March 19, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


The fringe group that broke the GOP's brain -- and helped the party win elections: The John Birch Society pushed a darker, more conspiratorial politics in the '50s and '60s -- and looms large over today's GOP, argues historian Matthew Dallek. (Ian Ward  Mar 19, 2023, Vox)

Ian Ward
What sort of tactics did the Birchers use in their early days to mobilize the conservative grassroots outside of the party apparatus of the GOP?

Matthew Dallek
Their mission throughout the 1960s was to try to educate the American people about the communist conspiracy, and many of the Birchers -- not all, but many -- were suspicious of the two-party system.

They didn't like democracy, and they believed the only way to save the country was through a kind of shock education -- through controlling the kinds of texts that kids and college students and other Americans were exposed to...

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Trump in panic mode as he braces for likely charges in Stormy Daniels case (Hugo Lowell,  19 Mar 2023, The Guardian)

[T]he frenzied posts from Trump reflected his deep panic and anxiety over the imminence and likelihood of criminal charges, the sources said, not least because he is powerless to stop the district attorney's office from moving forward with a case that will take the US into new legal territory as Trump revs up his 2024 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump and his allies have suggested in recent days that an indictment in the hush money case could benefit him politically - the Republican base might see the years-old case as a genuine "witch-hunt" as he has claimed - but it is also true that Trump himself is deeply fearful of criminal charges.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Some of my GOP colleagues have lost their moral compass on Ukraine (Chris Sununu, March 18, 2023, Washington Post)

"America First" does not mean "America Only." It means putting our interests first -- and that's what opposing Russia in Ukraine does.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is not a "territorial dispute," as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis described it this month. Russia is engaged in a war against an innocent people, and it must be condemned. The United States of America is the greatest country on Earth, and we must stand with our allies around the globe to fight aggressive and dangerous regimes that threaten freedom wherever they are.

Simply opposing aid to Ukraine because President Biden supports it is not a viable foreign policy. To abandon Ukraine would set off a negative chain of events for U.S. interests domestically and abroad. Vladimir Putin is knocking at NATO's doorstep, and without our support -- and the support of our European allies -- Ukraine will fall, resulting in far graver problems for the United States: conflict across Europe.

For generations, oppressive authoritarian rule has quashed religious freedom and limited individual opportunities across the globe. The United States should stand with freedom-loving people and help support emerging democracies wherever they are. The days of being coy on foreign policy are over.

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


At center of Fox News lawsuit, Sidney Powell and a 'wackadoodle' email (Sarah Ellison and Amy Gardner, March 16, 2023, Washington Post)

A day after major news organizations declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential race, a Sunday-morning guest on Fox News was holding forth on exotic and baseless claims of election fraud -- allegedly deceased voters, ballots supposedly lacking an option to vote for Donald Trump, an "affidavit" from a postal worker claiming to have postdated mail-in ballots -- when host Maria Bartiromo pressed for more details.

"Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software," Bartiromo said on the Nov. 8, 2020, broadcast. "I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that."

The guest was Sidney Powell, a Texas-based lawyer who would soon be ambiguously connected to the Trump legal team mustered to challenge the election results. She stared stiffly into the lights of a satellite TV studio but answered without hesitation.

"That's putting it mildly," Powell replied. "The computer glitches could not and should not have happened at all. That's where the fraud took place, where they were flipping votes in the computer system or adding votes that did not exist."

It was the first of a dozen appearances Powell would make on Fox programs over the next month in which she helped inject far-fetched and debunked claims of widespread fraud into the mainstream -- and which are now at the heart of Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, court documents show.

These appearances helped elevate a once-obscure lawyer to a marquee player in Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election -- and helped keep her claims of fraud on the forefront for millions of loyal Fox viewers, including Trump himself. Powell would continue to appear on Fox for weeks after Dominion protested that it had been unfairly smeared, and as Fox News executives privately agonized that these on-air falsehoods created a problem for the network, according to newly released internal communications and testimony.

She would even appear on Fox programs after a Fox Corp. senior vice president said he had privately begged the White House to disavow Powell.

All you really need to know about MAGA is that they think new outlets that didn't provide a platform for this stuff are elite media.

Posted by orrinj at 10:27 AM


These young female athletes died by suicide. They all had head injuries in common (Amy Woodyatt, 2/06/23, CNN)

Kelly Catlin and Ellie Soutter never met, but they had a lot in common.

Both were commanding athletes: Catlin, a US track cyclist, was a three-times world champion and Olympic silver medalist, and Soutter, a snowboarder, was tipped to be one of Team Great Britain's strongest contenders for the 2022 Winter Olympics, having already won a bronze medal at the 2017 European Youth Olympic Festival.

Both were incredibly smart -- Catlin was studying for a master's degree in computational and mathematical engineering at Stanford University, while Soutter learned to speak French in about six months, according to her father.

At times they almost seemed superhuman. In 2013, after only three weeks of formal training and having broken her wrist, Soutter became British Champion with her arm in a cast. Meanwhile, Catlin, who had a tenderness for children, once rode 80 miles through sleet and snow to speak to a grade school about her Olympic experience.

Yet these two women's lives were tragically cut short after they sustained serious head injuries in their pursuit of sporting greatness and then took their own lives. Catlin was 23, while Soutter died by suicide on her 18th birthday.

