Apple today seeded a second RC version of an upcoming macOS Big Sur 11.2 update to developers for testing purposes, with the new update coming a week after the first RC and two months after initial macOS Big Sur release. Developers can download the updated macOS Big Sur 11.2 release candidate using the Software Update [more]
Italian consumer association Altroconsumo today announced that it has launched a class action lawsuit [PDF] against Apple for planned obsolescence (via Reuters). Altroconsumo is seeking damages of 60 million euros on behalf of Italian consumers who were "tricked" by the practice, with the lawsuit covering the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, and iPhone [more]
Apple is today launching a new "Time to Walk" feature that will allow Apple Watch owners who are Apple Fitness+ subscribers to listen to audio stories from celebrities, musicians, athletes, and other influential people while they walk. Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams and Director of Fitness and Health technologies Jay Blahnik spoke to The [more]
“Can’t you just say the words, ‘This election was not stolen?’”
Four days after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States, Sen. Rand Paul found himself unable to admit that the election that sent Biden to the White House was legitimate.
In a Sunday morning appearance on ABC’s This Week, the Kentucky Republican senator, who has repeatedly affirmed former President Donald Trump’s discredited claims of fraud in the November 3 election, declined to say that that election was not stolen.
“The debate over ‘whether or not there was fraud’ should occur,” Paul said. “We never had any presentation in court where we actually looked at the evidence. Most of the cases were thrown out for lack of standing, which is a procedural way of not actually hearing the question.”
Pressed repeatedly by @GStephanopoulos, Sen. Rand Paul won’t say the 2020 election wasn’t stolen, calls for investigation of fraud, but doesn’t provide evidence.— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 24, 2021
GS: “There are not two sides to this story. This has been looked at in every single state.” https://t.co/P6iz1jjwYE pic.twitter.com/GeWSYe0Bs0
In fact, while some of the Trump campaign’s several dozen lawsuits in battleground states were dismissed or voluntarily withdrawn, many were heard and found to have no merit, a fact that host George Stephanopoulos raised in response.
“After investigations, counts and recounts, the Department of Justice, led by William Barr, said there’s no widespread evidence of fraud,” Stephanopoulos said, referring to the former US attorney general, who had been a staunch ally of Trump’s until he publicly stated that there was no evidence of widespread election fraud.
As Vox’s Ian Millhiser explained, “Trump’s post-election lawsuits failed for a variety of interlocking reasons,” but one of them was simply that “Trump and his allies just didn’t have very good legal arguments”:
In some cases, they brought penny-ante claims that couldn’t have changed the result of the election even if they prevailed. In others, they made factual claims that relied entirely on speculation — or even relied on conspiracy theories incubated on social media. In some cases, Trump or his allies made legal arguments that were the exact opposite of the arguments they made in other cases. There are no good legal arguments that could have justified tossing out the election results, and the clownishness of Trump’s legal strategy only drew attention to the weakness of his claims.
Stephanopoulos kept pressing Paul: “Can’t you just say the words, ‘This election was not stolen?’”
The senator declined to do so, instead pointing to polling that shows that a majority of Republicans do not trust the election’s outcome.
That mistrust is due to a host of factors, not least of which is the baseless assertions, repeated over and over, by lawmakers and other prominent conservatives that fraud took place. Trump himself led this effort, repeating these claims so often that, after a rally dedicated to this theme on January 6, his supporters tried to violently stop the certification of the election results by storming the US Capitol, in an attempted insurrection that ended with five deaths.
Nevertheless, after dozens of court cases, tense “Stop the Steal” rallies, and violence at the seat of the US government, Paul has pledged to spend his remaining two years in office fighting against alleged voter fraud.
He said as much on Twitter, following the TV appearance in which he refused to grant legitimacy to the same election process that has propelled him into power twice.
Democrats can pass a big bill through the Senate without any Republican votes. Here’s how.
This tool is called “budget reconciliation,” and it’s something you’re bound to hear a lot about in the coming weeks. This complicated Senate process is the vehicle by which important Democratic priorities could actually pass Congress and reach President Joe Biden’s desk.
Democrats hold 50 seats Senate. To pass bills, they will have to contend with the Senate’s unusual rules like the filibuster, a procedural requirement that bills receive 60 votes in the Senate to come up for a floor vote. The filibuster would force Democrats to get support from at least 10 Republicans to pass most legislation.
There is already debate about whether Democrats should just eliminate the filibuster altogether and pass whatever they want with a simple majority. But absent such a big step, they are left with budget reconciliation.
They can pass a reconciliation bill with just 50 votes. But reconciliation also comes with certain conditions, limiting what policies can pass through this special process, and that makes legislating a lot more complicated.
Here’s what you need to know.
1) What is “budget reconciliation,” and why should I care?
In order for a bill to become a law, it needs to pass the United States Senate.
