June 12, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


The War of All Against One: Why Christians Should Not Be Populists (Justin Hawkins--Presented for Delivery at the 2019 Henry Institute Symposium on Christianity and Politics, Calvin College, April 26, 2019, Mere Orthodoxy)

I begin with an intentionally polemical anecdote. On December 7, 2015 - a day that will live in infamy - the presidential campaign of Donald Trump issued a "Statement on Preventing Muslim Immigration." That statement said that "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on." The statement went on to quote Trump himself:

"...it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again."

While the language is characteristically opaque and the standards of evaluation borderline nonsensical, this statement is just one among innumerable instances in American and global politics today where a right-wing leader consolidates a base of support by identifying a foreign scapegoat and uniting opposition against that scapegoat. It is clear that this rhetoric does not accurately depict the nature of the threat it stands against. If it did, then the Trump Campaign may have identified a real threat, instead of a scapegoat.

But the antipathy toward Muslims is out of proportion with the threat of Islamist attack in America. One source noted that of domestic killings in America, "from 2009 through 2018, right-wing extremists accounted for 73 percent of such killings, according to the Anti-Defamation League, compared with 23 percent for Islamists and 3 percent for left-wing extremists. In other words, most terrorist attacks in the United States, and most deaths from terrorist attacks, are caused by white extremists." And it is pedantic to observe that this current form of populism in America has not been attended with warnings about right-wing white extremism the way they have been attended with paranoia about Islamic terrorism. Therefore, the current populist response to domestic violence in America is skewed, and it is skewed in a predictable direction: toward the identification and ostracization of scapegoats.

This populist logic of scapegoating is the subject of this essay, and the main theorist I will use to understand this phenomenon is Rene Girard. Girard's argument, in short, is that populism almost never exists in the world without scapegoating, and scapegoating is not a Christian form of politics.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


U.S. budget deficit balloons to $739 billion despite tariff revenue (BLOOMBERG, JUN 12, 2019)

The U.S. budget deficit widened to $738.6 billion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, a $206-billion increase from a year earlier, despite a revenue boost from President Trump's tariffs on imported merchandise.

The shortfall was 38.8% more than a year earlier, the Treasury Department said in its monthly budget review released Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


For the First Time, Renewables Have the Capacity to Generate More Power Than Coal (CHIP BROWNLEE, JUNE 12, 2019, Slate)

The reality is that coal dominance of the U.S. energy sector ended a long time ago--more than 60 years ago, to be exact, when it was surpassed by natural gas. Now a new report suggests cheaper and more abundant renewable energy is knocking coal down a peg, too.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's most recent numbers found that in April, renewable energy--including wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric--surpassed coal in energy generating capacity for the first time in American history. 

The Green New Deal is too slow-paced to keep up with innovation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


As Iran stirs worries, Sisi sets vision for Arab security (Hagar Hosny June 12, 2019, Al Monitor)

Sisi said during his speech that the security of the Arab Gulf constitutes a cornerstone for Egypt's national security. He said any attack on Arab national security necessitates wise and deterrent confrontation of any enemy and that the Houthi attacks on the Saudi oil regions and the naval attacks in the UAE reflect blatant terrorism and a threat to Arab national security. Arab leaders have the responsibility to face this terrorism, he added.

Abdul Menhem Said, former director of the independent Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor by phone, "Sisi's statement that Gulf security is part of Egyptian national security during the summit reflects a relatively new expression in his vision, and it's not common among Egyptian political leaders."

Security can only follow democracy.

Republicans join Democrats to rebuke Trump's 'emergency' $8B arms sale to Saudis, Emiratis (CONOR FINNEGAN Jun 12, 2019, ABC News)

"There is no emergency. It's phony, it's made up, and it's an abuse of the law -- once again, attempting to cut Congress out of the whole picture," said the committee's chair, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. "This is not a dictatorship. We don't rule this country by fiat ... Remember when you were in school and you learned checks and balances? Congress is a coequal branch of government."

