July 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Trump pushes racial division, flouts virus rules at Rushmore (STEPHEN GROVES and DARLENE SUPERVILLE, 7/04/20,  Associated Press)

At the foot of Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day, President Donald Trump made a direct appeal to disaffected white voters four months before Election Day, accusing protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a "merciless campaign to wipe out our history."

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


The case for optimism: By 2030, everything will be so cheap that we'll be able to end poverty (ADELE PETERS, 7/01/20, Co.Exist)

A decade ago, mainstream experts weren't predicting that the cost of solar power would fall as steeply as it has by 2020--it's now down more than 80% so far. Tony Seba, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor, was one of the few to get the forecast right. Seba and investor James Arbib, who run a think tank called RethinkX, now say that similar changes could happen in other parts of the economy, transforming the cost of everyday life so significantly that it could pull people out of poverty.

"We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history, a transformation every bit as significant as the move from foraging to cities and agriculture 10,000 years ago," Seba and Arbib write in a new report called Rethinking Humanity. They predict costs falling by at least 10x in key sectors including transportation, food, energy, materials, and information, while production processes simultaneously become more efficient by an order of magnitude. "Within 10 to 15 years," they write, "everyone on the planet could have access to the 'American Dream' for a few hundred dollars a month." [...]

The report also predicts that the cost of energy will continue to fall. In many markets, renewable electricity is already cheaper than fossil fuels, but they say it will drop further, and the cost of battery storage will also steeply fall. Other forms of energy, such as gas used for cooking or heat, will move to cheap electricity. The cost of producing food will also dramatically fall, the report says. The "precision fermentation" that companies such as Perfect Day use to make a vegan ice cream with a protein genetically identical to dairy milk, or that Impossible Foods uses to give its plant-based burgers the characteristic taste of beef, will become much cheaper: In a separate paper, the analysts predict that it will fall from $100 a kilo in 2019 to around $10 in the next five years, and $2 a kilo in 2030. That means new foods can be cheaper than food made from animals; the analysts think that the livestock industry will shrink and be replaced with a new production system where foods are engineered from a molecular level. The cost of groceries for a family could fall from hundreds a month to $51 a month.

The cost of communications will also fall. Seba points to the example of an Indian company called Reliance Jio, which gives away free phones with a phone plan that offers 20 gigabytes of data for $20 a month; he suggests that it will be possible to provide 10 times as much data by 2030 for the same cost, shrinking phone bills. The cost of clean water will also shrink, as technology such as desalination drops in cost. In total, the report says, it could be possible to provide someone's basic needs--1,000 miles of transportation, 2,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, complete nutrition, clean water, 500 square feet of living space per person, communications, and even continuing education--for less than $250 a month by the end of the decade. By 2035, that cost could be cut in half.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


How Christianity Created Capitalism (MICHAEL NOVAK, JULY 20, 2010, Acton)

It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings.

The people of the high Middle Ages (1100--1300) were agog with wonder at great mechanical clocks, new forms of gears for windmills and water mills, improvements in wagons and carts, shoulder harnesses for beasts of burden, the ocean-going ship rudder, eyeglasses and magnifying glasses, iron smelting and ironwork, stone cutting, and new architectural principles. So many new types of machines were invented and put to use by 1300 that historian Jean Gimpel wrote a book in 1976 called The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages.

Without the growth of capitalism, however, such technological discoveries would have been idle novelties. They would seldom have been put in the hands of ordinary human beings through swift and easy exchange. They would not have been studied and rapidly copied and improved by eager competitors. All this was made possible by freedom for enterprise, markets, and competition-and that, in turn, was provided by the Catholic Church.

The church owned nearly a third of all the land of Europe. To administer those vast holdings, it established a continent-wide system of canon law that tied together multiple jurisdictions of empire, nation, barony, bishopric, religious order, chartered city, guild, confraternity, merchants, entrepreneurs, traders, et cetera. It also provided local and regional administrative bureaucracies of arbitrators, jurists, negotiators, and judges, along with an international language, "canon law Latin."

Even the new emphasis on clerical celibacy played an important capitalist role. Its clean separation between office and person in the church broke the traditional tie between family and property that had been fostered by feudalism and its carefully plotted marriages. It also provided Europe with an extraordinarily highly motivated, literate, specialized, and mobile labor force.

The Cistercians, who eschewed the aristocratic and sedentary ways of the Benedictines and, consequently, broke farther away from feudalism, became famous as entrepreneurs. They mastered rational cost accounting, plowed all profits back into new ventures, and moved capital around from one venue to another, cutting losses where necessary, and pursuing new opportunities when feasible. They dominated iron production in central France and wool production (for export) in England. They were cheerful and energetic. "They had," Collins writes, "the Protestant ethic without Protestantism."

Being few in number, the Cistercians needed labor-saving devices. They were a great spur to technological development. Their monasteries "were the most economically effective units that had ever existed in Europe, and perhaps in the world, before that time," Gimpel writes.

Thus, the high medieval church provided the conditions for F. A. Hayek's famous "spontaneous order" of the market to emerge. This cannot happen in lawless and chaotic times; in order to function, capitalism requires rules that allow for predictable economic activity. Under such rules, if France needs wool, prosperity can accrue to the English sheepherder who first increases his flock, systematizes his fleecers and combers, and improves the efficiency of his shipments.