Democrats control the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House, which in theory gives them the power to make laws. But while bills can pass out of the House on a simple majority, almost all bills in the Senate are subject to the “filibuster,” a Senate rule (but not a law) that requires legislation to receive 60 votes to be brought up for a final vote.
Almost all bills, but not those passed via the process called budget reconciliation. Under this special procedure, a bill can be brought up for a vote and pass with a simple majority.
Democrats’ Senate majority is as thin as can be: 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris available to break a tie. For most bills, they’re going to need support from at least 10 Republicans. But using a budget reconciliation bill, they can pass any bill they want, within the limitations that govern the reconciliation process.
Biden and senators from both parties are talking a good game about bipartisanship in the post-Trump, post-storming of the Capitol era. But partisan politics has a way of taking over any legislative debate.
Democrats may find that in order to pass a Covid-19 relief bill, or other major priorities on taxes, health care, and the environment, they need to muscle through a bill using budget reconciliation. But in exchange for the privilege of passing legislation with “only” 51 votes, budget reconciliation bills are subject to certain rules.
2) What can the Senate pass with budget reconciliation?
A lot of things — so long as they affect federal spending and revenue. It’s called budget reconciliation, after all. Reconciliation was established as part of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, driven by lawmakers concerned about the growing federal deficit.
The process begins with a congressional resolution instructing committees in the House and the Senate to draw up legislation. The budget resolution sets the first parameter for what can pass via budget reconciliation: The final bill must reduce or increase the federal deficit by no less or no more than the amount specified in the resolution.
For example: The budget resolution passed by Senate Republicans in 2017 to set up reconciliation for their tax plan stipulated that the bill could increase by the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years — but no more. That became the target as Republicans decided which taxes to cut and which to raise.
The provisions that are included in the reconciliation bill must then somehow change federal spending or federal revenue. Raising and lowering taxes, expanding subsidies for health insurance, and spending money on new infrastructure projects are some of the obvious, much-discussed ideas that could be included in a reconciliation bill.
3) What can’t pass with budget reconciliation?
Reconciliation was used at first in the 1980s to approve Reagan-era spending cuts, but quickly senators started to use reconciliation for policies unrelated to its original purpose. One reconciliation bill was used to reduce the number of board members on the Federal Communications Commission.
In the eyes of Senate institutionalists like Robert Byrd of West Virginia, these were abuses of the reconciliation process. So Byrd proposed and the Senate codified constraints on what can be passed through budget reconciliation, to make sure the process was actually used for matters affecting the federal budget. Those constraints are now colloquially called the Byrd Rule.
Under the rule, reconciliation bills can’t change Social Security. They can’t be projected to increase the federal deficit after 10 years. They must affect federal spending or revenue — and their effect on spending or revenue must be “more than incidental” to their policy impact.
In other words, the primary purpose of the provisions in a reconciliation bill must be to affect the federal deficit; those budgetary effects can’t simply be a byproduct of trying to achieve some other policy aim. To borrow an example that came up a lot during the recent health care debates, changing insurance regulations might not comply with the Byrd Rule. While those changes would surely affect federal spending (the government spends money subsidizing health insurance, so changes to its cost would alter federal outlays), their main policy purpose would be to affect what kind of health coverage people receive.
4) Who decides what can be included in a budget reconciliation bill?
Unelected bureaucrats. Kidding — sort of. There are two important referees in the reconciliation process: the Congressional Budget Office and the Senate parliamentarian.
The CBO produces projections on how any legislation, including reconciliation bills, will affect the budget. Ordinarily, those projections have been the guidepost for whether a bill is meeting its reconciliation targets. If CBO says your bill costs $1.5 trillion, and the budget resolution passed to set up reconciliation said the bill was supposed to cost no more than $1 trillion, then you need to cut $500 billion out of the bill.
That may not necessarily be an ironclad rule, however: When Senate Republicans were using budget reconciliation to pass the tax bill in 2017, there was speculation they could use their own estimates if the CBO’s were not to their liking. (They ended up not needing to take such a drastic measure, though they still attacked the Senate’s nonpartisan experts and said the estimates were undervaluing how much their tax bill would spur the economy.)
And the CBO can be circumvented in other ways. In their 2017 bill, Senate Republicans allowed some tax breaks for individuals to expire so that their bill wouldn’t increase the federal deficit outside the 10-year budget window. However, no one at the time actually believed Congress would let those tax cuts sunset — i.e., hike taxes on people — when that deadline comes. It was a gimmick, plain and simple.
Aside from CBO, the Senate parliamentarian plays an important role in determining which provisions can be included in a reconciliation bill. The current parliamentarian is Elizabeth MacDonough, who has held that position since 2012 and is the first woman in the job.
There is usually one recurring gray area when making those calls: Is a policy’s budgetary impact “incidental” or not? If it is, under the Byrd Rule, it must be struck from the bill. Traditionally, the parliamentarian makes the final decision after they have heard arguments from both sides about the provisions in question. (It’s called a “Byrd Bath.”)
