July 31, 2020

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McConnell signal to Republican Senate candidates: Distance from Trump if necessary (Michael Warren and Jamie Gangel,  July 31, 2020, CNN)

Sen. Mitch McConnell is allowing Republican Senate candidates to do whatever it takes to salvage their campaigns ahead of what Republicans increasingly fear could be a devastating election for their party.

In recent weeks, the Senate majority leader has become so concerned over Republicans losing control of the Senate that he has signaled to vulnerable GOP senators in tough races that they could distance themselves from the President if they feel it is necessary, according to multiple senior Republicans including a source close to McConnell.

Funny thing about selling your soul, it's not that easy to get a replacement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


It Only Took Twitter 11 Years to Ban Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Trone Dowd, July 31, 2020, Vice News)

Former Louisiana State Representative David Duke arrives to give remarks after a white nationalist protest was declared an unlawful assembly, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va.
David Duke is gone from Twitter.

The social media platform has permanently shut down the account of the 70-year-old white supremacist, former Louisiana legislator and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (1974-1980). He'd joined the platform in 2009. 

"[Duke] has been permanently suspended for Twitter Rules on hateful conduct," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to CNET Thursday night.

The rules, which bar the promotion of violence or harassment against groups and individuals based on their race, ethnicity, nationality sexual orientation, gender, and more, were unsurprisingly violated by Duke numerous times, according to the spokesperson.

Posted by orrinj at 3:48 PM


Gulf states will be among the biggest losers if Trump is defeated this fall (Mohammad H Fadel, 31 July 2020, Middle East Eye)

For many Democrats, Trump's embrace of Arab autocrats, such as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has not been understood as a shrewd strategy to further US interests, but rather as his embracing another autocrat - a fellow traveller in the world community who acts in open defiance of international legality. 

In short, even as Gulf states have in Trump a valuable ally in the White House - both in their external confrontation with Iran, and in their internal confrontations with reformers at home - they seem to have underestimated the extent to which Americans now view them as irredeemable Trumpists, a fact that renders them virtual pariahs to the more than half of Americans who despise Trump.  

There is a strong likelihood that in the event of a sweeping Democratic victory this fall, the Biden administration and Democratic congressional leaders will seek a complete reset of US-Gulf relations. 

Taking a hard line against these regimes would come at a relatively low cost to the US internationally, but play very well to US domestic audiences. The coalition that replaces Trump would be multi-ethnic, multi-religious and working class, keenly attuned to issues of income and wealth inequality, and respect for human rights.

They would not be terribly sympathetic to the Gulf states in light of their vast (unearned) wealth, the vast income and wealth inequality in those states, and the states' contempt for human rights and democracy. These states could easily become punching bags for the new Biden administration. 

Best of all is that Joe has a vested interest in resurrecting the relationship with our democratic allies in Iran. 

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Immigrants Are Far More Patriotic Than the Right Fears or the Left Hopes (Zaid Jilani, Jul 29, 2020, Persuasion)

Immigrants are far more patriotic and far more deeply invested in "American" values such as reverence for our founding institutions, than either side of the political spectrum believes.

As the Cato Institute showed in a 2019 study, for example, three out of four naturalized citizens say that they are "very proud" of being American; among natural-born citizens, the figure is notably lower. Conversely, 69 percent of native-born Americans say that they are "ashamed" of some aspects of America; among immigrants, just 39 percent agree.

Immigrants also have greater trust in American institutions, with a higher percentage expressing confidence in Congress, the presidency and the Supreme Court. They are even more likely to believe that the country should be a model for the rest of the world: Only 29 percent of natives believe that "the world would be better if people from other countries were more like Americans." Among immigrants, 39 percent do.

And while conservatives like Wax and Coulter argue that immigrants are undermining America's traditional values, there is a lot of reason to think that they're actually reinforcing them. Children of immigrants are, for example, more likely to grow up in two-parent households. And as Ran Abramitzky and Leah Boustan have shown, "children of immigrants have higher rates of upward mobility than their U.S.-born peers."

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 PM


Chaos dies down in Portland with departure of federal agents (Emily Singer -July 31, 2020, American Independent)

A wave of calm swept over Portland, Oregon, after federal agents sent in by Donald Trump left the city, according to multiple on-the-ground reports. [...]

[B]y all accounts, the federal agents -- who abducted, fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and even beat peaceful protesters -- created tension in the city, helping turn demonstrations for racial justice into violent affairs.

Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown had warned that this was the case, saying the Trump administration was trying to provoke unrest with the federal presence.

"Trump is looking for a confrontation in Oregon in the hopes of winning political points in Ohio or Iowa," Brown tweeted on July 16, adding that the Trump administration was "on a mission to provoke confrontation for political purposes."

She demanded the administration pull the troops, which they finally agreed to on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Trump was secretly recorded boasting on speakerphone of how many retweets he got for a post defending Confederate base names (Tom Porter, 7/31/20, Business Insider)

Inhofe, the 85-year-old senior senator from Oklahoma, put the call on speakerphone, The Times said.

The two were overheard discussing the push to give a new name to a Fort Lee in Virginia, which is named after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

"We're gonna keep the name of Robert E. Lee?" Trump asked, in response to which Inhofe said, "Just trust me, I'll make it happen."

Trump responded: "I had about 95,000 positive retweets on that. That's a lot."

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Israeli scientists find new way to predict cancer's deadly spread through body (NATHAN JEFFAY, 7/31/20, Times of Israel)

Weihs said that "like all the best science" the method was discovered unintentionally when her lab prepared a polymeric gel and placed cancer cells on it for general observation. "We made it to study interactions of aggressive cells with their environment and ran into an unexpected phenomenon."

A student researcher noticed the cells physically pushing into the gel, which she found to be a distraction from what she was trying to observe.

"The student who saw this didn't know what she was looking at and said, 'Some of the cells are doing something weird and pushing.' She asked, 'Is this interesting?'"

Weihs realized that the force the cells were exerting on the gel was the very same force the cells would use to make their way through the body and spread cancer to new areas.

She went on to develop ways of measuring the extent of the pushing and built a model that predicts how able the cells may prove to cause secondary tumors.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


The American Founding vindicated against its foes on the Right and Left  (Daniel Mahoney, Jul 31, 2020, MercatorNet)

In his compelling defence of the intellectual and moral foundations of the American regime, Reilly principally takes aim at a group of Catholic scholars and intellectuals, Michael Hanby and Patrick Deneen chief among them, who reject the American proposition in toto, dismissing it as metaphysically corrupt (Hanby) or as "a poison pill" or "ticking time bomb" bound to unleash all the corrupting "acids of modernity," to recall Walter Lippman's memorable phrase from 1929. [...]

Let us begin closer to home with Reilly's account of the moral foundations of the American republic. Reilly is particularly helpful at showing that the most significant and thoughtful among the Founders (an eclectic lot, to be sure) were not partisans of moral relativism, or atomistic individualism, or a reductive and dehumanizing scientific materialism. For the most part, Thomas Hobbes appalled them, for reasons a young Alexander Hamilton eloquently recounted in his essay from 1775 entitled The Farmer Refuted. Hamilton wrote on that occasion:

Moral obligation, according to [Hobbes], is derived from the introduction of civil society; and there is no virtue but what is purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians, for the maintenance of social discourse. But the reason he ran into this absurd and impious doctrine was that he disbelieved the existence of an intelligent superintending principle, who is the governor and will be the judge of the universe.

Firmly rejecting political atheism in all its forms, Hamilton goes on to affirm that natural rights must always find their sturdy foundation in "the law of nature" rooted in the "eternal and immutable law" of God. Rejecting both despotism and moral antinomianism, the Founders uniformly defended liberty under God and the law.

Even Jefferson, the most modern and Epicurean of the Founders, a deist of a shaky sort, and not a classical theist, was appalled by Hobbes' conventionalist view that morality had no grounding in the nature of things, except the minimalist (and amoral) imperative that human beings preserve themselves. There is a thin reed for rights in Hobbes, but no rational foundation for moral and civic obligation.

Reilly is undoubtedly right that the Founders belonged to a different, and infinitely saner and more elevated, spiritual universe than the one inhabited by Thomas Hobbes. Statesmen more than theorists, they still drew on classical wisdom (Aristotle and Cicero) even as they adopted the idiom of modern philosophy and political philosophy. This is a point that needed to be stressed to a greater extent by Reilly as he addresses these matters.

In a founder such as John Adams the Bible's ethical monotheism shines forth, even if Adams ultimately leaned toward Arminianism and even a morally robust deism. Hamilton founded the Society for Christian Constitutionalism in 1796, fearful that Jacobin atheism and proto-totalitarianism was making steady progress on American shores. A deeply thoughtful founder such as James Wilson admired John Locke but feared that his thought could be misconstrued and thus give powerful support to sceptical and morally subversive intellectual and political currents.

All of this is true, and none of it supports Hanby's and Deenen's portraits of an American Founding as a vehicle of radical individualism, moral relativism, and a budding philosophy of radical autonomy culminating in the unencumbered self.

It would suffice, to refute them, that the Founding is explicitly dependent on God, that it also incorporates republican liberty is dispositive on the individualist/freedom/modernity argument.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Trump frequently accuses the far-left of inciting violence, yet right-wing extremists have killed 329 victims in the last 25 years, while antifa members haven't killed any (James Pasley, 7/31/20, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump has accused far-left groups of inciting riots and violence, but in the last 25 years, no murders in the US have been linked to anti-fascists, while 329 murders have been linked to the far-right, according to new research.

Researchers at a think tank called the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) assembled a database of almost 900 politically motivated plots and attacks in the US since 1994, ending in May 2020, which was reviewed by The Guardian. 

The review found that only one person's death in that period was linked to "antifa," a leaderless movement dedicated to combatting right-wing and white supremacist groups, and the person who died was the attacker. 

When the review widened its category from antifa to "left-wing violence," it found 21 victims had been killed since 2010, compared to 117 people killed in right-wing violence, in the same time period. Jihadist groups were responsible for 95 people's deaths since 2010. 

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Let's Cancel the Presidential Debates Forever (Alex Shephard, 7/31/20, The New Republic)

Every election cycle brings helpful souls out of the woodwork, pitching a new wave of ways to fix our broken presidential debates. There is a constant refrain: Dial down the pageantry and ratchet up the sobriety. It is a truth universally acknowledged that live audiences, more keen on hooting and hollering than listening, distract from the proceedings. This not only gives debates the atmosphere of an early-round NBA playoff game, but it also underlines the fact that what is happening is a spectacle, not anything of substance. In 2016, Donald Trump's decision to bring three women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and assault to a debate with Hillary Clinton served to demonstrate that these once stately affairs had, like almost all political pseudo-events, been overtaken by the drive to stage an ever-escalating series of viral stunts. (Trump's 2016 escapade has been cited, unsurprisingly, as a reason to get rid of audiences entirely.)

The presence of an audience does have substantive implications as well. Research from Williams College psychology professor Steven Fein has found that judgments about the candidates were significantly affected by the reactions of the live audience; cheers following a one-liner cements that moment in the minds of viewers, Ronald Reagan's famous 1984 "youth and inexperience" debate zinger being an early example. The reaction from the audience, Fein and his coauthors found, "did not recognize Reagan's quip as a knockout punch, so much as it made it one." The result of these incentives, Fein said in 2016, "also makes the clip likely to get highlighted in the post-debate news and spin cycles," which then gives it an exponential reach. The result is a system that favors cable-ready wisecracks and viral badinage over substantive policy discussions. 

The debate moderators are not just there to tease out the ways that would-be presidents might approach matters of state. Nowadays it's just as important for them to play a role in ensuring that hot soundbites and zesty onstage conflict occur so that cable news panels can ponder their providence in the days and weeks that follow. In some cases, the questioning exists for no other reason than in its perceived value in some yet-to-be-aired cable news segment. There was, for instance, little substantive discussion of health care--either the flaws of the American health care system now or what candidates would do to fix those flaws--in the dozens of Democratic debates that took place in 2019. Instead, candidates were asked again and again if they would abolish private insurance. (The only consistent qualification for moderating a primary debate seems to be not taking "no" for an answer.) 

Debate moderators have long since stopped asking questions to serve the public interest, keeping instead the 24-hour news trough full of content. The candidates, of course, play along, knowing full well that minds (and remotes) wander when the on-screen goings-on aren't spicy enough.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


The Right's Increasingly Unhinged Fight Against Black Lives Matter (New Republic, Jul. 31st, 2020)

[T]he choice to frame protesters as dangerous Marxists, hell-bent on destroying the American way of life, has a certain twisted political logic. Five years ago, after protests erupted in Ferguson and Baltimore, the conservative media successfully tarred the nascent Black Lives Matter movement with smears that were almost identical to the ones they're using today: After months of Fox News hosts such as Kimberly Guilfoyle describing BLM's "agenda" as "it's OK to go ahead and kill cops," polls showed that six in 10 white Americans thought Black Lives Matter distracted attention from real issues, and four in 10 thought it advocated violence. Even New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a moderate by the standards of the 2016 Republican Party, echoed Guilfoyle almost verbatim when he said that protesters had advocated "the murder of police officers."

Today, however, Black Lives Matter enjoys widespread public sympathy. Sixty percent of white Americans support the movement. Yet Trump, blind as always to any shift in public opinion that might endanger his electoral prospects, has plunged headlong into culture-wars alarmism, framing wealthy suburbanites as the real victims of racial violence. That strategy might once have won him the White House, but it now smacks of desperation--a haunch of red meat for an aggrieved white nationalist base that grows smaller by the day.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


Exclusive: Right-wing nonprofits hit with criminal complaint for self-dealing, tax violations (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, JULY 31, 2020, Salon)

Anonprofit public watchdog filed a complaint Thursday with the Internal Revenue Service, the state of Wisconsin and the California attorney general's office accusing the conservative activist group American Majority (AM) of violating the federal tax code and various state laws.

The complaint, filed by the nonpartisan Campaign for Accountability (CfA) and exclusively obtained by Salon, accuses the nonprofit and its related dark-money advocacy arm, American Majority Action Inc. (AMA), of unlawfully putting more than half its expenses toward political activity and concealing donor information from regulators.

Additionally, the watchdog alleges that the groups' founder and CEO, Ned Ryun, has engaged for years in inappropriate self-dealing through a complex web of transactions.

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July 30, 2020

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Trump Attacks an Election He Is at Risk of Losing (Alexander Burns, July 30, 2020, NY Times)

But when the moment came on Thursday, with Mr. Trump suggesting for the first time that the election could be delayed, his proposal appeared as impotent as it was predictable -- less a stunning assertion of his authority than yet another lament that his political prospects have dimmed amid a global public-health crisis. Indeed, his comments on Twitter came shortly after the Commerce Department reported that American economic output contracted last quarter at the fastest rate in recorded history, underscoring one of Mr. Trump's most severe vulnerabilities as he pursues a second term.

Far from a strongman, Mr. Trump has lately become a heckler in his own government, promoting medical conspiracy theories on social media, playing no constructive role in either the management of the coronavirus pandemic or the negotiation of an economic rescue plan in Congress -- and complaining endlessly about the unfairness of it all.

"It will be a great embarrassment to the USA," Mr. Trump tweeted of the election, asserting without evidence that mail-in voting would lead to fraud. "Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"

The most powerful leaders in Congress immediately shot down the idea of moving the election, including the top figures in Mr. Trump's own party.

"Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions, and the Civil War have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time, and we'll find a way to do that again this Nov. 3," Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, said in an interview with WNKY television in Kentucky. "We'll cope with whatever the situation is and have the election on Nov. 3 as already scheduled."

Mr. Trump's tweet about delaying the election put a self-pitying exclamation mark on a phase of his presidency defined not by the accumulation of executive power, but by an abdication of presidential leadership on a national emergency.

Donald's absence from John Lewis's funeral was the perfect summation of his presidency.

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Maverick former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain DIES of Covid-19 - after going to Donald Trump's notorious Tulsa rally WITHOUT a mask then being diagnosed nine days later (NIKKI SCHWAB and EMILY GOODIN, 7/30/20, DAILYMAIL.COM

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


Seeing Dismal Polls, Trump Campaign Suspends Advertising In Michigan (Alex Henderson, July 30 | 2020, Alternet)

Michigan is among the Rust Belt states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, but recent polls on the 2020 presidential race have found former Vice President Joe Biden -- the presumptive Democratic nominee -- with double-digit leads in that state. And McClatchy's David Catanese is reporting that Trump's reelection campaign has suspended its Michigan advertising.

By election day, the entire campaign will be focussed on trying to hold just the states of the Confederacy. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness' -- These Words Set America on Path to Progress (Tod Lindberg, 7/24/20, USA Today)

The Founders did not finish the job of political equality with the Declaration and the Constitution, nor did Lincoln with the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, nor did Susan B. Anthony when she illegally cast a ballot in the 1872 presidential election, nor the Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education by reversing its previous holding and declaring that the "separate but equal" justification for segregation was not equality.

But the Founders did start the project of political equality by risking their necks on independence in the name of those five words. And the others mentioned here, and many more, continued the project against resistance, by relying on a history tracing back continuously and directly to "all men are created equal" as they demanded justice.

This is a story the Commission on Unalienable Rights tells with clarity and erudition. Likewise compelling is its account of the resonance of the principles of the American founding in the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the little-remembered context in which other countries drew on their own national traditions in pursuit of the universal rights they delineated in UDHR.

The American story is woefully incomplete without an account of the injustice perpetrated here and the suffering it has caused. But it is also woefully incomplete in the absence of an account of how ideas about unalienable rights articulated at the time of the founding became an engine driving the pursuit of justice here and throughout the world.

The current notion that human rights were co-opted by neoliberalism is genuinely bizarre given that both are just classical liberalism for folks who don't identify as liberals.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Mahler: where to start with his music: Conceived on a massive scale, Gustav Mahler's seismic symphonies draw on the folk poetry of his native Bohemia and include the longest ever written by a major composer (Andrew Clements, 29 Jul 2020, The Guardian)

If the Seventh Symphony remains one of Mahler's most enigmatic works, the Sixth is one of his greatest achievements, with a finale punctuated by three huge hammer blows - the third of which, according to Alma, fells the hero of the symphony "like a tree". The superstitious composer removed the third blow from the score after the first performance in 1906, but Alma identified the blows with seismic events in Mahler's life the following year: the death of their daughter Maria, his own diagnosis of a potentially fatal heart condition, and his forced resignation from the Hofoper, supposedly because he was spending too much time composing.

By the beginning of 1908, Mahler was conducting in New York. as director of the Metropolitan Opera. His performances there were generally successful, but he resigned the following year to take up a post with the New York Philharmonic. Summers were spent back in Austria composing, with Das Lied von der Erde beginning a final trilogy of works premiered after Mahler's death. But the massive, choral Eighth Symphony, the so-called Symphony of a Thousand, which he'd completed in 1906, stands apart from the works on either side of it. Its premiere in Munich in 1910 was one of the biggest triumphs of Mahler's life, and the last time he conducted the first performance of one of his works: he died eight months later in Vienna.

Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), which Mahler superstitiously avoided describing as his "ninth symphony" because so many composers had died after completing nine symphonies, is a song cycle with the dimensions of a symphony, ending with a half-hour movement, Abschied, that seems a very conscious farewell to life. Yet having lived to complete it, Mahler did write a Ninth Symphony - his astonishingly moving acceptance of the inevitability of death - and began a Tenth too, a much more autobiographical work riven with fears and doubts after his discovery of Alma's affair with the young architect Walter Gropius. [...]

For more than 30 years after his death, only a few conductors bothered with Mahler's music. The Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg ploughed a solitary furrow promoting his cause at the Amsterdam Concergebouw - though other than a performance of the Fourth Symphony, none of Mengelberg's Mahler seems to be available on disc. Leonard Bernstein was one of the leaders of the Mahler renaissance when it began in earnest in the 1960s, while Bernard Haitink continued the Mahler tradition at the Concertgebouw. In the digital era, the cycles by Claudio Abbado (Deutsche Grammophon) and Riccardo Chailly (Decca) have been pre-eminent. Other great conductors such as Otto Klemperer and Herbert von Karajan were more selective in the works they tackled, though some of their recordings - Klemperer's accounts of the Second Symphony and Das Lied von der Erde, and especially Karajan's elegiac version of the Ninth - are among the finest Mahler recordings of all time.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


The Proving Grounds: Charley Crockett and the Story of Deep Ellum: Generations of musicians got their start busking the streets of the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. After a decade of 'hobo-ing' around cities like New Orleans, Paris, and New York, Charley Crockett discovered it was his turn. (Jonny Auping, July 2020,  Longreads)

In 1912 two musicians were playing near the Union Depot on the corner of Elm Street and Central Track in a pocket of Dallas, Texas where, if you believed what the local papers wrote, you'd be wise to keep your money in your shoe. One was 24, likely playing his signature 12-string guitar. The other was 18 or 19 and blind with an acoustic guitar strapped across his imposing frame.

People passed by, some dropping change they could afford to part with. To hear the older one tell it, their music sent women running over to give them hugs and kisses. From there, they'd head a few blocks down Elm Street or Commerce, talking about women, music, and survival, the 24-year-old with the 12-string leading the blind man. They'd stop outside of local businesses, most likely pawn shops, and play. The older one would learn plenty about the blues from the blind one. Their little pocket in the middle of Dallas is known as Deep Ellum. You could walk the whole area in 15 minutes.

Around 1915 the two would part ways and never see each other again. The older one left Dallas with his 12-string. In 1918 he went to prison for murder. He spent the next 20 years in and out of incarceration and was dead by 1949. His name was Huddie Ledbetter, but he went by Lead Belly. The blind man would purportedly die in a Chicago blizzard in 1929. People called him Blind Lemon Jefferson.

In his Nobel Prize lecture, Bob Dylan credits Lead Belly's records with getting him into folk music. George Harrison stated that without Lead Belly there would be "no Beatles." Kurt Cobain would make similar sentiments about Nirvana. In his autobiography, Blues All Around Me, B.B. King wrote that he "flat-out tried to copy" Blind Lemon Jefferson. That line of influence traces directly through Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones.

Almost exactly 100 years later, a modern songster named Charley Crockett would stand at about that same spot playing for people's change, though the Union Depot had been gone for over 70 years. Anyone with an ear for musical history would hear Crockett's stories-disguised-as-songs and his blues style as an homage to men like Jefferson and Lead Belly and to a long-ago era of music, but Crockett wasn't standing in that spot for its history. He was there for a particular kind of foot traffic; the kind where feet were attached to bodies that found street music endearing. By that point in 2014, he had survived for nearly a decade as a musician living on the streets. He's said to be a distant relative to Davy Crockett, and he's covered more of the United States, hitch-hiking and hopping trains, than the Texas legend ever did.

Almost exactly 100 years later, a modern songster named Charley Crockett would stand at about that same spot playing for people's change, though the Union Depot had been gone for over 70 years.
While the journey reflected in his songs has since garnered him national acclaim and landed his music on both the Blues and Americana charts, Crockett is barely a chapter in the story of Deep Ellum. Then again, the stories of Deep Ellum tend to be written in disappearing ink. You won't find plaques commemorating Blind Lemon Jefferson or Lead Belly's time there, though it's more responsible for Texas Blues than any one place could claim. It was a haven for punks and counterculture in the '80s and breakout stars in the '90s. A "Deep Ellum act" can mean anyone from T-Bone Walker to the Old 97's to Erykah Badu to St. Vincent to Leon Bridges.

For over a century, Deep Ellum has been a spot where Dallas has put either the people it didn't want or didn't know what to do with. Crockett fit right in. There's no way to quantify how different modern music might sound if Lead Belly and Blind Lemon Jefferson never spent that time together. But Crockett's journey to Deep Ellum is as good a start as any to try to explain how music has managed to keep returning to this neighborhood whose own city has never fully understood. [...]

The city of San Benito, where Charley Crockett was born in the 1980s, is in Texas, but it was worlds apart from Deep Ellum. Also the birthplace of Tejano music legend Freddy Fender, it's about 20 minutes from the Mexican border and eight hours from Dallas. Soon after his birth, Crockett and his mother moved 11 miles east to Los Fresnos, a city with less than 6,000 residents, more than 90 percent of them Latino. Crockett's arrival coincided with his father's departure. "He was living a rough life," Crockett said of the man whose last name he claims. "He was pouring concrete and working on shrimp boats and ending up in ditches on the side of farm roads instead of making it home. He wasn't around."

Crockett, his mother, and eventually his grandmother shared a small trailer parked on Old Port Road with nothing to see but the oranges, grapefruit, and sugar cane growing around them. Most of his memories of his time in South Texas fall under two categories: poverty or music. Tejano singers like Freddy Fender and Johnny Canales would perform nearby, and Crockett's mother would encourage singing while doing chores or just to pass the time. "Music was really kind of everywhere in that rural area," Crockett said. "I think it was just part of the culture."

Looking for more opportunities, Crockett and his mother moved north to Irving, just outside Dallas, when he was 9. His mother worked non-stop in those days, but their lives didn't seem to be improving as Crockett grew old enough to understand their struggle. Sometimes a "city of opportunity" only paints a clearer picture of one's poverty by contrasting it with the expensive shops and generational wealth that's flaunted in Dallas. In the summers Crockett would go to New Orleans to live with his uncle, who worked in a restaurant in the French Quarter. Before Katrina there was still a heavy street culture in the city. Bands played everywhere. Crockett arrived in New Orleans for the first time as a 10-year-old who had spent much of his childhood in isolation. Suddenly he was immersed in a city of diversity, music, and mischief, playing cards for his uncle in bingo halls. The food, jobs, and agriculture weren't unlike Los Fresnos. New Orleans had the soul of the Gulf Coast he was born into but injected with vibrancy.

Back near Dallas, his mother lost her job while Crockett was still in high school, but still managed to buy him a guitar from a pawn shop. By the time he was 18, he was completely purposeless. He took that guitar and just started "hobo-ing" around Texas. He'd squat with people he'd meet without a thought or plan for the next day, let alone the next week. "I really felt limited by what I thought my future had to offer me," he said. He was learning how to steal to survive, "and just kind of becoming a delinquent, getting into trouble, doing stuff I shouldn't be doing."

One day, he was sitting on a park bench near a baseball field in the town of Farmers Branch when a woman walked by and threw him 50 cents. In those days, music wasn't an ambition as much as an introduction to other musicians he could pass the days with. Jamming with street musicians in Carrollton, Crockett met a man who was planning to drive to Northern California the following day. Crockett begged the man to let him join. He knew nothing about the area and had no real reason to want to be there. "I just wanted so badly to get out of my situation," he said.

So, Crockett rode along on the ride west, but as they neared their destination, the driver decided he had no intention of bringing a new friend to his town, so he stopped in Vallejo, California and let Crockett out in a parking lot with nothing but a guitar.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


I was an enviro-pessimist, but human ingenuity proved me wrong (Matt Ridley, 7/29/20, CapX)

Remarkably, this feeding of 7 billion people has happened without taking much new land under the plough and the cow. Instead, in many places farmland has reverted to wilderness. In 2009, Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University calculated that thanks to more farmers getting access to better fertilisers, pesticides, and biotechnology, the area of land needed to produce a given quantity of food--averaged for all crops--was 65% less than in 1961. As a result, an area the size of India will be freed up by mid-century. That is an enormous boost for wildlife. National parks and other protected areas have expanded steadily as well.

Nor have these agricultural improvements on the whole brought new problems of pollution in their wake. Quite the reverse. The replacement of pesticides like DDT with much less harmful ones that do not persist in the environment and accumulate up the food chain, in addition to advances in biotechnology, has allowed wildlife to begin to recover. In the part of northern England where I live, otters have returned to the rivers, and hawks, kites, ospreys, and falcons to the skies, largely thanks to the elimination of organochlorine pesticides. Where genetically modified crops are grown--not in the European Union--there has been a 37% reduction in the use of insecticides, as shown by a recent study done at Gottingen University.

One of the extraordinary features of the past 40 years has been the reappearance of wildlife that was once seemingly headed for extinction. Bald eagles have bounced back so spectacularly that they have been taken off the endangered list. Deer and beavers have spread into the suburbs of cities, followed by coyotes, bears, and even wolves. The wolf has now recolonised much of Germany, France, and even parts of the heavily populated Netherlands. Estuaries have been cleaned up so that fish and birds have recolonised rivers like the Thames.

Here's a question I put to school children when I get the chance: Why is the wolf population increasing, the lion decreasing, and the tiger now holding its own? The answer is simple: Wolves live in rich countries, lions in poor countries, and tigers in middle-income countries. It turns out that we conservationists were wrong to fear economic development in the 1980s. Prosperity is the best thing that can happen to a country's wildlife. As people get richer, they can afford to buy electricity rather than cut wood, buy chicken rather than hunt bushmeat, or get a job in a town rather than try to scratch a living from a patch of land. They can also stop worrying that their children will starve and start to care about the environment. In country after country, first in Asia, then in Latin America, and now increasingly in Africa, that process of development leading to environmental gains has swiftly delivered a turning point in the fortunes of wild ecosystems.