In his 1991 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II points out that the main cause of the wealth of nations is knowledge, science, know-how, discovery-in today's jargon, "human capital." Literacy and study were the main engines of such medieval monasteries; human capital, moral and intellectual, was their primary economic advantage.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


Died on the 4th of July: Fisher Ames, Founding Father (Stephen B. Tippins, Jr., July 3rd, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

Despite his growing melancholy, Ames managed to parlay early success as a country lawyer into a seat at Massachusetts's constitutional ratifying convention. From there he upset Samuel Adams in the nation's first congressional elections in 1788. Once in Congress, he helped author the First Amendment, played a vital role in lobbying for Alexander Hamilton's financial policies, and wrote the lower house's address to Washington when he retired from the presidency. Most famously, he arose in opposition to Jefferson's Republicans on the question of funding Jay's Treaty. His words movingly evoked the faith that composes a nation and binds its pledges to others:

What is patriotism? Is it a narrow affection for the spot where a man was born? Are the very clods where we tread entitled to this ardent preference because they are greener? No, sir; that is not the character of the virtue, and it soars higher for its object. It is an extended self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting itself with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus we obey the laws of society, because they are the laws of virtue. In their authority we see, not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense, and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.

For what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable when a state renounces the principles that constitute their security? Or if his life should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be in a country odious in the eyes of strangers and dishonored in his own? Could he look with affection and veneration to such a country as his parent? The sense of having one would die within him; he would blush for his patriotism, if he retained any, and justly, for it would be a vice. He would be a banished man in his native land.

Funding of the treaty helped stay a war with Britain and ushered in a decade of prosperous trade with the country from which we won independence.

Successes notwithstanding, Ames was forced to forego reelection in 1796 due to declining health. To his chagrin, nothing he achieved while in office seemed to carry any lasting influence. The United States were shifting culturally and electorally. The Federalists were declining as a party. The Republicans--the "Jeffs" as he called them--were growing. Soon, war with Britain would come; France under Napoleon would loom as a threat; rights-speak would become the vernacular of the governed as well as the governors; and Jefferson's shadow would forever cast itself upon the nation.

Ames believed that there was little he and like-minded Federalists could do but "mitigate a tyranny." His outlook not only struck many of his contemporaries as alarmist, but later thinkers--even conservatives--tended to agree. Russell Kirk, in The Conservative Mind, wrote, "Ames was wrong, so far as the immediate future was concerned; for already a counterbalance to American radicalism was making its weight felt. That saving influence was in part the product of an innate moderation in the planter society Jefferson represented."

But Jefferson's planter society happened to have hung its hat on an immoderate--and infamously peculiar--institution. And whatever Federalist ideals were in place before Reconstruction, we lost them in its wake.

Ames's philosophy can be summed up as follows: the "power of the people, if uncontroverted, is licentious and mobbish." But if checked by a powerful and well-led state, a more virtuous citizenry could be procured, one that feels a "love of country diffused through the Society and ardent in each individual, that would dispose, or rather impel every one to do or suffer much for his country, and permit no one to do anything against it."

July 3, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


The Confederate Flags of Comer's Store (TIM WEBSTER, JULY 2, 2020, Ordinary Times)

My summer stays there always included a visit to Comer's Store, a quarter mile east toward Gastonia. [...]

The walls were covered with Confederate flags of all sizes and some were cheap enough to consider saving for. These flags were in a whole different category from American flags. The American flag was a sacred object that could only be touched in a certain way and required elaborate display and interaction protocols. But the Confederate battle flag was a banner under which to imagine how a boy might attain manliness and power. As children, we had no idea what principles of government or causes it represented. It was just a cool, brightly colored banner that could help a lad feel strong and bold. It was what you used to cap off a fort or a tree house you built in the woods. It was a streamer to be placed on the rear carrier of your silver Sears bike. And later, it was what you put in the front license plate holder to establish emotional ownership of a "new" 48 Ford just bought with your Winn Dixie bag boy earnings. Catching bugs on its way to Myrtle Beach for a few days of wild teenage freedom, it declared: We are proud and feisty Southern boys and we will not be made to feel inferior to the Yankees running the country .

Oddly, in 1960 and for many years after in my mind, that flag had no relationship whatsoever to Blacks living in the dilapidated structures of Kings Mountain's "colored town" where my dad went to recruit cotton pickers in September. It had no connection in my mind to the obvious discomfort of Black teenagers coming for the first time to use a new high school building with "us" in 1965. As teens during the whole decade of the 60s, most of "us" were utterly unaware of far off events. The bombing of churches in Montgomery seemed like a terrible thing done by individuals we might now call "bad apples" in Alabama, a distant place with a loud governor. For me, it took many years to see how much pain and suffering has been caused by the ideas and ideals of white supremacy.