5) Does the Senate have to listen to the parliamentarian?
This is the subject of debate. Traditionally, the parliamentarian’s decision has indeed been final. But that is a norm, not a divine command. Republicans once fired a parliamentarian whose decisions they disagreed with. (The story, in brief: In 2001, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was reportedly annoyed that Parliamentarian Robert Dove blocked Republicans from passing more than one reconciliation bill in a year, and so Lott ousted Dove.)
Some activists and even some lawmakers have also pointed out that the vice president, who presides over the Senate, has the ultimate authority over what is permissible under budget reconciliation. The parliamentarian technically offers only guidance to the presiding officer. But the vice president hasn’t overruled a parliamentarian since 1975, when Nelson Rockefeller pushed through a change to the Senate filibuster rules against the advice of the parliamentarian.
Some Democratic priorities would seem to be in a Byrd Rule gray area — such as a $15 minimum wage and DC statehood, to name two — and Senate Democrats may face pressure to overrule the parliamentarian if she is standing in the way of achieving those goals.
But Democrats who are more reluctant to dramatically change Senate procedure might object to that plan. They would argue it sets a precedent that would break the budget reconciliation process forever; any future Senate could simply circumvent the parliamentarian, too, removing the guardrails that are supposed to govern the process.
6) Why can’t the Senate use budget reconciliation for every bill?
There is a technical answer and a “real” answer.
Technically, it’s because a budget reconciliation bill starts with a budget resolution, and Congress passes one budget resolution for any given fiscal year.
The budget resolution can, in theory, set up three separate reconciliation bills: one for taxes, one for spending, and one for the federal debt limit. However, in practice, most reconciliation bills have combined taxes and spending into a single piece of legislation. That’s the reason that, historically, the Senate has usually been limited to passing only one budget reconciliation bill in a given fiscal year.
A side note: Sometimes, they do have wiggle room. In early 2017, Republicans passed one resolution for fiscal year 2017, which was halfway over, and then another for fiscal year 2018, giving them two shots at reconciliation in quick succession. (They used the first bill to try to repeal the ACA and the second for their tax bill.) The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out Democrats could conceivably pull the same trick this year.
Regardless, the real issue is some senators are very skittish about getting rid of the filibuster — that 60-vote requirement for bringing up most bills for a final vote on the Senate floor — and having reconciliation allows them to avoid it. They can pass some policies with a simple majority without opening the door for any and all bills to be subject to a mere 50-vote threshold.
7) This sounds complicated. Wouldn’t it be easier for Democrats to just get rid of the filibuster?
The problem is political. Eliminating the filibuster requires 50 votes. Democratic senators from conservative states don’t necessarily want to be asked to take the tough votes again and again. The filibuster gives them protection, by all but mandating that a bill must get at least some bipartisan support before it comes up for a vote.
Senators who support keeping the filibuster would also say it also helps encourage deliberation and compromise, which are supposed to be the cardinal virtues of the Senate.
In practice, the filibuster has largely served as an obstructionist tool for the minority. That’s why now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been insisting on keeping it while negotiating a power-sharing agreement with incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. But Democrats are holding off on making such a promise. Even Democrats from red states, like Jon Tester of Montana, have said they don’t want to give up the leverage of possibly eliminating the filibuster down the road if Republicans prove unwilling to work with the new majority.
Whether Senate Democrats would actually be willing to end the filibuster for legislation is one of the big questions looming over the next two years. The threat to do so could bring Republicans to the negotiating table.
But whatever they decide on the larger filibuster question, they will get a chance to pass a major bill without any Republican votes, through reconciliation.
8) What are some previous examples of budget reconciliation bills?
President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform bill was passed via reconciliation, as were George W. Bush’s tax cuts. Since 1980, 21 reconciliation bills have become law, most of them of the tax and spend variety.
Reconciliation was critical to the Affordable Care Act’s passage. The House and Senate, both controlled by Democrats in 2009, had passed separate bills for health care reform but not yet come up with a final compromise when Republicans won a special Senate election in Massachusetts to replace the late Ted Kennedy. Democrats lost a 60-vote supermajority, and suddenly it looked impossible to finish health care reform through regular order.
To get their plan to President Obama’s desk, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed the Senate version of health care reform (the ACA), and Congress then used a reconciliation bill to make some technical changes to the plan, which otherwise would have been made in the conference negotiations between the House and Senate.
After Donald Trump’s election, Republicans tried to repeal and replace Obamacare via reconciliation but couldn’t find 50 votes for their proposals. They did succeed in passing their tax bill through the process in the next fiscal year.
9) Are Democrats going to use reconciliation now? And if so, to do what?
We don’t know! Senate Democrats had begun to write a new Covid-19 relief plan that would pass reconciliation muster, but President Biden is urging them to at least try to reach a deal that would win some Republican support.
