June 30, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Supreme Court Strikes Down Montana Blaine Amendment Barring State Aid to Religious Schools: The decision is an important victory against government discrimination on the basis of religion. (ILYA SOMIN, 6/30/20, THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY)

The decision is a close 5-4 ruling, split along ideological lines with the five conservative justices in the majority, and the four liberals all dissenting. To my mind, that is unfortunate. Striking down blatant government discrimination on the basis of religion should not be so controversial and divisive.

While there are a number of complexities in the case, Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion effectively captures the main issue:

The Free Exercise Clause, which applies to the States un­der the Fourteenth Amendment, "protects religious observ­ers against unequal treatment" and against "laws that im­pose special disabilities on the basis of religious status." Trinity Lutheran....Those "basic principle[s]" have long guided this Court....

Most recently, Trinity Lutheran distilled these and other decisions to the same effect into the "unremarkable" conclusion that disqualifying otherwise eligible recipients from a public benefit "solely because of their religious character" imposes "a penalty on the free exercise of religion that triggers the most exacting scrutiny...."

Montana's no-aid provision bars religious schools from public benefits solely because of the religious character of the schools. The provision also bars parents who wish to send their children to a religious school from those same benefits, again solely because of the religious character of the school. This is apparent from the plain text. The provision bars aid to any school "controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination." Mont. Const., Art. X, §6(1). The provision's title--"Aid pro­hibited to sectarian schools"--confirms that the provision singles out schools based on their religious character....

When otherwise eligible recipients are disqualified from a public benefit "solely because of their religious character," we must apply strict scrutiny. Trinity Lutheran...

The Blaine Amendment doesn't exclude only those religious schools which fail to meet neutral educational standards, or have some other kind of flaw. They are barred from receiving state assistance for which similar secular institutions are eligible. That is clearly discrimination on the basis of religion, if anything is. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


How Biden Plans To Undo Trump's Nativist Agenda: In a little-noticed announcement, the former vice president committed to a more ambitious refugee policy than existed under Obama. (DAHLIA LITHWICK, JUNE 29, 2020, Slate)

 Last Sunday, on World Refugee Day, Joe Biden laid out how he would reverse Trump's assault by committing to several essential immigration actions: Having pledged that if he is elected he will restore "America's historic role as leader in resettlement and defending the rights of refugees everywhere," Biden had set specific targets that will increase refugee resettlement in the United States. His plan would aim to admit 125,000 refugees to the U.S. (that's up from a ceiling of 18,000 under Trump, and more than Obama admitted). In his announcement last week he added a new pledge: to work with Congress to establish a minimum admissions number of at least 95,000 refugees annually. In addition to those actions, Biden has promised to:

pursue policies that increase opportunities for faith and local communities to sponsor refugee resettlement. I will make more channels, such as higher education visas, available to those seeking safety. I will repeal the Muslim ban -- and other discriminatory bans based on ethnicity and nationality -- and restore asylum laws, including ending the horrific practice of separating families at our border. I will work with our allies and partners to stand against China's assault on Hong Kong's freedoms and mass detention and repression of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities and support a pathway for those persecuted to find safe haven in the United States and other nations.

The proposal mirrors the plan set forth in the Refugee Protection Act of 2019, now pending a vote in the House of Representatives. It signals that Biden isn't just running against Trump's anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-immigrant dog whistles, but is also committing energy, and more importantly, resources, to fulfilling the United States' reputation as a nation that welcomes those in need of shelter, and also to making the US government a central player in solving a global refugee crisis that has only grown more exigent as a result of COVID-19. It signals that Biden understands that solving the refugee crisis is both a hefty administrative lift, and also a moral and democratic imperative. Also notable is that Biden isn't seeking to simply return to Obama-era policies, but is going farther, faster, in a tacit statement that Barack Obama's immigration legacy was not, in fact, anything to celebrate.

...but either pass a Reagan-style reform/amnesty or issue a Carteresque universal pardon for immigration offenses.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


How Churches Helped Make Scandinavians "White" (Livia Gershon June 30, 2020, JStor)

It might seem odd to modern readers, but Americans did not always classify Scandinavians as precisely "white." [...]

In 1884, Montgomery traveled to Europe, seeking out potential immigrants who were religiously compatible with his own Congregationalism. Visiting like-minded Swedes, Montgomery was pleased to find much that reminded him of home. He was impressed with the height, appearance, and aesthetic taste of his hosts. He noted that one was "so strikingly like an American in personal appearance that he would pass even in Boston for a Beacon Street full-blood."

But, Gollner notes, local church leaders were not always so happy with the Scandinavian immigrants who actually arrived in the U.S. Some of the newcomers spent less energy on religion than on labor organizing. Others became Adventists, Buddhists, or Mormons. Many simply stuck with Lutheranism, a denomination that many U.S. Protestants dismissed as stuck in old-world traditions and lacking in missionary zeal.

"God has sent these people to our very doors for us to Christianize," one church leader wrote. "We must do it, or they will make Europeans of us."

Gollner writes that religious leaders worked to do just that, attempting to Americanize the Scandinavians while also expanding their fellow white Protestants' idea of who belonged in their number.

Over the decades that followed, the U.S. conception of who belonged to its "white" majority continued to expand, beyond tall, pale Protestant Swedes to encompass even Catholic Italians and Irish. Today the boundaries of whiteness in the U.S. include all European-descended people and exclude most people with ancestors from all other parts of the world. But only time will tell whether that definition will continue to change.

But we're supposed to pretend that Jews aren't?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Unbelievers Are Probably More 'Christian' Than They Realize (JOSHUA CHATRAW, 6/30/20, Gospel Coalition)

Now is the time to look at not only the challenges, but also the opportunities within a post-Christian West. For even--or better yet, especially--in societies where Christianity has been relegated to an out-of-date relic of yesteryear, people are surprised to find that what they love about their favorite stories is that in them they encounter traces of the gospel.

To give just one example, the success of the Harry Potter franchise is illustrative of how gospel echoes persist in many of our culture's most beloved stories. Although many factors have contributed to making the series a worldwide phenomenon, Constance Grady and Aja Romano observe that the driving force of the series' success is straightforward: "The Harry Potter series is a phenomenon because it tells a story that millions of people loved, and it introduced the world to an enormous and magical world that millions of people have dreamed of escaping into."

But it's not just magic spells and quidditch matches that make this story so enticing. As author J. K. Rowling explains about her story, "To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious." She comments on two biblical citations--"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:26) and "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:21)--found in the final book on the tombstones of Harry's parents and Dumbledore's mother and sister: "I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric's Hollow, they sum up--they almost epitomize the whole series." The story is, after all, framed by two acts of sacrificial love--a mother who gave her life to save her son, and the son who willingly goes to his death so that all those he loves would live. The savior of the story is, of course, Harry Potter, the young wizard whose life had always been leading to the moment he would allow himself to be struck by evil unto death--only to live and return to defeat evil. 

Once the gospel has entered the bloodstream of a culture, even skeptics and doubters can't help but at times be taken by the story. For all the talk of repressive Christian ethics and the confidence in our ability to reason and use common sense to guide how we should live, the reality is the Western world's moral sensibilities are still living off the fumes of the Christian story. This is why Friedrich Nietzsche, the scathing critic of Christianity at the end of the 19th century, also turned his sights on the atheists of his day. For he realized that even these "secular" men weren't free from the story. Still today, fully escaping it proves elusive. 

The historian Tom Holland, a longtime secular progressive, recently wrote that despite his faith in God fading during his teen years, he now realizes his most fundamental instincts about life only make sense as an inheritance from the Christian story. Holland's book Dominion is a journey through Western history to narrate how our culture's moral ideals derive "ultimately from claims made in the Bible: that humans are made in God's image; that his Son died equally for everyone; that there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female." Human rights, a universal concern for the vulnerable, human equality, sexual restraint, reverence for humility, and the notion of moral progress itself are just a few of our common ideals that have developed in light of the Christian story. Holland can't get past the irony: "The West, increasingly empty though the pews may be, remains firmly moored to its Christian past." 

Simply put, your unbelieving friends are probably more "Christian" than they realize. That is, they embrace certain Christian ideals and beliefs, but these assumptions don't make much sense within their current script. They need a better story. 

Holland himself recognizes how much the Western civilization's future depends on our coming to grips with the history of our shared ideals. As he puts it, since our modern moral aspirations are "not from reason or from science, but from the distinctive course of Christianity's evolution--a course that, in the opinion of growing numbers in Europe and America, has left God dead--then how are its values anything more than the shadow of a corpse? What are the foundations of its morality, if not a myth?"

It's hilarious to listen to George Will try to explain that conservatism consists f defending the Declaration but he doesn't have faith.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jesus was not white. Here's why we should stop pretending he was. (James Martin, S.J., June 26, 2020, America)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Saudi, US push for extension of Iran arms embargo (New Arab, 30 June, 2020)

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Now It's Woodrow Wilson's TurnThe cultural revolution comes to the Ivy League. (PATRICK BUCHANAN, 6/30/20, American Conservative)

And why is this icon of American liberals to be so dishonored?

Because Thomas Woodrow Wilson disbelieved in racial equality.

Says Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber: "Wilson's racist opinions and policies make him an inappropriate namesake." Moreover, Wilson's "racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time."

And what exactly were Wilson's sins?

"Wilson was... a racist," writes Eisgruber, who "discouraged black applicants from applying to Princeton. While president of the United States he segregated the previously integrated civil service."

Another of Wilson's crimes was overlooked by Eisgruber.

In February 1915, following a White House screening of "Birth of a Nation," which depicted the Ku Klux Klan as heroic defenders of white womanhood in the South after the Civil War, a stunned Wilson said:

"It's like writing history with lightning. My only regret is that it is all so terribly true."

Princeton's board of trustees has endorsed Eisgruber's capitulation, declaring that Woodrow Wilson's "racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its form."

Pat was the earliest indicator that there was a sickness on the Right.

June 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


From pandering to Putin to abusing allies and ignoring his own advisers, Trump's phone calls alarm US officials (Carl Bernstein, June 29, 2020, CNN)

In hundreds of highly classified phone calls with foreign heads of state, President Donald Trump was so consistently unprepared for discussion of serious issues, so often outplayed in his conversations with powerful leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and so abusive to leaders of America's principal allies, that the calls helped convince some senior US officials -- including his former secretaries of state and defense, two national security advisers and his longest-serving chief of staff -- that the President himself posed a danger to the national security of the United States, according to White House and intelligence officials intimately familiar with the contents of the conversations.

The calls caused former top Trump deputies -- including national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as intelligence officials -- to conclude that the President was often "delusional," as two sources put it, in his dealings with foreign leaders. ['...]

In his phone exchanges with Putin, the sources reported, the President talked mostly about himself, frequently in over-the-top, self-aggrandizing terms: touting his "unprecedented" success in building the US economy; asserting in derisive language how much smarter and "stronger" he is than "the imbeciles" and "weaklings" who came before him in the presidency (especially Obama); reveling in his experience running the Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, and obsequiously courting Putin's admiration and approval. Putin "just outplays" him, said a high-level administration official -- comparing the Russian leader to a chess grandmaster and Trump to an occasional player of checkers. While Putin "destabilizes the West," said this source, the President of the United States "sits there and thinks he can build himself up enough as a businessman and tough guy that Putin will respect him." (At times, the Putin-Trump conversations sounded like "two guys in a steam bath," a source added.).

Posted by orrinj at 1:22 PM


John Roberts' Opinion Preserving Abortion Rights Is Also a Threat to Abortion Rights: The chief justice begrudgingly upheld precedent while rolling back the constitutional right to choose. (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JUNE 29, 2020, Slate)

In short, Roberts--alone among the conservatives--agreed with the liberals that Louisiana cannot pretend its law creates no real burden for abortion patients in the face of ample evidence that it would shutter clinics.

But the chief justice then whittled down the holding of Whole Woman's Health, replacing its balancing test with a stingier rule that may give states broader leeway to restrict abortion. Roberts expressly disavowed Breyer's test, which weighed a law's benefits to patients against its burdens. "There is no plausible sense in which anyone," he wrote, "let alone this Court, could objectively assign weight to such imponderable values" as "the potentiality of human life" and a woman's "own concept of existence." Rather, he declared, the court must retreat back to Casey's cramped standard, which asks only if an abortion restriction imposes an "undue burden," and does not permit courts to consider the benefits, or lack thereof, in making that determination.

Roberts' revision marks a retreat from Whole Woman's Health, effectively overruling its expansion of Casey and preventing courts from invalidating moderately burdensome abortion limitations. Consider this hypothetical example: A state requires patients to wait one week between requesting an abortion and obtaining one. During that period, she must visit the clinic at least three times to view multiple anti-abortion documentaries, ostensibly to ensure she understands the consequences of her decision.

Under Breyer's balancing test, this law would obviously be unconstitutional: It provides no actual medical benefits to patients while imposing at least some real burdens. But under Roberts' version of the Casey standard, it might be constitutional: Yes, the law would put an obstacle in patients' path to abortion, compelling them to make repeated visits to a clinic that might be hundreds of miles away and spend hours viewing propaganda. But it is, at least in theory, a surmountable obstacle (even though in reality many women would just give up). So Roberts may well find that it is not an undue burden.

In truth, however, it's not even clear that Roberts' loose test will survive for long. The chief justice noted that "I joined the dissent in Whole Woman's Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided." He then pointed out that no party in June Medical "has asked us to reassess the constitutional validity" of Casey. Here, Roberts strongly suggests that he would be open to overruling Casey if a state asked him to. But because Louisiana did not challenge that decision, Roberts felt obliged to stand by it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After 134 years, renewables beat coal in US - and head to 50 pct share by 2030 (Fereidoon Sioshansi, 29 June 2020, Renew Economy)

Coal is facing strong head winds in Europe as well. In April 2020, Sweden announced the closure of its last coal-fired power plant 2 years ahead of its pledge to exit coal. Perhaps all those Friday sit-ins by Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament were not in vain. Belgium got out of coal in 2016 as did Austria in 2020 with 6 other European countries,

France, Slovakia, Portugal, United Kingdom, Ireland, and Italy, planning to do the same by 2025 followed by another 5 by 2030 and Germany by 2038.

In the case of the US, the continued growth of renewables is almost entirely attributable to wind and solar.

According to the EIA 2019 also marked the year when wind generation surpassed hydro for the first time, becoming the biggest source of renewable generation in the US.

In the meantime, solar output is accelerating, and it is a matter of time before it exceeds wind. And together, they will soon exceed nuclear, eventually even natural gas.

What is noteworthy, however, is not that renewable generation continues to grow while coal output declines and nuclear stays steady before it begins its eventual decline, but the speed of the transition over the past decade and - even more important - the next.

The rise of wind and solar in the past decade across the globe has been nothing short of miraculous. It took roughly 10 years for wind to beat hydro in the US (visual above).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Renewables provide almost half of UK electricity in first three months of 2020 (Joshua S Hill, 29 June 2020, Renew Economy)

The UK's Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its official statistics for the first quarter of 2020, revealing that total renewable generation increased by 30% against the same quarter a year earlier, increasing to provide 40.8TWh, an increase of 9.4TWh and a record increase for year-on-year quarterly renewable generation.

As such, the share of electricity generation provided by renewable energy sources during the first three months of 2020 increased to 47% - up an impressive 11.1% on the same quarter a year earlier.

The new generation record beat out the previous best of 32.5TWh set in the fourth quarter of 2019 - which, in and of itself, shows consistency in the growth of the UK's renewable energy network.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump tells black people who want statues taken down they 'need to learn' from history and not erase an entire era otherwise 'you're going to go back to it sometime' (HARRIET ALEXANDER, 29 June 2020, Daily Mail)

Donald Trump has said that black people who want statues of slave owners and Confederate figures removing should 'learn from the history' or risk 'going to go back to it sometime'.

June 28, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Mississippi Lawmakers To Remove Confederate Emblem From State Flag (Lulu Garcia-Navarro, June 28, 2020, NPR Weekend Edition )

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Why do you think the change was possible this time?

JOHNSON: Money - money. The climate in the country that was sparked by recent events across the nation said to all of America that race relations in this state - we can take the cover off of it. It is not what it needs to be. We have a serious race problem in this state - how we understand each other, how we perceive each other. And right in the front door of this country, a glaring symbol of that stands in the state of Mississippi.

And people who do business with the state, sports teams, colleges and universities saying hey, we can't be a party to that. We can't be involved in that kind of - we can't rubber-stamp or endorse a system like that. We're pulling out. You know, we may end up losing business. We may not - we certainly won't get any new business, no new jobs.

And when student athletes start talking about quitting the team - you know, a football industry, a college football industry at the SEC where two schools in the state of Mississippi make millions, tens of millions of dollars every year on the backs of African American athletes. And those athletes start saying, we may not play - all of a sudden, people get clarity. And that's why we changed.

...when it's actually the free market that's pummeling them.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


How One Maryland Nursing Home Avoided COVID-19 (LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, June 28, 2020,  Weekend Edition Sunday)


A hopeful story now concerning the pandemic. It's about a nursing home in a hard-hit part of the country, and the majority of its residents are Black. And no one there has gotten the coronavirus. It's the Maryland Baptist Aged Home in Baltimore, and Derrick DeWitt is the director. He's also pastor of the First Mount Calvary Church nearby. And Reverend DeWitt joins us now.


DERRICK DEWITT: Hi. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, deaths in nursing homes account for nearly half of the virus-related deaths in the United States. How did you do this? What measures did you take?

DEWITT: Well, it was a combination of things. The best thing I could say we did was we really believed that the virus was coming. And this is kind of funny, but it's - when I heard President Trump say we only had 15 cases and by the end of the week that it would be zero, I knew that it was time to act.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New U.S. coronavirus cases break record; Pence cancels campaign events in Arizona, Florida (Nicole Acevedo, Joe Murphy and Josh Lederman, 6/27/20, NBC News)

The U.S. set a new grim record in the number of new coronavirus cases in a single day, with reports of nearly 46,000 on Friday.

The 45,942 single-day increase was driven by more than 8,000 new cases in Florida and thousands more in Texas, Arizona and California, according to an NBC News tally.

Vice President Mike Pence meanwhile has postponed appearances that were planned in Arizona and Florida this coming week "out of an abundance of caution" due to the virus spikes in those states, an official with President Donald Trump's campaign said Saturday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump admits it: He's losing (ALEX ISENSTADT, 06/27/2020, Politico)

What should have been an easy interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday horrified advisers when Trump offered a rambling, non-responsive answer to a simple question about his goals for a second term. In the same appearance, the normally self-assured president offered a tacit acknowledgment that he might lose when he said that Joe Biden is "gonna be your president because some people don't love me, maybe." [...]

"Under the current trajectory, President Trump is on the precipice of one the of the worst electoral defeats in modern presidential elections and the worst historically for an incumbent president," said former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg, who remains a supporter.

All before the really dire numbers he's causing on Covid start coming in.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Workers removed thousands of social distancing stickers before Trump's Tulsa rally (Joshua Partlow and  Josh Dawsey, June 27, 2020, Washington Post)

In the hours before President Trump's rally in Tulsa, his campaign directed the removal of thousands of "Do Not Sit Here, Please!" stickers from seats in the arena that were intended to establish social distance between rallygoers, according to video and photos obtained by The Washington Post and a person familiar with the event.

The removal contradicted instructions from the management of the BOK Center, the 19,000-seat arena in downtown Tulsa where Trump held his rally on June 20. At the time, coronavirus cases were rising sharply in Tulsa County, and Trump faced intense criticism for convening a large crowd for an indoor political rally, his first such event since the start of the pandemic.

June 27, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:36 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Tzipi Livni: Annexation of West Bank a 'historic mistake' (MEMO, June 27, 2020)

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserted on Friday that Israeli annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank is a "huge historic mistake", CNN reported.

Several days ago, Livni told The Washington Post that: "Israel is about to make one of the most fateful decisions in its modern history -- a decision that will have a profound impact on its future as a Jewish democratic state and on the prospect for peace."

She added: "The Israeli cabinet is on the verge of unilaterally annexing territories in the West Bank."

"This is not a technical issue. It is a question that has a direct bearing on the very nature of the state of Israel -- its identity, its values and its future."


Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Child-Sex Trafficker From Trump Tower Meeting Gets 10-Year Sentence (BRANDI BUCHMAN, June 26, 2020, Courthouse News)

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Trump Has Dismantled More Monuments Than Any Protest (CHRIS D'ANGELO, 6/27/20, New Republic)

But it is Trump who has done the most damage to national monuments, dismantling or desecrating four federally protected land and water sites with significant cultural, archeological and natural resources. 

Those rollbacks include carving more than 2 million acres from a pair of protected national monuments in Utah--Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante―in December 2017. The boundary of Bears Ears, a 1.35 million-acre landscape that several tribes consider sacred, was cut by 85 percent. Nearby 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, the largest land national monument in the country and rich in both archeological and paleontological resources, was cut roughly in half. This month, Trump signed a proclamation to greenlight commercial fishing within Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, a vast protected site off the East Coast―a move that goes against the very purpose of designating a marine sanctuary.

The administration has also bulldozed and blown up Indigenous cultural and burial sites within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a UNESCO biosphere reserve that is also home to endangered species, to make way for Trump's wall along the US-Mexico border. Ned Norris Jr., the chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, has compared construction of the wall on sacred burial sites to desecrating Arlington National Cemetery.

The Interior Department has floated additional cuts at several other protected national monuments. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


The Media's Role in Concealing Stalin's Evils Exposed in Mr. Jones: Walter Duranty and The New York Times have blood on their hands in this historical re-enactment. (GLENN GARVIN, 6.27.2020, reason)

At the forefront of Mr. Jones are two reporters. One, Gareth Jones (British television actor James Norton), an ambitious rookie freelancer for what was then called the Manchester Guardian, is so inexperienced he forgot to bring his typewriter on the trip. The other, Walter Duranty (Peter Sarsgaard, Wormwood), The New York Times' Moscow bureau chief, is fresh off a Pulitzer prize for his fawning coverage of Stalin's command-and-control economic policies.

Jones has been told Duranty is the man to see to arrange an interview with Stalin. He explains what he wants to ask: "So how are the Soviets suddenly on a spending spree? Who's providing the finance?" Duranty is noncommittal about the interview, but does have an answer about where the money is coming from: agricultural exports. "Grain is Stalin's gold." He also offers some bad news--a German reporter who's a friend of Jones and had promised to show him around Moscow has been murdered, apparently during a mugging--almost unknown in the stringently locked-down Moscow of the 1930s, particularly in the area where journalists and other necessary foreign evils lived.

Nosing around while he waits to see what will happen with his Stalin interview, Jones learns that his German friend thought something fishy was going on in the Ukraine, the Soviet Union's breadbasket region, which had recently been placed off-limits to foreigners, and was planning to sneak in. Jones decides to do the same, arranging a tour of a German-built factory on the other side of the Ukraine from Moscow, then ditching his Soviet minder to spend a couple of days wandering alone on foot.

Even before he leaves the train, Jones has clues that something has gone deeply wrong. When he offers to buy an overcoat from a Ukrainian passenger, the man begs to be paid in bread rather than currency. When Jones pitches a gnawed apple core into a wastebasket, another man dives into the trash to retrieve it.

But nothing can prepare him for what he sees when he gets off: Stiffened corpses scattered around the train station. Corpses in empty, deserted farmhouses. Corpses stacked on carts moving along village streets. Corpses being chewed on by starving children, who afterward trill a mournful ballad: "Hunger and cold are in our house, nothing to eat, nowhere to sleep and our neighbor has lost his mind and eaten his children... ."

Jones is eventually picked up by Soviet security forces and returned to Moscow, where he's warned never to tell anybody what he's seen. The "or else" will be the life imprisonment of half-a-dozen British phone company engineers who've been arrested on trumped-up spying charges. As he prepares to leave, he's ostracized by other reporters, including the sneering Duranty. "There comes a time in every man's life when he must choose a cause greater than himself," Duranty lectures him with, yes, moral clarity.

Back in London, Jones discovers Duranty has filed a New York Times story dismissing him as a credulous amateur. There may be a bit of hunger in the Ukraine, Duranty writes, but absolutely no famine. And anyway, what if there was? "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs."

One great moral crime we never reckon with is anti-anti-Communism.
Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


China and the Trans-Pacific Partnership: In or out? (Gary Clyde Hufbauer (PIIE), Jeffrey J. Schott (PIIE) and Zhiyao (Lucy) Lu, June 23, 2020, Peterson Institute)

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was designed in 2016 to be almost China-proof, with stringent obligations requiring transparency and trade liberalization. As former US Trade Representative Michael Froman put it, Chinese participation would be welcomed only when China could meet TPP's terms, which it was far from doing. The United States was not keeping China out; China was just not ready to come in.

President Donald Trump then pulled the United States out of the TPP in January 2017. The remaining 11 TPP countries suspended some of the controversial terms favored by the United States and implemented the pact, renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), in late December 2018. Membership was open to all countries, including China. Has the US departure opened the door for China to join sooner rather than later?

The answer depends on the terms that China would agree to if it signed up to the club. The original vision of the Obama trade team in launching the TPP was that it would have sufficient clout to rival China's extensive trade relations across the Pacific. They also hoped that it would pressure Beijing to adopt bolder economic reforms to sign up. But without US officials screening new applicants, China could now seek to negotiate accession under revised and more flexible terms and enhance its regional economic influence. This would be bad news for the United States, both in economic and geopolitical terms. If elected president, Joe Biden should figure out a way to persuade Congress that joining the CPTPP best serves US interests.

Chinese participation in the US-designed TPP was always considered a long shot. TPP requirements conflict with current Chinese practice; China would have to embrace unprecedented domestic reforms to meet disciplines on state-owned enterprises, data flows and localization restrictions, labor obligations, and subsidies. Yet when President Trump closed the door on US participation in the TPP in January 2017, he opened an opportunity for China to enter and reshape Asian economic integration by modifying the terms of the CPTPP. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Violence by far-right is among US's most dangerous terrorist threats, study finds (Jason Wilson, 27 Jun 2020, The Guardian)

Violence by far-right groups and individuals has emerged as one of the most dangerous terrorist threats faced by US law enforcement and triggered a wave of warnings and arrests of people associated with those extremist movements.

The most recent in-depth analysis of far-right terrorism comes from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

In a report released last week, the Escalating Terrorism Problem in the United States, CSIS analyses 25 years of domestic terrorism incidents and finds that the majority of attacks and plots have come from the far right.

The report says "the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994, and the total number of rightwing attacks and plots has grown significantly during the past six years", with the far right launching two-thirds of attacks and plots in 2019, and 90% of those in 2020.

The report adds: "Far-right terrorism has significantly outpaced terrorism from other types of perpetrators." The second most significant source of attacks and plots in the US has been "religious extremists", almost all "Salafi jihadists inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaida".

The report shows the far left has been an increasingly negligible source of attacks since the mid 2000s.

June 26, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


American will start filling planes after doing the least of big US airlines to protect passengers. (Thomas Pallini, 6/26/20, Business Insider) 

...courts should apply res ipsa loquitur to any contagion suits. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Covenants and the Common Good: Toward a Renewed Politics (Bonnie McKernan, June 25, 2020, Mere Orthodoxy)

Out of the post-Babel wreckage of disunity and disarray, he calls upon an individual, Abram, to form a new community that revolved neither around the individual nor the collective, but what Sacks describes as "a new form of social order that would give equal honour to the individual and the collective, personal responsibility and the common good."

And a covenant was "cut"--the Brit Bein Habetarim, or " Covenant of Parts." And Abram, like Adam, fell into a deep sleep as God walked through that which had been separated. Abram, like Adam, was told to multiply, yet this time God himself would take care of the math. Abram and Sarai stepped out of the darkness in faith, trading barren wombs and severed flesh for offspring like the stars, an everlasting land of promise, and the opportunity to share their blessings with all of humanity--the future restoration of the unity destroyed at Babel. God was throwing us a literal life-line: Give up your individual and collective toiling and striving that keeps breaking you, join my covenant, and I will accomplish great things through you, and for you. I will save you from yourselves.

This shows us how covenants can transform both the singular individual and the collective society. It can provide both with common values, purpose, identity, stability, and shared strength through shared sacrifice. They're held together not by self-interest or force, but fidelity and faith.

As the Israelites passed from slavery through the waters of the Red Sea into a covenant of freedom through fidelity, so the believer passes from death through the waters of baptism into a covenant of life through faith. A covenant with the Trinity itself, culminating on the day of Pentecost when the curse of Babel was dissolved and rather than "one lip" united for evil there could now be one lip (one "pure lip" as prophesied by Zephaniah) united for good through the covenantal sign of the Spirit. Abraham's far off promise of unity is now offered to the entire world.

A Covenantal God

Christianity must be understood covenantally because that's how God has chosen to relate to humankind. Biblical scholar Thomas Schreiner defines a covenant as "a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other." Over and again, we see covenants as a means of God demonstrating who he is, binding himself to his people and creation, providing a means of flourishing, limiting and hedging in destruction, and forging paths of reconciliation between humanity and himself. Herman Bavinck reminds us that "God is the God of the covenant;" it's what joins us through the infinite distance to God, not as a master and a slave but in comunion and friendship--it's "the essence of true religion." [...]

Covenants build bonds that run deeper than politics, denominations, race, or even kinship. They are the blueprints handed to us by our Creator and modeled by the Trinity. In fact, if our lines and points neatly match up with the outlines of any group or person who did not make us, we're likely being unfaithful to the most important Covenant of all, and party to a dying contract that will never bring life and flourishing to our story or this world.

Here's the thing that should strip us of excuses--we don't even have to agree with what someone believes or does to covenant with them. It's not unequally yoking, it's not being of the world, it's reflecting the God who was willing to covenant with us. It's why Jesus loved his enemies, broke bread with sinners, and forgave those who killed him. It's why we've been given so much and are told to give it away freely. It's why every Christian should be able to say to each and every person before us: I see you, I care for you, I love you, I will hold what I've been given with an open hand so you don't have to be so fearful, because I have the best reason of all to never fear.

We worry it may bolster a political party not our own, Christians we don't think are theologically sound, a cause we don't want to advance. It seems messy and uncomfortable. It felt threatening to the world Jesus was born into as well. It didn't mesh with how they pictured God's kingdom being built. "Follow me," he assured them. In doing so, we are led along the way that often looks like weakness and feels like a death of sorts, but it's the strongest, most life-producing thing we could do. It's not sitting still and it's not conquering. It's both surrendering and asserting. Covenanting with those around us allows them to taste and see the source of holiness, peace, justice, mercy, and love.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM

BLOOD-SUCKING FREAKS (profanity alert):

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


My Confederate Past: Everyone who grew up in Mississippi was steeped in the Confederacy. Even if they didn't realize it. (STUART STEVENS  JUNE 26, 2020, The Bulwark)

Mississippi has the highest percentage of African Americans of any state in the country. I ask myself now why did it take so long for me to realize what it might be like for nearly 40 percent of my state to go to school and work under a flag that represented a cause dedicated to the right to own their ancestors? Why is it that I had written books about traveling through China, Africa, and Europe, fascinated by every cultural quirk I came across, before I looked up at my own state flag and thought about the dehumanizing brutality it represented?

I don't have any good answers, most likely because there are none. I was given every opportunity in this life, an open door to the world, a chance at the best education in the United States and England, a family that supported my odd passions that I was lucky enough to turn into professions. I had passport stamps from 61 countries with different flags before I began to think about my own state's flag. It wasn't that I was actively for the flag . . . but that indifference was just as toxic as active support.

Today many white Mississippians of my generation--and even more of the younger generation--are eager to change. Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." We can't undo what we didn't do.

But my regret is mixed with a hope. Hope that perhaps we can take steps--small and inadequate as they might be--to face the truth of our Confederate past. And in doing so change the future.

It will never be enough. But I hope today we can take one more step out of the shadows of a bloody past into the brighter sun of a better day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


Don't Be Afraid to Virtue Signal -- It Can Be a Powerful Tool to Change People's Minds (JAMIL ZAKI AND MINA CIKARA, JUNE 25, 2020, TIME)

Two key insights about social behavior are relevant here. First, people conform to others' actions and opinions; they often say what others say and do as others do. Second, when it comes to many issues, most people don't know what most people think--meaning that conformity involves a surprising amount of guesswork. Imagine 100 individuals in a pitch-black gym, each trying to join the rest of the crowd in a chaotic multiplayer game of Marco Polo. People will gravitate towards whoever they can hear, clumping around the loudest voices. Opinions can work this way: when a particular viewpoint gets a lot of attention, people assume it's popular, and shift towards it. We receive signals, and are changed by them.

This means social information can be a powerful force for social change, because people look to each other when deciding how to express themselves. For example, Chris Crandall and colleagues surveyed people to find out how socially acceptable they thought it was to be prejudiced against a variety of groups, ranging from child molesters to librarians. They also asked respondents to report their personal attitudes towards these groups. The two ratings were almost perfectly correlated: people reported as much prejudice as they believed was socially acceptable.

As social norms shift, individuals shift with them: adopting popular opinions and behaviors, and dropping ones that fall out of style. Norms are especially powerful as they gain steam. In one set of studies, Gregg Sparkman and Greg Walton presented diners in a cafeteria with evidence that 30% of the U.S. population was vegetarian, or that 30% of the population was newly vegetarian. People who learned about this second, "dynamic social norm" were twice as likely to order a meatless lunch themselves. They saw not just where the crowd was, but where it was going, and didn't want to be left behind.

Conformity can seem spineless, but in fact it reflects an ancient yearning to be part of something greater than ourselves--a smart yearning, given the many social advantages of coordinating and cooperating with others. It goes deeper than words, sometimes changing what we see, what we value, and how we behave, even privately. And no matter what we think of this, we are and will always be a herd species, more prone to move together than alone. Social norms will continue to change, and we will change with them.

This clarifies why signaling is so important.

He lived a life of virtue.

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June 25, 2020

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The US has reached a tipping point: The Southern 'rebels' who fought to keep slavery are finally being recognised for what they really are: traitors. (Larry Beinhart, 6/25/20, Al Jazeera)

Those that we were taught to be heroes - not just in the South, in West Point, in our high schools - are now recognised as traitors. It is as shocking as it is true. It has suddenly become not only undeniable, but also unevadable, that they fought for slavery. 

We have reached a tipping point. It is partly because Trump has taken the worst of our political nature to the point of absurdity. It is partly because COVID-19 has exploded the myth that we do not need government and shown us that inept governance kills people. It is partly because everyone has cameras and they have exposed the police state. That third is, of course, the one that comes most directly from the legacy of slavery and the racism needed to live with it.

But it is the toppling of the statues, the renaming of the bases, and saying out loud that the "heroes" of the South were actually traitors fighting to keep people enslaved, that shows how deep and profound this change is. 

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Florida's IdiocracyCome and witness the wisdom of The People. (CHARLES SYKES,  JUNE 24, 2020, The Bulwark)

One woman accused the county commissioners of wanting to "throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door" by mandating masks. "You are all turning your backs on it."

But this was the mild stuff.

"You literally cannot mandate somebody to wear a mask, knowing that mask is killing people," insisted one woman. "It literally is killing people." Literally. (This is super important, if true.)

She followed up this disquisition with a threat:

We the people are waking up. And we know what citizen's arrest is. Because citizen's arrests are already happening, okay? And every single one of you who is obeying the devil's law are going to be arrested. And you, doctor [here she is addressing the county's health commissioner], are going to be arrested for crimes against humanity.

And not just arrested. The woman, who does not understand the meaning of "literally" but is an expert on international law, also dropped some theological bombs on on the board:

Every single one of you are going to get punished . . . by God.

You cannot--you cannot escape God. You cannot escape God. I'm a say that again: You cannot escape God. Not even with the mask or six feet.

The six feet, you see, is the tip-off for the real agenda at work here.

"Six feet, like I said before, is military protocol," the lady insisted. "You are trying to get people to train them, so when the camera, the 5G comes out, what, they are going to scan everybody? We gotta get scanned, we gotta get temperatured? The kids are going to have to go school with masks?"

"Are you insane?" she asked. "Are you crazy? I think all of you ought to be a psych ward right the heck now."

And irony wept.

Imagine believing in a deity who would punish you for being courteous of the health of others?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


AOC Spent $6.3M to Defeat Primary Challenger (David Catron, June 25, 2020, American Spectator)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for all her strident rhetoric about the malignant influence of money in politics, won Tuesday's Democratic primary in New York's 14th District the old-fashioned way -- she drowned her opponents beneath a tsunami of campaign cash. According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Ocasio-Cortez spent about $6.3 million of $10.5 million raised, more than any other Democrat up for reelection in 2020. Her only serious primary challenger for the NY-14 seat, longtime CNBC journalist Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, spent about $1 million of $2 million raised. As of Wednesday afternoon, with 88% of precincts reporting, AOC had garnered 73 percent of the ballots cast compared to Caruso-Cabrera's 19 percent.

All comedy is conservative.

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MINE CERTAINLY WAS (self-reference alert):

Was my diabetes a symbol of moral failure?Lockdown seems to have cured my diabetes -- and taught me a lesson about over-indulgence (GILES FRASER, 6/25/20, UnHerd)

According to the WHO, the number of people with diabetes globally nearly quadrupled between 1980 and 2014 -- from 108 million to 422 million. It's a disease of affluence. Bodies schooled by evolution to store energy to survive periods of famine are badly adapted to manage extended periods of plenty. Type 2 is nature's way of saying we have had enough. Our prosperity is killing us.

So, since lockdown began, I have been on a mission. No bread, no pasta, no rice, no potatoes. And I have been pretty religious about it. I have allowed myself the breadcrumbs around a fish finger and the body of Christ, but apart from these I have cut out bread and those other foods completely. I have lost over three stone. Where low fat diets have never worked for me, low sugar (ie low carbs) really makes a difference.

Yesterday, I received a letter from my GP which said that my blood sugar average over the past three months has been 6 -- compared with the 12 it was this time last year. I have dramatically reduced my diabetes medications. And, hopefully, I am getting close to pushing it into permanent state of remission.

Before lockdown, I was too scared even to verbalise the fear that I might not be around to see my youngest children into their teenage years. Now I can watch my little one learning to walk without feeling guilty. The relief feels wonderful.

I used to find it so reassuring when other people would fail at their diets, thus justifying my own repeated failure. There is nothing quite so comforting as the thought that deep change is impossible because, well, I am the way I am. Change is scary, failure a relief. So there's no need to try too hard. I'm glad I was forced to confront that.

