June 7, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


"Born That Way" No More: The New Science of Sexual Orientation (PAUL SULLINS, 9/30/19, Public Discourse)

A new study adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that the dominant narrative about sexual orientation--that it is genetically determined--simply cannot be true. Instead, the science shows that a person's sexual orientation and choice of partners depends heavily on the development and expression of personal autonomy regarding one's own sexual possibilities. People with same-sex attractions should be legally and culturally free not to identify with or act on them.

Late last month, a team of MIT and Harvard scientists published a landmark study of the genetic basis for sexual orientation in the journal Science. The study, which was based on an examination of the genetic material of almost half a million individuals, definitively refutes the idea that being gay is an innate condition that is controlled or largely compelled by one's genetic makeup.

The study contained two key findings. First, it found that the effect of the genes we inherit from our parents (known as "heritability") on same-sex orientation was very weak, at only .32 on a scale from 0 (none) to 1 (total) heritability. This means that a person's developmental environment--which includes diet, family, friends, neighborhood, religion, and a host of other life conditions--is twice as influential on the probability of developing same-sex behavior or orientation as a person's genes are.

Second, rebutting decades of widespread belief, the study established that "there is certainly no single genetic determinant (sometimes referred to as the 'gay gene' in the media)" that causes same-sex sexual behavior. On the contrary, "the variants involved are numerous and spread across the genome." Each of these genetic variants increases a person's propensity for same-sex behavior by an infinitesimally small amount. In scientific terms, same-sex orientation and behavior are highly polygenetic.

The logic of these two results--low heritability and high polygenicity--clearly demonstrate that the dominant cultural narrative about sexual orientation--which sees homosexual persons as a distinctly bounded biological class of people who were "born that way"--simply cannot be true.

Low heritability, a consistent finding of prior genetic studies, has always suggested that determinism may not be true. But high polygenicity does much more: it affirmatively precludes the possibility of determinism. A genetic arrangement based on dozens of markers across the genome means that virtually all human beings have this arrangement, or large portions of it. In other words, gay people have a perfectly normal human genotype; they are not genetically distinct from all other human beings in any meaningful sense. Consequently, the development of sexual orientation and choice of partners cannot consist primarily in the elaboration of some controlling genetic disposition but, to a much greater degree, consist instead in the development and expression of personal autonomy regarding one's own sexual possibilities.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


Inside the room: Trump's top aides plot new theme (Jonathan Swan, 6/07/20, Axios)

A source briefed on his internal polls called them "brutal," showing a significant drop-off in independent support.

He has a "woman problem" in the words of another adviser.

And Trump's more incendiary rhetoric and actions -- "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" and his calls for the military to enter cities -- trouble some of his top aides.

What they're saying: "There's a thought that we need to shift to be much more cohesive in terms of a message of healing, rebuilding, restoring, recovering ... a theme that goes with COVID and the economy and the race stuff," said a senior adviser to Trump.

"The messaging that works for the red-MAGA-hat base doesn't resonate with independents."

"He has to tone down the most incendiary rhetoric, talk about law and order in the context of riots, and at the same time say the country's united that what happened to George Floyd can never happen again," a second adviser familiar with the internal discussion said.

"He's starting to hear from a lot of people, political people, who are saying, 'Simmer down. ... You are not helping the situation by talking about only sending the military in.'"

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 AM

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


Protesting for George Floyd, Other Nations Confront Their Own Dark Histories (Fiona Zublin, Jun. 7th, 2020, OZY)

Around the world, protests against racist police brutality in the United States have arisen. But the protests aren't limited to American cases; they're also highlighting cases of police brutality in other countries, with protesters demanding new investigations or at least renewed attention to people of color who were killed or mistreated due to systemic racism.

In France, 20,000 people protested last week, some wearing masks that said "I can't breathe" -- Floyd's last words. They also referred to the 2016 death in French police custody of Adama Traoré, whose last words were also "I can't breathe." "Today, when we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traoré too," Traoré's sister Assa told the crowd. Reform will be a challenge in France as elsewhere: French politicians recently introduced a bill to make filming a police officer punishable with fines.

