February 11, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Portland police not meeting federal requirements on use of force, training, Justice Department finds (Maxine Bernstein , 2/11/21, The Oregonian)

U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say Portland police no longer meet four key reforms required under a settlement agreement adopted seven years ago after federal investigators found officers used excessive force against people with mental illness.

They cited inappropriate use and management of force during protests last year, inadequate training, subpar police oversight and a failure to adequately share an annual Police Bureau report with the public as required.

Police used force during last year's mass protests that violated bureau policy, with officers conflating active versus passive resistance as the basis for firing rubber bullets and other less-lethal impact munitions, according to a new Justice Department review filed in federal court Wednesday.

Supervisors frequently failed to investigate or analyze their officers' use of force, gave blanket approval of force with no real analysis and often "cut-and-paste" identical or similar language into their reviews, the report said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Biden: 'China Going to Eat Our Lunch' Unless US Moves on Infrastructure (Steve Herman, February 11, 2021, VOA News)

During his four years in office, President Donald Trump and his Republican administration repeatedly highlighted so-called "infrastructure weeks" that ultimately resulted in few big projects moving down the line.

On Thursday, Trump's successor, Democrat Joe Biden, hosted his first infrastructure event, inviting a bipartisan group of senators to the Oval Office to "try to see if we come to some kind of generic consensus about how to begin."

Biden, who said he spoke Wednesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping for two hours, made note during his Thursday meeting with the four senators of China's massive infrastructure investments.

"If we don't get moving, they're going to eat our lunch," said Biden of the Chinese. "They have major, major new initiatives on rail. And they already have rail that goes 225 miles an hour with ease.  ... They're working very hard to do what I think we're going to have to do."

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


From Israeli prison, Barghouti mulls presidency bid, turning up heat on Abbas (AARON BOXERMAN, 2/11/21, Times of Israel)

Security prisoner Marwan Barghouti, widely seen as a rival to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is considering running in the scheduled Palestinian presidential elections, a close associate of his confirmed Thursday.

"Our comrade Marwan is considering the possibility, but he has not yet made a decision either way," former Palestinian legislator Qaddura Fares said in a phone call.

Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role planning deadly terror attacks against Israelis in the Second Intifada, is popular among Palestinians and is widely seen as a possible successor to Abbas.

According to opinion polling, the aging PA leader -- who is his Fatah movement's presumptive nominee -- would likely lose to Barghouti in a faceoff.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Biden Is Planning To Bring Back Immigrants Who Were Forced To Wait In Dangerous Mexican Border Towns (Hamed Aleaziz, 2/11/21, BuzzFeed News)

Immigrants who were forced by former president Donald Trump to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico while they tried to gain asylum will soon start being allowed to enter the US at certain ports as the Biden administration attempts to wind down the controversial policy, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The unprecedented effort, which is expected to be rolled out within the next two weeks, is the beginning of President Joe Biden's promise to end the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" policy -- formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP). The policy led to tens of thousands of asylum-seekers being forced to stay in Mexico as they waited for their day in a US court. Often left with nowhere to go but squalid camps in Mexican border towns, human rights advocates reported cases of the immigrants being kidnapped, raped, and tortured.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


Harvard researchers have calculated how many unnecessary deaths the Trump administration left behind ( ARIANNE COHEN, 2/11/21, Fast Company)

The Trump administration leaves a devastating health legacy far beyond COVID-19, according to a new study in The Lancet by 33 researchers, led by professors at Harvard Medical School and the University of California at San Francisco.

The report finds that the Trump administration's health policies resulted in 461,000 unnecessary U.S. deaths annually--in addition to 40% of America's COVID-19 deaths thus far, plus 22,000 avoidable deaths annually from environmental policies.

The authors paint a damning picture of Trump politics, concluding that he purposely sought struggling white voters, and then backed policies that threatened their health: He earned his largest 2016 electoral margins in counties with the county's worst mortality statistics, with life expectancies averaging 2 years shorter than in counties where he lost. His policies overwhelmingly favored corporations and wealthy Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


Why you shouldn't eat out for Valentine's Day: An epidemiologist explains a few facts of life (Ryan Malosh, 2/11/21, The Conversation)

Why can't I eat out for Valentine's Day if I socially distance?

Restrictions on indoor dining are some of the hardest to swallow. We all have our favorite restaurants, and the experience of eating out is a big part of feeling normal. In addition, many restaurants are cornerstones of our communities, and owners and staff have struggled throughout the pandemic.

But dining indoors remains a high-risk activity. The most effective prevention strategies - ventilation, physical distancing and wearing masks - are challenging in this setting. Even when physical distancing is possible, scientists have found that long-range transmission can occur. Restaurants are trying to innovate ways to determine how safe their spaces are - including using CO2 monitors to gauge ventilation - but these technologies are far from guarantees of safety.