Because there is a deeper question of moral philosophy about the management of what we eat, and that involves our whole approach to limit and privation. If diabetes is the disease of over-supply, then to address it we need to think very hard about our attitude towards the very idea of having enough, to limit.

Too much sugar and too little fitness.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oh, the irony: Fossil fuel financier signs major solar contract with fossil fuel producer (Joshua S Hill, 25 June 2020, Renew Economy)

According to The Washington Post, writing on Tuesday, Wells Fargo has signed a varying Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Shell Energy for 150MW of solar power in the United States, which will be purchased from three locations in Virginia and one in California.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sweden didn't impose a lockdown. Its economy is just as bad as its neighbors who did. (Steve Goldstein, 6/25/20, Market Watch)

It is a common refrain from critics of the lockdown. Don't let the cure -- locking down the economy -- be worse than the disease it is preventing.

If that is the case, then, Sweden should be a case study in how to manage the disease.

It famously didn't lock down. Bars and restaurants remained open, as did hairdressers and gyms. The University of Oxford's government response tracker puts into numbers the light-touch effort, showing Sweden was one of the least restrictive countries in the world.

On the health front, Sweden has paid a heavy price. According to Johns Hopkins University data, Sweden has suffered 50.7 deaths per 100,000 people. That isn't the worst in the world -- Belgium and the U.K. are higher, for example -- but far above the 10.4 deaths per 100,000 in Denmark, the 5.9 deaths in Finland and 4.7 deaths in Norway.

But there is also an economic question. Did Sweden benefit economically from avoiding the lockdown?

The economic data doesn't suggest that.

...is that most of us aren't members.

June 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


The U.S. Military Has a Boogaloo Problem: Some of the largest private Facebook groups catering to the boogaloo movement have scores of members who identify as active-duty military. (Tess Owen, Jun 24 2020, Vice News)

Meanwhile, there's growing concern among intelligence officials about the public-safety risk posed by the boogaloo movement. In late May, the Department of Homeland Security warned law enforcement around the country that "anarchist and militia extremists" could try to exploit the protests against police brutality with the goal of sparking the "boogaloo," Politico reported.

In early June, the FBI arrested three "Boogaloo Bois" -- an army reservist, a Navy veteran, and an Air Force veteran -- for allegedly planning to throw explosives into a Black Lives Matter protest in Las Vegas to sow confusion and chaos.

On June 15, authorities issued an intelligence assessment warning that "violent adherents of the boogaloo ideology" could target Washington D.C. due to the "significant presence of U.S. law enforcement entities."

The following day, federal prosecutors announced charges against Air Force Staff Sgt. Steve Carrillo for a deadly ambush on federal security officers outside a courthouse in Oakland, California.

Carrillo, who was already in custody for allegedly killing a sheriff's deputy, allegedly had ties to the Boogaloo movement. Investigators said they found explosives, firearms, and a tactical vest with a boogaloo patch on it inside his van. They said he'd also used his own blood to scrawl slogans associated with the boogaloo movement, including "BOOG," on the hood of the white van.

Prosecutors say that Carrillo sought to exploit the pain and suffering driving the protests against police brutality to advance the goals of the boogaloo movement.

"We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage."

"Go to the riots and support our own cause," Carrillo allegedly wrote on Facebook the day of the ambush on the federal officer. "Use their anger to fuel our fire. Think outside the box. We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage."

It's hard to square the violent anti-government aspirations of the boogaloo with the oath of induction taken by military personnel to protect the U.S. and enemies "foreign and domestic." But the involvement of service members in anti-government extremist movements is nothing new, said Kathleen Belew, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Chicago and author of 'Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.'

Active-duty service members or veterans have the potential to "dramatically escalate the impact of fringe activism, pass on explosives expertise, urban warfare expertise," said Belew, which is why extremist groups have long-sought to radicalize and recruit those individuals.

"This is not a problem we should take lightly," said Belew.

Posted by orrinj at 4:48 PM


Planned Parenthood Fires Top Executive Over Allegations of Racism (Mary Margaret Olohan,  June 24, 2020, Daily Caller)

A top executive at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has been fired over allegations of racism.

The organization's board of directors announced Tuesday that it had "parted ways" Monday with Laura McQuade, who had served as chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Greater New York since 2017, The New York Times reported. The news came after allegations of both abusive and discriminatory behavior toward Black Planned Parenthood employees.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Pew Poll Shows That a Majority of Democrats Favors Abortion Restrictions (MICHAEL J. NEW, June 23, 2020, National Review)

Last week, the Pew Research Center released an analysis of the results of a previous survey the group conducted on life issues. The poll had surveyed more than 4,000 people between late July and early August 2019, asking them not only about their attitudes toward abortion but also about whether they agreed with their party's stance on the issue.

The survey found that 59 percent of self-identified Democrats support some limits on abortion; only 40 percent said abortion should be "legal in all cases." It also found that 29 percent of Democrats said they either agreed with Republicans on abortion policy or did not agree with either party's position.

The shift rightwards will only accelerate as conservative non-whites are trapped in the party by GOP Nationalism and suburban and Evangelical Republican change parties because of that racism.

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Above the Law: The Data Are In on Police, Killing, and Race (Lyman Stone, Jun. 23rd, 2020, Public Discourse)

Police officers kill about 1,700 Americans every year. In other words, police killings have made up about one out of every twelve violent deaths of Americans between 2010 and 2018. That's including American military deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere during that window. Indeed, more Americans died at the hands of police officers during that period (about 14,400) than died while on active military duty (about 9,400).

Police violence in America is extraordinary in its intensity. It is disproportionate to the actual threats facing police officers, and it has risen significantly in recent years without apparent justification. Its effects are felt across all racial groups, with non-Hispanic whites making up half of all people killed by police officers, even as African Americans are killed at disproportionately high rates compared to any reasonable baseline.

Ultimately, high levels of police violence are a problem for all of society. They exemplify the increasingly unaccountable and militarized nature of police forces, over which elected officials struggle to maintain any kind of control. [...]

To summarize: police killings have risen despite no increase in social or criminal violence generally. Police killings have risen despite a decline in actual killings of police officers (and, as related data show, a decline in assaults of police officers, too). Police killings have risen, but this rise is not driven by reported officially justified homicides, nor is it associated with a larger share of police killings involving armed victims. Instead, what we've seen is a rise in police killings across the board, untethered from actual threats to society, with the victims often being unarmed innocents. About 15 to 25 percent of police killings are of unarmed people.

This killing is largely driven by the same kinds of bureaucratic malfeasance and self-dealing that conservatives have criticized in other public sector unions. When incompetent DMV workers are not fired, when abusive teachers are reshuffled around schools, when bureaucrats use administrative gimmicks to thwart the electorate's desire to rein in excessive spending, we conservatives are quick to (correctly!) identify the pernicious work of public-sector unions. Whereas all workers should have some say in their employment conditions, such as via unionization, public-sector workers already get a say in their employment conditions without a union: they get to vote on who their boss is! Public sector unions give the bureaucrats double the "votes" of the rest of us.

Police unions, which cause higher rates of police killings by shielding bad cops from discipline, are an especially horrible case of the general problem. Police killing is not the work of vigilant warriors defending society at great personal cost, and sometimes going too far: it is the day-in, day-out petty tyranny of a taxpayer-funded bureaucratic lobby group. The difference is that, unlike other public sector unions, police unions have military-grade equipment they can use to violently crush protests against their abuses, and they are legally immune from most consequences. They're teachers' unions, but with tanks and endless get-out-of-jail-free cards.

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Neo-Nazi Memoir Describes Terror Group's Acid-Soaked Ram Sacrifice (Ben Makuch and Mack Lamoureux, Jun 24 2020, Vice News)

The nearly 3,000-word memoir, which references internal details that would only be known to members who operated inside The Base and had access to its internal communications network, appeared in an encrypted chat thread used by neo-Nazis earlier this year and was tipped to VICE News, which vetted the tale.

"In the course of history men have always found themselves dissatisfied with their current political situation," the author writes. He blames the rise of liberalism for social decay, which leads to he and his compatriots thinking, as he has it, "The only way to truly change society was to rape society." He then describes how some neo-Nazis believe the collapse of society is nigh and that the only way forward is to either hasten the fall, prepare for it, or both, which leads to them meeting up in person to "materialize out of the internet and into the world." (This is what Nazzarro intended when he first established The Base: The aim was to corral internet neo-Nazis and make them into a real-world insurgency.)

The writer of the memoir says that his generation of neo-Nazis is collectively driven by vicious prejudice and the difficulties of being a "young man during an age of ever progressive liberal ideologies," and added that he felt alienated by modern society.

"In 2019 I found myself in The Base, which at the time I found to be a delightful organization full of like minded individuals preparing for what we considered the inevitable... The impending collapse of our social order and the nation as we know it."

Following closely on James Mason's Siege--an insurgency manual considered scripture to many militant neo-Nazis--The Base metastasized its worldview: A race war was coming and they needed to be ready to strike. Their preparations, in his telling, involved creating cells across the country, with armed, paramilitary training camps getting members, some of whom were former servicemen, ready for the violent struggle that would ensue after the fall of the U.S. government. At that point, the group could enact its bloodlust: Out of the smoldering rubble of America, it could take over a swath of land and make a white ethnostate.

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The Declining Case for Municipal Recycling (Howard Husock, June 23, 2020, City Journal)

When Operation National Sword took effect in 2018, China insisted that it would accept only the noncontaminated recyclables that its manufacturers could use. As a result, the market for recyclables collapsed, and imports from the U.S. and elsewhere plunged.

Since then, newspapers and other materials that municipal sanitation departments (or private firms) had picked up from city residents, who had dutifully sorted the materials and placed them in blue boxes, have increasingly piled up in warehouses or have been sent to landfills. Yet, despite their reputation, landfills--once infamous for leaking into groundwater--have become federally regulated and are far more environmentally safe. It remains true that recyclable materials may be reused--but there is no assurance that this will happen, especially for plastics.

Meanwhile, the economics of municipal recycling has been turned upside down. Those city departments responsible for trash pickup now incur significant costs, over and above what they would have to pay in the absence of recycling. These costs include the personnel and equipment for separate additional refuse collection (or payment to a contractor to provide the service), as well as the cost of paying firms to accept recyclables, now that they no longer can be profitably resold.

Some recyclables--notably, aluminum cans--continue to have a relatively high market value. But they are mixed with other materials that have little value and therefore require expensive sorting.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas was one of the first states to reopen. Now it's seeing record numbers of the coronavirus and its Republican governor is urging people to stay home. (Rosie Perper, 6/24/20, Business Insider)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told state residents on Tuesday to stay home unless absolutely necessary as the number of new cases in the state reached record highs. 

The number of new cases in Texas has been steadily rising over the past few weeks. On Tuesday evening, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 5,489 new cases, the highest number of new cases in the state since the outbreak began.

"Texas will report an all-time high in the number of cases of people testing positive of more than 5,000," Abbott said in an interview with local TV station KBTX. "The hospitalization rate is at an all-time high. Coronavirus is spreading in Brazos County and across the entire state of Texas, which is exactly why action is being taken."

He told the station that despite the state's relaxed social distancing measures, residents were advised to stay at home. 

June 23, 2020

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Countries where everyone wore masks saw COVID death rates 100 times lower than projected (ADELE PETERS, 6/23/20, Co.Exist)

When COVID-19 started to spread from China to other countries in late January, it seemed like Thailand--a popular destination for Chinese tourists, including thousands who had traveled from Wuhan that month--might be hit hard. But as of early June, the country has had only a little more than 3,000 confirmed cases and 58 deaths. In the U.S., the death rate per capita is more than 450 times greater.

Several factors likely slowed the spread of the virus in Thailand, including partial lockdowns, contact tracing, and community health volunteers who helped track the disease throughout the country. But one seemingly key factor was the use of masks, which became prevalent there even as the World Health Organization was saying that they weren't needed (the WHO has since reversed course). Even now, with only a handful of new cases being reported, 95% of Thailand's residents report wearing masks when they're in public. A new study that looked at global data found that countries that required masks early in the outbreak, or where people quickly adopted them, as in Thailand, have had death rates 100 times lower than projected.

"We looked at the data from 198 countries around the world, and we looked at mortality from coronavirus," says lead author Christopher Leffler, a physician and professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. "What we found is that the countries that introduced masks quickly--that is, before the outbreak had much of a chance to spread within their country--had a much lower mortality."

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


Trump is increasingly relying on white supremacist ploys to fire up his base as he panics over his re-election chances (John Haltiwanger, 6/23/20, Business Insider)

In 2016, Trump also employed a white supremacist playbook, stoking people's fears and biases in an effort to rally them behind his campaign. Trump began his campaign by referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists, drug dealers, and criminals. Among other blatantly racist and xenophobic moments along the campaign trail, Trump would go on to call for a ban on Muslims entering the US as he simultaneously depicted refugees as terrorists, which he continued to do as president.

Fast-forward to 2020, and Trump is rapidly leaning into a near-identical approach. 

During his Tulsa rally, Trump referred to COVID-19 as the "kung flu," which is part of the president's racist effort to blame the pandemic on China in order to distract from his own failings in responding to the virus. The president has ignored recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to avoid rhetoric that stigmatizes certain groups, often referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus" or the "plague from China."

In January, February, and even as late as March, the president was actually praising the Chinese government over its handling of the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Trump's tone only shifted after cases began to spread at scale in the US, and it became increasingly clear that his administration had failed to adequately prepare for the outbreak. Polling has repeatedly shown that Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump's handling of the virus. 

As Trump has often done in the process of seeking to avoid responsibility, the president found a scapegoat and portrayed COVID-19 as a "foreign virus" that invaded the US from China.

Meanwhile, Asian-Americans have faced discrimination due in part to the Trump's racist accusations. 

It's always fun when The Base objects to the assumption that they are racist when it is the explicit means their leader uses to appeal to them.

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Criticizing Israel with anguish and loveAn unprecedented letter from US Reps Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider opposing unilateral annexation is a model of healthy Jewish discourse (Yossi Klein Halevi, JUN 23, 2020, Times of Israel)

This may well be an unprecedented moment in the history of the Israeli-Diaspora relationship. The possible annexation of parts of the territories have forced some of Israel's most passionate supporters to speak up, some for the first time, against an Israeli government decision on a matter it defines as essential for Israeli security. With anguish and love, they are modeling a healthy Jewish discourse, teaching us how to be responsible critics. 

I am thinking in particular of Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider, two of Israel's most devoted friends in Congress. I know both men from numerous AIPAC events over the years, including congressional missions to Israel which they helped lead. During the bitter debate over the Iran nuclear deal, the two Democratic congressmen broke ranks with the Obama administration to oppose it. They have led the fight in Congress against BDS. If anyone defines the centrist pro-Israel American Jewish mainstream, it's Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider. 

Last week, they did something they've never done in their long career of working to strengthen the Israeli-American relationship: They circulated a letter among their fellow Democratic members of Congress, urging the Israeli government to refrain from unilateral annexation.

Turns out, when you green light everything you have trouble red lighting anything.

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Why did Heidegger emerge as the central philosopher of the far right?Heidegger's philosophy has legitimised the far right's regional environmentalism, populism and cultural racism. (Julian Göpffarth, 23 June 2020, openDemocracy)

In Germany, Heidegger's popularity in the far right is linked to the ways his philosophy legitimises the far right's regional environmentalism, populism and cultural racism. His vision of a national Dasein, a particular collective being based on a shared spirit, tradition and local embeddedness, provides the contemporary German far right with the vision for a white identity uniting 'the people' and 'the elites' on the basis of an attachment to the local, the 'common folk' and its glorification via the racialisation of an inferior cultural and religious 'Other'.

First, drawing on Heidegger allows the movement to intellectually embed its vision of a meaningful environmental protection movement as part of defending the homeland, or Heimat, as a union of local nature, culture and heritage against globalisation. This is shown by the above-mentioned magazine Die Kehre. Here, Heidegger's spiritually founded opposition against rationalism and technocracy as well as his notion of a locally rooted thinking underpins the far right's attempt to claim environmentalism.

A central part of this strategy is to label the Green party and leftist environmental protection movements as technocrats driven by a narrow scientific rationalism that focusses on climate change. Drawing on a long tradition of tradition of Heimat protection, the far right aims to counter this by portraying itself as the defender not of the environment, but nature as a meaningful part of local traditions, heritage and essential part of a white national identity. Global environmental protection movements are here portrayed as the expression of what Heidegger called the Gestell - a purely rationalistic reading of nature and the world as something transformable by humans.

Secondly, drawing on Heidegger allows far right intellectuals to embrace populism and develop the ideal of a populist intellectual: an ideal type of an intellectual who is rooted in 'the people' and, by being in touch with 'the common folk', closer to an authentic philosophy of being that Heidegger sees necessary to overcome modernity's nihilistic rationalism. Heidegger here provides a philosophy of populism that attempts to overcome the antagonism between 'the people' and 'the elites' and that reflects how, against much of what the literature on far right populism suggests, educated bourgeois intellectualism and populism in the far right are deeply intertwined.

Finally, and most importantly, in a context where racism in Germany is still largely equated with Nazism and biological racism, Heidegger's philosophy of an essentialised collective being 'rooted' in history provides the movement with a philosophy of cultural racism that claims to have overcome biological racism. Thus, Heidegger's notion of Dasein is used to reformulate an exclusive, essentialised idea of white nationhood in the context of a liberal democratic political language in which closeness to national socialism, racist nationalism and anti-Semitism is socially questionable and legally banned.

is always an attempt to disguise racism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Father of Capitalism and the Abolition of Slavery (Matthew Lesh, 6/22/20, Quillette)

Adam Smith argued not only that slavery was morally reprehensible, but that it causes economic self-harm. He provided economic and moral ammunition for the abolitionist movement that came to fruition after his death in 1790. Smith was pessimistic about the potential for full abolition, but he was on the side of the angels.

Smith's The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, contains perhaps the best known economic critique of slavery. Smith argued that free individuals work harder and invest in the improvement of land, motivated by their interest in earning a higher income, than slaves. Smith refers to ancient Italy, where the cultivation of corn degraded under slavery. The cost of slavery is "in the end the dearest of any," Smith writes.

His thinking about slavery can be traced further back. In the Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms, delivered in 1763 long before Britain's abolitionist movement was formalised, Smith writes:

Slaves cultivate only for themselves; the surplus goes to the master, and therefore they are careless about cultivating the ground to the best advantage. A free man keeps as his own whatever is above his rent, and therefore has a motive to industry.

Smith describes how serfs in Western Europe--in feudal relationships with lords--were progressively transformed into free tenants as they acquired cattle and tools. Harvests were more evenly divided between landlord and tenant to encourage better use of land, and tenants eventually progressed to simply giving the landlord a sum for lease. As government became more established, the influence of lords over the lives of tenants was also loosened.

Capitalism was, as Marx described, the next stage in human development after feudal slave relations. Smith's commercial society is in direct opposition to a slave society. Smith, at his core, is an advocate for individuals being free to specialize and trade, including to trade their labor. Everyone acting with regard to their "own interest," not because of coercion, creates general prosperity.

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Trump says Obama may have committed treason (MORGAN CHALFANT, 06/22/20, The Hill)

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Conservatives Should Feel No Investment in Confederate Monuments (RICH LOWRY, June 19, 2020, National Review)

The Richmond statue of Lee, which Virginia governor Ralph Northam has said is coming down, has long been a point of contention. Its 1890 unveiling was a key moment in the creation of a cult of Lee as a man of "moral strength and moral beauty," as a speaker put it that day.

Frederick Douglass appropriately scorned this movement. "It would seem," he wrote sarcastically, "that the soldier who kills the most men in battle, even in a bad cause, is the greatest Christian, and entitled to the highest place in heaven."

The apotheosis of Lee was an element of a Lost Cause mythology that maintained that the Civil War wasn't truly about slavery, only Southern states defending their legitimate prerogatives.

Alexander Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, would have scoffed at this. In his notorious Cornerstone Speech in 1861, he said the new government was built on "the great truth" of slavery.

The theory of states' rights that the Confederacy used to justify secession wasn't meant to preserve our constitutional scheme, but to demolish it. The idea had been developed by former vice president John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who believed the country had set off on an erroneous, nationalist path from the very beginning.

Besides, the South supported states' rights only to the extent that they were useful in protecting slavery. It insisted, after all, on a federal Fugitive Slave Act.

There begins the analysis of the Right's motive.

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Hunger, executions, escape to Hong Kong: a Chinese childhood : a review of  One Bright Moon by Andrew Kwong (South China Morning Post, Jun. 23rd, 2020)

Readers who grew up in Hong Kong will feel a pang of nostalgia as he describes, with wide-eyed wonder, life in the then-British colony: the sight of great trading ships in the harbour, the sounds of the foreign tongue called English, the taste of hot chocolate and buttered rolls.

But the boy, stricken with homesickness and brain­washing, threatens to kill himself if he is not allowed to return. "I belonged in communist China, not dirty capitalist Hong Kong," he thinks at the time. So, in a decision that would turn out to be disastrous, he goes back over the border to the mainland just as the (1958-1962) was starting.

His life becomes a series of nightmares that leave him traumatised. The night after he returns, he witnesses his first execution. "I shook and gasped, and frantically looked for bullet holes on my body; I had to stop the bleeding," he remembers. He watches as his father is arrested by a pimply-faced, obscenity-spewing Red Guard who storms into the family home.

Kwong learns to be suspicious of everyone and to censor his writing. One wrong word in a letter to his father, sen­tenced to 15 years of labour in Heilongjiang province, could get the family in more trouble. At the same time, the boy yearns for the trappings other children have, like the red scarves that would identify him as a true and loyal Chinese.

There are rays of sunlight in this otherwise dark narrative, such as when Kwong remembers flying kites, playing with his friends and watching ducks. He rejoices when his grandmother makes the rare trip to see him, bringing imported luxuries like Spam, condensed milk, arrowroot biscuits and bricks of brown sugar.

By the 60s, however, "famine had well and truly set in". Kwong documents the physical horrors of starvation that he saw as a child: faces turned yellow, bellies swollen with gas, legs shrunk into sticks and oozing liquid.

"In the dark, people tripped over bodies and let out screams," he writes of the corpses left in the streets. "We all kept our eyes wide open as we walked holding hands." All anyone could think or dream about was making money and buying food.

Even the book's rather poetic-sounding title has a cynical meaning. It comes from a quote from Kwong's mother: "A bright moon will shine again one day, after the clouds disperse." But she says these words just as she's bribing a government official with cigarettes, in a desperate bid to find favour for her family.

June 22, 2020

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People Have Stopped Going to the Doctor. Most Seem Just Fine. (Sandeep Jauhar, June 22, 2020, NY Times)

Most patients, on the other hand, at least those with stable chronic conditions, seem to have done OK. In a recent survey, only one in 10 respondents said their health or a family member's health had worsened as a result of delayed care. Eighty-six percent said their health had stayed about the same.

[A]  vast majority of patients seem to have fared better than what most doctors expected. It will probably take years to understand why. Perhaps patients mitigated the harm of delayed care by adopting healthful behaviors, such as smoking less and exercising more. Perhaps the huge increases in stress were balanced out by other things, such as spending more time with loved ones.

However, there is a more troubling explanation to consider: Perhaps Americans don't require the volume of care that their doctors are used to providing.

It is well recognized that a substantial amount of health care in America is wasteful, accounting for hundreds of billions of dollars of the total health care budget. Wasteful care is driven by many forces: "defensive" medicine by doctors trying to avoid lawsuits; a reluctance on the part of doctors and patients to accept diagnostic uncertainty (which leads to more tests); the exorbitant prices that American doctors and hospitals charge, at least compared to what is charged in other countries; a lack of consensus about which treatments are effective; and the pervasive belief that newer, more expensive technology is always better.

One of the most significant factors in wasteful health care is having too much supply of health care per capita in certain areas. In specialist-heavy Miami-Dade County, for example, Medicare spends more than twice per person what it spends in Santa Fe, N.M., largely because there is more per capita utilization of doctors' services. Sadly, more care doesn't always result in better outcomes.

If beneficial routine care dropped during the past few months of the pandemic lockdown, so perhaps did its malignant counterpart, unnecessary care. If so, this has implications for how we should reopen our health care system. Doctors and hospitals will want to ramp up care to make up for lost revenue. But this will not serve our patients' needs.

People need to have "coverage" to allay their financial concerns, but denied procedures (by those notorious death panels) that don't improve outcomes.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Vermont's royal welcome for the Marquis de Lafayette (Mark Bushnell, 6/21/20, VT Digger)

Early in the morning of June 28, 1825, between 3,000 and 4,000 Vermonters gathered in Windsor to greet a returning hero. They probably didn't mind the hour. Many of them were farmers from the surrounding area and were used to rising before dawn. Besides, since this visitor had come from so far to see them, getting up early was the least they could do. 

At about 7 a.m., they first caught sight of the elegant fringed carriage bearing their guest, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, better known as the Marquis de Lafayette. 

In the 1820s, Lafayette was one of the Revolution's few surviving heroes. Washington, Franklin, Hamilton and others were dead. Jefferson and Adams were in their 80s and in frail health; indeed, they would die within the year.

In contrast, Lafayette was a comparatively young 67. Born into a wealthy French family and orphaned at 13, he had followed his father's path into the military. Despite his privileged background, Lafayette had ardently embraced the colonies' fight for liberty. At the age of 19, he sailed to North America and persuaded Congress to commission him a general in the Continental Army. Though he proved himself a competent, if not entirely gifted, officer, Lafayette was vital to the colonies' efforts.  His loyalty to the cause and his connections in the French government proved instrumental in winning crucial French support that helped turn the tide of the war. Americans loved him.

Lafayette had returned to France, where he led troops in the fight for liberty during his own country's revolution. But he always vowed he would return and do a tour of the country he had helped create.

Now, nearly a half century after leaving, Lafayette was back. While in Massachusetts, he had been complimented on his impeccable English, which he only started to learn as a teenager sailing to North America. Explaining his fluency, he said, "I am an American citizen who has been absent for a time."

If possible, Lafayette's absence had only made American hearts grow fonder. As his carriage rolled into Windsor escorted by Revolutionary War veterans and troops from New Hampshire, people crowded the streets to see him. 

Lafayette addressed the crowd from the balcony of John Pettes' Coffee House, then sat down to breakfast. He was either ravenous from the trip or too polite to mention that he had already eaten breakfast before departing New Hampshire a little more than an hour earlier.

He had no time to linger in Windsor. Over the next day and a half he had appointments to keep across Vermont. He and his entourage, which now included Vermont veterans and troops, had to move at breakneck speed. 

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Trump's Maduro comments create political mess in must-win Florida (MATT DIXON and GARY FINEOUT, 06/22/2020, Politico)

That contradicts comments he made in an interview with Axios in which he second-guessed his own administration's decision to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the South American country's legitimate president. On the potential Maduro meeting, he said "you lose very little with meetings."

The interview, published Sunday night, immediately sent shockwaves through Florida's political ecosystem, especially in South Florida, which is home to more than 400,000 Hispanics of Venezuelan origin. Many of those are expats who fled Maduro's socialist regime. During a briefing Monday, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany clarified that, despite his comments, Trump continues to view Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader.

The mere flirtation with diplomatic talks with Maduro could hurt Trump's standing in the nation's largest swing state, which he needs to win in November in order to return to the White House for a second term. It also has big down-ticket implications as Republicans try to flip a vulnerable Miami congressional seat and fend off Democrats' attempt to win seats in the region that could inch them close to taking control of the Florida Senate for the first time in nearly two decades.

Republicans up and down the ballot have also galvanized around a central 2020 messaging strategy focused on branding Democrats as far-left lovers of socialism. Months of that groundwork is now, at least in part, set back by the president's own comments.

"Trump talks tough on Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolas Maduro," Joe Biden tweeted Sunday night. "As President, I will stand with the Venezuelan people and for democracy."

...that Maduro is a Socialist Nationalist, so the embrace was on brand.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Army Soldier Plotted 'Jihadi Attack' on His Own Unit With Neo-Nazi Satanists: Feds (Spencer Ackerman & Adam Rawnsley,  Jun. 22, 2020, Daily Beast)

Federal prosecutors in New York accused a U.S. soldier of giving sensitive information on U.S. troop movements to a satanic white-supremacist group as part of a criminal conspiracy to murder U.S. military service members and provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.  

According to an indictment released Monday, Private Ethan Phelan Melzer provided "confidential U.S. Army information" to an infamous organization known as the Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), a British occult Nazi group whose works have been promoted by white-supremacist militia Atomwaffen and which has expressed support for al Qaeda. Melzer's contacts within O9A described their plans as "literally organizing a jihadi attack."

Prosecutors say that Melzer shared information about his Army unit's "location, movements, and security" with the satanic neo-Nazi group because he was allegedly planning an ambush attack on his fellow soldiers alongside O9A. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


This Early Cheers Episode Explains Why Everybody Still Knows the Sitcom's Name (NITISH PAHWA, JUNE 22, 2020, Slate)

[A]ccolades aside, what's truly remarkable about Cheers is that, almost 40 years after its premiere, it mostly remains a warm, friendly, accessible show, despite some attitudes of its time. It began as a collaboration between brothers Glen and Les Charles, writers for M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and others, and James Burrows, a longtime TV director. As Burrows told the New York Times in 1983, the trio "wanted to create a show around a Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy-type relationship" between a sophisticate and an average Joe.

They came up with a former Boston Red Sox relief pitcher and Casanova named Sam Malone (Danson), whose problems with alcoholism derailed his career and who now stays sober while owning and tending his own bar, Cheers. His former coach, Ernie Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto), helps run things, while the sharp Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman) works as a waitress, and the three regularly serve proud postal worker Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) and accountant Norm Peterson (George Wendt), the latter such a staple at the bar that he's cheered by name whenever he walks through the door. The Hepburn to Sam's Tracy is intellectual, snobbish Diane Chambers (Shelley Long), an academic who, after being dumped by her fiancé and former professor, takes a job serving at Cheers.

The famous Sam-and-Diane dynamic is an essential part of the show and affects just about every plot point in some way, but the show is not just about the two of them--it explores all the characters' lives in detail. And as Cheers goes along, characters filter in and out, including new bartender Woody (Harrelson), psychiatrists Frasier Crane (Grammer) and Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth), and businesswoman Rebecca Howe (Kirstie Alley). The show is also very proud of its firm Boston and Massachusetts roots, featuring cameos from local celebrities and politicians like Wade Boggs, Tip O'Neill, John Kerry, and Michael Dukakis. As any actual Bostonian will be quick to tell you, Cheers as the characters know it never really existed, although there is a bar at the exterior location seen on the show, formerly known as the Bull & Finch Pub and now a tourist landmark named Cheers Beacon Hill.

Obviously, the greatest episode would have been the one where Vera came to fish Norm out of the bar and is played by Michelle Pfeiffer.

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The statues of Samuel Johnson can stay (Matthew Walther, June 22, 2020, The Week)

His life (1709-1784) was more or less bookended by the beginning and end of the British transatlantic slave trade, of which he was an inveterate and uncompromising opponent. He dismissed Jamaica, the most profitable of the British colonies at the time, as "a place of great wealth and dreadful wickedness, a den of tyrants, and a dungeon of slaves." He once offered a toast at a dinner in Oxford to "the next insurrection of the negroes in the West Indies." His verdict on the American Founding ("How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?") is in some ways the first and last word on the subject.

Nor was his belief in the wickedness of slavery a mere abstract commitment of the kind so familiar to scribblers then as now. Johnson's valet Francis Barber was a freed black Jamaican who eventually became his heir, an astonishing bequest that was widely reported in the English press at the time. With the help of his friend Tobias Smollett, Johnson secured Barber's release from naval service (for which he thought he should have been disqualified on grounds of health) and paid for him to receive an education. Johnson's relationship with Barber was one of genuine friendship and the latter was an invaluable source for James Boswell and other early biographers of the great man, including those like Sir John Hawkins who were disgusted by their subject's "ostentatious bounty [and] favour to negroes."

Johnson's loathing of racial injustice was not limited to chattel slavery. He heaped scorn on both colonial participants in the French and Indian War, which he called "only a quarrel of two robbers." Nor was this his only apparently forward-looking view. He hated the civil penalties under which British Catholics would live until 1829 and thought it absurd that in Rome of all places men were allowed to visit legally sanctioned brothels ("I would punish it much more than is done"). [...]

What made Johnson's views possible? In addition to his penchant for contrarianism, one might suggest his wide and generous reading, which attuned him to the experience of people far away and utterly unlike himself. (Among his favorite books was Richard Knolles's Generall Historie of the Turkes, the first serious English treatment of the history of the Ottoman Empire, which Johnson lamented was full of "enterprizes and revolutions, of which none desire to be informed.") More important than either of these, however, was his deep religious faith. Johnson could not stand to see "black men... repining under English cruelty" for the simple reason that he believed human beings are made lovingly in the image of God and possessed of an innate metaphysical dignity.

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What Liberty Meant to the Pilgrims (NATHANAEL BLAKE, June 18, 2020, National Review)

Turner's book, They Knew They Were Pilgrims, alternately affirms and challenges both the popular mythos and its critics. Beginning with the separatist movement in England and continuing until Plymouth was incorporated into Massachusetts in 1691, Turner provides an engaging account of the Pilgrims, from Calvinist theology to colonial politics. While validating some criticisms, he asserts that the Pilgrims matter for more than their legend, and he deftly uses the history of Plymouth to explore ideas of liberty in the American colonies.

This should be of particular interest to conservatives as we debate rival claims about the founding principles of our nation, which the study of colonial life places in context. Though the Declaration of Independence asserts a right to liberty, we do not all mean the same thing by it. Turner demonstrates that colonial ideas of liberty were not uniform, even in Plymouth, though there was a dominant theme. The Pilgrims and their descendants understood liberty not as individual freedom to live as one pleased; when they encountered that kind of freedom at Thomas Morton's Merry Mount settlement, they saw it as "licentiousness and recklessness." Rather, the Pilgrims sought freedom for Christians, redeemed from bondage to sin and Satan, to live in accord with Scripture, covenanting as a congregation free from the dominion of the corrupt Church of England.

In Turner's telling, this understanding was essential to the development of New England Congregationalism. The establishment of Massachusetts did not efface Plymouth but fulfilled it, for "England's transplanted puritans were remaking themselves in Plymouth's image" as new towns formed their own covenant churches. An ocean away from England, the theoretical distinctions between the Plymouth colonists who wanted to separate from the Church of England and the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, who had wanted to purify it, were negated as the churches of both colonies established themselves as self-governing congregations.

The development of New England Congregationalism alone would suffice to secure the Pilgrims' place in history, but Plymouth also had the distinction of initiating political self-government in New England. The colony held annual elections with a franchise much broader, albeit still limited, than that in England, and trial by jury was a fundamental right. Most adult men could aspire to participation in both the religious and political government of the colony. But this communal liberty did not imply broad personal liberty. The Pilgrims believed that government had a responsibility to constrain individuals to conform to the righteous mores of the community, and they had no qualms about regulating matters from speech to sex to attire.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When the KKK Played Against an All-Black Baseball Team (John Florio & Ouisie Shapiro, 6/22/20, The Nation)

[T]he Klan had an image problem in Kansas. In 1922, Governor Henry Justin Allen had launched a crusade to oust the organization from the state. By early 1925, the State Supreme Court had banned the KKK on the grounds that it had been operating without a state charter. While the decision was on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Klan was free to continue to operate--and to roll out a full-court press to prove it wasn't the hate-mongering machine so many feared, but, rather, made up of solid citizens.

The Klan had already used its PR smoke-machine to embed itself into local communities, sponsoring parades, picnics, and beauty contests. It donated money to churches and hospitals. Its members showed up at Christmas parties for orphans, wearing Santa suits and handing out gifts to children. And it backed state and local politicians.
Now, with its case pending in the country's highest court, it was looking for still more favorable ink--and got wind that the Monrovians were looking for paydays. (In all likelihood, the Klan had been reading the Wichita Eagle, the city's other white paper. A few weeks before the game, the Eagle wrote that the Monrovians were "open for a game with any team in Kansas.")

For the white-robed, playing a black team was a gift-wrapped photo op, a chance to show that the Klan was part of the local community--and friendly toward Wichita's black citizens.

For baseball fans in Kansas, it was a chance to see the Monrovians play. The team had won the Colored Western League pennant in 1922, the one and only year the league existed. The following year, with no league left to champion, the Monrovians continued as an independent team, scratching together a living by playing any game that came with a paying audience.

The Klan's Chapter No. 6 took the challenge--and to show the game would be an above-board contest, it hired Catholic umpires. Bob Rives has his suspicions about the choice. "I think the Klan was fearful that it would lose, and if it lost, it would be considered inferior to the black team. And so they announced in advance that the two umpires would be Irish Catholics. The Klan in Kansas then was at least as anti-Catholic as it was anti-black. My opinion is that they were paving the way to be able to say, well, we really didn't lose. Look at who the umpires were."

It turned out it didn't matter. The Eagle described the affair as the "best attended and most interesting game in Wichita" that day, a seesaw battle that began as a pitcher's duel and ended in a flurry of runs. Bigotry lost the game, 10-8, and it also lost the bigger prize: the Klan was evicted from Kansas two years later, when the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

June 21, 2020

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A Writer Returns to the Woods of His Youth: The people who help shape us might not always be with us long, but a wild spirit can live on forever (RUSSELL WORTH PARKER, June/July 2020, Garden & Gun)

My Uncle Trip's truck smelled like dirt and chain-saw oil and pine straw mingled with cigarette smoke. I smell it when I think of him. The truck was a two-tone Jeep, a rust-dusted white cab over a faded copper body. I sat in his lap as we cruised the rolling back roads of the Georgia Piedmont, my hands on the wheel at ten and two, his at six as he worked gears and pedals. There were seat belts, but I understood them to be something we might only consider far beyond potholed asphalt or root-choked red dirt. No matter, his arm around my waist felt safer than any nylon and buckle Detroit could offer us. There was an AM radio, but reception was poor in Whistleville, so we sang duets of "Luckenbach, Texas" backed by the music of Old Milwaukee empties, crushed cans rattling like tambourine accompaniment to the steel guitar growl of bottles rolling in the truck bed.

We rarely traveled with purpose. Maybe a trip to Big Star for my grandmother or a run to the Happy Hooker for Louisiana Pinks or Red Wigglers. Probably a stop at the package store either way. Mostly we went to the woods.