In South Africa, protesters have linked the Floyd case to the death of Collins Khosa, a 40-year-old Black man who was killed on Good Friday by soldiers, allegedly for public drinking despite lockdown rules. His family has since managed to win a court victory holding the officials accountable. An investigation into the case is ongoing.

Posted by orrinj at 9:57 AM


Progressives steamrolled across the Senate map (ALEX THOMPSON and JAMES ARKIN, 06/07/2020, Politico)

If Democrats win back the Senate this fall, don't expect a rush to pass the Green New Deal or Medicare for All.

The left wing has been wiped out in Senate primaries or failed to recruit at all in states across the map this year, leaving a slate of centrist candidates more in the ideological mold of Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders. Liberal insurgents on the ballot over the coming weeks in states like Kentucky and Colorado aren't favored to fare any better, failing to gain significant traction thus far against more moderate favorites. [...]

The failure of left-wing candidates in their primaries has prompted soul-searching among many progressive leaders who now believe that they neglected the task of organizing and building a downballot bench as they were caught up in the thrall of Sanders' candidacy. It is also a victory for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who recruited most of the primary victors, viewing them as more likely to win general elections.

...and it will only become less so as Republicans flee to it and conservative people of color and religion are trapped in it by the Trumpification of the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


American Racism: We've Got So Very Far to Go: And the journey must continue step-by-step. (David French, 6/07/20, The Dispatch)

I freely confess that to some extent where I stood on American racial issues was dictated by where I sat my entire life. I always deplored racism--those values were instilled in me from birth--but I was also someone who recoiled at words like "systemic racism." I looked at the strides we'd made since slavery and Jim Crow and said, "Look how far we've come." I was less apt to say, "and look how much farther we have to go." 

Then, where I sit changed, dramatically. I just didn't know it at the time. I went from being the father of two white, blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids to the father of three kids--one of them a beautiful little girl from Ethiopia. When Naomi arrived, our experiences changed. Strange incidents started to happen.

There was the white woman who demanded that Naomi--the only black girl in our neighborhood pool--point out her parents, in spite of the fact that she was clearly wearing the colored bracelet showing she was permitted to swim.

There was the time a police officer approached her at a department store and questioned her about who she was with and what she was shopping for. That never happened to my oldest daughter. 

There was the classmate who told Naomi that she couldn't come to our house for a play date because, "My dad says it's dangerous to go black people's neighborhoods." 

I could go on, and--sure--some of the incidents could have a benign explanation, but as they multiplied, and it was clear that Naomi's experience was clearly different from her siblings, it became increasingly implausible that all the explanations were benign.  

Then the Trump campaign happened, the alt-right rallied to his banner, and our lives truly changed.

The Brothers Judd grew up in East Orange, NJ, which the Father Judd chose for his Baptist ministry precisely because it was a city with a large, even predominant, black population (54% in the 1970 Census).  And the demographics of the city had settled down, mostly because a city ordinance required all public employees to live in town.  But at some point after the Newark riots it was rescinded, prompting the flight of white cops, firemen, etc. and taking many more white residents with them (it was just 4% white by the 2010 Census). 

When the church reached the point where there were going to be black deacons, it was closed instead. The Father Judd was so disillusioned he abandoned the ministry altogether.  Our parents divorced, but the Mother Judd raised us in the old parish house (you can still see the stained glass window upstairs), across the street from Clifford Scott High School and around the corner from Upsala College, a neighborhood that wasn't too bad.  She taught at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School (now the Whitney Houston School of Performing Arts) , so even as the demographics shifted and there were ever fewer white kids, we had some protection on the playground.  Heck, I was the only white kid in the East Orange Gospel Ensemble and often the only one in the churches in Newark we'd go perform at, unless the Grandparents Judd were in town.  I don't know what your grade school was like, but at ours we sat in the auditorium and watched heroin withdrawal films if it rained for recess. You might have had Patrols? Where kids act as crossing guards? The older students headed to the High School would push us into the street if we tried stopping them. And one of the playground games (a macadam playground at that) was "Get Whitey," especially unenjoyable for the slowest child in America.  I was friendly with a girl named Michelle in my 4th grade class, but after that Summer her name had changed to Xena Mohammed and she didn't have much truck with white devils. We had bomb scares at school that were at least blamed on the Black Liberation Army

