regret his actions—and that he wouldn’t “run” from a fight with his political foes. It was an unusual choice of words for a man who, in a primetime hearing just a day earlier, was revealed to have run away from the very mob that he had helped incite.

    “And I just want to say to all of those liberals out there and the liberal media, just in case you haven’t gotten the message yet: I do not regret it. And I am not backing down,” Hawley told a cheering crowd at Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in Tampa, Florida. “I’m not gonna apologize, I’m not gonna cower, I’m not gonna run from you, I’m not gonna bend the knee.”

    In case you’ve forgotten, here’s Hawley’s January 6 highlight reel: 

    And as my colleague Tim Murphy wrote on Thursday:

    That broken form is the gait of a man finally reaping what he sowed. Was all of this a little gratuitous? I mean, sure. The committee has shown a knack for getting in a few extra punches on occasion. But it’s also sort of perfect—a postscript to the earlier image that completes the little parable: The Republican Party, or most of it anyway championed a dangerous movement it never truly controlled. Even those who are delusional enough to think they might some day lead it have been running from its wrath all along.

  • Fearing for Their Lives, Pence Security Team Called Family Members to Say Goodbye

    As Donald Trump watched live coverage of the attack on the US Capitol, Secret Service agents protecting Mike Pence on January 6 feared for their lives and called family members to say goodbye.

    The dramatic new details—revealed by an anonymous security official and aired during Thursday’s prime-time hearing— underscore the serious threat posed by the pro-Trump mob, as the former president refused to call off the violence. The committee on Thursday also presented chilling radio chatter of Pence’s security detail from that day, as they panicked over the vanishing window to escape the violence as the rioters advanced.

    “If we lose any more time, we may lose the ability to leave,” an agent is heard saying. “If we are going to leave, we need to do it now.”

    Earlier in the hearing, the committee presented testimony from then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone that he had repeatedly urged Trump to make a forceful statement condemning the rioters as the violence escalated. The damning accounts add to the mountain of evidence that Trump delayed stepping in, putting Pence—and Secret Service members—under serious threat of being killed.