More blood on their hands.
The Republican supermajority in the Montana House of Representatives voted yesterday to censure state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the body's first transgender woman lawmaker, on trumped up claims that she had "disrupted" House proceedings Monday by standing up silently with a nonfunctional microphone, while supporters in the gallery chanted "Let her speak!" For good measure, the accusation also claimed that by not leaving the floor when asked to do so, Zephyr had somehow "endangered" lawmakers and staff, because maybe the protesters would have run riot or something.
While the censure motion didn't formally include it, the punishment was obvious payback for comments Zephyr made last week in which she said that if her colleagues voted to prohibit gender-affirming care for transgender minors, she hoped that "the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands." Since then, Republican House Speaker Matt Regier has refused to recognize Zephyr or let her address the House.
As a result of the party-line, 68-to-32 censure vote, Zephyr will be banned from the House floor and other areas until the end of the session on May 5. She will be allowed to watch House proceedings by video and to vote remotely, but cannot participate in debates. Her ability to participate fully in the House will be restored in next year's session, at least until Republicans find a pretext to silence her again, because "decorum."
Zephyr was graciously allowed five minutes to defend herself before the vote, during which she explained — from a desk covered in bouquets of flowers from supporters — why she had to speak up for trans kids, who will suffer if SB 99, the bill banning gender- affirming care, becomes law:
"I rose up in defense of my community that day, speaking to harms that these bills bring that I have firsthand experience knowing about. I have had friends who have taken their lives because of these bills. I have fielded calls from families in Montana, including one family whose trans teenager attempted to take her life while watching a hearing on one of the anti trans bills."
She noted that when Democrats had pleaded to have some inflammatory, decidedly undecorous testimony — the usual bullshit about "mutilation" of children — excluded during that debate, the Republican chair of the Judiciary Committee simply said that "a lot of people have a lot of opinions on these things."
So when I rose up and said there is blood on your hands, I was not being hyperbolic. I was speaking to the real consequences of the votes that we as legislators take in this body.
And when the speaker asks me to apologize on behalf of decorum, what he’s really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed. He’s asking me to be complicit in this Legislature’s eradication of our community, and I refuse to do so. I will always refuse to do so.
If you use "decorum" to silence people who hold you accountable, then all you’re doing is using decorum as a tool of oppression.
The rest of the quick show trial featured alternating statements for and against censure from three Republicans and three Democrats, with the Democrats pointing out that protest and disagreement and even strong words are a normal part of democracy, and that the multiple anti-trans bills passed by the Montana Lege this term will do real harm to the LGBTQ+ community.
State Rep. SJ Howell, who is nonbinary, pointed out that were it not for the raft of bills aimed at limiting the rights of LGBTQ+ Montanans, none of this would have been an issue.
"We did not look for that fight. But when it came to us, we did what we had to do. We did our jobs. We stood up, we stood with our community. We told the truths that we live every day. We hoped you would listen."
Howell went on to say that it was "deeply unsurprising to me" that Montanans came to the House Monday to protest, because it wasn't simply that Zephyr had been silenced. "That happened after a session of debating bills that only impact some of us, and struggling for equal treatment under the law."
Republicans, on the other hand, explained again and again that there are rules of conduct and decorum, and that without those rules the Legislature can't get its job done, so the rules must be enforced. One dickweed even claimed that the real "assault on democracy" occurred Monday when Zephyr stood silently in solidarity with the protesters in the gallery, because wasn't that inciting the "disruptive antics" of the crowd? Without order and discipline, the Rs all agreed, there can be no free speech, OK? No one gets to flout the rules. (Unless they have the backing of the supermajority.)
\u201cAs I left the House chambers, I pressed my light to speak\u2014a reminder that this legislature is removing 11,000 Montanans from discussion on every bill going forward.\n\nI will always stand on behalf of my constituents, my community, and democracy itself.\u201d— Rep. Zooey Zephyr (@Rep. Zooey Zephyr) 1682543578
The vote, when it came, was no surprise. Zephyr left the House floor, and later tweeted a photo showing that on the way out, she had turned on the light on her desk requesting to be recognized, since now her constituents won't be until next year.
Now, Republicans who wanted to silence a troublesome Democrat have once more created a national figure, as this Google Trends screenshot of searches for "Zooey Zephyr" in the last 30 days suggests. Zephyr appeared on MSNBC last night with briefly expelled Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones and rising Democratic congressional star Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Florida). Jones offered this succinct evaluation of the political mood, saying that American fascists are now "in the Find Out portion of our movement."