There may have been concrete motivations for those trips--the recovery of an ax or a shovel set aside and momentarily forgotten. But generally, Trip went for the simple pleasure of time spent under leaf and limb and the desire to impart that subtle joy to me. He neither directed nor demanded, but spoke to me as if I had agency, as if it were plausible that at age six, I might have already made plans. "You want to go down to the pond?" or "You got time to help me find a pickax?" or "I'm going hunting arrowheads--come on if you want." And with a loyalty born of absolute worship, I followed him. The truck took us only so far, so Trip and I took to foot.

We never moved fast in the woods. He taught me how to cross barbed wire by spreading two strands to carefully step high over one while bending low beneath another. Through verdant confusions of kudzu that would otherwise have swallowed me, I sat high upon shoulders my mother says I share. It's a persistence of genetics that pleases me. Once we were afield, anything was worth a stop and a lesson--an animal's footprint, last spring's bird nest, the creek where water coursing over granite sounds so much like a cacophony of voices that we called it the Talking Place.

I don't hold many memories of Trip under a roof, fewer still without something in his hand: a rod, a gun, posthole diggers. We fished a family pond deep in the woods, spinning line from Zebco 202s in pursuit of the bass and bream silently wending through green water shining with rippled images of Georgia pine and blue sky. There, he taught me what made a rock right for skipping. How to nail a catfish to a board and strip the skin from its flesh with pliers. How to shoot a .22 loaded with rat shot at a water moccasin challenging us over a stringer of fish.

I don't know how many days my uncle Trip had been missing when my mother told me he was gone.

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Backlash against Netanyahu as Israel enters second coronavirus wave (New Arab, 21 June, 2020)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government will discuss possible steps to halt the spread of the coronavirus as anger rises over the country entering its second Covid-19 wave.

Daily cases have spiked from 16 to 200 within a month,  the National Center for Information and Knowledge in the Battle Against Coronavirus said, announcing the second wave of the infection on Sunday. [...]

Israeli media has lashed out at Tel Aviv's strategy in dealing with the pandemic.

Israeli journalist Nadaf Eyal criticised the government in a Yedioth Ahronoth op-ed which has since been widely shared.

"This is not the fault of the public (mostly). This is on the government," he wrote.

"What exactly have they been doing for the last month and a half? You would have expected them to put together a project with a major national scope, one that could turn Israel into a world leader in the fight against the coronavirus and cleanse it of the disease, like New Zealand."

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Trump's Poll Numbers Are So Bad the GOP Is Starting to Panic About a 'Wipeout' (Cameron Joseph, Jun 18 2020, Vice News)

Trump has trailed former Vice President Joe Biden by almost 10 points in recent national polling. And Republicans privately admit things look just as bad at the local level. More than a half-dozen GOP strategists working on Senate and House races told VICE News that they've seen Trump's numbers plunge in states and districts across the country. His standing with voters was already suffering from his botched coronavirus response -- and his inflammatory reaction to national Black Lives Matter protests has pushed him even further down with key groups of voters.

"The environment really sucks for us right now. We've got a worldwide pandemic, the economy is slipping and now we have a race war tacked on," warned one GOP strategist involved in multiple races. "If the election were held today, we'd be talking about a wipeout. We'd be in landslide territory."

"If the election were held today, we'd be talking about a wipeout. We'd be in landslide territory."

The president badly trails Biden in states and districts that went red in 2016 that he needs to win again in 2020. Trump is in alarmingly poor shape in a number of states that appeared well outside Democrats' reach at the beginning of the election cycle. And his terrible numbers aren't just hurting him: Republicans are increasingly concerned that he could cost them the Senate as well, handing Democrats unified control of Washington after the next election.

...for not removing a racist leader.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Trump allies see a mounting threat: Biden's rising evangelical support: The president's supporters worry Biden can grab a larger slice of a critical voting bloc -- when Trump can least afford departures from his base. (GABBY ORR, 06/21/2020, Politico)

It was June 10, 2008. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama had gathered with dozens of evangelical leaders -- many of them fixtures of the religious right -- at the urging of campaign aides. If he could offer genuine glimpses of his own abiding faith, they insisted he could chisel away at the conservative Christian voting bloc.

At a rally in the Bible Belt, he talked about the church he'd attended for two decades in Chicago. Calling for an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to tackle poverty, he promised churches and religious organizations would play a greater public role in delivering social services under his administration. And during a faith-based forum in Southern California, he said his own support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, did not mean he wasn't interested in reducing abortion in America.

The strategy worked. Obama's campaign stops at churches, sermon-like speeches and his professed belief in Jesus Christ earned him 24 percent of the white evangelical vote -- doubling Democrats' support among young white evangelicals and gaining three points with the overall demographic from the 2004 election.

Now, allies of President Donald Trump worry his 2020 opponent, Joe Biden, can do the same -- snatching a slice of a critical voting bloc from Trump when he can least afford departures from his base.

Biden, a lifelong Catholic, has performed better in recent polling among white evangelicals -- and other religious groups -- than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016, and is widely perceived as more religious than the current White House occupant. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


The Man Who Started a Pandemic: Vladimir Lenin's 150th anniversary is a reminder of the cost of deadly idealism (Cathy Young, 5/01/20, Arc Digital)

With the COVID-19 pandemic sucking up much of public discourse, an anniversary of an event whose echoes still affect history went almost unnoticed this spring. April 22 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov -- better known as Lenin -- the leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the founder of the Soviet state. There is some irony in the fact that coronavirus-related restrictions made the commemorations of this date in post-Soviet Russia even more low-key than they would have been otherwise. (Only a few dozen communists defied Moscow's lockdown to place flowers at Lenin's tomb.) After all, Lenin's chief legacy was a political plague that not only put entire nations under a full-time lockdown but killed as many as 100 million. It's not for nothing that Winston Churchill famously compared him to a deadly infection when he wrote, of Lenin's German-aided return from exile in the spring of 1917, that the Germans "transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia."

As the father of the Soviet state, Lenin is, in some ways, more legend than man. For online "tankies," he is the mythic hero of Soviet posters. For conservatives, he is the ultimate bogeyman, the source of fake quotes about socialized medicine as a commie plot.

Meanwhile, at a time of renewed interest in socialism and communism on the left, many leftists in places like Jacobin magazine see Lenin as the "good communist" to Joseph Stalin's "bad communist" -- the revolutionary wrongly maligned as an authoritarian. Indeed, Lenin's birthday this year was marked on Twitter by New York State Senator Julia Salazar, a member of the new crop of young progressive politicians.

The "Lenin good, Stalin bad" formula was also popular among Soviet reformers, both in the late 1950s-early 1960s and in the late 1980s. It was wrong then; it is wrong now. To be sure, Lenin is a figure of more nuance than Stalin. But as independent Russian historian Nikita Sokolov recently told Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, Lenin's only consistent position throughout his political career was that "he was a fundamental believer in violence as the solution to any problem." And while he sometimes regarded liberalization as expeditious, he fundamentally regarded freedom as a nuisance.

The fundamental delusion of Mikhail Gorbachev was that if you allowed some political loosening the dissidents would go after Stalin again and that you could use the criticism of deviation from Soviet ideals to gain backing for economic reform.  Instead, the newly freed voices went right after Lenin and the Revolution and the regime itself.  You can't reform evil.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Make Arenas Empty Again (TIM MILLER  JUNE 20, 2020, The Bulwark)

[A]s Trump took the stage, the story transformed from dystopian fiction to absurdist farce.

It turned out that President Trump was not, in fact, set to appear in front of throngs of MAGA die-hards who were waiting for their dear leader while stirring a COVID-Kool-Aid. Instead he was about to appear before a half-empty arena and complain about people who are mean to him.

The Trump on display in Tulsa was not a strong man steeling himself for a crackdown against protesters while standing astride a silent majority of mask-eschewing followers with a death wish.

Instead, out from behind the curtain came a weak and whiny D-list Rodney Dangerfield, obsessed with minor slights and not getting enough respect from the Fake News Media that he claims to hate but seems to be kind of super into.

This is not to say that the speech was free of evil: He claimed to have asked that COVID-19 testing to be slowed down in the hopes his mismanagement wouldn't look as bad; he described the virus that has killed 120,000 Americans in 4 months (and counting) as "the sniffles"; and he repeatedly attacked Black Lives Matters protesters as violent thugs.

Yet these bromides felt gross but rote. Like a guy hitting his spots even after losing confidence in his routine, because he doesn't know any other material.

What Tulsa revealed was a disrobed Emperor Orangius. The man who once obsessed over his great poll numbers is down everywhere, by nearly double digits. The man who bragged every day about the economy is staring at 13 percent unemployment. The man who gloried in the throngs of packed auditoriums and expected a crowd so big that he would have to give a second performance at an outdoor venue stood in the middle of an arena surrounded by empty blue seats, having been thwarted by TikTok teens.

Trumpbots like to complain that their opponents are focussed on race and racism, but what did their avatar offer in this desperate appeal to The Base other than racism? Forget what we think of them; this is what he thinks of them. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


Xi, Who Must, For Now, Be Obeyed (Wolfgang Kasper, 6/21/20, Quadrant)

These are translated excerpts from a stirring audio statement by an eminent Chinese academic and Communist Party member:

The Party itself is already a political zombie ... the system has already corrupted many ...  [The leader] has become a total mafia boss who can punish his underlings however he wants ... the whole Party [is] revolving around one person ... [The CCP's Standing Committee members are] just slaves under the command of one person, I wonder whether [the Party] can rise up again for the sake of this country and its people ... [and] ask this person to step down ... The key is whether our high-ranking officials have the political courage to be accountable to the Party and the people...

... Right now, society can't be counted on, he's already atomized the entire Chinese society into scattered sand. All of civil society and the capacity for self-organization have been shattered... the ability to think is being devastated...

... we need to believe in this nation ... it is resilient and alive... If we don't get rid of this person... we will wait for a hard landing.... There is a large likelihood that by the end of this year or the first half of next year [i.e. 2021], the economy will completely collapse... [eventually] domestic conflicts will boil over... within five years, we will witness China go through another period of major chaos... [...]

In this essay, Căi Xiá argued for the recognition of the individual who enjoys autonomy and can pursue diverse self-set aspirations, and not - as in China's despotic tradition - who is a subject and just a tool for realising the goals of the national collective. When she wrote critically of "the forced requisition of land and forced demolition of housing among the masses", this evoked vivid memories in my mind of ordinary people waving placards and demonstrating in front of urban demolition sites -- scenes, which any visitor to China who left the 'foreign tourist bubble' will have  come across in recent decades.

Căi Xiá re-issued her essay in January 2013 . It sounded like a cri de cœur against the then emerging argument that constitutional democracy just does not fit China's specific conditions. At the time, many foreigners were amazed that such arguments as hers were still tolerated in the People's Republic, indeed that such arguments - even when infused with Marxist-Maoist modes of dialectic thinking - could come out of the Central Party School. To my mind, this inspired hope.

The style of the essay reminded  me of the writings of Milovan Đilas (Djilas), the imprisoned communist renegade in Tito's Yugoslavia. He, too, had reflected about communism within a framework of Marxist dialectic and come to conclusions that condemned the 'New Class' (aka party priviligentsia) for frustrating the justified aspirations of individuals. Writers like Djilas and Căi Xiá are hard to read because they use communist jargon and are enmeshed in the Marxist way of thinking. A sympathetic Western reader of Căi Xiá must of course doubt the practicality of her proposals. How could the leading role of the Communist Party of China ever be sustained when the political order allows freedom of speech, freedom of association and free elections? Would this not lead to the demise of the monopoly Party because of its past repression and its corruption? Would that not lead to revenge and turmoil? Would the present rulers not soon be replaced by alternative thugs?

It is thus easy for Westerners to dismiss the writings of idealistic reform Marxists. Yet, they deserve some admiration for their valiant intellectual struggles and their humane, individualistic aspirations. After all, they have not had access to thinkers such as Max Weber, Joseph Alois Schumpeter, Friedrich August Hayek and Karl Popper. Our respect needs, however, to be tempered: Whatever Marx may once have had in mind when he spoke of  'democracy' and whatever Căi Xiá imagines him to have thought, one cannot absolve present-day Marxist idealists of empirical ignorance. Wherever socialist revolutions overturned an old order during the past one-hundred years, thuggish autocrats emerged and inflicted fear and poverty on the people: Castro in Cuba, the Kims in Korea, Uncle Ho in Vietnam, half a dozen socialist dictatorships in Africa, the al-Assads in Syria, Muammar Gaddafi's 'Green Socialism', the chavista socialism in Venezuela, and so on. There is no indication of a revolutionary dialectic leading from socialist revolution to democracy and constitutionally limited government! [...]

The expectation in the 1980s and 1990s was that a new and educated middle-class would gradually demand more political freedom and become more outspoken about the corruption of the Party elites, just as demands for democracy and civil rights arose after a generation of economic advancement in Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The signs were there that the PRC would follow that same evolutionary trajectory. Remarkable writings like Căi Xiá's 2011 essay inspired hope.

Since Xi Jinping's takeover of the helm of the CPC in 2012, such expectations have had to be modified drastically, though not all foreign observers and Chinese citizens have completely  abandoned hope. Xi is on the unprecedented mission to control 1.4 billion people, who are no longer ignorant, downtrodden peasants. Nor are Chinese communities as 'atomised as sand', as Căi Xiá feared. Hundreds of millions now belong to an educated, aspiring middle-class. They have been buoyed by an economic and cultural ascendancy and now have the means to network independent of government.  Any leader, who sees his role as defending a life-long political monopoly of the Communist Party and the country, will of course try to meet the challenges from the rising, more demanding, more educated middle-class by falling back on selective repression and whipping up nationalistic fervour.

Căi Xiá is probably right when she now writes that a crisis is imminent. China's economy has been hit hard both by the domestic disruptions of production and trade and the downturn in export demand in the wake of the pandemic. The option of using massive pump-priming to 'buy prosperity' is less available than in earlier cyclical slowdowns, since huge debts and unused capacities - for example ubiquitous stocks of new, but vacant housing - weigh on the economy and the financial system. Add to this the COVID-19 death toll throughout the country and a possible second wave now spreading in the capital. Superstitious Chinese may interpret recent omens as signs that the Red Emperor is losing the Mandate of Heaven.

On a recent Remnant podcast, Oriana Skylar Mastro offered some real enlightenment on why the PRC has been able to co-opt so much of the middle class that it gets credit, deserved or not, for creating. Her suggestion was that, so long as Xi and company can buy them off they'll stay loyal to the party.  So what happens as the economy stalls out? 

[N.B. There's also a good bit on this moronic border dispute with India.]

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Florida spike raises doubts over reopening strategy; mask debate gets more political (Anjalee Khemlani, June 19, 2020, Yahoo Finance)

Florida became the focus of rising fears it could become the next U.S. coronavirus hotspot, with surging cases in the West and South leading to increased safety measures, and fanning doubts about nationwide plans to reopen.

Globally cases have surged past 8.5 million, and more than 454,000 have died. In the U.S. nearly 2.2. million cases have been reported, and more than 118,000 are dead. On Friday, the Sunshine State reported a rise in COVID-19 cases of 4.4%, sharply higher than the previous 7-day average of 3.2%.

The relentless climb in domestic cases prompted California's governor to require mask-wearing in public, while Texas and Arizona recently began to ok enforcing masks in public, amid a spike in new diagnoses in those states.

Because everyone will go back to work and frequent businesses no matter how bad you make the outbreak, right?

June 20, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Trumpworld Fears Its 'Nightmare Scenario' Is Coming True (Asawin Suebsaeng & Sam Stein, Jun. 20, 2020, Daily Beast)

Early this month, one senior White House official told The Daily Beast that their "nightmare scenario" would be for the president to slip beneath 40 percent support in a sustained string of public and private surveys--thus signaling that a previously unshakable base was starting to grow a bit disillusioned. Trump's consistent--though perhaps unenviable--standing in the low 40s had for years remained an illustration of his enduring base and iron Republican support. 

"Until then, I'm not a doomsayer," this official said, referring to the nerve-racking 30s in national, and some state, polling.

In the time since that comment, multiple polls have shown Trump sliding into the 30s. Asked this week about the change, the same White House official simply responded, "This is not where any of us wanted to be at this point...

Posted by orrinj at 10:25 AM


Should Christians Support Removal of Confederate Memorials? (JOE CARTER, 6/19/20, Gospel Coalition)

In 2017, pastor-theologian John Piper offered three questions we should ask when deciding if a public memorial is good for a community or a nation. To his list, I'd add a couple more.

What is our intention in desiring to keep/remove a memorial? -- Paul tells us to "do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Our ultimate decision about memorials should be determined by which course of action we truly believe would bring the most glory to God. While not every Christian will agree on what that means, it should be our guiding principle.

What reality is being memorialized? -- Because history is overseen by our sovereign God, Christians should agree that reality is objective. We do not have the same access to historical knowledge as God, though, so our interpretations of history are often subjective. However, subjectivity should not be confused with willful ignorance or concession to historical propaganda. Christians should strive to uncover historical truth.

A prime example is the historical truth about the Confederate flag. It's shocking how many Americans are willing to defend the flag and yet don't know basic facts about the symbol, such as that it was never the official flag of the Confederate States of America and that it only became popular in the mid-20th century when it was adopted as a symbol by several segregationist and white supremacists groups.

It is also baffling how Christians can claim the Civil War was about "state's rights" despite the fact that the Confederacy made it clear the primary right the states wanted was to protect the institution of slavery. We should be honest about history and strive to understand the reality we're memorializing.

Is this reality worthy of public admiration and emulation? -- For certain memorials, particularly those celebrating a cause, this question is easy enough to answer. The Confederate flag was a symbol adopted by white supremacists because it celebrated the "heritage" of those who betrayed their country and fought to defend the enslavement of black Americans. That is not a cause worthy of admiration or emulation.

When the memorial is of a person, though, the issue becomes more complex, which is why we need to consider the next question.

Is the person who is symbolically embodying this reality so compromised with evil that regardless of the reality being memorialized, the person is too tarnished even to be used to memorialize something worthy? -- In answering this question, we should consider both the person's character and the reason they are being memorialized. Consider, for example, two military leaders, George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Both men are frequently remembered for being of noble character. And yet both men owned enslaved people. Does that make them equally tarnished?

While reasonable Christians may disagree, I don't think the memorials of the two men are equivalent. Washington is remembered despite his support of the evil cause of slavery, while Lee is primarily known only because he fought to defend slavery. Washington helped to establish the flawed U.S. Constitution (a document that would later outlaw slavery when amended) while Lee broke his oath to defend that Constitution to support the cause of keeping black Americans forever in chains. Washington's legacy is compromised by his support of slavery, but Lee's is inexplicably linked with this racist sin.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


US Justice Department tries to oust New York prosecutor probing Trump allies (MICHAEL BALSAMO and COLLEEN LONG, 6/20/20, AP)

The Justice Department moved abruptly Friday to oust Geoffrey S. Berman, the US attorney in Manhattan overseeing key prosecutions of US President Donald Trump's allies and an investigation of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. But Berman said he was refusing to leave his post and his ongoing investigations would continue.

"I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position," Berman said. His statement came hours Attorney General William Barr said Berman was stepping down from his position.

The standoff set off an extraordinary clash between the Justice Department and one of the nation's top districts, which has tried major mob and terror cases over the years. It is also likely to deepen tensions between the Justice Department and congressional Democrats who have pointedly accused Barr of politicizing the agency and acting more like Trump's personal lawyer than the nation's chief law enforcement officer.

The move to oust Berman came days after allegations surfaced from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton that the president sought to interfere in an Southern District investigation into the state-owned Turkish bank in an effort to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

AG is the plum job in the Biden Administration, as you'll get to make your bones convicting Donald and his flunkies.

June 19, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


Roger Stone Told Trump In Advance Wikileaks Would Release Documents Harmful To Clinton Campaign, Aides Claimed (Jason Leopold, Anthony Cormier, Ken Bensinger,  June 19, 2020, BuzzFeed News)

Donald Trump was told in advance that Wikileaks would be releasing documents embarrassing to the Clinton campaign, according to newly unredacted portions of the Mueller report released Friday.

In July 2016, political consultant Roger Stone told Trump as well as several campaign advisors that he had spoken with Julian Assange and that Wikileaks would be publishing the documents in a matter of days. Stone told the then-candidate via speakerphone that he "did not know what the content of the materials was," according to the newly unveiled portions of the report, and Trump responded "oh good, alright" upon hearing the news. Wikileaks published a trove of some 20,000 emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee on July 22 of that year.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen told federal investigators that he overheard the phone call between Stone and Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


Chick-fil-A CEO calls on white Christians to repent & stand up for black Americans (Nate Flannagan, 19 Jun 2020, Christianity Today)

Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy, has called on white Christians to repent and fight for black Americans following a number of high profile black deaths at the hands of white police officers.

Conservative Christian, Cathy, said Christians could take advantage of this "special moment" in American history to repent of racism, and show their support for their black "brothers and sisters".

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Peter Wehner: 'I Am Critical of Trump Because I Am a Conservative' (In Conversation with Andrew Keen, June 17, 2020, LitHub: Keen on Podcast))

Peter Wehner: Donald Trump is not just a liar, but he's engaged in an all-out assault on truth, an effort to annihilate truth, categories of truth and falsity, and to try and overwhelm people with misinformation and disinformation. That is not conservatism, certainly, as I had come to understand it. Indeed, if you go back to the 1980s, which were formative years for me, I was in a sense a child of the Reagan revolution.

One of the most important books of that decade for conservatives was The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom. He was a University of Chicago professor, scholar of Plato, disciple of Leo Strauss, and he argued about this danger of relativism in this assault on truth in the academy.

Now it's not simply been confined to the academy, but in politics itself, and that has huge radiating effects on the transgression of norms and the rule of law, which conservatives once stood for proudly and strongly. The tremendous damage that I think Trump is doing to our political and civic culture, and I'm sure this is not confined to conservatives, but he is just psychologically and emotionally deeply unwell. I've worked in three administrations. I've worked in the White House for seven years. I think I have some appreciation for the power of the presidency and the importance. As I've gotten older and been more involved in politics, politicians checking the box on issues has become somewhat less important and their character, temperament, judgment, and their wisdom has become more important. I don't mean to play down how important politics is. I spent most of my life in it, but there are so many decisions in life, especially for a president and in a presidency, that you can't anticipate, and you have to depend on the wisdom, judgment, and temperament of the person you elect.

Not only do I think that Donald Trump is bad in that regard, I don't think that anyone has ever come close to being as bad. Last thing I'll say is I don't consider Trump to be a conservative and I don't consider his supporters to be conservative. I consider them to be angry populists and ethnic nationalists. If you go through the pedigree, the history of conservatism, there was a deep concern for mob mentality and stoking up the passions of the people. That's why we have this system of government. We do with checks and balances, separation of powers, and all the rest, and Trump is the antithesis of that. He is constantly stoking up mob mentality and passions. So those are some of the reasons why I am a conservative. It's not that I'm simply a conservative who is critical of Trump. I'm critical of Trump in large part because I am a conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


On John Coltrane's "Alabama" (Ismail Muhammad, June 17, 2020, Paris Review)

The John Coltrane Quartet's "Alabama" is a strange song, incongruous with the rest of the album on which it appears. Inserted into Coltrane's 1964 album Live at Birdland, it's a studio track that confounds the virtuosic post-bop bliss of the album's first three tracks, live recordings that include a jittery rendition of Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue." All of that collapses when we reach the sunken melancholy of "Alabama." We are far, now, from the cascades of sound that Coltrane introduced us to in "Giant Steps," far from the sonic innovations and precise phrasing he refined in this album's live recordings. Here, Coltrane's saxophone sounds hoarse and enfeebled, until it collapses on the threshold of a hole in the ground.

In "Alabama," Coltrane asks us to bear witness to this hole in the ground, which is also a hole in America's story, which is also a hole in the heart of black Americans. He wants us to grieve alongside him at this absence. The quartet recorded the track in November 1963, two months after the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, made an absence of four little black girls. When I listen to Coltrane playing over Tyner's piano I hear smoke rising up from a smoldering crater, mingling with the voices of the dead. He asks us to peer down into the hole, to toss ourselves over into this absence. Just past the one-minute mark, even this funeral dirge collapses in on itself, as Coltrane's saxophone sinks into a descending arpeggio, coaxing us in.

Then Elvin Jones's drums enter the fray and Jimmy Garrison begins playing the bass; suddenly we're on a brisk jaunt that slightly recalls the virtuosity that preceded this track, even though all Coltrane's sax can muster is squeaking and croaking. We hear Jones mumbling (in delight? Disconcertion?) in the background as if to answer that croak. It all sounds like someone working up a smile in the midst of immense pain, so that he doesn't disturb the comfort of those around him. And it almost works: we swing and swing until the jaunt comes to an abrupt end, as if the players have remembered why they gathered in the studio that day. We get a second of silence before we find ourselves dropped back down at the beginning of the song, with Tyner's tremulous keys and Coltrane's meandering horn. Jones's and Garrison's playing disarticulates until they mirror Jones's mumbling from only a few seconds ago. We're back at the beginning.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Bessie Jones: Get in Union review - 60 songs straight from the gut and heart: This remastered set of Jones's recordings with the Georgia Sea Island Singers richly celebrates a traditional vocalist of key historical importance (Jude Rogers, 19 Jun 2020, The Guardian)

A woman from a small farming community in the state of Georgia, Bessie Jones was one of the most important traditional singers of the mid-20th century. Her accordion-playing grandfather, Jet Sampson, was enslaved as a child before the American civil war. He lived to 105 and taught her the songs of his times, which Jones was so determined to share with future generations that she travelled 1,000 miles to ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax's New York flat in 1961 and told him to record her. [...]

The 60-track anthology includes a cappellas and spirituals with the group that Jones joined, the Georgia Sea Island Singers. All sing from the gut, clear and warm. Jones sings O Death straight-backed, speeding up, asking straightforwardly to be spared. Her version of folk standard John Henry, about an African-American steel driver who died after working too hard, is powerfully slow, drawing you into his last moments.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Florida sees record number of coronavirus cases as experts eye possible new epicenter (HAYLEY MILLER, Jun 19th 2020, AOL.com)

Florida has shattered its previous record for the number of new coronavirus infections recorded in a day, roughly two weeks after the state transitioned into the second phase of its reopening plan.

The Florida Health Department reported 3,207 new cases on Thursday, marking the largest daily increase since early March. The previous record occurred on Tuesday, with the announcement of 2,782 new cases. 

As of Thursday, Florida has recorded over 85,000 cases and at least 3,061 deaths. The recent spike in infections has some experts worried the state could become the next major hotspot for the virus.

"Florida has all the makings of the next large epicenter," scientists at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's PolicyLab wrote in a blog post Wednesday. "The risk there is the worst it has ever been in our projections."

Roughly 4 million people who are 65 or older live in Florida. That population is particularly vulnerable to the virus.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


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China finds heavy coronavirus traces in seafood, meat sections of Beijing food market (Reuters, 6/19/20) 

China has found the trading sections for meat and seafood in Beijing's wholesale food market to be severely contaminated with the new coronavirus and suspects the area's low temperature and high humidity may have been contributing factors, officials said on Thursday.

Their preliminary report comes as the country's capital tackles a resurgence of COVID-19 cases over the past week linked to the massive Xinfadi food center, which houses warehouses and trading halls in an area the size of nearly 160 soccer pitches.

The latest outbreak infected more than 100 people and raised fears of wider contagion in China.

Among the patients who work at the Xinfadi market, most serve at seafood and aquatic product stalls, followed by the beef and mutton section, and patients from the seafood market showed symptoms earlier than others, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a daily briefing on Thursday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Trump's Nazi triangle post the latest in a series of seeming dog whistles (Ari Feldman, June 19, 2020, Tablet)

Bergen, the professor of Holocaust studies, said that the use of the red triangle was most pernicious not simply because it harkens back to Nazism and concentration camps, but because of the moment in Nazi history it represents.

Most Jews are familiar with the yellow star patches that Nazis forced Jews to sew into their clothes. But those were not required in Germany until 1941.

When Hitler moved to seize dictatorial power in Germany in February 1933, the first people arrested en masse were communists, suspected communists and their supporters, she said. They were rounded up in the first concentration camp -- Dachau -- and labeled with the red triangle. With the communist members of the German parliament imprisoned, Hitler's legislative allies were able to pass a law that gave him near-complete control of what had until recently been a free German society.

"It's a political symbol of a means that was used to crush a democratic process," Bergen said of the triangle.

Allegations that Trump's presidential campaign has used images tied to anti-Semitic conspiracies and Nazism have dogged him since 2015. In July of that year, he ran an ad that used a stock photograph of Nazi soldier re-enactors in a place that many would have expected to see American soldiers: layered under the American flag. Trump said the image was the fault of a "young intern."

In 2016, Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton's face superimposed over a pile of money with a six-pointed star -- often identified by Jews as a Star of David -- that contained the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" The graphic had been shared on a Nazi internet forum, and critics considered it a "dog whistle" to white supremacist supporters. Trump defended the tweet by saying that the star could have been a Sheriff's star or a "plain star." He later used a poster of graphic earlier shared by David Duke, a former Klu Klux Klan leader and anti-Semite.

More examples have cropped up during his presidency. In August 2019, his official Twitter account posted a video supporting his reelection campaign that featured a stylized lion icon, one tied to the white nationalist website VDARE and white supremacist groups.

In May, he praised the "good bloodlines" of Henry Ford, a notorious anti-Semite with strong ties to the Nazi regime.

Last week Trump referred to the Secret Service as the "S.S.", which one Jewish group deemed a "dog whistle to white supremacists and neo-Nazis" for its apparent reference to the Nazi paramilitary police responsible for enforcing the regime's racial policies.

In response to the triangle ad, Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice group, noted that it was not an anomaly.

"This is dozens of carefully targeted ads from the official pages of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and Team Trump," the group said in a tweet. "All paid for by Trump and the Republican National Committee. All spreading lies and genocidal imagery."

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It's Time for All of America To Celebrate Juneteenth (Barrett Holmes Pitner, Jun. 19, 2020, dAILY bEAST)

For far too long Juneteenth, marking the official end of slavery in America, has remained a niche holiday within the Black community. Now it must turn into a national holiday that all Americans should embrace.

Following George Floyd's murder, Americans have stood up and declared that they can no longer tolerate the American status quo that devalues Black lives. Americans of all walks of life have supported defunding the police, and forcefully removed statues and monuments celebrating Confederates, slave owners and colonizers who terrorized indigenous people. Americans have occupied the streets chanting Black Lives Matter and shouting down white supremacy. 

But for this revolutionary movement to last, we must erect monuments and elevate holidays that champion these ideals, and Juneteenth is part of this journey. 

We should obviously celebrate our greatest achievement as a people,

June 18, 2020

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In a central passage of Roberts's opinion, as he jousts with whether the Trump administration complied with the strictures of how agencies ought to announce major policy rollbacks, the chief looks to two justices from a different era and different persuasions as his, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Hugo Black, to more or less make the point that the government is not supposed to be lazy and haphazard with big decisions. "Justice Holmes famously wrote that '[m]en must turn square corners when they deal with the Government,'" he writes. "But it is also true," he added, quoting from Black, "particularly when so much is at stake, that 'the Government should turn square corners in dealing with the people.'"

Roberts is far from a flaming liberal. But he does seem to care about good government--process, rules, the orderly administration of justice. And what binds both last year's census controversy, which was a tangled web of its own, and Thursday's DACA decision, is the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946, a bulwark of federal law that sets up much of the nation's modern bureaucracy. Rules and regulations, to say nothing of a president's policy preferences, rise and fall under it. Roberts goes through some of the principles the law establishes: "The APA sets forth the procedures by which federal agencies are accountable to the public and their actions subject to review by the courts"; it requires "reasoned decisionmaking"; agency decisions can't be "arbitrary" or "capricious." During the Trump years, the statute has been a thorn in the side of his administration in that the losses under it have been massive. According to the Institute for Policy Integrity, the courts have invalidated a vast swath of Trump's agency policies, largely thanks to the 1946 law.

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Supreme Court rules against Trump's bid to end program shielding 'Dreamer' immigrants (Tucker Higgins, 6/18/20, CNBC)

The 5-4 opinion was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative, and joined by the court's four liberals.  Roberts reasoned that the Trump administration's termination of the program was "arbitrary and capricious," in violation of federal law that governs administrative procedure. 

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Perry Mason revival delivers with the case of the enticing origin storyHBO's prequel series sees Matthew Rhys take on the role of the famed Los Angeles defence lawyer. (EMMA FRASER, 6/18/20, Little White Lies)

Set in Los Angeles in 1932, the economy is in crisis, cops are corrupt, and a child kidnapping-gone-wrong dominates the front page - there is a timeliness to aspects of the narrative. Perry Mason (Matthew Rhys) is a world-weary investigator who makes a quick buck from movie studio bosses wanting to control their roster of talent via the threat of scandal - you might not look at dessert in the same way after the first episode.

Divorced and disconnected, he is a World War One veteran who is still haunted by what he saw in battle. Prohibition is still in effect, not that Perry pays much attention to the boundaries set by the law. When he is tasked with uncovering who is behind the headline-grabbing disturbing crime, the pulpy aspects of this story kick into gear. [...]

Taking a step back in time, HBO has clearly splashed the cash on the impressive and immersive sets from the grimy streets of Los Angeles to Perry's rundown former family farm, which now sits in the middle of an airfield. In the second episode, a flashback to the trenches in France is far from subtle but effectively underscores the horror of Perry's combat experience in an impressive action sequence. Veteran TV director Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos) directed six of the eight episodes, marrying his talents for a big production with intimate scenes of explosive intensity.

A gritty origin story runs the risk of being too dour or self-serious, which Perry Mason avoids in the first two episodes by leaning into the wisecracking dialogue made famous by hardboiled fiction. Reactions to this adaptation might vary depending on how attached you are to the Burr series. Even so, the strong cast led by the magnetic Rhys ensures that even when the conspiracy sags, you will be clamouring to spend more time with this cast beyond finding out whodunnit.

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Polls suggest Joe Biden has a shot at winning Texas. How he fares here could reshape the state's politics. (ABBY LIVINGSTON AND ALEX SAMUELS, JUNE 17, 2020, Texas Tribune)

Ever since February 2019, polls have been coming out indicating that former Vice President Joe Biden is competitive with -- sometimes even leading -- President Donald Trump in Texas. A June 3 poll by Quinnipiac University gave Trump a 1-percentage-point lead in the state. A recent FiveThirtyEight roundup of "key battleground state" polls taken since May 1 shows Trump up by an average of 1.5 points here.

Uncle Joe doesn't need to win TX, just tie Donald and the RNC down there, trying to defend a state where losing suggests the party has long term viability problems.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Gardner's pact with readers promised that Mason's clients, whatever else they've done, would always be innocent of murder. That way, when the lawyer plays things fast and loose, we can revel in every wild scheme without troubling our consciences one little bit. He explained, "I write to make money, and I write to give the reader sheer fun. People derive moral satisfaction from reading a story in which the innocent victim of fate triumphs over evil. They enjoy the stimulation of an exciting detective story. Most readers are beset with a lot of problems they can't solve. When they try to relax, their minds keep gnawing over these problems and there is no solution. They pick up a mystery story, become completely absorbed in the problem, see the problem worked out to final and just conclusion, turn out the light and go to sleep."

Mason is as much detective as lawyer, but typically the payoff is a courtroom showdown that sees Mason clear his client's name and pull a "J'accuse!" with the guilty party. These justifiably famous showdowns are rich in legal detail, offering an education in American law of the era. Legend has it that Gardner, whose fan base boasted numerous judges and lawyers, only made one mistake in his prolific career, when he allowed the beneficiary of a will to witness it as well.

When he died, in 1970, Erle Stanley Gardner was the best-selling American fiction author of the century. He wrote 100,000 words a month for some fifty years. His New York Times obituary cited sales of more than 170 million books in the US alone, and reported his paperback publisher saying that in the mid 1960s they sold 2,000 Gardner books an hour, eight hours a day, 365 days a year.

From the 1920s on, Gardner produced an avalanche of pulp stories, novellas, cowboy yarns, science fiction, travelogues and several mystery series, on top of the 80 Perry Mason novels that cemented his fame and fortune, and won him fans such as Einstein (reported to be reading a Perry Mason novel on his deathbed), Harry S. Truman, and Pope John XXIII.

Oh, and in 1949, Evelyn Waugh told interviewers that Gardner was America's best writer. People dismissed this as a joke. It wasn't. Writing to Gardner in 1960, Waugh called himself "one of the keenest admirers of your work." People still scoffed, yet when it was put to his widow, Laura, she confirmed that Evelyn had read every book, and pressed them on the entire family.

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Conservative activist kicked off plane after refusing to wear mask (Mina Kaji and Lena Camilletti, June 18, 2020, ABC News)

..it's disregard for others,

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Fox News Lawyer Suggests No Reasonable Viewer Would Think Tucker Carlson Is News (COLIN KALMBACHER, Jun 17th, 2020, Law & Crime)

"Would a reasonable viewer be coming here and thinking this is where I'm going to be hearing the news of the day?" Fox News attorney Erin Murphy asked U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil during a hearing conducted via telephone on Wednesday, according to Law360 reporter Frank G. Runyeon's account of what was said.


June 17, 2020

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John Bolton Tells the Truth: Even if they don't like him, every Republican and conservative in Washington knows that Bolton doesn't make things up. What will they do now? (WILLIAM KRISTOL  JUNE 17, 2020, The Bulwark)

Twice over the last few years, I've met with individuals who had recently departed the Trump administration after serving at very senior levels. I'd known these individuals before Donald Trump descended his escalator five years ago. I hadn't been in touch with them during their time in the administration so as not to cause complications for them if somehow it became known we'd talked. I believed these individuals had chosen to serve this problematic president with good intentions, and probably accomplished more good--or more precisely prevented more harm--than many on the outside realized.

When these individuals left, I was led to understand through intermediaries that they would not resist, they might even welcome, an invitation to talk. So talk we did, at some length, privately.

I can report one exchange I had with both individuals. I said to each of them: "You know I'm alarmed by President Donald Trump. If I'd seen what you saw up close, would I be a bit reassured--or even more alarmed?"

Both answered promptly.

One responded, "You'd be more alarmed."

The other simply said, "Twice."

I was a bit befuddled and asked him what he meant. "You'd be twice as alarmed," he explained.

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The Rebirth of the Left-Conservative TraditionA blend of left-wing policies--like support for Social Security and infrastructure spending--with favored conservative ideas, like nationalism and immigration reform, is finding its voice (ERIC KAUFMANN, JUNE 15, 2020, Tablet)

Left-conservatism foregrounds nationalism more than religion. Where the religious right was evangelical and universalist, thus dovetailing nicely with neoconservatism's missionary liberalism, national conservatism is traditionalist, particularist, and isolationist. National conservatives endorse left-wing policies such as protectionism, infrastructure spending, and support for welfare programs like Social Security alongside conservative ideas such as immigration restriction and nationalism. In Europe, the mix is similar, albeit with a stronger focus on taxing the rich.