It took even longer to recognize the clever ways that we have been seduced into being quiet cogs in the oblivious culture that can't see racism in our flags and monuments. The monuments and flags made us white Southerners feel -- instead of the progeny of defeated defenders of human cruelty -- like just good ordinary people who appreciate "our heritage." To my child mind in 1960 the Confederate flag never was intended to hurt anybody. As a pedagogic device, Mr. Comer's flags for sale worked much better than the angry and confusing "Impeach Earl Warren" billboard that he sponsored. Mr. Comer used those flags to efficiently recruit me and others of my generation into a special kind of passive, blind and "nice" racism. This kind of racism has no anger in it, but it is racism nevertheless -- on autopilot. It is time now to remove the shackles from our eyes as we remove the monuments and take steps to ostracize the offensive flags.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The scandal of the Declaration (Noah Millman, July 3, 2020, The Week)

The custodians of Jefferson's memory highlight the ways in which Jefferson did wrestle morally with the institution of slavery, which he saw as fundamentally in conflict with republican ideals and corrosive of the character of the free, white, slave-owning population of Virginia. But he could not see a way of ending slavery without inconveniencing that same free, white, slave-owning people. So while he waited for an imagined future emancipation date, he would do nothing consequential to further the cause of the slaves' freedom. He even refused a large bequest from his old friend, the Polish nobleman and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciusko, intended for the purchase of slaves to give them their freedom, along with land, livestock, and farm equipment to enable them to live the life of yeoman independence that Jefferson claimed to favor over all others.

What was the reason for this lethargy? Jefferson was emphatic that people of African descent could never be the equal of, nor live peaceably among, people of European descent. So Jefferson took a harsher line on miscegenation than many of his fellow Virginians (particularly ironic given that all the slaves he did free were relatives of Sally Hemings), worked to prevent freedmen from residing in Virginia, and believed (as most of his contemporaries did) that emancipation would have to be accompanied by deportation of the previously enslaved to Africa or to Santo Domingo. Jefferson could dream of a more egalitarian world in which slavery had vanished, even if he could not see how to get there. But he had a positive horror of a world where he would have to live with the descendants of slaves as equals.

My point is not to demonize the nation's third president unduly. Even Ben Franklin, president of the Abolition Society, had previously owned slaves, until he saw black children learning in school, and concluded that perhaps slavery was not their natural condition. Even Abraham Lincoln believed that after emancipation the freed slaves would have to be shipped overseas, until their valor in battle proved to him their worth as fellow citizens. Our national inheritance bequeathed to us from Jefferson is substantial, including as it does the doubling of the size of the country. But James Polk, who brought into the Union a territory of not dissimilar scope, is not honored with a temple on the Potomac. What elevates Jefferson is the Declaration. If we have hidden from ourselves the full picture of this founder, it is precisely because we do not want to admit either that he did not really believe his own fine words or that he was too cowardly and too greedy to live by them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GOP Is Abandoning the American IdeaDo we still hold the proposition that "all men are created equal" to be self-evident? The party of Trump is turning instead toward the idea of the Confederacy. (GEORGE THOMAS  JULY 3, 2020, The Bulwark)

When I say that the Republican party is embracing the idea of the Confederacy, I mean that it is embracing what the Confederacy stood for. If the idea of America was, as the first Republican president Abraham Lincoln put it in his Gettysburg Address, that this is a nation "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," the Confederacy was an explicit rejection of that proposition. Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the vice president of the Confederate States of America, was exquisitely clear about this:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery--subordination to the superior race--is his natural and normal condition.

This has been the central quarrel in American history. A nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to human equality gave sanction to human bondage in its Constitution and laws.

This tension was played out in Fredrick Douglass's brilliant and searing "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" delivered on July 5, 1852. Speaking to a largely white audience, Douglass insisted, "The Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny . . . . The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost."

But Douglass continued to his fellow citizens: "The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me." To those enslaved and denied citizenship because they were black, the Fourth of July was "a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim." Douglass, speaking nine years before the Civil War, was following black Americans forgotten by history, who drew sustenance from the Declaration's principles. Acting as citizens, a status they were all too often denied by law, they claimed the Declaration's promise of equality, and asked their fellow Americans to recall the language of its creed: "all men are created equal."

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution formally sanctified the principles of the Declaration. Taken together, these "Civil War amendments" abolished slavery, made all persons born in the United States citizens regardless of race, commanded the equal protection of the laws, and secured the vote for citizens regardless of race. The amendments promised a new birth of freedom. And for a fleeting moment, America experienced this rebirth with black Americans elected to the Senate and House of Representatives. But this promise was short-lived; it gave way to racial apartheid wherein white supremacy was written into American law.

Black Americans would have to wait another century to be genuinely included within the terms of American democracy, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Just at the Civil War amendments were in part inspired by the way in which Douglass and Lincoln drew on the principles of the Declaration, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were inspired by the civil rights movement as exemplified by Martin Luther King Jr.'s continued appeal to the principles of the Declaration to spur a nation to live up to its creed.

Those laws were passed over a half-century ago.

The struggle for America persists.

The brilliance of the American idea animates Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton, which first came to Broadway in 2015 and has premiered as a movie this weekend. The musical not only teaches Americans about their history, it properly claims that history for immigrants and citizens of color. Even more brilliantly, it embodies the idea of America by casting George Washington and company with actors of color. Miranda has Angelica Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton's sister-in-law, sing a line from the Declaration--"We hold these truths to be self-evident / That all men are created equal." She later riffs about getting Thomas Jefferson to "include women in the sequel." It is an imagined America, but one made real by this son of immigrants. The show became an enduring success, with more than a million sales of its soundtrack and hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren taken to see it for free.