One way of measuring such progress is to look at forests. Forests are still being cut down in poor countries, but they are expanding in rich ones. It turns out that when a country reaches a certain level of income, around $5,000 per person per year, it starts reforesting. This is because people become wealthy enough to stop relying on wood fires for cooking and to use electricity or gas instead. Bangladesh, for example, was desperately poor in 1980 but is now rich enough to be significantly increasing its forest cover today.

Overall, therefore, the number of trees in the world is steadily increasing. A study published by NASA and the University of Maryland in 2018 examined satellite data and found that global increases in tree cover have more than offset losses in tree cover over the past 35 years. This is not just because of growing plantations of timber crops; most of it is natural regeneration. Nor is this happening only in the cold woods of the North; tropical countries are reforesting as well. If you had told me in 1980 that this would happen, I would not have believed you.

In 2013, I caught wind of an interesting study being done by NASA in conjunction with Boston and Beijing Universities. A team of researchers had found a way of measuring the quantity of green vegetation on the surface of the planet using satellite data. It was increasing: there were more green leaves each year. I published an article on this phenomenon of "global greening" and was immediately vilified for my impertinence in departing from the pessimistic script. But in fact it had been clear for some years that the carbon dioxide levels measured on top of a mountain in Hawaii, though increasing year over year, were also rising and falling with the seasons more than they once did, implying there was more growth of green leaves in the northern hemisphere summers.

In 2016, the same team published a paper confirming that global greening was occurring and speculating about the cause. Although the press release that accompanied the paper preemptively admonished me--by name!--for taking any comfort from this fact, it quoted the lead author, Zaichin Zhu of Beijing University, saying that the greening over the past 30 years was equivalent to adding a new continent covered in green vegetation twice the size of the United States. Global greening is occurring in all ecosystems, including rainforests, tundras, and croplands, and it is particularly strong in the arid areas of the planet.

The next wave of ingenuity, chiefly renewable energy, will only accelerate this re-greening.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Is Natural Law Sufficient to Defend the Founding? (Donald Devine, July 26th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

Following Hobbes, England's James I claimed all power over law, which was justified by philosopher Robert Filmer as a Divine Right, by which a rightful monarch would be responsible only to God Himself, free from any human institution, law, or moral restrictions. Natural law philosophers Robert Bellarmine, John Locke, Algernon Sidney, and ultimately Thomas Jefferson revived the Hooker natural law arguments for moral equality, individual rights, and limited government, which were advanced first in the Glorious Revolution in Britain and finally in the Locke-inspired American Declaration and Constitution. For Mr. Reilly, the case for natural law comes together in the U.S.' "restorative founding of government based on reason" in a Constitution that produced the most successful government experiment in history.

If the American Founding was a rational and social success, the author asks himself, why has the American experiment now come under modern attack? Even those sympathetic to the tradition like Patrick Deneen properly see today's decay but assign its cause to the Declaration's natural rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as a radical individualism that ultimately undermines social order. Mr. Reilly argues in response that the "self-evident truths of the Declaration" have to be read as the Founders understood them, as "intelligible only within the natural law context in which they were spoken." Countering Dr. Deneen's contention that the Founding was "a relativist philosophy" that explicitly turned away from polis virtue to Enlightenment freedom, Mr. Reilly quotes Madison's recognition that "Republican government presupposes the existence of these [virtuous] qualities in a higher degree than any other form."

Yet, at the end of the day, Mr. Reilly does not rely on natural law reason alone or even polis virtue but correctly notes that the good "does not ultimately reside in the human polis," even for Plato. Western philosophy under Augustine specifically rejected ancient virtue with the introduction of his ideal of the two cities, and generally "as Christians, they had a higher model than the polis." Indeed, with all of the emphasis on reason and natural law, the author continually brings in revelation to support the Founding. From the first pages it is "revelations and discoveries;" it is Aquinas' "synthesis of faith and reason;" he even gives essences a revelationary justification, generally stressing that the Declaration is justified by both the "laws of nature and nature's God."

Locke's entire case against Divine Right in the First Treatise is, of course, Biblical and Creationist.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


His approval faltering, Republicans in battleground Houston districts start to distance from Trump (Jasper Scherer,  July 24, 2020, Houston Chronicle)

During Troy Nehls' recent bid for the Republican nomination in one of Texas' battleground congressional districts, the Fort Bend County sheriff prominently displayed his support for President Trump across his campaign website.

"In Congress, I will stand with President Trump to defeat the socialist Democrats, build the wall, drain the swamp, and deliver on pro-economy and pro-America policies," Nehls said under the top section of his issues page, titled "Standing with President Trump."

Within two days of Nehls' lopsided runoff victory, that section had been removed, along with a paragraph from Nehls' bio page that stated he "supports President Trump" and wants to "deliver President Trump's agenda." Fresh language now focuses on his record as sheriff during Hurricane Harvey and managing the agency's budget.

Nehls' abrupt shift in tone captures the challenge facing Republican candidates in suburban battleground districts up and down the ballot, including Nehls' district and two neighboring ones, where polling suggests Trump's coronavirus response has alienated voters and, for now, created strong headwinds for his party's congressional hopefuls.

Too late, kids.

July 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 PM


Militarized Federal Agents to Begin Withdrawal From Portland (Matt Stieb, 7/29/20, New York)

On the White House south lawn on Wednesday morning, President Trump told reporters he anticipated that Department of Homeland Security agents and U.S. Marshals deployed in Portland would be there for the long haul, despite reporting suggesting otherwise. "You hear all sorts of reports about us leaving," Trump said. "We're not leaving until they've secured their city. We told the governor. We told the mayor. Secure your city. If they don't secure their city soon, we have no choice. We're going to have to go in and clean it out."

Trump, apparently, had not told the governor: Hours later, Oregon's Kate Brown announced that the militarized officials will begin a "phased withdrawal" after weeks of highly publicized clashes with demonstrators.

Donald should really surrender at Appomattox. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Bye, boomer: the coming cull of workers over 50 (Brett Arends, 7/29/20, Market Watch)

New research from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that, yes, age discrimination rises hand in hand with the unemployment rate. Older workers tend to be the last hired back and the first fired. And while the unemployment rate has been dropping back down for the last two months, after the initial COVID shock, you're a fool if you think it's over. (OK, that was the '70s.)

Economists Gordon Dalh of the University of California, San Diego, and Matthew Knepper of the University of Georgia ran the numbers on age-discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and compared them with the unemployment rates in the relevant industry and U.S. state at the time.

"For each 1 percentage point increase in a state-industry's monthly unemployment rate, the volume of age discrimination firing and hiring charges increases by 4.8% and 3.4%, respectively," they found.

And that was even more true when they eliminated weaker or possibly frivolous complaints, and looked only at those that the EEOC deemed had merit and deserved further investigation. "Even though the incentive to file weaker claims is stronger when unemployment is high, the fraction of meritorious claims also increases significantly when labor market conditions deteriorate," they write.

Just for good measure, they also ran analyses of a study conducted in 2012 which sent out fake (female) résumés across the country in response to job openings. Their findings? "Each one percentage point increase in the local unemployment rate reduces the callback rate for older women by 1.7 percentage points (off a baseline 10.8% callback rate), relative to younger women," they conclude. That's about a 16% relative decline in callback rates for each percentage point added to the unemployment rate. (The younger "applicants" were allegedly aged 35 to 42, the older ones over 50, they say.)

Bottom line: The higher the unemployment rate, the likelier employers are to favor younger women applicants over older women applicants. "All else equal, an older female is 6.8 percentage points less likely to receive a callback when she is competing against two additional younger female applicants, which translates to a 63% reduction relative to the mean."

They conclude: "Taken together, our two analyses provide compelling evidence that age discrimination rises as labor markets deteriorate. As far as we know, this is the first direct evidence for age discrimination varying with the business cycle, both for the firing and hiring margins."

There's no such thing as a social program that's too expensive if it helps older white people.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


Joe Biden wants to end the era of big companies paying nothing in taxes (REY MASHAYEKHI, July 29, 2020, Fortune)

In addition to raising the corporate tax rate to 28%, from 21% currently, Biden's plan would set a minimum tax of 15% on companies' "book income," or profits reported to investors, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. It would also double the existing tax rate on foreign profits reported by U.S. firms, from 10.5% to 21%, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center.

Tax their consumption, not their profits.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scores of House Republicans are suddenly sweating over losing their seats (ALLY MUTNICK, 07/29/2020, Politico)

Far from going on offense, the GOP could be forced to retrench in order to limit their losses. There's a growing fear that Trump's plummeting popularity in the suburbs could threaten their candidates in traditionally favorable districts, and that their party's eagerness to go on offense might leave some underfunded incumbents and open GOP-held seats unprotected.

Internal Democratic surveys in recent weeks have shown tight races in once-solid GOP seats in Indiana, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Montana that President Donald Trump carried handily 2016 -- data that suggest the battleground is veering in a dangerous direction for the GOP.

"Republicans were jolted by the fact that a lot of white suburban voters abandoned them. The question now is whether that trend will continue," said former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who lost reelection in 2018. "If it does, it could endanger some of those districts, particularly in the Midwest."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Strongest Evidence Yet Shows Air Pollution KillsThe finding comes as the Trump administration has been rolling back clean air regulations (Susan Cosier on July 29, 2020, Scientific American)

As California's Camp Fire raged in 2018, soot and other pollution filled the skies. Particulate matter concentrations widely surged above 12 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), pushing them into the Environmental Protection Agency's "unhealthy" range. And in some places, they jumped to hundreds of µg/m3.

This miasma included particles 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller, known as PM2.5, which also spew from tailpipes and smokestacks as cars burn gas and power plants combust coal. Their miniscule size lets them travel deep into the lungs, causing short-term breathing problems. Thousands of previous studies show such particles can also exacerbate asthma in the long term and contribute to cardiovascular problems, low birth weight and other issues. There is widespread medical consensus on this association, but some members of an EPA committee overhauled by a Trump administration appointee, along with oil and gas industry consultants, claim the studies did not show direct causality. Harvard University biostatistician Francesca Dominici and her colleagues address such assertions in a study published in July in Science Advances. They say their investigation shows the most comprehensive link between air pollution and premature deaths yet.

Traditional air pollution studies typically used only regression analysis, a statistical method designed to sort out the likelihood that a particular factor (such as air pollution) influences an outcome--in this case, mortality. But it is not always clear whether such models adequately account for other possible influencing factors. In the new paper, Dominici's team instead used five separate statistical approaches (including regression analysis) with a data set of 570 million observations collected over 16 years from 68.5 million Medicare enrollees. This technique helped isolate particulate pollution effects from other influences. It effectively mimicked a randomized experiment (the gold standard test for teasing out cause and effect), which would be unethical to conduct in this kind of investigation. "This area of statistics has never been applied to air pollution and mortality," Dominici says.

The results show that tightening allowable PM2.5 levels from 12 to 10 µg/m3 could lower mortality risk in the elderly by up to 7 percent--saving more than 143,000 lives in a decade.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The God of Good Manners?It's easy to forget that God is both kingly and courteous. (DEREK RISHMAWY, JUNE 22, 2020, Christianity Today)

We usually think of courtesy as synonymous with simple politeness, and, well, if there's something the God of the whirlwind is not, it is polite. More than mere manners, though, for Julian, God's courtesy is his kindness, his consideration, his friendly magnanimity. Think of it as a lordly solicitude--the Lord's greatness is magnified, not in abusive displays of power or lack of care for his servants but in his ability to concern himself with their welfare and dignity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'They didn't run the plays': Ex-officials say Trump administration didn't use pandemic 'playbooks' (Lucien Bruggeman, July 29, 2020, ABC News)

"I think that this current pandemic has really played out in many ways similar to exercises and table-top simulations that we had done many years ago," said Dr. James Lawler, a former White House National Security Council (NSC) official during both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations who worked specifically on pandemic preparedness.

"I think, unfortunately, things have played out somewhat predictably," he added.

Multiple public health officials under Presidents Bush and Obama who spoke with ABC News as part of its coronavirus special, "American Catastrophe: How Did We Get Here?", described the painstaking lengths to which previous administrations planned for viral infectious disease pandemics.

Many of those same officials condemned the Trump administration for failing to execute on the strategies gathered as a result of those efforts, such as taking early and aggressive science-based actions, clear communication to the public, and collaboration with international and state partners.

Others accused the president of exacerbating matters by shuttering a NSC office specifically tasked with pandemic response preparedness.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


One of Assad's Loyalists Comes Clean (Eli Lake, Jul. 29th, 2020, Bloomberg View)

What is surprising is that Assad would turn on one of his closest allies and a childhood friend. That he did so is a sign of Assad's desperation, says David Adesnik, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Because the inner workings of his regime are shrouded from the public, it's hard to know exactly why Assad has turned on Makhlouf. One theory is that Syria's most important patron, Russia, wants to recoup some of the money it has invested in helping Assad largely win the civil war.

The destruction of ISIS at zero cost to America while inflicting fatal damage on the Ba'ath regime and debilitating Putin is a textbook case of how to do regime change, even if the Obama Administration stumbled into it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What is morally wrong with discrimination? A Kantian analysisEach one of us is an end-in-itself, a citizen within a "kingdom of ends," as Kant put it. (Sam Ben-Meir, 29 July 2020, OpenDemocracy)

Kant's moral philosophy - or deontology ('deon' referring to duty) - maintains that what makes an act right is that it is done for the sake of the moral law. Consequences, intended or otherwise, are irrelevant in determining the moral worth of an action. What matters is whether the action is motivated by duty, which is to say, respect for the moral law.

Kant offered several formulations of the moral law which he described as a categorical imperative, as opposed to a hypothetical imperative. A hypothetical imperative says "If you want to accomplish x... then you must do y." A categorical imperative on the other hand says, "Do x!" Your ends, aims or desires are irrelevant. That is what makes it categorical: it is not conditional upon anything. It commands us all the same irrespective of empirical or psychological contingencies.

Two formulations of the categorical imperative are particularly important. The first is the principle of human dignity and it says, never treat another rational being merely as a means but always as an end-in-themselves. In other words, treat every human being as possessing intrinsic value and never simply as a means to your own ends. From this standpoint, slavery is wrong precisely because it reduces the human being to a mere object, a thing, an instrument for satisfying another's interests and fails to recognize their infinite and intrinsic worth as an end-in-themselves.

The point of chattel slavery being that blacks were not fellow human beings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump storms out of press briefing after CNN reporter questions his promotion of quack doctor (CODY FENWICK, JULY 29, 2020, AlterNet)

Subsequent reporting revealed that the doctor in the video is a complete quack -- she has previously promoted claims about alien DNA and demon sperm.

"The woman that you said is a 'great doctor' in that video that you retweeted last night said that masks don't work and there's a cure for COVID-19, both of which experts say is not true," Collins told Trump during the evening briefing. "She's also made videos saying that doctors make medicine using DNA from aliens and that they're trying to make a vaccine to make you immune from becoming religious. So, what's the logic in retweeting that?"

Trump shook his head and looked down.

"I can tell you this," he said. "She was on air with many other doctors. They were big fans of hydroxychloroquine. And I thought she was very impressive in the sense that where she came -- I don't know what country she comes from -- but she's said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients. And I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her."

Trump tried to move on to another reporter, but Collins had a follow-up. As she tried to cut in, he clearly grew annoyed. He decided to give up on getting a question from another reporter, said only, 'Thank you very much, everybody," and quickly left the room.

Donald swallowed the quackery.

July 28, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 PM


Just how anti-Semitic is QAnon? (Michael Janofsky, July 28, 2020, The Forward)

In one of Marjorie Taylor Greene's videos, the Republican House candidate is holding an automatic pistol and warning Antifa "to stay the hell out of northwest Georgia," her district. In other videos she denegrates Blacks, Muslims and Jews, accusing George Soros, a wealthy investor, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor of being a Nazi collaborator.

What makes Greene, who is running in a solid Republican district, even more unusual among House candidates this cycle is that she's a true believer in QAnon, a conspiracy theorist whose postings concoct a smorgasbord of conspiracy theories, like Satanic child-sex trafficking rings, ritual murder of children and the overthrow of the government by a "deep state."

Open QAnon's current home base, a platform called 8kun, and it becomes immediately clear that it's not just QAnon raising eyebrows in these freighted political times. It's also QAnon's followers. Many of them clearly do not like Jews, as reflected by their responses to the hinted-at conspiracies that build on traditional anti-Semitic tropes.

What part of Nationalist do people not get?

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


The video of Sharyl Attkisson getting "hacked" actually just shows a stuck delete key (Max Fisher, Oct 31, 2014, Vox)

She presents the evidence in such a way as to strongly imply that the Obama administration ordered her computer hacked as retribution for her critical reporting. On Friday, Attkisson released a video of the central allegation in her book. But it turns out that what the video actually appears to show is not sophisticated US government hacking, but a stuck delete key, and a former reporter with breathtakingly poor computer literacy.

Sharyl Attkisson's video is being presented as showing the US government hacking her in real-time
The video has taken the right-leaning web by storm, and is widely seen as proof of Attkisson's unstated-but-clear implication. The Blaze called the video "what could be evidence of the government taking over her computer." TownHall ran it with the headline: "Watch Someone in The Government Take Over Sharyl Attkisson's Computer." Fox News columnist Howard Kurtz called it "highly sophisticated hacking" and "chilling stuff." Breitbart News deemed it "More Evidence the Government Hacked Sharyl Attkisson's Computer."

But it turns out, based on Attkisson's own video, that the computer may not have been hacked at all. It turns out that not only does this bear none of the hallmarks of anything remotely resembling hacking but, based on all available evidence, it looks like what actually happened is probably that her delete key got stuck.

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:16 PM


Hundreds of Sick Canadians Euthanized over Loneliness (WESLEY J. SMITH, July 28, 2020, National Review)

The country's 2019 MAID [medical assistance in dying] Annual Report found that 13.7 percent of the 5,631 Canadians killed by doctors asked to be lethally injected because of "isolation or loneliness." If my math is right, that's about 771 people, or 64 a month, or two per day. Good grief!

Some of the other reasons people gave for asking to be killed:

Loss of ability to engage in enjoyable activities, 82.1 percent. That's a serious concern, but with proper interventions, it can be overcome.

Loss of ability to perform activities of daily living, 78.1 percent. Ditto.

"Inadequate control of pain (or concern about it)," 53.9 percent. That's a scandalously high percentage. Palliative and hospice pain-control experts will tell you that most serious pain in terminal illnesses can be successfully alleviated.

Loss of dignity, 53.3 percent. Again, this is a serious concern but can be overcome with appropriate care.

Perceived burden on family, friends, and caregivers, 34 percent. In other words, people put themselves out of their loved one's misery.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Determining America's "Dependence" on China for Essential Medical Goods (Scott Lincicome, 7/13/20, Cato)

The ITC report thus reveals that, far from suffering some sort of major "dependence" crisis that demands an immediate, wide‐​ranging overhaul of the U.S. manufacturing sector and U.S. trade and procurement policies, the United States generally imports essential medical goods from a diverse (and ever‐​changing) group of foreign suppliers, and that--at most--there are only a handful of these products (from China or elsewhere) which are so dominated by a single country that they might require the federal government's attention.

The key word here, of course, is "might" because even products with highly concentrated import shares don't necessarily demand new government action. As I explained recently in National Review, import shares alone (which is all the ITC examined) can't tell us how "dependent" the United States actually is on the foreign source country at issue:

[I]solated import‐​share figures tell us very little about actual "vulnerabilities," because they omit domestic production and local inventories. According to a new study from the St. Louis Federal Reserve, China supplied almost 30 percent of all imported "essential medical equipment" (hand sanitizer, masks, personal protective equipment, ventilators, etc.) in 2018 but accounted for only 9 percent of total domestic consumption because American producers supplied the vast majority (more than 70 percent) of these products....

At the same time, we have massive stockpiles of other critical drugs to prepare for crisis‐​related spikes in demand.

Import share figures might also hide other global producers that have substantial capacity but simply didn't sell to the United States during the period at issue (e.g., due to long‐​term contracts or geographic considerations), and they don't tell us about the availability of similar or alternative products (e.g., a different type of antibiotic) in the marketplace or about key inputs or intermediaries in the manufacturing process. Furthermore, all of these figures will need to be updated to account for massive recent changes in the U.S. and global markets for these goods, as manufacturers around the world expanded capacity or adapted their operations to meet the COVID-19 challenge.

Protectionism has nothing to do with economics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats Lead Senate Races in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan and North Carolina (ELI YOKLEY, July 28, 2020, Morning Consult)

Less than 100 days from Election Day, Democrats are leading in key races that will help decide who controls the Senate in January, with few candidates on either side of the aisle running ahead of the ticket-topping presidential contest.

That's the main finding from new Morning Consult Political Intelligence polling of likely voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina conducted July 17-26. Democratic candidates lead in all of those races save for Georgia, where Republican Sen. David Perdue leads Democrat Jon Ossoff within the margin of error, with the incumbent running alongside President Donald Trump and his challenger polling behind former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The feds say they won't leave Portland until the violence stops. Privately, they concede they're fueling that violence. (The Week, 7/28/20)

The top federal prosector in Oregon, U.S. Attorney Billy Williams, said Monday that the federal agents aggressively policing protesters in Portland would remain in the city until the "attacks on federal property and personnel" cease. Oregon officials say the presence and shock-and-awe tactics of the federal agents are the main fuel for those attacks, and federal law enforcement officials privately concede they have a point, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Team Trump's Mounting Fear: His Base Will Abandon Him (Asawin Suebsaeng, Jul. 27, 2020, Daily Beast)

Trump's tweet may have been born out of a frustration that the Reagan Foundation, Paul Ryan, and Fox News weren't being sufficiently subservient and appreciative of his presidency. But it also was a reflection of a broader anxiety within the upper echelons of Trumpworld that the president's conservative base--which Trump and the party have long touted as rock-solid and fiercely loyal--may be starting to rupture amid the coronavirus pandemic, a weakened U.S. economy, and protest movements in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd. It is a concern that some close associates of the president have raised to him directly.

"I told him that he should believe the [public] polling, and that it shows that the way things are going, some of his base may abandon him by the election," said a Republican who spoke to Trump about the issue earlier this month. "That is what the numbers are saying." 

This source added that the president shrugged off the suggestion and said that this person was being "ridiculous" for entertaining the notion that his base would ever fracture. 

Part of Trump's confidence in the endurance of his base is owed to the fact that he caters so much to it. In several key policy arenas, the president has jettisoned any and all pretense of reaching beyond Trump diehards. Earlier this year, he and his senior staff made it clear that they intended to run in part on criminal-justice reform, and to strafe Joe Biden, the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, for his "tough on crime" past. It was an effort supplemented with a $10 million Super Bowl ad buy and aimed at depressing Biden's Black voter turnout. But shortly after the Floyd killing, Trump and top officials were completely bored with even the idea of the most modest of police reforms and chose to fully embrace an iron-fisted posture.

...as long as he stays misogynist, anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-Latino, anti-Asian and Islamophic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Right-wing media are killing Trump's campaign: Trump is running a historically awful campaign for re-election (JOSHUA HOLLAND, JULY 28, 2020, AlterNet)

[A]nother factor was the existence of "a positive feedback loop of overly rosy assessments and data from advisers and Fox News." Trump, a malignant narcissist, is known to lash out at aides who provide him bad news so it appears that they've fed him a steady diet of the kind of Pollyannaish stories that are a mainstay of the conservative media's coverage of the pandemic, and of his regime's response to it.

Trump is running a historically awful campaign for re-election. At present, his twin pitches for a second term are his ability to pass a rudimentary test designed to diagnose dementia and a promise to deploy thousands of unidentifiable and poorly trained federal paramilitaries to American cities, against the protests of state and local officials, in the name of protecting statues and federal buildings from vandalism.

For anyone who consumes a balanced media diet, these strategic choices are inexplicable. While it's true that as we approach 150,000 mostly avoidable deaths from the pandemic and millions continue to file for unemployment, he doesn't have a lot to run on, a competent candidate would make an effort to show that he understands how this crisis is impacting people and demonstrate that he's focused on containing the outbreak and rebuilding-whether or not it's true. This is politics 101.

July 27, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Populism, Nativism, Isolationism, and Protectionism: Condoleezza Rice explains the rise of nativism, populism, isolationism, and protectionism across the world and their impact on democracies. (Interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice  July 21, 2020, Lindsay Lloyd, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of the Bush Institute's Human Freedom Initiative)

In your 2017 book, Democracy, you describe populism, nativism, isolationism, and protectionism as the "four horsemen of the apocalypse." Three years later, how do you feel democracies are faring with these four horsemen?

It's not a good story. The COVID-19 crisis, if anything, has tended to reinforce, maybe even exacerbate, some of the trends toward isolationism. You've gotten a response where the sovereign state is king in response to the pandemic. It's my citizens, my borders, my PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]. The international organizations seem to have almost been sidelined during this period of time. The underlying trend toward nativism, take care of my own, seems to be stronger than at any other time in my memory.

The underlying trend toward nativism, take care of my own, seems to be stronger than at any other time in my memory.

By the way, it is quite in contrast to the response to September 11th, or even to the financial crisis of 2008, where there was very much a sense that these were contagions that couldn't be really contained within borders.

We're going to have a lot of hard work to do to rebuild some sense of international cooperation as one of the important elements to responding to crisis once we are through this terrible situation. I understand that impulse, but it's still one that I'm sorry to see.

In a more homogenous country like Hungary, populism is more of a sense of Hungary versus the world. Here in the United States, populism seems to rely more on our internal divisions, on red versus blue, on race, on religion, on native-born versus immigrant. How do we best deal with those tensions that populism has brought out in our own country?

You are very right that the response of a country that's homogenous is around an old-fashioned nationalism: My nation against others. The United States, of course, is this odd creation. To be American is not tied to nationality, religion, or ethnicity. We come from, and our ancestors came from, every corner of the world. You couldn't have a response like you see in Hungary.

But we are having an uncomfortable conversation about how do we define "American"? We divide ourselves into ever smaller groups, each with its own narrative, each with its own grievance, each with its own history. It becomes about whether my grievance or my narrative is superior to yours.

What has been sacrificed is the sense of a common narrative that was not based on our tribe, our ethnicity, our nationality. That common narrative was based on a belief that you could come from humble circumstances and you could do great things. That narrative was without regard to your race, ethnicity, or nationality.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Republican senator deletes ad that made Jewish opponent's nose bigger (Aiden Pink, July 27, 2020, The Forward)

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia deleted a Facebook ad targeting his Jewish election opponent, Jon Ossoff, that appeared to have been altered to make Ossoff's nose bigger.

The ad called for donations to Perdue, a Republican, by claiming that "Democrats are trying to buy Georgia." It uses black-and-white photos of Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is also Jewish, that have been Photoshopped to appear as if they were pulled from an old television set with poor reception.

But the Ossoff image, which was adapted from a 2017 Reuters photo of him, was also changed by having his nose lengthened and widened, even as other parts of his face stayed the same size and proportions, three graphic design experts told the Forward.

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Newfound Democratic Leverage on the Relief Bill (DAVID DAYEN JULY 27, 2020, American Prospect)

The problem for Republicans, as Lindsey Graham pointed out this morning, is that "half the GOP will vote against whatever the leadership comes up with." The leadership appears dimly aware that any failure on this bill will cause far more electoral pain for Republicans rather than Democrats. Yet this admission means that any bill will need substantial Democratic support in order to pass.

The White House has even floated on more than one occasion the idea of a stopgap bill just to extend the unemployment benefits, which for most states have already expired. Right now, without legislative action there will be no federal enhancement in the next check, a benefit cut of between 60 and 85 percent for recipients, depending on the state. Asking for a short-term extension indicates that Republicans have such little confidence in finding any common ground that they know they must come hat in hand to the Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Behind closed doors during one of John Roberts' most surprising years on the Supreme Court (Joan Biskupic, July 27, 2020, CNN)

Chief Justice John Roberts did not flinch.

When Roberts joined liberals on the Supreme Court to preserve an Obama-era program shielding young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, he surprised some of his colleagues by voting against the Trump administration from the beginning, according to multiple sources familiar with the inner workings of the court. [...]

New details obtained by CNN reveal how Roberts maneuvered on controversial cases in the justices' private sessions, at times defying expectations as he sided with liberal justices. Roberts exerted unprecedented control over cases and the court's internal operations, especially after the nine were forced to work in isolation because of Covid-19.

The chief justice, for the first time in his tenure on the court, voted to strike down a state law that would diminish access to abortion and, in a decision for the ages, rejected President Donald Trump's extensive claims of "temporary presidential immunity."

Roberts also sent enough signals during internal deliberations on firearms restrictions, sources said, to convince fellow conservatives he would not provide a critical fifth vote anytime soon to overturn gun control regulations. As a result, the justices in June denied several petitions regarding Second Amendment rights.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


What Biden's presidency means for Iran (Brett Sudetic & Giorgio Cafiero, July 23, 2020, MEMO)

With a likely embrace of more pragmatic policies toward Tehran, a Biden presidency could ease US-Iran tensions by moving bilateral relations in a more stable direction with a reduction, albeit not a total elimination, in Washington's pressure on the Islamic Republic. Although impossible to predict how Biden would conduct foreign policy if elected, his record as Barack Obama's VP and as a US Senator since the 1970s can help inform observers of what style of leadership Biden might bring to the international stage.

