The swastika stands for evil and mass murder. So does the hammer and sickle. (Jeff Jacoby, 1/28/24, The Boston Globe)

The communist system introduced by Lenin has led to more slaughter and suffering than any other movement in history. For sheer murderous horror, there has never been a force to compare to it. The Nazis didn’t come close. Adolf Hitler’s regime eradicated 6 million Jews in the unprecedented genocide of the Holocaust. The Germans also killed at least 5 million non-Jews, among them ethnic Poles, prisoners of war, Romani people, and the disabled.

But the Nazi toll adds up to barely a tenth of the lives that have been extinguished by communist dictatorships. According to The Black Book of Communism, a magisterial compendium of communist crimes first published in France in 1997, the fanaticism unleashed by Lenin’s revolution has sent at least 100 million men, women, and children to early graves. Beginning in 1917, communist regimes on four continents — from Russia and Eastern Europe to China and North Korea to Cuba and Ethiopia — engineered death on a scale unmatched in human annals.

Yet communism rarely evokes the instinctive loathing that Nazism does. To this day there are those who still insist that communism is admirable and wholesome, or that it has never been properly implemented, or that with all its failings it is better than capitalism. Many people who would find it unthinkable to deck themselves in Nazi regalia — when Britain’s Prince Harry wore a swastika armband to a costume party in 2005, a major scandal ensued — view communist-themed fashion as trendy or kitschy.

In Manhattan’s East Village, the popular KGB Bar — named after the USSR’s terrifying security network of secret police and torture sites — features Soviet propaganda posters and literary readings. Would any New York hipster ever set foot in a pub called Gestapo?


A Black preacher disappeared from Norwich in 1890. His alleged killer confessed, but was never charged (Lexi Krupp, January 22, 2024, VPR)

One of the attendees, Claudia Marieb, piped in: Her question hadn’t been answered. It was about a name that appeared on her deed — “Darkey Bridge,” from the section of Norwich where she lived called Beaver Meadow.

“Obviously I thought of that as a racist term, and I wondered, ‘Why?’ Like what was the story here with African Americans? Or was there racism here? Or what was the history? And I would bring it up with different people, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information.”

Rooker paused before answering.

“It is a story of racism,” she said. “And it is a story that I want to spend time thinking about how to share to the community in a way that promotes conversation.”

Then, she gave a brief explanation of where the name might have come from.

“There was a minister who lived in Beaver Meadow at the corner there, in the mid-1880s,” Rooker said. “He was harassed and abused by local young men in Beaver Meadow and he was eventually murdered.”

This minister was named John Harrison. He was one of the only Black men living in Norwich at the time, according to town records.

And all that was left to mark his memory was a racial slur in town documents.

“It’s also known as ‘Darkey Corner,’ it also is known as ‘N- corner’ and ‘N- bridge,’” Rooker said. “There’s some pretty racist pieces.”

That same night, Marieb emailed me. At the time, I was living next door to her on a dirt road, about a two-minute walk away.

She forwarded me an 1896 newspaper clipping about John Harrison’s alleged murder that Rooker sent her after the event.

It describes where Harrison lived as “a little one story shanty which sat in a fork of the road about a mile from Beaver Meadow on the road to Sharon.” A stream controlled by a trout club ran past the property “within a stone’s throw of the house.”

I started reading the article, then stopped. It was violent, and I wanted to wait until daytime. Because this account of where John Harrison had lived, it was where I was living — where two dirt roads come together, upriver from the same trout club.

I felt confident it was the same place, because the line in Marieb’s deed about “Darkey Bridge,” it described where her property line ended and mine began. I rented a house there until last year.

A newspaper article from 1896 described where Harrison lived as a “shanty which sat in a fork of the road about a mile from Beaver Meadow on the road to Sharon.” A house built in the 1980s now stands on the property.
Marieb had been wondering about the name on her deed ever since she bought her home in 2018.

“Obviously I thought of that as a racist term, and I wondered why,” she told me last year. “Like what was the story here with African Americans? Or was there racism here? Or what was the history? And I would bring it up with different people, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information.”

Marieb added: “So when the historical society asked residents for questions, I asked that question.”


Getting Deference Right (Ronald A. Cass, Winter 2024, National Affairs)

Federal agencies generate rules at the rate of 3,000 to 5,000 per year, compared to the roughly 150 to 500 laws enacted by Congress. The compilation of rules in the Code of Federal Regulations now exceeds 180,000 pages. Agencies also adjudicate millions of matters annually, dwarfing the caseload of the federal courts.