In the mid-2010s, British "post-liberalism" has come to coalesce around the online magazine Unherd. One of its leading avatars is David Goodhart, who founded the center-left periodical Prospect in 1995. Influenced by Lind, Goodhart wrote a controversial article in Prospect in 2004 titled "Is Britain Too Diverse" arguing that diversity and solidarity existing in tension, and that high levels of the former were incompatible with the desire to protect the welfare state. His Road to Somewhere (2017) juxtaposed socially mobile "Anywheres" who attach primarily to credentials rather than the nation with rooted "Somewheres" who lack degrees, live near their place of birth and cherish national traditions. The new Social Democratic Party (SDP) of William Clouston, fireman-intellectual Paul Embery, and the patriotic Blue Labour wing of the Labour Party share similar beliefs and positioning.

Perhaps the essence of left-conservatism is its plea for social cohesion and a concomitant rejection of post-national elites with their one-two punch of economic liberalism and the adversary culture. At root, the New Class/Anywhere elite is attached to a transnational status culture, much like Europe's aristocracy prior to the age of nations. 

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Are We All Christians Now? A Review of Tom Holland's Dominion (Daniel Strand,  June 17, 2020, Providence)

When I taught Western civilization, I was always looking for a book like Holland's. Too often the Western civ. curriculum industry focuses on historical events and less on cultural or moral ones. We are prone to be incurious about things that are so deeply assumed. Dominion explores the shifting assumptions in Europe through hinge moments where we can see something new or notable. Whether first-century Galatia or twenty-first-century Germany, Holland shows the manifestations and echoes of Christianity in how events play out and how historical actors describe their motivations.

As opposed to intellectual history, which too often floats above historical events, Holland focuses on historical actors and their motivations, which is much more convincing and persuasive to the average reader. Rather than an abstract discussion of paganism and Christian monotheism, he has Pompey strolling through the Temple in Jerusalem.

Holland's method shows how Christian ideals often frame the conditions on which our debates occur, whether the debaters are aware or not. At times the argument works more persuasively than others. One can perhaps find too much Christianity behind each and every cultural event or historical turning point. The motives and reasons for acting are often unclear, and pressures on historical actors are numerous.

Christians and non-Christians alike should read this book because Holland presents a very realistic picture of historical events and the influence of Christianity. Christians don't come out looking like heroes, which is closer to reality than the narrative of triumphalism. History plods and is filled with ups and downs. There is much to the history of Europe that deserves our admiration and much that deserves or condemnation. Christianity laid the groundwork for some of the most humane and wonderful aspects of Western society. It also played a role in some of its darker moments.

My hope is that Holland's book gains a wide readership and that Christian communities seriously debate and digest it. That said, I want to raise one substantive question. Holland offers mainly a history and, every now and then, a bit of reflection, but one question recurred as I read his narrative: What is Christians ethics? By that I mean, what is the goal of the moral life that Christians believe is incumbent upon all those who claim this faith? Holland's book presents a fascinating and sweeping vision of Christianity's effect on a particular civilization. But he prescinds from, self-consciously, the theological question that drives these effects in society. Western society imbibed Christian morals that transformed it, but what will happen if there are no Christians to support those values? If we assume Holland is right about his thesis--that the values of Western civilization are essentially Christian--are these Christian values sustainable without Christians who live them out?

Holland is not terribly clear on this point. He relentlessly points to this religion whose "molten heart" is a crucified man who had a lasting and profound revolutionary effect on society. Even Christianity's critics judge Christian failures by Christian assumptions, showing the extent to which Christianity has, in a sense, become inescapable. But can Christian ideas of love, sacrifice, care for the weak, humility, and the universal body of Christ be detached from the roots that nourish it? Can one have Christian values without the faith? At times Holland implies that we can and do.

While folks often speak of places like the Scandinavian nations as secular and post-Christian, the more of their culture you consume the more you realize how profoundly Christ-haunted they are.  The question is whether that is durable.

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US utility plans to ditch coal in favour of renewables - in just five years (Joshua S Hill,17 June 2020, Renew Economy)

Vectren, US energy company servicing the state of Indiana, has announced plans to shift from what is a nearly an all coal generation business to producing nearly two thirds of its total energy from renewable energy sources by 2025.

Trump Can't Save Coal Country (KEITH JOHNSON, OCTOBER 30, 2019, Foreign Policy)

President Donald Trump came into the White House vowing to end the Obama administration's so-called war on coal and Make Anthracite Great Again. Instead, Trump is overseeing a cascading collapse of America's coal industry, a trend that could have political consequences for him in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

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What's Really Going On at Seattle's So-Called Autonomous Zone?Failed experiment by radical anarchists, a new sort of utopia, or just a place? (JANE C. HU, JUNE 16, 2020, Slate)

Over the weekend, I went to see for myself what CHAZ was all about and sort out whether claims I'd seen online were truths, half-truths, or flat-out lies. (You can also check out a livestream with six angles showing parts of the space; it looks like any other mundane city street cam of people walking by, sometimes with cute dogs.) The first thing I learned: CHAZ is no longer the preferred nomenclature. Organizers are now asking that people call it the CHOP--the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest--and signs at the barricades welcome visitors to CHOP. While CHAZ's original claim to "autonomous zone" may have gotten attention, it's obvious to anyone in Seattle that the zone is not autonomous. People live there, and businesses are still operating. Residents still need to get in and out of the barricades and are allowed access; at a barricade on the eastern side, activists even painted some makeshift parking spaces for liquor store customers. Those businesses and residents--as well as CHOP occupants--still use electricity and water. And unlike any actual autonomous zone, people move freely in or out. While I was in CHOP, I saw at least one resident driving through a CHOP barricade to access an apartment building garage.

At those barricades, there were no armed guards, and no one asked me for ID. Right-wingers' claims of "infiltrating" the space seem needlessly dramatic; you can just walk right in. But if people recognize you and they're not fans of your work, there is a chance you'll be confronted by a crowd asking you to leave. (Tim Eyman, a local politician known for his anti-tax measures--and for stealing a $70 chair from Office Depot--was asked to leave last week.)

While there were no guards when I visited, there were people stationed at each barricade, handing out masks and directing cars through to provide supplies or access their homes. I also saw volunteers at one barricade radioing to the rest to ask whether any others needed supplies and to seek a mental health expert to help manage a man sitting on a corner throwing trash at passersby. Gaebriel, 21, who was greeting folks and directing traffic at the barricade near 10th and Pine streets, told me she'd seen the media reports of armed guards and thought they were unfortunate but inevitable with how quickly misinformation spreads on social media. "I just hope people come see for themselves," she said.

After all, there is no official word on CHOP or CHAZ. Though there are several prominent figures in the Seattle protest scene who are heavily involved with CHOP, there is no central leadership. And it's worth noting that the people don't always agree. For instance, some activists say that the CHAZ is hosting the CHOP, suggesting some are still thinking of this area as a permanent zone. Other activists have voiced hopes that the SPD will eventually turn the now-empty precinct building into a community center. There's also a range of protester demands. The most prominent one, now painted on the wood boarding up the precinct building, is to defund the SPD by 50 percent. But walking around the CHOP, I also saw a list of police reform demands taped to a tree, which included asks like mandating police to wear body cameras and developing new processes to handle misconduct claims. Someone had taken a Sharpie and crossed the whole thing out and wrote over it: "NO COPS! AT ALL."

People also had different reasons and motives for being in the CHOP. While some were clearly residents or heavily involved volunteers, others seemed to be cultural tourists and documentarians. 

I'm old enough to remember when we conservatives loved Hernando de Soto's Other Path.

June 16, 2020

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Tucker Carlson Freaks Out Over Right-Wing Poll Showing BLM Is More Popular Than Trump (Cristina Cabrera, June 16, 2020, TPM)

Carlson opened his program with news of the right-leaning pollster Rasmussen's latest report that shows 62 percent of "likely" U.S. voters view BLM favorably while President Donald Trump's approval rating trails behind at 43 percent.

"Here's some bracing news we never expected to report: Black Lives Matter is now more popular than the President of the United States," Carlson lamented in the opening of his program. "And not slightly more popular than the President; much more popular."

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Albuquerque Man Allegedly Shot by 'New Mexico Civil Guard' Right-Wing Militia Group During Statue Protest (EWAN PALMER, 6/16/20, Newsweek)

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the shooting occurred after several protesters descended on one man wearing a blue T-shirt who had been pushing and confronting those attempting to topple the statue.

After being forced onto the street, the man in the blue shirt allegedly deployed pepper spray before pulling out a gun and firing, hitting at least one person.

Footage posted on Twitter shows a man in a blue shirt confronting protesters prior to the shooting.

A second video then appears to show armed men in military-style clothing--believed to be members of the New Mexico Civil Guard militia group who were there to protect the statue--surrounding the man on the ground.

Several members of the militia group who were allegedly involved in the violence were then taken into custody by the Albuquerque Police Department.

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Remembering John Howard Griffin at 100: Catholic Convert who wrote 'Black Like Me'(Robert Ellsberg, June 15, 2020, America)

Tomorrow marks the centenary of the writer and activist John Howard Griffin, who was born in Texas on June 16, 1920. His early life was marked by a number of diverse and remarkable experiences. But he is best remembered for his classic work Black Like Me, in which he described his experience in the winter of 1959 when he traveled to New Orleans, darkened his skin, shaved his head and "crossed the line into a country of hate, fear, and hopelessness--the country of the American Negro."

Perhaps the roots of Griffin's experience lay in his earlier 10-year experience of blindness--the result of a war injury. This experience prompted a deep spiritual journey that included his conversion to Catholicism. When his sight later miraculously returned, he was struck by how much superficial appearances can serve as obstacles to perception--allowing us to regard certain fellow humans as the "intrinsic other." This was especially obvious in the case of racism. Yet Griffin was struck by the frequent challenge from black friends: "The only way you can know what it's like is to wake up in my skin." He took these words to heart.

Griffin's book went beyond social observation to examine an underlying disease of the soul. His book was really a meditation on the effects of dehumanization, both for the oppressed and for the oppressors themselves. "Future historians," he wrote, "will be mystified that generations of us could stand in the midst of this sickness and never see it, never really feel how our System distorted and dwarfed human lives because these lives happened to inhabit bodies encased in a darker skin, and how, in cooperating with this System, it distorted and dwarfed our own lives in a subtle and terrible way."

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'It's frustrating': Trump advertising blast has limits (STEVE PEOPLES and ZEKE MILLER, 6/16/20, AP)

President Donald Trump's campaign manager warned in late spring that his juggernaut political operation -- the "Death Star," he called it -- was about to start "pressing FIRE" for the first time.

What followed was a massive investment in television and online advertising designed to demonstrate the true might of Trump's reelection team. The Republican's campaign poured nearly $24 million into paid advertising focused largely on six battleground states in the seven-week period from the last week in April through the first week of June, according to spending data obtained by The Associated Press.

The Death Star attack did not have the intended effect.

Some recent polls suggest a dip in Trump's standing and a majority of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. And nearly two months after Trump first unleashed his advertising tsunami, there are signs that his inability to demonstrate consistent leadership through multiple national crises has neutralized one of the best advertising campaigns money can buy.

Well, it's exactly like the Death Star.

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Chinese officials want Trump to win reelection because he is 'destroying US alliances' and won't unite to fight Beijing (Bill Bostock, 6/16/20, Business Insider)

Chinese officials are keen for President Donald Trump to win the November presidential election because he will continue "destroying US alliances," which could strengthen China's position in the world.

Nine current and former Chinese official told Bloomberg that the US is more dangerous to China when it unites with its traditional allies -- which could happen if Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden becomes president.

In the last 12 months alone, Trump has clashed with the UK and Canada over 5G contracts planned for Huawei, exchanged barbs with French President Emmanuel Macron, withdrawn funding from the World Health Organization, and shown little interest in continuing the NATO alliance.

On Monday, Trump pulled 10,000 US troops from their NATO stations in Germany.

In the eyes of Chinese officials, Trump's actions are most welcome, according to Bloomberg.

For Donald and co, Nationalist China is an ally, democratic Europe is not.
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Antifa All AroundFrom civil rights protesters to elderly activists, Fox News and its viewers fear an imaginary invasion by the forces of anarchy. (PAUL WALDMAN JUNE 16, 2020, American Prospect)

When 65-year-old Scott Gudmundsen of Loveland, Colorado, saw two men in blue polo shirts bearing the name of a roofing company in his neighborhood, he knew just what to do. He called the police, warning them that there were "antifa guys" in the area, and "I am going out there to confront them." When police arrived on the scene, they found Gudmundsen in fatigues and tactical gear, holding the two young men at gunpoint. Weirdly enough, they turned out to be not "antifa guys" but ... roofers.

It's one small story, albeit one of particularly vivid stupidity. But there is a specter haunting American conservatives. It's clad in a black hoodie and bent on destroying their homes, their communities, and their very lives. Antifa, they believe, is coming for them.

They believe it because it's what they're being told, not only by conservative media but by the president of the United States, who among other things claimed that the 75-year-old man in Buffalo who was pushed to the ground by police in riot gear was actually an "antifa provocateur." And there's a very good reason it's happening right now.

It's not because antifa itself has in any objective sense grown more powerful or threatening in the last month or so. It's because the urgency of the movement for police reform, and the striking change in Americans' opinions about Black Lives Matter, has left many on the right in a psychologically difficult spot.

Many of the subtle and not-so-subtle ideas about societal order and the threat from supposedly criminal (or generally uppity) black people that they've relied on in the past have become more problematic to argue for in public, at least for the moment. And because anger and fear are both the foundation of Donald Trump's presidency and the ideology of media outlets like Fox News, a temporary redirection was in order. Enter antifa.

To be fair, anti-racism threatens the entire Trump project.

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Where (Not) to Begin with the Common Good (MARK HOIPKEMIER, 6/15/20, Public Discourse)

The coronavirus pandemic has re-opened the question of the common good for liberal societies that generally prefer to ignore it. This represents an opportunity for Catholic thinkers, since the Aristotelian tradition is the only corner of the contemporary scene where the idea of the common good remains vibrantly alive.  [...]

Aristotle remarked that the beginning is "half of the whole." Where then should we begin thinking about the common good? We should begin where he himself begins: from the (philosophically clarified) standpoint of thoughtful persons, who are trying to understand how to act together.

The most prominent example of an inauspicious start is the formulation found in the Second Vatican Council's Gaudium et Spes, paragraph 26, where the common good is said to be "the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment." Since its promulgation in 1965, any number of magisterial documents have confidently referred back to this text as the best definition (or handy summary, or at least starting point for investigation) of the common good.

...if you're starting with the historically anti-protestant, anti-democratic, anti-capitalist Vatican you've already abandoned the "common."  

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SUPER ON-BRAND (profanity alert):

Gun-toting Trump supporters attack George Floyd protesters in rural Ohio town (Travis Gettys, 6/15/20, Raw Story)

A small-town solidarity rally with Black Lives Matter ended in chaos after some of President Donald Trump's supporters showed up with guns to berate demonstrators.

Alicia Gee, a 36-year-old substitute teacher, was inspired by demonstrations in Hazard, Kentucky, to hold a protest in her hometown of Bethel, Ohio, to show support for equal rights, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"I guess in my mind, we only think about protests happening in the city," Gee told the newspaper. "I've always gone to cities to protest, and then to see that something was happening in Hazard -- I was like, if Hazard, Kentucky, can have a protest, Bethel can have something."

Gee, a former children's minister and a member of the village's arts collective, set up a Facebook page for the event Tuesday, hoping to draw about 50 supporters, and she drew chalk marks on the sidewalk Saturday night to allow demonstrators to remain socially distant from one another.

But her plans were upended when a group of armed motorcyclists and others showed up wearing Confederate flag, Punisher and Trump-themed hats and clothing, some of them apparently drawn by online warnings that the demonstration was organized by Antifa activists. [...]

Numerous videos show counter protesters menacing the demonstrators with ideas seemingly drawn from the president's Twitter feed about the protests following George Floyd's police killing.

Yeah, but the judges,,,,

June 15, 2020

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Right-Wing Leader Who Pushed Gorsuch Is Furious Over His LGBTQ Rights Opinion (David Badash, June 15, 2020, National Memo)

Judicial Crisis Network, a "powerful dark money group pushing [the] court to right," ran a $10 million campaign in 2017 to force Gorsuch onto the bench. He is President Donald Trump's first Supreme Court nominee. The group also spent $1 million to block President Barack Obama from putting Merrick Garland on the bench.

In a series of tweets Carrie Severino blasted Justice Gorsuch and the five others who sided with his opinion. She even claims they are merely trying to appeal to college students by finding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination.

Gorsuch, a textualist who replaced Justice Antonin Scalia on the bench, decided that as written, the actual words of the Civil Rights Act make clear that discriminating on the basis of sex is illegal.

Nothing was easier to call than that the Right was going to hate Gorsuch, a libertarian.

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California 'sanctuary' law won't face Supreme Court review (JEREMY B. WHITE 06/15/2020, Politico)

California's "sanctuary" immigration enforcement law will not go before the U.S. Supreme Court, handing California a capstone victory in an ongoing clash with the federal government.

The high court on Monday turned down the Justice Department's request to review a federal appeals court decision that largely upheld three California laws. One of the laws passed soon after Donald Trump became president, Senate Bill 54, partitions local law enforcement from federal immigration authorities, protecting arrested immigrants and low-level offenders from deportation.

The federal government asked the Supreme Court to review SB 54. The court announced Monday that it declined that review, though Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would have heard the case.

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Florida has largest daily spike in COVID-19 cases after Republicans move convention to Jacksonville (IGOR DERYSH, JUNE 15, 2020, Salon)

Officials in Florida expressed concern about public safety as coronavirus infections hit a record number for the third straight day following the Republican National Committee's decision to relocate part of its annual convention to Jacksonville.

The state saw at least 2,581 new confirmed cases on Saturday, a 35% increase over the previous day. It was the third consecutive day that the state recorded its highest daily total of cases yet, according to the Miami Herald. 

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Trump will travel to Jeff Sessions's home town -- to campaign for his opponent: report (Brad Reed, 6/15/20, Raw Story)

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The Tea Party's Last Stand (STANLEY B. GREENBERG JUNE 15, 2020, The American Prospect)

[T]he Tea Party groups had genuine grass roots. More than 500,000 people joined over 500 rallies; 250,000 would join Tea Party groups. Most already belonged to pro-life, gun rights, anti-immigrant, or white nationalist groups. They gained momentum with funding from the Koch brothers and their allies, and from Fox News's most prominent personalities broadcasting from their protests. The Tea Party leaders were replete with "birthers" who wanted to "take our country back." The members were infused with a deep anti-Obama venom, deep racial resentment. Stopping Obama meant repealing Obamacare--the new federal entitlement to health insurance.

The marches and protests translated into organization that elected a whole class of Tea Party members to the Congress and governors' offices. Two-thirds of the House members first elected in 2010 supported the Tea Party; they took office with a mandate "to go nuclear," to stop government spending and repeal Obamacare.

The Tea Party wave elections allowed Republicans to gridlock government, to shut down the federal government time and again, to force the acceptance of spending caps and fiscal austerity that slowed President Obama's efforts at economic recovery. They demanded votes to "repeal" Obamacare, and in the states, their leaders blocked all efforts to set up health care exchanges and expand Medicaid. Nationally, they blocked Obama's efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and in the states, blocked undocumented immigrants getting any public benefits.

What animated them most of all was the legal and illegal immigration of the past three decades--a surge that had been welcomed and legalized on a bipartisan basis by Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, working quite publicly with Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton.

Reagan legalized millions of the undocumented, the first President Bush joined with Kennedy to massively grow legal immigration, and George W. Bush tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Even after the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee and establishment Republican leaders in the Congress still called for immigration reform.

Imagine the building anger in Tea Party ranks when they watched the metropolitan elites and national leaders of both parties take irreversible actions that grew the percentage of foreign-born Americans every year, and saw that a growing majority of Americans since Obama's re-election welcomed a multicultural America replete with and open to immigrants.

A party of old white men has no future.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst is in a surprisingly competitive re-election battle (The Week, 6/15/20)

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was not on the list of vulnerable incumbents all that long ago, but a Des Moines Register poll released over the weekend has her trailing new Democratic opponent Theresa Greenfield by 3 percentage points, 46 percent to 43 percent, among likely voters Ernst has never fallen behind a Democratic opponent since her winning 2014 campaign, said J. Ann Selzer, the highly regarded pollster who conducted the survey. 

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Report: Assad's brother rejects Russia orders to remove checkpoints (MEMO, June 15, 2020)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) revealed on Saturday that Maher Al-Assad, the brother of Syrian regime President Bashar Al-Assad, has rejected direct orders from Russia to withdraw all checkpoints erected by the 4th Division from around the country.

According to the war monitor, the 4th Division led by Maher Al- Assad is deployed across Syria though it is only supposed to be stationed in the capital Damascus.

Earlier on Saturday, clashes broke out between the 4th Division and a group of dissidents in the city of Al-Dameer in Damascus Province. 


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Revealed: The Family Member Who Turned on Trump (Lachlan Cartwright, Jun. 15, 2020, Daily Beast)

One of the most explosive revelations Mary will detail in the book, according to people familiar with the matter, is how she played a critical role helping The New York Times print startling revelations about Trump's taxes, including how he was involved in "fraudulent" tax schemes and had received more than $400 million in today's dollars from his father's real estate empire.

As she is set to outline in her book, Mary was a primary source for the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation, supplying Fred Trump Sr.'s tax returns and other highly confidential family financial documentation to the paper. 

Details of the book are being closely guarded by its publisher, Simon & Schuster, but The Daily Beast has learned that Mary plans to include conversations with Trump's sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, that contain intimate and damning thoughts about her brother, according to people with knowledge of the matter. 

June 14, 2020

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'Boogaloo Boi' Seeking Civil War Is Arrested For Deadly Attack On Deputies (David Neiwert, 6/14/20, National Memo)

It's becoming clear that the "Boogaloo Bois" who have been filling Facebook and other social media platforms with their increasingly violent scenarios about engaging in a civil war--beginning with civil authorities as the chief targets, expanding to include racial and ethnic minorities, and finally including their ordinary neighbors--are not content to merely keep fantasies online.

A 32-year-old Air Force sergeant with special combat training tried to make the "Boogaloo" a reality this week in Santa Cruz, California, when he embarked on a killing rampage targeting law enforcement officers, ambushing two sheriff's deputies, killing one, and severely wounding another. He then was stopped by a determined neighbor before he could get any farther. On the hood of his car, he had scrawled in blood: "I became unreasonable" and "Boog."

It shortly emerged that Steven Carrillo is also the primary suspect in the shootings of two federal protective services officers (one of whom died) last month in Oakland during street protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There has been previous evidence that so-called "Boogaloo" fans have been involved in some of the violence at the anti-police brutality protests around the nation.

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Beijing orders lockdown amid fresh outbreak (deutsche-Welle, 6/14/20)

Lockdown measures were imposed in parts of Beijing on Saturday in an attempt to prevent the spread of a coronavirus from a new, locally-transmitted cluster.  [...]

Authorities told residents in 11 residential estates to remain at home. Mass testing was ordered and a "wartime mechanism" that put hundreds of police officers on the streets was activated.

School reopenings for first through third graders, planned for Monday, have also been delayed. Scheduled athletic events have been suspended. 

Local media reported that Beijing's National Center for the Performing Arts, which had just reopened on June 2, once again closed its doors.

The recent transmissions have fueled fears of a resurgence in China, where the curve of the outbreak has been months ahead of the rest of the world. 

June 13, 2020

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The Other Solar Power: How Scientists Are Making Fuel From Sunlight and Air (Frank Swain, June 13, 2020, Discover magazine)

"We have developed a solar technology that is able to produce liquid fuels using just two ingredients: solar energy and ambient air," says Aldo Steinfeld, a renewable energy expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. "These hydrocarbon fuels release only as much carbon dioxide during combustion as was previously extracted from the air."

It may seem like alchemy, but the solar refinery Steinfeld has helped build in Móstoles, on the outskirts of Madrid, follows some straightforward chemistry. An array of mirrors called a heliostat tracks the sun, boosting the sunlight's intensity by a factor of 2,500 while reflecting it onto a 50-foot-high tower.

This dazzling beam of light heats a reactor with a core made of cerium oxide, an inexpensive compound often used to polish glass. At 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, oxygen is liberated from the cerium and removed, after which water and carbon dioxide captured from the air are injected into the reactor. As the reactor cools, the reduced cerium claws back oxygen molecules from the added material, leaving a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide called syngas. This is funneled into a second reactor, where the syngas is converted into kerosene molecules. In June 2019, the Móstoles refinery announced its first trickle of fuel.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM

SUPER ON BRAND (profanity alert):

Far-Right Demonstrators Got Drunk and Attacked Police While 'Defending' a Statue in London (Ruby Lott-Lavigna, Jun 13 2020, vice News)

Hundreds of far-right demonstrators from across the country today travelled to Parliament Square in London to "defend" a statue of Winston Churchill, before attacking police and fighting among themselves. [...]

On a bright, sunny day, the atmosphere among demonstrators in Parliament Square was tense, fuelled by alcohol and drugs. Many of the mostly white, middle-aged men had bought large quantities of beer, wine and spirits to consume, and many were already inebriated by midday. Individuals were openly bumping keys of coke and taking laughing gas, exacerbating the aggression directed at many passers-by. Few were wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves or face masks.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Tight polls put GOP on edge in Texas (JONATHAN EASLEY, 06/13/20, The Hill)

The president's margins in Texas will matter, and Republicans fear that a close race at the top of the ticket might wipe them out in down ballot races.

Five House Republicans from the Texas delegation are retiring at the end of the year and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates three of those as either toss-ups or leaning Democratic.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is also up for reelection and will likely face the toughest fight of his career in 2020.

Biden's campaign says it intends to compete in Texas, where the state Democratic Party has become one of the largest in the nation. Texas's fast-changing demographics have hastened its move from solidly red state to purple battleground.

"It is a very serious moment for Republicans in Texas," said Bill Miller, a veteran Republican campaign operative in Austin. "Any Republican that doesn't take the moment seriously will be surprised in a very bad way in November. They have to be alert and engaged or they'll find themselves in trouble with a capital T."

A Quinnipiac University survey released last week found Trump leading Biden by 1 point in Texas. Trump leads by 2.2 points in the RealClearPolitics average.

Texas Republicans are primarily worried about their standing in the suburbs, where women and independents have steadily gravitated away from the GOP since Trump took office.

Republican support has eroded in the areas surrounding Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, four of the nation's largest and fastest growing metro areas. Democrats defeated longtime GOP incumbents in Houston and Dallas in 2018.

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Fox News runs digitally altered images in coverage of Seattle's protests, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Jim Brunner, 6/12/20, Seattle Times)

Fox News published digitally altered and misleading photos on stories about Seattle's Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in what photojournalism experts called a clear violation of ethical standards for news organizations.

The Right's ignorance is not just willful; it's also carefully cultivated.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Joe Biden is winning female voters by a historic margin (Harry Enten, 6/13/20, CNN)

Biden is leading among female registered voters by 59% to 35%, a 25-point margin when the numbers aren't rounded. That's a significant increase from his 19-point advantage earlier this year and the 14-point lead Hillary Clinton had in the final 2016 preelection polls of registered voters. [...]

The only year that comes close to what we see in the polls right now is 1964. That year, Democrat Lyndon Johnson won nationally by 23 points overall, and Gallup had him taking the women's vote by 24 points. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM

Most Americans express support for the Black Lives Matter movement Roughly half of Americans say Trump has made race relations worse
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The Pulse of Jazz Grounded in Freedom Movements (DANIEL KING, 6/11/20, Mother Jones)

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.
When it's said that you can hear the history of freedom movements in John Coltrane's 1963 "Alabama," it's more than metaphor: Coltrane patterned his horn lines after Martin Luther King Jr.'s vocal inflections. He reworked King's speech after the church bombing by the Ku Klux Klan, which killed four Black girls, into the song. King's cadence is remade in Coltrane's rising saxophone solo, Elvin Jones' crashing cymbals and percussive shots, McCoy Tyner's rolling block chords, and Jimmy Garrison's low-register groundswell. This is music that's purposeful, principled, and timeless.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


Survivors of KKK's Ax Handle Attack Appalled at Trump Speech (Michael Daly,. 13, 2020, Daily Beast)

On the same day President Trump is scheduled to give his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination at the big arena in Jacksonville, Florida, another group will meet in a nearby park where Klansmen in Confederate uniforms handed out ax handles for a racist rampage exactly 60 years before.

The permit for the Aug. 27 gathering at Hemming Park was secured by one of that murderous white mob's targets on what became known as Ax Handle Saturday. Rodney Hurst was the 16-year-old president of the youth council of the NAACP back in 1960. He will be joined this year as in previous years by Alton Yates, who was then the group's 23-year-old vice president. 

"I got hit in the back of the head with an ax handle," Yates told The Daily Beast of that day six decades ago. "If you've ever seen stars before, it's unbelievable. It's something a young person never expects to have happen to them."

Yates survived, but three people are believed to have died as a result of the attack and as many as 100 were injured. Hurst says that an admitted FBI informant named Clarence Sears would tell him years later that the Klu Klux Klan had hoped to spark a race war in the city.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


The UK has gone 2 months without burning coal, the longest period since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution (Bill Bostock, 6/13/20, Business Insider)

The last time coal was burned at any of Britain's four coal-fired power stations was April 10, 2020, according to the National Grid, the utility company.

It marks the longest period without deriving energy from the fossil fuel since 1790, the start of the Industrial Revolution. 

June 12, 2020

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UN says missiles used for devastating strikes on Saudi Arabia were of Iranian origin (New Arab, 12 June, 2020)

Cruise missiles and drones used in attacks last year on Saudi Arabia were "of Iranian origin," including components that had been made in Iran or exported there, according to a report by the UN Secretary-General.

It's our job, but our Shi'a allies have it covered.

Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM


DOJ, Flynn attorney face skeptical panel of judges in bid to throw out case (Alexander Mallin, June 12, 2020, ABC News)

The Justice Department and the legal team for former national security adviser Michael Flynn faced tough questions from a skeptical panel of federal appeals court judges this morning in their bid to overrule a district judge who has not yet accepted the department's request to throw out the case. [...]

At least two of the judges on the panel, judge Karen Henderson and judge Robert Wilkins, expressed clear reservations in their questioning of Powell and Principal Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, who was arguing on behalf of the government.

"There's nothing wrong with [Sullivan] holding a hearing as far as I know," Henderson said. "I don't know of any authority that says he can't hold a hearing before he takes action."

It's always hard to tell how much Trumpbot ignorance is willful and how much a function of their fact-starved bubble, but their belief that scheduling this hearing was some kind of victory for the cause of collusion was especially demented. 

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中間王國 (Jonah Goldberg, 6/11/20, The Remnant)

AEI scholar and China expert Oriana Skylar Mastro joins The Remnant to help us all understand the "Middle Kingdom" and its moves on the world stage. At a time like this, where the U.S. is retreating from its global responsibilities, how is China going to try to spin this into a positive outcome for themselves? Oriana has some ideas.

This is an especially good episode that will actually change some of the ways you think about the PRC, for better and worse.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


The Suburban Commute Is a Soul-Crushing, Environment-Destroying Invention: The last few months have shown us that we can do away with it forever. (Elie Mystal, JUNE 2, 2020, The Nation)

Despite technological advances that would look like magic to Alexander Graham Bell, we've remained tied to an Industrial Revolution idea of workers showing up to the giant widget place so an overseer can motivate them to produce profits. Many nonservice industries have had the technology to exist without a centralized office for 30 years, and over the past 20, the Internet could have made a central office nearly obsolete. But until 10 weeks ago, most people were trudging in to work every day.

That's maddening because, while the technology is there to allow many people to work from home, the infrastructure is not there to support the overwhelming and ever-increasing number of commuters. Our infrastructure hasn't kept up with our suburban expansion (or any expansion, really). Our bridges and tunnels are crumbling. Our trains and buses are so inefficient that Europeans wonder why we don't set them aflame in riots. Our roads and highways are poisonous parking lots warming the planet one traffic jam at a time.

The negative environmental impact of commuting is undeniable. Studies show that the average drive to work adds 4.3 metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere a year--per car. If everyone in the US drove just 10 percent less, it would have the equivalent environmental effect of taking 28 coal-fueled power plants off-line for a year. And let's not forget: Commuting is unhealthy. People with longer commutes tend to be less physically active and have higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure. Every commuter has been told to take the stairs as a way to build in some daily exercise, but "don't spend three hours a day sitting on a train" is also solid physical fitness advice.

And that's where we were before Covid-19 made us more aware that our public transportation systems are petri dishes for communicable diseases. One of the most mind-blowing moments in the whole pandemic was when New York City announced, triumphantly, that it would start bleaching its subway cars every night. I did not know until that moment that I had spent most of my life riding around in yesterday's filth, not just today's. I'm going to need a hazmat suit before I get on the subway again.

I simply cannot fathom a world in which the pandemic is declared over and everybody starts commuting to work again. I do not think that we can go back to expecting people to fork over hours and hours a day sitting in traffic or trapped on a disease tube simply because they have a meeting. Zoom or Skype or Google Hangouts might not be the ideal way to conduct face-to-face business, but the lockdown has shown that any number of daily, mind-numbing check-in meetings can be handled remotely.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Out of Apathy: The Transcendence of Morality in The Mandalorian (K. B. Hoyle, 12/10/19, Christ and Pop Culture)

But the idea of non-essentiality is a lie, as no one is ever nonessential. If we view ourselves this way, it can be easy to believe that our actions don't impact anything or anyone outside our immediate sphere. Right and wrong become a matter of daily survival--choices that would have great impact if we were anyone of "importance" feel truly subjective. There is a futility to life on the edges and the graying of morality that accompanies it. Those of us regular folk feel this futility in our supposed inability to impact major, national, or world events. It feels futile to watch things like a Kurdish genocide play out on TV--or even a national election. When we believe the lie that we don't matter, then we may be tempted into morally gray areas, too. We may seek only our good, preserve and protect only our own, act in ways, pray in ways, think in ways apathetic to the world around us. What will, or can, snap us out of this apathy?

For the Mandalorian, it comes in the form of a baby.

The Mandalorian follows a traditional formula. Once upon a time there was a Mandalorian bounty hunter. Every day he collected bounties and turned them in for profit. One day, his bounty was a child, and when he saw the child, everything changed...

When Baby Yoda drops into his lap as a bounty, we get the idea that this child is more traditionally "essential," but we are not told why any more than the Mandalorian is. In this regard, what becomes the most important thing about our title character's life is very unlike any of the other Star Wars stories in that we don't know what it is that makes the catalyst or the story that surrounds it special. Our non-traditional, non-essential antihero must decide to move from moral apathy to moral integrity without any special knowledge of the child-catalyst to propel him to do so, and this is so important for the sort of story they are telling. In episode three, at the formulaic turn, we see a heart change, a conviction. The Mandalorian has his conscience pricked by some innate sense that it is not right to give over a child to death, and it is because of this that he moves out of moral apathy into sacrificial action, betraying himself for the sake of another for (we're given to believe) the first time ever.

By his actions, he acknowledges that right and wrong are not subjective to his personal needs and his Mandalorian religion, but that they transcend both. He places another life ahead of his own for no real reason we know of other than a sense of moral compulsion.

And taking this step out of moral apathy has a compounding effect. Protecting one life in episode three leads to the protection of a community in episode four. We see how, as C. S. Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, "Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance." An active decision to acknowledge the transcendence of right and wrong moves the Mandalorian into community, into relationship with others. His obedience to a new moral standard will be tested again and again, as we see not only in episode four, but also in episode five where--when he steps back into the moral gray to earn some money--he suffers betrayal, enmity, isolation, and nearly loses the child he has chosen to protect.

The culture wars are a rout.
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How talking more about our history can defuse a culture war (Sunder Katwala, 6/12/20, Cap X)

History matters. Britain is an old country, even if Tony Blair once sought to implausibly suggest the opposite. So, a fortnight after the brutal killing of George Floyd saw Black Lives Matter protests spread across the Atlantic, the British now seem to be talking mainly about statues.

This shows the extent to which people in the UK care deeply about the past. How we think about history can shape our sense of who are today. The multi-ethnic society that Britain has become is a direct product of our long history of Empire and decolonisation, and the post-war Commonwealth immigration which followed from it. But are we able to talk about what to do when there are different views of historic symbols - like statues - without descending into a dangerously polarised culture war?

People on both sides of our most polarised debates will often agree that they don't want a culture war, before setting out all of the things the other side needs to change. We can agree that the angry shouting-matches seen in the US are not something we particularly want to replicate. It should be possible to make the case for both racial equality and for Britain's history and identity - and would be a deep shame if one had to choose only one.

A good rule in politics is not to become the caricature that your opponents describe. The cultural left risks falling into the trap of adopting the type of "year zero" thinking that sees the right worry about a slippery slope. Yet the cultural right would be out of touch too with mainstream conservative opinion should it seem to make the defence of every statue of a slaver a litmus test for national pride. Thinking through the issues more rigorously could help those with different instincts to talk about where we might find common ground.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


'It is patriotism': Seattle's mayor rebukes Trump for saying 'autonomous zone' protesters are terrorists (Bill Bostock, 6/12/20, Business Insider)

"It's clear @realDonaldTrump doesn't understand what's happening on five square blocks of our City," Durkan said in a series of tweets published late Thursday.

"Lawfully gathering and expressing first amendment rights, demanding we do better as a society and provide true equity for communities of color is not terrorism -- it is patriotism."

"CHAZ is not a lawless wasteland of anarchist insurrection -- it is a peaceful expression of our community's collective grief and their desire to build a better world," she added.

Durkan continued her attack on the president, tweeting "one of the things the President will never understand, is that listening to community is not a weakness, it is a strength."

"Seattle is passionate, we demand justice, and I believe we will be at the forefront of true, meaningful change. Nothing will distract our city from the work that needs to be done."

"Black Lives Matter" has become a global rallying cry against racism and police brutality: The police killing of George Floyd has sparked a worldwide reckoning. (Jen Kirby, Jun 12, 2020, vox)

It wasn't just Brussels. Protests have erupted on nearly every continent, many defying coronavirus restrictions. People took to the streets in London, in Seoul, in Sydney, in Monrovia, in Rio de Janeiro. A mural honoring Floyd was painted amid the rubble in opposition-held Idlib, Syria.