One recent study suggested that policies such as indoor dining restrictions may have saved nearly 2,000 lives in Michigan in the past few months. Takeout and delivery are much safer options (and, I think, more romantic).

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


DID AMERICA HAVE A FOUNDING? (Jeff Polet, 2/08/21, Modern Age)

Russell Kirk's The Roots of American Order traced the influence of four cities--Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, and London--on the formation of the American republic. He demonstrated that America's order did not arise de novo but emerged from a patrimony of thought and the lessons of experience. Political ideas, he argued, are carriers of historical experience and judgments, the residue of hard-won truths gained in the crucible of trial and error. Kirk believed that the unique historical experiences of these four cities created paradigmatic understandings of order that Americans wove together into their constitutional fabric.

His book was written in 1974 in anticipation of the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence and amid serious political scandal. It's not a stretch to see the book as motivated by the problem of corruption: not only personal corruption but the corruption of a regime--that is, its systemic decay. How America could avoid the fate of the republics of the past was the central question to which thinkers put their minds during the framing of the Constitution, and Kirk raised that question anew in the shadow of Watergate and Vietnam.

Note the title: The Roots of American Order. Kirk does not evoke some variation of "the American founding," which, in contrast to the organic metaphor implied in the word Roots, would make America seem more an artifice than an historical development. Kirk wanted to emphasize continuity rather than discontinuity in American history.

His book includes as an appendix a chronology that begins in 2850 BC and ends in 1866 with the publication of The American Republic by Orestes Brownson. One is tempted to see the twelve-page chronology as idiosyncratic--and it is--but its unifying theme is that history is full of contingencies that require sensitive thinkers and "great men" somehow to turn the apparent randomness of circumstance into meaningful action. Kirk draws attention to efforts to snatch back immortality from time's all-thieving hands. Overseeing all such human efforts, driven as they are by pride and marked by tragedy and irony, stands the watchful eye of Providence, a God who "intervenes" in human affairs and who in the process generates both resentment at his interference with our freedom and rage at not having such interferences result in perfection.

Kirk's chronology is not intended to be Whiggish, a simple timeline of progress that somehow culminates in American greatness. It is fitful and haphazard, telling a story of achievement and failure, of greatness and meanness, of rise and fall, of things divine tasted partially and things Satanic swallowed wholly, of a Providence whose mysterious workings the finite human mind can grasp only by faith. As Kirk liked to say, paraphrasing T. S. Eliot: there are no lost causes because there are no gained ones.

And that is why the chronology ends with Brownson, a defender of "the permanent things" who understood that no regime or governing authority can sustain itself without some sort of religious sanction. Every living nation, Brownson argued, "has an idea given it by Providence to realize," which is that nation's "special work, mission, or destiny." "The American republic," he observed, "has been instituted by Providence to realize the freedom of each with advantage to the other."

Brownson explicitly defended the idea of the nation as "an organism, not a mere organization--to combine men in one living body, and to strengthen all with the strength of each, and each with the strength of all--to develop, strengthen, and sustain individual liberty, and to utilize and direct it to the promotion of the common weal." In doing so, "the social providence" imitates divine Providence, a continuing act of creation by which all that is human returns to its origin and end.

In this sense, America's roots grow not into a founding but into a constituting. The term founding carries within it not only the idea of establishing but of manufacturing something, in the sense of casting metal: that is, something bound to endure, a metal that doesn't rust. The great "founders" of political society "founded" in both senses: they laid social life on new and solid foundations, and they also mixed the unformed elements available to them to recast political life into something new and enduring. It was Machiavelli who saw the Prince as operating on the raw materials of political life and forming them, through an act of creative will, into something new.

All Americans wanted was their rights as Englishmen, a regime that had been founded no later than the 17th century: representation in the legislative body.  Parliament refusing to acquiesce to this demand, the king should have told us to constitute a separate legislature for an independent nation he would be monarch of, with similar limitations to those operative in Britain.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Rage Against Reason: What Seneca could teach us about our inflamed passions (John T. Scott and Robert Zaretsky | January 21, 2021, American Scholar)

More than any other passion, anger challenged the practice of Stoicism. A school of philosophy that viewed the passions as unnatural obstacles to right-thinking and right-acting, Stoicism provided precepts or exercises that helped purge the passions and permitted reason to rule. Other philosophers, notably Aristotle, had argued that the passions--including anger--were natural and, if properly ordered, were the partners of reason, anger the helpmate of justice. Seneca asked: Is anger natural? Could the passion be put into the service sovereign reason? Is it necessary to prevent and punish injustice?

For Seneca, the answer was no thrice over. Unnatural, irrational, vicious, odious, and insane were just some of the ways he characterized the passion. Anger was by far the most corrosive and corrupting of all our emotions. Whereas most passions have at least an element of quiet, anger is "entirely violent and exists in a rush of pain, raging in an almost inhuman desire for weapons, blood and punishment." Gladiatorial games, Rome's favorite spectator sport, drew Seneca's censure for exhibiting--and exciting--the bestial in us. We ought never to act from anger, he believed, much less indulge or cultivate it.