Still, they may end up finding that the GOP isn’t willing to play ball. If Democrats fail to reach a deal with Republicans on Covid-19 relief, it sounds like they will first use reconciliation to pass a pandemic-focused bill.
“The objective of both House Democrats and the administration is to get this done as quickly as possible in whatever we need to do,” Rep. John Yarmuth, chair of the House Budget Committee, told reporters. “We haven’t made a decision yet to use reconciliation, but we are prepared to move very quickly if it looks like we can’t do it any other way.”
Then the question would be whether Democrats try to pass a second reconciliation bill, following the Republican playbook from 2017. Other candidates could include a package featuring tax reform and health care provisions. They may try to pass an infrastructure plan through reconciliation if they can’t win any Republican support on that issue.
This will be among the most important decisions the new Democratic majority makes. Unless they decide they are willing to eliminate the filibuster, budget reconciliation would represent their best chance to achieve some of their big legislative goals.
But they will have to navigate this byzantine set of rules and norms to make it happen.
Danskos, Crocs, and Blundstones have long been lifesavers for nurses, food service workers, and other people who spend all day on their feet.
Elise Morocco works in a very messy profession. An OB/GYN in residency at Los Angeles County Hospital, she is frequently splashed with fluids: “blood, amniotic fluid, pee, poop, you name it,” she detailed by phone, when I haltingly asked her to elaborate. In Morocco’s 24-hour shifts, she estimates that more than half the time she’s on her feet, walking and running around. As a result, her shoes take a lot of abuse. Those fluids? “They all fall onto my feet.”
In her sometimes 80-hour workweeks, Morocco said that the shoes she wears every day really matter. “I definitely started out trying to wear sneakers and it just wasn’t cutting it,” she said. “You just wear them out so much if you’re also exercising in them.” When Morocco discovered Calzuro clogs, which can be both sterilized in a medical autoclave machine and put in the dishwasher, she was an instant convert. “People in my profession talk about shoes all the time,” Morocco added. “Everyone has strong opinions.”
For the hundreds of thousands of essential workers in fields like health care, food service, and education who are tasked with being on their feet for the entirety of their work shifts, shoes are second only to masks as the most important piece of garb they put on for the day. In some professions, workers can be on their feet as long as 16 hours, and coming home with sore feet is just not an option. In the midst of a pandemic, when the burden on essential workers is especially high, supportive shoes have to be an afterthought. There are more important things to focus on.
“When I started [in podiatry], people would ask, ‘Is there a requirement that you wear ugly shoes?” Dr. Ami Sheth, a Los Gatos-based podiatrist, told me by phone. Even then, the dig didn’t hurt. All that mattered was that her feet — in a job where she was intensely aware of how bad shoes could have bad consequences — were comfortable. “A lot of people get into podiatry because their feet hurt,” Sheth said. “The running joke is, ‘That doctor is dressed so cute. Give her two years.’”
It stands to reason, then, that certain footwear brands have emerged over time as the tried-and-true go-tos for workers who are on their feet all day. You’d probably recognize the big three: Danskos, Birkenstocks, and Crocs. But there are as many perspectives on why a nurse or chef might choose one shoe over the other as there are essential workers themselves. And though these may be the most familiar options to an outsider, the options for supportive footwear marketed to essential workers are seemingly endless.
Morocco had evolved from sneakers to Danskos in med school, but found the clogs were too heavy for walking around. She preferred the more lightweight Calzuro clogs, an Italian brand that has been around since the ’80s. “The No. 1 thing is that when I’m in surgery, I don’t want to be thinking about my feet. I don’t want to be thinking about my back. But the second most important thing is, what shoes are going to be sanitary?”
There are a few common factors that go into how an essential worker decides what shoes to wear. The most important is that they are comfortable for long shifts, that they can be worn all day and not break down or cause arch pain. Then there are questions of cleanup and slip resistance: In places like kitchens or ORs, there can be a lot of liquid flying around, and sanitation — especially now — is extremely important. The founder of Calzuro clogs, Gianfranco Bidoia, was “always concerned with contamination,” Jenifer Wynne, the US distributor for the Italian-made shoes, told me. During the pandemic, “the demand for Calzuro clogs has definitely grown,” Wynne said. “They are really considered to be personal protective footwear.”
While the combination of these considerations doesn’t always yield the most stylish of shoes — sterilizable materials and arch support don’t exactly scream high fashion — the way the footwear looks is not, by any means, an afterthought. Andi Repine, a pediatric nurse practitioner at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, said she switches out her Danskos to match her outfits. “I have three pairs: black with a floral imprint, gray, and cheetah, of course,” Repine said. “Some people call them ugly, but I pay them no mind because at the end of the day, it’s about how they make my feet feel.”