Yet alongside a few such cultural highs, there is the persistent reality of racial inequality. The ugly and brutal murder of George Floyd by officers of the state. Countless other black Americans brutalized by those who represent the law.

This is the sense in which President Trump has embraced the idea of the Confederacy.

The Right can't help but despise a multiethnic multiconfessional America.

July 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Giving people free money has kept 12 million people out of poverty and given the economy a crucial boost (Joseph Zeballos-Roig, 7/01/20, Business Insider)

Despite the lack of future clarity, experts say the assistance that's already been provided has offered struggling families a financial cushion amid an extraordinary blend of public health and economic crises. New research indicates the government intervention helped keep around 12 million people out of poverty, and many jobless workers saw their incomes increase during the pandemic.

The bump in earnings led to a quick rebound in consumer spending for the lowest-paid workers. Economists at Opportunity Insights -- a Harvard University research group -- estimate that spending from the bottom quarter of ZIP codes, ranked by income, plummeted 30% in March compared to pre-coronavirus levels. Now, it's down roughly 3% from January, though the speed of the recovery remains highly uncertain.

In other words, giving people money through unemployment benefits or direct payments packed a positive punch for the economy, helping many buy groceries, make rent payments, and support their essential needs.

"You give lower income people money and they're spending all of it, which is the biggest economic boost," Amanda Fischer, policy director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told Business Insider.

Robust federal action also appeared to have led to a decline in poverty. Another study from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago indicated the poverty rate dropped to 8.6% in March and April from 10.9% in the first two months of the year -- in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"It shows that the government is perfectly capable of creating income security, not just in moments like this but in general," Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project, a left-leaning think-tank, told Business Insider.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Jeff Sessions Just Told Us Who He Is (JEFF GREENFIELD  JULY 2, 2020, The Bulwark)

It's not often that a man who has spent three and a half decades in public life opens a window into his truest self. But that's what Jeff Sessions did in the course of a New York Times profile. Never has Maya Angelou's famous dictum--"when someone shows you who they are, believe them"--had more force.

The former Alabama senator and U.S. attorney general, now struggling to win his old job back in the face of ridicule from his former boss, was praising his tenure in the Justice Department as a firm ally of the police, even as significant majorities of Americans, black and white, are coming to grips with the persistence of indefensible police conduct.

In contrasting his policies with those of ex-president Barack Obama, here's what Sessions said:

The mantra was: "Back to the men and women in blue" . . . The police had been demoralized. There was all the Obama--there's a riot, and he has a beer at the White House with some criminal, to listen to him. Wasn't having a beer with the police officers. So we said, "We're on your side. We've got your back, you got our thanks."

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


P. D. JAMES: A CRIME READER'S GUIDE TO THE CLASSICSShe refined the crime novel to its dark, poetic core and created a roster of iconic detectives along the way. (NEIL NYREN, 7/02/2020, CrimeREads)

James' most important character was, of course, Adam Dalgliesh, one of the most iconic figures in crime fiction. The only child of an elderly couple, the son of a vicar, he lost a wife and baby son early on, and since then has led a very private life. He is also a respected poet, a fact that mystifies many onlookers who can't quite square one man being both a poet and a policeman. Dalgliesh also worries about it himself sometimes: "People tell me things. It had begun when he was a young detective-sergeant and then it had surprised and intrigued him, feeding his poetry, bringing the half-shameful realization that for a detective it would be a useful gift. The pity was there. He had known from childhood the heartbreak of life and that, too, had fed the poetry. He thought, I have taken peoples' confidences and used them to fasten gyves round their wrists" (The Murder Room).

James always said that she gave Dalgliesh the qualities she most admired in either men or women--"compassion without sentimentality, generosity, courage, intelligence, and independence" (A Certain Justice)--but some of those qualities can cut both ways. His detachment is both his strength and his weakness: "How long could you stay detached, he wondered, before you lost your own soul" (A Mind to Murder, 1963). His independence and lack of sentimentality make him prone to personal antipathies and occasional sudden anger, and his "cold sarcasm could be more devastating than another officer's bawled obscenities" (Devices and Desires).

However, he is a listener, be they witnesses, suspects, or his own team members. "This quiet, gentle, deep-voiced man," thinks one interviewee, "hadn't bothered to commiserate with her on the shock of finding the body. He hadn't smiled at her. He hadn't been paternal or understanding. He gave the impression that he was interested only in finding out the truth as quickly as possible and that he expected everyone else to feel the same. She thought that it would be difficult to tell him a lie" (A Mind to Murder).

These qualities, though, can also strike terror in his subordinates. When he invites them to talk with him about what they had seen and heard, it meant that he "now expected to hear a brief, succinct, accurate, elegantly-phrased but comprehensive account of the crime which would give all the salient facts so far known to someone who came to it freshly. This ability to know what you want to say and to say it in the minimum of appropriate words is as uncommon in policemen as in other members of the community. Dalgliesh's subordinates were apt to complain that they hadn't realized a degree in English was the new qualification for joining the C.I.D." (Shroud for a Nightingale).