The video of Floyd's assault, shared widely on social media, made "people think about how it was relevant where we were," Stephanie Collingwoode-Williams, a spokesperson for Belgian Network for Black Lives, a collective formed this week to bring activist organizations together in Belgium.

When Americans went out on the streets to protest, and kept going out day after day after day, it sparked a movement around the world.

And, as in the United States, there are glimmers that, this time, it might be different.

Statues of figures from countries' colonial pasts are falling. Governments are reexamining policies when it comes to policing. Protesters worldwide are saying the name of George Floyd, but also Collins Khosa and Adama Traoré and Belly Mujinga, black men and women in other countries who died in police custody or whose deaths have not been fully investigated.

What comes next is uncertain -- whether protests will continue, whether there will be real change. At this moment, though, "Black Lives Matter" is a global rallying cry and a gut-punch reminder that this message still needs to be repeated everywhere.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM

AUDIENCE WITH THE GUY (profanity alert)

Humor and Humility in the Music of Father John Misty (Alisa Ruddell, 6/11/20, Christ and Pop Culture)

Tillman's humiliating confessions are just as much his musical trademark as his humor. While his earliest confessional songs on Fear Fun contain more romp and revelry than regret, his later, more mature songs are an invitation to empathy and grace. The good exists as a shadow cast by his misadventures, failures, and parable-parodies. He seldom sings directly at the good, but manages nevertheless to conjure an image of it, however obliquely. Whatever the good is, it's not what I just did last night. Whatever love is, I'm terrible at it. Whatever wisdom is, it's something better than my intellectual sarcasm. And as soon as he's caught in the act of caring deeply in an interview, he'll interrupt himself with an ironic comment or smirk, putting that tenderness in brackets to keep the sacred at bay. He has a love of truth, goodness, and beauty, but he's somewhat shy about it, and his constant humor protects him from the accusation of sentimentality. 

Tillman reveals the worst of his character in his musical stories, while the best of him--his voice and melodies, his insight, humor, and writing--frames his failures with beauty. In "Leaving LA", a 13 minute folk hymn in which he walks through his fears and failures, he is accompanied by strings so tender, it's like hearing the voice of God's forgiveness in real time, responding to each confessional offering. Framing ugliness with beauty is more authentic for Tillman than framing beauty with an ugly, failed effort (e.g. fluffy pop music created by committee to be lucrative and radio-ready, but it's about God, and meant to be taken seriously). In his mind it's better to be genuinely sordid (but honest) before the sacred, than to produce kitsch in its honor without realizing it. In the words of philosopher Roger Scruton,

Real beauty can be found even in what is seedy, painful, and decayed. Our ability to tell the truth about our own condition, in measured words and touching melodies, offers a kind of redemption from it.... If we can grasp the emptiness of modern life, this is because art points to another way of being.... It describes what is seedy and sordid in words so resonant of the opposite, so replete with the capacity to feel, to sympathize and to understand, that life in its lowest forms is vindicated by our response to it.

Tillman sees the inescapable ambivalence of the human experience: it's pure comedy and horrific tragedy at the same time, an insight drilled into him at the age of six in JC Penney's. And he isn't out to solve this mystery; in his view, music is "not a delivery system for answers, or to make complex issues less complex." He doesn't resolve the questions his songs raise; he lets them sit and (depending on your perspective) fester or bloom. The goal, though, is that you let the question grow into something meaningful and transformative. To encounter his more serious songs is to allow them to trouble you. His Job-like rebuke of the Almighty in "When the God of Love Returns, There'll Be Hell to Pay", is one of his most beautiful and troubling explorations. "Being someone who cannot get Christianity out of my system--I no longer even really want to--it's an intimate thing to question God," Tillman says. "If this is truly my maker, and I have an audience with this guy in the way that Christianity claims I do, am I limited to a certain conversation? Are there talking points I have to run through or can I have an intimate conversation with my God?"

And this is why--no matter his graphic language, depression-stoked benders, and religious satire--he still orbits Christianity with a gravity he can't escape. His critiques and questions show how deeply he values truth and genuine human connection. When he mocks religion, and Christianity in particular, it's largely because he assumes all people actually worship themselves, and pious religiosity can blind a person to the gods they really serve. He's not criticizing the church for worshiping God; he's criticizing them for worshiping themselves without knowing it. It's the oblivious phoniness of idolatry that he can't stand, not the idea of God per se. Tillman has many cutting remarks about the church, and many piercing questions for God, but he hopes Christians would be relieved, grateful even, that at least someone is talking about these issues.

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Who Was the American in 1775? (Bradley J. Birzer, September 20th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

In his famous Letters from an American Farmer, Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur wrote about "this new man. . . . That strange mixture of blood which you will find in no other country. . . . Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world. . . . [he] leaves behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds."

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Sonny Rollins on the Pandemic, Protests, and Music: The legendary saxophonist, approaching ninety, discusses civil rights, jazz, and creative change. (Daniel King, June 11, 2020, The New Yorker)

The future of jazz is concerning in this pandemic. It's a music of collaboration and improvisation on bandstands and backstage, not isolated at home. The Jazz Foundation of America is doing heroic work with fund-raisers, but how can the music move forward?

Jazz has got to retain its integrity, its spirituality. It's got to mean something. That's No. 1. There are a lot of great players thinking that way in the music. It's all good. I don't think we should lament the fact that, Oh, we can't play in the club anymore. That's passing. We'll be able to, as musicians, play serious jazz. I think that will prevail. I can't prophesize, but I have a strong intuitive feeling that it will be stronger than ever and have another shot at trying to turn this world around.

June 11, 2020

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Black Tulsans call Trump rally plan 'a slap in the face' (ELLEN KNICKMEYER and JONATHAN LEMIRE, 6/11/20, AP)

From Sen. Kamala Harris of California to Tulsa civic officials, black leaders said it was offensive for Trump to pick that day -- June 19 -- and that place -- Tulsa, an Oklahoma city that in 1921 was the site of a fiery and orchestrated white-on-black killing spree.

"This isn't just a wink to white supremacists -- he's throwing them a welcome home party," Harris, a leading contender to be Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's running mate, tweeted of Trump's rally plans.

"To choose the date, to come to Tulsa, is totally disrespectful and a slap in the face to even happen," said Sherry Gamble Smith, president of Tulsa's Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce, an organization named after the prosperous black community that white Oklahomans burned down in the 1921 attack.

At a minimum, Gamble Smith said, the campaign should "change it to Saturday the 20th, if they're going to have it."

Trump announced the rally plan as he met with a handful of African American supporters on Wednesday afternoon. It comes as his harsh law-and-order stance appears to fall increasingly out of sync with a growing concern over police abuse of African Americans after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Republicans across the spectrum slam RNC's decision to keep 2016 platform (GABBY ORR, 06/11/2020, Politico)

Give him credit for a rare moment of honesty: he's achieved nothing.

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Is Assad About to Fall? (CHARLES LISTER, 06/11/2020, Politico)

"We promised to keep things peaceful ... but if you want bullets, you shall have them."

That was the wording of a message issued to Bashar Assad by the Druze community in Syria's southern Suwayda province on Tuesday after three days of intensifying protests. Since then, its opposition to the Assad regime has only heated up, despite a pro-regime counterprotest on Wednesday, in which local state employees were threatened by secret police should they not participate. Demonstrators took to the streets against Assad again on Wednesday and Thursday, some bearing flags of the Syrian revolution.

Until recently, the Druze, a minority sect, had largely stayed out of Syria's bitter nine years of conflict, but the nation's spiraling economic crisis has forced them onto the street. Addressing Assad directly, protesters chanted "curse your soul, we are coming for you," and expressed their solidarity with the 3 million-strong opposition community in Idlib, the last holdout of the armed rebellion against Assad.

As remarkable as they are, the protests unfolding in Suwayda are merely a symptom of a far greater crisis striking at the heart of the Assad regime and its prospects for survival. Assad's decision to sack his prime minister, Imad Khamis, on Thursday was a clear indication that economic collapse and newly vocal opposition posed a real challenge to his legitimacy.

For some time, it has become commonplace to declare Assad the victor of the war in Syria--a dictator who managed to survive nearly a decade of rebellion and civil war by brutally suppressing dissent and exploiting the support of Russia and Iran to keep his grip on a burning country.

But that has never been an accurate way to see Syria. Assad may have crushed the opposition to his dictatorial rule in 60 percent of the country, but in 2020, every single root cause of the 2011 uprising is not just still in place, but has worsened. 

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Syria's Assad sacks PM Khamis (AFP, 6/11/20)

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday sacked his prime minister of four years, Imad Khamis, as the country grappled with a stinging economic crisis and renewed protests.

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Republican senators DEFY Donald Trump by voting to strip Confederate generals' names from Army bases (NIKKI SCHWAB, 6/11/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

Republican senators rebelled against Donald Trump late Wednesday by voting to tell the Army to rename bases named after Confederate generals within the next three years.

The Armed Services Committee, whose members include Trump ultra-loyalist Tom Cotton, voted behind closed doors for the move, CNN reported.

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Men in KKK Hoods Carrying Trump Flags Interrupt Black Lives Matter Protest in Nevada (EWAN PALMER, 6/11/20, Newsweek)

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As Trump struggles to respond to crises, internal polling instills fear in advisers (John Santucci, Katherine Faulders and Will Steakin, June 10, 2020, ABC News)

The president has also been encouraged to participate in listening sessions with African American leaders, as he has hosted previously at the White House. But that idea was rejected by the commander-in-chief, according to sources.

A person who has attended similar events as a guest of the president previously told ABC News they heard from a White House official to "be on standby" for an event with the president, but then nothing ever materialized.

Trump is "not capable of showing empathy here," said the source, who is still a loyal supporter of the president.

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Trump to hold his 1st rally in months in Tulsa, on Juneteenth (Catherine Garcia, June 10, 2020, The Week)

[I]n 1921, a white mob attacked black residents in Tulsa's Greenwood District, burning down their homes and businesses. When it was over, 35 city blocks were destroyed, and historians estimate that as many as 300 people were killed.

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Lara Logan, the Fox 'Investigative Journalist' Who Keeps Falling for Antifa Hoaxes (Justin Baragona & Will Sommer, Jun. 11, 2020, Daily Beast)

On May 31, for example, Logan tweeted out an image of a document she alleged to be an antifa battle plan, claiming they had infiltrated law enforcement and provided a "riot" manual for protesters. 

"For those of you still in denial about who is directing & controlling the protests - take a close look at this," Logan tweeted. 

That document, however, was merely a recirculated version of a hoax first peddled during the April 2015 Baltimore riots over Freddie Gray's death in police custody. There's no proof that the overwrought document, which urges antifa activists to communicate with "agitorg" leaders and rendezvous at a mystery location called "GAMMA PRIME," is real. 

Fox News and Logan didn't respond to requests for comment. 

The following day, Logan posted a picture of a tweet purporting to come from a national antifa group threatening to terrorize majority-white neighborhoods. The tweet she cited read: "Tonight's the night, Comrades...Tonight we say '[****] The City' and we move into the residential areas... the white hoods.... and we take what's ours," along with a black raised-fist emoji. 

That tweet turned out to have come from a fake account linked to white-nationalist group Identity Europa posing as antifa while calling for violence. The fake antifa account even included the acronym "I.E." in its logo, a clear reference to its ties to Identity Europa.

After being called out for credulously passing along two hoaxes, Logan did not correct, update, or delete either tweet, instead lashing out at critics as waging a smear campaign to "destroy" her. There can be "no doubt," she wrote, that liberal media-monitoring group Media Matters for America had "marshaled their army & all their resources" against her. (In 2013, Media Matters exposed Logan's false 60 Minutes reporting on Benghazi, which resulted in a retraction, an on-air apology from Logan, and a leave of absence.)

Several days after posting the fake antifa tweets, Logan would again fall for another hoax--this time taking an obvious joke about rap-loving clowns as serious proof of an antifa conspiracy.

Rightwing investigative journalist is a contradiction in terms.  The job is to be a propagandist.

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COVID Is So Bad in Arizona They're Running Out of Beds"It's like Katrina," one health expert in the state said. (Olivia Messer, Jun. 11, 2020, Daily Beast)

As of Wednesday afternoon, Arizona had at least 28,296 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,706 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, which also showed a concerning upward trend. The state had 1,553 new cases on June 5, its highest daily peak for new cases since the pandemic began. According to a comparison of all 50 states, the Johns Hopkins data showed that Arizona had among the biggest upward case trends of any state in the U.S.

After the state's largest hospital system warned on Monday that its intensive care units were quickly approaching capacity, state and national experts called the upward case trend so "alarming" as to raise the possibility of a second stay-at-home lockdown order, The Arizona Republic first reported.

If nothing else, the situation there seemed like one that might have been plucked out of New York City or another COVID hot zone months ago, rather than a state in the middle of reopening. It was especially remarkable given the state's largely lauded initial lockdown, which experts said "had teeth" and appeared effective. At least until it ended.

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Stop Training Police Like They're Joining the Military (Rosa Brooks, 6/10/20, The Atlantic)

It's not hard to see the link between paramilitary police training and the abuses motivating the past several weeks' protests. When police recruits are belittled by their instructors and ordered to refrain from responses other than "Yes, Sir!," they may learn stoicism--but they may also learn that mocking and bellowing orders at those with less power are acceptable actions. When recruits are ordered to do push-ups to the point of exhaustion because their boots weren't properly polished, they may learn the value of attention to detail--but they may also conclude that the infliction of pain is an appropriate response to even the most trivial infractions.

Many police recruits enter the academy as idealists, but this kind of training turns them into cynics, even before their first day on patrol. And although most police officers will go through their entire careers without ever firing their weapons, others will inevitably get the wrong lessons from their paramilitary training, and end up like the fired Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin.

D.C.'s police academy has changed a lot in the short time since I graduated, and even in 2016, it was relatively relaxed compared with the rigid spit-and-polish atmosphere that prevails in many other training programs. The majority of law-enforcement academies in the United States are loosely modeled on military boot camps. Proponents of this approach argue that cops are a lot like soldiers: They have to follow orders regardless of their personal feelings; they have to run toward gunfire, not away from it; and they have to remain cool and professional in the face of chaos, threats, and harassment. In this view, paramilitary training takes undisciplined young recruits and turns them into lean, mean fighting machines, ready to handle the rigors of street patrol.

In most police departments, paramilitary traditions extend well beyond the academy. Senior police officials commonly refer to patrol officers as "troops," chain of command is rigidly enforced, and it's undeniably true that many departments have made enthusiastic use of federal authorities such as the Defense Department's 1033 Program, which provides surplus military equipment--including armored vehicles and grenade launchers--to domestic law-enforcement agencies. (Since its inception, the program has transferred more than $7 billion worth of military equipment to more than 8,000 U.S. law-enforcement agencies; ironically, small-town and rural agencies, rather than large city departments, have been most likely to request heavy equipment such as mine-resistant vehicles.)

The paramilitary aspects of police culture are so deeply entrenched that most officers and police chiefs take them for granted, rarely questioning the need for boot polishing, drill and formations, and rigorous mandatory workouts as a central part of police training. But the paramilitary model is as pernicious as it is ubiquitous, and any meaningful approach to police transformation needs to confront it head-on.

And take away their military weaponry.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


JK Rowling is Right--Sex Is Real and It Is Not a "Spectrum" (Colin Wright, 6/09/20, Quillette)

Both of these arguments--the argument from intersex conditions and the argument from secondary sex organs/characteristics--follow from fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of biological sex, which is connected to the distinct type of gametes (sex cells) that an organism produces. As a broad concept, males are the sex that produce small gametes (sperm) and females produce large gametes (ova). There are no intermediate gametes, which is why there is no spectrum of sex. Biological sex in humans is a binary system.

It is crucial to note, however, that the sex of individuals within a species isn't based on whether an individual can actually produce certain gametes at any given moment. Pre-pubertal males don't produce sperm, and some infertile adults of both sexes never produce gametes due to various infertility issues. Yet it would be incorrect to say that these individuals do not have a discernible sex, as an individual's biological sex corresponds to one of two distinct types of evolved reproductive anatomy (i.e. ovaries or testes) that develop for the production of sperm or ova, regardless of their past, present, or future functionality. In humans, and transgender and so-called "non-binary" people are no exception, this reproductive anatomy is unambiguously male or female over 99.98 percent of the time.

The binary distinction between ovaries and testes as the criterion determining an individual's sex is not arbitrary, nor unique to humans. The evolutionary function of ovaries and testes is to produce either eggs or sperm, respectively, which must be combined for sexual reproduction to take place. If that didn't happen, there would be no humans. While this knowledge may have been cutting edge science in the 1660s, it's odd that we should suddenly treat it as controversial in 2020.

That above-cited 99.98 percent figure falls short of 100 percent because of the roughly 0.02 percent who are intersex. (The actual figure is estimated to be about 0.018 percent.) But the claim that intersex conditions support the sex spectrum model conflates the statement "there are only two sexes" (true) with "every human can be unambiguously categorized as either male or female" (false). The existence of only two sexes does not mean sex is never ambiguous. But intersex individuals do not demonstrate that sex is a spectrum. Just because sex may be ambiguous for some does not mean it's ambiguous (and, as some commentators would extrapolate, arbitrary) for all.

By way of analogy: We flip a coin to randomize a binary decision because a coin has only two faces: heads and tails. But a coin also has an edge, and about one in 6,000 (0.0166 percent) throws (with a nickel) will land on it. This is roughly the same likelihood of being born with an intersex condition. Almost every coin flip will be either heads or tails, and those heads and tails do not come in degrees or mixtures. That's because heads and tails are qualitatively different and mutually exclusive outcomes. The existence of edge cases does not change this fact. Heads and tails, despite the existence of the edge, remain discrete outcomes.

Likewise, the outcomes of sex development in humans are almost always unambiguously male or female. The development of ovaries vs testes, and thus females and males, are also qualitatively different outcomes that for the vast majority of humans are mutually exclusive and do not come in mixtures or degrees. Males and females, despite the existence of intersex conditions, remain discrete outcomes.

The existence of intersex conditions is frequently brought up in an attempt to blur the line between male and female when arguing for the inclusion of trans women in female sports and other contexts. But transgenderism has absolutely nothing to do with being intersex. For the vast majority of individuals claiming either trans or non-binary identities, their sex is not in question. Primary sex organs, not identity, determines one's sex.

In regard to the argument from secondary sex organs/characteristics, the primary flaw is that it confuses cause and effect. Remember, secondary sex characteristics are anatomies that differentiate during puberty. In females, these include (among others) the development of breasts, wider hips, and a tendency for fat to store around the hips and buttocks. In males, secondary sex characteristics include deeper voices, taller average height, facial hair, broader shoulders, increased musculature, and fat distributed more around the midsection. However, these secondary sex characteristics--while plain to the eye, and inseparable from the way most laypeople think about men and women--do not actually define one's biological sex. Rather, these traits typically develop as a consequence of one's sex, via differences in the hormonal milieu produced during puberty by either testes or ovaries.

The different developmental trajectories of males and females are themselves a product of millions of years of natural selection, since secondary sex characteristics will contribute to evolutionary fitness in males and females in different ways. Females with narrower hips had more trouble delivering large-headed children, and so those with larger hips had an evolutionary advantage. This wasn't relevant to males, however, which is one reason why their bodies tend to look different. But that doesn't mean that a person's hips--or any of their secondary sex characteristics, including beards and breasts--define their sex biologically. These traits, while having evolved due to sex-specific selection pressures, are completely irrelevant when it comes to defining one's biological sex.

Analogies help, so let me offer another one. Bikers ride motorcycles, and cyclists ride bicycles. While these two vehicles share many similarities (two wheels, handlebars, seats, spokes, etc.), they differ in at least one fundamental way. Motorcycles are powered by engines and fuel, while bicycles are powered by pedaling legs. Whether someone is a biker or a cyclist depends entirely on the binary criterion of whether they are riding a motorcycle or a bicycle. This is the primary characteristic that defines bikers and cyclists. However, there are also many secondary characteristics associated with bikers and cyclists. Bikers, for instance, are more likely to wear leather jackets, jeans, and bandanas. Cyclists are more likely to wear skin-tight spandex. Bikers wear heavy helmets that contain the entire head and include a face-shield. Cyclists typically wear lightweight helmets that cover only the top of their heads.

Many of the secondary characteristics of bikers and cyclists are not arbitrary or coincidental. Like male and female secondary sex characteristics, we can map the utility of biker and cyclist secondary characteristics to their primary characteristics. Bikers wear tough clothes because they travel at higher speeds, which necessitate protective clothing in case of an accident and to mitigate windchill. Cyclists, on the other hand, exert great physical effort pedaling their entire body weight plus the weight of their vehicle, which necessitates lighter, breathable, wind-breaking clothing and protective gear. Given cyclists' slower crash speeds, the trade-off in favor of less protective gear is worthwhile.

But a person riding a motorcycle wearing a spandex suit and lighter helmet doesn't become a cyclist (or less of a biker) because they share these secondary traits more commonly associated with cyclists. And a person riding a bicycle wearing jeans and a leather jacket doesn't become a biker (or less of a cyclist) by sharing secondary traits more typical of bikers. Just as these secondary traits do not define bikers and cyclists, secondary sex characteristics do not define males and females.

June 10, 2020

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How the Far-Right Boogaloo Movement Is Trying to Hijack Anti-Racist Protests for a Race War (Mehdi Hasan, June 10 2020, The Intercept)

Remember: These are heavily armed men, many of them with military training, looking for new and greater opportunities for violent protest. Miller-Idris told me that the boogaloo bois have mobilized "over the past six months in three separate waves of protests" -- against attempts by state legislatures to reform gun laws; against the coronavirus lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders; and now as part of the demonstrations and marches against police brutality and racism, in the wake of the George Floyd killing.

Worryingly, their movement is growing online at breakneck speed. As Reuters reported last week, citing a study from the Tech Transparency Project, "tens of thousands of people joined boogaloo-related Facebook groups over a 30-day period in March and April as stay-at-home orders took effect across the United States. ... Project researchers found discussions about tactical strategies, weapons and creating explosives in some boogaloo Facebook groups."

In March, Timothy Wilson, a 36-year-old Missouri man with neo-Nazi ties, was shot and killed by the FBI after plotting to bomb a hospital in the Kansas City area on the first day of the lockdown. Wilson had told an undercover FBI agent that he had wanted "to create enough chaos to kick start a revolution" and referred to his planned attack as "operation boogaloo."

In April, Aaron Swenson, a 36-year-old Arkansas man, was arrested after he threatened to kill a police officer on a Facebook Live video. "I feel like hunting the hunters," he wrote on Facebook, where he also made "boogaloo" references, according to the police.

THE BOOGALOO BOIS don't operate in a vacuum. Their goals, methods, and personnel overlap with a number of far-right, anti-government groups that also pose a significant threat to law, order, and race relations, from the Proud Boys, to the Oath Keepers, to the Three Percenters, to the Sovereign Citizens. Don't forget the Ku Klux Klan either: The Virginia man arrested for driving his truck into a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters over the weekend is head of a local KKK chapter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


What George P. Bush's endorsement of Donald Trump tells us about Republican politics (Chris Cillizza, 6/10/20, CNN)

The answer? Politics, pure and simple.

George P. Bush is in statewide office now. (Yes, Land Commissioner is an elected statewide office in Texas!) He has his eye on running for governor one day. While Texas does not term limit its governors, Gov. Greg Abbott will have spent eight years in office come 2022 and may have his eye on running for the open Republican presidential nomination in 2024. There's already a lineup of ambitious Republicans ready and waiting to run if that happens -- or if Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick either retires or decides to run for an open governor's seat. And Bush very much wants to be in the mix for either of those offices.

And the simple fact -- that George P. knows -- is that there is NO conceivable path to the Republican nomination for governor or lieutenant governor in Texas as anything less than a vocal Trump supporter and voter. For all his troubles with the broader electorate -- in Texas and nationally -- Trump remains an absolutely revered figure among Texas Republicans, and it's very hard to imagine that changing between now and 2022, even if the President comes up short in his bid for a second term this November.

Donald stands to take all those statewide officers down with him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Trump says he will "not even consider" renaming bases named for Confederate leaders (Fadel Allassan, 6/10/20, Axios)

"[M]y Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations."

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Trump Won These States in 2016--Here's Where the Polls Show Him Now (BRYAN KIRK,  6/10/20, Newsweek)

Trump's election in 2016, in which he won 306 electoral votes and defeated Hilary Clinton, not only hinged on victories in red states but in swing states such as New Hampshire, Maine and Florida where he won slim victories. According to RealClearPolitics, Biden has slim leads on Trump in those states: in Maine, between 8 and 10 percent in New Hampshire about 4.5 percent. In 2016, Trump edged Clinton taking 49 percent of the ballots in Florida. The 2020 election could be just as close there with numerous polls showing voters in Florida favoring Biden over Trump, according to RealClearPolitics.

If the election were held today, Trump would lose Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona--all swing states that Trump won in 2016--Biden is leading in most polls by more than 3 percentage points in each of these states.

In Wisconsin, which in 2016 Trump won by 47.22 percent to 46.45 percent over Clinton , Biden holds a 49 to 40 percent advantage of Trump.

In 2016, Trump garnered 52 percent of the votes in Ohio, but if the election were held today Trump would narrowly lose with Biden leading 45 percent to Trump's 43 percent, according to a Fox News Poll.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


DOJ committed 'gross abuse' of power in asking to drop case against ex-Trump advisor Michael Flynn, says former judge tapped to review request (Dan Mangan & Kevin Breuninger, 6/10/20, CNBC)

A former federal judge on Wednesday blasted the U.S. Justice Department for what he called "a gross abuse of prosecutorial power" in seeking to drop its criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's first national security advisor.

"The Government has engaged in highly irregular conduct to benefit a political ally of the President," the ex-judge, John Gleeson, wrote in a scathing legal filing opposing the proposed dismissal of Flynn's case.

Gleeson, who was assigned by the judge in Flynn's case to advise him on several questions, also wrote that Flynn "has indeed committed perjury" in his statements to the case judge during proceedings in the case, "for which he deserves punishment."

But Gleeson added that while federal Judge Emmet Sullivan has the power to hold Flynn in criminal contempt for perjuring himself during a plea hearing and another hearing, Sullivan should "not exercise that authority."

"Rather, [Sullivan] should take Flynn's perjury into account in sentencing him on the offense to which he has already admitted guilt," Gleeson wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

There's a reason no professionals would sign on.

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'What I saw was just absolutely wrong': National Guardsmen struggle with their role in controlling protests (DANIEL LIPPMAN, 06/09/2020, Politico)

"As a military officer, what I saw was more or less really f---ed up," said one D.C. Guardsman who was deployed to Lafayette Square last Monday and who, like some others, spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely. The official line from the White House that the protesters had turned violent, he said, is false.

"The crowd was loud but peaceful, and at no point did I feel in danger, and I was standing right there in the front of the line," he said. "A lot of us are still struggling to process this, but in a lot of ways, I believe I saw civil rights being violated in order for a photo op.

"I'm here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and what I just saw goes against my oath and to see everyone try to cover up what really happened," the Guardsman continued. "What I saw was just absolutely wrong." [...]

While the Park Police cleared out the protesters, some Guardsmen said they felt they were there to actually prevent the police from beating up protesters, instead of the other way around.

"I felt that we were more protecting the people from the police," said D.C. Guardsman Spec. Isaiah Lynch, who's unrelated to Si'Kenya Lynch.

The event has taken a toll on some Guardsmen.

"We have a lot of National Guardsmen who are struggling with this, because unlike in combat when you have an enemy, these are our neighbors, our friends, our family," the first Guard officer said.

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Only 1 in 4 Americans see Donald Trump as a man of faith (GABBY ORR, 06/10/2020, Politico)

As President Donald Trump leans on religion to reconnect with his political base ahead of the November election, most Americans dismiss the notion that he himself is a man of faith.

Only 27 percent of registered voters in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll said they somewhat or strongly agree that Trump himself is religious, while 55 percent somewhat or strongly disagree.

You always get down to that anti-Dreamer core.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White House goes quiet on coronavirus as outbreak spikes again across the U.S. (DAN DIAMOND, 06/10/2020, Politico)

[T]he White House's apparent eagerness to change the subject comes as new coronavirus clusters -- centered around meatpacking plants, prisons and other facilities -- drive spikes in disparate states like Utah and Arkansas. Meanwhile, states and major cities are lifting lockdowns and reopening their economies, prompting public health experts to fret that additional outbreaks are imminent. And several Democratic governors also have defied their own states' social distancing restrictions to join mass protests over police brutality, where hundreds of thousands of Americans have spilled into the streets, further raising public health risks.

The fear is that all the mixed signals will only confuse people, stoke public skepticism over the health threat and promote the belief the worst is over just as the outbreak enters a dangerous new phase.

"Cases are rising, including from cases in congregate settings," said Luciana Borio, who led pandemic preparedness for the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. "We still have a pandemic."

Nine current and former administration officials, as well as outside experts, further detailed how the White House is steadily ramping down the urgency to fight a threat that continues to sicken more than 100,000 Americans per week and is spiking in more than 20 states.

For instance, the administration in recent days told state health officials that it planned to reorganize its pandemic response, with the Department of Health and Human Services and its agencies taking over the bulk of the day-to-day responsibilities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"The acuity of the response is not what it was, so they're trying to go back to a little more of a normal ongoing presence," said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

The coronavirus task force, which used to send daily updates to state officials, has done so with less regularity over the last several weeks, Plescia said. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has restructured its daily conference calls with states, moving away from the practice of giving top-down briefings to encouraging state officials to offer updates on what they're seeing in their parts of the country.

One current and one former FEMA official also said they're keen to have HHS resume its leadership role in containing the coronavirus so FEMA can make contingencies for a summer of hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.

"Given the likelihood that we will soon see both hurricanes and coronavirus, HHS should manage the ongoing pandemic response so FEMA can prepare for coming 'coronacanes,'" Daniel Kaniewski, who served as the top deputy at FEMA through January, wrote last week. "But they need to act soon. Coronacanes are in the forecast."

Meanwhile, officials in at least 19 states have recorded two-week trends of increasing coronavirus cases, including spikes of more than 200 percent in Arizona and more than 180 percent in Kentucky. Two months after the White House issued so-called gating criteria that it recommended states hit before resuming business and social activities, many states have moved forward despite not meeting all the benchmarks. Only a handful of states -- like Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and South Dakota -- are currently trending in the right direction on measures like declining case count and robust testing platforms, according to CovidExitStrategy.org.

Bad time to have no president.

June 9, 2020

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The gene delusion: The genetic data around human difference is inconclusive - but that does not stop right-wing thinkers using it to excuse profound social inequalities (PHILIP BALL, 6/10/20, New Statesman)

Eugenics is the spectre haunting this debate. It arose from the application of Darwinian ideas to human society in times when the science was too immature for the flawed reasoning to be apparent. Darwin discovered that biological traits - including human behaviours and abilities - were subject to the influence of invisible factors (genes) that we inherit. This led some - notably, Darwin's cousin Francis Galton - to conclude that people could in principle be bred for intelligence or good looks just as racehorses were bred for speed or cows for milk-producing capacity. (The idea remains in vogue among the aristocracy today - recently a clip surfaced of Dominic Cummings' baronet father-in-law Humphrey Wakefield asserting that genetic greatness runs in elite families, if they keep the bloodline "pure" - an idea straight out of Galton's 1869 work Hereditary Genius.)

But in modern societies where traits such as athleticism and intelligence were not subject to natural selection - where "poor genetic stock" could flourish and breed - scientists such as the eminent biologist Julian Huxley (grandson of Darwin's advocate Thomas Huxley), as well as the likes of HG Wells, Marie Stopes and George Bernard Shaw, believed that social and legal controls and incentives were needed to prevent bad genes from overwhelming the "good".

The horrific direction eugenics took under the Nazis has made it almost synonymous with inhuman social engineering and prejudice today. Yet there is still a great deal of confusion about it. Richard Dawkins took to Twitter in the wake of the Sabisky affair to say: "It's one thing to deplore eugenics on ideological, political, moral grounds. It's quite another to conclude that it wouldn't work in practice [for humans]. Of course it would." That prompted a dispute among experts about whether he was correct in the light of what we now know of human genetics. One key fact that confounds Dawkins' argument is that the genetic element of "desirable" but complex traits such as intelligence tends to be spread so widely and thinly across the genome, and so entwined with other attributes, that it would be all but impossible to select for them.

Remarkably, eugenics is not mentioned once in Murray's book. For someone setting himself up as a brave soul prepared to say the unsayable, this seems deplorably craven. Murray might argue that the book is not taking any position on eugenics, indeed not addressing the topic at all. But he knows perfectly well that any discussion of, say, the volatile intersection of genes, IQ and class must inevitably happen within the legacy of 20th-century debates on this issue. The word is ubiquitous in the far-right and supremacist channels to which Murray knows he will be speaking. It has been raised both by Sabisky (who has past links to alt-right forums) and Toby Young, who in 2017 attended a secret conference series on intelligence hosted - without the university's knowledge - at University College London, and which attracted white supremacists and eugenics advocates.

Those who believe in innate differences in ability and behaviour between "human populations" (for which, read "races") style themselves today as "race realists", much as climate-change deniers call themselves climate realists. It's a rhetorical stratagem implying that they are on the side of science, evidence and reason rather than ideology. In that narrative, academia is now in thrall to a woke liberal orthodoxy that censors and punishes any suggestion that gender and race are biological. Race realists and eugenicists defend their right to spread their views under a banner of free speech.

Take Young's new Free Speech Union, which seems primarily a vehicle for opposing "self-righteous social media bullies" like the "offence archaeologists" who in 2018 scuppered his own government appointment by unearthing his sexist tweets from a few years back; it has already proved to be a magnet for the hard right. Or take the case of Nathan Cofnas, a philosophy doctoral student at Oxford who published a sober-sounding article condemning the suppression of free enquiry into topics such as "group differences in intelligence", yet turns out to be a race realist and enemy of "political correctness", with links to the alt-right. And so they go on, these white men to whom freedom of speech apparently means the freedom to go on asking the same question - might the privileges that they happen to enjoy themselves be a part of the natural order? - and never to take no for an answer.

Murray, too, wears this mantle of victimhood and oppression. Yet somehow - his funding by the right-wing think tank the American Enterprise Institute has something to do with it - he is able to defy stifling orthodoxy by producing hefty books hyped by mainstream publishers (this one, like The Bell Curve, was not released to reviewers before publication and so was presented as an "event") and writing editorials in the Wall Street Journal.

The obvious implications of fealty to the theory are why Stephen Jay Gould abandoned Darwinism.

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Trump mulls replacing Jared Kushner (IGOR DERYSH, JUNE 9, 2020, Salon)

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J K Rowling is not transphobic: people who menstruate are women (Ella Whelan, 6/09/20, The Critic)

According to the latest Twitter meltdown, using the shorthand of 'women' when referring to 'people who menstruate' is not just pedantic, it's transphobic - it doesn't include the gender non-binary individuals who have periods. An article arguing for greater investment in menstrual health and hygiene in developing countries post Covid-19 used the term 'people who menstruate' instead of women. And, as it was rather obvious that the article was talking about women (even using a picture of a woman leading a workshop on menstruation in Kenya) British author JK Rowling pointed this out, tweeting: 'I'm sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?'

Twitter wars are rarely important - but this one is interesting. Rowling's tweet prompted enormous outcry, even Daniel Radcliffe has put out a statement denouncing her comments: 'Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people'. There is often a generational divide in the debate - Jonathan Ross, who initially tweeted in support of Rowling, got told off by his daughters for saying that she 'clearly' wasn't transphobic. He later U-turned, tweeting, 'I've come to accept that I'm not in a position to decide what is or isn't considered transphobic'.

Is it transphobic to say women get periods? Don't be daft - even the Devex article cites a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded report which it says reveals that '500 million women' - not people - 'worldwide do not have what they need to manage their menstruation'. Rowling is known for taking what's deridingly called the 'TERF' side in the debate over gender - arguing that while gender might be a construct, the biological or sex difference between man and woman is not.

The obvious compromise is that we get to call women "women" and they get to call us "transphobic".

Inquiry needed into link between Asperger's and gender dysphoria: Australian expert (Michael Cook, Jun 9, 2020, MercatorNet)

Increasingly, anecdotal reports and research are linking gender dysphoria with Asperger's syndrome. The Australian recently featured a leading expert who wants an inquiry into the disproportionate number of teenagers with autism in gender clinics.

Professor Tony Attwood, a psychologist and author of a number of books on autism, is not opposed to gender change as such. But he feels that people could slump back into depression if trans status was embraced with impulsive and unrealistic hopes of a fix for autism.

"Once they've changed gender, they still have autism and when (gender) transition doesn't solve their problems they think, Oh no, that was the only option I had, what's the point of life?," he told The Australian.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats Are Gaining Ground Again by Doing NothingThe art of letting a movement create momentum. (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, JUNE 08, 2020, Slate)

Doing nothing keeps working for the Democratic Party. It worked in early 2017, when women's marches led by activists and local grassroots groups rather than elected officials prefigured a 2018 wave election highlighted by first-time female candidates. It worked for Joe Biden during the most intense weeks of the coronavirus crisis, when he made limited, online-only public appearances but gained in polls against Donald Trump anyway as the president demonstrated daily that he couldn't understand or manage the threat of COVID-19 and speculated about the merits of injecting oneself with disinfectant. Now it is working again during the mass protests that have flowered from the pavement where police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (JONATHAN FRAHM, 04 Jun 2020, Pop Matters)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.
Willie Jones stands at the crossroads between country music's past, present, and future. The perennial genre has enjoyed further pop and R&B crossovers leaning in from the last decade onward, but it arguably wasn't until Lil Nas X renovated its soundscape with "Old Town Road" that a full-on subcategory of country music was born. Informed by the country-trap of today alongside the wily fraying of classic Appalachian banjo, Jones' "Trainwreck" contributes towards driving the direction of mainstream country forward by such novel means. Inundated by a whopping synthetic bass beat, playful electric guitar riffs, and the aforementioned banjo-picking alike, the slinky breakup tune sounds something like a summertime hit.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Wants to 'Dominate' but Can't Take the Backlash (Sasha Abramsky, Jun. 9th, 2020, The Nation)

Wherever Trump turns at the moment, he hits a brick wall of opposition and contempt. It turns out that it's hard to stomp on a vast protest movement when your jackboots fit as poorly as Trump's. In calling for troops to be used against US civilians, Trump has managed to turn a spasm of fury against ongoing police racism and police killings into a far more general pro-democracy movement--perhaps one with the revolutionary potential to turn Trump's corrupt and crude status quo on its head.