Like Obama, Biden has favoured a "liberal internationalist" agenda on the world stage. Although no dove, he has on many occasions favoured diplomacy and strong US support for international engagement and multilateral institutions--a contrast to Trump's foreign policy defined by bold unilateral moves such as withdrawing the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the World Health Organisation, and the Paris Climate Agreement. In his Iran policy, Biden may be more sensitive to the interests of NATO members such as France, Germany, and Turkey, which supported the JCPOA and regretted the US' decision to withdraw from the agreement in May 2018. Some analysts maintain that a Biden win in November could even put a US return to the JCPOA on the table.

A Biden presidency's Iran policy would likely be more predictable and coherent than the current administration.

A disaster for the Wahhabi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


People Are Getting Their Racist and Confederate Tattoos Removed: 'Today, I'm Not That Guy': In the last few months, tattoo artists, laser removal specialists, and anti-hate speech advocates say they've received a flood of requests for alterations on racist or hateful tattoos. (Trone Dowd, July 27, 2020, Vice News)

White says he's used to people asking about removing swastikas and other iconography associated with Aryan beliefs. But the spike in requests concerning the Confederate flag is a new trend, echoing the efforts in many American cities where politicians or protesters are actively taking down monuments to Confederate-era leaders.

"We're seeing an uptick in people who have Confederate flag tattoos and have really decided that the verdict is out and it's really time to get those things off of them," White said. "Your Confederate-flag guys, a lot of times they've never really aligned with any kind of hatred or bigotry. It was just kind of a symbol of being a redneck and a good old boy, especially where I'm at."

"We have a lot of that ideology: the country boy mentality," White continued. "I've noticed a lot of those dudes, who got them when they were 16, 17, 18, who are now in their 30s and have decided that's not who they are."

That rings true for Nicosia, who joined the Aryan Brotherhood 12 years ago.

"Going to prison, I don't care who you are, where you're from, what culture you are, you are going to get in where you fit in," he said. "If not, you're going to be eaten alive."

"Today, I'm not that man. I work hard. I have a beautiful fiancee. I love my community. I try to give back. I try to do the right thing."

White took up tattoo artistry 16 years ago and started doing free removals in 2017, and in those three years, his cover-up work has become just as popular as his tattoo work: He now has over 48,000 followers on Instagram.

"I enjoy doing cover-up work," he said. "I excel at it, and I've always considered it to be a form of healing."

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New Book Provides More Evidence of the Trump-Stone Russia Coverup: An inside account of the Trump impeachment offers new revelations. (David Corn, 7/27/20, Mother Jones)

The book, A Case for the American People: The United States v. Donald J. Trump, was written by Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to congressional Democrats during Trump's impeachment. In this work, Eisen, who previously was ethics czar for President Barack Obama and US ambassador to the Czech Republic, presents the inside story of the third impeachment in US history, detailing the internal debates and conflicts among House Democrats and sharing juicy, behind-the-scenes anecdotes of the trial. The book reveals that the House Judiciary Committee initially drafted a wide-ranging list of 10 articles of impeachment for Trump before narrowing the case to two articles related to the Ukraine scandal.  

In the book, Eisen sharply (but respectfully) criticizes Mueller for a "failure to go the distance." He contends that Mueller let the republic down by not pursuing an obstruction of justice case against Trump "all the way" to the end. (In his final report, Mueller presented evidence indicating Trump committed obstruction, but he reached no firm conclusions and determined that under Justice Department policy, he did not have the authority to indict a sitting president.) "The refusal to admit there were at least five chargeable crimes was his shortcoming, not his lack of style," Eisen writes of Mueller. "I understood his old-fashioned restraint under the special counsel regulations and typical prosecutorial standards. But he had leeway under the rules to do much, much more, and he didn't."

One example of Mueller's dereliction, Eisen contends, is the Roger Stone case. 

Stone was prosecuted by Mueller's team for lying to Congress during the Trump-Russia investigation and for witness tampering. He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to 40 months in prison--and then Trump eradicated the sentence shortly before Stone was to report to a federal prison. Stone had lied to Congress about his efforts during the 2016 campaign to be in contact with WikiLeaks, while that website was disseminating emails and documents that had been stolen from Democrats by Russian hackers as part of a Kremlin operation to help Trump win the White House. But the extent of Stone's shenanigans--and Trump's personal and possibly criminal involvement--never became a central component of the Trump-Russia scandal narrative, and Eisen blames Mueller for not fully pursuing this matter. Moreover, Eisen reports that he and his fellow staffers developed important evidence on this front.

It'll all come out at the trial, when Attorney General Harris prosecutes him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the Lincoln Project's brutal anti-Trump ads could remake US politics (Lincoln Mitchell, Thu July 23, 2020, CNN)

The veteran consultants involved in the Lincoln Project appear sincere in their desire not just to beat Trump but to praise Biden. This appears to reflect a broader trend in American politics that may have a correspondingly larger impact on post-Trump America. Biden is benefiting from an unusually broad coalition that is attracting other disaffected Republicans, too. Campaigns by organizations like Republican Voters Against Trump, led by conservative activist William Kristol, and rumors that John Kasich, a longtime conservative Republican, is expected to speak at the Democratic convention in support of Biden are likely to help the former vice president maintain his comfortable lead in the polls.

While this undoubtedly will help Biden in the election, it may also ultimately change the tenor of his presidency.

If Biden wins, organizations like the Lincoln Project will have newfound influence and options. They will be among the many groups, including progressive Democratic activists, organized labor, LGBTQ voters and voters of color who can claim to have helped elect him. Unlike those other groups, the Lincoln Project, while virulently anti-Trump, is made up of conservatives. They will be well positioned to be a conservative counter to the progressives who would like to see a President Biden tack left once elected.

It will be difficult for a Biden administration to ignore the Lincoln Project's leadership after the election. Alternately, if Trump loses badly and brings his party down with him, currently a possibility but far from a certainty, there will be a need for a post-Trump conservative party. The Lincoln Project, having staked out political space as anti-Trump conservatives, will also be well positioned to be at the heart of that movement.

The most important thing we Never-Trumpers can do after Joe is elected is restore the American ideal of a loyal opposition.  We can oppose the governing party without being as psychotic as minority parties have been since 2000.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


July 26, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Bill by Sen. Tom Cotton targets curriculum on slavery (Frank E. Lockwood, 7/26/20, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

In the interview, Cotton said the role of slavery can't be overlooked.

"We have to study the history of slavery and its role and impact on the development of our country because otherwise we can't understand our country. As the Founding Fathers said, it was the necessary evil upon which the union was built, but the union was built in a way, as Lincoln said, to put slavery on the course to its ultimate extinction," he said.

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One key indicator could be pointing to a sweeping victory for Democrats come November (NICOLE GOODKIND, July 26, 2020, Fortune)

A sudden, significant shift in party affiliation just 100 days ahead of the November elections could indicate that Republicans are in trouble. 

A new Gallup poll finds that since January a 2% Republican advantage in party identification has turned into an 11% Democratic advantage. Half of all Americans now identify with or lean to the left, compared with 39% who identify as Republican or lean right. Between May and June alone, Republicans saw a five-point decline while Democrats gained three points. 

...to make it Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cheerful Allegiance To Truth (ROGER KIMBALL, 7/23/20, American Conservative)

Conservatives also tend to enjoy a more active and enabling sense of humor than Leftists. The English essayist Walter Bagehot once observed that "the essence of Toryism is enjoyment." What he meant, I think, was summed up by the author of Genesis when that sage observed that "God made the world and saw that it was good." Conservatives differ from progressives in many ways, but one important way is in the quota of cheerfulness and humor they deploy. Not that their assessment of their fellows is more sanguine. On the contrary.  Conservatives tend to be cheerful because they do not regard imperfection as a moral affront. Being soberly realistic about mankind's susceptibility to improvement, they are as suspicious of utopian schemes as they are appreciative of present blessings. This is why the miasmic gloominess emanating from some conservative circles today is so dispiriting. It goes against the grain of what it means to be conservative. It is dampening, and I for one hope it will prove to be a quickly passing phenomenon. Among other things, this recent access of personal gloominess makes the practice of professional gloominess--the robust deployment of satire, ridicule, and contempt--much more difficult and less satisfying.

It is, of course, Mr. Kimball and the rest of the Trumpist Right that is gloomy, because they are being crushed.  We conservatives find it immensely amusing.

July 25, 2020

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2020 attention tracker: Biden succeeding in making it about Trump (Neal Rothschild, 7/25/20, Axios)

During this period of the campaign in 2016, social media interactions (likes, comments, shares) on stories about Hillary Clinton continued to climb, nearly doubling from April to July -- even before the party conventions began. Biden's have plunged.

It was also during this time that "Crooked Hillary" saw the most momentum, according to Google Trends data. It peaked in June and saw another spike during the DNC in Philadelphia in late July.
The big picture: The trends speak to Trump's struggles to effectively brand Biden. He has at turns tried to label Biden as corrupt, senile, toothless and a tool for the "radical left".

Biden has been able to grow his lead by keeping the focus on Trump -- a job made easier by the nationwide surge in coronavirus cases.

By the numbers: Since emerging from his home on Memorial Day for the first time since mid-March, Biden's interactions have continued to drop while his lead in the national polling average has climbed. It jumped from 5.6 points on the holiday to 8.7 points now, per the RealClearPolitics average.

Allowing Uncle Joe to engage with Donald would be political malpractice.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Donnafugata Dilemmas: Reading 'The Leopard' Again (Randy Boyagoda, July 22, 2020, Commonweal)

The Prince, modeled on Lampedusa's great-grandfather, is an ambivalent, self-preserving, and self-defeating actor in these developments, which pose clear risks to himself and his family. The prospect of change also calls into question the nature of his responsibilities to the many people in his greater household and lands who have long depended on his laissez-faire leadership and largesse, whether gratefully or resentfully. As the novel begins, he wanders with melancholic languor around his house and properties, all marked with variations on the family's leopardine coat-of-arms. He spends his days and nights eating with his seven children, sleeping with his wife, sleeping with his mistress, hunting, dabbling in astronomy, chatting up his loyal Great Dane and long-suffering family priest, receiving peasants bearing meager gifts in place of payments for what they reap on his land. Lampedusa makes it clear that the Prince, like the princes before him, has always lived like this and can't imagine his descendants living otherwise--but now he has to decide how to respond to the approach of a new world in which this way of life can no longer be taken for granted. I can't think of another novel that provides such an intimate and fine-grained sense of what it means for a family man of public standing to confront the pressures of modernity increasing day by day, visitor by visitor.

Lampedusa evokes this pressure through the novel's most famous line, when the Prince conferences with Tancredi (his charismatic, hustling nephew) about Garibaldi's encroaching presence and the greater implications for the Prince's life. Tancredi tells him: "'If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. D'you understand?'" He does, and he doesn't, and the novel movingly presents the Prince's attempt to understand and live out a relationship between continuity and disruption he struggles to accept, whether it has to do with supporting family members' marriages to new-money people with vulgar mores, or deciding whether--and then how--to vote in a plebiscite about Italian unification or join a new Italian Senate. Given the Prince's standing, his participation legitimates the very thing that delegitimizes that standing, some portion of which he might be able to preserve if he joins a greater popular movement that seeks to deny his hereditary primacy altogether.

Most contemporary readers won't agree with the Prince's general approach to life and will rightly reject the embittered passivity that wins out over his better qualities.
Lampedusa brilliantly captures the Prince's dilemma in a sequence where he and his family journey to their palatial holding in the town of Donnafugata. The trip takes place a few months after Garibaldi's initial landing and a couple of weeks before Garibaldi and his men take Naples, the decisive event in this stage of the Risorgimento. It's a tense time, and the Prince looks forward to a kind of stability and reassurance otherwise increasingly imperiled: "'Thanks be to God, everything seems as usual,' thought the Prince as he climbed out of his carriage" to be greeted by the mayor, the local monsignor, assorted civic leaders and dignitaries, and the rustic masses. All of them watch in respectful silence while "according to ancient usage" the Prince and his party process into the cathedral for a Te Deum. Pro-Garibaldi slogans are painted on nearby walls: they're fading, but they're there, and the Prince can't help but notice them. Following prayers in the cathedral, he returns to the town square and warmly invites everyone there to visit the family in its palace after dinner that night. "For a long time Donnafugata commented on these last words," Lampedusa writes, "And the Prince, who had found Donnafugata unchanged, was found very much changed himself, for never before would he have issued so cordial an invitation; and from that moment, invisibly, began the decline of his prestige."

The Leopard and Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop are both examples of books that strike one much differently at different ages.  If you read them when young and didn't quite get the fuss, try them again when old. The Prince's dilemma, of trying to accept the future while preserving the past, is the conservative dilemma.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Donald Trump's suburban horror show (DAVID SIDERS, 07/24/2020, Politico)

"We can't give up more ground in the suburbs nationally without having a real problem for our party," said Charles Hellwig, a former chair of the Republican Party in Wake County, N.C., describing a landscape in which "every year, every month, every day, we get a little bluer."

It is the same story in suburbs everywhere. In a Fox News poll last weekend, Trump was trailing Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, by 11 percentage points in the suburbs. An ABC News/Washington Post poll had Trump down 9 percentage points there -- larger margins in the suburbs than exit polls have recorded since the 1980s, when Republicans were winning there by double digits.

That polling reflects a dramatic swing from 2016, when Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the suburbs by 4 percentage points. Trump's erosion in the suburbs is a major reason the electoral map this year has expanded for Democrats in recent weeks -- with Trump in danger not only of losing, but of taking the Senate down with him. And demographic shifts are only becoming more favorable to Democrats. The suburbs are rapidly growing, and by 2018, according to Pew, people of color made up nearly a third of suburban population.

It would take a more successful salesman than Donald to convince us to hate our neighbors.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


'It's Bleak': Trump's Great American Comeback Is a Dumpster Fire (Asawin Suebsaeng, Jul. 25, 2020, Daily Beast)

Earlier this month, when Trump pulled out of a planned New Hampshire rally, not long after enduring utter humiliation and diminished attendance at his Tulsa event, his White House said the New Hampshire one was going to be put off for a mere "week or two." Two weeks on, there's no news of Trump returning to the state. On Friday night, a Trump campaign spokesperson told The Daily Beast that there was "nothing to announce" regarding New Hampshire at this time. [...]

Meanwhile, the president's drive to re-open American schools on his terms and his timeline--a policy push that his reelection campaign had thought would be a real winner with the electorate, given their own private polling on the matter--has mostly backfired, with various school leaders and health officials defying his wishes, citing the safety of the teachers, kids, and families. The economic "revival" Trump had promised since April hasn't happened, and many prominent Republicans and conservative lawmakers aren't sure if boosting the president's 2020 chances with another large injection of economic stimulus would even be worth it at this point, with just over three months to go until Election Day.

And even Team Trump's previous intention to troll Biden throughout the election for his past "tough on crime" excesses, and to frame the president as the true criminal-justice reformer, is dead and gone, replaced in recent weeks by Trump's unequivocal pivot to "law and order," draconian posturing and federal crackdowns in American cities.

"It's bleak," said one senior White House official, discussing the current electoral landscape and how, for instance, it's highly possible that the suburbs end up crushing Trump and other Republicans in the November election. "The president has done such damage to himself that a lot of us are just waiting for him to stop being handed so many of those kinds of opportunities."

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Anti-Putin Protests In Russia's Far East Gather Steam (Radio Liberty, July 25, 2020)

 A demonstration against the way Russian President Vladimir Putin has handled a regional political crisis is reportedly the largest seen in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk since protests began there more than two weeks ago.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the streets of the Khabarovsk region's capital for a third weekend on July 25 to show their frustration and anger over the situation.

Many called for Putin's resignation. Others chanted "Disgrace" and denounced the acting governor that Putin appointed in Khabarovsk after he fired the popular former governor, Sergei Furgal.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


To wear or not to wear a face mask? (David Robertson  25 July 2020 , Christianity Today)

The mask question is fascinating. At one level it seems so simple and obvious to some people that wearing a mask is our Christian duty. It saves lives and surely if we love our neighbour then we should not be selfish, and simply mask up. On the other hand, there are those who argue that it is your Christian right not to wear a mask...

If you don't think a duty to others trumps a personal freedom you don't actually believe.

July 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 2:36 PM


Baseball, Hot Dogs, and BLM (RICH LOWRY, July 24, 2020, National Review)

...BLM is being made into part of the American civil religion.

For the Right, "All Men are Created equal" isn't already part of our civic religion.

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Covenant with God (Nikhat Sattar, 24 Jul, 2020, Dawn)

One of the worst consequences of this political and moral weakening of Muslim societies is the bre­aking of Muslims of their covenant with God. This covenant was to establish qist (reasonable justice) which cannot be achieved unless the grievance and remedy is assessed from the perspective of the victim, and to call for maruf (good) and advocate aga­inst munkar (evil). Classical jurists of Islam equate the maruf with how a person would like to be treated. The understanding of what is maruf and munkar is resident within a person's nature. God places the res­ponsibility of the morals of a society squarely upon its people and declares: "...Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves. ... (13:11)".

The Quran calls upon humans to give evidence of the truth, even if it means going against one's family or interests. In other words, Muslims should raise their voices against crimes perpetrated by Muslims, even more than they would for those committed by non-Muslims.

Today, this has been turned on its head. Non-Muslim societies provide justice far more in line with the Sharia, mete out humane treatment, provide refuge to those who have suffered under oppressive regimes at home and speak up against rights violations. As Dr Khaled Abu El Fadel says, it is as if "someone uses the superficially technical Sharia to violate Sharia".

The goal of the WoT is to make the Arab world as sharia compliant as the West.
Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


PODCAST: Kant's Categorical Imperative: Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss one of Kant's best known ideas: 'Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law'. (BBC, In Our Time)

Pretty hilarious conversation touching on several of this week's themes, as Kant experts demonstrate the impossibility of his task: trying to ground morality on a foundation other than an objective God.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 AM


In Struggle Against Pandemic, Populist Leaders Fare Poorly (Associated Press, July 23, 2020)

The countries that top the rankings of COVID-19 deaths globally are not necessarily the poorest, the richest or even the most densely populated. But they do have one thing in common: They are led by populist, mold-breaking leaders.

Populism in politics means pushing policies that are popular with "the people," not the elites and the experts. The United States' Donald Trump, Britain's Boris Johnson and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, as well as India's Narendra Modi and Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have surged to power in democratic countries, challenging the old order by promising social benefits to the masses and rejecting the establishment.

But it turns out that when it comes to battling a new disease like COVID-19, the disruptive policies of populists are faring poorly compared to liberal democratic models in countries like Germany, France and Iceland in Europe, or South Korea and Japan in Asia.

July 23, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Portland As I See It: Here's the difference between what I saw with my own two eyes and what I see online and on TV (Jacob Grier, 7/23/20, Arc Digital)

Portland, Oregon, to hear the president tell it, is "totally out of control." According to Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Portland "has been under siege for 47 straight days by a violent mob." The Wall Street Journal editorial board contends that "anarchists and rioters have wreaked havoc" leading to "a surge of violence."

It sounds bad.

But from the view of the newly constructed outdoor patio at one my favorite Portland restaurants, sipping on a frozen pineapple margarita after a pleasant summer bike ride around the city, these descriptions struck me as a bit overheated.

The disconnect between the reality of daily life in Portland and its depiction in national media has become something of a joke among those of us who live here, with residents humorously posting photos from the zoo, parks, and quiet streets alongside overheated dystopic descriptions from the national press.

For a city under siege, things are surprisingly tranquil. The latest figures from the police bureau suggest that most crime is actually down. Yet the proud weirdness of our mid-sized city has long invited outside observers to read into it what they want to.

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Hamilton: Statesmanship at the Service of a Natural Rights Republic (Tony Williams, 7/23/20, Real Clear Public Affairs)

Hamilton came to the American colonies as a young immigrant as the tensions with Great Britain were coming to a head in the mid-1770s. He studied ancient and Enlightenment thinkers at King's College and developed a Lockean political philosophy that prized natural rights and republican self-government.

In his 1775 Farmer Refuted pamphlet, he argued for universal natural rights. "The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records," he wrote. "They are written, by the hand of divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power." The purpose of government was to protect the natural rights of the sovereign people, who could overthrow an unjust government that failed to fulfill its purpose. [...]

During the 1780s, Hamilton joined the antislavery New York Manumission Society. He believed that slavery was a moral evil and a contradiction of any natural-rights regime. During the war, he had backed friend John Lauren's plan to emancipate slaves in South Carolina if the slaves would bear arms for the patriot cause. Ultimately, though, abolition was not Hamilton's main cause. He adopted a longer view, one devoted to building a well-governed republic that protected the inalienable rights of all.

Locke refuses to be who the secularists need him to be.
Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


American Rednecks vs. English Twerps in Brave New World (KYLE SMITH, July 23, 2020, National Review)

Savageland is a hot, seething, trashtopia in the Southwest U.S. where dissipated New Worlders Lenina Crowne (Jessica Findlay Brown) and Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) join other decadent looky-loos to gawp at the habits of the "savages," red-blooded red-state Americans such as John (erstwhile Han Solo Alden Ehrenreich), who depend on the rich New Worlders for the tourist dollars but chafe at being treated as zoo animals. What makes the show right-wing is that its heart is with the organic, earthy savages, who seek to rise up and give a good pounding to the effete bisexual Eurosnobs in designer stupidwear who have names like "Bernard."

The show is basically a clash between a snobby, socially stratified Downton Abbey of the future and the cast of a Ford F-150 commercial. On the one side are emotionless twerps who wear stupid beige-gray double-breasted suits over stupid gray-beige turtlenecks as they gobble soma like Tic-Tacs. (The clicking of their dispensers to indicate unease is a running gag). On the other hand are the future equivalents of hard-working, sweaty 'Muricans who know how to fix things, have healthy honest feelings, and preserve traditions such as privacy and monogamy. They drink moonshine, which they helpfully describe to the tourists as "liquid soma," they dress as God intended (in honest American white T-shirts and wifebeaters), and when they get gawked at by prissy English dorks who can't even drive a car, they want to kill every one of them. Who wouldn't? A redneck revolution against futuristic emotionless globalist bots sounds like fun. It's a tech-reversed Westworld.

July 22, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


113 House Republicans vote to keep Confederate statues on display in Capitol (Josh Israel, July 22, 2020, American Independent)

One hundred thirteen House Republicans voted on Wednesday to keep Confederate statues on display in the U.S. Capitol building.

The House voted by a margin of 305-113 to remove statues of persons "who served as an officer or voluntarily with the Confederate States of America or of the military forces or government of a State while the State was in rebellion against the United States."

The bill would also remove statues of other racist officials, namely white supremacist Charles Brantley Aycock, slavery enthusiast John Caldwell Calhoun, and "white standards of civilization" defender James Paul Clarke. It instructs that a bust of Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, be replaced with one of Justice Thurgood Marshall in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


When Choosing What To Believe, People Often Choose Morality Over Hard Evidence (ELIZABETH NOLAN BROWN | 7.22.2020, reason)

In a pre-publication paper titled "Morality justifies motivated reasoning in the folk ethics of belief," Cusimano and Lombrozo report that people "treat moral considerations as legitimate grounds for believing propositions that are unsupported by objective, evidence-based reasoning." The researchers also found that people who deemed beliefs morally good also considered those same beliefs logically sound, even when the "good" belief lacked supportive evidence.

"Across three studies, many people prescribed motivated reasoning to others, reported that morally good beliefs require less evidence to be justified, and that, in some circumstances, a morally good belief can be justified even in the absence of sufficient evidence," Cusimano and Lombrozo write.

It's a Puritan nation.
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Green energy ratchets up power during coronavirus pandemic (Susanna Twidale, 7/22/20, Reuters) 

Renewable power has taken up a record share of global electricity production since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Reuters review of data, suggesting a transition away from polluting fossil fuels could be accelerated in the coming years.

Just slap some confiscatory consumption taxes on carbon and speed the transition.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Gallup poll of more than 36,000 Americans finds 94% feel police reform is needed in the US (Marguerite Ward, 7/22/20, Business Insider)

Some 94% of respondents said some change was needed to improve policing, with 58% saying major change needs to happen, and 36% saying minor change needs to happen. Only 6% said no changes are needed.

July 21, 2020

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Planned Parenthood Renounces Racist, Eugenicist Founder Margaret Sanger (Josh Christenson - JULY 21, 2020, Free Beacon)

Planned Parenthood of Greater New York renounced racist and eugenicist founder Margaret Sanger on Tuesday for her "harmful connection to the eugenics movement."

"The removal of Margaret Sanger's name from our building is both a necessary and overdue step to reckon with our legacy and acknowledge Planned Parenthood's contributions to historical reproductive harm within communities of color," said chair of New York affiliate's board Karen Seltzer in a statement, according to the New York Times. A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood said the organization's national leadership also approved of the decision.

The decision marks a historic about-face by the organization, which has routinely defended Sanger's legacy. As recently as 2016, Planned Parenthood published a fact sheet that said her racist statements should be overshadowed by her "worldwide renown, respect, and admiration for founding the American birth control movement." Planned Parenthood acknowledged that she touted her efforts to reduce the "negro population" at a Ku Klux Klan meeting, but maintained that she was motivated by "passion," rather than racism. The abortion provider also criticized its founder for endorsing mass sterilization for the disabled--a view it defended in 2016 because, "she agreed with the 'progressives' of her day."

"Planned Parenthood acknowledges these major flaws in Sanger's views -- and we believe that they are wrong. Furthermore, we hope that this acknowledgment fosters an open conversation on racism and ableism - both inside and out of our organization," they said at the time.

Now they just have to abandon her mission.

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Trump Has Damaged the U.S.-Japan-South Korea Alliance--And China Loves It: Donald Trump has accomplished in just three years an objective that Beijing has long pursued: reducing U.S. influence in the region by weakening the U.S.-Japan-South Korea partnership. (Gene Park Mieczysław Boduszynski, 7/20/20, National Interest)

[T]he American-led alliance system in Asia is not only about military power. Like NATO, it is also an alliance of values. Japan and the ROK are robust democracies with vibrant civil societies. The strength of the alliance lies not only in its ability to project military might but in its capacity to help advance a wide range of what should be shared objectives: supporting international rules to level the economic playing field, ensuring the free flow of information, fighting climate change, and safeguarding democracy at a time when illiberal ideologies and authoritarianism are ascendant.

Rather than bolstering these vital alliances, Trump has repeatedly worked to undermine them. In an approach that smacks of extortion, he has demanded exorbitant amounts for the U.S. base presence in the ROK and looks poised to continue a similar approach with Japan. He has ignored the fact that Japan and the ROK are net security exporters, contributing large sums of money to maintain U.S. forces on their territory and dispatching troops to U.S.-led and multilateral overseas operations. All the while, he has sought to cut a deal with North Korea dictator, Kim Jong-un, with little regard for Japan's and the ROK's interests, stoking fears that a possible deal might only cover U.S. concerns, such as limiting just missiles that could reach the United States. To top it off, Trump achieved a new diplomatic low with America's treaty allies: insulting ROK president Moon Jae-in and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe by mocking their accents at a fundraiser.

In the economic sphere, Trump has pushed protectionist policies that target exports from both Japan and the ROK, just as both countries seek to diversify their export markets and investments away from China. Even after negotiating new trade deals with both countries, he has left in place some of the unilaterally imposed tariffs and kept the threat of others on the table.

Trump has damaged the alliance system in Asia by undermining its foundation: trust. However dedicated both countries have been to the alliance, the president's words and actions can't help but cause them to wonder how much they can rely on Washington. The exorbitant demands on the ROK to cover hosting U.S. troops have triggered a popular backlash there. One former ROK foreign minister, who once led the ROK's efforts to denuclearize North Korea, suggested U.S. demands have made it time for the ROK to consider the development of a nuclear arsenal, a measure that could trigger proliferation in a region with other nuclear-aspirant states. In Japan, a country with a long history of favorable views of the United States, only 36 percent of Japanese citizens trust Trump. With the fear of U.S. abandonment high, the current Abe administration--at least publicly--has doubled down on the alliance. But look beneath the public posturing, and many officials and commentators are discussing the need for an "insurance policy."

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Dozens of moms formed a human shield to protect protesters from officers outside a federal courthouse in Portland (Paul P. Murphy and Amanda Jackson, 7/21/20, CNN)

As a mom in Portland, Oregon, was watching the unrest unfolding in her city, she felt compelled to get involved and protect protesters.

For more than 50 days, protests over racial inequality and police misconduct have carried on in Portland. While many have been peaceful, those demonstrations have also been marked by violence, vandalism, arson, arrests and allegations of police brutality.

Friday night, Bev Barnum said she was watching videos on social media from the protest showing people being detained by federal agents.

"It didn't take long for me to find a massive array of video displaying obvious human rights violations," Barnum told CNN.