In the midst of this ugly fight to save democracy, the spirit of solidarity is inspiring. If that isn't a Nice Time, I don't know what is.
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They're still attacking Rep. Zooey Zephyr.
Montana Republicans will vote this afternoon on taking disciplinary action against state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) because she stood at her desk Monday and held a nonfunctioning microphone in the air while a crowd of supporters in the House gallery chanted "Let her speak!" The protest ended with seven protesters being arrested as state police cleared the gallery.
Monday's protest followed last week's refusal by House Speaker Matt Regier (R) to recognize Zephyr during debate on a bill that removed transgender people from more than 40 areas of Montana law, including protections against discrimination, and which eliminated the option for trans people to change the gender markers on any official documents like birth certificates, drivers licenses, and even death certificates.
Regier's silencing of Zephyr was punishment for a speech she had made earlier in the week against another bill that banned gender-affirming care for trans kids. In that speech, Zephyr noted that ending treatments like puberty blockers and hormone therapy would force trans youth to undergo puberty, which was "tantamount to torture" and said the House "should be ashamed." She followed that by saying that if Republicans voted for the bill, "I hope the next time there’s an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands."
Regier has said that he will only allow Zephyr to participate in debate again during the current legislative session if she apologizes for the remarks, because decorum. Republicans in the Montana Freedom Caucus called for Zephyr's censure, claiming the Legislature must have "civil discourse" and condemning Zephyr's supposedly "hateful rhetoric" while deliberately misgendering Zephyr in the announcement.
So that's how we got to Monday and the protest, in which Zephyr apparently did an insurrection by standing at her desk and holding up that microphone. Here's video from CBS Mornings. Note the efficiency with which the one trooper — at about the 9-second mark — uses a club around the neck of one protester to just take them right down to the floor.
After the protests Monday, the Montana House cancelled its scheduled floor session Tuesday, because people had been loud and disruptive.
We haven't yet seen any Montana Republicans claim it was exactly like January 6, 2021, or worse (minus any deaths, assaults on police, feces-smearing, or attempts to overturn an election). House GOP leadership said in a statement that the protest had been a "riot by far-left agitators," and vowed to "stand firm in our commitment to decorum, safety, and order. We will uphold the people’s will that sent 68 Republicans to Helena," a subtle reminder that Montana Republicans have a supermajority and will do what they want.
Regier himself held a 35-second press conference Tuesday, in which he took no questions and complained that the media hadn't told the true truth, because he hadn't silenced Zephyr, she had, by breaking rules and not apologizing.
\u201c#mtpol #mtleg\n\nSpeaker did not take questions, went into his office and closed the door after\u201d— Holly Michels (@Holly Michels) 1682444737
"This is also a disappointing day for Montana media,” he said. “The entire story was not told. Headlines that have happened over the last week stating that the Montana House leadership or GOP has silenced anyone is false. Currently, all representatives are free to participate in House debate while following the House rules. The choice to not follow House rules is one that Rep. Zephyr has made. The only person silencing Rep. Zephyr is Rep. Zephyr. The Montana House will not be bullied."
If only Zooey Zephyr would stop bullying the Republican supermajority with all that accurate explanation of why forcing trans kids off their medications will be torture.
House Minority Leader Kim Abbott (D) issued a statement saying Democrats will be united in opposition to any disciplinary measure, for all the good it may do:
"The Republicans are doubling down on their agenda of running roughshod over Montanans' rights — to free expression, to peaceful protest, to equal justice under the law. Montana Democrats will hold them accountable for every step they take in escalating their anti-democratic agenda."
Abbott also told the Helena Independent Record, "I think this is the most extreme action that I've seen a Speaker take against a member in the 20 years I've been around this building,"
It's not clear yet whether the House Republicans intend to pursue censure or expulsion of Zephyr later today; a letter sent to Zephyr yesterday said that she had violated the "rules, collective rights, safety, dignity, integrity, or decorum of the House," and referenced the section of the Montana state constitution giving them the power to punish members or expel them with a two-thirds majority vote.
The House Judiciary Committee, on which Zephyr sits, cancelled its scheduled meeting this morning, and the GOP leadership's letter to Zephyr noted that the House gallery would be closed for today's floor session, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. "Mountain Time," or 3 p.m. Eastern. You can watch the Republicans take a billy club to democracy here at the Montana Legislature's website, and maybe we will do a livebloog too.
Update: Erin Reed reports that the gallery will remain closed not only today, but for the remainder of the session, which is likely to last another week or so. Can't have the public nosing around the People's business.