Danskos have become probably the most recognizable footwear in the health care and food service industries in the 30 years since they were developed. Danskos spread among workers in essential fields by “word of mouth,” Jim Fox, CEO of Dansko, told me. But initially, it wasn’t like Dansko was doing anything new. “Part of the thing to realize is that the design of the clog itself has been around for centuries,” Fox said. “It’s not like Dansko [invented] that design specifically.”
Dansko was founded in 1990 by a husband-and-wife pair, Peter Kjellerup and Mandy Cabot. While traveling to Denmark in the late ’80s, Kjellerup and Cabot, who ran an equestrian facility in Pennsylvania, found the clogs there to be the perfect barn shoe. “They started bringing them over to the US and sharing with friends,” Fox said. When Cabot saw the demand increase, it was only a matter of time before their design caught on. “Anybody who is on their feet all day — restaurant workers, educators, people in health care — realizes you have to take care of your feet so you can do the rest of your work. You’ve got enough stuff to worry about.”
For Erin Fitzgerald, an RN on the bone marrow and stem cell transplant floor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, Danskos were the first nursing clog she tried, and she never looked back. Fitzgerald works 12.5-hour shifts, and she estimates she’s on her feet about half of the time. Not wearing the right shoes “can be the difference [between] being in pain after shifts and on days off,” she explained. “There was a noticeable difference when I switched to clogs as opposed to sneakers,” she said. “I still sleep with my legs elevated after a shift and wear compression stockings when I can, but the clogs provide so much support and I don’t seem to require as much recovery time.”
For some professions, though, Danskos fall short of one qualification: lightness. A pediatrician friend described trading in her Danskos for lightweight sneakers during residency, when she’d work 12- to 24-hour shifts, because “in pediatrics, running around a lot is just something you do.” Aeration is also an important quality for hot places like kitchens. “Clogs are really great kitchen shoes, but I’ve found that if I’m on my feet for more than 10 hours, my feet swell up and they don’t fit into the shoes,” Millicent Souris, the director of emergency food at St. John’s Bread & Life, told me. Instead, Souris wears Blundstones, the Australian brand of Chelsea boots that have of late come into fashion. The rubber sole makes a huge difference, Souris said. “I have put my feet through a lot in my life, with terrible shoes and sneakers and flip-flops. I can no longer do that.”
Souris said she caved to wearing “very uncool footwear” when she was working in kitchens at fancier restaurants where floor mats — intended to counter fatigue — weren’t allowed because owners thought they were “gross.” “It’s really cool to give up your back and foot health so some egomaniac can try to make a name for themselves in NYC food,” Souris said.
Workers in the film industry were known to sport Blundstones for years before they became cool, Olga Abramson, a film worker, told me. “I kinda hate that they’re now trendy because you used to be able to spot filmmakers by their shoes.”
The uncool becoming cool is a common occurrence for unattractive shoes typically relegated to doctor’s offices and back kitchens. Danskos and Birkenstocks have both had a style renaissance over the past 10 years, with Danskos becoming available in trendier colorways and Birkenstocks partnering with fashion brands like Proenza Schouler. Calzuro clogs, the shoe of choice for health care professionals like Morocco, have been written up in Bon Appétit. Amanda Parker, the managing director of Cowgirl Creamery, said that she was devoted to wearing “big, ugly food service Birks” when she took a work trip across America as a cheesemonger. “They’re indestructible. You could drop a knife on your foot and likely be okay.” The same can’t be said for the open-toed Rick Owens Birks, but they weren’t exactly designed for that purpose, after all.
Nor were high-fashion collaborations meant to be affordable to workers in fields that often don’t make much money. But the more classic alternatives aren’t exactly cheap, either. Danskos, Birkenstocks, Calzuro clogs, Blundstones, and Sanitas are all more than $100, while Crocs, another common footwear choice for essential workers, rarely go above $50.
It’s for this reason that many essential workers start with Crocs and upgrade over time. Repine began her nursing career with Crocs. “I shortly noticed that my feet would kill me by the end of my shift,” she said. “But they were cheap and I was not trying to spend money on work shoes.” Souris pointed out that a pair of Danskos put her back more than a day’s wages. “Cooks don’t make any money, so I’ve generally had terrible shoes,” she said. So when she found a pair of Blundstones at a flea market for $5, she was content. (During the height of the pandemic last year, Dansko and Calzuro both held initiatives to donate shoes to essential workers.)
While the American Podiatric Medical Association bestows seals of approval to shoes and footwear products that “promote good foot health,” Sheth said that the decision is always bound to be a highly personal one. But a good place to start is finding out the height of your arches with the bathwater test. When you get out of the shower or bath, look at your wet footprint on the ground (or a piece of cardboard if you don’t want to get your floor wet). “If you have more of a footprint on the ground, you have a lower arch. If you have less of a footprint, you have a higher arch.” Determine the kind of shoes you need based on your arches. “Most people could use a little arch support,” Sheth added.