This was especially true when anger was joined to justice. Punishment must always be spurred and steered by cool reason. When ire is indulged, especially by those wielding great power, cruelty rather than righteousness is the result. Yet Seneca also warns that anger employed with the best of intentions is the path to madness because of our very desire to see justice done. "If you want the wise man to be as angry as the atrocity of men's crimes requires," he wrote, "he must not merely be angry, but must go mad with rage."

Here is where Stoicism steps in. "Anger is put to flight by teachings," Seneca wrote, "for it is a voluntary vice of the mind." If it is voluntary, it is a vice that can be mastered by reason. Indeed, master is a misleading verb. For the Stoic sage, the aim is less to control the passions than to eradicate them in order to achieve apatheia--the state of being without passions. In "On Anger," as elsewhere, Seneca offers exhortations and examples intended to inculcate in his reader a therapy of desire.

Seneca soon had the opportunity to practice what he preached when Agrippina tapped him to be the tutor to her son Nero. Following the suspicious death of his stepfather Claudius, the teenaged Nero claimed the imperial title. The novice ruler's maiden speech to the Senate, written by Seneca himself, promised to chart a new path from that of his predecessors. As in "On Anger," Caligula served in the speech as a cautionary example.

No doubt Seneca congratulated himself for being the grownup in the room as he became Nero's principal advisor. But the honeymoon was brief. Nero soon found his footing as emperor, but those feet were steeped in the blood he shed. Scores were evened, rivals exiled or assassinated, culminating in the emperor's order for the murder of his overbearing mother. (A grotesquely farcical affair, it involved a ship with a lead ceiling meant to collapse and crush the empress, who managed to swim safely to shore, only to be stabbed to death by assassins sent by her son to finish the job.)

As Nero spiraled downward, Seneca stayed on. Perhaps he told himself he could restrain the emperor's worst impulses; perhaps he told himself that if he resigned, others less able would make the situation worse; perhaps, though a Stoic, he was simply frightened. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


The right's hatred of AOC isn't just racism and sexism: It sums up the entire toxic Trump era (CHAUNCEY DEVEGA, FEBRUARY 11, 2021, Salon)

In total, the ugliness directed at one congresswoman offers insight into how Trumpist Republicans and their neofascist followers and believers see the world, as well as the type of world they want to force into existence in the near future.

Here are some of their values and beliefs.

Malignant reality. The Republican Party and the right wing more generally live in an alternative conspiracy-theory universe of their own creation. Facts do not matter. The "big lie" (and the many small lies that sustain it) are all that matter.

Support for the violent coup and its underlying ideology. The threats and violent speech by the white right are not "hyperbole." Republicans and other members of the right really do wish harm on Democrats, liberals, progressives, nonwhite people, Muslims and others who they have identified as an enemy Other in American society.

Victimology. Despite all available evidence to the contrary, Republicans and other members of the right wing actually believe that they are the "real" victims in America. They imagine themselves to be persecuted and oppressed by "political correctness." They believe Democrats and liberals are destroying their "traditional" America. They believe that "minorities" and immigrants are "taking their jobs."

Republican leaders have played a key role in the victimology fantasy by telling their followers lies about "cancel culture" and spreading paranoid fictions about "the left," antifa and Black Lives Matter.

Moreover, public opinion and other research has repeatedly shown that even though white people retain control of the country's political, social and economic institutions, a significant percentage of white Americans (including most Trump voters) believe that they, rather than nonwhite people, are the true victims of racism in America.

The eroticization of women's pain and fear. Fascism is a masculine political imaginary that emphasizes violence, "virility" and dominance. This is true of authoritarianism more generally as well. While many men (and women) on the right find Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's intelligence, personal strength, skin color and cultural background threatening (if not repulsive), they are also titillated and excited by her fear because in their minds it reaffirms (white) male dominance and power. This is almost the dynamic of the slasher film as applied to politics.

Victims are responsible for their own suffering. Conservative authoritarians are more likely to believe that people who are victims of assault, abuse or violence somehow deserve their own suffering. If Ocasio-Cortez or other Democrats (or disloyal Republicans) had been injured or killed in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, far too many Republicans would have convinced themselves, consciously or otherwise, that somehow "they had it coming."

Hostile sexism and racism. Social scientists have shown that "hostile sexism" helps to explain Donald Trump's appeal for his voters and followers. White supremacy, racism and racial authoritarianism also strongly predict support for Trump and his movement (as well as for Republicans more generally). By speaking out forcefully about her experiences during the Jan. 6 attack, Ocasio-Cortez violated the norm that women, especially nonwhite women, must be silent in the face of white male authority.

Ms Omar adds the religion and race they hate most. Of course, she needed to marry a Jewish Asian to be the perfect nemesis.