What he hears, though, is key, and out if it will often come an intuitive sense that something important has been said. It isn't a "hunch," it's a certainty, and his team has to respect it: "Inconvenient, perverse and far-fetched they might seen, but they had been proved right too often to be safely ignored" (Shroud for a Nightingale). For Adam Dalgliesh, "it wasn't the last piece of the jigsaw, the easiest of all, that was important. No, it was the neglected, uninteresting, small segment which, slotted into place, suddenly made sense of so many other discarded pieces" (The Black Tower).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's resistance led intel agencies to brief him less and less on Russia (Jim Sciutto, July 01, 2020, CNN)

Multiple former administration officials I spoke to for my upcoming book, "The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World," which will be published August 11 by Harper Collins, paint a picture of a President often unwilling to hear bad news about Russia.

According to one former senior intelligence official, the President's briefers had one simple rule with Trump: never lead with Russia.

Early in his term, Trump's briefers discovered that when his oral briefing included intelligence related to Russia's malign activities against the United States, including evidence of its interference in US politics, Trump would often blow up at them, demanding to know why they kept focusing on Russia and often questioning the intelligence itself, multiple former administration officials said.

"The President has created an environment that dissuades, if not prohibits, the mentioning of any intelligence that isn't favorable to Russia," a former senior member of Trump's national security staff told me.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


July 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Yale: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Likely Much Higher Than Reported (Ethen Kim Lieser, 7/01/20, National Journal)

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall number of U.S. deaths for any cause between March and May was 781,000--or 122,300 more than the historical average for the period.

For the same three-month period, the number of deaths officially listed as due to COVID-19 was 95,235--or 28% less than that excess number.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


Just 12 per cent of Americans are proud of their country (EMILY GOODIN, 7/01/20,  DAILYMAIL.COM)

A new Pew Research Poll released on Wednesday has bad news for Donald Trump - a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with how the country is being run and think that he is a 'poor' or 'terrible' president.

The poll was conducted June 16-22 as coronavirus cases spiked in several states that began the reopening process and the economy is still recovering from the hit it took during the pandemic. Additionally, racial tensions remain on the rise amid demonstrations against about police violence and support for the Black Live Matters movement.

The Pew poll found that the number of Americans satisfied with how the country is going has dropped 19 points, from 31 per cent in April to a mere 12 per cent in June.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Far Right's People Problem (CAMERON HILDITCH, June 25, 2020, National Review)

Since the French Revolution, mainstream conservatism has been rooted in certain assumptions about human nature that are said to be true of all people across time and space. These include the recognition that our nature is both fixed and flawed and that consequential knowledge about how societies function is necessarily diffuse among its members, together forming the conviction that excessive centralization should be avoided. Because these things are true of all people everywhere, conservatism in the American tradition holds that there is no basis for according different legal or political privileges to people based on their race, sex, or any other immutable characteristic. The capacity to reason and to make decisions is an individual trait shared by virtually everyone, and so conservatism has traditionally regarded the individual as the ultimate, final, and irreducible political unit. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence is a salient example of this kind of thinking.

The key thinkers on the radical right call this brand of politics "universalism," and they don't care for it in the slightest. The notion that anything of any political significance is universally true of all people everywhere is anathema to them. These writers regard traits shared by all individuals, including reason, conscience, and consciousness, as insufficient grounds for a working political regime. For Carl Schmitt, successful politics is built upon the "distinction between friend and enemy." He argues that "what ultimately underpins politics is the fundamental distinction between us and them." Thus, Schmitt emphasized the local community or tribe as the necessary foundation for politics. As he saw it, classical liberalism "ignores this precondition of a constructive politics because it is biased toward universalist ideologies." The kind of affirmation of universal human dignity that one finds in the Declaration of Independence hinders the development of an 'us-versus-them' mentality by maintaining that the most important aspects of human beings as political actors are things that they all share -- an obvious lie in Schmitt's eyes. This friend/enemy foundation for political action has been widely accepted by subsequent thinkers on the far right. Alain de Benoist, for example, thinks that universalism engenders an "ideology of sameness" that opens the door to globalism and the subsequent exploitation by capitalists of what should be locally autonomous ethnic communities. After the work of Nietzsche and Heidegger, the most important founding text for the radical Right is Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, in which much of the same dismissal of a politically relevant 'human nature' is present. According to Spengler, "cultures" are the great actors on the stage of world history. "Mankind," by comparison, is simply "a zoological expression, or an empty word."