What's happening on the streets of America's cities is starting to look rather similar to the outpouring of fury against Erich Honecker's East German leadership in the autumn of 1989, after he called for security forces to put down pro-democracy protesters and was met with a rebuff. Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly told Honecker to go down the route of reform instead, saying, "He who is late is punished."

The reality-TV president would do well to heed Gorbachev's words. It's a fair bet that he will face regular, if not daily, protests for the remainder of his time in office--and not just outside the White House but wherever he alights.

This is a man who, on Friday, refused to wear a mask while touring a factory in Maine that makes swabs for coronavirus tests. Because of that refusal, the factory had to throw away everything that was made during his visit. Trump's presence really is toxic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tesla's battery supplier says it's made a battery that can last 16 years and 1 million miles (Isobel Asher Hamilton, 6/09/20, BI)

Tesla's battery supplier says it's made a huge breakthrough in battery technology that could power electric vehicle sales for years to come. 

Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd (CATL), the Chinese car battery giant which supplies Tesla and Volkswagen, claims it is ready to start producing a battery that will last 16 years and 2 million kilometers, or 1.24 million miles, the company's chairman Zeng Yuqun told Bloomberg.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Jewish left is recognizing that apartheid is hereThe moment Israel is deemed an apartheid regime, there is no moral option but to struggle against it. It looks as though the Israeli left is now ready to fight. (Meron Rapoport, June 9, 2020, 972+)

But there was another aspect to the protest that should worry the right far more than any Palestinian flag: the ease with which the Jewish left is abandoning the term "occupation" and adopting the term "apartheid" to describe the reality on the ground in Israel-Palestine.

Until not very long ago, one would typically encounter one of two responses from the Jewish left to the attempt to use the term. The first was to deny the comparison by claiming that there is no equivalency between South Africa's former regime and Israel's regime in the occupied territories. The second response was to turn apartheid into some kind of future threat. That is, to say that currently there is no apartheid, but we are on our way there should Israel not change course.

Saturday night's speakers, including Meretz MKs Nitzan Horowitz and Tamar Zandberg, used the word. It seemed that only Labor MK Merav Michaeli refrained from uttering it.

This change is significant for two central reasons. The first is moral and legal: an occupation can be temporary and even recognized by international law. It is not an optimal situation, certainly if that situation has been exploited for 53 years, but it is neither morally nor legally unacceptable.

Apartheid, on the other hand, is a clear moral injustice, including under international law, which views it as a crime against humanity. The moment Israel is deemed an apartheid regime, there is no moral option but to fight it. This definition sounds the death knell for the illusion that it is possible to create a Jewish-Zionist consensus in Israel.

The second and no less important reason is that the occupation can be ended through Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories. This has been the Zionist left's position for over 40 years. It is one that assumes that the moment the occupation ends, the State of Israel will regain its legitimacy. But apartheid can only be ended by bringing about equality -- through the termination of the supremacy of one group over others. In Israel's case, that would mean an end to Jewish supremacy.

In other words, the moment the Israeli regime is defined as one of apartheid, ending that regime demands a fundamental change in its very structure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The U.S. can get to 90% clean electricity in just 15 years (ADELE PETERS, 6/08/20, Fast Company)

Until recently, climate experts projected that it wouldn't be possible to decarbonize the electric grid until 2050--and that moving to fully renewable energy could raise the price of electricity for consumers. But the cost of wind, solar, and battery storage has fallen so quickly that in just 15 years, the U.S. could feasibly run on 90% clean electricity, with no increase in electric bills. And adding new renewable infrastructure could create more than half a million new jobs each year. By 2045, the entire electric grid could run on renewables.

"We wanted to look at how quickly could we replace the existing polluting generation with zero-carbon generation without raising electricity bills at all for customers," says Sonia Aggarwal, vice president at the nonprofit Energy Innovation, who served on the technical review committee for the new report from the University of California, Berkeley. "I didn't expect that we were going to get 90% by 2035. It's really exciting that this is the moment that we've reached in this country, where the costs have just changed so much that this is now within our reach, in a way that it wasn't even five years ago."

Since 2010, the cost of utility-scale solar power has dropped 82%, according to a recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency. Onshore wind power has fallen in cost by 39%. While outside observers might have expected the cost of renewables to eventually level off, "it really is similar to the computer chip industry with Moore's law," she says. "We've just seen continual cost reductions."

As is always the case, by the time we pass the Green New Deal the need for it will have passed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's campaign spent $400,000 on cable news ads in D.C., reportedly to assuage Trump's re-election angst (The Week, 6/08/20)

With Trump "growing increasingly agitated with the state of his re-election campaign," his campaign came up with a plan, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report at The Daily Beast: "Run a series of hard-hitting ads and place them on networks that they knew the president and congressional Republicans would watch. And so, over the past month, the Trump campaign has spent slightly more than $400,000 on cable news ads in the Washington, D.C., area, buying time largely on Fox News but with some smaller buys on CNN and MSNBC as well, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission."

...than trying to get over 3% with black voters.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ACT electricity prices to drop after reaching 100% renewable target (Michael Mazengarb9 June 2020, Renew Economy)

ACT households are set to enjoy an average 2.56 per cent drop in electricity prices from 1 July, after the national capital succeeded in reaching its 100 per cent renewable electricity target.

The new electricity price determination from the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) for 2020-21 said that falling wholesale electricity costs driven by increased uptake of renewables, combined with the falling cost of the renewable energy certificates, contributed to the fall in electricity prices.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump vs US military -- German pullout proves incomprehension (PAUL WALLIS, 6/09/20, Digital Journal)

The US military is quite rightly seething over Trump's decision to withdraw nearly a third of its forces out of Germany. So are America's allies. Trump's earlier denigration of NATO shows total lack of understanding.
The withdrawal decision has drawn universal condemnation for a lot of good reasons. The sheer vagueness of Trump's NATO policy can be defined by a few negative remarks and some rather bitchy Tweets. This all-too-obvious blurring of US military policy is at best cosmetic, at worst, idiotic.

Anyone even mildly competent would handle it better, but Donald is right that we should defund the military, especially bases abroad as we always have at the end of major wars.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Assad's 20-year rule, from Damascus Spring to pariah (TONY GAMAL-GABRIEL AND HASHEM OSSEIRAN, 6/09/20, AFP)

The brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011, and the war that has since killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions, have undermined his international legitimacy.

A spate of sanctions imposed by the European Union and United States, the latest of which are due to go into force this month, have compounded a crippling economic crisis.

Most of the population is living in poverty and the Syrian pound has hit an all-time low against the dollar, triggering a fresh wave of dissent in government-held areas while violence continues to stalk regions that evade Assad's control.

Syria has also lost its status as a regional heavyweight under Assad's watch and is now widely seen as heavily dependant on Russia, Iran and an assortment of Tehran-backed militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

"Hafez had always kept Syria independent from foreign interference. Bashar has become beholden to external influence to keep his regime intact," said Neep.

"What we're seeing now is a strange, sub-contracted form of political authority that has no precedent in modern Syrian politics."

For Itani, Bashar's reign is a far cry from the days when Syria was a major independent strategic player in the region that held political and military dominance over Lebanon and controlled the tempo of operations against Israel.

"Bashar al-Assad's Syria is a strategic and economic failure," he said.

In Assad's third decade in power, the country "will be an impoverished rump of its past self", Itani predicted.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Barr contradicts Trump: 'The Secret Service recommended that the President go down to the bunker' for safety (Maegan Vazquez, June 8, 2020, CNN)

Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the US Secret Service recommended moving President Donald Trump to the underground White House bunker during late May protests, contradicting the President's earlier assertion that his visit to the bunker was for "inspection."

...by turning on Dugout Donald.

June 8, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Lockdowns worked, new research shows: 60 million infections were prevented in the US, and Europe saved 3.1 million lives (Aria Bendix, 6/08/20, Business Insider)

In other words, nations like China benefitted from locking down early, while delays in the US and Italy may have resulted in unnecessary deaths. Indeed, disease modelers from Columbia University recently found that the US could have prevented 645,000 infections and 36,000 deaths by locking down one to two weeks earlier.

Lockdowns also limited coronavirus-related hospitalizations and deaths in Europe. A team of researchers in Italy recently determined that the country's lockdown prevented around 200,000 hospitalizations between February 21 (when Italy's first case was reported) and March 25.

Another study from Imperial College London, published Monday, found that lockdown restrictions averted 3.1 million deaths across 11 European countries from the time these measures were implemented in March until May 4.

Italy avoided around 630,000 deaths during that period, according to the study. France, meanwhile, prevented around 690,000 deaths -- the most out of the 11 countries.

While less than 1% of Germany's population has contracted the virus, the nation averted around 560,000 deaths from March to May, according to the study. By contrast, Spain and the UK -- where more than 5% of the population has been infected -- managed to avert more than 400,000 deaths.

Nordic nations avoided the fewest deaths: around 34,000 in Denmark, 26,000 in Sweden, and 12,000 in Norway. About 3% of Sweden's population is infected, compared to 1% in Denmark and less than 0.5% in Norway.

Overall, the researchers determined that lockdowns have a "large impact on transmission." In all 11 countries, the current reproduction number (the number of other people one sick person infects, on average) was significantly below one. That means an average person with COVID-19 passes the virus to just one or fewer people -- a sign that an outbreak is contained.

"We cannot say for certain that the current measures will continue to control the epidemic in Europe," the researchers wrote. "However, if current trends continue, there is reason for optimism."

...is that those millions of lives saved were not worth disrupting the economy Donald wanted to run on. (Ignoring the fact that the economy would have tanked even worse given that level of pandemic.) 

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM



On June 3, St. Paul police officers were called to a home improvement store in St. Paul about an individual, later identified as Wolfe, wearing body armor and a law enforcement duty belt and carrying a baton was trying to get into the store. Store employees said WOLFE had been working as a security guard at the store but was fired earlier that day over social media posts about stealing items from the Third Precinct.

Police arrested Wolfe and say they found him wearing multiple items stolen from the Third Precinct, including body armor, a police-issue duty belt with handcuffs, an earphone piece, baton, and knife. Officers say Wolfe's name was handwritten in duct tape on the back of the body armor. Law enforcement says it recovered items belonging to the Minneapolis Police Department, including a riot helmet, 9mm pistol magazine, police radio, and police issue overdose kit, from Wolfe's apartment.

According to the criminal complaint, Wolfe admitted to police that he was inside the Third Precinct the night of the arson, took property from the building, and pushed a wooden barrel into the fire. Investigators say Wolfe also identified himself in multiple witness photographs capturing him in front of the Third Precinct holding a police baton, with smoke and flames visible in the background. Wolfe reportedly admitted to knowing that pushing the wooden barrel into the fire would keep the flames burning.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


'Enough is enough': Syria anti-government protests in Sweida swell for second day (Harun al-Aswad, 8 June 2020, Middle East Eye)

While emphasising the right to peaceful demonstration, protesters condemned government corruption and deteriorating security and economic conditions.

"But chants soon rose up for the overthrow of the Syrian regime, quoting slogans from the revolution that erupted in 2011," one of the demonstrators, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told MEE.

Protesters also called for Iran and Russia - whose forces helped spur Assad's victories against the opposition - to leave the country.

They also praised the unity of the Syrian people, and saluted most of the country's provinces, including those on the Syrian coast, Latakia and Tartus, which is where Assad's family and support base is drawn from.

"The deliberate practices of the regime over the past nine years have led to a complete economic collapse and crazy increases in prices and starvation of civilians," a demonstrator who wished to be identified as Rayan told MEE.

The Syrian pound is plummeting in value, with its exchange rate hitting a new low on Tuesday at 3,200 to the US dollar - more than 60 times lower than what it was before 2011. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


Lindsey Graham Challenger Jaime Harrison Promises 'New South' in Close Senate Race ALEXANDRA HUTZLER, 6/8/20, Newsweek)

The State, two dozen former financiers of Graham have jumped ship to back Harrison. The Democrat outraised Graham by more than $1 million in the first three months of 2020, joining a swath of challengers in key Senate races who have hauled in more cash than Republican incumbents so far this year.

Another good sign for Harrison is that the South is a region that's becoming more diverse, with more African American and Latino voters. While white residents still make up about 64 percent of South Carolina's population, the number of registered nonwhite voters surpassed 1 million for the first time in the state's history earlier this year. Harrison said he's working to build a broader coalition of voters than candidates before him.

"I'm talking about their aspirations, their hopes, their dreams and their fears--and doing it in such a way where they see a path forward. It's something Graham has not been able to do," Harrison said.

There's some proof he may be right. The most recent polling shows him and Graham tied at 42 percent support among registered voters.

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Texas May Be Won By A Democratic Presidential Candidate for the First Time in 44 Years, Poll Shows (JENNI FINK,  6/8/20, Newsweek)

Texas hasn't gone blue during a presidential election since former President Jimmy Carter, but it's possible that could change in November as polls show President Donald Trump losing the Republican hold on the state.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday showed Trump and Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden neck and neck in the race for Texas. Trump, with 44 percent, had a slim lead over Biden, who received 43 percent, an advantage that was well within the margin of error of 2.9 percentage points.

Texas, a Republican stronghold, hasn't voted for a Democratic president since 1976 when Carter ran against President Gerald Ford. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


Protecting our Constitutional Monarchy and Australian Democracy (Greg Bondar, 8 June 2020, Online Opinion)

As a monarchist, there are two issues of concern. First, there is concern that left-wing political parties pledge to attempt constitutional reform without respecting the constitutional provisions for change, which has the real risk of undermining public confidence in our civic system including its government and its parliament.  Secondly, there is concern that the appointment of a 'Minister for the Republic' would contradict the Constitution and subject executive government and the office of the Governor-General to severe embarrassment.

While any political party is perfectly entitled to discuss and debate the republican question, it is not entitled to undermine respect and confidence in our existing system by inviting people to effectively vote against the Crown without offering any executable alternative.

There is every indication that MPs would not be able to agree on a model to be presented to the electorate in a referendum. Any referendum on a republic could lead to the same chaos which has arisen in the British Parliament following the Brexit debacle, when a popular desire cannot be executed owing to disunity within the Parliament.

As the British government has found to its horror and acute embarrassment, it is entirely foolish to gain a mandate for action without the ability to execute the change.

The resulting sheer distraction, waste of political energy, the lack of certainty, the demise of one prime minister, has utterly undermined confidence in government and in the institution of Parliament itself.

In Australia it would be improper for government to attempt constitutional change without respecting the constitutional provision, which is for the voters to be given precise details about any recommended changes so they can vote with certainty on the issue in a manner which binds the Parliament.

Anything less is to treat the people and the civic system with contempt, and to engage in a process of constitutional vandalism.

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Police back off as peaceful protests push deep reforms (JAKE SEINER, LISA MARIE PANE and KIMBERLEE KRUESI, 6/08/20, AP)

Protesters nationwide are demanding police reforms and a reckoning with institutional racism in response to Floyd's death, and calls to "defund the police" have become rallying cries for many. A heavy-handed response to demonstrations in many places has underscored what critics have maintained: Law enforcement is militarized and too often uses excessive force.

Cities imposed curfews as several protests last week were marred by spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. More than 10,000 people have been arrested around the country since protests began, according to reports tracked by The Associated Press. Videos have surfaced of officers in riot gear using tear gas or physical force against even peaceful demonstrators.

But U.S. protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful -- and over the weekend, several police departments appeared to retreat from aggressive tactics.

Several cities have also lifted curfews, including Chicago and New York City, where the governor urged protesters to get tested for the virus and to proceed with caution until they had. Leaders around the country have expressed concern that demonstrations could lead to an increase in coronavirus cases.

For the first time since protests began in New York more than a week ago, most officers Sunday were not wearing riot helmets as they watched over rallies. Police moved the barricades at the Trump hotel at Columbus Circle for protesters so they could pass through.

Officers in some places in the city casually smoked cigars or ate ice cream and pizza. Some officers shook hands and posed for photos with motorcyclists at one rally.

In Compton, California, several thousand protesters, some on horseback, peacefully demonstrated through the city, just south of Los Angeles. The only law enforcement presence was about a dozen sheriff's deputies, who watched without engaging.

In Washington, D.C., National Guard troops from South Carolina were seen checking out of their hotel Sunday shortly before President Donald Trump tweeted he was giving the order to withdraw them from the nation's capital.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Revolt of the Center-RightProminent Republicans are balking at voting for Trump. Could it cost him the election? (Walter Shapiro, 6/08/20, New Republic)

At minimum, the pointed attacks from Mattis, Murkowski, and Colin Powell (who announced Sunday that he is again voting for the Democratic nominee, as he has in recent presidential elections) have gotten to the president. Even by his usual standards, Trump seems more unhinged than a toppling door. According to a tally by Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg News, Trump set a new record for the most tweets and retweets he has ever fired off in a single day on Friday: 200. (That's once every seven minutes, topping the old record he'd set during impeachment.)

The revolt of these prominent Republicans could do far more, though, than rattle the president. The target audience of Republicans for Biden would not be unswerving GOP partisans and MAGA-hat-wearing zealots too far gone to be lured back to reality. Rather, the goal would be to help sway soccer moms in the Phoenix suburbs and prompt troubled GOP party loyalists outside Detroit to leave the presidential line blank.

This strategy has worked whenever a political party has veered towards extremism. When the the GOP nominated Barry Goldwater against LBJ in 1964, defectors such as Jackie Robinson were prominent members of an ad hoc group called "Republicans for Johnson."

And in 1984, Jeane Kirkpatrick began a powerful speech at the GOP convention in Dallas with these words: "This is the first Republican convention I have ever attended. I am grateful that you should invite me, a lifelong Democrat. On the other hand, I realize that you are inviting many lifelong Democrats to join this common cause."

The hawkish Kirkpatrick, once a close ally of Hubert Humphrey, was already serving as Ronald Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations. But her excoriating the Democrats at the convention as "the blame America first" party carried an emotional heft far greater than if she had been a Republican all her life.

Reagan, in fact, is a testament to the persuasive power of political conversion. Reagan, who as a liberal Democrat made radio speeches for Harry Truman in 1948, liked to joke, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. It left me."

That is a line that hopefully will be repeatedly quoted with the parties switched on Republican Night at the 2020 Democratic convention. The goal of this GOP outreach, it must be stressed, is not to turn the Biden campaign into pablum by mouthing centrist bromides. Rather, it is to recognize that the future of democracy depends on the largest coalition and the largest possible victory margin for Biden in November.

Time to start taking back our party.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cop Violence Caused By Qualified Immunity and Police Unions (Chris Beck, 6/08/20, Splice Today)

There are two specific matters that must be addressed to bring an end to police misconduct: a legal concept called "qualified immunity," and police unions. Getting rid of them would accomplish more than a year of street protests.

Some have observed, after a cop uses violence against a civilian posing no danger to him (I haven't seen a female cop do this yet), that the police act like the laws don't apply to them. This is often said rhetorically, but in fact the laws don't apply to cops the way they apply to other citizens, a problem directly traceable to qualified immunity and police unions. The Supreme Court created qualified immunity in 1982 in order to grant all government officials immunity when they violate constitutional and civil rights, unless victims can demonstrate that their rights were "clearly established" by a previous legal case based on nearly the exact same circumstances.

What this means is that when Floyd's family goes to court to seek recompense for his death and hold the four police officers involved accountable, the case may be thrown out unless there happens to be a previous court case establishing the unconstitutionality of a cop kneeling on a man's neck while he's handcuffed. What reasonable person would say they wouldn't know if a cop cutting off someone's windpipe for nine minutes was a violation of his rights unless a court had already established that it was?

Qualified immunity strips citizens of their constitutional rights, just like the recent curfews have. The difference is that curfews are reserved for emergencies and qualified immunity is always in effect. It's a legal doctrine created by judges, not legislators, and it's a violation of American justice principles.

Police unions have also perverted justice. The taxpayers are picking up the tab for this form of "justice," not some wealthy corporation. There's an inherent problem in adding the power of a union to an institution already vested with monopoly power over the use of force against the public.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CNN Poll: Trump losing ground to Biden amid chaotic week (Jennifer Agiesta, 6/08/20, CNN)

Overall 38% approve of the way Trump is handling the presidency, while 57% disapprove. That's his worst approval rating since January 2019, and roughly on par with approval ratings for Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection years. Both went on to lose the presidency after one term.

In the race for the White House, among registered voters, Trump stands 14 points behind Biden, who officially secured enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination in CNN's delegate estimate on Saturday. The 41% who say they back the President is the lowest in CNN's tracking on this question back to April 2019, and Biden's 55% support is his highest mark yet.

The best part of all this is that the Trumpists so distrust the media and think the 2016 campaign was so much a function of Donald that they aren't even worried, nevermind responding.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Arizona GOP's 10-Year Plan to Turn the State BlueAre the state's Republicans in trouble because of Trump, or is Trump in trouble because of the state party? Too close to call! (SHAY KHATIRI,  JUNE 8, 2020, The Bulwark)

After Janet Napolitano joined the Obama administration in 2009, Jan Brewer succeeded her as governor of Arizona. Two years later, Brewer won her own full term as governor, and Russell Pearce was elected to be the senate president. Pearce had neo-Nazi and white nationalist connections. His major agendum was the passing of the infamous S.B. 1070, with the support of white-nationalist groups and the votes of Republican lawmakers, signed into law by Brewer. That harshly anti-illegal-immigrant law would be struck down by the United States Supreme Court over its provision "authorizing state and local officers to make warrantless arrests of certain aliens suspected of being removable," otherwise known as racial profiling. An early indicator of how the GOP's stance on immigration had alienated Arizonans: A year after S.B. 1070 became law, Pearce was removed from office in a recall election, becoming the first Arizona lawmaker ever to be so removed. (The state party kept him around, though, making him its vice chairman, until he was forced out even from that job for saying that women on Medicaid should be sterilized. Clearly the eugenicism runs deep with him.)

The state's gerrymandered congressional districts have also had an effect on the party and its immigration stance. Case in point: The 4th congressional district--which is demographically the whitest district in Arizona, and among the most sparsely populated, encompassing most of the state's western part--first elected Rep. Paul Gosar in 2010. He is an anti-immigration hardliner and a close ally of the anti-immigrant Iowa congressman Steve King (who lost a primary re-election bid last week). Like Gosar, all of the other Republicans in the Arizona congressional delegation came into office in the last decade. And like Gosar, they all currently have rankings of A or A+ from the anti-immigration group Numbers USA.

By 2014, the state GOP had shifted so far that it passed a resolution censuring McCain--its longtime incumbent senator and the GOP's presidential nominee in 2008--over his "disastrous and harmful" record. What had sparked the resolution was McCain's championing of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 that had passed the Senate and was stalled in the House.

The same year, the governorship opened up again as Brewer's term came to a close. Polls in July 2014 showed that the difference between the top contenders for the Republican nomination, Doug Ducey and Christine Jones, was within the margin of error. But an August 1 endorsement from the notoriously anti-Hispanic--and soon-to-be nationally disgraced--Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio boosted Ducey and helped get him the nomination. After securing the nomination, Ducey would continue to make joint appearances with Arpaio. He won the general election that year.

In 2018--the year Ducey ran for and won re-election--two members of Arizona's congressional delegation, Rep. Gosar and the similarly anti-Hispanic Rep. Andy Biggs, signed a letter calling for forced labor for illegal immigrants for a $1 a day wage, something that one might call slavery.

The same year, Kelli Ward, a former state senator and a failed 2016 Republican challenger to John McCain for his U.S. Senate seat, announced her intention to challenge incumbent Jeff Flake. Knowing that he would lose, Flake announced he would retire rather than run for re-election. This created an opening for Martha McSally, who was at the time pro-immigration, having twice won a House seat twice in Hispanic-heavy southern Arizona.

But in the race to replace Flake, McSally had to fight off two other major Republican contenders who were strongly anti-immigration: not just Ward but "Sherrif Joe," who was trying to stage a comeback. To secure the nomination, McSally took a hard line on immigration. Then, during the general election, she lamely tried to portray her opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, as an elite by calling her "Hollywood Sinema" and framing her as too feminine. McSally lost to Sinema by a very narrow margin, with 70 percent of Latinos voting for Sinema. Arizona had elected a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in 30 years.

Why did Kelli Ward lose the GOP nomination to McSally? Because Ward is just awful. She liked to pal around with Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. She won praise from white nationalists. She associated with alt-right figures like Mike Cernovich. A day after McCain's announcement of his illness, she suggested that McCain should resign and the governor should appoint her. The day that McCain announced that he had stopped treatment, she claimed that the announcement was timed to hurt her Senate campaign. McCain would die a day later. Her husband is infamous for such acts as spitting on one of Ward's former volunteers for switching allegiance to McSally.

With baggage like that, surely the state GOP would want nothing to do with Ward, right? Wrong: Five months after losing the primary, Ward was elected the chairwoman of the state GOP. Ever since, Ward has made headline after headline in the Arizona press for her ridiculous actions, outrageous tweets, and mismanagement--not to mention an allegation of corruption. In a fundraising email from last September, Ward wrote that "we'll stop gun-grabber Mark Kelly dead in his tracks." This is grotesque. Kelly, the Democratic nominee, is nationally famous in his own right for being a NASA astronaut (and the twin brother of another NASA astronaut) but also for being the husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head at point-blank range in an attack that nearly killed her and did kill six others.

Yeah, but the party achieved racial hygiene.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Car Rams Into Seattle George Floyd Protesters, Driver Allegedly Shoots One Man (EWAN PALMER, 6/8/20, Newsweek)

A man has been arrested after he allegedly drove into a crowd of protesters in Seattle, Washington, and shot at least one person.

Footage taken from the scene shows the aftermath of a black car hitting a barricade on East Pine Street and 11th Avenue on Capitol Hill on Sunday, where people had been gathering to protest the death of George Floyd for the past several days.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US should invite Hong Kongers to America (BENJAMIN POWELL, 06/06/20, The Hill)

If the Trump administration wants to do more than slap China's wrist, it should follow the United Kingdom's lead. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has announced that the U.K. will extend visa stays and provide a path to citizenship for Hong Kong residents who hold British National Overseas passports. That would allow about 315,000 people who received these passports before sovereignty was transferred China to emigrate to the U.K.  

The U.K. government, like President Trump, has taken a tougher line on immigration in recent years. So offering these Hong Kong residents a path to U.K. citizenship marks a significant departure from the norm. 

President Trump should similarly change course and significantly expand the availability of asylum visas to Hong Kongers wishing to preserve their freedoms. 

Hong Kongers are highly productive and already share, as the ongoing protests confirm, most American values, including free speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble. One out of every four Hong Kong residents is a college graduate. Hong Kongers have a long history of supporting civil and economic freedoms.

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.

June 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Trump's Twitter account appears as the top result when users search the word 'racist.' (Connor Perrett, 6/06/20, Business Insider)

Twitter users on Saturday noted that when they searched for the word "racist" on the platform, Twitter pointed them toward the account of President Donald Trump. 

"The top result for racist on Twitter is the president of the United States," The Verge's Tom Warren tweeted. 

Business Insider was able to replicate this on Saturday afternoon by searching for both the terms "racist" and "racism."

A spokesperson for Twitter on Saturday told Business Insider that the president is listed under these terms as a result of the company's algorithm, which is triggered by user behavior. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


White House, Pentagon tensions near breaking point (ROBERT BURNS, 6/06/20, AP) 

The nub of the problem is that Trump sees no constraint on his authority to use what he calls the "unlimited power" of the military even against U.S. citizens if he believes it necessary. Military leaders generally take a far different view. They believe that active-duty troops, trained to hunt and kill an enemy, should be used to enforce the law only in the most extreme emergency, such as an attempted actual rebellion. That limit exists, they argue, to keep the public's trust.

Vincent K. Brooks, a recently retired Army four-star general, says this "sacred trust" has been breached by Trump's threat to commit active-duty troops for law enforcement in states where he deems a governor has not tough enough against protesters.

"It is a trust that the military, especially the active-duty military -- 'the regulars' -- possessing great physical power and holding many levers that could end freedom in our society and could shut down our government, would never, never apply that power for domestic political purposes," Brooks wrote in an essay for Harvard University's Belfer Center, where he is a senior fellow.

Even beyond the prospect of using active-duty forces, the presence of National Guard troops on the streets of the nation's capital has drawn criticism, particularly after a Guard helicopter may have been used improperly to intimidate protesters.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made known his regret at having accompanied Trump to a presidential photo opportunity in front of a church near the White House. He has said he did not see it coming -- a blind spot that cost him in the eyes of critics who saw a supposedly apolitical Pentagon chief implicitly endorsing a political agenda.

Esper two days later risked Trump's ire when he stepped before reporters at the Pentagon to declare his opposition to Trump invoking the two-centuries-old Insurrection Act. That law allows a president to use the armed forces "as he considers necessary" when "unlawful obstructions ... or rebellion against the authority of the United States" make it impractical to enforce U.S. laws in any state by normal means.

Esper said plainly that he saw no need for such an extreme measure, a clear counterpoint to Trump's threat to use force. Almost immediately, word came from the White House that Trump was unhappy with his defense secretary, who often mentions his own military credentials as a West Point graduate and veteran of the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq.

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:01 AM


On kneeling (David Warren, 6/06/20)

One kneels to what one believes to be holy: Jesus Christ, in the case of faithful Catholics; or political correctness, in the case of those who deny Him. In the present circumstances, when the former are denied access to the Sacraments in many places, especially here in Canada, we may still kneel in prayer. This is a gesture also available to all non-Catholic Christians, which was, until recently, universally understood. If, as a Catholic, one kneels before a priest, one is not worshipping but acknowledging him to be In persona Christi capitis ("in the person of Christ the head"). The priest must be a real one, however, in the appointive descent from Our Lord, Christ the King.

Christians were, in the first centuries, willing to die rather than kneel to Caesar, so why should they be any more willing to kneel before the stinking race platitudes of today? Just to avoid being smeared in social media? Or more significantly, in the recent leftist race riots, when a radical demands that someone kneel before him (I have seen several videos), should he do so in order to avoid being beaten, maimed, possibly murdered?

The twin notions here, that Christ is not present in victims of police violence and that the cause of racial justice is not holy, are vile, even if unintentional.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE ROCKFORD FILES--ALL OVER AGAIN: James Garner and 'The Rockford Files' didn't just humanize the TV private detective; for some, the show was a kind of guide to life. (NATHAN WARD, 6/04/20, Crime Reads)

To an eleven-year-old, Jim Rockford had a life I could happily imagine for my future self: He lived alone in a beaten green and white trailer on a promontory over a Malibu beach, where he spent much of his free time surfcasting, often with his dad, a semi-retired longhaul trucker known as Rocky, whose whole existence seemed to revolve around fishing with his adult son; when he worked, Jim Rockford charged clients an impressive-sounding "$200 a day plus expenses" for snooping around and he drove a cool gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit in which he outmaneuvered Mob wheelmen and hot-headed Feds. (The car chase thrived on 1970s TV the way the epic guitar solo dominated '70s rock.)

Over five and a half seasons, Jim Rockford would offer a number of life lessons: That you can gain entry to many social functions simply by wearing a blue sport coat or phony glasses; when impersonating salesmen, it's good to have a variety of drawling accents and bold hats; any business office can be accessed either with a set of quality lock picks or by double-talking the receptionist and showing fake business cards you can print in your car; in a high-speed chase, you can often outsmart goons with a cool reverse J-turn move they somehow never expect; sometimes you'll work for people you detest, so know how much you're willing to take; likewise, being a good listener is not only nice manners but also can be professionally useful. And finally, if you want the dream of a home office without paying a secretary, then rent an answering machine (rather new at the time).

The Rockford Files' opening sequence did not show the usual action shot, chalk corpse silhouette, or hero swirled in police lights but a pan of Jim's untidy desk laid with playing cards and a large standing photo of his dad, as the answering machine plays. Jim's messages famously began every episode, ensuring that fans of the show would be in their seats as it opened: "Hey Jim, this is Louie down at the fish market--you gonna pick up these halibut or what?"

Jim's style may be sardonic, but he can be decent to a fault, rare among world-weary sleuths, perhaps because his father Rocky believes the best of people. Rocky was appealingly played by Noah Beery, with his can-do 1940s cowboy demeanor. (If you have seen Red River he is part of the montage of cowhand faces howling to launch the famous cattle drive). Rocky is always telling his son to drive a rig (it's safer) or come up to the cabin to hunt and relax from the hazards of the investigator's life. Writer Stephen Cannell created Rocky thinking of his own father, who was puzzled by his strange choice of profession instead of joining the family business. There is scant evidence in the show that Jim ever had a mother; perhaps it would be too painful to talk about.

Rocky hopes Jim will get married and find a less dangerous line of work, but always helps him out when goons come to the trailer, which is often. (Rockford's trailer may be the most-tossed location in TV history.) After one close call, however, Rocky finally blows up: "I am through talking to you! Look at you, an inch or two to the right and you'd be missing that eye!"

"Yeah," answers Jim, "but look at it this way, an inch or two to the left and he'd have missed me completely." Rocky is not amused.

The Rockford Files seemed revolutionary in being so funny and still delivering a tense crime plot. It is hard now to appreciate the freshness of Jim Rockford's adventures against its era of old school police dramas and newer crime shows with smirky tag lines (Kojak's "Who loves Ya, baby?' or Baretta's "And dat's the name of dat tune"): One of the funnier Rockford episodes, "A Clean Bust with Sequel Rights," spoofs such shows, when Jim is hired by an insurance company to "babysit" a celebrity cop (Hector Elizondo) whose police exploits have become a bestseller, movie, TV show and kids' toy line. It pains Jim how his father is thrilled watching the TV detective shout, "Freeze, Turkey!" as he makes the bust. (In fact, Rockford Files began as an unused plot idea for another project of producer Roy Huggins, the short-lived Detective series Toma, which itself then morphed into Robert Blake's Baretta.)

Jim had none of the hard-drinking tough guy detective who needs to be saved from himself and he would not be caught walking around with Baretta's cockatoo on his shoulder, either. In the second season ("The Big Ripoff," Ep7) we get as close as we come to a Rockford code: Jill Clayburgh plays a young artist's model who rescues Jim after he's been badly beaten up. As he returns to his dangerous work, she asks, "Is there any thing you won't do for money?" "I won't kill for it," Rockford answers, "and I won't marry for it. Other than that, I'm open to just about anything." At the time The Rockford Files appeared, the closest thing to it was Harry O, whose private eye worked on his boat when not solving crimes. But Harry retained the gravitas of the police detective he once had been; Rockford's sense of justice comes from his serving five years for a robbery he didn't commit, before receiving a pardon and learning to become a PI. Still, I'm sure the ex-cop and ex-con could have gone fishing together in Harry's boat.

Not many CVs that can beat: Maverick, Rockford, Marlowe and The Great Escape.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Why is it that age limits never apply to men? (Prue Leith, June 4, 2020, Spectator USA)

I'm not sure that we oldies aren't being over-protected at the expense of the young. We're told that people over 70 are 90 percent more likely to die of coronavirus than young children, so I guess it's important to keep us out of harm's way so we don't clog up the hospitals. But I bet some economist somewhere is thinking what a good thing it would be for the country if there were a lot fewer old people. We are a very expensive cohort: we need a lot of healthcare; we don't earn any money, we don't do much work and we live longer and longer. Anthony Trollope wrote an amazing novel, The Fixed Period, about a shipwrecked community in the South Seas who devise a quasi-religion that makes it compulsory, and honorable, to walk into oblivion at the age of 70. Interestingly, when the charismatic leader responsible for this solution nears 70 himself, suddenly it doesn't seem like such a good idea.

Funny that. I can't count the number of men in my long business life, who, when reaching 70 and expected to leave the board, found very good reasons why an exception should be made in their case: 'I'm the only true hotelier on the board; I understand the history of the company like no one else; So-and-so needs my guidance for a couple of years.' Dictatorial presidents are less subtle. They just change the rules.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Why Statecraft Is Still Soulcraft: Without personal character development, good self-government becomes impossible. (ANDY SMARICK, 6/06/20, American Conservative)

Civic virtue might be thought of as the sensibilities and actions of citizens that contribute to a good society. A similar definition describes it as the set of personal qualities associated with the effective functioning of the civil and political order. Embedded in this concept is the idea that individuals have not just personal rights but also obligations to the community. This means that a citizen must think and act beyond him or herself; it also means that this thinking and acting should be tethered to a collective understanding of the common good. 

So there are at least two ethical dimensions to civic virtue: how we ought to act and what constitutes a healthy community. A similar concept is "character," which has been concisely defined by Anne Snyder in The Fabric of Character as "a set of dispositions to be and do good." In the context of public affairs, character can be thought of as the personal attributes that align a citizen's thoughts and actions with civic virtue. 

Over time, education scholars have attempted to clarify the meaning of character by describing its component parts. In his 2011 Phi Delta Kappanessay "Character as the Aim of Education," David Light Shields offers four categories of character in a manner especially helpful to the discussion of schooling. First, referencing Ron Ritchhart's work, Shields discusses "intellectual" character. This is knowledge, but it's more than the mere accumulation of content. It extends to developing the personal dispositions that enable continued learning--traits like curiosity, open-mindedness, and skepticism.

A second is "performance" character--a set of habits "that enable an individual to accomplish intentions and goals." This includes diligence, courage, initiative, and determination. Performance character is often described as "enabling excellence." That is, young people, if they are to succeed in school and beyond, need to learn how to willingly engage in challenging work, stick with difficult tasks until successful completion, and bounce back after failure. In terms of productive engagement in public affairs in a diverse democracy, these skills will help budding citizens participate in sensitive but essential debates; work through complicated, arduous political processes; and continue to engage after losing a bruising policy battle.

The rub, however, is that intellectual and performance character can be worryingly agnostic regarding substance. Curiosity will help a student collect a great deal of information, but it won't tell her what is good or bad. Likewise, an open mind can be filled with either wholesome or wicked ideas. One could courageously engage in either humane or inhumane reform, doggedly fight for either a just or unjust cause, and show great initiative for either charity or cruelty. 

This is why a third category is necessary--what many have called "moral" character. Shields refers to it as "a disposition to seek the good and right." Such a disposition can guide our application of curiosity, skepticism, confidence, and determination. Moral character can include an understanding of justice and enduring ethical rules, as well as honesty, integrity, humility, duty, gratitude, and respect. These values can help young people understand why equal opportunity is invaluable, why prudent language in debate is important, why discrimination based on protected classes is unlawful, why spreading false information is wrong, why societies develop policies to protect innocent life, why just-war theory shields non-combatants, and much more. When done right, the combination of intellectual, performance, and moral character can help young people mature and develop essential citizenship skills. 