The committee's highest-ranking Republican, Rep. Mike McCaul, called the move "unfortunate" and said he was blindsided by it after talking to National Security Adviser John Bolton a week prior to the emergency declaration. He and Engel both questioned how it was an emergency if the transfer of most of these weapons would take months, if not years in some cases -- and why the administration didn't give Congress a formal 30-day notice instead to allow it to vote on the sales.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Poll: Most Americans Believe Trump Is Guilty Of Criminal Conduct (Emily Singer, June 12, 2019, National Memo)

A large majority of voters, or 57 percent, believe Trump "committed crimes before he took office," according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.

And, a whopping 69 percent of voters say that sitting presidents should be subject to criminal indictment if there is evidence they committed crimes, the poll found.

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Fear of a blue Texas: New GOP group to spend millions registering Republicans (David M. Drucker, June 12, 2019, Washington Examiner)

"In 2018, we got hammered not only in the urban areas but in the suburbs, too," Cornyn, 67, told the Washington Examiner. The third-term senator, who has sounded the alarm about the dangers of taking Texas for granted, described with a sense of relief the "substantial focus and investment, now, that will be made on voter registration."

Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in more than two decades, and Trump defeated Hillary Clinton there three years ago by 9 percentage points.

But the midterm elections saw a significant shift. The Democrats captured two traditionally Republican, suburban seats in the House of Representatives, and Democrat Beto O'Rourke, now a presidential candidate, came within 2.6 points of ousting Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Recent polling suggests Trump could be vulnerable in the state in 2020, a product of continued resistance in the suburbs of Austin, Dallas, and Houston.

Some Republicans have attributed the outcome last fall, in which the GOP also suffered losses in state legislative races, to Cruz's unpopularity and the resources invested by O'Rourke and his allies, a feat Democrats are unlikely to repeat in a national presidential contest. Senior Republican strategists in Texas are warning against that line of thinking.

"Everybody thinks it was a Cruz-Beto thing. But it's a mess," a GOP adviser said, requesting anonymity in order to speak candidly. "Independents are behaving like Democrats -- like they did in 2018."

We're just determining the scope of down-ticket losses.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


How the Tea Party became a statist-populist movement (JOE CARTER, June 12, 2019, Acton)

A recent analysis by Pew Research finds that Republicans who had positive views of the Tea Party movement in 2014 or 2015 were among Trump's most enthusiastic backers during the 2016 campaign, and continued to have very positive feelings about the president through his first year in office.

In one sense this might be surprising. Imagine traveling back to a Tea Party rally in March 2009 and telling the people like Mr. McQueen--people protesting Democrats, high taxes, stimulus spending, and Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)--that in a decade their favorite politician/president would be a man who was (right then, in 2009) a registered Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton, donated to Chuck Schumer, and endorsed TARP, and who would (in the future, as a Republican president) propose more stimulus spending than Obama and impose the largest tax hike in post-World War II history. They would have thought you were slandering them and their movement as hypocrites.

But in another sense it's not surprising at all. For the tea party "movement" was never a movement in the sense of being motivated by a clear set of issues and principles. 

To the contrary, this is exactly what the polling at the time showed the Tea Party to be--older, whiter, maler Americans who were afraid, particularly because the UR was black, that the coloreds were going to use up the welfare money before they got their SS and Medicare checks. Donald is their avatar.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


THE HEALING POWER OF JOKES: Jews understand why humor really is the best medicine (Alter Yisrael Shimon Feuerman, June 12, 2019, The Tablet)

When my father was 50, he was run over by a drunk driver. He was very badly damaged, literally upgerisen--sliced apart--and he was brought to the Hospital for Joint Diseases in Manhattan for seven months to put him back together.

When his friends came to visit, they would see him with one leg in a Hoffmann device and the other suspended from the ceiling, like in the cartoons. What did they do? They would regale him with jokes. "You know what's Zionism?" they would ask. "It's when two rich Jews get together to send a third one to Israel." Or this: "The only thing two Jews can agree on is how much their friend should give to charity. Afterward they would ask, "Reb Chaim, does it hurt?" He would say, "Only when I laugh." For some reason he thought this was funny and he pumped and squeezed his beautiful eyelids in laughter until he would cry.