Most of the thinkers in Sedgwick's book are self-described pagans who hold Christianity in contempt and deeply regret the starring role it has played in the history of the West. Larry Siedentop, most emphatically not a man of the far Right, has observed that "the most distinctive thing about Greek and Roman antiquity is what might be called 'moral enclosure,' in which the limits of personal identity were established by the limits of physical association and inherited unequal social roles." This moral enclosure, whereby duty is circumscribed by race or caste, is what the thinkers of the radical Right are trying to retrieve from pagan antiquity. When working as a contributor to the publication Europe-Action between 1963 and 1967, de Benoist became a devotee of the philosopher Louis Rougier, and embraced his rebuke of Christianity as "an egalitarian and thus subversive doctrine" responsible for destroying the hierarchical social model derived from "the old pagan wisdom of Europe." He would subsequently publish a book in 1981 entitled On Being a Pagan. Jean-Yves Camus identifies the following as the most important sentence in all of de Benoist's writings for understanding his work: "I hereby define the Right, by pure convention, as a positive thing; and the progressive homogenization of the world, extolled and effected by two thousand years of egalitarian ideology, as a negative thing." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


THE TYRANTS AMONG US: a review of From Oligarchy to Republicanism:
The Great Task of Reconstruction By Forest A. Nabors (Alexandra Hudson, 6/29/20, Modern Age)

In Book VIII of the Republic, Plato outlines five political regimes: aristocracy (rule by the few and wise), timocracy (rule by the militaristic few), oligarchy (rule by the hedonistic and unwise few), democracy (rule by the many), and tyranny (rule by a single power-hungry man). Aristocracy is Plato's ideal regime, while oligarchy is very undesirable. The difference is not the number but the character of the rulers. In both regimes, the polis is ruled by the few. In an oligarchy, however, they lack virtue, ruling for themselves instead of for the common good.

In From Oligarchy to Republicanism, Forrest A. Nabors uses Plato's typology to recast the common narrative of the American Civil War. The conventional account pits pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions against each other. Nabors argues that the war is better understood as a clash of political regimes: the democratic North versus the oligarchic South.

That is not to say that Nabors downplays slavery. The wretched institution is central to his story. But he argues that the crucial issue was less slavery in itself that the kind of regime that slavery created in much of the United States. He writes:

Nabors's argument echoes prewar Republican rhetoric claiming that slavery in the Southern states was a threat to the survival of republicanism throughout the Union. Slavery, he argues, led the Southern gentry to think of themselves inherently superior to most of their fellow human beings, an attitude antithetical to the American project founded on the equality of persons. In Nabors's telling, these sentiments transformed the South into a society of barons and serfs rivaling any in history. In this sense, the Civil War could be seen as a continuation of the struggle against feudalism that began in Europe. [...]

To think of the conflict between the North and South only as one of freedom versus slavery was mistaken. Rather, the war was a struggle between civilization and barbarism. Slavery was barbaric, Sumner argued, because in being subjected to slavery, "man, created in the image of God, is divested from the human character, and declared to be 'chattel'--that is, a beast, a thing, or an article of property."

"Bad as slavery is for the slave," Sumner went on, "it is worse for the master." He noted that George Mason had said that "Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant," that Thomas Jefferson had claimed slavery "transforms those into despots," that John Locke had declared slavery "the state of war continued," and that Adam Smith had concluded that "there is not a Negro from the coast of Africa who does not possess a degree of magnanimity which the soul of his sordid master is too often scarce capable of conceiving." Violence, not love of humanity, shaped the moral character of slaveholders and thus the political character of slave states. Slave society was founded on brutality, and its leaders were trained to use violence to make their way in the world, which deformed their souls and obscured their sense of morality.

The Civil War was a foreign war.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Swing state voters give Trump dismal marks as coronavirus cases spike (Jacob Pramuk, 7/01/20, CNBC)

As cases spike in pockets of the U.S. South and West after states reopened their economies, likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin believe Trump shoulders much of the blame, the survey released Wednesday found. 

When asked to select two people or groups most responsible for the recent increase in hospitalizations, 35% said the president -- the largest share among the answers. Trump was followed by "people not wearing masks" at 34%, "states reopening their economies too soon" at 32% and "people not social distancing" at 29%. 

Those answers are, of course, all: Donald.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion as coronavirus cases climb (RACHEL ROUBEIN, 07/01/2020, Politico)

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a ballot measure to extend Medicaid to tens of thousands of poor adults, making their state the first to expand government-backed health insurance during the pandemic.

The vote, which passed with 50.5 percent support, also throws a wrench in the Trump administration's plan to make Oklahoma the first state to receive its permission to cap Medicaid spending, a longtime goal of conservatives hoping to constrain the safety-net entitlement program.

Oklahoma has become the fifth state where voters defied Republican leaders to expand Medicaid through the ballot. Missouri will hold a similar vote on Medicaid expansion later this summer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THOUGHT LEADER (self-reference alert):

Happy 90th Birthday to an Underappreciated American Scholar (Walter E. Williams, July 01, 2020, Daily Signal)

My colleague not only writes when you and I are asleep or enjoying ourselves, but he might write with two hands.

Sowell cares about people. He believes that compassionate policy requires dispassionate analysis. He takes seriously the admonition given to physicians: "primum non nocere" (first, do no harm).

In many respects, Sowell is an Austrian economist like the great Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, who often talked about elites and their "pretense of knowledge."

These are people who believe that they have the ability and knowledge to organize society in a way better than people left to their own devices--what Hayek called the fatal conceit. Their vision requires the use of the coercive powers of government.

In my book, Thomas Sowell is one of the greatest economist-philosophers of our age, and I am proud to say that he is one of my best friends. Sowell demonstrates something that is uniquely American; namely, just because you know where a person ended up in life, you cannot be sure about where he started.