In related news, the Montana Free Press reports today that David Gianforte, the son of Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, has lobbied his dad to ask him to not sign anti-LGBTQ legislation, including three of the worst bills:
David, 32, sat down in the governor’s office on March 27 with a prepared statement about legislation affecting transgender Montanans and the LGBTQ+ community generally, to which David says he belongs. He wanted to talk about Senate Bill 99, a ban on gender-affirming health care for minors; Senate Bill 458, a bill to define sex as strictly binary in Montana code; and House Bill 359, a ban on drag performances in many public spaces.
David, who is nonbinary and uses both he and they pronouns, read a statement telling their father that the bills would harm their transgender friends, and called the bills "immoral, unjust, and frankly a violation of human rights.”
It's not yet clear whether Montana Republicans will also vote on whether to expel the younger Gianforte from his family.
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If it's OK for hurricane forecasts, why not for public health?
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, who was appointed to the job because his anti-vaccine quackery pleased Ron Desantis, made news last October when he flogged a deeply flawed "study" as an excuse to recommend that Florida Men under the age of 40 not get vaccinated against COVID-19. The recommendation and the study were roundly condemned by real medical experts at the time, because the study had multiple flaws: a tiny sample size, multiple methodological flaws, including several the authors pointed out themselves, and the glaring fact that the work hadn't been peer reviewed.
Yesterday, Politico reported that there's an even bigger reason to doubt the already shaky research: Dr. Ladapo "personally altered" the study to make it seem the COVID vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer pose "a significantly higher health risk for young men than had been established by the broader medical community," according to a copy of the study draft obtained through a public records request.
Ladapo’s changes [...] presented the risks of cardiac death to be more severe than previous versions of the study. He later used the final document in October to bolster disputed claims that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were dangerous to young men.
Specifically, Ladapo's revisions to the eight-page draft edited out the results of "an important analysis that would have contradicted his recommendation," in order to exaggerate the supposed risk of heart disease from the vaccines. Every last footnote and reference to that "sensitivity analysis" was deleted by Ladapo, making an already iffy study seem like its findings were more definite than it really was.
Hilariously — if you like HOLLOW MORDANT LAUGHTER at least — Ladapo responded to a request for comment from Politico with a real banger of a non-denial denial, a statement in which
Ladapo said revisions and refinements are a normal part of assessing surveillance data and that he has the appropriate expertise and training to make those decisions.
“To say that I ‘removed an analysis’ for a particular outcome is an implicit denial of the fact that the public has been the recipient of biased data and interpretations since the beginning of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine campaign,” he said. “I have never been afraid of disagreement with peers or media.”
We like the part where he doesn't really deny that he removed the sensitivity analysis to skew the outcome, but instead shifts to a completely different claim about whether the public has gotten good information. Those two clauses have nothing to do with each other.
And look, he did it twice:
He also said that he determined the study was worthwhile since “the federal government and Big Pharma continue to misrepresent risks associated with these vaccines.”
Whether the second part of that sentence is true (it isn't) has nothing to do with the validity of the study, or of Ladapo's edits.
The deletion of the sensitivity analysis puts an entirely different spin on the conclusion of the study. In addition to removing the actual data from the analysis, a key sentence is shorn of an absolutely vital caveat, so that now it reads "COVID-19 vaccination was associated with a slight increased risk for cardiac-related mortality 28 days following vaccinations [...]"
What was removed? This statement, saying the additional analysis made that seeming result vanish:
in the primary analysis, but this association was attenuated and no longer significant when applying the event-dependent exposures model utilized for multidose vaccines. Thus, there is little suggestion of any effect immediately following vaccination. [emphasis added — Dok]
Instead, Ladapo inserted this assertion, which hadn't been in any of the earlier drafts:
"Results from the stratified analysis for cardiac related death following vaccination suggests mRNA vaccination may be driving the increased risk in males, especially among males aged 18-39. The risk associated with mRNA vaccination should be weighed against the risk associated with COVID-19 infection.”
Ladapo even removed a qualifier from the authors' fairly substantial section on the study's limitations, eliminating a caution that the work was "not academic research." More chillingly, he deleted the study's call for further, more detailed study of connections between actual COVID-19 infections and heart problems "before vaccine recommendations are changed."
Instead, he went right ahead and changed the recommendations. After all, if the word of caution is deleted, there's no need for caution.