When a man is bashed up bad, a modern hospital provides a plethora of doctors--and specialists. There were the orthopedic surgeons, the plastic surgeons, the neurologists, the urologists, the infectious disease people. They moved in caravans, these medical nomads, and traipsed through his room at all hours of the day and night. I frequently slept at his side, so I saw this firsthand.

The doctors were very fine fellows, Jews of the assimilated sort. They lived uptown and in Westchester, but they hailed from the Bronx, like him--they had gone to De Witt Clinton High School or Bronx Science or some other such place. But I noticed something. When they came to examine him, they would tell jokes, too, and these jokes were of a Jewish sort. They usually had to do with a rabbi, a wonderworker caught in a compromising position, or they were about the foibles of Jewish men and the various deals that human beings make with their gods. One of his doctors, a man of generous nature and a great mind, a plastic surgeon named Lester Silver, would kibitz his way through the examination, often he made reference to arcane Talmudic minutiae, strange Halakhic rulings and the like, throwing in an occasional Yiddish word.

One of the doctors told this joke: A rabbi needs to break away from his shul. Finally, he takes a plane to Paris and checks into the Ritz and lives it up. The next day, after a stroll in Paris, he sits down for lunch in a fancy restaurant and orders suckling pig with a big juicy apple in its pisk. The rabbi's mouth waters as the waiter brings it to the table. Suddenly, the shul president and his cohorts appear. "Rabbi, Rabbi what are you doing here? Have you betrayed us?" they ask, pointing to the pig. The rabbi shrugs and says, "Will you look at how these silly Frenchies potchke up a baked apple?"

These Jewish doctors, buttoned up, credentialed to the hilt, couldn't stop themselves from kibitzing. The chief of orthopedic surgery--the late Herman Robbins--began a 13-hour surgery with my father, bone saw in hand, by saying to all staff present, "Nu, rabbi, lomir makhen hamotzi?" (Shall we make the blessing over bread?) My father remembered hearing this verbatim, even though he was under deep anesthesia.

The cultural dependence of comedy is one of the things that make it anathema to The Left.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Hung jury thwarts federal prosecution of Arizona teacher arrested for helping migrants (THe Week, 6/12/19)

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins declared a mistrial Tuesday evening after a jury in Tucson, Arizona, couldn't agree on whether Scott Warren, a 36-year-old geology teacher and border aid volunteer, had broken the law by helping a pair of Central American migrants crossing a treacherous stretch of Arizona desert. Warren's lawyer, Greg Kuykendall, said eight jurors wanted to find Warren not guilty on all three federal counts and four jurors thought him guilty. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Outrage on Capitol Hill over 'completely unacceptable' US-funded scheme to shape Iran debate (Negar Mortazavi & Borzou Daragahi, 6/11/19, The Independent)

"It's completely unacceptable that American taxpayer dollars supported a project that attacked Americans and others who are critical of the Trump administration's policy of escalation and conflict with Iran," a senior Congressional aide told The Independent, on condition of anonymity. 

"This is something that happens in authoritarian regimes, not democracies."

One woman behind the harassment campaign, a longtime Iranian-American activist, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Department over the years to promote "freedom of expression and free access to information."

The campaign relentlessly attacked critics of the Iran policy on social media, including Twitter and Telegram messaging app, accusing them without evidence of being paid operatives of the regime in Tehran. 

A spokeswoman for the State Department told reporters on Monday that funding for the "Iran Disinformation Project" had been suspended and is under review after it was reported that it went beyond the scope of its mandate by veering from countering propaganda from Iran to smearing domestic critics of White House policy.

State Department officials disclosed to lawmakers they had granted $1.5 for Iran Disinfo, which repeatedly targeted, harassed and smeared critics of Trump's tough stance against Iran on social media.

Among those targeted were American activists, scholars, and journalists who challenged the Trump administration's "maximum pressure campaign" against Iran.

The revelation that US taxpayer money was being used to attack administration critics has now sparked a flurry of queries.