She hung on as long as she could, but for 8th grade I would have been sent to the new Middle School that had been built to house grades 7-9, twin buildings where I would have been one of the vanishingly few white kids.  That first year a kid brought a shotgun to school to kill the principal and there was a sexual assault in the tunnel that connected the two buildings, as East Orange trended towards its eventual title as one of the most dangerous cities in America for its size.  So she scraped together enough money to move us one town over, to West Orange. 

It too was divided in its own way.  Essentially, the Catholics lived "down the hill," towards East Orange, the Jews lived "up the hill," towards upper-middle-class Livingston, and "the valley" housed the few Protestants and the leftovers from up and down the hill. Livingston realtors, of course, red-lined, and would show black customers houses that were actually in West Orange.    

At any rate, the Other Brother is as smart as a whip and was several grades ahead in Math even in East Orange, which still had excellent schools.  But when he transferred to the elementary school in West Orange they put him at grade level. The Mother Judd went in to talk to them and when they took out his file his race was marked as black.  They were willing to acknowledge that he was white, but insisted that being advanced "there" would not be the same as "here." Suffice it to say, in short order he was going across the street to the Junior High for math classes because he was so far ahead of the grade school class.   

We were extremely fortunate.  We grew up with no delusions about race in America.  We experienced white racism towards blacks, black racism towards whites, lighter-skinned black racism towards darker-skinned, Catholic Jew-Hatred, Jewish anti-Christian sentiment, the whole magilla.  But we also grew up knowing and being friends with whites, blacks, Jews, Catholics, Protestants--not many Hispanics back then, that had to wait until Caddy Camp--and seeing that they were all a whole lot more alike than some of them would care to admit, while kids of equal talent, intellect and virtue got to excel or fail as much because of what they were as of who they were.   While sometimes difficult, it was, on the whole, an invaluable education.

But here's the thing; for most of our lives, despite all those endemic tensions, American leaders and people have seemed to be making a good faith effort to improve racial and sectarian relations.  the path has never been straight and the pace has seldom been quick, but there has been a seeming societal recognition that all these old bigotries are, to put it bluntly, just ignorant and, worse, immoral.  They are literally unChristian.  

Which has made it all the more painful to see our Republican Party embrace, nevermind tolerate, a racist like Donald Trump and his identitarian politics.  His every utterance and act is a denial of everything that conservatism represents, yet many former conservatives and Christians defend him and even cheer him on.  But we're four years into the debacle and we've kind of adjusted to this tragic reality.  What's depressing in this particular moment is to hear conservative opponents of Donald argue that the protesters are ignoring the vast improvements in race relations that have been achieved over the past 60 years.  It's not that this improvement isn't real, but the argument requires you to ignore Donald, who you've essentially broken with your party and movement to oppose.  It requires you to pretend that all the Nativists and Proud Boys and Integralists and Boogalooists and Incels and anti-semites and Islamophobes and so on and so forth who he's unleashed and given voice to do not exist. It requires saying that you support the cause but not the tactics, because it's the wrong way to go about things, even as the protests are finally producing tangible results.  It requires that you ignore the whole backlash against the American ideal that "All Men are Created equal." It requires you to pretend that when you say, "Sure, police violence against blacks is awful, but..." that you are not offering a rebuttal, just as surely as any Trumpist.  It requires that you pretend that when armed white men converged on state houses without masks to defy public health measures it is the same as peaceful masked and distanced protests against violence and racism. It smacks, if not of racial reasoning itself, of an attempt to assuage the psychic dissonance caused by opposing so many of your old allies on the right by taking their side at least tangentially.  

It is not good enough.