One of the most important ways in which he influenced my own thinking was unintended.  In writing about the benefits of immigration he noted that modern African, Haitian and other black immigrants succeed at similar levels as European, Asian or others.  And he argued that what makes the historic black underclass unique in America is that slaves were denied the normal immigrant experience with unsurprising knock-on effects.  It is the implicit case for reparations.

June 30, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Supreme Court Strikes Down Montana Blaine Amendment Barring State Aid to Religious Schools: The decision is an important victory against government discrimination on the basis of religion. (ILYA SOMIN, 6/30/20, THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY)

The decision is a close 5-4 ruling, split along ideological lines with the five conservative justices in the majority, and the four liberals all dissenting. To my mind, that is unfortunate. Striking down blatant government discrimination on the basis of religion should not be so controversial and divisive.

While there are a number of complexities in the case, Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion effectively captures the main issue:

The Free Exercise Clause, which applies to the States un­der the Fourteenth Amendment, "protects religious observ­ers against unequal treatment" and against "laws that im­pose special disabilities on the basis of religious status." Trinity Lutheran....Those "basic principle[s]" have long guided this Court....

Most recently, Trinity Lutheran distilled these and other decisions to the same effect into the "unremarkable" conclusion that disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefit "solely because of their religious character" imposes "a penalty on the free exercise of religion that triggers the most exacting scrutiny...."

Montana's no-aid provision bars religious schools from public benefits solely because of the religious character of the schools. The provision also bars parents who wish to send their children to a religious school from those same benefits, again solely because of the religious character of the school. This is apparent from the plain text. The provision bars aid to any school "controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination." Mont. Const., Art. X, §6(1). The provision's title--"Aid pro­hibited to sectarian schools"--confirms that the provision singles out schools based on their religious character....

When otherwise eligible recipients are disqualified from a public benefit "solely because of their religious character," we must apply strict scrutiny. Trinity Lutheran...

The Blaine Amendment doesn't exclude only those religious schools which fail to meet neutral educational standards, or have some other kind of flaw. They are barred from receiving state assistance for which similar secular institutions are eligible. That is clearly discrimination on the basis of religion, if anything is. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


How Biden Plans To Undo Trump's Nativist Agenda: In a little-noticed announcement, the former vice president committed to a more ambitious refugee policy than existed under Obama. (DAHLIA LITHWICK, JUNE 29, 2020, Slate)

 Last Sunday, on World Refugee Day, Joe Biden laid out how he would reverse Trump's assault by committing to several essential immigration actions: Having pledged that if he is elected he will restore "America's historic role as leader in resettlement and defending the rights of refugees everywhere," Biden had set specific targets that will increase refugee resettlement in the United States. His plan would aim to admit 125,000 refugees to the U.S. (that's up from a ceiling of 18,000 under Trump, and more than Obama admitted). In his announcement last week he added a new pledge: to work with Congress to establish a minimum admissions number of at least 95,000 refugees annually. In addition to those actions, Biden has promised to:

pursue policies that increase opportunities for faith and local communities to sponsor refugee resettlement. I will make more channels, such as higher education visas, available to those seeking safety. I will repeal the Muslim ban -- and other discriminatory bans based on ethnicity and nationality -- and restore asylum laws, including ending the horrific practice of separating families at our border. I will work with our allies and partners to stand against China's assault on Hong Kong's freedoms and mass detention and repression of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities and support a pathway for those persecuted to find safe haven in the United States and other nations.

The proposal mirrors the plan set forth in the Refugee Protection Act of 2019, now pending a vote in the House of Representatives. It signals that Biden isn't just running against Trump's anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant dog whistles, but is also committing energy, and more importantly, resources, to fulfilling the United States' reputation as a nation that welcomes those in need of shelter, and also to making the US government a central player in solving a global refugee crisis that has only grown more exigent as a result of COVID-19. It signals that Biden understands that solving the refugee crisis is both a hefty administrative lift, and also a moral and democratic imperative. Also notable is that Biden isn't seeking to simply return to Obama-era policies, but is going farther, faster, in a tacit statement that Barack Obama's immigration legacy was not, in fact, anything to celebrate.

...but either pass a Reagan-style reform/amnesty or issue a Carteresque universal pardon for immigration offenses.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


How Churches Helped Make Scandinavians "White" (Livia Gershon June 30, 2020, JStor)

It might seem odd to modern readers, but Americans did not always classify Scandinavians as precisely "white." [...]

In 1884, Montgomery traveled to Europe, seeking out potential immigrants who were religiously compatible with his own Congregationalism. Visiting like-minded Swedes, Montgomery was pleased to find much that reminded him of home. He was impressed with the height, appearance, and aesthetic taste of his hosts. He noted that one was "so strikingly like an American in personal appearance that he would pass even in Boston for a Beacon Street full-blood."

But, Gollner notes, local church leaders were not always so happy with the Scandinavian immigrants who actually arrived in the U.S. Some of the newcomers spent less energy on religion than on labor organizing. Others became Adventists, Buddhists, or Mormons. Many simply stuck with Lutheranism, a denomination that many U.S. Protestants dismissed as stuck in old-world traditions and lacking in missionary zeal.