Sheth said that most of all, you should be able to move your feet and your toes within your shoes and that your shoes should be comfortable to you. “Your shoes should breathe,” she said. “A lot of essential workers don’t have the luxury of popping in and popping out of their shoes. You’re masked, gowned, geared up, and break rooms have been taken away. You want to make sure there is aeration.” At home, the same guidance applies, even for remote workers stuck behind laptops all day. “I tell people to have a pair of house shoes, too,” Sheth recommended. “You’re doing laundry. You’re moving around. You’re washing dishes. Don’t dress yourself based on the location,” she said. “Dress yourself based on the work that’s getting done.”
As the state grows increasingly blue, the Arizona Republican Party is tacking to the right.
On Saturday, the Arizona Republican Party decided to censure several of its members. Those members were not the state’s four US House lawmakers who voted to overturn Joe Biden’s victory — a victory a majority of their state voted for.
Instead, the state party, led by hardline supporters of former President Donald Trump, censured three of its most prominent members — former Sen. Jeff Flake; Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain; and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — effectively, for not following that hard line.
Flake, McCain, and Ducey were subject to individual resolutions condemning their vocal critiques of Trump. Ducey was also condemned for closing businesses in an attempt to stave off the spread of the coronavirus in the state, and for not supporting efforts to overthrow the state’s results in the 2020 presidential election.
The measures, taken during a seven-hour party meeting, are largely symbolic, but demonstrate a rift between the more moderate faction of the state GOP and its members further to the right, with support for Trump serving as the key metric.
Arizona was subject to some of the most contentious of the Trump campaign’s legal challenges to the outcome of the November election. Eight statewide lawsuits challenging now-President Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state were dropped or dismissed.
And Republican US lawmakers were in the process of contesting Arizona’s Electoral College vote certification on January 6, when a frenzied mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to violently overturn those same results.
Biden was the first Democrat in more than 20 years to carry Arizona. The state’s two Senate seats flipped from Republican to Democrat in the last three years as well.
Arizona Republicans have had a disappointing few years in national elections, and this divide over aligning with Trump indicates a broader divide within the national Republican Party. Lawmakers are left with a choice of continuing to support Trump, with hopes of benefiting from his strong base, or trying to purge him and the vestiges of his leadership from their platform.
McCain, Flake, and Ducey represent one wing of the Arizona GOP. Kelli Ward represents another.
McCain and Flake have received criticism in the past from their party fellows for being lukewarm on Trump. While still in office, Flake frequently criticized Trump, even while he continued to support many elements of his agenda. Facing a significant primary challenge as a result of his criticisms, he declined to run for reelection in 2018. That seat was won by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.
And McCain’s late husband and Trump had clashed in the senator’s later years. Trump famously criticized John McCain’s military service, mocking the time he had spent as a prisoner of war, and the senator cast a decisive vote against Trump’s attempts to repeal Obamacare. Cindy McCain has since thrown her weight behind opponents of Trump, and is a supporter of same-sex marriage.
Flake and McCain also both endorsed Biden’s presidential campaign.
On Twitter, McCain called her rebuke a “badge of honor.”
It is a high honor to be included in a group of Arizonans who have served our state and our nation so well...and who, like my late husband John, have been censured by the AZGOP. I’ll wear this as a badge of honor.— Cindy McCain (@cindymccain) January 24, 2021
And Flake posted a photograph of himself, McCain, and Ducey at Biden’s inauguration, calling them “good company.”
Meanwhile, Ducey’s censuring stems from his efforts to restrict the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in his state, as well as his defense of the state’s electoral processes, even as he vocally endorsed Trump.
There have been about 718,000 cases of Covid-19 in Arizona to date, and more than 12,000 Arizonans have died from the virus.
Alongside the censures, Saturday’s meeting indicates that the Arizona GOP is, as a body, establishing a far-right platform. In addition to censuring three prominent members with more moderate politics, the party also reelected Kelli Ward as state party chair.
Ward is a hardline Trump loyalist who campaigned for Flake’s vacant US Senate position in 2018 alongside Mike Cernovich, a far-right personality and a propagator of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
Though she didn’t win the party’s nomination for that Senate seat, she won reelection as chair this weekend, the New York Times reported, after playing a “recorded phone call of Mr. Trump enthusiastically endorsing her.”
The party also adopted several stances that situate them at the far reaches of anti-immigration policies, including ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and revoking birthright citizenship. They also adopted a resolution to affirm that there are “only two genders.”
While these moves in the state party do not have the weight of a mandate, they may have resonance elsewhere, as the Republican Party contends with Trump’s legacy.
The view from a former McConnell adviser on the strength of the AZ flex > https://t.co/QNZaIzbdCc— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 24, 2021
By that same token, other party leaders attempting to stake out a more moderate path — and possibly their ground in the 2024 GOP presidential primary — may find alignment with the rebuked Arizona leaders.