As the importance of labor declines we have a great opportunity to reorient education from job-preparation back to preparing Americans to be good republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Steve Hollaway, Harbor Church, June 3, 2018, Block Island Times)

Jesus was lynched. To hear that word applied to Jesus is shocking, first because the cross has been sanitized in our imagination and turned into a religious symbol. We don't often think of it as an act of mob violence supported by government and religious authorities. But second, I think it is shocking to hear that Jesus was lynched because it makes you wonder why such an obvious way to describe what happened to Jesus has never been used in American churches. Twice in the book of Acts, the apostolic preachers say that Jesus was "hanged on a tree," and Paul takes the old law that says anyone hanging on a tree is cursed to make the point that Jesus bore the curse for us. But it never crossed our minds that Jesus was like "strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."

When the black theologian James Cone died recently, I was moved to read his last book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree [Orbis, 2011], in which he points out that no white theologians or preachers, and almost no black ones, made a comparison between what happened to Jesus and what happened to at least 4,000 black men, women, and children. Once you juxtapose those two images in your mind--once you see the man hanging on the old rugged cross next to a man hanging from a regular tree for everyone to gawk at--it's hard not to see lynchings as 19th and 20th century crucifixions. I think the juxtaposition deepens our reflections on the cross.

Both the cross and the lynching tree were symbols of terror, instruments of torture and execution, reserved primarily for slaves, criminals, and insurrectionists--the lowest of the low in society. Both Jesus and blacks were publicly humiliated, subjected to the utmost indignity and cruelty. They were stripped, in order to be deprived of dignity, then paraded, mocked and whipped, pierced, derided and spat upon, tortured for hours in the presence of jeering crowds for popular entertainment. In both cases, the purpose was to strike terror in the subject community. It was to let people know that the same thing would happen to them if they did not stay in their place.

We like to think that if we were in Jerusalem, we would have stood up for Jesus, but the truth is it's not bloody likely. And we like to think that if we were in the South in the period 1882-1968 when lynchings occurred, we would have tried to stop them, but honestly, how likely is that?

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


A critical mass of Americans comes to terms with the truth: Is there finally consciousness that law enforcement officers too often serve white privilege, not justice? (Diane Roberts, June 1, 2020, The Prospect)

Now something has changed. Pretty much every living soul has watched the video of a Minneapolis cop with his knee on George Floyd's neck, grinding his face into the pavement as Floyd pleads, cries, and dies. He's not the first black man to die on camera: we've all seen it many times before. There was Floyd's fellow Minnesotan Philando Castile, shot by police in front of his girlfriend and her four-year-old child and Eric Garner, put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer who ignored Garner gasping, "I can't breathe." But this time it feels different, as if a wire worn thin over too many years finally broke: as if a critical mass of Americans finally realised that too many of our police equate dark skin with criminality and violence. Many of us are just now coming to the truth that law enforcement officers too often serve white privilege and white property, not justice.

Perhaps three and a half years of Donald Trump's race-baiting presidency is raising the national consciousness. The white men now charged with the murder of Arbery claimed he looked like somebody who might have robbed a local construction site. That's code: he was a black guy in a mostly white space. An intruder. The white woman who tried to weaponise the police against a black bird-watcher who told her to leash her out-of-control dog in Central Park. She shouted into her phone: "an African-American man is threatening my life!" Behind her lay 400 years of American history in which a white woman would always be seen as the victim and a black man the aggressor.

Christian Cooper, the black birder, filmed the whole thing. He's alive; she got fired from her Wall Street job--a rare instance of justice. Nonetheless, in America you can be killed for driving while black, jogging while black, shopping while black, even sleeping while black. In March, Breonna Taylor, a medical technician in Louisville, Kentucky, was killed in her own bed by police using a battering ram to break into her home.

In normal times, back before we started hoarding hand-sanitiser and loo roll, if some atrocity--a school shooting, a terrorist bombing, a terrible storm--occurred, Americans could be certain their government would, at minimum, try to calm things down. George W Bush, rarely celebrated for his eloquence, won bi-partisan praise for his speech after al-Qaeda attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. When a white supremacist murdered nine black parishioners in a Charleston church, President Barack Obama sang "Amazing Grace" and spoke of forgiveness and love. A few days ago, Trump managed to express sympathy for Floyd's family, but then tweeted he'd be prepared to send in the army to quell American citizens, called protestors "thugs," and promised "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Conspiracy theories and racist memes: How a dozen Texas GOP county chairs caused turmoil within the party (NAOMI ANDU, CLARE PROCTOR AND MIGUEL GUTIERREZ JR. JUNE 5, 2020, Texas Tribune)

On Friday morning, Texas' top Republican officials, including Gov. Greg Abbott, had condemned four GOP chairs for proliferating conspiracy theories on Facebook. The posts, from chairs of some of the largest counties in Texas, suggested George Floyd's death was staged to erode black support for President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, a fifth chairperson posted a racist image of a Martin Luther King Jr. quote next to a banana.

On Friday afternoon, The Texas Tribune identified similar posts from seven more GOP chairs across the state. Some of these posts suggested people who have been protesting Floyd's death across the state and the country were being paid by Jewish billionaire George Soros -- an oft-used anti-Semitic trope.

GOP county chairs are elected leaders of the Republican Party who help oversee local elections and head up county-level meetings and events. News circulating about the first five chairs' posts sparked concern -- both internal and external -- about the Texas GOP.

"This is a disgusting level of ignorance that's hard to hear from anyone, much less an elected official," State Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, said in an email to the Tribune. "I'm glad to see Republican state leaders finally start to push back against this nonsense and look forward to a day when we can actually debate fact-based policy instead of constantly refuting conspiracies."

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 AM


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley had 'shouting match with Donald Trump to force him to back down over sending in troops to clear Washington DC protesters (JAMES GORDON, 6/06/20, DAILYMAIL.COM )

The nation's top military officer, General Mark Milley, got into a 'shouting match' with President Donald Trump earlier this week after the president spoke of his wish to end the country's riots and protests by sending in active military forces into American cities. 

A senior military official alleges the pair argued loudly before Trump finally backed down. 

Responding to Trump's request to have troops on the ground in major U.S. cities where riots and protests were taking place, Gen. Milley is said to have stayed firm, responding: 'I'm not doing that. That's for law enforcement.' [...]

The official who is said to have overheard the argument told the New Yorker, ''We have a bully in the White House, and a bully needs a bully.'  

Always bet on the Deep State.

June 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


Trump campaign removes ad that violated NASA guidelines by showing astronauts (Rashaan Ayesh, 6/05/20, Axios)

NASA doesn't allow the likenesses of its astronauts to be used in advertisements, and an agency spokesperson told Bloomberg it was unaware of the video until it had been posted.

Karen Nyberg, a retired astronaut and Hurley's wife, tweeted, "I find it disturbing that a video image of me and my son is being used in political propaganda without my knowledge or consent. That is wrong."

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


The Three Levels of Corruption in the Buffalo Police Assault Video  (JONATHAN V. LAST,  JUNE 5, 2020, The Bulwark)

What we have here is a perfect distillation of the three levels of corruption that exist in law enforcement.

The first is the violence of the police themselves. In this incident they are in total control of the situation. I can count 28 law enforcement officers, all of them wearing armor of some sort and carrying weapons.

They are approached by an unarmed 75-year-old man. It is unreasonable for any of the officers in this situation to have felt as though they were in clear and present danger. But if they had felt threatened, they could have restrained him.

Instead, they assault him, shoving him backward violently. Go back and watch the video again. Listen to the sound the man's head makes at the 0:06 mark when it hits the ground. Look at the blood coming out of his ear. Watch how motionless his body is.

At best, this is a terrible accident by law enforcement officers who are not competent at their jobs. At worst, it is criminal assault.

The second level of corruption comes in the reaction of the officers who did not shove the old man. None of them rush to his side. None of them confront the perpetrators of the assault.

Instead, the first two actions we see from the other police are these:

(a) One of the officers who pushed the man seems surprised that he fell and makes a move to check on him. The officer behind him directs him to keep moving and leave the man alone.

(b) Other officers immediately move to clear witnesses out of the area. There appear to be two civilian witnesses who try to tell the police that the man on the ground is bleeding. One of the other officers says, "Grab these two guys right now."

These two witnesses put their hands in the air and offer no resistance. We see one of them handcuffed.

Another officer goes after the credentialed media present and orders them to leave the scene.

What you're seeing here is, in the immediate aftermath of police misconduct, a large number of officers working in a coordinated manner to cover it up and witnesses to the misconduct being detained for no discernible reason.

Which brings us to the third level of corruption: The press release.

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


The Radically Inclusive Music of Ornette Coleman: a review of Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure by Maria Golia  (Josephine Livingstone, June 5, 2020, New Republic)

During Ornette Coleman's legendary 1959 run of shows at the Five Spot club in New York, there was a joke going around: "A waiter drops a trayload of drinks and a man says to his lady-friend, 'Listen honey, Ornette's playing our song.'" The punchline is a doozy, capturing the nightclub's dankness (capacity: 75; ambience: urine), the hype around Coleman's radical new sound, and the confrontational difficulty of his music.

The first night of that run, November 17, represented a turning point in American jazz. There were other bebop musicians playing with experimental forms in the 1950s, like John Coltrane and Miles Davis, but Coleman brought something wholly unexpected to his signature white plastic saxophone. His sound's arrival in New York made Coleman "an overnight underground sensation," Maria Golia writes in her new book, Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure.

He was the shock of the new. Before Coleman, "free jazz" was an eggheads' pursuit, so obscure that he and his band once had to bail out of a gig that was advertised as a "Free Jazz Concert," which a crowd had assumed meant no entrance fee. [...]

Golia clarifies that Coleman's atonality never diminished his jazz's "requisite virtuosity," although it could certainly sound bewildering. Instead it "proposed an alternative means for its expression." Collaboration and close listening among a practiced ensemble of musicians were essential to accomplishing a state of intimacy Coleman called "unison."

Describing the way Ornette Coleman's music sounds is a challenge, and Golia rounds up some delightful attempts by music critics past. "Eldritch wrongness" is a phrase from Brian Morton's obituary of Coleman for The Wire, describing the sinister sounds Morton thought were the result of Coleman's misapprehensions about musical theory as a child. Francis Davis wrote in the Atlantic Monthly in 1972 that, "Perhaps the trick of listening to his performances lies in an ability to hear rhythm as melody, the way he seems to do, and the way early jazz musicians did," which is genuinely helpful advice. In notes hastily written while "under the spell of a first discovery" of The Shape of Jazz to Come, Martin Williams wrote that "if you put a conventional chord under my note, you limit the number of choices I have for my next note; if you do not, my melody may move freely in a far greater choice of directions." For Williams, this innovation was an escape hatch for a musical form in stasis: "Someone had to break through the walls that those harmonies have built and restore melody."

Critics were as much in search of a language for the avant garde as for a summary of a record. Coleman resisted critical language, Golia notes, quoting his disdain for people who "don't trust their reactions to art or music unless there is a verbal explanation for it." Coleman had a gnomic way with words himself, however. "How do you turn emotion into knowledge? That's what I try to do with my horn," he once wrote. In the liner notes to Change of the Century (1960), he reminds us that "the only thing that matters is whether you feel it or not. You can't intellectualize music; to reduce it analytically is often is to reduce it to nothing very important."

Personally, I still don't get it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Nearly 70 Percent of Americans Disapprove of Trump's Handling of George Floyd's Death, New Poll Shows (MATTHEW IMPELLI, 6/5/20, Newsweek)

Close to 70 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the way President Donald Trump is handling the death of George Floyd, according to a new poll. [...]

Trump has faced a backlash to his response to Floyd's death and the ongoing demonstrations. After protesters damaged and looted areas across Minneapolis, Trump responded by tweeting, "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd."

During a recent press briefing, Trump also suggested that he would invoke the Insurrection Act, which would allow him to deploy military troops to states that he thinks can't contain the protests. Following his suggestion, he faced opposition from several governors from such states as New York, Texas and Michigan, as well as Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said he did not support invoking the act.

Additionally, Trump was recently accused of allowing tear gas to be used to disperse protesters near the White House before he went across the street for what has been called a photo op at a church.

White bystanders armed with rifles watch Floyd protesters march in Indiana (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 06/05/2020)

Protesters in a rural Indiana city who took to the streets to condemn racism and police killings of black people encountered bystanders who were holding rifles during the demonstration.

A video that circulated on social media shows 21 people standing along a bike trail near downtown Crown Point, Indiana, watching protesters march past them Monday during a peaceful protest against police brutality and racism. Eight of the bystanders held firearms, an act Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said is protected under state law. [...]

Cedric Caschetta, who attended the nearly three-hour protest said some people stood on the opposite side of the street where the protest began and tried to antagonize them. Caschetta, 20, said the opposition crowd shouted, "Get a job," "You don't belong here" and "You're the problem."

White Alabama Man Accused of Threatening to Shoot Birmingham Protesters, Police and Mayor in Racist 911 Call (CHANTAL DA SILVA, 6/5/20, Newsweek)

An Alabama man was arrested and charged with making a terrorist threat on Wednesday evening, accused of threatening to shoot protesters, police and Birmingham's mayor over the city's decision to remove a Confederate statue.

Protest Leaders Largely Calm Amid Unrest as Police Violence Tests Mayors and Governors (MEGHAN ROOS, 6/5/20, Newsweek)

Sharpton's message came as many leaders around the country acknowledged the systemic racism that exists within local and state police departments. In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz on Tuesday announced an investigation into the last 10 years of policing policies and procedures at the Minneapolis Police Department. A former chief of the Minneapolis police told Newsweek Thursday systemic racism existed not just within the Minneapolis Police Department, but within law enforcement organizations across the U.S.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer on Wednesday announced an official review of the Louisville Metro Police Department two days after the department's police chief was fired. The decision came on the heels of an exchange of gunfire between officers and protesters last week, during which one civilian was fatally shot. Earlier this year, Louisville police also gained national attention after the death of Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her home. The shooting occurred as officers served Taylor a "no-knock warrant," a practice that Fischer said this week was suspended. [...]

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday the Los Angeles Police Department would also undergo a review for ways in which it could evolve its policies. Mayors in Nashville, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Portland and several other cities made similar announcements this week, as former President Barack Obama called on all mayors to review policing strategies and accept feedback from their communities.

As government leaders announced their intentions to address calls for reform, and as additional charges were brought against the officers involved in the incident that resulted in George Floyd's death, the violence seen in the early days of the protests began to wane, enabling many cities to lift curfews put in place to mitigate the damage caused during the demonstrations.

"I'm more hopeful today than ever," Sharpton said during his eulogy. "There is a time and a season, and when I looked this time, and saw marches where in some cases young whites outnumbered the blacks marching, I know that it's a different time and a different season."

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Why are white supremacists protesting the deaths of black people? (Matthew Valasik and Shannon Reid, 6/05/2020, The Conversation)

[O]ur research shows that many share the conspiracy belief that Western governments are corrupt and controlled by the New World Order, a cabal of wealthy Jewish elites. To them, wealthy Jewish investor and democracy advocate George Soros is the puppet master of the world economy.

William Luther Pierce's 1978 novel "The Turner Diaries," which has come to be known as "the bible of the racist right," lays out a plan to instigate a race war and bring about the federal government's collapse. The book has inspired violence from the far-right, most notably the 1995 bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

"Accelerationism" - the idea that inducing chaos, provoking law enforcement, and promoting political tension will hasten the collapse of Western government - has taken root among far-right groups. One such group, the "Boogaloo Bois," identified by their penchant for wearing Hawaiian shirts, has been observed at protests in Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Oregon. As with any far-right movement, "Boogaloo Bois" groups are rather unstructured and have varied beliefs, lacking any hierarchical organization.

In Las Vegas, three "Boogaloo Bois" were arrested with firearms and a plan to incite violence during George Floyd protests. Social media posts and online chat groups have also shown them attempting to infiltrate other protests across the country.

Joining the crowds provides these groups an opportunity to discredit protesters by inciting looting, rioting, violence and vandalism - which they hope will spark like-minded white Americans to resist the civil disobedience of protesters. Already, there are roving bands of armed white counterprotesters at protests across America.

Other far-right extremists are talking on social media about the protests requiring a lot of police attention and see an opportunity to engage in targeted terror attacks. Their overall intention is the same: fanning flames to burn down the federal government, making room for them to establish a whites-only country.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Book Review: The Surprising Science of Walking: In Shane O'Mara's "In Praise of Walking," even the most mundane walk is rife with scientific and spiritual significance. (M.R. O'CONNOR, 06.05.2020, UnDark)

O'Mara, a professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College in Dublin, writes in straightforward prose, methodically presenting research and studies in support of his thesis that walking has not only been crucial to human evolution but is essential to our health. Studies show that regular walking mobilizes changes in the structure of our brain that can increase volume in the areas associated with learning and memory. He dedicates a chapter to the science behind human navigation and describes how the selective memories of our wanderings are central components of our experiences and ability to make "maps of the world we have experienced."

O'Mara argues that walking influences many aspects of cognition -- how we think, reason, remember, read, and write. In particular, there is a vital relationship between movement of the body and the flow of thinking. "Since antiquity it has been recognized that a good walk is an excellent way to think problems through," he writes.

The neural reasons for this relationship are only now being revealed through research that shows we have two main modes of thought: active mode and mind-wandering. It's the latter that walking can stimulate, allowing our minds to drift and "integrate our past, present, and future, interrogate our social lives, and create a largescale personal narrative."

Studies show that regular walking mobilizes changes in the structure of our brain that can increase volume in the areas associated with learning and memory.

Walking seems capable of shaking us out of old ruminations and opening up the possibility of new potential and patterns of thought. It sets our thoughts free, as O'Mara puts it. The ability to let our thoughts flow while sauntering through a landscape has been long appreciated by poets like Wordsworth. But it's only now that the scientific understanding of cognition in the wild -- meaning outside of the laboratory -- is catching up.

One of the pleasures of reading "In Praise of Walking" is that you may begin to recount the significant foot journeys of your past. I found myself recalling with renewed poignancy a roughly 55-mile walk from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel in Haiti that I only now recognize as a pivotal moment in my personal and professional life, or the regular strolls I have taken since I was a child across the cliffs of Howth in Ireland with multiple generations of my family. "Walking is holistic," writes O'Mara. "Every aspect of it aids every aspect of one's being."

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


74% of Americans view George Floyd's death as an underlying racial injustice problem: POLL (Kendall Karson, June 5, 2020, ABC News)

Nearly three-fourths of Americans view the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer as a sign of an underlying racial injustice problem, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds, a significant shift from a similar question asked just six years ago.

Whenever you drill down on the numbers you get to that core of Donald's support that matches the number who think the Dreamers should be deported.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


'Antifa' Is Literally Never Mentioned in the First Prosecutions of Protest Violence (Spencer Ackerman, Jun. 05, 2020, Daily Beast)

[T]he early charges do not indicate that antifascist motivations have provoked the violent activity that the Trump administration and its allies have spent the better part of a week attributing to it. With Barr at the helm of the protest response, the administration has tasked the FBI's counterterrorism partnerships with state and local police, known as Joint Terrorism Task Forces, with finding "extremists" and "agitators" within the protest movement. 

"What it definitely demonstrates is that antifascism is not a driving force in the current protest violence," said Mike German, a retired FBI special agent who worked with the Los Angeles JTTF.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Trump Hints At Upcoming Pardon For Roger Stone (Emily Singer, June 05 | 2020, National Memo)

The Trump administration tried to intervene in the case, recommending leniency for Stone. The move by Attorney General William Barr to get involved in a case against one of Trump's allies caused some members of the Department of Justice to resign in protest.

The judge in the case disputed that Stone was the target of a witch hunt, as both Stone and Trump allege.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


German neo-Nazis trained at Russian camps: report (Deutsche-Welle, 6/05/20)

Right-wing extremists in Germany are participating in paramilitary training at a special camp near city of Saint Petersburg in Russia, German news magazine Focus reported Friday.

Members of the youth wing of Germany's extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD) and the minor right-wing party The Third Way have completed the training, the report said, citing German intelligence sources.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Ukrainian prosecutors find no evidence against Hunter Biden (Reuters, 4 Jun 2020)

An audit of thousands of old case files by Ukrainian prosecutors found no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Hunter Biden, the former prosecutor general, who had launched the audit, told Reuters.

Ruslan Ryaboshapka was in the spotlight last year as the man who would decide whether to launch an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, in what became a key issue in the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described Ryaboshapka as "100 percent my person" on a call in July 2019 in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, the man who became his main rival in the 2020 presidential race.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


America is the greatest story ever told: Ancient narratives continue to shape the assumptions and ideals of the US (Tom Holland, 6/05/20, UnHerd)

This was the tradition that Martin Luther King, in the 1950s, employing his unrivalled mastery of the Bible and its cadences, invoked to rouse white pastors and their congregations from their moral slumbers. The day before his murder, he gave a sermon in which he declared himself ready to die in the cause of redeeming his people from the chains of the slavery into which their ancestors had been brought. "Like anybody," he told his listeners, "I would like to live - a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land."

The allusion, of course, was to Moses: the great prophet who, guided by God, had led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and then, before he died, climbed Mount Nebo to gaze across at Canaan, the promised land he was destined never to enter. "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."

Today, although Martin Luther King's people may remain stranded in the wilderness, the Bible no longer structures the dread and the dreamings of Americans in the way that once it did. The book which for King had been a supreme inspiration has chiefly played a role in the current crisis as a prop held upside down by President Trump. Yet the tracks of Christian theology, as Nietzsche once complained, wind everywhere.

"The measure of a man's compassion for the lowly and the suffering comes to be the measure of the loftiness of his soul." It was this -- the lesson taught by the redemption of the Children of Israel from slavery, and by the death of Christ on the cross -- that Nietzsche had always most despised about Christianity. Two millennia on, and the discovery made by Christ's earliest followers -- that to be a victim can be a source of power -- has brought thousands onto the streets of America and Britain alike.

Steeped in the language of intersectionality and postcolonial studies though the protests may be, the slogans derive ultimately from a much more venerable source. A dread of damnation, a yearning to be gathered into the ranks of the elect, a desperation to be cleansed of original sin, had long provided the surest and most fertile seedbed for the ideals of the American people. Repeatedly, over the course of their history, preachers had sought to awaken them to a sense of their guilt, and to offer them salvation. Now, in the wake of George Floyd's murder, there are summons to a similar awakening.

As minorities mass on the banks of the Jordan to attempt yet again to ford the river, white liberals -- often literally kneeling and raising their hands in prayer as they do so -- confess their sins and beg for absolution. Only through repentance, their conveners preach, is there any prospect of obtaining salvation. The activists, however, are not merely addressing those gathered before them. Their gaze, as the gaze of preachers in America has always been, right from the very first voyages of the Puritans across the Atlantic to New England, is fixed on the world beyond. Their summons is to sinners everywhere -- in London as in New York, in Amsterdam as in Los Angeles. Their ambition is to serve as a city on a hill.

Until justice rolls down like waters...
Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Trump's hitting back hard at Republicans who dare criticize his failed Bible photo-op (CODY FENWICK, JUNE 5, 2020, Salon)

He had already lashed out on Wednesday at his former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who sharply criticized Trump's response to the ongoing George Floyd protests. But on Thursday night, Trump took at aim at sitting Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


BLACK CONSERVATISM IN AMERICA TODAY  (The Editors, 2018, Intercollegiate Review)

The death of George Floyd, the protests, the riots...such recent events show that America has yet to heal from racism and racial tension. They also show that conversation about these issues is more important than ever. While there are many prominent voices on these issues, less prominent are those of African American conservatives. In order to provide a forum for the true diversity of opinion within the broader conservative movement, we present an interview with Chidike Okeem, writer at VoiceofChid.com, to hear his thoughts on the principles, heroes, and misrepresentations of black conservatism.
IR: How do you begin a conversation with an African American progressive about the merits of conservatism? What's your elevator pitch?

Chidike: One of the fallacies that black progressives promulgate about black conservatives is that we have nothing to conserve except historically oppressive structures. Black conservatism is often presented as an ideology that is about protecting and preserving white supremacy. This argument is absurd. Black conservatives believe in the preservation of institutions that have been important to black life and survival, such as the nuclear family, the church, and the community. Although conservation is an important part of the black conservative worldview, it is not about the protection of pillars of oppression. Where demonstrably immoral structures exist, the black conservative cannot ethically justify attempting to look for the positive aspects of such structures. The black conservative is justified in subverting and seeking to dismantle oppressive systems. The conservation mind-set of the black conservative applies only to constructs that are both moral and salubrious. The notion that conservatives of African descent must look for the positive aspects in the apparatus of white supremacy is a caricature of black conservative thought. [...]

IR: How would you describe the relationship between a black conservative philosophy and conservatism in America today?

Chidike: The relationship between black conservatism and mainstream conservatism in America is deeply problematic. Not only is black conservatism viewed as subordinate to mainstream conservatism, but it is wholly ignored when black conservatives do not engage in the performative anti-black rhetoric many mainstream conservatives enjoy. As long as mainstream conservatives continue to be titillated by anti-black rhetoric coming from the lips of black people, there can never be a harmonious relationship between black conservatism and mainstream conservatism in America. As I have posited in previous essays, there are solution-oriented and fame-oriented black conservatives. Fame-oriented black conservatives are the cartoonish characters promoted in mainstream conservatism.

Being an outrageously anti-black "black conservative" like Sheriff Clarke gets one money from mainstream conservative organizations and pathetically obsequious profiles in mainstream conservative publications. Being a "black conservative" writer like Jason Riley, who incessantly pens anti-black pabulum for white conservative audiences, means one gets rewarded with comfortable writing gigs. Mainstream conservatism incentivizes black conservatives to become anti-black cartoons; it does not incentivize thoughtful black conservative thought. It takes a strong person to resist the blandishments of mainstream conservatism and speak the truth irrespective of whose ox is gored. There are few people with such courage.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


The religious right ousts Steve King (Timothy P. Carney,| June 03, 2020, Washington Examiner)

Sioux County rejected Trump in the 2016 caucuses and King the first time he faced a real primary for the same reason. It isn't because Sioux County Republicans are moderate. It's because Sioux County is so conservative in the way the word was used before Trump changed its meaning.

To give you an idea, back in 2012, Sioux County and neighboring Lyon County were Rick Santorum's best counties as he edged out Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses. Santorum pulled in 49% across those two counties, two of just three counties where he was above 40%. Back in 2008, Mike Huckabee also dominated in Sioux, Lyon, and O'Brien counties, posting about 50% there compared to 35% statewide.

According to the Association of Religious Data Archives, Sioux County has the highest portion of evangelicals in the state, and its rate of mainline Protestants is even higher.

Look at any data that measures the strength of family, faith, and work, and Sioux County tops the list of Iowa counties. Neighboring Lyon and O'Brien are very similar, and they also voted overwhelmingly for Feenstra and against King.

Sioux and Lyon counties are also the two counties with the highest portion of residents with Dutch ancestry. That's not a coincidence: What makes these communities so strong are the Dutch reformed churches and affiliated institutions.

Feenstra is Dutch. He represents Sioux County in the legislature, and so it's not surprising he was strongest here. But that the challenge to King emerged from this Dutch, churchgoing, family friendly corner of the state tells you something about the different types of politics that get called "far-right" or "archconservative."

King was no squish on abortion. He had a pro-life record and was mostly conservative on economic issues with some farm-area and Trumpian exceptions. But he was most widely known for his strident anti-immigration views, and he eventually got tossed overboard for his proximity to racist groups and racist ideas.

If strident on immigration and racially caustic sounds familiar, it's because King was a Trumpian conservative probably even before Trump. But some of you may be old enough to remember when that wasn't the only type of conservative.

The Dutch Reformed churches tend to be very conservative on marriage and abortion, and, in a Christian way, very welcoming to refugees. Love of neighbor is a higher good than nationalism -- or than owning the libs. All of these make Trump and King's style and priorities out of whack with the Christian conservative voters of northwest Iowa.

June 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Who's Behind the Violence at George Floyd Protests in US? (Jamie Dettmer, June 04, 2020, Voice of America)

Meanwhile, members of the so-called "Boogaloo" movement -- an amorphous collective with far-right and far-left elements -- were seen at protests in some states, wearing their signature Hawaiian shirts, including in Minnesota, Texas and Pennsylvania. Some "Boogaloo" adherents are part of a broader movement of white supremacists called "accelerationists," who welcome civil disorder and want to foment violent political polarization, hoping it will end up toppling America's current political order.

Researchers at the Counter Extremism Project, an international policy organization formed to monitor and combat extremist groups, say white supremacists and neo-Nazis have been celebrating the past week of mayhem on the streets. On the Telegram channel of one violent neo-Nazi group, 5,500 followers reportedly were advised that a large protest would provide the perfect opportunity to commit a murder. Another Telegram channel said the time was right to attack synagogues with law enforcement being distracted by the civil unrest, according to CEP.

But it is unclear to what extent radical groups of left or right have been able to orchestrate violence.

New York's deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, John Miller, believes anarchist and radical left groups have been stoking the fury in his city. "Before the protests began," he told reporters, "organizers of certain anarchist groups set out to raise bail money and people who would be responsible to be raising bail money, they set out to recruit medics and medical teams with gear to deploy in anticipation of violent interactions with police."

He added: "They prepared to commit property damage and directed people who were following them that this should be done selectively and only in wealthier areas or at high-end stores run by corporate entities." One in seven of those arrested in New York for public order offenses has been from outside the city, which officials say is suspicious.

Law enforcement officials in several other states and cities contacted by VOA say they believe out-of-state actors seeded themselves within the overwhelmingly non-violent local community protesters. But they acknowledge they're still trying to assess how much those agitators have been able to steer the course of events on the streets. Some officials say it doesn't take much to spark conflagration and prod agitated, passionate crowds, setting up a reciprocal cycle of violence.

Analysts and researchers who follow radical groups say they have little doubt extremists were involved in the much bigger stew of unrest, anger and protest. "It will take time to unravel what extremist networks may or may not have been involved," Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice at California State University-San Bernardino and director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, told VOA.

"Some people being arrested appear to be affiliated to the hard left, but others seem to be from the far right. Some of these folks might just be thrill-seeking manipulators or are felonious opportunists and not just ideologues, others are idiosyncratic wildcards," he added. Distinguishing between them all can be difficult.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


Our duty to Hong Kong: the case for granting full British citizenship: The time has come to right an historic wrong (Fraser Nelson,  6 June 2020, Spectator)

 In 2014 pro-democracy protestors used umbrellas to defend themselves against the tear gas of the police: the protests failed, and umbrellas became a symbol of the movement. Beijing has meanwhile been sending over increasingly authoritarian legislation for Hong Kong authorities to approve. The extradition law brought 12,000 on to the streets in March. Last month, it proposed to make booing during the Chinese national anthem (a ruse beloved of Hong Kong football fans) punishable by five years' imprisonment. This bodes ill for the future, as does the growing military build-up in nearby Shen-zhen.

It's absurd now to think that Tories quivered at the idea of granting free movement to three million in Hong Kong, given that hundreds of millions of EU citizens had the same right. Britain has since proven itself to be the world's most successful melting pot, integrating five million migrants over the past decade, with none of the far-right political backlash seen on the Continent. It's hard to argue that there would be any problem in settling the Hong Kong Chinese, the best-educated and most highly skilled and productive immigrants any country could ask for. A 2016 study found that one in five Hong Kong adults planned to launch a business within the next three years.

The Brexit debate exposed several misunderstandings about concern over immigration. It's not that people feel Britain is 'full', a claim made even in 1984, when our islands accommodated ten million fewer people than they do now. The concern is about the ability to control immigration. Brexit has brought that control and, as a result, concern about immigration has plunged. Polls show Britain to be one of the most welcoming nations in the world.

At a time when countries compete for high-skilled people, Britain's moral duty and economic self-interest have become aligned.

Of course, open immigration is always both a moral duty and an economic opportunity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the Pandemic May Change Business for the Better, According to New Research (MARCEL SCHWANTES, 6/04/20, Inc.)

More so than any other factor, nearly half (47%) of CEOs said the crisis will fundamentally alter their organization's approach to remote work in the long term. But we've long been heading in that direction.

In fact, an earlier West Monroe poll found that 91% of employees agree they are just as productive working from home as they are in the office. Clearly, remote work has reached a tipping point, with the pandemic providing the final push needed to fully embrace this new way of working.

When asked how the current market crisis will create a lasting impact in the U.S. economy at large, one-third of CEOs agreed that a top factor will be increased agility and speed of work, such as more rapid decision-making and prioritization.

Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed everyone's lives both personally and professionally, but it has also forced companies and executives to work with more focus and dedication than ever.

This pandemic is creating a situation of forced adaptation. For companies across industries, digital transformation is no longer something to plan for: it's now a daily mandate. Business leaders cannot afford to be complacent. Instead, they must rise to the unique challenge of this moment with an intentional evolution.

The pandemic can change business for the better -- if we embrace the agility it's creating.

The one downside of how effectively W, Ben and the UR dealt with the credit crunch was it made the Recession so shallow and brief that it did not force much significant change.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White House tweets rumor that an LA Chabad house is fueling antifa (PHILISSA CRAMER and BEN SALES, 6/03/20, JTA)

A Los Angeles synagogue found itself having to deny misinformation about the George Floyd protests after a rumor spread -- and was briefly amplified by the White House -- that its security barriers were actually tools for looters.

Chabad of Sherman Oaks installed vertical barriers filled with rocks last year in a move aimed at increasing security. The barriers, called bollards, are meant to stop people from ramming vehicles into people and buildings.

But when unrest moved through Los Angeles this week, so did rumors that the rocks were actually planted to provide supplies for looters. Even after the synagogue dismantled the barriers and rebutted the rumors, the White House amplified the misinformation in a video that it tweeted and deleted Wednesday afternoon.

To be a Nativist/Nationalist requires both anti-Semitism--because Jews--and pro-Zionism--because Palestinians.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hydroxychloroquine drug fails to prevent coronavirus in a rigorous study (Associated Press, 6/02/20)

A malaria drug President Donald Trump took to try to prevent COVID-19 proved ineffective for that in the first large, high-quality study to test it in people in close contact with someone with the disease.

Results published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine show that hydroxychloroquine was no better than placebo pills at preventing illness from the coronavirus. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


To understand Zionism, we must see it as both a liberation and colonial project
The debate on antisemitism often ignores Zionism's settler colonial features and exceptionalizes Israel. Challenging that discourse is not antisemitic. (Alon Confino and Amos Goldberg, June 3, 2020, +972)

It was not uncommon for Jews to recognize as early as the 1920s and 1930s that Arab resistance to the Zionist movement, and later Israel, did not derive from antisemitism but rather from their opposition to the colonization of Palestine. For example, the Zionist leader and founder of the Revisionist movement, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, recognized Zionism's colonial features and offered an honest explanation of the Palestinians' motivations for rejecting it.

"My readers have a general idea of the history of colonization in other countries," Jabotinsky wrote in his 1923 essay "The Iron Wall." "I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonization being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent. The native populations [...] have always stubbornly resisted the colonists."

Haim Kaplan, a devoted Zionist from Warsaw, wrote in his diary in the same spirit in 1936. Reflecting on the Great Arab Revolt in Palestine, where his two children lived at the time, Kaplan observed that the talk of a renewed Arab antisemitism was little more than Zionist propaganda. From their perspective, the Arabs were right: Zionism dispelled them from their land, and the movement's adherents should be regarded as the side that waged war on the local population.

Despite these assessments, figures like Jabotinsky and Kaplan still had their reasons for justifying Zionism. In many countries today, including Israel, their critical observations of the movement would have been denounced as antisemitic. But they were right.

Robust scholarship has shown that Zionism has featured settler colonial elements. Zionists sought to build an overseas community, bounded by ties of identity and a shared past, in a land they viewed as empty or inhabited by natives that they regarded as less civilized than themselves. They wanted not so much to govern or exploit the natives, but to replace them as a political community. A key question that many historians are debating is how dominant settler colonialism has been compared to Zionism's other characteristics.

Approaching Zionism as one settler colonial movement among others does not necessarily negate the pursuit of justice embedded in Zionism, in which the Jews deserve a homeland of their own in the modern world. It also does not necessarily deny Israel's "right to exist," just as the recognition of the United States, Canada, and Australia as settler colonial states does not negate their right to exist.

It does, however, make Zionism's duality clear: it is both a national liberation movement designed to provide a sovereign haven for Jews fleeing antisemitism, and where Holocaust survivors could rebuild their lives; and it is a settler colonial project that has created a hierarchical relationship between Jews and Palestinians based on segregation and discrimination.

The duality is why Israel is diverging from the West.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Police Union Bosses to Biden: You're Pissing Us Off (Scott Bixby, Jun. 04, 2020, Daily Beast)

As protesters around the country demand large-scale criminal justice reform in response to the high-profile deaths of black people killed by law enforcement in recent years, Joe Biden's public embrace of their platform has aggravated some of the most vocal and politically powerful organized labor organizations in the country: police unions.

Loyal supporters since Biden shepherded landmark crime legislation through Congress in the 1990s, police unions and their rank-and-file members are feeling increasingly alienated by the former vice president as the political winds have shifted--and as calls for permanent criminal justice reform have become Democratic orthodoxy.

Welcome Democrats, to union-busting.

Press pass offering little defense for journalists caught in the U.S. fray (Associated Press, 6/03/20)

Press passes and television cameras, once-powerful symbols of neutrality that helped protect journalists working in combat zones, are providing little defense for reporters and crews covering the escalating urban conflict in the United States.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an online project sponsored in part by the U.S. Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, had documented more than 180 separate incidents since protests erupted late last week in Minneapolis before rapidly spreading to urban centers large and small across the country.

"It's one thing for reporters to get sort of caught in the crossfire, which happens to reporters in hot zones all the time," said Roy Gutterman, a journalism professor and director of the Tully Center for Free Speech at New York's Syracuse University.

On Monday night in Syracuse, a veteran photographer reported being shoved to the ground by an officer who went out of his way to confront him even though he was nowhere near the formation, Gutterman said.