The videos showed masked, camouflaged federal authorities without identification badges in unmarked vehicles arresting protesters in Portland. These incidents have sparked the state's US attorney to call for an investigation into the matter.

Barnum said she told her husband she wanted to help and he suggested a fundraiser.
"But I thought I needed to do more so I asked the Portland working moms group to protest with me -- to shield the protesters from harm with our 'mombods,'" she said.

Barnum, founder of Wall of Moms, and about 70 other mothers converged onto the protest in downtown Portland, where protesters were gathered outside the federal courthouse. The women stood in the front of the protest line and locked arms to form a human shield. At times they were chanting "Moms are here! Feds stay clear!"

...Donald hates his mother and the mothers of his children.

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Majority of Voters Say U.S. Society Is Racist as Support Grows for Black Lives Matter: Perceptions that minorities face racial discrimination hit new highs, WSJ/NBC News poll finds (Sabrina Siddiqui, July 21, 2020, WSJ)

Voters in growing numbers believe that Black and Hispanic Americans are discriminated against, and a majority of 56% holds the view that American society is racist, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

The poll finds that Americans of all races and age groups share significant concerns about discrimination nearly two months after George Floyd, a Black man, was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. Nearly three-quarters of Americans, 71%, believe that race relations are either very or fairly bad, a 16-point increase since February.

In other signs of substantial shifts in views on race, more voters see racial bias as a feature of American society and support protests aimed at addressing it. Nearly 60% in the survey said that Black people face discrimination, and just over half said so of Hispanics, about double the shares from 2008. Support has also grown for two of the public responses to concerns about inequality: the Black Lives Matter movement and professional athletes' practice of kneeling during the national anthem.

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Why Did Republicans Abandon American Idealism?: Anne Applebaum on Political and Cultural Despair (Anne Applebaum, July 21, 2020, Lit Hub)

This strand of deep right-wing pessimism about America is not entirely new. A version of these same views has been offered to Americans repeatedly, over a period of three decades, by many other speakers and writers, but most famously by Patrick Buchanan. Buchanan is not an evangelical Protestant, but rather a Catholic who shares the same apocalyptic worldview. In 1999, Buchanan announced that he was resigning from the Republican Party and running for the presidency at the head of the Reform Party. In his announcement speech, he lamented the loss of the "popular culture that undergirded the values of faith, family, and country, the idea that we Americans are a people who sacrifice and suffer together, and go forward together, the mutual respect, the sense of limits, the good manners; all are gone." In more recent versions of this lament, he has been more specific about his cultural despair, as he was in the spring of 2016:

In the popular culture of the '40s and '50s, white men were role models. They were the detectives and cops who ran down gangsters and the heroes who won World War II on the battlefields of Europe and in the islands of the Pacific. The world has been turned upside-down for white children. In our schools the history books have been rewritten and old heroes blotted out, as their statues are taken down and their flags are put away.

Buchanan's pessimism derives partially from his sense of white decline but also, like some of those diametrically opposed to him on the left, from his dislike of American foreign policy. Over the years he has evolved away from ordinary isolationism and toward what seems to be a belief that America's role in the world is pernicious, if not evil. In 2002, he told a television audience, using language that could have equally come from Noam Chomsky or a similar left-wing critic of America, that "9/11 was a direct consequence of the United States meddling in an area of the world where we do not belong and where we are not wanted."

Stranger still, a man who resisted false Soviet narratives for many decades fell hard for a false Russian narrative, created by Putin's political technologists, that Russia is a godly, Christian nation seeking to protect its ethnic identity. Never mind that only a tiny percentage of Russians actually go to church, or that fewer than 5 percent say they have ever read the Bible; never mind that Russia is very much a multiethnic, multilingual state, with a far larger Muslim population than most European countries; never mind that Chechnya, a Russian province, is actually governed by sharia law, or that its government forces women to wear veils and tortures gay men; never mind that many forms of evangelical Christianity are actually banned.

The propaganda--the photographs of Putin paying homage to an icon of Our Lady of Kazan, for example, or the incorporation of religious services into his inaugurations--worked on Buchanan, who became convinced that Russia was an ethnic nationalist state of a sort superior to America, which he describes with disgust as a "multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual 'universal nation' whose avatar is Barack Obama."

Like those who live on the extreme edges of the American far left, some of those who live on the extreme edges of the far right have long been attracted to violence. There is no need to rehearse here the history of the Ku Klux Klan, to tell the stories of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh and Charleston shooter Dylann Roof, or to describe the myriad individuals and militia movements who have plotted mass murder, and continue to plot mass murder, in the name of rescuing a fallen nation. In 2017, an Illinois militia set off a bomb at a Minnesota mosque. In 2018, a man who believed Jews were plotting to destroy white America murdered eleven people at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

In January 2019, a group of men calling themselves "the Crusaders" plotted to put a bomb in an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, because they hoped to murder a large number of Somali refugees. These groups and movements were also inspired by a conviction that democracy is worthless, that elections cannot bring real change, and that only the most extreme and desperate actions can stop the decline of a certain vision of America.

By 2016, some of the arguments of the old Marxist left--their hatred of ordinary, bourgeois politics and their longing for revolutionary change--met and mingled with the Christian right's despair about the future of American democracy. Together, they produced the restorative nostalgic campaign rhetoric of Donald Trump. Two years earlier, Trump had railed against American failure, and called for a solution Trotsky would have appreciated: "You know what solves [this]? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you'll have . . . riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great."

Four years before that, his adviser Steve Bannon, who has openly compared himself to Lenin, spoke menacingly of the need for war: "We're gonna have to have some dark days before we get to the blue sky of morning again in America. We are going to have to take some massive pain. Anybody who thinks we don't have to take pain is, I believe, fooling you." In a 2010 speech, he even made a direct reference to the Weathermen, referencing Prairie Fire and quoting from the Bob Dylan song that gave them their name:

It doesn't take a weatherman to see which way the wind blows, and the winds blow off the high plains of this country, through the prairie and lighting a fire that will burn all the way to Washington in November.

Trump's inaugural address, written by a team of his advisers--Bannon among them--also contained both left and right strands of anti-Americanism. It included left-wing disgust for the "Establishment," which had "protected itself, but not the citizens of our country": "Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land." It also reflected the evangelical despair about the dire moral state of the nation, "the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential."

The inaugural speech did not directly express a longing for a cleansing episode of violence. But the speech on "Western civilization" that Trump delivered in Warsaw a year later, in July 2017--the one Bardaji and his friends helped write--most certainly did. Trump, who seemed surprised by some of what he was reading from the teleprompter ("Think of that!" he marveled at a mention of the Polish origins of Copernicus), was clearly not the author.

But the real authors, including Bannon and Stephen Miller, used some of the same language as they had in the inaugural: "The people, not the powerful . . . have always formed the foundation of freedom and the cornerstone of our defense," they wrote, as if Trump himself were not a wealthy, powerful elite businessman who had dodged the draft and let others fight in his place. In a passage describing the Warsaw Uprising--a horrific and destructive battle in which, despite showing great courage, the Polish resistance was crushed by the Nazis--they had Trump declare that "those heroes remind us that the West was saved with the blood of patriots; that each generation must rise up and play their part in its defense." The ominous overtone was hard to miss: "each generation" means that patriots in our generation will have to spill their blood in the coming battle to rescue America from its own decadence and corruption too.

Trump himself contributes new elements to this old story. To the millenarianism of the far right and the revolutionary nihilism of the far left he adds the deep cynicism of someone who has spent years running unsavory business schemes around the world. Trump has no knowledge of the American story and so cannot have any faith in it. He has no understanding of or sympathy for the language of the founders, so he cannot be inspired by it. Since he doesn't believe American democracy is good, he has no interest in an America that aspires to be a model among nations.

In a 2017 interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, he expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator, using a classic form of "whataboutism." "But he's a killer," said O'Reilly. "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" Trump replied. Two years earlier, he expressed a similar thought in another television interview, this time with Joe Scarborough. "He's running his country and at least he's a leader," he said of Putin, "unlike what we have in this country... I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know."

This way of speaking--"Putin is a killer, but so are we all"--mirrors Putin's own propaganda, which often states, in so many words, "Okay, Russia is corrupt, but so is everyone else." It is an argument for moral equivalence, an argument that undermines faith, hope, and the belief that we can live up to the language of our Constitution. It is also an argument that is useful to the president, because it gives him the license to be a "killer," or to be corrupt, or to break the rules "just like everyone else." On a trip to Dallas I heard a version of this from one of the president's wealthy supporters. Yes, she told me, he is corrupt--but so, she believed, were all of the presidents who went before him. "We just didn't know about it before." That idea gave her--an upstanding citizen, a law-abiding patriot--the license to support a corrupt president. If everybody is corrupt and always has been, then whatever it takes to win is okay.

This, of course, is the argument that anti-American extremists, the groups on the far-right and far-left fringes of society, have always made. American ideals are false, American institutions are fraudulent, American behavior abroad is evil, and the language of the American project--equality, opportunity, justice--is nothing but empty slogans. 

The Left objects that minorities do not share in America's bounty equally with whites; the Right objects that they get to share at all.

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Why More Companies are Offering a Four-Day Workweek  (JESSICA STILLMAN, 7/21/20, INC.COM)

Few have had a good word to say about the global catastrophe that is Covid-19, but at least one group has managed to find a small silver lining to the crisis: advocates for shortened workweeks. From Stanford-based scholars and New Zealand's prime minister to entrepreneurs in the small business trenches, a chorus of voices has argued that this crisis is the perfect time for companies to experiment with a four-day workweek. 

Not only might reduced hours allow employers to share around the pain of the economic contraction, reducing the need for layoffs, but a less full office also makes social distancing easier if and when employees physically return to work. Plus, everyone has a lot on their plate now (especially parents). Giving your people a little space to rest and regroup can result in greater productivity when they are on the clock, the thinking goes. 

Which sounds like a pretty compelling case for experimenting with shortened hours. Are employers actually listening? New data suggests that the argument for a shortened workweek might actually be getting through. 

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The New Jersey Shooting Suspect Left a Pro-Trump Paper TrailIn a trove of documents published online, Roy Den Hollander directed misogynistic and racist insults at U.S. District Court Judge Esther Salas, and expressed support for the president. (JOSHUA BENTON, 7/21/20, The Atlantic)

"Female judges didn't bother me as long as they were middle age or older black ladies," he writes when discussing a lawsuit he filed that went before Judge Salas, the first Hispanic woman appointed a federal judge in New Jersey. "They seemed to have an understanding of how life worked and were not about to be conned by any foot dragging lawyer. Latinas, however, were usually a problem--driven by an inferiority complex."

Along with the attacks on Salas, Den Hollander's writings also go after President Barack Obama (who he said has an "obsession to turn America into a banana republic"), Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who he claimed was "angry that nobody had invited her to her high school senior prom"), Hillary Clinton (whose supporters were "teary-eyed, sad-sack, PC loonies watching their power of intolerance go down the drain"), and an Obama appointee (whom he describes as part of "that Orwellian party of feminists, ethnics, Muslims, illegals and queers who think they are superior to everyone else, especially white males.")

In contrast, he writes in the same sprawling document that he was a volunteer for the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who he said "was telling the truth about illegal aliens in his bid for the Presidency." 

July 20, 2020

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Biden promises to end Trump's 'Muslim ban' on first day in office (Middle East Eye,  20 July 2020)

Joe Biden has vowed that if elected president he will end President Donald Trump's so-called Muslim travel ban on his first day in office.

Speaking at a summit organised by the Muslim political action commitee Emgage, the presumptive Democratic nominee told delegates and audience members that "Muslim American voices matter" heading into November's presidential election.

"Muslim communities were the first to feel Donald Trump's assault on Black and brown communities in this country with his vile Muslim ban," Biden said.

"That fight was the opening barrage in what has been nearly four years of constant pressure and insults, and attacks against Muslim American communities." [...]

In his address, Biden took aim at the president over the sharp increase in hate crimes, particularly against Muslims, accusing Trump of making a "mockery of what we stand for."

"Trump has fanned the flames of hate in this country... through his words, his policies, his appointments and his deeds," said Biden.

"We can do something about it. I'm here today to ask you to join me in the fight to rip this poison from the government root and stem, or as the famous case said, root and branch."

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FBI names suspect in fatal shooting at judge's house, 'anti-feminist lawyer' had case pending before judge (Alex Napoliello, 7/20/20,  NJ.com)

Den Hollander's personal website boasts that he was once described by the New York Times as an "anti-feminist lawyer."

"Now is the time for all good men to fight for their rights before they have no rights left," he wrote on his website. "Contact Roy to help battle the infringement of Men's Rights by the Feminists and their fellow sisters and the PCers."

The more hysterically they warn us about violence on the left, the more violence the Trumpists commit. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


French far-left leader accuses Jews of responsibility for Jesus's death (MARCY OSTER, 7/20/20, JTA)

A far-left French politician accused Jews of deicide, or being responsible for the death of Jesus, during a television interview.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the founder of the democratic socialist La France Insoumise, or Unsubmissive France party, and a member of the National Assembly, made the remarks on Thursday in an interview on the French BFM-RTL TV news channel.

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Biden eyes GOP supporters while Trump focuses on his base (STEVE PEOPLES, 7/20/20, AP)

In the four months since Joe Biden effectively won the Democratic presidential nomination, he has focused on consolidating the party's divergent and often warring factions. As the closing stretch of the campaign nears, that effort will expand to include Republicans disaffected with President Donald Trump.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican and frequent Trump critic, has been approached and is expected to speak at the Democratic National Convention on Biden's behalf next month, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans who insisted on anonymity to discuss strategy. Kasich is among a handful of high-profile Republicans likely to become more active in supporting Biden in the fall.

Trump, meanwhile, is doing virtually nothing to expand his appeal beyond his most loyal supporters. Some GOP operatives believe the suburbs are lost while a contingent of high-profile Republicans are openly questioning the president's reelection message.

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Why is everyone so mean to Bari Weiss? (Robert Wright, Jul 19 2020, NonZero)

I just want to note something others have noted about Weiss: she punctuates fierce defenses of free and untrammeled speech with attempts to expel people from the community of discourse because of things they've said. Obviously, if you can get enough elites to share your view that a person is anti-Semitic, that person won't be welcome on mainstream platforms. To call someone an anti-Semite is to argue for their cancellation.

Which in some cases would be OK with me. But Weiss's definition of anti-Semitism is pretty broad. For example: she says that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. So by her lights it must be time to cancel Peter Beinart, the former editor of the New Republic and current contributor to The Atlantic and Jewish Currents. Beinart (an Orthodox Jew) this month wrote a New York Times op-ed arguing that a two-state solution will never happen, so it's time to give up on maintaining a Jewish state and to work instead on creating a single political entity encompassing Israel and Palestine and granting equal rights to all. Beinart contends that this needn't mean the end of Zionism, since there would still be a "Jewish home" in the Middle East, but Weiss's version of Zionism entails a Jewish state, so...it's been nice knowing you, Peter.

In her resignation letter, Weiss complained about being "the subject of constant bullying" by colleagues at the New York Times who "disagree with my views." She has also attracted a fair amount of wrath in the wider world. Last week Katie Herzog, a fellow signer of the Harper's letter and a friend of Weiss's, expressed puzzlement over this. "It's strange that she has become the sort of villain on Twitter," Herzog said to Aryeh Cohen-Wade, host of the bloggingheads.tv show Culturally Determined. "I'm curious about if somebody could point out, like, all of Bari's sins... I'm guessing that they're going to seem a little bit smaller than the hype around her would suggest."

I'll accept that challenge! I mean, I can't speak for all of Twitter, but I'm happy to note some things about Weiss's writing that trigger me, some of which I've seen trigger others. 

I've already alluded to one common complaint: Weiss has long cast herself as an opponent of cancel culture, yet she repeatedly, if implicitly, encourages canceling people. But I wouldn't want my indictment of her to rest heavily on that. Pretty much all of us champion free speech yet have people we'd like to cancel. Or, to put it more high-mindedly, we all can name views we consider so pernicious that their advocates shouldn't be featured on respectable platforms or at respectable gatherings. Who among us would go to a soiree attended by David Duke? Or object if we heard that software at the Times op-ed page sent his submissions straight to the spam folder? 

Nor do I think we can indict Weiss for spending so much of her time on a particular cancellation criterion--for the fact that, as Herzog put it, "she has a hyper-focus on anti-Semitism." We all have our pet issues. 

It's when you look closely at how Weiss deploys that focus, and the consequences of the deployment, that the indictment starts gathering force. I think her approach to the anti-Semitism problem seriously damages American political discourse. And her approach is shared by lots of influential people and institutions--which makes her that much more important as a case study. So here are the bullet points from my case study--five things about Bari Weiss's writing that trigger me:

1. Her criteria for cancellation lack moral coherence. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Inexorable Collapse of Lebanon (Christoph Reuterm 20.07.2020, Der Spiegel)

Lebanon never grew together as a nation, Allouch says, adding that it was pieced together by France a century ago from the leftovers of the Ottoman Empire. Ultimately, he says, it was the product of lobbying by rich merchants, particularly in Beirut. "But we have never felt like we belonged together."

Shiites, Sunnis, Maronites, Armenians, Greek-Orthodox Christians or Druze: All groups eye the others with suspicion, he says, their leaders stirring up fear of the others and only joining together to plunder the state. "We're a kind of Frankenstein with make-up," Allouch says.

The radiance of Lebanon, and the myth of a "Middle Eastern Switzerland," has always been fragile, and no city has experienced this as painfully as Tripoli. Here, in a kind of remake of the civil war that continued for years until 2014, the inhabitants of the two poorest quarters would fire shots back and forth at each other: the Alawites from Jabal Mohsen and the Sunnis from Bab Tabbeneh.

It's what happens when your political system is based on giving the minority power over the majority.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Besieged Benjamin Netanyahu Blames Israel's Protests on Epstein MoneyIsrael's prime minister is dealing with a resurgent coronavirus crisis, a trial, a flailing economy, and mounting protests--and is spouting conspiracy theories instead of plans. (Noga Tarnopolsky, Jul. 20, 2020, Daily Beast)

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The Pentagon found a loophole to ban the Confederate flag over Trump's objections ( (ALEX HENDERSON, JULY 20, 2020, Alter Net)

Cooper reports, "That senior military leaders are contorting themselves to such an extent shows the gap that has developed between the White House and the movement for racial justice that has swept across the country since the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police in May. As protests ignited, senior Defense Department officials began grappling with the legacy of racism in the military."

Trump has defended having military installations named after generals who fought against the U.S. Army in the Confederate Army during the Civil War of the 1860s. But when Gen. Mark Milley appeared at a U.S. House of Representatives hearing last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended that the Pentagon take "a hard look" at renaming military bases that are presently named after Confederate officers.

At the hearing, Milley told members of Congress, "There is no place in our armed forces for manifestations or symbols of racism, bias or discrimination."

According to Cooper, the memo Esper issued on Friday, "goes after the many American soldiers, Marines and airmen who display Confederate flags and other symbols in their barracks and in parking lots on military installations."

Esper said in the memo: "Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories and the special, timeless bond of warriors.... The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Court acquits men who lynched Eritrean migrant they mistook for terrorist (Times of Israel, 7/20/20)

Citing reasonable doubt, the Beersheba District Court on Monday acquitted two men, Israel Defense Forces soldier Yaakov Shimba and Israel Prisons Service officer Ronen Cohen, over their roles in the 2015 lynching of an Eritrean migrant who was mistaken for a Palestinian terrorist.

July 19, 2020

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Why Are Conspiracy Theories So Appealing? (David Ludden Ph.D.,  Jul 13, 2020, Psychology Today)

Prior research has found that people are motivated to believe in conspiracy theories for three reasons. First, they make believers feel good about themselves and the groups they belong to. Second, they help believers find meaning in a confusing world. And third, they lead believers to feel safe and in control. [...]

The researchers note that some people bolster their social identity with the conspiracy theories they ascribe to, as in the case of neo-Nazis and belief in a Jewish conspiracy.

However, others are drawn to conspiracy theories as a way of asserting their own uniqueness in a "conformist" society. For instance, people who believe the Earth is flat or that the government is controlled by lizard people from outer space don't derive any sort of social identity from their beliefs. Rather, they see themselves as special because they're privy to knowledge that non-believers don't have or are unwilling to accept.

To understand how these two motivations--social identity and uniqueness--work, Van Bavel and colleagues turned their attention next to the characteristics of conspiracy theories, specifically their content and their qualities. In this theory, the content consists of the unique narrative elements of the conspiracy theory--the government is run by lizard people, Jews are conspiring to dominate the world economy, scientists fabricate data on climate change to garner more research funds, and so on. The content is what differentiates one conspiracy theory from another.

However, the researchers also propose that all conspiracy theories have a set of qualities in common. These are the structural properties that make a particular belief a conspiracy theory. For instance, all conspiracy theories point to a specific group that is conspiring to deceive or do harm to society--the government, the Jews, pharmaceutical companies, lizard people, and so on. But conspiracy theories also point out a separate group of people--the believers--who know about the conspiracy and are actively trying to expose it.

Van Bavel and colleagues argue that the content and qualities of conspiracy theories provide separate motivations for believers. In particular, the content of specific conspiracy theories provides social identity motives for those believing in them. Neo-Nazis define themselves, at least in part, by their opposition to a supposed Jewish conspiracy. At the same time, they may dismiss out of hand other conspiracy theories, such as the flat Earth or the moon landing hoax, that are irrelevant to their social identity.

In contrast, those who seek to set themselves apart from "conformist" society are drawn by the uniqueness motives that the qualities of conspiracy theories provide. The actual content of these conspiracy theories is less important than is the "inside knowledge" that the believer has obtained. Thus, people with uniqueness motives will tend to believe in multiple, perhaps even contradictory, conspiracy theories--9/11 was an inside job, the moon landing was a hoax, lizard people from outer space control the government, and by the way, the Earth is actually flat.

Isn't it less that they make believers feel like they're in control than they explain away their feeling that they have none and someone else must be responsible for what they've made (rather, not made) of their lives?

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In America, the System Trends Toward Justice (Jarrett Stepman, July 19, 2020, Daily Signal)

Despite the fact that slavery existed at the time of the founding, the institution held an untenable position in a country based on the words of the Declaration of Independence, crafted by a slave owner, that "all men are created equal" and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.

The Constitution, which intentionally never mentions slavery by name, provided the means by which liberty, justice, and eventually emancipation could be realized. And they were.

The American system may look messy, especially to outsiders, but it has an incredible way of succeeding through the muck of ordinary politics and the failures of fallen human beings.

Out of a deeply imperfect world, Americans have forged a more perfect union, as Abraham Lincoln called it. This was carried out through our system of limited self-government. It was embedded in the culture that produced a Washington, a man who was tireless in devotion to his country and, like Cincinnatus, humbly returned to civilian life when his duty was done.

It was a system built on the rule of law, debate, and deliberation.

There are some who would say that perhaps it is time to stop celebrating our imperfect past and its imperfect heroes.

But America was not built by abstractions or gods. It was created by men and women created in the image of God, but fallen from grace. America became great, and not simply because of the Constitution and the Declaration, as much of a cornerstone to this country as they are. 

No, it was built from that foundation by generations of men and women committed to government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It was sustained by countless Americans who stepped into the arena, who have clung to, defended, and advanced what began in 1776.

The fact that our Founders, like Washington and Jefferson, were imperfect men who owned slaves should not lead to damnation of their life's work, but hope.

Their country, through time, abolished an unjust institution that it was born with.

Flawed people can be great, and so can flawed nations.

Once in our history that system broke down. We were fortunate enough to have a president committed both to ending slavery and ultimately to restoring both the union and the Constitution.

As countless other revolutions devolved into anarchy, violence, and then tyranny, the American republic rose and gained strength. It transformed from a colonial backwater at the edge of the world to a mighty empire of liberty. It became a place where people--of almost all races and backgrounds-strive to get in rather than claw to get out.

The history of human affairs is not a place where one finds lasting liberty and justice for all. Cruelty and deprivation are the norms of life on this earth. We are all the descendants of slavers and the enslaved.

But in America, we've managed to escape the wheel of history, we've managed to create a system that "bends toward justice" rather than toward the more natural human condition of depravity.

..."So much done, so much yet to do."

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Retired NBA great Charles Barkley calls out Black celebrities for anti-Semitism (MARCY OSTER, 20 July 2020, JTA)

Former NBA star and current analyst Charles Barkley has become the latest sports star to speak out against anti-Semitism among Black celebrities.

"Listen, DeSean Jackson, Stephen Jackson, Nick Cannon, Ice Cube," Barkley said in a video tweeted out by NBA on TNT, where he serves as a studio analyst during pre-game and halftime shows.
"Man, what the hell are y'all doing? Y'all want racial equality. We all do. I don't understand how insulting another group helps our cause. And the only person who called y'all on it was Kareem," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Chris Wallace Laughs As Trump Insists Cognitive Test Was 'Very Hard' (PETER WADE , 7/19/20, Rolling Stone)

To be fair, it was the first standardized test he'd ever taken.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


KFC is working with a Russian 3D bioprinting firm to try to make lab-produced chicken nuggets (Kim Lyons,  Jul 18, 2020, The Verge)

KFC is trying to create the world's first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets, part of its "restaurant of the future" concept, the company announced. The chicken restaurant chain will work with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions to develop bioprinting technology that will "print" chicken meat, using chicken cells and plant material.

KFC plans to provide the bioprinting firm with ingredients like breading and spices "to achieve the signature KFC taste" and will seek to replicate the taste and texture of genuine chicken.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The World's Cheapest Hospital Has to Get Even CheaperCancer surgery for $700, a heart bypass for $2,000. Pretty good, but under India's new health-care system, it's not good enough. (Ari Altstedter, March 26, 2019, Bloomberg Businessweek)

In the mid-1990s, Shetty began experimenting with a business school concept alternately called upskilling or task-shifting. The idea is for everyone involved in a complex process to work only at the top of his qualification, leaving simpler tasks to lower-paid workers. In a hospital, this might mean that the costliest staff--experienced surgeons--enter the operating theater only to complete the most difficult part of a procedure, leaving everything else to junior doctors or well-trained nurses. Then they move to the next theater to perform the same task again.

In 2000, Shetty secured a $20 million investment from his father-in-law, the owner of a successful construction business, to create the first Narayana hospital, which would put assembly line surgery into action. (Narayana was the benefactor's middle name.) Initially focused solely on cardiac procedures, Shetty gradually expanded Narayana's remit to include most major operations and set up regional hospitals that could feed patients with complex conditions into its two largest facilities: the Bangalore flagship and another in Kolkata. Within a decade the company had a national network and, in 2014, even opened in the Cayman Islands, in part to attract medical tourists from the U.S. Two years later, Narayana Health went public in Mumbai; it's been continuously profitable since.

"Everyone does as much as they can," Ashwinikumar Kudari, a senior gastrointestinal surgeon, says toward the end of a busy day at the Bangalore hospital. He's just removed two malignant tumors the size of golf balls from a middle-aged woman's intestines--the seventh surgery he's performed or supervised since morning. A compact man with a trim mustache and a wry smile, Kudari is soon on the move again, checking in briefly on a gallstone removal next door before dashing up a spiral staircase to another operating theater. There, he takes over from a colleague who's struggling to locate a particularly tricky fistula. "Our margins are low on one surgery, but because we do so many in a day, we can make enough," he remarks after the elusive fistula--the longest he's ever seen--is found, running from the man's anus to above his groin. By working at this pace, the average Narayana surgeon performs as many as six times more procedures annually than an American counterpart.

Shetty's philosophy of thrift is everywhere. The surgical gowns are procured from a local company for about a third of the cost of international suppliers. The tubes that carry blood to heart-and-lung machines are sterilized and reused after each surgery; in the West, they're thrown away. The machines themselves, along with devices such as CT and MRI scanners, are used well past their warranties, kept running by a team of in-house mechanics. The operating rooms, pieces of real estate so expensive that many hospitals bill for their use by the minute, are also part of the assembly line. Whereas preparing a U.S. surgical theater for the next patient can take 30 minutes or more, Narayana has gotten the process down to less than 15, in part by keeping turnaround teams with fresh instruments, drapes, and other supplies on immediate standby, ready to roll the moment a room is available. Even patients' families are part of the upskilling model. Narayana trains them to bathe patients and change bandages in the hospital, as they'll do when they get home. This allows paid staff to focus on more challenging work. Through all these methods and more, Narayana has been able to get the retail cost of a heart bypass, its most common operation, down to $2,000, about 98 percent less than the U.S. average.

It's all a far cry from the high-touch treatment Westerners expect, but Shetty is adamant that none of the practices compromise safety. Sterilizing and reusing clamps and tubing is permitted under the standards of the Joint Commission, a U.S.-based body that vets and accredits hospitals worldwide, including Narayana's cardiac hub. Involving properly instructed family members in the simplest care tasks isn't unheard of in Europe and North America, and some studies suggest it may improve patients' prospects. (Unlike busy nurses, relatives have just one person to focus on.)