Washington protesters express optimism after week on edge: The demonstrators who flooded Washington on Saturday reshaped the mood of a city that has been on edge (STEVEN SLOAN, June 7, 2020, AP)

"This is us walking across the Pettus Bridge," said Kendyll Myles, a 33-year-old project manager, referring to site of the iconic 1965 civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. "This is that type of awakening that our country needed."

The scene on Saturday was starkly different from earlier this week when law enforcement moved aggressively to push back protesters from a park in front of the White House. Within minutes, President Donald Trump walked across the park to appear before cameras at a church where he held up a Bible, but didn't offer any prayers. The episode has been widely criticized.

As demonstrations are expected to spill into another week, there are questions about whether the scope of the protests can become something more durable.

Unlike the major Washington protests of the past, Saturday's events weren't strongly organized. In some cases, they were mini-marches that began in residential neighborhoods before converging on 16th Street, one of the major roads leading to the White House, where Trump spent the day without any public appearances.

Many protestors carried signs urging participants to vote with the passion they brought to the streets. The Rev. Al Sharpton has said he's organizing a March on Washington for late August that would energize voters heading into the fall presidential campaign.

There were signs of cultural change. Those who led demonstrators in chants were almost exclusively people of color.

Several white people who were approached for an interview demurred, saying that white people do enough talking and that this was a moment for their black and brown counterparts to have the spotlight and set the agenda.

That's one reason some black protestors said they thought this moment was different from previous demonstrations against police brutality. The fact that large numbers of white people would march alongside them fueled some hope that change might happen.

"You can finally see it, the different races out here," said Carl Sirls, a 26-year-old airline worker. "It's not just black people. It's not just white people. It's everyone."

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Sweden didn't lock down, but economy to plunge anyway (HÉLÈNE DAUSCHY, 6/07/20, AFP) 

Unlike most countries, Sweden never locked down during the coronavirus pandemic, largely keeping businesses operating, but the economy appears to be taking a hard hit nonetheless.

Under the Scandinavian country's controversial approach to the virus, cafes, bars, restaurants and most businesses remained open, as did schools for under-16s, with people urged to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Whatever hope there may have been that this policy would soften the economic blow now seems dashed.

"As in most of the world, there will be a record decline for the Swedish economy in Q2," SEB bank economist Olle Holmgren said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


Integralists: America's Would-be Theocrats (ERIC CUNNINGHAM, JUNE 4, 2020, Ordinary Times)

To say that integralism is ridiculous is obvious. America's one true experiment in theocracy, Puritanism, crashed and burned to such an extent that its witch trials are still ridiculed to this day. A confessional Catholic state has no chance of happening in a country where only 22% of us are Catholic and only 40% of those go to Mass. Any attempt at forcing such a state on the American people would likely result in, at minimum, a protracted guerrilla war led by a coalition of Baptists and ACLU members.

Integralism is no more realistic or popular among the general public than "dominionism", a fringe group of radical Protestants who wanted to return to John Calvin's Geneva. What's troubling is not that these ideas exist, but where they are coming from: while the dominionists were a group of crackpot pastors divorced from any real Protestant institutions, integralism is rising from academia as well as valuable institutions like First Things. When Protestant minister turned Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus founded First Things, he saw it as an ecumenical outlet where conservative Catholics, Protestants, and Jews alike could contribute to a public discourse. Neuhaus would even edit the ecumenical manifesto Evangelicals and Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission in 1995.

Neuhaus died in 2009, and it seems that mission died with him. As Jonathan V. Last explained in The Bulwark, RR Reno took over as editor in 2011 and immediately sought a new vision - and he's seemingly found it. Instead of ecumenism, the magazine has now trended towards a hardline view. In 2012, Thomas Pink wrote an article justifying the concept of the Catholic Church exercising coercive authority over all baptized Christians. This means the church could "coerce individual belief and practice," an idea which could "take political form and thus underpin state involvement in coercion." The magazine has since embraced Trump following the 2016 election, met scandal after defending the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara in 2018, and finally published a manifesto in 2019 declaring conservatism as we know it to be dead.