June 3, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


Both the radical Left and Right are 'left-behinds' (MARY HARRINGTON, 6/03/20, UnHerd)

This is supported by a 2017 European Union Politics paper that studied support for radical-right and radical-left parties. While 'alt' and 'radical' versions of left and right may not be quite the same, the paper's conclusions are suggestive. It showed that in bare economic terms, radical-left and radical-right supporters don't differ a great deal but where they do -- significantly -- is on education. That is, both are heavily drawn from economically precarious groups, but for radical leftists these economic grievances are overlaid with cosmopolitan values inculcated via higher education.

Both radical left and right are, the authors suggest, "different segments of the same pool of losers of globalization". 

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Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


Prosecutors: 3 men plotted to terrorize Vegas protests (MICHELLE L. PRICE and SCOTT SONNER, 6/03/20, AP)

The three men were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest in downtown Las Vegas after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by The Associated Press.

"People have a right to peacefully protest. These men are agitators and instigators. Their point was to hijack the protests into violence," Nicholas Trutanich, U.S. attorney in Nevada, told AP. He referred to what he called "real and legitimate outrage" over Floyd's death.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas on Wednesday said they self-identified as part of the "boogaloo" movement, which U.S. prosecutors said in the document is "a term used by extremists to signify coming civil war and/or fall of civilization."

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Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


James Mattis Denounces President Trump, Describes Him as a Threat to the Constitution (JEFFREY GOLDBERG, 6/03/20, The Atlantic)

"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people--does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us," Mattis writes. "We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society. This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children."

He goes on to contrast the American ethos of unity with Nazi ideology. "Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that 'The Nazi slogan for destroying us ... was "Divide and Conquer." Our American answer is "In Union there is Strength."' We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis--confident that we are better than our politics."

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Three Other Minneapolis Officers to Be Charged in Police Killing of George Floyd (Pilar Melendez, Jun. 03, 2020, Daily Beast)

The three other Minneapolis cops involved in the police killing of George Floyd--an unarmed black man who was filmed repeatedly saying he couldn't breathe while an officer held his knee on his neck for several minutes--are being charged in his death.

The Star Tribune reports that the three officers --Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J. Alexander Kueng--will be charged by Attorney General Keith Ellison with aiding and abetting murder. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also announced on Twitter that Ellison is upgrading charges against Derek Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd neck for almost nine minutes, to second-degree murder. Chauvin was charged last week with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

George Soros and Antifa win.

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


Solar hydrogen production: Splitting water with UV is now at almost 100% quantum efficiency (Shinshu University, 6/03/20)

Scientists have successfully split water into hydrogen and oxygen using light and meticulously designed catalysts, and they did so at the maximum efficiency meaning there was almost no loss and undesired side reactions. This latest breakthrough in solar hydrogen production makes the likelihood of scalable, economically viable hydrogen production more than likely, paving the way for humanity to make the switch to clean energy.

Gas consumption taxes can't be high enough.
Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


There are now 500,000 negative tweets about George Soros every day. . (BEN SALES, JUNE 3, 2020, JTA)

Right-wing conspiracy theorists are increasingly claiming that George Soros is funding recent protests and riots across the United States in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, "aggressive language towards Soros has exploded on social media" this week. Negative tweets about the billionaire Jewish philanthropist rose from 20,000 per day on May 26 to 500,000 per day on May 30.

The posts, according to the ADL, mostly allege (without evidence) that Soros is funding riots across the country, and that he is backing Antifa, a loose network of anti-fascist activists whom President Donald Trump has blamed for the violence, also without citing evidence.

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


Trump says 'common sense' for Russia to rejoin G7 (AFP, 6/03/20)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said it is "common sense" to bring Russia back into the G7, despite Moscow's expulsion from the club after invading part of Ukraine.

Speaking to Fox News radio, Trump said that the G7 countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- need Russian President Vladimir Putin back in a G8 format, regardless of his behavior.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden's Empathy Offensive (CHARLOTTE ALTER, JUNE 2, 2020, TIME)

In his latest audition to be America's Healer-in-Chief, Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech on Tuesday about the fight against systemic racism, which he said was fundamental to a "battle for the soul of the nation" this election year. "The country is crying out for leadership," Biden said, speaking at a podium at Philadelphia City Hall, flanked by American flags. "Leadership that can unite us, leadership that brings us together, leadership that can recognize the pain and deep grief of communities that have had a knee on their neck for a long time."

The speech was the latest in Biden's empathy offensive--a series of remarks and public appearances that talk about the pain at the heart of the nationwide protests, while calling for unity to confront systemic racism. Biden's strategy is to make his presidential campaign a contrast between character and empathy on his part and antagonism and bluster on Trump's. 

Any deviation from the message that Donald is Donald and Joe isn't is a mistake.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden's Speech About the Protests Is a Vision of Post-Trump America (WILLIAM SALETAN, JUNE 02, 2020, Slate)

For all his flaws, Biden fits the moment in this respect: He has always aimed for an expansive coalition. On Tuesday, he targeted Trump's most universally repellant offenses: "sweeping away all the guard rails that have long protected our democracy," "using tear gas and flash grenades" to clear out protesters for a photo op, "using the American military to move against the American people," and attacking "the right of the people peaceably to assemble." Biden reminded Trump that protest is part of liberty and democracy. "Mr. President," he said, "That is America."

In opposition to Trump's incendiary rhetoric, Biden argued not for the other side of a divided nation, but against division itself. "He thinks division helps him," said Biden. He lamented that Trump, who has promised to end wars abroad, "has turned our country into a battlefield." Biden emphasized the first word in our country's name--united--and appealed to moral principles shared by many faiths. "The President held up a Bible at St. John's church yesterday," said Biden. "If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something: that we are all called to love one another as we love ourselves."

Biden didn't sugarcoat the injustices some Americans have inflicted on others. He acknowledged "the racial wounds that have long plagued this country," "generation after generation of hurt inflicted on people of color." "American history isn't a fairy tale," he said. It's "a tug of war between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart." He called for legislation to ban chokeholds, tighten oversight of police, and create a model standard for the use of force.

But Biden, like President Barack Obama, implored his audience to understand these injustices as part of a story of progress. Out of our nation's worst sins and crises, he noted, came many of its greatest reforms: the post-Civil War constitutional amendments, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act. America has always required "protests from voices of those mistreated, ignored, left out and left behind," he conceded. "But it's a union worth fighting for."

Trump stands against that tradition of progress.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Prime Minister Boris Johnson says U.K. will offer Hong Kong residents refuge from Beijing (EAMON BARRETT, June 3, 2020, Fortune)

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson published an op-ed in Hong Kong's largest English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, that directly warned Beijing against imposing a national security law on Hong Kong by threatening a major reform to the visa rights of some Hong Kong residents.

"If China imposes its national security law [on Hong Kong], the British government will change our immigration rules and allow any holder of [British National Overseas] passports from Hong Kong to come to the U.K. for a renewable period of 12 months and be given further immigration rights, including the right to work, which could place them on a route to citizenship," Johnson wrote, claiming the move would be "one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Confederate Symbols Torn Down in US South (VOA News, June 02, 2020)

A Confederate soldiers' monument that stood in Birmingham, Alabama, for more than 100 years is no more. [...]

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has sued the city, accusing it of violating a state law ordering protecting Confederate memorials that are at least 40 years old.

The Washington Post reported that a statue honoring Confederate troops in Alexandria, Virginia -- a Washington suburb -- was taken also taken down Tuesday.

Demonstrators in Nashville took matters in their own hands and tore down the statue of Edward Carmack, a former state lawmaker and newspaper publisher who espoused racist views, who was gunned down in the streets of Nashville in 1908, according to the Tennessean newspaper.

And outside Tampa, Florida, a Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter voluntarily lowered a huge Confederate battle flag that flew within sight of two major highways for years.

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Donald Trump has the highest disapproval rating of any president at this point in office (MARLENE LENTHANG, 6/03/20 DAILYMAIL.COM)

President Donald Trump has the highest disapproval rating of any president at this point in office, according to a new poll. 

Opinion poll analysis website FiveThirtyEight shared startling numbers showing that Trump's disapproval rate is at 54 percent, the highest it's been since October 2019.

'Trump's disapproval rating has been on the rise again, now up to 54 percent. There were some presidents with lower approval ratings to this point in their first terms, but no president had a higher *disapproval* rating than Trump now has,' site creator Nate Silver tweeted Tuesday. 

The only president who came close to this high disapproval rating was Jimmy Carter at 52 percent at day 1,230 of his presidency. 

Iowa Republicans oust Rep. Steve King, shunned for incendiary remarks (THOMAS BEAUMONT, 6/03/20, Times of Israel)

King was stripped of his committee assignments in 2018 for comments appearing to question the criticism of white nationalism in an era of increased sensitivity among Republicans nationally about the alt-right and white supremacists. He wondered aloud in a New York Times story about when the term "white supremacist" became offensive. King said the remarks were taken out of context.

The 71-year-old had piled up provocative statements throughout the years, comparing immigrants to livestock and appeared to make light of rape and incest in defending his anti-abortion views.

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An Evil Tragedy: Why the Iran-Iraq War Was So Terrible (Warfare History Network, 6/02/20)

The Iran-Iraq rivalry was profoundly altered by the Islamic Revolution that toppled the Shah in February of 1979, ending 2,500 years of monarchy. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's sudden rise to power created a regime in Iran that was far more of a threat to Iraq than the Shah had ever been. The revolution cut Iran off from the United States and the West. The 444-day U.S. Embassy hostage crisis began on November 4, 1979, and a brutal power struggle broke out between religious revolutionaries under Khomeini and radical Marxist movements that had initially supported the revolution. The internal disarray made Khomeini seem far more vulnerable than he really was, and led Saddam Hussein to believe that the time was ripe to transform Iraq into the dominant power in the Gulf.

On September 17, 1980, Hussein abrogated the 1975 Algiers Accord and declared the Shatt al-Arab "totally Iraqi and totally Arab." Heavy fighting broke out along the waterway, and Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr decreed a general mobilization. Convinced that his antagonist had been severely weakened by the purges of its regular forces and was preoccupied with suppressing grave internal threats, Hussein launched an invasion two days later. Six Iraqi army divisions advanced into Iran on three fronts along a 435-mile-broad arc in an initially successful surprise attack. In the north, an Iraqi mechanized division overran the border garrison at Qasr e-Shirin in Bakhtaran Province and pushed on, advancing 25 miles eastward to the base of the Zagros Mountains. Iraq's forces spent several days reaching the villages along the main route to Tehran; many villages were destroyed and their inhabitants expelled. On the central front, Iraqi forces captured Mehran, on the western edge of the Zagros chain in Ilam Province, an important position on the major north-south highway close to the border.

The main thrust came in the south, where five armored and mechanized divisions invaded Khuzestan Province on two axes. One easily crossed the lightly defended Shatt al-Arab near Basra, the second headed for Susangerd and the provincial capital of Ahwaz. Supported by heavy artillery barrages, the Iraqis made rapid and significant advances--almost 50 miles in the first few days. The Iraqis made heavy use of artillery and anti-tank guided missiles to break up strongpoints and met with little more than minor resistance from a mix of Revolutionary Guard and gendarmerie infantry forces.

Iraqi units entered Susangerd on September 28; finding it undefended, they pushed on toward Dezful and Ahwaz, crossed the Karun River, and approached the outskirts of Ahwaz and Korramshahr. Iraqi units now threatened all the major cities in southwestern Iran.

Emulating Israeli tactics used in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Hussein sent formations of MiG-21s in a preemptive strike against Iran's air bases at Mehrabad, Ahwaz, Dezful, and Abadan, but failed to destroy Iran's air force on the ground. Iranian jets were housed in hardened shelters and survived intact; Iraqi bombs designed to crater runways could not destroy Iran's spread-out airfields. Within hours, Iranian F-4 Phantoms took off from the airfields, attacking strategic targets near major Iraqi cities. Although Iran's 100 sorties were not especially effective, they shot down two aircraft and surprised the Iraqis; the Iranians also used helicopters to fly transport and attack missions. The Iraqi air force, with at least a 3-to-1 numerical advantage, virtually abandoned the skies to preserve its planes.

Iran was in the early stages of transforming its Revolutionary Guard Corps into a serious alternative to the regular army, which meant that much of the initial defense of Iran's central and southern borders fell to a mix of paramilitary forces, a few scattered regular army brigades, and between 12,000 and 30,000 Revolutionary Guards. The military experience of the Guards consisted largely of training as conscripts in the Shah's army or low-level fighting against the Kurds or other internal opponents. Meanwhile, the Iranian navy quickly established its mastery of the waters of the Gulf, sinking four enemy vessels and shelling Umm Qasr, the Iraqi oil port on the Faw Peninsula. Within a week, the Shatt waterway was closed for the duration of the war.

Iranian resistance at the outset of the invasion was unexpectedly fierce, if not particularly well organized. Iraqi forces easily advanced in the northern and central sectors and crushed scattered resistance there, but in Khuzestan the attackers encountered unyielding opposition. Iran had rapidly mobilized fiercely loyal Revolutionary Guard units, as well as tens of thousands of untrained and ill-armed popular volunteers called basij. By the end of November, a mixed force of 200,000 troops had been dispatched to the front. [...]

Once the fighting stopped, Saddam Hussein committed one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century by a government against its own people. The day after the cease-fire went into effect, Iraqi warplanes began strafing Kurdish villages in the north, dropping poison gas and rocketing fleeing citizens. Some 5,000 inhabitants perished and another 100,000 refugees headed for the borders of Iran and Turkey. The end of the war for Iraqi citizens meant that they would continue to be strictly monitored, arrested, tortured, imprisoned, or killed by Hussein's brutal regime. [...]

The war had ended, but the rebuilding had yet to begin. Along the Iran-Iraq border, whole villages had disappeared, destroyed either by invading Iraqi troops or by Iranian troops pounding them to rubble in an attempt to liberate them. The true human and economic cost of eight years of unrestrained brutality is impossible to measure. The numbers of people, civilian and military, who were killed, maimed, or sickened by chemical agents can only be estimated. Possibly as many as 1 million people were slain and 1.5 million wounded; another 2 million became refugees.

Neither country came anywhere near achieving even the most modest of its war aims. The borders were unchanged; both armies ended the war in essentially the same position they were in at the outbreak of hostilities. Together, the opponents had squandered some $350 billion on a senseless war of attrition engineered by two venal and intransigent autocrats. A generation of long-suffering Iranians and Iraqis deserved far better.

June 2, 2020

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The Chinese Dream Imperiled (Andrew Meyer, 6/02/20, History News Network).

The imposition of new "security" laws on the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong by China's National People's Congress is undoubtedly a watershed event in the history of East Asia and of global affairs more generally. Hong Kong has been a key driver of the "economic miracle" that has transformed the People's Republic of China since that nation first moved to liberalize its economy in 1979. Even while Hong Kong remained a British colony, it was an important gateway through which hard currency and foreign investment flowed into mainland Chinese markets. After the repatriation of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the role of the city and its economy became even more integral to the maintenance of economic growth nationwide.

All of that is now at risk. [...]

Hong Kong has been both an asset and a liability to Beijing since 1997. Its benefits as an asset were mentioned above: Hong Kong was, and remains, one of the wealthiest cities in China, and as a financial center has fostered growth that has broadcast prosperity throughout the PRC. But at the same time, Hong Kong's autonomy has posed dangerous challenges to the delicate matrix of Chinese political culture. Hong Kong Chinese are free to engage in speech that would result in imprisonment (or worse) if undertaken in Wuhan or Beijing. The annual candlelight vigils that are held every June 4 to commemorate the massacre that brought the Tiananmen Square protest movement to an end are only the most ostentatious flouting of Beijing's official line. More subtly subversive messages are carried by Hong Kong media constantly, and as the economy of China has liberalized, it has become increasingly difficult for Beijing to prevent PRC citizens from being exposed to them. 

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FBI Finds 'No Intel Indicating Antifa Involvement' in Sunday's Violence: Trump wants to designate Antifa a terrorist organization despite lack of authority and zero evidence of wrongdoing. (Ken Klippenstein, 6/02/20, The Nation)

The FBI's Washington Field Office "has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence" in the violence that occurred on May 31, according to an internal FBI situation report obtained exclusively by The Nation. That same day, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would designate Antifa a terrorist organization, even though the government has no existing authority to declare a domestic group a terrorist organization. Following the president's tweet, Attorney General William Barr said in a statement, "The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly." 

The FBI report, however, states, "based on CHS [Confidential Human Source] canvassing, open source/social media partner engagement, and liaison, FBI WFO has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence." The statement followed a list of violent acts like bricks being thrown at police and a backpack containing explosive materials, which were flagged by the FBI under a "Key Updates" section of the report. The FBI has been issuing such reports daily since the weekend, according to an FBI source, who added that none of these documents contained any evidence of Antifa violence.

The report did warn that individuals from a far-right social media group had "called for far-right provocateurs to attack federal agents, use automatic weapons against protesters." (The Nation is withholding the name of the group in order to not disrupt any potential law enforcement investigations.)

Last year, FBI documents obtained by this reporter showed that the Bureau has listed "racially-motivated extremist groups" among its top counterterrorism priorities. While those priorities did include white supremacist groups, they also included what the FBI called "Black Identity Extremists." The documents reveal that the Bureau linked "retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement" to the "shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri," from which the Black Lives Matter movement originated.

The report, marked "For Official Use Only," was provided to The Nation by an FBI official on the condition of anonymity.

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Exclusive: Most Americans sympathize with protests, disapprove of Trump's response - Reuters/Ipsos (Grant Smith, Joseph Ax, Chris Kahn, 6/02/20, Reuters) 

Even in rural and suburban areas largely unaffected by the demonstrations, most people expressed support. A little more than half of rural residents said they were sympathetic to the protesters, while seven out of 10 suburbanites agreed.

Forty-seven percent of registered voters said they planned to support Biden in the Nov. 3 election, compared with 37% favoring Trump. Biden vowed not to "fan the flames of hate" in a speech on Tuesday about the unrest.

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The Story of the Really Weird Night Richard Nixon Hung Out With Hippies at the Lincoln Memorial (HOWARD MEANS, MAY 17, 2016, The Washingtonian)

Nixon, it turned out, couldn't sleep Friday night--and couldn't stop talking, either. Between the end of his 10 pm press conference and 3:30 the next morning, the White House logged 50 phone calls from the President, eight to national-security adviser Henry Kissinger alone. Shortly after the last call, Nixon roused his valet, Manolo Sanchez, to ask if he wanted some hot chocolate. Sanchez declined, but Nixon wasn't discouraged. Had Sanchez ever seen the Lincoln Memorial, the President persisted. The valet apparently had not, and with that, the Night of the Weird began.

"I said, 'Get your clothes on, and we will go down to the Lincoln Memorial,'" Nixon said in a version of events he dictated for the record several days later. "Well, I got dressed, and at approximately 4:35, we left the White House and drove to the Lincoln Memorial. I have never seen the Secret Service quite so petrified with apprehension."

With cause. Protesters had already gathered at the memorial in advance of Saturday's demonstration against the war, against the Kent State dead, against, most personally and viscerally, Richard Nixon himself. But a man on a manic high, as the President almost certainly was, and the commander in chief of the world's largest army and his own Secret Service, as he constitutionally was, is not easily dissuaded.

A famous photograph captures the next scene: Nixon in suit and tie, the ski-nose profile tilted slightly forward, a handful of sleepy-eyed demonstrators listening in shock and dull amazement, maybe wondering what drug could have produced such an apparition, as the President reprised his press-conference triumph for an early-morning audience who, stranded on the Mall, hadn't watched a moment of it.

"I said I was sorry they had missed it because I had tried to explain in the press conference that my goals in Vietnam were the same as theirs--to stop the killing, to end the war, to bring peace...There seemed to be no--they did not respond. I hoped that their hatred of the war, which I could well understand, would not turn into a bitter hatred of our whole system, our country, and everything that it stood for. I said, 'I know you, that probably most of you think I'm an SOB. But I want you to know that I understand just how you feel.' "

That's the President's official account. The protesters would tell an alternate version to the press who descended on them that morning. Nixon mentioned Vietnam, but when that drew a tepid response, he moved to other topics. What college were they attending? One student was at Syracuse University, a chance for the commander in chief to talk about football. Another was from California--on to surfing.

Both accounts are in keeping with a President obsessed with war matters, battered by Kent State, challenged by small talk (aides commonly fed him three-by-five cards for such moments), and physically brave, but as the sun began to rise and word of the night visitor spread, even Richard Nixon had to acknowledge that it was time to leave.

Haldeman caught up with the presidential party at about 6:15, but not back at the White House. Manolo Sanchez had never seen the famous "well" of the House of Representatives, either. Having roused security there, the President was sitting at one of the House desks as his valet took to the same podium used for State of the Union addresses.

From there, and now also with press secretary Ron Ziegler in tow, the presidential entourage proceeded to the Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Avenue for breakfast. Back at the White House finally and still unable to sleep, Nixon wandered over to the Old Executive Office Building to greet the soldiers who were just waking up in their sleeping bags on the fourth floor. 

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Bill de Blasio Has Failed: Like the president, New York City's mayor has shrunk from sight amidst anti-police protests. (Alex Shephard, June 2, 2020, TNR)

Asked about video showing two police cars plowing through a crowd in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio was unambiguous: It was actually the protesters' fault. Although he described the video as "upsetting," de Blasio said it was "inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers." The officers, he continued, had no choice but to "get out" of an "impossible" predicament. "If the protestors had just gotten out of the way we wouldn't be talking about this situation," he said.

It was de Blasio at his most obtuse, no small accomplishment given his seven bumbling years as mayor. He had surely seen video that proved that his description of events was inaccurate--the police were not surrounded, they chose to drive through a crowd. Later, he praised police officers for displaying "restraint" over the weekend. The NYPD's Sergeants Benevolent Association, possibly the nastiest police union in the country, repaid his kindness by doxxing his daughter Chiara, who was arrested while protesting in Manhattan on Sunday evening. The Sergeants Benevolent Society tweeted out an internal arrest report, which contained her drivers license and address, something the NYPD does not usually do.

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Optics Over Substance (HANNAH YOEST  JUNE 2, 2020, The Bulwark)

Before the president came out to speak, peaceful protesters gathered on the north side of Lafayette Square--where the buildings were still covered in graffiti from the night before, when police beat back protesters with tear gas, flash bangs, and pepper balls. Waiting for the president's address, the protesters chanted "Hands up don't shoot," "Take a knee," and "Lock them up." At 6 p.m.--an hour before the curfew of 7 p.m., newly instituted that day by Mayor Muriel Bowser--the D.C. National Guard joined police in riot gear on the other side of barriers erected along the Square.

It had been announced that the president would speak at 6:15, but the Rose Garden podium remained empty. At about 6:35, the police began to fire tear gas and flash bangs against the crowd to clear the roads in front of Lafayette Square. Police then charged the protesters, violently beating them back.

All this happened within earshot of the reporters still waiting in the Rose Garden, who looked around as they heard the commotion. It is under these conditions that the president finally walked out to deliver a speech in which he declared himself "an ally of all peaceful protesters" before then threatening to deploy the U.S. military if governors fail to end the riots:

First, we are ending the riots and lawlessness that has spread throughout our country. We will end it now. Today, I have strongly recommended to every governor to deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets. Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled.

If a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.

The networks broadcast these ominous remarks on a split screen: On one side, the president in the Rose Garden; on the other, peaceful protesters running away from police. Loud bangs and sirens were audible.

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52 per cent of Americans say Donald Trump is a RACIST (NIKKI SCHWAB, 6/01/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll found 52 per cent of U.S. adults believe the president is a racist, while another 37 per cent of those polled said he was not.

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Four Extremist Groups Suspected of Involvement in Protest Violence (Masood Farivar, June 01, 2020, Voice of America)

White supremacists   [...]

[A] growing number of individuals inspired by far-right ideology have carried out deadly shootings in recent years. The violent elements of the far right are known as "accelerationists" because they seek to accelerate a race war. FBI Director Christopher Wray has said that most of the FBI's domestic terrorism investigations involve white supremacist groups. [...]

Boogaloo Boys  

A relatively new incarnation of the anti-government militia movement, the Boogaloo Boys are an online community of pro-gun activists who advocate for a second boogaloo, their term of choice for civil war. The movement took off last summer when white supremacists appropriated the term for a cause of their own: a race war as opposed to a civil war, according to Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University. Mostly, though not exclusively, white, Boogaloos have been promoting themselves as libertarians fighting tyranny, according to Squire.  

Antifa   [...]

Organizing on social media, antifa followers show up at right-wing rallies dressed in black and wearing masks and often engage in violent confrontations.      

Antifa sympathizers were among counter-protesters at the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent.      [...]

Anarchists   [...]

"For the most part, the anarchists we see here in the United States tend to be more disenchanted with the progressive left," said Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice at California State University.   

But anarchists thrive on the right as well. The Bay Area National Anarchists, for example, "envision a future race war leading to neo-tribal, whites-only enclaves to be called "National Autonomous Zones," according to SPLC.  

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Twitter suspends fake antifa account tied to white nationalists (Ina Fried, 6/02/20, Axios)

Twitter said Monday that it has suspended an account named "ANTIFA_US" which it says was tied to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa. Over the weekend, the account had called for violence and its posts had widely circulated online.

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St. John's clergy: Trump used church as prop, Bible as symbol of division (Ursula Perano, 6/01/20, Axios)

Rector Gini Gerbasi said she was helping the Black Lives Matter organizers, fellow clergy and others hand out water during the peaceful protest when the tear gas and rubber bullets were fired. "That man turned it into a BATTLE GROUND first, and a cheap political stunt second," she said of Trump.

"We were literally DRIVEN OFF of the St. John's, Lafayette Square patio with tear gas and concussion grenades and police in full riot gear," Gerbasi said. "We were pushed back 20 feet." She said she was OK but "shaken" by the ordeal.

What else they're saying: Mariann Budde, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, D.C., told the Washington Post on Monday she was "not given even a courtesy call, that they would be clearing [the area] with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop."

Trump held a bible in his hand while standing outside the church for only a few minutes. Budde tweeted later that the president "used a Bible and a church of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for."

June 1, 2020

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Trump's praise for China over Tiananmen Square years ago was a preview of his support for military crackdowns on the George Floyd protests (John Haltiwanger, 6/01/20, Business Insider)

Thirty years ago, Donald Trump said that China had shown the "power of strength" when its troops massacred pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square the year before. Trump's words foreshadowed his general disposition toward protesters as president, and offered a preview of his support for military crackdowns on anti-police brutality demonstrations in the present day. 

It was March 1990, and Trump was being interviewed by Playboy magazine about his life as a real estate mogul. At one point, Trump was asked about a trip he'd taken to Moscow a few years prior. 

Trump said he'd been "very unimpressed" with the Soviet Union. 

"Their system is a disaster," Trump said. "What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That's my problem with [former Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand."

Trump was then asked if he meant "firm hand as in China."

"When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength," Trump replied. "That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak...as being spit on by the rest of the world."

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A White Bar Owner Shot and Killed a Young Black Protester. The DA Just Declined to Charge Him. (Tess Owen, Jun 1 2020, Vice News)

A white Nebraska bar owner is walking free after the local DA declined to charge him for fatally shooting James Scurlock, a 22-year-old unarmed black man, during protests against police brutality in Omaha Saturday night.

Douglas County District Attorney Don Kleine called the shooting "senseless" but said that Jake Gardner, 38, was justified in his decision to shoot Scurlock because he "feared for his own life or serious bodily injury." A lawyer representing Scurlock's family said Gardner had a concealed weapons permit that was expired at the time of the shooting. [...]

Gardner owns several businesses in Omaha, and according to the Daily Beast, is a self-described Libertarian who has been arrested on criminal charges at least four times, including assault and battery, and failing to tell an officer he had a concealed handgun.

In 2017, he posed for a photo with Donald Trump Jr. with the caption "Here's a guy who returns my emails 100 percent of the time, every time. #FAKENEWS. "

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'Domestic terrorist actors' could exploit Floyd protests, DHS memo warns (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN and NATASHA BERTRAND, 06/01/2020, Politico)

Anarchist and militia extremists could try to exploit the recent nationwide protests spurred by the death of George Floyd, the Department of Homeland Security warned in an intelligence note sent to law enforcement officials around the country.

Floyd, a black man who pleaded that he couldn't breathe while a police officer held him down and pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes, was killed in Minnesota on May 25. The officer responsible has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

The memo, dated May 29 and marked unclassified/law enforcement sensitive, cites "previous incidents of domestic terrorists exploiting First Amendment-protected events" as one reason for DHS' concern of additional targeted violence by "domestic terrorist actors."

It also reveals, citing the FBI, that on May 27, two days after Floyd's death, "a white supremacist extremist Telegram channel incited followers to engage in violence and start the 'boogaloo'--a term used by some violent extremists to refer to the start of a second Civil War--by shooting in a crowd." One Telegram message encouraged potential shooters to "frame the crowd around you" for the violence, the document said.

And on May 29, "suspected anarchist extremists and militia extremists allegedly planned to storm and burn the Minnesota State Capitol," the memo reads, citing FBI information.

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ONLY 100?:

Yardbird: 100 Years of Charlie Parker  (Dominic Green, 6/01/20, tHE cRITIC)

Much of Parker's life remains obscure, but everything suggests the legend is more or less true. He really was a heroin addict from the age of 15. He really did come late to the saxophone, and he really wasn't much shakes at first. The young Parker really did struggle when he sat in with Lester Young and other members of the Basie group in Kansas City, and Jo Jones really did throw a cymbal at his feet to stop him playing. He really did take up the alto as second-best to tenor: apart from Lester, Parker's other idol was Leon "Chu" Berry, after whom he named his son. After not just the statutory woodshedding but also an inner communing with the harmonies that no soloist had yet managed, he really did appear as if from nowhere in New York City and make jazz a modern art form. And he really did turn up at Stravinsky's house in Los Angeles in the middle of night and have the door slammed in his face.

To mark Parker's centenary, Craft Records have reissued the recordings Parker made with his first label, Savoy. [...]

Parker's solo on 'Red Cross' sounds like a message from the future. His opening phrase strikes flattened fifth, the quintessence of discord, on the downbeat; not an unusual move at all, in fact quite traditional. So is the impeccable Kansas City blues of its resolution. But where a blues or Swing player would simply repeat this move from discord to concord, Parker slides sideways across the chords, substituting chromatically as he goes. "It is an essentially Romantic paradox," Charles Rosen wrote, "that the primacy of sound in Romantic music should be accompanied, and even announced, by a sonority that is not only unrealisable but unimaginable."

You can hear the quartet's relief when Parker stops. 

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Estonia Already Lives Online--Why Can't the United States?  (NINA JANKOWICZ, MAY 27, 2020, The Atlantic)

For one corner of the world, life during the coronavirus pandemic has stayed shockingly the same. Like much of the globe, people there are dealing with cabin fever, a lack of physical contact, and collective grief, for both the loved ones they've lost and a way of life they may never see again. But they're exempt from the crashing halt of state services, the bumbling distribution of relief funds, the pillars of government groaning under the weight of performing their basic business amid the pandemic.

This is not a faraway digital superstate or an isolated cooperative. Geographically, it is not even located in the proverbial West. This is reality in Estonia, a nation of 1.3 million on the coast of the Baltic Sea that traded its post-Soviet identity for one of technological innovation and digital democracy.

The continuity of life there despite the pandemic isn't a result of a macabre decision to sacrifice the elderly, or a convoluted idea to build "herd immunity." No, citizens are staying home, and doing so fairly happily. In part, that's because they don't really need to leave; thanks to an infrastructure that has been in place for 20 years, many of life's basic tasks can be done online.

Estonia recorded its first case of COVID-19 on February 27, and by March 12, the government approved emergency measures to combat its spread. The next day, the government began conducting most of its business digitally, and instructed schools to transition from in-person to distance learning. If they weren't already using digital tools (and many were), municipal councils quickly shifted to online operations.

None of this is much of a departure from normal life. Using a digital identification card and a secure electronic signature, people in Estonia can bank, apply for government assistance, file for sick leave, order prescriptions, and get medical care online--no mask or hand sanitizer required. If an election were scheduled to take place while the country was under lockdown, citizens would simply use their ID cards to vote securely from the comfort and safety of their homes, as they have done since 2005. In the most recent parliamentary elections in 2019, 43 percent of voters cast ballots online.

The United States, meanwhile, is experiencing a carnival fun-house version of attempted technological innovation, running into trick walls and watching as tasks that could be much simpler contort into nightmarish versions of themselves.

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Judge questions 'unusual' Justice Department filing in Flynn case (KYLE CHENEY, 06/01/2020, Politico)

DOJ, Sullivan noted, repeatedly affirmed for years that the evidence Flynn lied to the FBI was ironclad and crucial to the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Its reversal, he said, regardless of the details provided in it, raises troubling questions.

"It was signed by the Acting U.S. Attorney alone, with no line prosecutors joining; it featured no affidavits or declarations supporting its many new factual allegations; it was not accompanied by a motion to vacate the government's prior, contrary filings and representations; it cited minimal legal authority in support of its view on materiality," Sullivan's brief noted, adding that it also omitted any mention of other potentially criminal conduct Flynn had admitted to in his plea: working on behalf of the Turkish government without registering as a foreign agent.

"It is unprecedented for an Acting U.S. Attorney to contradict the solemn representations that career prosecutors made time and again, and undermine the district court's legal and factual findings, in moving on his own to dismiss the charge years after two different federal judges accepted the defendant's plea," Sullivan's legal team wrote, adding, "As this Court's precedents envision, Judge Sullivan can--and arguably must--consider those issues before granting a motion to dismiss."

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Louisville mayor fires police chief (John P. Wise, Jun 01, 2020, WAVE) 

An emotional Fischer announced Monday that there was no officer body camera video of the shooting.

"That lack of institutional failure will not be tolerated," Fischer said as he announced Conrad's termination, effective immediately. Robert Schroeder will serve as interim police chief.

"I am saddened that it took this much calamity in our city to remove the chief of police," Metro Council President David James said Monday.

Protesters organized to honor Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old former EMT who was shot dead when LMPD officers served a narcotics warrant at her home in March. The three officers, still employed at LMPD, didn't have their body cameras on in that case, either.

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De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway. (Maggie Koerth and Jamiles Lartey,  Jun. 1, 2020, 538)

Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave -- and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force -- wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters -- it doesn't work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful. But if we know that (and have known that for decades), why are police still doing it?

"There's this failed mindset of 'if we show force, immediately we will deter criminal activity or unruly activity' and show me where that has worked," said Scott Thomson, the former chief of police in Camden, New Jersey.

"That's the primal response," he said. "The adrenaline starts to pump, the temperature in the room is rising, and you want to go one step higher. But what we need to know as professionals is that there are times, if we go one step higher, we are forcing them to go one step higher."

Interactions between police and protesters are, by their very nature, tough to study. Even when researchers get a good vantage point to observe protests in the real world -- for example, by embedding within a crowd -- the data that comes out is more descriptive and narrative as opposed to quantitative. Some kinds of protests are highly organized with top-down plans that are months in the making. Others, like many of the events across America this past week, are spontaneous outpourings of grief and anger. The social and political context of the time and place also affect what happens. Even a single protest isn't really a single protest. "You have lots of mini protests happening in many places," said Edward Maguire, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University. "There's different dynamics. Some peaceful. Some not. And different police tactics." In Baltimore on Saturday, for example, a police lieutenant mollified a crowd by reading out loud the names of victims of police brutality, while protesters outside City Hall threw bottles at police in riot gear and police used tear gas on the crowd, WBFF-TV reported.

But just because there's no data about protests that can be easily compared in a chart doesn't mean we're bereft of information, said Pat Gillham, a professor of sociology at Western Washington University. There's 50 years of research on violence at protests, dating back to the three federal commissions formed between 1967 and 1970. All three concluded that when police escalate force -- using weapons, tear gas, mass arrests and other tools to make protesters do what the police want -- those efforts can often go wrong, creating the very violence that force was meant to prevent. For example, the Kerner Commission, which was formed in 1967 to specifically investigate urban riots, found that police action was pivotal in starting half of the 24 riots the commission studied in detail. It recommended that police eliminate "abrasive policing tactics" and that cities establish fair ways to address complaints against police.

Experts say the following decades of research have turned up similar findings. Escalating force by police leads to more violence, not less. It tends to create feedback loops, where protesters escalate against police, police escalate even further, and both sides become increasingly angry and afraid.

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People are running over George Floyd protesters. Are far-right memes to blame?: An expert explains his theory on why vehicle-ramming attacks are happening across the country. (Alex Ward, Jun 1, 2020, Vox)

Alex Ward
Before we get into the vehicle attacks themselves, why does it seem like these kinds of incidents are happening more often?

Ari Weil
There's an online environment that for years has been celebrating and encouraging these types of horrendous attacks.

It really goes back to the Black Lives Matter and North Dakota Access Pipeline protests in 2015 and 2016. They innovated the use of street-blocking protests to make their claims. But then the far right responded by running their vehicles through these protesters and that led to a whole series of "run them over" memes online that were shared to glorify and encourage more of these attacks.

What's particularly worrisome is where those memes spread. Yes, among the extreme right, but also I know of at least four cases where law enforcement officers were sharing these in Facebook groups. The Charlottesville attacker, James Alex Fields, shared these memes twice in two months before his attack, and other planners of the Unite the Right rally shared these, too.

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What Did They Think Would Happen?: Actually, character does count. (SARAH LONGWELL, JUNE 1, 2020, The Bulwark)
The argument made in 2016 by conservatives who thought that Trump was manifestly unfit for the job went something like this:

Sure, we might get judges and tax cuts. But the potential downside of having a senescent, wannabe gangster as president of the United States is that (1) he might push us into a constitutional crisis and that (2) if he's confronted with a real-world crisis, there's a non-zero chance he could cause radical, real-world harm.

Well, here we are.

These possibilities seemed so obvious then that I could never tell if the people denying them were really blind, or if they were working overtime to pretend not to see them.

Did they really think that putting a man bereft of character, decency, and empathy in charge of the country wouldn't make a difference?

Did they really think that dismissing each instance of his racism, bullying, fecklessness, megalomania, corruption, lies, and stupidity it wouldn't have a cumulative effect?

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US Sends 2 Million Doses of Hydroxychloroquine to Brazil to Fight Coronavirus (VOA News, June 01, 2020)

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Iran calls on US to 'stop violence' against its own people at protests (AFP, 6/01/20)

Iran's foreign ministry Monday called on Washington to "stop violence" against its own people after protests across the US over the death of a black American man.

"To the American people: the world has heard your outcry over the state of oppression. The world is standing with you," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said at a news conference in Tehran.

"And to the American officials and police: stop violence against your people and let them breathe," he told reporters in English.