The data appear to back Shetty up. In part because its huge volumes help surgeons quickly develop proficiency, the chain's mortality rates are comparable to or lower than those in the developed world, at least for some procedures. About 1.4 percent of Narayana patients die within 30 days following a heart bypass, according to the Commonwealth Fund, which studies public health, compared with 1.9 percent in the U.S. Narayana also outperforms Western systems in results for valve replacements and heart-attack treatment, the group found.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Feds, right-wing media paint Portland as 'city under siege.' A tour of town shows otherwise (Eder Campuzano, 7/18/20, The Oregonian/OregonLive)

The Oregonian/OregonLive spoke to nearly two dozen Portlanders and visitors downtown Friday as Wolf and other federal officials continued to characterize the city as lawless and under threat of constant riots.

Johnny Leyua, 18, was touring downtown and marveled at the mural in front of the Apple Store where Cory Alexander photographed her daughter.

"I would say that people here are doing it right," Johnny Leyua said. "I think Portland is straight for the movement."

He and his sister, Stephanie Leyua, 20, live in Salt Lake City. She's retrieving a car from her ex and said she's seen nothing but artwork filling the streets.

Stephanie Leyua caught sight of Wolf's tweets at the Justice Center, which showed him chatting with police against the backdrop of graffiti he estimates will cost $5,000 to remove.

"Why didn't he take any pictures of this?" Stephanie Leyua said, gesturing to the mural of Floyd, Washington and other Black people killed by police. [...]

The Trump Administration dispatched federal marshals and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents to protect the building from vandalism after Wheeler ordered city police to scale back their confrontations with demonstrators.

The move is largely seen as a campaign strategy on the president's part as his approval ratings plummet and polls show him far behind presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Earlier this month, a federal police officer shot a less-than-lethal munition at 26-year-old Donavan La Bella's face while he was holding a speaker across the street from the Justice Center, sending him to the hospital with a serious head wound.

Reports of federal agents apprehending Portlanders in unmarked vehicles began to circulate soon after.

The incidents galvanized demonstrators and prompted local and national officials to call for an investigation.

Critics say the government's slow response to requests for transparency and the national media's focus on the most salacious moments of the city's demonstrations prove both federal officials and national reporters care more about property damage than the physical injuries protesters sustain on the streets.

Portland officials' claims that demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism cost downtown businesses upward of $23 million and video of protesters toppling a statue of Thomas Jefferson at a high school in North Portland drew headlines across the country.

But follow-up reporting of a faulty business association survey that mischaracterized sales losses due to coronavirus-related closures as protest-related or the school district's push to rename many of its buildings in a nod to the movement that led to the statue's toppling haven't spread beyond local media.

Neither have stories about the protesters volunteering to feed houseless Portlanders in downtown parks, a group local police removed from the parks in front of the federal courthouse ahead of Wolf's visit.

Meanwhile, La Bella's dry blood still stains the sidewalk across the street from the Justice Center.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Roger Stone calls black radio host a racial slur on air (HARRIET ALEXANDER, 7/19/20,  DAILYMAIL.COM)

During the 30-minute discussion, O'Kelly asked him why he thought he had been pardoned, suggesting it was due to his friendship with Trump rather than the merits of the case.  

'I do believe that certain people are treated differently in the federal justice system. I do absolutely believe that,' said O'Kelly. 

'But I also believe that your friendship and relationship and history with Donald Trump weighed more heavily than him just wanting to make sure that justice was done by a person in the justice system, that you were treated so unfairly. 

'There are thousands of people treated unfairly daily. Hell, your number just happened to come up in the lottery. I'm guessing it was more than just luck, Roger, right?'

There was a pause, then what sounds like Stone's voice can be heard telling someone on the other end: 'I don't really feel like arguing with this n***o.'

O'Kelly, shocked, then responds: 'I'm sorry, what was that? Roger? I'm sorry, what did you say?' 

July 18, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


Right-Wing Domestic Terrorism Has Increased By More Than 300% Since Trump Took Office: Report (COLIN KALMBACHER, Jul 18th, 2020, Law & Crime)

According to a recent report, deaths attributable to so-called "right-wing domestic terrorists" have increased by more than 300% since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

A database compiled by the Type Media Center's David Neiwert and based on government interpretations of ideological motivations showed that at least 87 people were "killed by far-right terrorists" during Trump's first three years in office. That number swells to 145 dead in three years if the 58 people killed by Stephen Paddock during the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017 are added in.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


It's Perfectly Fine to Call It "Defunding" the Police (JOHN H. MCWHORTER, JULY 18, 2020, Slate)

However, most people when they say defund mean that the police should get less money, that the police should be responsible for fewer things within a society--less money, not no money. The question you might ask then is: If that's what people mean, then isn't it imprecise to say "Defund the police"? Shouldn't we be using words according to what they really mean?

In this case, I think we need to be a little more subtle about the matter. The prefix de- is not always absolute. It can also be what a linguist might call scalar. Now it's true that if you dethrone somebody, then you are pulling their butt off of the throne. Down they go, and that's it. To dethrone means to leave the person not on the throne. It's either A or B. Or take desegregate. The idea is not to leave a bit of segregation.

But there are other uses of de-. For example, to deescalate. If you think about it, when you say deescalate, what you imagine is pulling the thermometer reading down, maybe by a lot. But when you don't necessarily mean that you're extinguishing the whole business. It's a matter of degree, pulling something closer down to the middle.

Or if you decompress, does that mean that you are going to wind up maximally uncompressed? Probably not. It's scalar. It's a continuum.

And so defund can mean that, too.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Surging Democrats expand Senate targets to GOP states (ALAN FRAM, 7/18/20, AP) 

And while it's early and well-known senators can differentiate themselves from an unpopular president atop their ticket, Democrats are defending just 12 Senate seats this November to Republicans' 23. The GOP controls the Senate 53-47.

"Donald Trump's failed handling of the coronavirus crisis has changed everything," said Democratic pollster Geoffrey Garin. He said GOP senators are linked too closely to Trump, leaving him "pleased and surprised by the willingness of so many Republicans to go down with the ship."

Democrats have at least a puncher's chance of grabbing Republican-held seats in four states Trump won by double digits: Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky and South Carolina. They have an even shot at ousting GOP Sen. Steve Daines in Montana, which Trump carried by 20 percentage points, and long-shot hopes of retaining their most endangered senator, Doug Jones of Alabama, where Trump won by 28 points.

Republican incumbents face legitimate challenges for two Senate seats in Georgia and difficult fights in Arizona and North Carolina, all where Trump won narrowly. In two states Trump won by 9 points, Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst faces a tough Democratic opponent in businesswoman Theresa Greenfield, while Republican Sen. John Cornyn is on alert against a Texas upset.

The difference from 40 years ago is that Reagan carried in a flock of freaks, because the nominations were so undesirable.  Democrats have actually recruited folks who can be re-elected.

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Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


No rallies, no Death Star: Trump's campaign is disintegrating before our eyes: Brad Parscale? Who's he? Nothing Trump did in 2016 is working -- his campaign is being managed by the coronavirus (LUCIAN K. TRUSCOTT IV, JULY 18, 2020, Salon)

And he planned to win again in 2020 by following the same playbook: dozens, perhaps as many as a hundred rallies, complimented by a brand new Parscale digital operation he labeled the "Death Star" in a May tweet.

So how's the Death Star firing, Brad my boy? 

Parscale was removed as campaign chairman this week, replaced by a former Chris Christie factotum named Bill Stepien, one of whose career highlights was being named in the infamous "Bridgegate" scandal involving the closure of several lanes of the George Washington Bridge in 2013. Stepien saw duty as "field director" during Trump's 2016 campaign, and the way things are going now, directing traffic is about all that's left for him to do in 2020.

As for those rallies? Well, Trump appeared at a grand total of 10 rallies back in January and February before the coronavirus took hold of the White House and began to strangle its grand plans. Last month, a rally was held in deep-red Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was intended to kick off the Trump 2020 general election campaign. You know how wonderfully that turned out. After bragging on social media about a million tickets that had been sold for the Tulsa arena (which held only 19,000), Trump was able to "fill" the arena with just over 6,000 of his most loyal base voters. An "overflow" rally outside the arena was canceled when nobody showed up. 

A few days later, Trump held another rally at the Dream City megachurch in Phoenix, attended by an audience of about 3,000 students. 

Few attendees at either rally wore protective masks, despite a local ordinance requiring them in Arizona. There was an outbreak of coronavirus in Tulsa following the rally there, and the Republican governor of Oklahoma, Kevin Stitt, who attended the rally, tested positive for the virus this week. On Wednesday, Oklahoma saw its largest one-day increase in coronavirus cases, rising by 1,075, nearly a 5 percent increase in the state's total number of cases.

The Republican National Committee announced plans for a scaled back convention next month in Jacksonville, complete with social distancing and masks. Most convention events will be restricted to about 2,500 delegates. On the final day, Aug. 27, when Trump gives his acceptance speech, alternate delegates and guests will bring the total allowed inside the arena to about 7,000. The Trump campaign has been scrambling for new venues to hold rallies where they won't have to worry about the kind of depressed turnout they got in Tulsa. As of this weekend, no new rallies had been scheduled.

But even more worrisome for Trump was a story in the New York Times last week reporting that Facebook is considering banning political ads on its site sometime before the November general election. Facebook advertising was as important to Trump in 2016 as rallies were, and with the campaign facing the possibility of no more rallies at all, Facebook looked to be even more important this year. 

If Facebook pulls political ads and Twitter continues to fact-check Trump's tweets for lies and hate speech, all he will have left is Rose Garden press conferences like we saw on Tuesday, when Trump accused Biden of being against windows (!) and accused him of plans to disarm America's military, among sundry other unhinged accusations and cries of "Where's Hunter?" referring to his rival's son, Hunter Biden. By Thursday, Trump was railing about Biden's plans to deprive home dishwashers of water and blind everyone with low-wattage LED light bulbs.

We haven't even gotten into Trump's cratering poll numbers. He is down by double digits nationally, down by double digits in most battleground states, and even down in double digits among his own Republican base when it comes to his performance in handling the coronavirus. And then there are the worst numbers of all: almost 140,000 dead, with the CDC estimating 170,000 by Aug. 8. A record 77,000 people were diagnosed with the virus on Thursday, and 926 died. The numbers keep going up almost every day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


And the littlest state shall lead the way on COVID-19: Gov. Gina Raimondo, of Rhode Island, shows how effective competence during a crisis can be (JOE NOCERA, JUL 18, 2020, Pittsburgh post-Gazette)

Sometimes, when I'm particularly discouraged about how the U.S. is losing the battle against the coronavirus, I daydream about how much better off we'd be if Gina Raimondo, the hard-charging two-term governor of Rhode Island, were the one leading the nation's response to the pandemic instead of Mike Pence. She has wrestled COVID-19 to the ground in her state and demonstrated ideas and resolve that could help guide the rest of the country in moving forward.

As a native Rhode Islander, I had long admired her penchant for solving difficult problems. Ms. Raimondo, the co-founder of Rhode Island's first venture capital firm, entered politics in 2010 when she ran for state treasurer. Why treasurer? Because, she once told me, she felt that her negotiating and business skills might allow her to help fix the public employee pension system, which was both woefully underfunded and taking an increasing portion of the state's budget.

She was right. In 2012, her pension-reform plan passed the legislature with bipartisan support and helped pave the way to her run for governor.

The coronavirus crisis wasn't exactly something Ms. Raimondo -- or any other governor -- planned for. But it very much played to her strengths. She believes that you gather good information wherever you can find it; "not invented here" is not in her vocabulary.

Thus she studied countries such as South Korea and New Zealand, which had early successes against the coronavirus, and adopted their strategies as her own. If she had been in charge of a national effort, the country would already have a much better testing system.

"I had this moment of clarity very early on, at 2 a.m. when I was working in my home alone," she told Politico last week. "There's no way you can outrun this thing. You have to stay a step ahead. That's when we said we need aggressive testing, very aggressive contact tracing and social distancing. We came to the realization earlier than some other places, because it seemed like the only way to keep a lid on the virus."

Then she would have -- and these are her words, describing what the president should have done -- "immediately gotten CEOs into the Oval Office early in the year, and used the Defense Production Act to mobilize all the best of what America has to offer -- innovation, testing, PPE, medical products." But with the White House missing in action, she had to figure out how to mobilize with the resources available to her.

...and running against Jeb, Baker, Hogan or Sununu.
Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Trump keeps fighting a Confederate flag battle many supporters have conceded (TINA NGUYEN, 07/18/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump is fighting to retain people's right to fly the Confederate battle flag -- but many of his own supporters and government have already turned in their swords.

Public polling shows a majority of Americans -- including those in the South -- now view the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. Corporate institutions, such as NASCAR, have banned it. Republican leaders, some of them close Trump allies, are behind movements to take it down. Mississippi took the Confederate symbol out of its state flag. On Fox News, Trump's favorite pundits are talking more about statues than flags. And Trump's own Defense Department on Friday revealed a policy that effectively bars the flag from military properties.

To abandon the Confederate cause is to give up on everything Trumpism stands for.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Everything's Swinging: Sammy Davis Jr.'s First 35 Years: In Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr., the Rat Packer told his incredible life story--from his uneasy friendship with James Dean to the accident that took his left eye. (HADLEY HALL MEARES, JULY 17, 2020, Vanity Fair)
The multitalented Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr. was born in Harlem in 1925. Dubbed "the world's greatest entertainer," Davis made his film debut at age seven in the Ethel Waters film Rufus Jones for President. A singer, dancer, impressionist, drummer and actor, Davis was irrepressible, and did not allow racism or even the loss of an eye to stop him.

Behind his frenetic movement was a brilliant, studious man who soaked up knowledge from his chosen teachers--including Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, and Jack Benny. In his 1965 autobiography, Yes I Can: The Story of Sammy Davis, Jr., Davis candidly recounted everything from the racist violence he faced in the army to his conversion to Judaism, which began with the gift of a mezuzah from the comedian Eddie Cantor.

But the performer also had a destructive side, further recounted in his second autobiography, Why Me?--which led Davis to suffer a heart attack onstage, drunkenly propose to his first wife, and spend thousands of dollars on bespoke suits and fine jewelry. Driving it all was a lifelong battle for acceptance and love. "I've got to be a star!" he wrote. "I have to be a star like another man has to breathe."

Our interview with coauthor Burt Boyar.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


US Congressman and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis Dies (Chris Simkins, July 18, 2020, VOA)

Born February 21, 1940, outside Troy, Alabama, John Lewis was the son of sharecroppers who grew up in the racially segregated South. He was not able to vote, enroll in college or obtain a public library card because he was Black.

Determined to be a part of the struggle for equal rights, Lewis graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1963 with a degree in religion and philosophy.

As a student, he organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated "Whites Only" lunch counters and staged bus boycotts. Lewis was one of the 13 original "Freedom Riders" beaten and arrested for riding alongside white passengers on interstate buses in the South.

Two years later, as chairman of the influential Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, he helped register thousands of Black voters in places like Alabama and Mississippi. "I've always fought for what was right," said Lewis.

As a 25-year-old activist, Lewis was badly beaten by white Alabama state troopers as he and 600 peaceful demonstrators marched for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965. Lewis suffered a fractured skull. Television images of the incident known as "Bloody Sunday" caused a national awakening to end racial discrimination.

"I was beaten bloody and tear-gassed, fighting for what's right for America. Our country would never ever be the same, because of what happened on this bridge," said Lewis of the history-making event.

Later that year, Lewis stood next to President Lyndon Johnson when he signed the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The legislation outlawed discriminatory voting practices that kept Blacks from gaining political power.

July 17, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 PM


Trump's campaign channeled nearly $400,000 to his private business in 2 days (Sonam Sheth, 7/17/20, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump's campaign sent nearly $400,000 to his private business in just two days, The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold reported on Friday.

Documents showed that the campaign channeled $380,000 to the president's personal business in 43 transactions, Fahrenthold said, adding that the Trump Organization told him the money was for a weeklong "donor retreat" at Mar-a-Lago in March.

Open Secrets, an arm of the Center for Responsive Politics that closely tracks money in politics, first spotted the payments in Federal Election Commission filings from the Trump Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee between Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 PM


The weird masculinity of Donald Trump (Monica Hesse, July 16, 2020, Washington Post)

Nobody cares what Roseanne Barr thinks, generally, but a few weeks ago, a one-minute video circulated online that seemed even more bizarre than her usual bizarre: "Hear me when I say this," she told her phone's camera as she paced around a hotel suite. "Trump is, in my opinion, the first woman president of the United States."

However you'd expected her to end the sentence, it wasn't that. Theories abounded: Was Roseanne trying to court Trump's diminishing female base by saying that Trump was so great for women that he might as well be one? Was it akin to the 1990s declaration that Bill Clinton was the nation's first black president?

Donald Trump bears very little in common with any actual woman I know. But, oddly, he has a lot in common with the basest, most unfair stereotypes of femininity. He is ruled by feelings rather than facts. He is fickle, gossipy and easily grossed out. He uses florid language, like "beautiful" and "perfect," and says he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un "fell in love." He deals with adversity like a Mean Girl with a burn book, via insults and freeze-outs. For any Neanderthal who has ever feared electing a female president because what if she's too cranky when she's on her period -- congratulations. For approximately 1,300 days, you have had a menstruating man in the Oval Office.

Their femininity is why they are all so fearful: of blacks; of Jews; of immigrants; of women; etc.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


Border Patrol Responsible for Portland Arrest: An internal memo, obtained exclusively by The Nation, details a coordinated program of domestic counterinsurgency. (Ken Klippenstein, 7/17/20, The Nation)

Dated July 1st, the memo is titled "Public Affairs Guidance: CBP Support to Protect Federal Facilities and Property" and marked "For Official Use Only." It describes a special task force created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to President Trump's "Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence. That task force, the Protecting American Communities Task Force (PACT), has been tasked not only to assess civil unrest, but also to "surge" resources to protect against it.

The Portland arrest of Mark Pettibone, first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, followed several similar arrests involving officers from BORTAC (Border Patrol Tactical Unit)--CBP's equivalent of a SWAT team--as well as the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group. A CBP spokesman confirmed to The Nation that CBP agents were responsible for the arrest, pointing to authorities under the Protecting American Communities Task Force.

"Violent anarchists have organized events in Portland over the last several weeks with willful intent to damage and destroy federal property, as well as injure federal officers and agents," said the CBP spokesman. "These criminal actions will not be tolerated."

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Trump Caught Lying About Biden's Police Stance in Fox News Interview Debacle (Jonathan Chait, 7/17/20, New york)

In an interview with Fox News host Chris Wallace, Trump asserted that Biden wants to "defund the police." Wallace stopped him and pointed out that this is not true. Trump, who usually bluffs his way through moments when his lies are called out by throwing out new lies, instead claimed to have a document that would prove it. "Oh, really? It says 'abolish' -- let's go, get me the charter, please!" he said, calling for his aides.

They could not, of course, because Trump's claims are flatly false. 

...to search for the charter.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Pentagon bans Confederate flag in way to avoid Trump's wrath (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 7/17/20, AP) 

After weeks of wrangling, the Pentagon is banning displays of the Confederate flag on military installations, in a carefully worded policy that doesn't mention the word ban or that specific flag. The policy, laid out in a memo released Friday, was described by officials as a creative way to bar the flag's display without openly contradicting or angering US President Donald Trump, who has defended people's rights to display it.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


UK's Cpt. Tom a knight at 100, no kneeling required (DANICA KIRKA, 7/17/20, AP)

In the end, Sir Tom didn't need to rise.

On a day infused with emotion, Queen Elizabeth II tapped the blade of a sword once owned by her father on the slender shoulders of 100-year-old Tom Moore, making the national hero a knight of the realm Friday.

Moore captivated the British public by walking 100 laps of his garden in England and raising some 33 million pounds ($40 million) for the National Health Service in April. The queen knighted him with the traditional sword tap, but the World War II veteran was not required to take a knee before the monarch.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


New Hampshire bans chokeholds as police reform becomes law (Michael Casey, 7/16/20, Associated Press)
New Hampshire's Republican governor on Thursday signed into law a bill on criminal justice reform that comes almost two months after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked widespread protests.

The bill prohibits use of chokeholds by law enforcement, bans private prisons in the state and requires police officers to report misconduct. It also provides municipalities with funding to psychologically screen candidates for law enforcement jobs.

New Hampshire is among several states enacting measures to reform their police departments and provide greater accountability in the wake of Floyd's death.

"I would like to thank all of those involved in making this bill a reality," Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. "This is a good first step, and I look forward to our continued work with the Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community, and Transparency." [...]

Senate Judiciary Chair Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, praised the bipartisan nature of the bill that also included additional bail reform measures. It also bolstered domestic violence laws by extending the period in which someone could seek annulment for a misdemeanor conviction from three to 10 years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM

BOOGALOO TV (profanity alert):

Fox News Staffers Erupt Over Network's Racism: Bosses 'Created a White Supremacist Cell' : A heated early-June phone call between Fox execs and Black staffers was just the beginning of an internal revolt against racism at the network, insiders told The Daily Beast. (Lachlan Cartwright, Lloyd Grove, Andrew Kirell, Noah Shachtman, Justin Baragona, Jul. 17, 2020, Daily Beast)

Two people familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast that Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch personally approved what Carlson would say in his defensive Monday remarks addressing the exit of his top writer. Despite demands from Fox News executives that he pre-tape the segment and strike a conciliatory tone, Carlson barely sounded apologetic, knowing he had the full backing of the Murdoch heir.

A rep for Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment. But The Daily Beast spoke to more than a dozen Fox News insiders, who all suggested that behind the scenes there is a growing despair among employees about the network's role in demonizing and spreading fear about Black Americans in particular.

One employee was especially angry, saying, "They created a cell--they created a white supremacist cell inside the top cable network in America, the one that directly influences the president... This is rank racism excused by Murdoch."

Fox News has an apparent racism problem, and it's not just the network's critics who notice it. Anger over the cable giant's shoddy coverage of racial issues is also increasingly coming from inside the building.

Over the past month, the network's Black employees, including on-air talent, have begun to openly confront management over Fox's anti-Black rhetoric--especially that of the network's biggest stars, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson.

Fox News personnel have expressed outrage to network brass over their unwillingness to rein in hosts like Ingraham, whose primetime show--helmed by Tommy Firth, the same executive producer behind Megyn Kelly's former Fox show--has long made white grievance politics a core feature. On June 29, she did an anti-Black Lives Matter monologue which included a line that many viewed as a racist dog whistle and threat: "We will remember those who desert their colors."

For further analysis, Ingraham then tossed to right-wing troll Dinesh D'Souza, whose history of inflammatory and often bigoted comments about Black people--including civil-rights icon Rosa Parks--is well-documented.

A complaint to corporate executives prompted an HR investigation into how Ingraham's segment was conceived and made it to air, which ultimately cleared Ingraham and her team of racist intent in deploying the loaded phrase. Marsheila J. Hayes, the Black HR official who also led the June 9 call, was detailed to explain that the phrase was not racist at all. It was simply a historical military reference, said Hayes. (The phrase appears to have been more often used during the nineteenth century, frequently in reference to Civil War turncoats.)

A Fox News insider, meanwhile, suggested to The Daily Beast that the network frequently deploys right-leaning Black contributors and guests to give cover to racially insensitive content. "That's something they routinely do--they turn out these people, like Candace Owens, to support these things, and use Black apologists to denigrate other Black men and women and victimize them."

Tucker Carlson, who is now the network's most-watched primetime star, has also drawn the ire of his colleagues, as his increasingly unhinged rants about Black Lives Matter and ongoing anti-police brutality protests--the overwhelming majority of which have been peaceful--have made their way into President Donald Trump's similarly bonkers speeches as of late.

In one such monologue, Carlson warned viewers that a Black Lives Matter "mob" will "come for you." Fox News PR scrambled to claim his tirade was actually just about Democrats and "inner city politicians," but some of the primetime star's co-workers weren't buying it.

"Bull. S[***]. They have the script written that gives them an out," one Fox staffer told The Daily Beast. "But what the viewers hear is the white supremacist crap. And that crap goes straight to the White House." 

The company's inclination to look the other way as Carlson seemingly stokes a race war is also a concern that several staffers mentioned to The Daily Beast--especially because Murdoch sent a company-wide memo in early June urging all employees to "closely listen to the voices of peaceful protest and fundamentally understand that Black lives matter." 

Furthermore, and in stark contrast to the fact that he is known to personally approve of what his top primetime host says nightly on TV, the Murdoch heir added: "We support our Black colleagues and the Black community, as we all unite to seek equality and understanding."

Fox's willingness to give its top-rated star a pass for openly flirting with racist ideology has never been more apparent than in the aftermath of last week's CNN report that Carlson's top writer, Blake Neff, had for years pseudonymously posted bigoted comments to AutoAdmit, a notoriously unmoderated message board.

The 29-year-old Neff, who'd worked on Carlson's show for nearly four years and once bragged that "anything [Carlson is] reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me," resigned after his extensive history of hateful comments was revealed.  [...]

Network executives had hoped that Carlson's brief address would temper the internal unease over his on-air conduct. But Fox News staffers told The Daily Beast that his snarling, defensive commentary has only further served to anger the primetime star's co-workers.

"How hard would it have been to say sorry?" one Fox insider told The Daily Beast. "That being said, I'm not surprised." Another staffer noted that because Carlson never specified the nature of what Neff had written, his viewers--many of whom are unlikely to be reading CNN articles during the day--were left with no clue of what happened in the first place.

"What has happened since that [June 9] phone call is we've taken two steps forward and now three steps back," another Fox insider told The Daily Beast. "What [Fox executives] don't understand is you had a white supremacist in a very senior position on [Carlson's] show. That kind of thing doesn't live in a garden that isn't fertile."

Indeed, Neff is just the latest person employed by Carlson to have a history of secret racist posts or connections to white supremacist groups. At least 11 people who wrote or edited for The Daily Caller--the conservative website Carlson co-founded in 2010 and only recently divested from--were found by the Southern Poverty Law Center and other outlets to have been laundering aggressively racist beliefs, either publicly or anonymously online.

Another source of internal strife at Fox News is that the network has never come close to promulgating any consistent standard as to what constitutes unacceptable, racist rhetoric and what is allowed on its air. 

In 2012, for example, Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene--a Black woman who is prominent in Democratic Party politics--was removed from the air for two weeks after she jokingly referred to Carlson as a "bow-tying white boy" during an on-air debate with him on Megyn Kelly's primetime show. Carlson angrily objected and Kelly ended the show by telling viewers that Greene's quip was unacceptable and did not meet Fox's standards.

Eight years later, in the wake of the recent on-air incidents involving Ingraham and Carlson, for which these white Fox News anchors have suffered no consequences, Greene offered to help the network come up with standards of on-air rhetoric, especially for remarks that can be interpreted as race-baiting, said a person familiar with her offer which has yet to receive a response.

Strange how Tucker keeps accidentally hiring racists. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Operation Grant seeks to stop President Trump's re-election in Ohio (John Weaver and Bill Kristol, 7/17/20, cleveland.com)

"We are now in the midst of trying times when every one must be for or against his country, and show his colors too, by his every act. Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have one sentiment now. There are but two parties, traitors and patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter."

These words of a great son of Ohio, Ulysses S. Grant, in a letter to his father in the early days of the Civil War, are our guide and lodestar today. For us, they serve as inspiration as we seek to extend the battle against Trumpism to Grant's birthplace. To ensure the defeat of President Donald Trump and Trumpism, we're pleased to announce that our two organizations, the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, have joined together to launch Operation Grant. We begin this week with a paid advertising campaign and a grassroots guerrilla campaign that will help deliver Ohio's 18 electoral votes to former Vice President Joe Biden this November.

The politics of this decision are simple. For President Trump, there is a narrowing electoral map that gives him few paths to re-election. None of those paths exist without Ohio. And so Operation Grant aims to use the great American general's home turf to put the nail in the coffin of today's Neo-Confederate president.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


It's 'crazy' to ignore the science on coronavirus, says NT Wright (Jennifer Lee,  17 July 2020, Christianity Today)

Collins said some Christians wrongly had the attitude that "Jesus is my vaccine so I don't need to worry."

Wright said that Christians should feel a "responsibility to act wisely while a plague or pandemic is going on" and that not doing so was "irresponsible". 

Although Zoom worship services could feel "quite depressing", Wright said he would "much rather have that than more sad funerals which people can't attend in great numbers, of people who shouldn't have died."

Later in the discussion, he said it was more beneficial for Christians to ask "what can I do?" than "why did this happen?", and advised them to regard the pandemic as an opportunity to tell more people about Jesus,
"The Christian response is not to come up with the great theoretical reasons why this is happening and breast-beating [that] somebody has sinned," he said.

"It's to say, this world is a strange place, as Paul says, it's growing in labour pains at the moment. Our task is to ... be there, being professional, skilled at seeing whether people are most at risk and what on earth we can do to help."