Given the overwhelming public support for the deal they could hardly play fair.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GoFundMe Border Wall Blocked Access To A Monument. It's Been Ordered To Keep A Gate Open Indefinitely. (Salvador Hernandez, 6/11/19, BuzzFeed News)

The viral crowdfunding effort to build a wall on the southern border aimed at deterring immigrants from crossing illegally was only recently completed, but on Monday the newly installed wall suffered a major setback -- a large gate built into the barrier was ordered opened by officials.

The controversial half-mile wall constructed along the US-Mexico border near Sunland Park, New Mexico, was erected earlier this month after organizers raised more than $23 million on GoFundMe, the online crowdfunding site. But We Build the Wall organizers failed to obtain the required authorization to build the barrier on federal land, cutting off access to waterways and a public monument.

"This is normally done well in advance of a construction project," said Lori Kuczmanski, a spokesperson for the International Boundary and Water Commission, the agency that addresses waterway issues between the US and Mexico. "They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that's not how it works."

In response, IBWC officials on Monday afternoon propped open a large gate installed in the wall. 

The point of a wall is that we need to be able to process everyone at the open gates, like Ellis Island.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump Isn't Likely to Win a Second Term: Democrats can lower expectations all they want, but polls show the president facing a decisive defeat. (Josh Kraushaar, June 11, 2019, National Journal)

Trump is in the weakest political shape of any sitting president since George H.W. Bush. Despite a historically strong economy, his job approval ratings are still badly underwater. He's never hit 50 percent job approval in any reputable national poll throughout his presidency. At least 40 percent of voters are fired up to vote against him, no matter what happens in the next year. He's already lost ground with the working-class voters who defected from the Democrats to support him in 2016, with his favorability rating dropping 19 points among that critical Obama-Trump constituency in the last two years.

The latest wave of polling is even more alarming for Trump. His campaign's own internal polling reportedly shows him trailing in many of the must-win battleground states. A new Quinnipiac survey shows Trump trailing all six Democrats tested against him; what's more, he couldn't win more than 42 percent of the vote against anyone. He's running 13 points behind Joe Biden, 9 points behind Bernie Sanders, and 7 points behind Elizabeth Warren.

In the latest Morning Consult tracking survey, Trump hits 50 percent disapproval ratings in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa--all states he carried in 2016. Two recent polls show Trump trailing Biden in reliably Republican Arizona (by 5) and Texas (by 4), while holding only small leads against weaker competition. He trails Sanders by 12 points in Michigan, matching his deficit against Biden.

Meanwhile, Trump isn't acting like a president seeking to build upon support from his base. His threats to impose tariffs on Mexico particularly alarmed Senate Republicans in states that he needs to win next year. Any economic downturn before the election would all but doom his already precarious prospects. His unwillingness to work with Democrats, given their aggressive oversight of his administration, makes it all the more difficult to tout any bipartisan accomplishments on the campaign trail.

Trump's clearest path to victory relies on Democrats making a series of self-destructive decisions. But even if Democrats turn leftward and nominate a weak challenger, they'd still have a credible chance at unseating Trump. The country's rampant polarization guarantees that anyone--no matter how extreme--would be well-positioned against the president.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump publicly opposes using CIA informants against North Korea's Kim (Makini Brice, 6/12/19, Reuters) 

U.S. President Donald Trump took a public stance against the use of CIA informants to spy on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, saying it would not happen on his watch and possibly taking away a valuable tool of the U.S. intelligence community.

Kim's racial ideology makes him a natural ally of the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Administration to Hold Migrant Children at Base That Served as WWII Japanese Internment Camp (W.J. HENNIGAN, JUNE 11, 2019, TIME)

The Trump Administration has opted to use an Army base in Oklahoma to hold growing numbers of immigrant children in its custody after running out of room at government shelters.

Fort Sill, an 150-year-old installation once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, has been selected to detain 1,400 children until they can be given to an adult relative, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Only the groups we hate change. (Though, of course, Donald hates the Japanese too)