Matt Hitchings, a biostatistics professor at the University of Florida (Motto: "Still real medicine until DeSantis starts fucking with us") said Ladapo's claim that the study showed an increased risk of cardiac death from the vaccine simply isn't justified by any of the the study's (already dubious) findings:
"I think it’s a lie. [...] To say this — based on what we’ve seen, and how this analysis was made — it’s a lie."
Further, Politico notes,
Hitchings chastised the integrity of Ladapo’s study after it was released last fall but is now much more critical.
“What’s clear from the previous analysis, and even more clear from Dr. L’s edits, is that absolutely there was a political motivation behind the final analysis that was produced,” Hitchings said. “Key information was withheld from the public that would have allowed them or other experts to interpret this in context.”
Finally, Politico points out that in November, shortly after Ladapo published the crap study, an anonymous complaint to the inspector general for Florida's Department of Health alleged that Ladapo had futzed around with the study results:
“The analysis performed in DOH did not find this,” the individual wrote without providing evidence, according to the complaint. “He manipulated the final draft of the analysis.”
However, that story notes, the IG dropped the investigation "after the complainant didn’t respond to follow-up questions regarding the accusations," so thanks a lot, accurate but apparently cowardly whistle-blower. When Politico covered the story in February, Ladapo insisted that the complaint was "factually false," because of course he did.
We have little doubt that this new, clear evidence that Ladapo dishonestly edited an already flawed study so it would fit his boss's anti-vax agenda will cause a big scandal in Florida's medical and public health community, which will be completely ignored by DeSantis stans because after all the media lies about everything.
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File under: people God is preparing a special place in hell for. (Tucker, not your Nana.)
REMEMBER WHEN! We will be spending much of the day throwing at your face some of our favorite old Tucker Carlson posts, or at least the ones Evan linked to yesterday, because that is a nice cheat sheet to start with. This post originally published on May 6, 2021.
Tucker Carlson has a new and vile conspiracy theory lie to tell your impressionable Boomer Republican family members, and it's that COVID vaccines are MURDERING EVERYBODY.
If your old dumb Uncle Bubba watched Tucker last night (and he assuredly did), he heard Tucker tell him that "thousands" of people have died from getting the COVID vaccine. He said that according to some very real doctor he talked to, this is the "single deadliest mass vaccination event in modern history." Yes, just like Fox News fills your grandmother's head with verifiable bullshitabout things that actually are not happening, like antifa terror hordes and Mr. Potato Head's forced castration, Tucker is now telling your misguided yet beloved grandmother that the vaccine kills.
How many exactly have died, according to Tucker's wildest imaginations and lies? Media Matters transcribes.
Carlson inaccurately asserted that thousands of people have died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, claiming that "between late December of 2020 and last month, a total of 3,362 people apparently died after getting the COVID vaccine in the United States" and that even though the data was "not quite up to date," we "can assume that another 360 people at that rate have died in the 12 days since. You put it all together, and that is a total of 3,722 deaths. That's almost 4,000 people who died after getting the COVID vaccines. The actual number is almost certainly higher than that, perhaps vastly higher than that."
Between December and last month, 3,362 people "apparently died" after getting the vaccine, says Tucker. Does he say they died OF vaccine? Or did they die WITH vaccine? Because that's how they deny COVID deaths in people who wouldn't have died of some underlying condition if coronavirus hadn't aggravated it. (Speaking of, here's some more evidence from one of America's greatest public health experts that actual worldwide COVID deaths are likely twice as high as the official numbers.) However, in this case, the WITH and not OF thing is a valid construction. Are vaccinated car accident deaths being included here? Gender reveal explosions among the freshly vaccinated? We are just curious.
Tucker said "we can assume" — you know, based on science! — that another 360 people have died since "the data" was updated. And then — using math! — Tucker calculated that "almost 4,000 people" have definitely died, adding that based on his expertise, "the actual number is almost certainly higher than that, perhaps VASTLY higher than that."
Here's a bigger transcription of Tucker's latest deadly lie, and the video:
TUCKER: In just the first four months of this year, the U.S. government has recorded more deaths after COVID vaccinations than from all other vaccines administered in the United States between mid-1997 and the end of 2013. That is a period of 15 and a half years. Again, more people, according to VAERS, have died after getting the shot in four months during a single vaccination campaign than from all other vaccines combined over more than a decade and a half. Chart that out. It's a stunning picture. Now, the debate is over what it means. Again, there is a lot of criticism of the reporting system. Some people say, well, it's just a coincidence if someone gets a shot and then dies, possibly from other causes. No one really knows, is the truth. We spoke to one physician today who actively treats COVID patients. He described what we are seeing now as the single deadliest mass vaccination event in modern history. Whatever is causing it, it is happening as we speak.