There was a particularly awkward moment on the Remnant podcast the other day, where David French said that he knows plenty of good Christians who won't wear masks, but it's because they don't want to look like they are afraid personally and that they don't even realize that wearing them would protect other people and is simply a function of being a decent fellow citizen.   If someone on the Left accused Christians of being that ignorant he'd be upset.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Trump Accused of Deploying 'Secret Police' in Portland as Political Stunt (CHANTAL DA SILVA, 7/17/20, Newsweek)

Political leaders in Oregon have accused President Donald Trump of interfering in Portland's handling of widespread protests and riots in the wake of George Floyd's death as a political stunt to rally his base ahead of the November election. [...]

The recent incident of a protester getting shot in the head with an impact munition, as well as videos of unidentifiable federal agents in tactical gear arresting protesters on the streets and forcing them into unmarked vehicles have raised alarm, however, about federal law enforcement's tactics.

The U.S. Marshals Service is investigating the incident that saw Donavan LaBella, 26, shot in the head and left seriously injured, but local and state officials, as well as Congress members have blamed federal authorities and Trump for the incident.

"A peaceful protester in Portland was shot in the head by one of Donald Trump's secret police," U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote in a tweet.

"Now Trump and Chad Wolf are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my hometown because they think it plays well with right-wing media," Wyden said.

All you need to know about the incels is that they think this makes them tough.
Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Here's how GOP 'political dynasties' have become a 'shadow conscience' pushing back on Trump (Matthew Chapman, 7/16/20, Raw Story)

The three prominent Republicans are Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD), whose father was the lone GOP congressman to recommend all three articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon; Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), whose father served as vice president under George W. Bush; and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), whose father was a three-term governor of Michigan and was well known as a pro-civil-rights, anti-war Republican.

As Leibovich wrote, Hogan, in recent weeks, "has been a leading voice of frustration over Mr. Trump's management of the COVID-19 outbreak," Cheney "has bristled at a number of his administration's positions ... on the Middle East, Russia and the president's engagement with autocrats" and "spoke out in support of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman," and Romney "has made plain his disgust for Mr. Trump on a variety of occasions" and voted to convict him in the impeachment trial.

Additionally, wrote Leibovich, "The legacy club includes two emeritus brothers, former President George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, neither of whom have much use for Mr. Trump. The former president released a video in May that saluted health care workers and urged national unity in the fight against the coronavirus. But Mr. Bush's video, which received bipartisan praise, made for a stark contrast with Mr. Trump's more combative approach -- a slight that apparently upset the president, who then complained in a tweet that Mr. Bush had not properly defended him during his impeachment."

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


'The guy stinks and he's a racist': Anthony Scaramucci on Donald Trump (David Smith, 17 Jul 2020, The Guardian)

[D]uring that brief spell in the west wing, Scaramucci observed up close the most powerful man in the world. "My observation was, OK, he's not listening, and good leadership requires delegation and listening, and he's too defensive and too insecure to actually take in input," he says.

"I found that when I was briefing him, I had to put pictures of him in the briefing. When I put the pictures in, it was a good sign, and when I didn't put the pictures in, you couldn't get him to focus on it.

"Here's the bad news, though. Even if you got him to focus on it, he wouldn't listen to you anyway because he's so maniacally narcissistic. He wants to immobilise everybody around him and then he wants to go on and win the presidency anyway on this nihilistic rampage and show everybody, 'See, I wiped out all of you with napalm and I didn't need any of you.' That's full blown narcissism."

Scaramucci was dismissed on 31 July 2017 after he gave an expletive-laced interview to the New Yorker magazine and made derogatory statements about White House officials including Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, both of whom are now long gone.

"I was crestfallen about the firing, but listen, it's not the first time I've been fired - I'm a little bit of a rogue, I'm an entrepreneur," Scaramucci recalls. "I made a mistake. I did something fireable. I am accountable for my mistakes."

If he had not been fired, wouldn't he have quit by now, as the Trump administration lurched from disaster to disgrace? "I don't want to pretend about what I would have done because I would tell you this as a cautionary tale about ego. When you've got your ego involved in something, you do things that are irrational and your emotions go up and your intelligence goes low.

"I was fully invested in getting rid of Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. I would like to think that I would have stood on principle during the Charlottesville situation [when Trump drew equivalence between white nationalists and anti-fascists] because that was a week after my departure. I thought that was ridiculous.

"Even if I didn't stand on principle - let's say I was into moral equivocation that you see in many of these people working for President Trump or trying to justify themselves through cognitive distance, 'If I wasn't here, it would be worse,' and all the stuff that they say to themselves - I would have been fired anyway.

"I may not have made it 15 days or 20 days because my personality is not suitable for President Trump's. I'm an entrepreneur. I'm an independent thinker. He doesn't like iconoclastic or independent thinking, so I don't think I would have lasted very long. But listen, the universe and the good Lord works in very strange ways: saved my ass.

"As I told Trump when we were still friendly, after I got fired he called me and asked me how I was doing, I said: 'Relax, you've made me as famous as Melania and Ivanka and I didn't have to sleep with you or be your daughter..."

Or both.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


A model for letting go of the past (Monitor's Editorial Board, 7/17/20)

Reconciliation among peoples is hard work. Just ask officials of Vietnam and the U.S. On July 11, the two countries celebrated the 25th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties. Working through the bitter legacy of their long war has taken that many years. Yet even though much mending is still to be done, Vietnam is now regarded as America's closest ally in Southeast Asia and a major business partner.

The two have built up valuable trust by helping each other locate their missing soldiers and by jointly reducing the everyday damage from unexploded war ordnance and the American military's use of Agent Orange. Further progress in their friendship, says Vietnam's Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, depends on "a mentality to let go of the past."

One bonus of all this hard work is the people ties. Nearly 30,000 Vietnamese attend U.S. schools while more than 1,200 Americans study in Vietnam. For the first time, Hanoi has agreed to allow the Peace Corps to operate in the country. And the U.S. ambassador recently visited Vietnam's cemeteries for its "war martyrs."

They should have been recognized as a nation after WWI.
Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


A Sinking Ship': Arizona Docs Say Ducey Steered State Into COVID-19 Surge (Emily Shugerman, Jul. 17, 2020, Daily Beast)

Arizona reported more than 3,200 new cases in a single day Thursday, putting it behind only Florida in the number of new cases per capita. The figures were actually a slight decrease from previous highs, but the situation in the hospitals still looked dire--the number of ICU beds and ventilators in use by suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients hit new records Sunday. On Thursday, 90 percent of the state's ICU beds were taken and 53 percent of its ventilators were in use, according to state Health Department data.

Inside the hospitals, doctors told The Daily Beast they were working more than 100 hours a week, and "countless" nurses were out sick. At one Tucson-area hospital, a secondary ICU that closed when things leveled off over the spring recently reopened, and the post-anesthesia care unit was "cannibalized" to house coronavirus patients, according to emergency physician Larry DeLuca. Snyder said one of the hospitals where he works had started housing adult patients in its pediatric towers, and the emergency department was also shuffling beds to make room for COVID-positive patients.

Several of the half-dozen doctors who spoke to The Daily Beast characterized these next few weeks as a "tipping point" for Arizona, where things could go from under control to completely out of their hands.

"It doesn't seem like there's any end in sight," DeLuca said. "But not necessarily because of the rhythm of the disease, but because of our government's response to it."

One ICU physician in Tucson, who asked not to be named for fear of employer retaliation, said the official numbers actually underplayed the severity of the crisis. When hospitals reported that 90 percent of their ICU beds and half of their ventilators were in use, the physician said, those numbers included the extra beds and machines they'd brought in for the pandemic. If those percentages ever reached 100, there would be no feasible way for the hospital to scale up.

"If you were going by our pre-COVID capacity, we would be actually operating at 120 percent of capacity," the physician said, adding that the hospital where they work had run out of its own ventilator supply and was now using those supplied by FEMA.

Several hospitals have already launched part or all of their emergency plans, including calling in refrigerated trucks to use as morgues. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Ilhan Omar Leads Primary Race Despite Rival's Huge Fundraising Advantage: Poll (JAMES WALKER, 7/17/20, Newsweek)

Change Research also found that Omar had a solid foundation of support, with the "vast majority" of her supporters telling pollsters that they were certain about voting for Omar in the August primary.

Seventy percent of primary voters rated her favorably, with 42 percent saying they had a very favorable view of the incumbent congresswoman, compared to 20 percent of voters who rated her unfavorably.

A little under three quarters (74 percent) also backed Omar's performance in office, while only 17 percent disapproved of her first-term record.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Fauci takes aim at Trump administration, state lawmakers and young Americans: 'You're propagating the pandemic' (Quentin Fottrell, 7/17/20, Market Watch)

In an hour-long interview with Facebook FB, +0.27% co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg Thursday evening, Fauci had a warning for young Americans: "You have to have responsibility for yourself, but also a societal responsibility that you're getting infected is not just you in a vacuum. You're propagating the pandemic."

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for three decades appeared to take aim at the response to the coronavirus pandemic by the Trump administration -- which has called for schools to reopen -- and state lawmakers -- who have enacted a patchwork of policies, including opening up their economies despite a surge in new cases.

Fauci said that easing social-distancing requirements and reopening the economy too soon could ultimately cost even more lives. "You have got to do it correctly," he said. "You can't jump over steps, which is very perilous when you think about rebound. The proof of the pudding is, look what has happened."

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


US Intelligence Turns to the Boogaloo Movement: After downplaying the threat of right-wing domestic terrorism, top intelligence agencies take notice of a rising militia. (Ken Klippenstein, 7/16/20, The Nation)

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a report obtained by The Nation, which begins by stating, "The Intelligence Community reports that Domestic Violent Extremists (DVEs) who support 'Boogaloo' could exploit the current political and social environments to conduct attacks in the United States, and pose a potential threat to law enforcement."

The intelligence report, dated June 1, 2020, and marked "For Official Use Only," was provided by a federal law enforcement official on condition of anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. The DHS did not respond to a request for comment.

The Boogaloo movement has been implicated in a string of horrific murders in the past several months, so it's not surprising that federal agencies would be monitoring them. The report does not disclose which agencies produced the intelligence, but the Intelligence Community isn't a typical organization--it includes within it top-tier intelligence bodies like the CIA, the NSA, and the FBI.

These agencies are often tasked with spying on nation-state adversaries as well as countering their respective intelligence services. Many employees possess top secret security clearances and access to such sensitive information that they are routinely given polygraph tests to ensure that they haven't disclosed secrets without authorization. That the Intelligence Community is monitoring the Boogaloo movement speaks to the seriousness of the threat.

In June, Steven Carrillo, an active duty US Air Force sergeant who had served as a team leader in the Air Force's elite Phoenix Raven security unit, allegedly used a silenced machine gun and pipe bombs to kill one police officer and two Federal Protective Service security guards. Several other police officers were also injured. Carrillo, who is alleged to have worked with another Boogaloo accomplice, reportedly scrawled in blood the word "boog" on his car along with a phrase popular among Boogaloo members: "I became unreasonable."

As a consequence of the violence, the Defense Department has been quietly debating how to better monitor military personnel for signs of extremism, according to a senior department official who was not authorized to speak publicly. 

July 16, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 PM


Russia used Trump's intelligence sharing to try to assassinate Chechen dissidents in Europe, sources say (Mitch Prothero, Jul 14, 2020, Business Insider)

Russia routinely exploited a US policy of increased information sharing to target Chechen dissidents, according to three law-enforcement and intelligence officials in Europe.

The practice emerged after the Trump administration backed a policy of sharing more secret information with Russia, in hope of strengthening relations.

Sources told Insider Russia routinely sought information on its targets of choice -- dissidents who fled the rule of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The US appears to have received little in return.

It is an open secret that Russia pursues Chechen dissidents and kills them, and sometimes seeks Western help in doing so.

The officials Insider spoke with confirmed the existence of the modern-day US-Russian arrangement after a former US intelligence official described it on the JustSecurity blog.

It is a mistake to believe that the Donald/Vlad collaboration is driven merely by the desire for personal gain: hatred of Muslims is central to Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Exclusive: Poll shows gun safety messages swing voters to Democrats as worries rise amid pandemic: What sways voters amid the coronavirus crisis? Calling out Republicans over inaction on gun violence (IGOR DERYSH, JULY 16, 2020, Salon)

A massive survey of 13 battleground states found that gun safety-themed messages were among the most impactful in swinging voters to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaign messaging on the impact of the coronavirus on the country's gun violence crisis was the second most effective in shifting support to Biden, closely behind Democratic messaging on taxes, according to a poll of 16,500 voters in battleground states such as Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. The poll, which was conducted by Civis Analytics on behalf of the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, was exclusively shared with Salon.

The poll showed that linking gun safety to the pandemic was nearly as effective in moving voters to Biden as Democrats' "gold standards" messages on core issues like health care and Medicare, Social Security and taxes. The findings show that voters are highly focused on gun safety in the context of the health crisis, which could serve as a road map for other Democrats in state and local races.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


How Gödel's Proof Works: His incompleteness theorems destroyed the search for a mathematical theory of everything. Nearly a century later, we're still coming to grips with the consequences. (Natalie Wolchover, July 14, 2020, Quanta)

In 1931, the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel pulled off arguably one of the most stunning intellectual achievements in history.

Mathematicians of the era sought a solid foundation for mathematics: a set of basic mathematical facts, or axioms, that was both consistent -- never leading to contradictions -- and complete, serving as the building blocks of all mathematical truths.

But Gödel's shocking incompleteness theorems, published when he was just 25, crushed that dream. He proved that any set of axioms you could posit as a possible foundation for math will inevitably be incomplete; there will always be true facts about numbers that cannot be proved by those axioms. He also showed that no candidate set of axioms can ever prove its own consistency.

His incompleteness theorems meant there can be no mathematical theory of everything, no unification of what's provable and what's true. What mathematicians can prove depends on their starting assumptions, not on any fundamental ground truth from which all answers spring.

In the 89 years since Gödel's discovery, mathematicians have stumbled upon just the kinds of unanswerable questions his theorems foretold. For example, Gödel himself helped establish that the continuum hypothesis, which concerns the sizes of infinity, is undecidable, as is the halting problem, which asks whether a computer program fed with a random input will run forever or eventually halt. Undecidable questions have even arisen in physics, suggesting that Gödelian incompleteness afflicts not just math, but -- in some ill-understood way -- reality.

...and it left a bunch of Germans moping around Princeton, but virtually insignificant in the Anglosphere, which had never succumbed to any Enlightenment delusions in the first place.
Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


White House vows not to 'let the science stand in the way' of reopening schools (KATELYN CARALLE, 7/16/20, DAILYMAIL.COM )

 'The science should not stand in the way of this.'

A new poll released Thursday morning shows that 72 per cent of parents of kindergarten through twelfth grade students are against reopening.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


Half of Americans Think Trump Is Racist and Additional 13 Percent Are Unsure: Poll (JASON LEMON, 7/16/20, Newsweek)

The survey, which was conducted by YouGov/Yahoo! News from July 11 to 14, showed that 50 percent of U.S. adults said they think Trump is racist. Just 37 percent of respondents said they did not believe the president was racist, while 13 percent were unsure.

As he craters that 37% will dwindle too.
Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


The Disturbing Rise of Anti-Semitism Among Black Celebs (Cassie Da Costa, Jul. 15, 2020 , Daily Beast)

Recently, big-name Black entertainers like Ice Cube, Nick Cannon, Diddy, the Jacksons (Stephen and DeSean), and even beloved Black author Alice Walker, have spouted age-old anti-Semitic talking points--usually by quoting known bigot Louis Farrakhan--insisting that "the Jews" run everything, and locating Black liberation in anti-Jewish suspicion. 

On his podcast, Cannon spoke to fellow anti-Semitic conspiracist Professor Griff, formerly of Public Enemy (he was kicked out of the group for his anti-Jewishness, specifically for calling Jews "wicked"), agreeing with Griff's racist view that Jewish people control media and claiming that "Semitic people are Black people" so Black people cannot be anti-Semitic. After Cannon was dropped by ViacomCBS for his comments, Diddy then took to Instagram and invited Cannon to his network RevoltTV. On July 4th, Diddy's RevoltTV broadcast a speech by Farrakhan--a man who has praised Hitler and repeatedly calls Jews "Satanic"--worldwide, and also shared a Farrakhan video on Twitter in which the Nation of Islam leader called the Jewish head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, "Satan" and claimed that "those of you that say you are the Jews, I will not even give you the honor of calling you a Jew. You are not a Jew. You are Satan, and it is my job now to pull the cover off of Satan so that every Muslim when he sees Satan, pick up a stone, as we do in Mecca." 

The rapper and actor Ice Cube, for his part, has shared a series of anti-Semitic memes, and even lobbed an anti-Semitic trope at Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for denouncing anti-Semitism in a Hollywood Reporter op-ed, accusing him of accepting "30 pieces of silver" in exchange for the column.

It's difficult to make sense of the smoke-and-mirrors anti-Semitism that emanates from Farrakhan, who feels he gets to decide who the real Jews are and then leverages any critique amongst Jewish-led institutions he doesn't like on the basis of a Jewish identity he refuses to recognize. This is not too different from the "criminals" Trump claims are crossing the border from Mexico in droves--demonizing characterizations and willful erasure allow racist ideas to haphazardly take the form of concern. In the same way, Cannon denies that what he is saying is anti-Semitic because the only Semitic people he recognizes are Black people. 

What's more is that the crafted incoherence of these ideas make them easy to gloss over or outright ignore. Anti-Black and anti-Jewish racism are not interchangeable realities, but they are related and feed upon each other, undermining the liberation of Black and Jewish people (and, of course, Black Jewish people) alike. Like anti-Black racism, anti-Jewish racism cannot have a place in any legitimate anti-racist liberation movement, yet unfortunately, like with anti-Black racism, those who spout anti-Jewish ideas refuse to acknowledge their prejudice, instead qualifying their hateful words with claims to good intentions. 

...does not entitle you to discriminate against others.

I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State: For decades I argued for separation between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, I can imagine a Jewish home in an equal state. (Peter Beinart, July 8, 2020, NY Times)

About 640,000 Jewish settlers now live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the Israeli and American governments have divested Palestinian statehood of any real meaning. The Trump administration's peace plan envisions an archipelago of Palestinian towns, scattered across as little as 70 percent of the West Bank, under Israeli control. Even the leaders of Israel's supposedly center-left parties don't support a viable, sovereign Palestinian state. The West Bank hosts Israel's newest medical school.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fulfills his pledge to impose Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank, he will just formalize a decades-old reality: In practice, Israel annexed the West Bank long ago.

Israel has all but made its decision: one country that includes millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights. Now liberal Zionists must make our decision, too. It's time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. It's time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.

Equality could come in the form of one state that includes Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as writers such as Yousef Munayyer and Edward Said have proposed; or it could be a confederation that allows free movement between two deeply integrated countries. (I discuss these options at greater length in an essay in Jewish Currents). The process of achieving equality would be long and difficult, and would most likely meet resistance from both Palestinian and Jewish hard-liners.

But it's not fanciful. The goal of equality is now more realistic than the goal of separation. The reason is that changing the status quo requires a vision powerful enough to create a mass movement. A fragmented Palestinian state under Israeli control does not offer that vision. Equality can. Increasingly, one equal state is not only the preference of young Palestinians. It is the preference of young Americans, too.

Critics will say binational states don't work. But Israel is already a binational state. Two peoples, roughly equal in number, live under the ultimate control of one government. (Even in Gaza, Palestinians can't import milk, export tomatoes or travel abroad without Israel's permission.) And the political science literature is clear: Divided societies are most stable and most peaceful when governments represent all their people.

That's the lesson of Northern Ireland. When Protestants and the British government excluded Catholics, the Irish Republican Army killed an estimated  1,750 people between 1969 and 1994. When Catholics became equal political partners, the violence largely stopped. It's the lesson of South Africa, where Nelson Mandela endorsed armed struggle until Blacks won the right to vote.

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Poll: Majority of voters say Biden's VP won't factor in 2020 vote (ELENA SCHNEIDER, 07/15/2020, Politico)

Joe Biden's choice of a running mate is the talk of Washington, but a majority of American voters said Biden's VP selection won't affect their vote, according to a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.

He has no need to score political points with his pick, but a patriotic obligation to choose someone who is already qualified to govern, especially given his age.  

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WE REVIEWED POLICE TACTICS SEEN IN NEARLY 400 PROTEST VIDEOS. HERE'S WHAT WE FOUND.: We Asked Experts To Watch Videos Showing Officers Using Tear Gas, Pepper Balls And Explosives On Protesters. Police Actions Often Escalated Confrontations. (Talia Buford, Lucas Waldron, Moiz Syed, Al Shaw, July 16, 2020, ProPublica)

AS PROTESTS DENOUNCING POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST UNARMED BLACK PEOPLE SPREAD TO THOUSANDS OF CITIES, it was videos of police violence -- this time, directed at protesters -- that went viral. Clips showed officers launching tear gas canisters at protesters' heads, shooting pepper spray from moving vehicles and firing foam bullets into crowds.

ProPublica looked at nearly 400 social media posts showing police responses to protesters and found troubling conduct by officers in at least 184 of them. In 59 videos, pepper spray and tear gas were used improperly; in a dozen others, officers used batons to strike noncombative demonstrators; and in 87 videos, officers punched, pushed and kicked retreating protesters, including a few instances in which they used an arm or knee to exert pressure on a protester's neck.

While the weapons, tactics and circumstances varied from city to city, what we saw in one instance after another was a willingness by police to escalate confrontations.

Experts said weapons that aren't designed to be lethal, from beanbag rounds to grenades filled with pepper spray, can make officers more willing to respond to protesters with force and less disposed to de-escalate tense situations. Not only can some of these weapons cause considerable injury to protesters, particularly if misused, but experts say the mere presence of the weapons often incites panic, intensifies confrontations and puts people on all sides at risk.

And of course, unlike a mass demonstration urging action on an issue like climate change, the protests over police brutality are directed squarely at the officers standing watch. Any use of force can remind protesters what brought them into the streets in the first place and redouble their outrage.

To better understand the dynamics at play, ProPublica spoke to several experts on policing and enlisted two of them to review a selection of eight representative videos in which ProPublica could clearly identify problematic conduct by the police. We break down four of those videos below, accompanied by the experts' assessment of the police tactics displayed.

The videos have forced the public to confront the reality of dangerously excessive responses by officers against protesters...

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Pelosi and McConnell hurtling toward coronavirus relief showdown (MARIANNE LEVINE, HEATHER CAYGLE and JOHN BRESNAHAN, 07/15/2020, Politico)

The number of coronavirus cases is surging, and congressional leaders are squabbling. It's an ominous foreshadowing of the coming partisan clash over the next relief package.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are straddling opposite sides of a multi-trillion dollar divide, with neither currently willing to budge.

Congressional leaders from both parties privately believe they'll reach a deal at some point: the stakes are too high for the nation's health and economic well-being, not to mention Election Day is quickly approaching. But it may take several weeks of difficult negotiations -- and public posturing -- to strike an accord.

Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their own roughly $1 trillion proposal next week, a plan far narrower than the $3 trillion-plus bill pushed through the House by Democrats two months ago. Apart from cost, the parties are still far apart on key issues, including whether or how to extend a boost in unemployment insurance benefits set to expire in the coming days.

Given that the GOP handling of the virus is helping to bury it in a landslide, they have no leverage. 

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The Trump campaign is now openly courting QAnon conspiracy theorists (ALEX HENDERSON, JULY 16, 2020, AlterNet.

Although President Donald Trump and members of his reelection campaign have avoided mentioning the far-right QAnon cult by name, that doesn't mean they don't welcome the support of QAnon devotees -- and Trump campaign spokesperson Erin Perrine, according to Media Matters' Eric Hananoki, was clearly trolling for QAnon votes when she appeared on the QAnon program "The Common Sense Show." That appearance, Hananoki notes, was "previously unreported."

July 15, 2020

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The Self-Cancelation of Bari Weiss: Like much of her writing, the former New York Times editor's resignation letter is long on accusation and thin on evidence. (Alex Shephard, July 15, 2020, New Republic)

At an all-staff meeting following the Times's publication of the Cotton op-ed in June, Weiss tweeted that a "civil war" was raging inside the paper: on one side, the paper's besieged over-40 staffers, who believe in free inquiry and free speech; on the other, under-40 staffers who believe in "safetyism," a creed "in which the right of people to feel emotionally and psychologically safe trumps what were previously considered core liberal values, like free speech." It was a bold accusation and a self-serving one. For most of her career, Weiss has warned about the politically correct masses streaming out of college campuses every year. Now those masses had breached the walls of the most important journalistic organization in the country.

But there was one problem: A large number of Times staffers tweeted back that Weiss was mischaracterizing both the meeting they were attending and their workplace. There was no "civil war," nor a generational conflict. What was happening was, instead, was very normal, even banal: "an editorial conversation." But Weiss's resignation letter triples down on her narrative. She appears to reference pushback against her "civil war" characterization when she laments being publicly called a "liar" by other Times employees. [...]

Weiss is convinced she was targeted for her "centrist" beliefs, but a great deal of the criticism she has received has been about specific flaws with her writing. She has been critiqued for her uncritical glamorizing of right-wing YouTube celebrities, for citing a fake Twitter account as evidence of the illiberalism on college campuses, and for her hypocrisy on the subject. (As an undergraduate at Columbia, Weiss targeted Muslim professors, claiming that they were anti-Semitic. Shortly after Weiss was hired by the Times, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald wrote: "It's truly amazing: Weiss now postures as some sort of champion of free thought on college campuses. Yet her whole career was literally built on ugly campaigns to attack, stigmatize, and punish Arab professors who criticize Israel.")

Far from displaying a commitment to free inquiry or open-mindedness, much of Weiss's work displays a knack for taking thin, anecdotal evidence and framing it in grandiose culture-war terms. Mistakes are an inevitable part of opinion journalism, but Weiss has routinely turned any criticism of her work into proof that her critics are illiberal and out to silence her. (Appearing on Bill Maher in the wake of making a series of errors, Weiss suggested that she was being targeted by the "mob" for her beliefs. After incorrectly calling an Asian-American figure skater an "immigrant" on Twitter, Weiss said she was using "poetic license" and lashed out at her critics.) You see this tendency in her claims of a "civil war" at the Times and again in the letter itself, in which little distinction is made between social media abuse and criticisms of her work. Weiss's critics never have a valid point; they're only trying to silence her.

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt tests positive for coronavirus (The Week, 7/15/20)

In March, Stitt faced backlash after posting a photo online showing him with his children at a crowded restaurant, not wearing masks; he later deleted the picture. Stitt also pushed to quickly reopen the state in May, and said that despite the number of coronavirus cases climbing in Oklahoma -- a record 1,075 new cases were recorded on Wednesday -- he won't impose new statewide restrictions or a mask mandate. [...]

Stitt, who attended President Trump's Tulsa rally on June 20 and did not wear a mask, also said he is "pretty shocked" that he is the first governor to test positive for COVID-19.

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...AND UGLIER...::

Texas Democrats shatter voter turnout record in ominous sign for GOP (Dan Desai Martin, July 15, 2020, American Independent)

Democrats turned out in record numbers for Tuesday's primary runoff in Texas, doubling turnout from 2018.

Nearly one million Democrats (955,735) voted Tuesday, according to the secretary of state's office, far surpassing the previous record of 747,000 set in 1994.

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Biden Widens Lead Over Trump To 15 Points In Presidential Race: Trump Job Approval Rating Drops To 36 Percent (Quinnipiac University Polling, 7/15/20)

As coronavirus cases surge and states rollback re-openings, former Vice President Joe Biden opens up his biggest lead this year over President Donald Trump in the race for the White House. Registered voters back Biden over Trump 52 - 37 percent, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University national poll released today. This compares to a June 18th national poll when Biden led Trump 49 - 41 percent. Since March, Biden's lead had ranged from 8 to 11 percentage points.

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Karl Marx Was a Total RacistIf George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt must fall, why not the fathers of communism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels? (Jarrett Stepman, 7/15/20, National Interest)

Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a founder of the Black Lives Matter organization, had no problem defining herself and at least one of the two other founders, Alicia Garza, as "Marxists." (Opal Tometi is the third founder.) [...]

But if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt must fall, why not the fathers of communism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels?

Though Marx and Engels are perhaps most known for their ideas about class conflict and revolution, they both dabbled in theories--increasingly popular at the time--about race and racial hierarchies.

Not only that, but their private correspondence demonstrated an even larger degree of hostility to black-skinned people, as their writings were littered with racial slurs.

In an 1887 letter, Engels wrote that blacks were closer to "the animal kingdom" than the rest of humanity, in a reference to his mixed race son-in-law.

In a letter to Engels, Marx wrote of Ferdinand Lassalle, a contemporary socialist of his day:

It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses' exodus from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother on the paternal side had not interbred with a n---. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product.

Marx had ugly things to say about various other races, too, and despite being ethnically Jewish, said that the "worldly religion" of Jews was "huckstering."