These rules and decisions dictate where people can build their homes, whom they can hire to do jobs for them, how their savings can be invested, and thousands of other issues large and small that shape our lives. Some decisions concern minor technical matters necessary to implement statutory instructions. Others determine important matters affecting private conduct with only the vaguest direction from the people’s representatives in Congress.

Because judicial deference gives greater power to unelected administrators, the rules for when and how much to defer to administrative decisions are central to effectively allocating authority among government branches and officials — central, that is, to who’s really in charge of the powers government wields and the functions it performs.


Is Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, a far-right leader? (Federico Chaves Correa, 1/25/24, The Conversation)

In an article summarizing the far-right political parties in Europe, Matt Golder, professor of political science at Pennsylvania State University, analyzes the scientific literature on them. He finds three elements that are increasingly characteristic of this movement: “nationalism,” “populism,” and “radicalism.”

The nationalism expounded by far-right parties can be described as “nativism.” According to Cas Mudde, professor of political science at the University of Georgia, “nativism” is understood as “nationalism plus xenophobia.” It is based on the idea of the existence of an imaginary “native” population built on cultural or ethnic features, whose homogeneity must be protected from any element that is foreign and external to it.

With its conception of a homogeneous community, nativism is then added to nationalism, which is articulated as the congruence between state and nation. This contributes the element of xenophobia mentioned by Mudde. In so doing, extreme right-wing movements put forward a radicalized preference for anything that can be defined as belonging to the “national community.”

This version of nationalism is well known, and it is easy to find European and American examples of it: Éric Zemmour’s calls against the “Great Replacement,” Trump’s warnings about the danger of immigration, or the Islamophobia of the Alternative for Germany party, are some examples.

This nativism on the part of far-right parties is becoming the foundation of their political projects, including their economic policies.

It is on this basis that the contemporary far right is putting forward clear protectionist projects. A large proportion of far-right movements share Euro-scepticism, nationalization and anti-globalization rhetoric. The root of their projects is a belief in a national community, defined either in ethnic or cultural terms, which must be protected from the influence of outside elements.


Recovering the Republican Sensibility (Andy Smarick, Winter 2024, National Affairs)

There is not an agreed-upon definition of “republicanism.” Indeed, views on republicanism have evolved over two millennia. It can, however, be generally understood to begin with a sensibility, a way of seeing citizens and public life. Five principles outline this sensibility.

First, citizens of a republic are self-ruling and equal. In a republic, the government’s legitimacy flows from its citizens. Republican citizens are on equal footing before the law; they have equal duties and powers to shape the state.

Second, citizens of a republic should demonstrate “republican virtue.” When rulers have near-total power, individuals are expected to be passive while their rulers govern; when the people have power, they have a duty to be engaged in matters affecting the community. Active, constructive participation in public life is thus essential to republican government. Citizens must behave in ways that help the community succeed, including acting with honesty and civility, avoiding corruption and self-dealing, and putting public benefit ahead of private gain.

Third, democracy is the primary means of reaching decisions in a republic. Citizens may vote directly on public matters, or they may vote for representatives who in turn vote on such matters. Republicanism allows for non-elected administrators and judges, but these officials exercise the authority delegated to them by the people, and must operate within the rules the people establish.

Fourth, citizens of a republic must advance the common good. Issues affecting the community are public, not private matters. Republicanism does not tolerate nepotism or cronyism; a citizen should never see a community issue as an opportunity to advance his personal interest or the cause of his family or friends. Similarly, community decisions are not the concern of just the elite; all citizens contribute to the community’s good. This work is the substance of citizenship and the glue that bonds a community together.

Fifth, republicanism requires an active but limited government. Republicanism intends for the state to play a role in advancing the common good, but the state isn’t authorized to do anything and everything. The state can be limited via enumerated powers, individual liberties, and rights to procedures like due process. Republicanism does not emphasize expansive negative rights, but the state cannot rule arbitrarily and cannot dominate individuals or society.

These five pillars do not amount to a formula, or even quite a formal definition. But they describe the contours of republicanism as the founders of the American system of government understood it, and as we might understand it now.


Nikki Haley taunts Trump and he takes the bait. Will she keep it up? (Dan Balz, January 27, 2024, Washington Post)

Donald Trump doesn’t respond well to women who challenge, question or mock him. They bring out the worst in him. Nikki Haley is doing all three and has turned the Republican nomination contest into something worth watching. […]

“So we got out there and we did our thing and we said what we had to say,” Haley told a crowd of supporters on Wednesday in North Charleston, S.C. “And then Donald Trump got out there and just threw a temper tantrum. He pitched a fit. He was insulting. He was doing what he does. But I know that’s what he does when he’s insecure. I know that’s what he does when he is threatened. And he should feel threatened without a doubt.”