Flame to the Fire
The fact that the Adrian Vermeules of the world are involved in this effort has lent it some deal of credibility. After all, if academics have an idea, doesn't that make it worth discussing? In an inexplicable decision, The Atlantic offered Vermeule the chance to explain why originalism - the commonly-accepted judicial philosophy of the right - is wrong, and instead how our judges should rule based on the "common good." This is, of course, a sneakier way of explaining his actual ideology, raillement, where agents will be placed within government bureaucracy so they can seize power at the most opportune moment and create an integralist state.

If that sounds like fascism, well, that's because it sounds like fascism. It should be treated as such, and its advocates should be treated as such. These people are not friends of the religious right, social conservatives, or conservatives in general, nor are they friends of other Christians, Jews, or believers of all faiths that make up a large component of the conservative base. Their goals do not align with the right and their methods do not either. Every inch of space given to them on the right is one taken from those truly involved in the cause, and if they seize enough institutions like First Things, the ecumenical nature of the religious right might be truly tarnished beyond repair.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Former President Barack Obama addressed the nation Wednesday, offering solace to a country wrenched by turmoil over the killing of George Floyd and the systemic racial injustice that his death has nakedly exposed. Voicing support for the families who have lost loved ones to police brutality and the protesters who have shown up across the country to speak out against Floyd's death, Obama struck a sober yet hopeful tone, expressing optimism that the outpouring of rage and support for racial justice will help bring about lasting change. "In some ways, as tragic as these past few weeks have been, as difficult and scary and uncertain as they've been, they've also been an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to some of these underlying trends [of America's systemic racism]," Obama said in his speech, which was part of an online town hall hosted by his foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance. "They offer an opportunity for us to all work together to tackle them, to take them on, to change America and make it live up to its highest ideals."

Obama pointed to the prevalence of young people taking part in the protests as a positive sign, as well as a coalition of protesters that's markedly more diverse than those marching during the Civil Rights era. "When sometimes I feel despair, I just see what's happening with young people all across the country and the talent and the voice and the sophistication that they're displaying, and it makes me feel optimistic," Obama said. "It makes me feel as if this country is going to get better." The first black president of the United States also spoke directly to young Americans of color, telling them: "I want you to know that you matter." "I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter," Obama said. "You should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what's going to happen when you walk to the store or go for a jog or are driving down the street or looking at some birds in a park."

"I hope that you also feel hopeful, even as you may feel angry, because you have the power to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that's got to change," the former president continued. "You've communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I've seen in recent years."

Obama threw his support behind the ongoing protests, emphasizing during a subsequent online roundtable that "this country was founded on protest--it is called the American Revolution." But he also pointed to more concrete ways to use politics and policy to bring about change. The former president urged every mayor in America and local officials to put evidence-based police reforms in place, and touted the importance of cities adopting the My Brother's Keeper initiative. "I've been hearing a little bit of chatter in the internet about voting versus protest, politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action. This is not an either/or, this is a both/and," Obama said. "To bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented and we can monitor and make sure we're following up on."

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


George W. Bush and Mitt Romney 'will NOT support President Trump in November's election (JAMES GORDON, 6/07/20, DAILYMAIL.COM )

'He's obviously not a fan,' Updegrove said when it comes to George W's feelings about Trump. 'He told me in mid-2016 that Trump 'really doesn't understand the job of president' and later that he voted for 'none of the above'. 

Updegrove said that it was unlikely Bush would vote for Biden but he wouldn't be endorsing Trump.

Bush's brother, Jeb, is also planning not to vote for Trump, along with Senator Romney as well.  

Others include John McCain's widow, Cindy McCain, who is likely to vote for Biden. 

The report also notes Republican former Speaker Paul Ryan and former Speaker John Boehner are not declaring publicly how they will vote but some in the GOP may decide to go for a third-party contender or simply openly declare their vote for Biden who is about to launch a 'Republicans for Biden' arm to his campaign.  

W and the UR ought to go out on the road together in support of Uncle Joe, or, even better, serve as his Joe Garagiola, and broadcast conversations with him.