Erik van Ree, a lecturer at the Institute for East European Studies of the University of Amsterdam, wrote of Marx and Engel's racism in a paper for the Journal of Political Ideologies. He explained how racial classifications and explanations of economic development were a component of early Marxist thought:

In Marx and Engels's understanding, racial disparities emerged under the influence of shared natural and social conditions hardening into heredity and of the mixing of blood. They racialized skin-color groups, ethnicities, nations, and social classes, while endowing them with innate superior and inferior character traits. They regarded race as part of humanity's natural conditions, upon which the production system rested. 'Races' endowed with superior qualities would boost economic development and productivity, while the less endowed ones would hold humanity back.

Importantly, van Ree concluded that Marx and Engels' statements on race went beyond "unthinkingly repeating the stereotypes and prejudices of the day."

"Whereas formal definitions and theories of race indeed cannot be found in their writings, their scattered comments add up to quite a coherent position on the question," van Ree wrote.

By the standards of modern "anti-racist" ideologies, Marx, Engels, and the whole body of their work should be canceled, not celebrated.

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Free Speech Defenders Don't Understand the Critique Against ThemOn cancel culture, the Harper's letter, the counter letter, Thomas Chatterton Williams, Bari Weiss, hypocrisy, and more (Nicholas Grossman, Jul 15, 2020, Arc Digital)

Here's the critique: You say you value free speech and oppose social penalties for bad speech, but your actions show that you don't. You value free speech for you and people who agree with you and oppose social penalties for expressing things you agree with. You're open to disagreement on some topics, sure, but when it comes to things that are important to you, social penalties for speech you identify as bad -- such as "Bari Weiss sucks" -- are not just acceptable, but good, something to be proud of, something to broadcast on a public forum so others know that you did it, encouraging them to do it too.

That critique often comes with an accusation of bad faith -- that the signatories don't care about free speech, they're just trying to protect their power -- which I think is unfair. Some, at least, genuinely care about how cancel culture hurts people with less visibility and influence. (Williams, it's worth noting, did not name the dinner party guest, which spared the guest from some internet unpleasantness.) But the hypocrisy charge sticks, and free speech defenders play into it by miscasting their argument as a high level defense of the principles that undergird a free society rather than what they're actually doing: debating the parameters of socially-acceptable speech regarding race and gender.

Free Speech Hypocrites

Not incidentally, hypocrisy is also a central criticism of Weiss. She denounces cancel culture, builds up cancel culture opponents as heroes and martyrs, and tries to cancel people whose expressions she deems antisemitic. And her definition of antisemitic includes things that others would classify as criticism of Israeli government policy rather than bigotry against Jews. Among the people Weiss has gone after are Palestinian-supporting Columbia professors in 2004-05 and cartoonist Eli Valley in 2019. Weiss has become an object of scorn in some circles not because they've never seen any of her work, but because she embodies the hypocrisy of free speech for me, but not for thee.

I take Williams's word that his soon-to-be-expelled dinner guest was unable to articulate this critique, but that doesn't mean no one has. Philosopher Judith Butler offers a version of it in Jewish Currents while reviewing Weiss's book How to Fight Anti-Semitism. For example, Butler discusses Weiss's emphasis on "opposition to identity politics," snarkily adding "which presumably excludes Jewish identity politics."

Williams's defense of Weiss highlights a problem that's too prevalent among free speech defenders: focusing on their least thoughtful opponents, including randos on social media, rather than engaging more thoughtful critiques. And it's a problem for anyone who supports things like freedom of expression and a relatively open marketplace of ideas, because it means the most visible defenders of free speech are talking past their opponents to preach to the choir.

...what about social distancing?

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The Venezuelafication of American Politics (KEVIN D. WILLIAMSON, July 14, 2020, National Review)

Some of our friends on the right were just real, real, real big on virtue a few years back. Bill Bennett, you may recall, built for himself a splendid little virtue empire: The Book of Virtues, The Children's Book of Virtues, The Children's Treasury of Virtues, The Book of Virtues for Boys and Girls, The Book of Virtues for Young People, The Book of Virtues Cookbook: Now You're Cookin' with Virtue!, Moral Compass: Stories for a Life's Journey, The Broken Hearth: Reversing the Moral Collapse of the American Family, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism.

(I made up the cookbook.)

Conservatives started talking a whole lot about virtue during the Clinton years, when they were outraged (Bennett gave us The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals) by the president's hound-dogging and endless lying, and about the fact that so many of our Democrat friends seemed to enjoy being lied to, provided they were skillfully lied to, which was Bill Clinton's specialty: "Slick Willie," unlike "Tricky Dick," wasn't an entirely condemnatory epithet. That really stuck in a lot of Republican craws, it rankled and it vexed, and at the turn of the century every third Republican pundit was writing and talking as though he were Cato the Elder (Cato Censorius, ho, ho!), if not Cincinnatus. That, in turn, was hard to take for much of the general public -- and a hell of a lot harder to take for the people who knew them. Not because these men had the ordinary and common moral failings (Bennett was mocked for being a gambler, Newt Gingrich for being Newt Gingrich) that we all have in varying degrees, but because so much of that virtue entrepreneurship was so obviously insincere.

And then came 2016, when the CEO of Virtue Inc. linked arms with Generalissimo Grab 'Em By the P***y. Bill Bennett sniffed that we should get off our "high horse" and get on board with Trump. Trump critics, Bennett insisted, "suffer from a terrible case of moral superiority and put their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country." Suddenly, all that old-fashioned virtue stuff was effete, namby-pamby, and effeminate. It was -- surprise -- a deficiency in virtue! It was only virtue-signaling, a simulacrum of virtue, lacking in the authentic manly virtues supposedly embodied by Donald Trump. The commissars of virtue insisted that criticism of Trump's character was only a shallow and snobbish revulsion at his etiquette and his style, a girlish squeal at his manful and virtuous flouting of manners, convention, and other "elitist" niceties. His dishonesty was, they insisted, only a kind of pragmatic showmanship, and confounding only to those unschooled in the realities of the rough-and-tumble world of business.

Bennett suggested that Trump's critics were only put off by his being "crude." This line of criticism almost always and everywhere is dishonest, and obviously dishonest: Agree with the critics or not, the rap on Trump has always been about his actual character, the sort of man he is, not merely his etiquette, his accent, or how he ties his tie. But as a matter of cheap rhetoric, it is easy to shed a few crocodile tears over "the tweets" and the vulgarity while defending the program.

We talk about virtue as though it were some otherworldly thing, of little interest -- or a positive hindrance -- to people whose main concern is "winning" in this world rather than judgment in the next. But that gets it all wrong. As the Romans and the American founders understood, the cultivation of republican virtues is eminently practical -- it is very difficult to maintain a free society without those virtues.

...is the way the Trumpbots dismiss virtue as "signaling".  They prefer vice signaling now.  

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David Duke's War Against Two Louisiana GovernorsIn the 1991 race to lead the state, the ex-Klansman found a new way to expand his appeal. (JOSH LEVIN, JULY 15, 2020, Slate)

Roemer's charismatic misanthrope routine had worked out fine in 1987, and it seemed possible he could pull off the same trick in 1991. The problem for Roemer was that a lot of swing voters felt drawn to another candidate.

At first, Strother liked the focus group results he was hearing: Blue-collar Democrats said they couldn't stand a hypothetical candidate with all of David Duke's characteristics.

"But then as soon as they learned it was David Duke, they'd say, 'well, that's what politicians do.' Or, 'well, you know, KKK--well, he was a young man. Nazi--well, he was a young guy, college kids do stupid stuff.' You know, whatever it was, they'd make an excuse for him."

Roemer had won in 1987 as a conservative Democrat, but switched parties in 1991, in a misguided attempt to become a unity candidate for the state's right-wing voters. As he struggled to hold his coalition together, Duke was finding a new way to expand his appeal.

"It's been tough for me sometimes over the last couple of years. A lot of media attacks. But what's made it made it better for me is that I'm a Christian," Duke said at a fundraiser in Metairie, the heart of his legislative district. "I work hard. I believe in Christ."

Duke invoked his Christianity far more in the governor's race than in any of his previous campaigns. He used religion as both a shield and a sword. At a debate in September, Duke said that he'd repented for his past sins, and that those who tried to discredit him were being un-Christian.

This season of Slow Burn is really useful, as it reveals that the Trumpian cancer was metastasizing in the Republican body politic for decades.

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The Promising Results of a Citywide Basic-Income Experiment (Linnea Feldman Emison, July 15, 2020, New Yorker)

The program, spearheaded by Stockton's mayor, Michael Tubbs, was scheduled to end this summer: this month's payment was slated to be the last. In late May, Tubbs announced that seed would be extended through January, 2021, in response to the economic strain put on participants by the coronavirus pandemic. While the idea of extending the program had been under discussion even before the spread of covid-19, Tubbs told me that current conditions made doing so a "moral imperative," as many participants have lost work, and those classified as essential workers face increased risk. "covid-19 has put the focus on the fact that a lot of Americans live in constant moments of economic disruption, because the fundamentals of the economy haven't been working," he told me.

Tubbs, who is twenty-nine, is Stockton's first Black mayor, and its youngest ever. After four years serving on the city council, he ran for mayor on a platform focussed on recovery from the 2008 crash, and was elected, in 2016, with seventy per cent of the vote, defeating an incumbent plagued by a string of scandals. seed has relied on significant outside funding, as have several other projects that Tubbs has pursued, including an education initiative that has been run on a twenty-million-dollar private donation. Tubbs first encountered the concept of a universal basic income, or U.B.I., while he was an undergraduate at Stanford, in 2009, in a course that covered Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s advocacy for the idea late in his life. The possibility of issuing unconditional payments to a group of Stockton residents came up soon after Tubbs took office, in 2017, as a part of his staff's research project on addressing poverty. Twenty per cent of Stockton's residents fall below the poverty line, which is well above the state average, and residents of color are disproportionately affected. Still, Tubbs was initially skeptical--he worried about funding and thought that the idea could prove unpopular with voters. "This was my first time being elected," he told me. "I didn't want it to be my last."

The plan started to take shape, though, when Tubbs met the co-chair of the Economic Security Project, a basic-income advocacy group launched by the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. The organization was looking for a city in which to test a pilot, and gave Stockton a million-dollar grant. (The program's extension will be funded separately, through a private donation.) The funding allowed a hundred and twenty-five participants each to receive five hundred dollars a month, an amount that was based on data indicating that around forty per cent of Americans can't afford a four-hundred-dollar emergency expense. A hundred recipients in the program are anonymous, while the rest, including Kidd-Plummer, have volunteered to speak publicly about their experience. The study set out to prove that a basic income could, according to the research plan, "lead to reductions in monthly income volatility and provide greater income sufficiency, which will in turn lead to reduced psychological stress and improved physical functioning." A random sample of residents in neighborhoods with populations that are at or below Stockton's median income level were contacted. Around forty-three per cent of those who were chosen reported being employed either full or part time. Ten per cent of them are caregivers, a group that often fails to qualify for unemployment and other benefits. Tubbs told me that he doesn't see a basic income as particularly radical but, instead, as "this generation's extension of the safety net," following in the path of things like Social Security, child-labor laws, weekends, and collective bargaining.

Two professors of social work, Amy Castro Baker, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Stacia Martin-West, of the University of Tennessee, who have conducted research together on the gender and racial wealth gaps, were brought on to help design the pilot and evaluate the results. Stockton, they told me, was an ideal location: as of 2018, it was the most diverse city in the country; many of its residents moved from more expensive parts of the Bay Area and continue to commute into those cities for low-paying jobs; and it is, historically, the foreclosure capital of the United States. In designing the logistics of the program, they emphasized "rethinking our safety net with an anchor of justice and dignity," as Castro Baker put it, while addressing "inequality predicated on racism and sexism."

Each month, participants receive payments on a debit card, which the researchers are able to track. No restrictions are placed on what the money can be used for; if participants don't want their expenses tracked or prefer to use cash, they can transfer the money off the card. Castro Baker and Martin-West have also been studying the well-being of people in a control group who did not receive payments. Members of both groups complete monthly check-ins, during which they provide updates and summarize their mental state by using emojis. During the study, the researchers have released data on an online dashboard, where observers can read stories from participants and see spending trends change over time. For example, during the pandemic, the percentage of money that participants spent on food, consistently the largest category, reached nearly twenty-five per cent over the monthly average, while the amount spent on recreation dropped to less than two per cent.

Participants have also put the money toward rent, car payments, and paying off debt, as well as one-off expenses for themselves or their children: dental surgery, a prom dress, football camp, and shoes. They've also been able to cut back on working second and third jobs; one participant, a forty-eight-year-old mother of two who works full time at Tesla, was able to stop working as a delivery driver for DoorDash. Alcohol and tobacco has accounted for less than one per cent of spending per month.

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Elder Abuse at the White HouseTuesday's Rose Garden press conference was . . . something else. (CHARLES SYKES,  JULY 14, 2020, The Bulwark)

What did we just see? And who thought this would be a good idea?

Donald Trump is sinking in the polls, failing spectacularly at the worst crisis of his presidency, dogged by recurring scandal, betrayed by his closest aides and family members.

And amazingly, in the midst of this, someone suggested he give this press conference.

Summaries do not suffice.

The president of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, was in full Mad King mode, rambling, confused, disjointed, parading his grievances with barely a wave from afar at coherence. It was as if a hive of buzzwords exploded in his head: statues, boats, vandalism, socialism, suburbs.

It is hard to write this display without using the word "impaired." Because it wasn't just the disjointed word salad. It was the delivery. Trump was somnolent, as if he'd pulled an all-nighter watching Fox & Friends or maybe his VCR tapes of Shark Week.

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How Arizona blew it: Experts say Gov. Doug Ducey did almost everything wrong
The Grand Canyon State is setting records in the coronavirus outbreak -- in the worst way. Here's why (MATTHEW ROZSA, JULY 15, 2020, Salon)

"It is impossible to say whether [Ducey] is ignoring advice, is unaware of it, or doesn't believe it," Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Arizona, told Salon by email. "There have been numerous editorials published that have strongly recommended intensive actions, such as a statewide mandate on masking and improved testing speeds. The latest actions by the governor aim to increase testing capacity by the end of August. With considerations such as reopening schools and universities under discussion, this will not be soon enough. It is distressing that we do not have adequate testing in the state even now."

When asked about specific mistakes made by Arizona's government, Jacobs pointed to overly ambitious economic reopening that was too rapid, the lack of a statewide mandate on masking and incompetent or inadequate testing, which she described as "the biggest concern I have personally right now."

"We need rapid testing available to everyone, with testing sites equally distributed in all neighborhoods, regardless of socioeconomic status," Jacobs explained. "We need tests that are sensitive and specific, with rapid turnaround. We need supports in place for those who may be most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as our Native American Nations and among our Latinx population. We also need to ensure that legislation to protect individuals from evictions is renewed during this emergent epidemic, and that we provide financial support for those who are being hit hardest by social distancing." Jacobs also called for "sensible and reasonable recommendations" for school reopening and said that Arizonans need to know that authority figures "care about them and will be here to support them."

A recent poll suggests that Jacobs' views are held by a large number of her fellow Arizonans. A poll by the COVID-19 consortium found that Ducey has the lowest ranking among all American governors for his handling of the coronavirus crisis, and in fact is the only governor to rank below President Trump. (Ducey has a 32 percent approval rating compared to Trump's 34 percent approval rating.)

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The Cost of the Evangelical Betrayal: White, conservative Christians who set aside the tenets of their faith to support Donald Trump are now left with little to show for it. (Peter Wehner, 7/10/20,  The Atlantic)

Now think about what the cost has been of the uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians. For now, focus just on this: Christians who are supporters of the president have braided themselves to a man who in just the past few days and weeks tweeted a video of a supporter shouting "white power" (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR's only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year's annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as "kung flu" during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense.

These provocations by the president aren't anomalous; he's a man who vaulted to political prominence by peddling a racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn't born in the United States--he later implied that Obama was a secret Muslim and dubbed him the "founder of ISIS"--and whose remarks about an Indiana-born judge with Mexican heritage were described by former House Speaker Paul Ryan as "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

The white supremacist Richard Spencer, describing the neo-Nazi and white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, told The Atlantic, "There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn't have occurred without Trump. It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way. The alt-right found something in Trump. He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible." And David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, called the march a "turning point" for his own movement, which seeks to "fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."

For his whole life, before and since becoming president, Trump has exploited racial divisions and appealed to racial resentments. The president is now doing so more, not less, than in the past, despite the fact--and probably because of the fact--that America is in the grips of a pandemic that he and his administration have badly bungled and that has claimed more than 130,000 American lives.

As The New York Times' Maggie Haberman pointed out on July 6, "Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment."

White evangelicals are the core of Trump's political support, and while the overwhelming number of the president's evangelical supporters may not be racist, they are willing to back a man who openly attempts to divide people by race. That would be enough of an indictment, but the situation is actually a good deal worse than that, since Trump's eagerness to inflame ugly passions is only one thread in his depraved moral tapestry.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Supreme Court's 15-Case Winning Streak on Religious Liberty (JOE CARTER, 7/15/20, Gospel Coalition)

The Supreme Court closed out its most recent term last week with three significant victories for religious liberty--continuing a ten year series of wins for religious freedom.

"Religious freedom is on a massive, decade-long winning streak at the Supreme Court," says Luke Goodrich, a religious liberty lawyer at Becket. "This 15-case winning streak hits every major area of religious freedom law: religious exemptions, religious autonomy, religious speech, religious symbols, and government funding for religious groups."

Here are the fifteen most important Supreme Court victories involving religious freedom from 2011 to 2020...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP Rep. Steve Watkins of Kansas was charged in voter fraud investigation (Sarah Al-Arshani, 7/15/20, BI)

Republican Rep. Steve Watkins of Kansas is being charged in relation to a voter fraud investigation by the district attorney in Shawnee County, Kansas, local outlet KMBC reported.

They think it must be frequent because they're engaged in it.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Adapt immediately or find a new job': Senate GOP confronts fundraising emergency (ELENA SCHNEIDER, JAMES ARKIN and ALLY MUTNICK, 07/13/2020, Politico)

Last month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee prepared a slideshow for Senate chiefs of staff full of bleak numbers about the party's failure to compete with Democrats on digital fundraising. For anyone not getting the message, the final slide hammered home the possible end result: a freight train bearing down on a man standing on the tracks.

The slideshow, obtained by POLITICO, painted a grim picture of the GOP's long-running problem. Republican senators and challengers lagged behind Democrats by a collective $30 million in the first quarter of 2020, a deficit stemming from Democrats' superior online fundraising machine. Since then, Democrats' fundraising pace accelerated further, with the party's challengers announcing huge second-quarter hauls last week, largely driven by online donors giving through ActBlue, the party's preferred fundraising platform. [....]

"It's a slow-moving trainwreck," said Eric Wilson, a Republican consultant who led Marco Rubio's digital strategy in the 2016 presidential campaign. "The warning signs are flashing right now, and they're ignoring it."

July 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 PM


The Anti-Semitism We Didn't See: DeSean Jackson's Hitler moment--and mine--showed that Black Americans' experience of racism doesn't automatically sensitize us toward other forms of prejudice. (Jemele Hill, 7/13/20,  The Atlantic)

Regardless of what happens with Jackson, the unfortunate truth is that some Black Americans have shown a certain cultural blindspot about Jews. Stereotypical and hurtful tropes about Jews are widely accepted in the African American community. As a kid, I heard elders in my family say in passing that Jewish people were consumed with making money, and that they "owned everything." My relatives never dwelled on the subject, and nothing about their tone indicated that they thought anything they were saying was anti-Semitic--not that a lack of awareness would be any excuse. This also doesn't mean that my family--or other African Americans--are more or less anti-Semitic than others in America, but experiencing the pain of discrimination and stereotyping didn't prevent them from spreading harmful stereotypes about another group.

Jackson is far from the only prominent Black athlete or entertainer to have amplified anti-Semitic tropes in recent years. In 2017, the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors acts of hatred, expressed concerns over a song in which the hip-hop artist Jay-Z rapped, "Jewish people own all the property in America." In 2018, the Atlanta rapper 21 Savage's song "ASMR" created a firestorm because he rapped, "We been getting that Jewish money. Everything is kosher." The basketball star LeBron James shared that lyric in an Instagram post, which added to the controversy. Later, James offered only a tepid mea culpa. "I actually thought it was a compliment," he said.

In the past few days, Jackson's offensive social-media postings haven't received the universal disapproval that they merit. His teammate Malik Jackson and the former NBA player Stephen Jackson defended him. At a time when there is an understandable focus on how Black Americans bear the brunt of systemic oppression and police brutality, some commentators believe that people are afraid to rebuke Jackson, because it may hurt the movement.

Black people's fight for their humanity is unrelated to Jackson's error, but they must use their own racial experiences to foster empathy for others. Even in his apology, Jackson showed little recognition of what he'd done. "I post a lot of things that are sent to me," the Eagles receiver said in a statement. "I do not have hatred towards anyone. I really didn't realize what this passage was saying. Hitler has caused terrible pain to Jewish people like the pain African-Americans have suffered. We should be together fighting anti-Semitism and racism. This was a mistake to post this and I truly apologize for posting it and sorry for any hurt I have caused."

The thirst for liberation and equality can never come at the expense of dehumanizing other marginalized groups--especially at a time when hate crimes against Jews have increased significantly.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM



Weiss doesn't lack fans or allies whom Twitter lefties would approve of. (She and the former Vice staff writer Eve Peyser published a conversation two years ago about how they went from enemies to pals.) But during her three years at the Times, she was nothing if not prolific in her accumulation of haters, including many of her own colleagues. Before her resignation letter appeared online Tuesday morning, sources familiar with the situation told me Weiss felt increasingly marginalized and that talk of her leaving the Times had been brewing for weeks. As one source put it, "she really felt attacked by her colleagues on Slack," the internal messaging platform that has also become a go-to forum for broadcasting grievances.

It all seemed to come to a head with the crisis surrounding the botched Tom Cotton op-ed that culminated in the defenestration of editorial page editor James Bennet last month. "The civil war inside The New York Times," Weiss declared in a Twitter thread on June 4, "between the (mostly young) wokes the (mostly 40+) liberals is the same one raging inside other publications and companies across the country." Some Times journalists publicly criticized the tweets, and the internal reactions on Slack were apparently all the more brutal. Baquet eventually chimed in and asked people not to attack one of their own colleagues.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


ICE rescinds international student visa ban after dozens of universities sue (The Week, 7/14/20)

ICE's initial decision came after Harvard University and other schools announced all their classes would be fully online in the fall, though most schools said they'd house students who could not learn effectively in their homes. That included students in countries wracked by civil unrest.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology specifically cited those students in suing ICE for its decision, and said it "would bar hundreds of thousands of international students at American universities from the United States." Dozens of universities joined the suit, which went to court Tuesday. That's where a judge announced ICE would "return to the status quo" and effectively drop its rule change. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Joe Biden unveils $2 trillion green infrastructure and jobs plan (Jacob Pramuk, 7/14/20, CNBC)

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's proposal aims to achieve carbon-free power generation by 2035. 

Even 2030 would be silly.  It'll be done by 2025.  The only plan that ever worked was Y2K, because of how short a time frame was forced on it.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Trump Trails Biden In Key States Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona: Polls (JASON LEMON, 7/14/20, Newsweek)

In Michigan, FiveThirtyEight shows Biden ahead of the Republican incumbent by an average of 9.4 points, while Real Clear Politics shows the former vice president ahead of Trump by about 7.5 points. The results are similar in Wisconsin, with FiveThirtyEight showing Biden with a nearly 8 point lead and Real Clear Politics showing him ahead by an average of 6.5 points.

When it comes to Pennsylvania, the Democratic candidate leads by about 7.3 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight, and by an average of 6.5 points, according to Real Clear Politics. In Florida, the first site shows Biden ahead by approximately 6 points, while the latter has him in the lead by about 5.2 percent. Nationwide, both FiveThirtyEight and Real Clear Politics show Trump trailing Biden by about 9 points.

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


The Great Migration North: Fleeing For Life (DEDRA BIRZER, 7/14/20, A,merican Conservative)

Some books make a big splash at the moment of publication, and then recede into the shelves of bookstores and libraries until such a time when their wisdom and analysis once again calls them forward. 

Isabel Wilkerson's 2010 book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, is one such book. Wilkerson's meticulously researched narrative about this nation's most "underreported story of the twentieth century" gives sorely needed context to the frustrations of black Americans that are so palpable today.

The Great Migration is the term given by historians to the vast movement of some six million Southern blacks to the North from roughly 1915 to 1970. It shares much in common with other waves of immigrants to the United States, with the significant caveat that this was a domestic migration, from one part of the country to another, and from rural to urban areas. The Great Migration's beginning date of 1915 reflects the Southern black response to the recruitment efforts of Northern industries desperate for workers to fill their increased wartime orders, which coincided with increasing Jim Crow segregation in the American South. 

These recruiters often worked in secret to avoid violent confrontations with white Southerners who did not want to lose their labor force and the caste-based system they had created. Most historians of the Great Migration focus on this early period, positing an end to it with the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, with its paucity of jobs. Census material released in the early 1990s reveals a different story: that the Great Migration continued unabated until 1970, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 finally forced an end to Jim Crow segregation. 

"By then," Wilkerson notes, "nearly half of all black Americans--some 47 percent--would be living outside the South, compared to ten percent when the Migration began." This vast movement of people in search of economic opportunity and freedom to exercise the rights of citizenship changed almost every social, economic, and political aspect of the United States in the twentieth century. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Origins of the Modern American Conservative Movement (Lee Edwards, 11/21/03, Heritage Foundation)

Much of what I know about China I learned from Walter H. Judd, who was a medical missionary in China in the 1920s and the 1930s. Dr. Judd is relevant to our discussion because he was a major influence on the American conservative movement from the 1950s through the 1980s. Indeed, what he said about China was very nearly the gospel for many conservatives.

After a year's study at the University of Nanking, Dr. Judd was posted to the Shaowu mission in the town of Shaowu, Fukien Province, so far into the interior that it could only be reached by a 10day boat trip up the Min River. He spent the next five years in Shaowu, caring for the sick and the dying, facing death at the hands of bandits, criticizing the Nationalists, debating with Communists, including Gen. Lin Piao, going for months without seeing another white face, and falling deeply in love with China until, his life threatened by persistent bouts of malaria, he reluctantly came home to the United States.

Dr. Judd had many Communists as his patients in Shaowu, and he was always impressed by their discipline. They first came through his town in 1926 when they were part of Chiang Kaishek's united front against the warlords. "They were the first military outfit I ever saw," said Dr. Judd, "that never had a case of venereal disease."

He returned to the Middle Kingdom in 1934 to take charge of a large hospital in Fenchow, Shansi Province, in the North where he would not be exposed to malaria. During his second tour of duty in China, he often found himself under martial law as Communists and Nationalists vied fiercely for control of the area before forming an uneasy united front against the invading Japanese. In early 1938, Fenchow fell to the Japanese, and Dr. Judd was a "guest" of the occupying Japanese forces for five tense months.

Miraculously, Dr. Judd was allowed to leave Fenchow and return to the United States after treating the Japanese commanding general for a sexual disease he had contracted from a Chinese woman. The embarrassed general sought help from the American physician because he did not want to lose face by revealing the nature of his illness to a Japanese doctor. And he made sure that none of his countrymen would learn about his problem by sending the American who had treated him back home, 10,000 miles away.

For the rest of his long life, Dr. Judd gave many speeches about Asia, always emphasizing the central importance of China. He would hold up his hand, palm out, and say:

This is Asia. My palm is China and my fingers are the nations extending from the continent Korea, Japan, IndoChina, the Philippines, and Indonesia. When China is at peace and under a government that truly represents the interests of the Chinese people, all of Asia is at peace. But if China is at war and under a government that does not represent the true interests of the Chinese people, all of Asia is in conflict.

Russell Kirk and The Conservative Mind

It is a striking historical coincidence that both the People's Republic of China and the modern American conservative movement were born a little over 50 years ago, the PRC in 1949 with the coming to power of Mao Zedung and modern conservatism in 1953 with the publication of Russell Kirk's masterwork, The Conservative Mind.

Chairman Mao famously declared that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. While that may be true for certain regimes in certain circumstances, such political power cannot be sustained permanently, for it requires ever larger barrels and ever more guns. Political power that depends exclusively for its survival upon force inevitably degenerates into military power and leads to an authoritarian and usually a totalitarian state. Chairman Mao's aphorism in fact denies the reality that lasting political power grows not out of a gun, but out of an idea.

The central idea of The Conservative Mind, upon which American conservatism is essentially based, is ordered liberty. It is a blending of the sometimes contending requirements of the community and the individual, of individual freedom and individual responsibility, of limited government and unlimited markets.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican Anti-Trump campaigner: Trump presidency 'an utter disaster' (Deutsche-Welle, 7/14/20)

Tim Miller is a Republican campaign operative who has worked for leading Republican politicians. Now he's co-leading an organization to get party members to vote against Donald Trump. DW asked him about his motivation.

Who did you vote for in the general presidential election in 2016? 

I decided the last week to vote for Hillary [Clinton, the Democratic candidate]. I was initially persuaded by the argument that maybe there should be a third-party candidate. But I determined that Donald Trump was just too great of a threat to the country to cast a throwaway vote for someone that didn't have the best chance to beat him. So I voted for Hillary.