That may be the case for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican leading a largely blue state who clashed with Trump throughout 2020 over coronavirus resources. Hogan was one of just a few Republican leaders to call for Trump to concede the November election, and, after the attempted insurrection at the Capitol, Hogan called for Trump’s removal from office.
On Twitter on Saturday, Hogan criticized Arizona’s Republican Party, managing to get in a dig about the state’s blue shift in 2020.
“It’s shameful that a state party would be more focused on condemning Republicans who win elections than actually winning them,” he wrote about the three chastised Arizonans. “We need their voices to rebuild a big tent, principled GOP.”
Trump, meanwhile, is considering making the rift he’s revealed in the party even deeper — he’s reportedly thinking of creating his own political party.
An editor for the New York Times tweeted that she had “chills” watching Joe Biden’s plane land.
On Tuesday, January 19, Lauren Wolfe, an editor working at the New York Times, tweeted that she had “chills” watching President-elect Joe Biden’s plane land outside Washington, DC.
Some 36 hours and a concerted campaign against the tweet later, Wolfe was no longer working for the paper of record. Her friends and several other journalists allege that this is because of said tweet.
Other members of the media have come to Wolfe’s defense, saying that this could open a door for journalists to be targeted with the threat of unemployment based on perceived or overblown offenses.
The Times disputes the narrative around Wolfe’s employment, saying in a statement that the paper didn’t “end someone’s employment over a single tweet.”
1. Some news...— Yashar Ali (@yashar) January 22, 2021
Lauren Wolfe, who was an editor on contract for the NYT, has had her contract canceled after she tweeted what's on the left.
Wolfe also tweeted what's on the right, but deleted when she learned Biden chose to take his own plane.
Per two sources. pic.twitter.com/uaB0INZ1q8
Whatever happened between the paper and Wolfe, the response to her social media post has become the latest flashpoint in an ongoing conversation about how media organizations apply ethical and objectivity standards, and how they should respond to attacks on reporters in a post-Trump era.
That question was pertinent during the administration of former President Donald Trump, of course. He regularly sowed mistrust in credible media sources, referring to the press as “the enemy of the people,” and directed vitriol from his supporters at journalists covering his rallies and other events.
But even with him out of office, his loyal base remains intent on making known their dissatisfaction with perceived liberal bias in the media, and prominent news organizations are left having to respond to well-orchestrated targeting of the press.
The fallout also points to the lack of labor protections facing many American workers, including those in so-called prestige fields like journalism, and has also led some to point out disparities between what’s alleged about the circumstances of Wolfe’s firing, and how the Times has responded to other reporters in their employ who have been accused of wrongdoing.
The controversy over Lauren Wolfe’s possibly tweet-related firing, explained
Here’s what we know: Wolfe is an award-winning journalist and editor whose work has largely focused on women’s rights and sexual violence. She had worked with organizations and outlets like the Committee to Protect Journalists and Foreign Policy.
In partnership with the nonprofit Women’s Media Center, she directed Women Under Siege, which documented and mapped instances of sexual violence during conflicts, including the Syrian civil war. A story of hers about war crimes in eastern Congo is credited with leading to the perpetrators’ arrests.
More recently, she was editing the “Live” section of the Times, primarily working with breaking news, according to the journalist Yashar Ali. However, a Times spokesperson told Vox that Wolfe was not working there full-time, and did not have a contract.
On Tuesday afternoon, the day before Biden’s inauguration, Wolfe tweeted out a photo of his airplane landing at Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, DC. “I have chills,” she wrote. (She’s since deleted the tweet).
She also called the administration of former President Donald Trump “childish” for not sending a plane to bring in the new administration. According to Ali, she deleted that post after learning that Biden had chosen to use his own plane.
The journalist Glenn Greenwald, a prominent warrior against so-called “cancel culture,” responded by screenshotting and criticizing the sentiment.
If you're in the national press and will be on TV at any point today and being to feel the need to weep joyously, just hold it in until you find a private place. Nobody is expecting any adversarial coverage over the next 4 years, but it's just a matter of personal dignity. pic.twitter.com/FNKcFRPF56— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 20, 2021
Critics began flooding the Twittersphere with criticism of Wolfe and allegations of wider-spread anti-conservative bias among journalists.
Ali reported on Thursday, January 21, that according to two unnamed sources, Wolfe had lost her work at the Times following a concerted campaign against both her and the Times.
In a statement, Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha disputed that version of events.
“There’s a lot of inaccurate information circulating on Twitter. For privacy reasons we don’t get into the details of personnel matters but we can say that we didn’t end someone’s employment over a single tweet. Out of respect for the individuals involved we don’t plan to comment further,” Rhoades Ha wrote.
She added that Wolfe was not, as Ali had written, on contract, but declined to respond to a follow-up query about the exact nature of Wolfe’s employment at the Times.
The online campaign against Wolfe also included severe harassment against Wolfe personally. On Twitter, Wolfe has shared examples of some of the online harassment she had received, much of which used obscene, misogynistic, and homophobic language.