Females may be more susceptible to concussion, and they also have worse and prolonged symptoms after their injury than men, according to a review of 25 studies of sport-related concussion published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ADL research: Conspiracy-minded Americans tend toward antisemitic views (Times of Israel, 3/19/23)

Cross-referencing that data with other questions, the researchers found, for example, that individuals who strongly agreed with the statement "I think that seemingly unconnected events are often the result of secret activities" were also those who agreed with the highest number of anti-Jewish tropes (6.7 on average). Those who strongly disagreed with the above statement agreed with 2.5 tropes on average.

In another instance, people who strongly concurred that "there are secret organizations that greatly influence political decisions" were again the highest in their Jewish stereotypes score (5.2) compared to those who strongly disagreed (2.7).

In a question intended to evoke the Great Replacement Theory, respondents were asked to rate the statement: "There are people who secretly work to make sure immigrants will eventually replace real Americans." Once again, those who strongly agreed scored highest on the Jewish stereotypes believed (6.8) compared to those who strongly disagreed (2.8).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Seven Attributes: The greatness of the United States has always depended on our determination to drive forward -- and strive upward. (The Modern Whig Institute, Mar 13, 2023)

In a study released last year by the Rand Corporation, political scientist Michael J. Mazarr outlined seven key social attributes which serve as the foundations of national competitive success. While the focus of the study was on American standing on the global stage, it's useful to think of these same seven attributes simply in terms of a healthy, functioning society. They are:

national ambition and will

unified national identity

shared opportunity

an active state

effective institutions

a learning and adapting society

competitive diversity and pluralism 

Whigs have much to say about each of these areas. And over time, we've developed many analyses, frameworks and proposals which line up with each of them, and all of them as a whole. But for now, let's look at them -- let's call them the Seven Attributes -- mostly in general terms. [...]

Unified National Identity

America is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants. Everyone in the country, other than Indigenous Americans, can trace their ancestry to somewhere else. Even those whose family line goes back to the landing of the Mayflower and the Colonial Era which followed it must acknowledge their roots lie across the sea, or somewhere in the Western Hemisphere outside the borders of the United States.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a distinctive American identity; far from it. Even at the time of the War for Independence, when virtually all of the Colonists considered themselves British subjects (including many on Washington's own staff, who would toast the King at dinner even as the Revolution raged), the people of the Colonies also thought of themselves as uniquely American. They were self-governing, despising of oppression, insistent on their rights and devoted to their communities long before the ratification of the Constitution would make them actual citizens of a new country.

Since then, the definition of Americanism has often been the subject of heated debate. In our current age, many seek to make it contingent on a particular racial, ethnic or religious background, while others disparage it as nothing more than the cultural institutionalization of our national original sin, slavery. Neither seems willing to accept the American identity for what it truly is: a dedication to shared ideals and the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence, as expressed in a common language, and reinforced throughout our history by law and custom. 

None of which is to dismiss our highly diverse cultural heritage, each strand of which contributes to the whole. Nor is it to assert those who come to this country unable to speak English cannot be true Americans; our fundamental principles can be conveyed in almost any language. But as Teddy Roosevelt once famously said, "In this country we have no place for hyphenated Americans." To be one nation means to have one nationality.

For those of us born here and those of us who have emigrated from another land, our Pledge of Allegiance is the same. Each and every citizen -- naturalized, native-born or aspiring -- is a member of "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." We all share a common civic creed. And the individual commitment the Pledge expresses continues for a lifetime; we are eternally part of one People under one Constitution, loyal to just one country, even as we celebrate the heritage of others. 

Shared Opportunity

Whigs are devoted capitalists. We believe in free enterprise, the profit motive, well-functioning markets and our natural right to the pursuit of happiness. But we also understand capitalism can have many variations, and no single iteration may be the correct one in all respects for all places at all times.

In our view, a good starting point in developing sensible economic theory is ordoliberalism, which holds the primary goal of government policy should be the creation of the general conditions necessary for broad-based prosperity: a healthy and consistent legal environment supporting fair competition, sound fiscal and monetary policy to keep the currency stable and inflation low, and an adequate social safety net to promote small business and entrepreneurship. What government should not do is guarantee outcomes. [...]

An Active State

Before the seemingly endless Culture War came to dominate our public discourse, political debate mostly focused on the legitimate differences between the Left and the Right on the proper size of government. "Big government" liberals would square off against "small government" conservatives, the Right accusing the Left of wanting government to do almost everything (which, for some on the Left, was undoubtedly true), and the Left accusing the Right of wanting the government to do almost nothing (to which many on the Right would gladly and enthusiastically agree).

Whigs reject this paradigm. For one thing, there's no tried-and-true way of measuring the size of government. For example, in terms of the number of people working for the federal government, the level has remained fairly constant: in 1982 there were roughly 2.89 million civilian federal employees; in 2021 there were about 2.85 million. Since 1962 the same measure as a percentage of the population has actually dropped by more than half, from just under 3 percent to about 1. 4 percent today (the drop actually exceeds the increase in population). And despite spikes here and there, the story basically stays the same when we look at the total workforce, including contractors.


In terms of taxes and spending, the numbers also have remained fairly constant. In 1982, federal tax revenue amounted to about 18.475 percent of GDP; in 2021 it was 17.599 percent; in 1962 it was 16.505 percent. And it's a similar story for federal spending: in 1982, federal budget outlays were about 22.3 percent of GDP; in 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit and sent the number through the roof, they were 20.8 percent. In 1962, the number was just under 17.7 percent.