We bolded a lot of that to note how Tucker couches his absolute lies in "just asking questions"-type deniability. He uses weasel language when he says the government "has recorded" all these vaccine deaths. (How were they "recorded"?) He says this is "according to VAERS." (Tell us more about VAERS and how these stats are compiled!) He says there's a "lot of criticism" of the reporting system. (Is it because people just don't like it, or is it valid criticism?) He says "no one really knows." (So feel free to spout an uninformed opinion!) But this doctor (what doctor?) says it's the SINGLE DEADLIEST MASS VACCINATION EVENT IN MODERN HISTORY.
As usual, the correct response is to tell Tucker to shut his fucking mouth.
Media Matters has a full explanation of how this lie was formed, with answers to all our parenthetical questions above, noting that this conspiracy theory has been going around the wet bowels of the rightwing internet for a while now.
VAERS is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, and it's run by the CDC, but it's a tool for researchers, and not a tool for your Nana, unless your Nana is a scientist. As Politifact explains, it "helps researchers collect data on vaccine after-effects and to detect patterns that may warrant a closer look."
The key thing to get here is that VAERS is all self-reported. In other words, Wilma Wingnut can literally get on there and say somebody died because they had just gotten their second shot the day before, even though Wilma Wingnut is a documented moron. Then the researchers will check to see if Wilma Wingnut's report fits with any emerging patterns, or if she's just full of shit again.
Politifact adds these two bullet points:
- The CDC cautions that VAERS results are not enough to determine whether a vaccine causes a particular adverse event.
- For the COVID-19 vaccines, VAERS has received a flood of reports and become especially potent fuel for misinformation.
Got it? VAERS isn't for random Joe Shitbags on the street, and it's not for Tucker Carlson.
That's why there's "criticism" of the reporting system, because it allows literally the stupidest and worst people God ever made to use its reports to create whatever "truth" they want to create. The system is open because CDC needs people to submit legitimate reports — even if they're morons — so that scientists can pore over the data to find real and legitimate patterns.
Media Matters notes that VAERS is quite upfront about how its data should and should not be used:
VAERS' own data guide states that "a report to VAERS," including reports of death, "generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described. It only confirms that the reported event occurred sometime after vaccine was given. No proof that the event was caused by the vaccine is required in order for VAERS to accept the report."
And this, also from the VAERS website:
"While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically. Data from VAERS reports should always be interpreted with these limitations in mind."
This shit is literally all over the VAERS website, screaming at you that it's incomplete and unverified and that you shouldn't extrapolate based on your own lack of understanding of Science, What Is THAT? Apparently, according to Media Matters, "users [of VAERS] are required to acknowledge twice" that they have read and understand this. Not just people submitting reports, but people who merely want to play with their data. Maybe they should add a thing that clarifies that dilettante Swanson frozen dinner heirs who host Fox News shows should zip their fucking wordholes and go cry about gay dudes in the bathroom some more.
Media Matters also points us to this thread from radiologist Dr. Pradheep Shanker, about the good and the bad of VAERS data. They note that Dr. Shanker actually writes for National Review, so no commie Deep State plot here:
So who got some real data Tucker coulda used? The CDC got some real data Tucker coulda used!
Let's copy/paste everything CDC says about what science actually has determined about the COVID vaccine causing deaths. Surprise, they even explain here why Tucker Carlson shouldn't be playing on the VAERS website without adult supervision, in case they haven't screamed that enough:
CDC uses the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to closely monitor reports of death following COVID-19 vaccination.
FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS.
Reports to VAERS of death following vaccination do not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the death.
CDC follows up on any report of death to request additional information to learn more about what occurred and to determine whether the death was a result of the vaccine or was unrelated.
CDC, FDA, and other federal agencies will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
Over 245 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through May 3, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 4,178 reports of death (0.0017%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. CDC and FDA physicians review each case report of death as soon as notified and CDC requests medical records to further assess reports. A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines.
However, recent reports indicate a plausible causal relationship between the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and a rare and serious adverse event—blood clots with low platelets—which has caused deaths.
That's the science. Fuck you, Tucker.
Who's going to be the first litigant to be granted standing to sue Tucker for every cent he'll ever make because one of their loved ones listened to Tucker and died?
Because if we were a creative wrongful death lawyer right now ... Oh hell, Fox News would just argue again that no reasonable person would think Tucker was telling the truth, and they'd probably win again.
Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE, DO IT RIGHT HERE!
If you happen to have some extra money right now, we would take it.