"God has sent these people to our very doors for us to Christianize," one church leader wrote. "We must do it, or they will make Europeans of us."

Gollner writes that religious leaders worked to do just that, attempting to Americanize the Scandinavians while also expanding their fellow white Protestants' idea of who belonged in their number.

Over the decades that followed, the U.S. conception of who belonged to its "white" majority continued to expand, beyond tall, pale Protestant Swedes to encompass even Catholic Italians and Irish. Today the boundaries of whiteness in the U.S. include all European-descended people and exclude most people with ancestors from all other parts of the world. But only time will tell whether that definition will continue to change.

But we're supposed to pretend that Jews aren't?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Unbelievers Are Probably More 'Christian' Than They Realize (JOSHUA CHATRAW, 6/30/20, Gospel Coalition)

Now is the time to look at not only the challenges, but also the opportunities within a post-Christian West. For even--or better yet, especially--in societies where Christianity has been relegated to an out-of-date relic of yesteryear, people are surprised to find that what they love about their favorite stories is that in them they encounter traces of the gospel.

To give just one example, the success of the Harry Potter franchise is illustrative of how gospel echoes persist in many of our culture's most beloved stories. Although many factors have contributed to making the series a worldwide phenomenon, Constance Grady and Aja Romano observe that the driving force of the series' success is straightforward: "The Harry Potter series is a phenomenon because it tells a story that millions of people loved, and it introduced the world to an enormous and magical world that millions of people have dreamed of escaping into."

But it's not just magic spells and quidditch matches that make this story so enticing. As author J. K. Rowling explains about her story, "To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious." She comments on two biblical citations--"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26) and "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21)--found in the final book on the tombstones of Harry's parents and Dumbledore's mother and sister: "I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric's Hollow, they sum up--they almost epitomize the whole series." The story is, after all, framed by two acts of sacrificial love--a mother who gave her life to save her son, and the son who willingly goes to his death so that all those he loves would live. The savior of the story is, of course, Harry Potter, the young wizard whose life had always been leading to the moment he would allow himself to be struck by evil unto death--only to live and return to defeat evil. 

Once the gospel has entered the bloodstream of a culture, even skeptics and doubters can't help but at times be taken by the story. For all the talk of repressive Christian ethics and the confidence in our ability to reason and use common sense to guide how we should live, the reality is the Western world's moral sensibilities are still living off the fumes of the Christian story. This is why Friedrich Nietzsche, the scathing critic of Christianity at the end of the 19th century, also turned his sights on the atheists of his day. For he realized that even these "secular" men weren't free from the story. Still today, fully escaping it proves elusive. 

The historian Tom Holland, a longtime secular progressive, recently wrote that despite his faith in God fading during his teen years, he now realizes his most fundamental instincts about life only make sense as an inheritance from the Christian story. Holland's book Dominion is a journey through Western history to narrate how our culture's moral ideals derive "ultimately from claims made in the Bible: that humans are made in God's image; that his Son died equally for everyone; that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." Human rights, a universal concern for the vulnerable, human equality, sexual restraint, reverence for humility, and the notion of moral progress itself are just a few of our common ideals that have developed in light of the Christian story. Holland can't get past the irony: "The West, increasingly empty though the pews may be, remains firmly moored to its Christian past." 

Simply put, your unbelieving friends are probably more "Christian" than they realize. That is, they embrace certain Christian ideals and beliefs, but these assumptions don't make much sense within their current script. They need a better story. 

Holland himself recognizes how much the Western civilization's future depends on our coming to grips with the history of our shared ideals. As he puts it, since our modern moral aspirations are "not from reason or from science, but from the distinctive course of Christianity's evolution--a course that, in the opinion of growing numbers in Europe and America, has left God dead--then how are its values anything more than the shadow of a corpse? What are the foundations of its morality, if not a myth?"

It's hilarious to listen to George Will try to explain that conservatism consists f defending the Declaration but he doesn't have faith.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jesus was not white. Here's why we should stop pretending he was. (James Martin, S.J., June 26, 2020, America)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Saudi, US push for extension of Iran arms embargo (New Arab, 30 June, 2020)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Now It's Woodrow Wilson's TurnThe cultural revolution comes to the Ivy League. (PATRICK BUCHANAN, 6/30/20, American Conservative)

And why is this icon of American liberals to be so dishonored?

Because Thomas Woodrow Wilson disbelieved in racial equality.

Says Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber: "Wilson's racist opinions and policies make him an inappropriate namesake." Moreover, Wilson's "racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time."

And what exactly were Wilson's sins?

"Wilson was... a racist," writes Eisgruber, who "discouraged black applicants from applying to Princeton. While president of the United States he segregated the previously integrated civil service."

Another of Wilson's crimes was overlooked by Eisgruber.

In February 1915, following a White House screening of "Birth of a Nation," which depicted the Ku Klux Klan as heroic defenders of white womanhood in the South after the Civil War, a stunned Wilson said:

"It's like writing history with lightning. My only regret is that it is all so terribly true."

Princeton's board of trustees has endorsed Eisgruber's capitulation, declaring that Woodrow Wilson's "racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its form."

Pat was the earliest indicator that there was a sickness on the Right.

June 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


July 2020
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31