Wolfe did not respond to Vox’s requests for comment. She has not publicly commented on her separation from the Times. Throughout the day on Sunday, she retweeted other journalists’ messages of support, some of which say she was fired over the tweet, before shuttering her account. The account was offline as of Sunday afternoon.
In a lengthy tweet thread, Wolfe’s friend, Josh Shahryar, said that Wolfe has been stalked outside her home and received death threats. Shahryar also said that Wolfe’s sentiment had not been about Biden specifically, but rather about the successful transition of power just two weeks after a mob of Trump supporters had stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to halt the certification of the election.
But on Twitter, Wolfe also defended the Times, saying that people should not cancel their subscriptions in response to the incident:
Hi all. I truly appreciate everyone’s support but I need to ask you a favor: PLEASE don’t unsubscribe from @nytimes. I have loved this paper and its mission my whole life. Their journalism is some of the most important & best in the world, & they need to be read widely. Thank you— Lauren Wolfe (@Wolfe321) January 24, 2021
Felicia Sonmez, a national political reporter at the Washington Post who’s had her own brush with her paper’s management over tweets, said that capitulating to online campaigns against reporters would “put ALL journalists at risk.”
NYT should not have fired Lauren @Wolfe321, especially when other journos at the paper have done far worse recently and kept their jobs.— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) January 24, 2021
Knee-jerk firings in response to online harassment campaigns only further embolden harassers — and put ALL journalists at risk. https://t.co/GB6O1VMMQo
And Jeremy Scahill, Greenwald’s former colleague at the Intercept, pointed out that other journalists have publicly expressed personal reactions to political moments without incident:
I think it’s absurd and wrong that the NYT fired Lauren Wolfe. Also, does anyone remember how MSNBC’s Chris Matthews literally cried over an Obama speech, compared him to Jesus and said he “felt this thrill going up my leg” when Obama spoke? https://t.co/ZA6iZ6892t— jeremy scahill (@jeremyscahill) January 24, 2021
It’s not clear what, exactly, happened between Wolfe and the Times, or why her employment ended. But it’s far from the first time a journalist (particularly a woman) has faced online harassment over a story or a tweet, and far from the last time a news outlet’s handling of it will be subject to scrutiny.
Journalists deserve scrutiny — but scrutiny increasingly means online harassment
This incident has shined a spotlight on a question facing media companies as they transition from a White House that was openly antagonistic toward the press to one with a more traditional relationship with journalists. News outlets are sensitive to accusations that they will not hold the Biden administration as accountable as they did the Trump administration.
But targeting a journalist for apparent bias by challenging their employment has become a depressingly successful mob tactic, at a time when reporters face routine threats, both online and in real life.
The sociologist Katherine Cross, who studies online harassment, compared this strategy used to target Wolfe with harassment campaigns waged during the height of GamerGate:
Wolfe, who was fired from the NYT for a tweet where she said she had "chills" after Biden landed in DC ahead of the inauguration, is the latest victim of a playbook perfected by the likes of GamerGate and similar harassment campaigns. https://t.co/cVP3psguiG— Katherine Cross (@Quinnae_Moon) January 24, 2021
While we do not know the exact reasoning behind Wolfe’s loss of employment, this episode raises questions about the Times’s personnel decisions, and specifically whether it applies a uniform standard to all of its employees.
Just weeks ago, the newspaper weathered a significant crisis after its award-winning podcast, Caliphate, was found to contain substantial inaccuracies. The newspaper retracted the core of that show, and returned a Peabody Award that the show had won.
In spite of the fact that the main character of that show was discredited, the journalist behind the project, Rukmini Callimachi, remains at the newspaper, although she was reassigned.
Her partner on the project, producer Andy Mills, was not publicly disciplined for his part in that scandal. But Mills has been subject to numerous allegations of mistreating women, a fact that his former employers at the WNYC program Radiolab have acknowledged, but the Times has not.
Elsewhere in the Gray Lady newsroom, the reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended after Vox first reported allegations of predatory behavior toward young reporters. Although he no longer covers the White House, Thrush remains employed at the Times.
Moreover, while the exact nature of Wolfe’s relationship to the Times is unclear, the termination of it underscores the shaky system of labor protections facing most American workers — even those in prominent or prestigious positions. Shahryar, Wolfe’s friend, said that this loss of income will immediately harm Wolfe and her longtime pet, a rescue dog.
Wolfe has the benefit of famous friends and allies, and a story tied to a compelling and emotional public moment. While her friends have so far said they will not fundraise on her behalf, her Venmo account has been made public, and editors at other publications have publicly tweeted her with offers of work.
That kind of crowdsourced safety net is not available to most American workers, who also do not have much of a social safety net outside of their employment. And in a country governed by at-will employment laws, and in the midst of a pandemic that has seen tens of millions of Americans out of work, Wolfe’s predicament is taking place across the country — just outside of the public eye.