Haley also reminded the audience that Trump had confused her with Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker, during an appearance in New Hampshire over the weekend. She says politicians older than 75 should undergo mental competency tests — drawing a contrast between herself, 52, and the 77-year-old Trump, as well as with President Biden, 81.

She also struck at Trump’s unwillingness to debate his Republican rivals. She wants more than anything a one-on-one with the former president. “Bring it, Donald,” she said, taunting him. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Ridicule is bully kryptonite.


Texas’ Border Stunt Is Based on the Same Legal Theory Confederate States Used to Secede (Rotimi Adeoye, Updated Jan. 28, 2024, Daily Beast)

Furthermore, Abbott’s letter espouses the fringe theory of constitutional law known as “compact theory,” popularized by Confederate states during the Civil War era and supported by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

This theory posits that the United States was formed through a compact agreed upon by the states, with the federal government being a creation of the states. However, this view conflicts with the widely accepted social contract theory, which asserts that the federal government derives its authority from the consent of the people, not the states. The Supreme Court has consistently rejected compact theory, deeming it illegitimate and incompatible with constitutional law.

At the crux of what’s happening at the southern border lies the question: Does the federal government have the authority to regulate access to Texas’ borders? The answer is unequivocally, yes.

Texas’ embrace of compact theory and its assertion that state government can supersede federal authority directly contradict the landmark Supreme Court case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819).


Ka-ching: $18.3 M + $65 M = $83.3 million verdict against Trump (LUCIAN K. TRUSCOTT IV, JAN 26, 2024, Lucian Truscott Newsletter)

The New York Times reported that journalists in a nearby press room gasped when the full amount of the jury award was read out loud.

During summations today by Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, and Alina Habba, Trump’s attorney, Trump’s Truth Social account made 16 posts in 15 minutes, all of them attacking either the judge in the case, Lewis Kaplan, or the plaintiff, E. Jean Carroll. After the trial, Trump put up a post calling the verdict “Absolutely ridiculous!” He charged, “They have taken away all First Amendment Rights” and said he would appeal. He also claimed, in all caps, “THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”

Trump is awaiting another verdict in a state courtroom in a lawsuit filed against him and his company for lying on applications for bank loans and insurance policies over a ten year period. The judge in that case, Arthur Engoron, has said he hopes to issue a verdict by the end of this month. New York Attorney General Leticia James has asked for a penalty of $370 million to be levied against Trump and his company, and for both Trump and the Trump Organization to be banned from doing business in the state of New York.

…and it’s headed out the door. Let a million suits bloom.


Remembering Wes Powell – The Man from Puddle Dock (Wayne D. King, 1/27/24, InDepthNH)

From its earliest days, residents of Puddle Dock took pride in their attachment to this rough and tumble area of brothels, criminals, ner-do-wells and plain old hardworking folks doing their best to cope with the challenges of life on the margins.

It was here that Wesley Powell grew up. […]

During a break in the speechifying, Wes Powell excused himself and headed for the men’s room. As he approached the door, he was met by a very large NY State Trooper who politely told him that the “Governor” would like a word with him, gesturing to Rockefeller, who was standing nearby.

Knowing that Rockefeller was probably looking to make some sort of a political deal with him, Wes Powell politely declined. The trooper became more insistent and said, “The governor would like to speak with you now.” Wes Powell replied once more, as he pushed his way past the Trooper, that he was not interested in speaking with the “Governor” and headed into the men’s room.

As he stood at the urinal, he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned his head to see a writer for a New York newspaper who said to him “Governor, if you do not cooperate with Governor Rockefeller and drop out of this race you will be reading some stories about yourself that you will wish you weren’t.”

Wesley Powell finished at the urinal and turned to address the reporter.

“Write any damn thing you want,” he said, “just make sure you tell them one thing . . .” He then delivered a powerful right-hand fist to the jaw of the reporter, who slumped against the wall. “Make sure to tell them I’m from Puddle Dock.”


Treatment can do more harm than good for prostate cancer (Jinping Xu, 1/26/24, The Conversation)

Although about 1 in 8 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, only about 1 in 44 will die from it. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer die from other causes, especially those with a low-risk prostate cancer that usually grows so slowly it isn’t life-threatening.

However, until about a decade ago, most men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer were immediately treated with surgery or radiation. […]

Due to widespread PSA screening in the U.S., over half of prostate cancers detected through screening are low-risk. Concerns about overdiagnosis and overtreatment of low-risk cancers are the main reasons why screening is not recommended unless patients still want to be screened after discussing the pros and cons with their doctor.