What do you think of Donald Trump now and of his presidency so far?

It has been an utter disaster in every imaginable sense. He has degraded the office of the presidency to a degree that would have been unimaginable five years ago. He has ruined our alliances with our allies overseas such as Germany, while cozying up to the most grotesque dictators in the world, from Kim Jong Un [in North Korea] to Erdogan [in Turkey], to Xi [in China], to Putin [in Russia]. These are his allies -- the autocrats, not the democratic nations that should be America's allies throughout the world. He has bungled and mismanaged the [coronavirus] pandemic worse than any leader in the world, except perhaps the mini-Trump in Brazil [President Jair Bolsonaro].

Trump has not demonstrated any interest in taking the job seriously. He has further exacerbated racial tensions in this country. He's the first president in my lifetime who is not even attempting to unite or heal the country at a time of racial division.

He's been an utter failure, and I'm happy to be part of the effort to get rid of him. I look forward to voting for Joe Biden.

All the Republicans who voted third party are just as much to blame as the Trumpbots.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump reduced fines for nursing homes that put residents at risk. Then Covid-19 happened.: The Obama administration cracked down on nursing homes with infection control problems. Trump reversed course. (Dylan Matthews,  Jul 14, 2020, Vox)

Estimates vary, but analysts Gregg Girvan and Avik Roy found that as of June 29, 50,779 of the 113,135 US deaths from Covid-19 (or 45 percent) were deaths of residents of nursing or long-term care facilities. Their numbers suggest that about 2.5 percent of all nursing home residents have been killed by the disease; in New Jersey, which is particularly hard hit, the share is over 11 percent.

This is partially due to the disease being particularly lethal among older people, and an early acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks across the board. Death rates have been high for seniors in general, not just those in nursing homes. A CDC report found that as of July 1, more than 80 percent of Covid-19 deaths were among people 65 and over.

But investigations have since revealed that the conditions at too many nursing homes were conducive to the coronavirus's spread, abetted by both state and federal policies. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered nursing homes to take in Covid-19 patients discharged from hospitals, contributing to superspreader events like one in Troy, New York, documented by ProPublica. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) also signed executive orders offering partial legal immunity to nursing homes during the crisis, limiting families' abilities to seek redress when the state's strategies failed.

An important context for these events, however, is federal policy. Since well before the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration has been targeting regulations in the nursing home industry, pushing a deregulatory agenda that advocates say has worsened conditions for residents and will make them worse still in the pandemic era.

Covid-19 is a once-in-a-lifetime health crisis that is catching almost all institutions -- and politicians, regardless of party -- ill-prepared. But there is no question that the administration, at the prodding of industry, has enacted and proposed moves aimed at easing regulations on nursing homes -- moves that patient advocates have said were increasing health risks for residents well before Covid-19 came to the US.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid, is in charge of regulating and overseeing the nursing home industry. (The large majority of funding for nursing facilities comes from Medicaid or Medicare, meaning that CMS certification is a key prerequisite for most to function.) The agency outsources the job of conducting inspections to state surveying agencies, operated by state governments. Together, CMS and its surveyors are the main system of accountability for the 15,600-odd nursing homes in the US and their 1.3 million inhabitants.

The Trump CMS moved to curb fining nursing homes that were found violating regulations -- in particular, regulations meant to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Infection control deficiencies are by far the most cited regulatory failing in nursing homes, and the Trump administration has acted to reduce the amount of money fined, and to move away from a system of daily fines that experts say is more effective at changing facility behaviors. (In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, the administration last month announced it would increase fines; more on this below.)

If the move to cut fines worries experts, future changes heralded by the Trump administration are even more concerning. Under the Obama administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a rule requiring all facilities to employ a dedicated "infection prevention specialist" at least part time. CMS Administrator Seema Verma has proposed rolling back that rule and only requiring such specialists to serve as consultants, potentially covering many different nursing facilities.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Black Lives Matter is More Popular than the NRA in Texas: Poll (AILA SLISCO, 7/14/20, Newsweek)

A new poll in Texas suggests that the Black Lives Matter movement is more popular than the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the gun-loving Lone Star State.

Black Lives Matter was supported by 43 percent of Texas voters and opposed by 34 percent, according to a poll released Sunday by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler. The NRA received a 35 percent favorability rating, while 34 percent viewed the group unfavorably.

Not coincidentally, 30% oppose the Dreamers too.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Progressive genocideLess than 100 years ago, America's finest minds were convinced the nation was threatened by sexually insatiable female morons. A new history of the eugenics movement sheds light on a bizarre chapter in U.S. history. (FARHAD MANJOO, MARCH 4, 2006, Salon)

Importantly, Bruinius points out, we were the first to pick up the eugenics bug. Galton, a Brit, provided the intellectual basis for eugenics, but Americans, who fancied themselves a chosen people and whose blood has always run hot on matters of utopia, actually implemented the plans. In 1907, Indiana passed "the first sterilization law in human history," Bruinius writes, and "in the next two decades, the United States became the pioneer in state-sanctioned programs to rid society of the 'unfit.'" At least 30 states enacted similar laws, and sterilization became routine. California, which ran the most aggressive program, sterilized more than 2,500 people in a 10-year period; in all, more than 65,000 Americans were rendered infertile.

More astonishing than the number of people sterilized is the long list of famous Americans who supported and sanctioned such programs. Bruinius takes his book's title from the 1927 Supreme Court majority opinion in Buck v. Bell, which ruled that the Constitution did not prohibit Virginia -- and, consequently, other states -- from sterilizing its citizens. The opinion, by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., is Bruinius' trump card, and he repeats bits of it often; if you have trouble believing that anyone with half a brain might have bought the arguments of eugenicists, the opinion settles the matter.

"We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives," Holmes wrote. "It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices [ i.e., forced sterilization], often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind." Referring to Carrie Buck, the plaintiff in the case whom the state intended to sterilize, and whose mother and daughter both had been suspected by doctors to be afflicted with feeblemindedness, Holmes added: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." (As Bruinius points out, Holmes had this label wrong; Buck and her kin had been diagnosed as morons, not imbeciles.)

Others who supported eugenics included Victoria Woodhull, the suffragist and progressive activist who was the first woman to run for president; the inventor Alexander Graham Bell (who later moved away from the movement); foundations connected with the Carnegies, the Harrimans and the Rockefellers, which donated large sums toward eugenics research; professors at leading universities, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Johns Hopkins; and editorialists of the New York Times. Bruinius also fingers Margaret Sanger, the birth control advocate who founded the American Birth Control League, the predecessor to Planned Parenthood, as having sympathy for eugenics; though Sanger did say many suspect things, her closeness to the movement has been questioned and rejected by her supporters. Then there was Theodore Roosevelt, who, in a letter to the eugenicist Charles Davenport in 1913, hoped that "Someday we will realize that the prime duty, the inescapable duty, of the good citizen of the right type is to leave his or her blood behind him in the world; and that we have no business to permit the perpetuation of citizens of the wrong type."

It's not exactly clear what Roosevelt meant by "citizens of the wrong type," but it should be noted that as eugenics thinking matured, many supporters began to see the delineations between people of the right and wrong type as extending beyond just mental categories. Leading eugenicists argued that science proved that non-whites were genetically inferior to whites, that certain kinds of Europeans were better than other kinds, and that you should never trust a Jew. The eugenicists' claims were touted by opportunistic politicians, who used the scientific findings to pass restrictive immigration laws in the U.S.

The American enthusiasm for purifying the populace did not go unnoticed beyond our borders. After the Supreme Court approved the process, "the American technique of social engineering became the model for laws in Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, and Sweden," Bruinius writes. And one more: Hitler's Germany, where the sterilization laws were consciously modeled on and supported by the American efforts.

July 13, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Burke's Foundations of Prosperity (Gregory M. Collins, Summer 2020, National Affairs)

Ultimately, the final purpose of political communities -- to live well -- cannot be attained simply by the exchange of goods or services; they can only be attained by strengthening this interlaced web of love and affection. "[F]riendship would seem to hold cities together," Aristotle observes in the Ethics. Though he was writing with reference to small, homogeneous city-states, it would be even more imperative for larger, heterogeneous political communities -- such as the United States -- to retain this element of friendship.

In other words, the economic is not the core of the political; rather, the economic is best understood as serving more fundamental sources of the common good.

That Burke accepted this Aristotelian premise is evident throughout his writing, but it appears most powerfully in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. Resisting fashionable conceptions of social-contract theory that penetrated elite circles in late-18th-century England and France, Burke refined the idea of the contract into a "fixed compact" that spanned many generations, as opposed to a short-lived arrangement that depended on mere consent. This insight is often applied to his critique of the French Revolution's attempt to break free from the traditions and customs of France's past, but it also holds eminent relevance to his notion of political economy. As he famously writes in the Reflections:

Society is indeed a contract. Subordinate contracts for objects of mere occasional interest may be dissolved at pleasure -- but the state ought not to be considered as nothing better than a partnership agreement in a trade of pepper and coffee, callico or tobacco, or some other such low concern, to be taken up for a little temporary interest, and to be dissolved by the fancy of the parties. It is to be looked on with other reverence; because it is not a partnership in things subservient only to the gross animal existence of a temporary and perishable nature.

"Subordinate contracts" in the commercial economy are fleeting and contingent arrangements that spur the flow of goods, but they also can be dissolved at the discretion of the transacting parties. Here we can detect undertones of Aristotle's notion of a political community that transcends economic activity. Men and women, like non-rational animals, require food and shelter to survive. But this need for self-preservation -- things of a "temporary and perishable nature" -- do not distinguish people, or societies, from brutish creatures.

In Burke's judgment, rather, society is a moral pact that threads together the social attachments, ethical and institutional traditions, and religious sentiments from prior generations and weaves them into the texture of current generations, which can then pass them on to -- and reform them when necessary for -- future generations. Society, he famously writes, "becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born." This pact is not temporary and perishable in its nature, but rather carries a lasting quality that resists the sudden and transient demands of short-term social, economic, and political arrangements.

Such comments appear at odds with Burke's endorsement of a free grain market and the competitive price system in Thoughts and Details, which was published five years after the Reflections, and in his other speeches and writings. On the one hand, Burke is praising transactional exchange, but on the other, he is denouncing it. How can we reconcile these two positions? Given Burke's steady advocacy of commercial liberty throughout his public life -- before and during the French Revolution -- it would make little sense to claim that Burke in the Reflections is arguing to eliminate, or drastically regulate, the flow of goods. Rather, the crucial point to recognize about Burke's economic thought is that it observed society through a wide lens, one that suppressed the temptation to isolate commercial, religious, and political activities into segregated spheres. Burke thus believed such activities could be integrated and harmonized into a delicate balance that preserves their virtues while mitigating their flaws.

Commerce is one such activity. Economic activity, and the competitive price system, can steer scarce resources to consumers with efficiency and regularity. But applying the principles of market exchange -- voluntary contracts, temporary arrangements, quid pro quo deals -- to all aspects of a commonwealth threatens to disrupt the wider social order and corrode the underlying social and institutional attachments that tie together men and women of all ranks.

Therefore, as J. G. A. Pocock presciently observed years ago, Burke modified, if not reversed, the argument about the causal connection between commerce and ethics that had become trendy among public intellectuals in the 18th century and that continues to hold much resonance today: Rather than commerce serving as the instrument for the growth in civility, civility (as manifested by the religious and moral traditions of Christian Europe prior to the Enlightenment) laid the foundation for the spread of exchange economies. Much like modern letters had owed their origin to "antient manners," Burke contends in the Reflections, so too had "commerce, and trade, and manufacture," which "certainly grew under the same shade in which learning flourished" prior to modern commercial activity.

This shade of learning was fostered by the nobility and the clergy, who built up a sturdy code of manners that tamed man's passions and polished his behavior. "[O]ur manners, our civilization, and all the good things which are connected with manners, and with civilization," he writes, "have, in this European world of ours, depended for ages upon two principles; and were indeed the result of both combined; I mean the spirit of a gentleman, and the spirit of religion." Burke does not claim that manners and civilization depended on economic transactions and commercial activity, but rather on the inherited traditions of moral conduct, patronage, and religion furnished by these two orders prior to the arrival of mass commerce. That Europe was in a flourishing state on the cusp of the French Revolution suggested that ancient manners had something to do with this state: "How much of that prosperous state was owing to the spirit of our old manners and opinions is not easy to say; but as such causes cannot be indifferent in their operation, we must presume, that, on the whole, their operation was beneficial." In short, the modern commercial economy did not facilitate civilized behavior, but civilized behavior may have facilitated the modern commercial economy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Vast majority of Republicans in swing states support the virus aid McConnell is blocking (Josh Israel, July 13, 2020, American Independent)

A new poll by progressive think tank Data For Progress and the Justice Collaborative Institute, released Friday, found that 76% of voters polled in key presidential or Senate 2020 battleground states support the emergency response legislation. Just 16% opposed it.

Among those surveyed, Republicans favor the bill 68% to 25%. Independents also back it, 77% to 13%.

The poll surveyed voters in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How expectation influences perception (Science Daily, July 15, 2019)

Neuroscientists have identified distinctive patterns of neural activity that encode prior beliefs and help the brain make sense of uncertain signals coming from the outside world. For the first time, they showed that prior beliefs exert their effect on behavior by warping the representation of sensory events in the brain.

It's why the paradigm always shifts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tales From Lou Gehrig's Long-Forgotten Newspaper Columns (Gary Waleik, 7/10/20, WBUR: Only a Game)

In his 1927 columns, Gehrig also told stories about the legendary Babe Ruth, who had been his mentor.

"At one point even offering Lou financial guidance in the dugout," Gaff says. "On one occasion, he was telling Lou, you know, 'I've made a fool of myself. I spent all my money. And you should plan for the future. Invest your money.' And, during this entire conversation, everybody on the Yankees team was just bent over double. Because, up to that point, Babe Ruth had squandered every cent he had ever made."

That season, Ruth and Gehrig were locked for a time in a tight battle for the home run title. Stories circulated about alleged acrimony between the two. But Gehrig publicly professed his admiration for the Babe. He shared the following story on Sep. 21, 1927.

Up at Toronto in an exhibition game a couple of years ago, the kids mobbed the field as the game ended. There must have been a thousand of them, and they all made a bee line for Babe. They struck him like a huge wave, and he went down flat on his face, literally buried under a landslide of kids.

It looked as though he must be trampled to death, and players and cops formed a flying wedge to rescue him. But before we got there, he emerged smiling, two or three youngsters clinging to his broad back, others hanging on his legs, and one under each arm. Most players would have been angered and disgusted. But the Babe was smiling as he trotted to the runway and still smiling when he disappeared under the stands.

As he started down in the dugout, he happened to look back. One little youngster was still standing over by first base, crying. Babe turned back through the mob again and went to the kid.

"What's the matter, kid?" he asked.

"I got my hand stepped on," the little fellow whimpered. "It hurts."

"That's all right," Babe replied, taking the lad in his arms. "We'll get that fixed." And back he ploughed through the mob, the youngster held in his arms.

"Look out, here comes the ambulance!" he called. Then he took the lad into the clubhouse, and Babe bandaged the sore finger himself. After that, he gave the lad a baseball, a pat on the back, and sent him away smiling. That's typical of the Babe.

Gehrig was also friendly with Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson. In describing his relationship with contemporary greats, Gehrig always seemed awestruck. His humility often bordered on inferiority complex. Odd, for a guy with movie star looks and who batted cleanup on the team many consider to be the greatest ever.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case That Trump Really Is Toast, and That He Probably Knows It (John Ziegler, Jul 12th, 2020, Mediate)

With a 56% disapproval rating, that obviously means that currently well over half the country would REALLY not like to vote for him. Consequently, Trump's base of voters has shrunk just enough to where he currently just cannot get there from here.

It isn't so much that Trump, as he has been all year, is losing to Joe Biden by a significant margin in the popular vote polls, it is that the extremely well-known incumbent president has somehow not cracked 41% in any poll since June 24th. If this race was an amusement park ride, Trump's current support would not be tall enough to even be allowed entry.

The battleground states tell a remarkably similar story, with Trump's average not currently topping 42% in Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin, the very key states he won in 2016. Even more ominously, he is only averaging 43% in Florida, a state where, if he loses, it is nearly inconceivable to get the 270 Electoral College votes needed for re-election.

There is also no indication that recent events will do anything but depress Trump's numbers even further. His shockingly brazen and overtly corrupt (especially for a man who got elected promising to "Drain the Swamp!") commutation of the prison sentence for Roger Stone's felony perjury convictions indicates that Trump is so politically clueless that he can't get himself out of this mess, or, perhaps more likely, he actually knows that he is not going to get re-elected and is starting not to care about how his actions are perceived.

Maybe the strongest part of the case that Trump now needs an "Act of God" to beat Biden is that almost all of his possible escape hatches have been already closed off.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Defense of 'Reactionary Liberalism'--A Reply to Osita Nwanevu (Bo Winegard, 7/13/20, Quillette)

I am a liberal conservative, or as the New Republic's Osita Nwanevu would have it, a "reactionary liberal." I lean right-of-center and, as I have argued before, I believe that many of the West's most cherished values--individualism, due process, free speech and inquiry, and the rule of law--are imperiled by radical progressivism. So, I was delighted to be challenged by Nwanevu's recent article entitled "The Willful Blindness of Reactionary Liberalism." Although the piece is highly tendentious, it is a vigorous defense of progressive identity politics and an attack on liberals like me.

Nwanevu's basic thesis is that progressives are actually the modern champions of the liberal tradition and that those who oppose and criticize them from the Left (Matt Taibbi and Jonathan Chait) or the Right (Andrew Sullivan) or both (the members of what was once known as the Intellectual Dark Web) are actually fighting a reactionary battle against an expansion of freedom. Therefore, Nwanevu argues, it is progressivism's enemies who are illiberal. He describes liberalism--correctly, so far as it goes--as "an ideology of the individual⁠. Its first principle is that each and every person in society is possessed of a fundamental dignity and can claim certain ineradicable rights and freedoms. Liberals believe, too, in government by consent and the rule of law: The state cannot exercise wholly arbitrary power, and its statutes bind all equally."

However, reactionary liberals, he argues, do not appear to understand or appropriately value an important liberal freedom: Association. "Controversial speakers," he notes, "have no broad right to speak at private institutions" and senators such as Tom Cotton have no right to appear in whatever magazine or outlet they desire. Reactionary liberals, it seems, are confused about these issues, and that is why they (incorrectly) condemn universities for restricting the range of acceptable opinions on campus and deride newspaper staffers for protesting the publication of an op-ed with which they disagree.

It is of course true that universities are not legally obliged to invite controversial speakers; and it is also true that a newspaper's staffers are legally allowed to complain about the publication of an op-ed. But a liberal society is not just sustained by fidelity to the law, it is also sustained by a commitment to broadly shared norms, and the behaviors Nwanevu describes do not particularly reflect a spirit of liberalism. 

The problem with this line of argument is that there is little danger to the regime if universities or editorial pages ban racism/Nativism, but great danger from the countervailing strand on the Right, which is seeking to force social media to publish racist/Nativist content.  
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



As a youngster, John Downing Weaver paid little attention to his mother when she told him stories of her and his father's trip to Brownsville, Texas, in 1909. It wasn't until the journalist was in his 50s that he got around to asking her about it. After all, it didn't sound like a glamorous trip.

"Some Negro soldiers shot up the town," she said, "and Teddy Roosevelt kicked them out of the Army." Weaver figured his father, a stenographer for the House of Representatives, had been tapped to cover a trial for the soldiers and summoned to Brownsville, a town on the Mexico border.

"They didn't have a trial," Mrs. Weaver responded. "He just kicked them out."

"But not even the President can go around kicking people out of the Army without a trial," John said.

"Teddy Roosevelt did," she insisted.

Just to prove his mother wrong, Weaver dug into the official records of the case housed at the Charles E. Young Research Library at UCLA. It turned out that his mother was right.

On November 6, 1906, Theodore Roosevelt signed Special Order No. 266. With a stroke of his pen, the president triggered the dishonorable discharge of 167 Black soldiers of the Twenty-Fifth Infantry stationed in Brownsville, Texas. Weaver's father was sent down about three years later, to report on the proceedings of a court of inquiry composed of five retired generals.

Weaver, after meticulously researching the events, concluded that these generals were "less interested in righting the wrong than in making the wrong appear right." Weaver, then a reporter for the Los Angeles Times "West" section, published his findings in a 1970 book, The Brownsville Raid: The Story of America's Black Dreyfus Affair.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's America Is Slipping Away (RONALD BROWNSTEIN, JULY 9, 2020, The Atlantic)

In polls, they are more tolerant of interracial and same-sex relationships, more likely to acknowledge the existence of racial discrimination, and less concerned about crime.

Almost all of these changes complicate Trump's task in trying to rally a winning electoral coalition behind his alarms against marauding "angry mobs," "far-left fascism," and "the violent mayhem we have seen in the streets of cities that are run by liberal Democrats." The Americans he is targeting with his messages of racial resentment and cultural backlash are uniformly a smaller share of American society now than they were then.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Report: Washington Redskins to announce they are changing team name (The Week, 7/13/20)

The Washington Redskins will announce on Monday morning plans to change their 87-year-old team name, three people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post on Sunday night.

It's staggering how much and how fast BLM is winning because Donald so clearly embodies everything they've been pushing against.  He single-handedly demonstrates institutional racism. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Time of 'Incredible Violence'Historian Gives Readers Glimpse of Medieval Life (Der Spiegel, 7/12/12)

At one time, historian Ian Mortimer, 44, was an ambitious student at the University of Exeter. But, frustrated after his exams, he moved back to the remote village of Moretonhampstead in Devon, in southwestern England. He started a family, bought a house and built a bell tower.

For years, he raged against all the academics who torment their audiences with "boring and tedious" treatises. But then he started writing his own books.

Since Mortimer doesn't like to travel and hasn't boarded an airplane in years, it might seem odd that his best-known work is essentially a travel guide. In the book "The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England," Mortimer explains what travelers would expect if they were catapulted back to the Middle Ages in a time machine. Instead of writing about famous battles, kings and wars, he describes how it smelled in the narrow alleyways, what kinds of meals the people cooked in their crooked houses, and how they washed their backsides.

The response has been tremendous. Readers and critics alike are enthralled by his unconventional historical prose, and universities are recommending his trip into the Middle Ages as basic reading for young history students. [...]

Mortimer recently met with SPIEGEL for an interview at his favorite pub, the White Horse Inn. But it wasn't the next chance to get tipsy that attracted the author -- it was the fact that the inn is more than 200 years old. "We are sitting in the middle of history here," he said. Sipping his coffee, he was ready to begin the interview.

SPIEGEL: Readers of your book about the Middle Ages could be forgiven for coming away with rather starry-eyed images of the period you describe: The loudest noise to be heard was the chiming of the church bells, and stopping for a chat on market day was a firmly observed ritual. Was all well with the world then?

Mortimer: Well, it was also a time of death, disease, suffering and incredible violence. Both of us would probably be dead by now -- half the population didn't live past the age of 21. If you had a toothache, the doctors would explain to you that little worms were tunneling into the enamel of your teeth. On the other hand, this was also an age that saw the building of stunning cathedrals, and a time when Shakespeare took literature to new heights.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The White House is sending journalists 'opposition research' on Dr. Anthony Fauci, limiting his TV appearances (The Week, 7/13/20)

The White House has sent reporters at several mainstream media organizations a lengthy list of comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, in an apparent push to undermine the nation's top federal infectious disease expert after he publicly disagreed with President Trump's optimistic assessment of the growing outbreak in the U.S. 

July 12, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Sen. Cornyn as Texas reports 550 child cases: 'We still don't know' if kids can get, transmit COVID (Benjamin Wermund July 10, 2020, Houston Chronicle)

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said during a TV interview Thursday that it's unclear whether children can get and transmit COVID-19. That same day, Texas reported more than 550 COVID infections in children 9 and younger.

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


Joe Biden builds 5-point lead over Donald Trump in red Texas as some voters sour on handling of virus (Robert T. Garrett, Jul 12, 2020, Dallas Morning News)

Former Vice President Joe Biden has built a five-point lead over President Donald Trump in Texas as unease over Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic mounts, a new Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll has found.

Biden had 46% support to Trump's 41%.

Posted by orrinj at 10:02 AM


Why The Lincoln Project Strikes Terror In Trump (Froma Harrop, July 12, 2020, National Memo)

Smartly, the Lincoln Project ignores liberals and goes straight for the underside of Trump's skin. Its video called "Shrinking" that mocks, among other things, the poor attendance at Trump's Tulsa rally, was a masterpiece in that regard.

Another, "#TrumpIsNotWell," taunts Trump as shaky, weak and babbling. "Why isn't the press covering Trump's secretive midnight run to Walter Read Medical Center?" the ad asks, addressing the Trump base with a clever (though inaccurate) hit on the media.

"Mourning in America" portrays a heartland of empty factories, dilapidated homes and broken people. "Under the leadership of Donald Trump, our country is weaker and sicker and poorer," the voiceover says in sorrow. "Americans are asking, 'If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?'"

The Lincoln Project managers were sure to have the ad aired on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program.

In "Betrayed," an angry ex-Navy Seal rails against Trump's nonresponse to reports of Russians paying the Taliban to kill American soldiers. "Any commander in chief with a spine would be stomping the living s--- out of some Russians right now," Dr. Dan Barkuff says. He calls Trump a "coward" and "draft dodger," and in case you haven't figured out the audience he is focused on, Barkuff adds in passing, "I'm a pro-life, gun-owning combat veteran."

Fortunately, the brains behind these videos, Wilson and Lincoln Project colleagues George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and others, are on my side this time. And they remind the people they used to campaign against that there are patriotic Republicans who still put their country above party.

I dream that these never-Trump Republicans become not a third party but one of the two parties -- a replacement for the shabby Trump cult now called the Republican Party.

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


Trump's New Hampshire rally was cancelled because of low attendance fears, advisers say (Tom Porter, 7/12/20, Business Insider)

According to the report, campaign officials were terrified of a repeat of Trump's rally in Tulsa in Oklahoma in June. The event was billed as the president's big comeback, but the president addressed rows of empty seats after the projected sell-out crowd never materialized. 

The president was reportedly furious after the debacle, where thousands of teenagers on TikTok played a role in inflating expectations that the rally would be a sell-out by indicating attendance then not showing up. 

According to NBC, ahead of the New Hampshire rally, "there were no signs of the typical crowds of supporters camped out days in advance for a good spot.

The Republican governor Chris Sununu said he would skip it, advising anyone at high risk to stay home over coronavirus concerns" and "fears of a repeat of Tulsa's disappointing turnout weighed heavily."

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Battle of Gettysburg? (Paul Kengor, July 12, 2020, American Spectator)

Let's start with a clarification on my sentiments, lest the mob come after me with torches:

I've long detested the Confederacy for how it ripped apart this nation in the attempted preservation of an evil institution that denied human beings their God-given rights. I'm a lifelong Pennsylvanian, a Union guy, a Lincoln Republican, great-great grandson of the Flinn family (dad's side) that fought Stonewall Jackson. I could give a damn about honoring the Confederacy.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley on Friday spoke in support of removing Confederate names from Army bases, making the point that "The Confederacy, the American Civil War, was fought and it was an act of rebellion. It was an act of treason at the time against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution. Those officers turned their back on their oath."

Residents are deeply concerned about their town and the battlefields. They're concerned about vandalization.

Those are tough words, but they're accurate. We as conservatives support law and order and country. We are supposed to be patriots dedicated to America. To quote Lincoln at Gettysburg, we support the proposition that all men are created equal.

Those Confederate officers proceeded with a vicious course to destroy a wonderful nation conceived in liberty, whose creation they had fought for a century earlier against the British. Never were so many Americans killed than during the Civil War. 

Donald is doing his best to beat their record.
Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Trump isn't secretly winking at QAnon. He's retweeting its followers. (TINA NGUYEN, 07/12/2020, Politico)

On July Fourth, before President Donald Trump spoke to the nation from the White House lawn, he spoke indirectly to another community on Twitter: QAnon.

That afternoon, he retweeted 14 tweets from accounts supporting the QAnon conspiracy theory, a sprawling and ever-mutating belief that a mysterious government official who goes by "Q" is leaving online clues about a messianic Trump's secret plan to dismantle a cadre of Washington elites engaged in everything from pedophilia to child sex trafficking.

It wasn't the first time Trump has nodded -- accidentally or not -- to QAnon followers on Twitter. But Trump's QAnon-baiting has gone into overdrive in recent months. According to a Media Matters analysis, ever since the pandemic began, Trump has retweeted at least 90 posts from 49 pro-QAnon accounts, often multiple times in the same day.

Those around Trump have followed suit. Eric Trump, the president's son, recently posted a giant "Q" on Instagram as well as the hashtag version of the community's slogan: "Where we go one, we go all." White House deputy communications director Dan Scavino sparked glee on Facebook when he posted a photo with Q symbology in it back in March. Over on Parler, the niche Twitter alternative and MAGA hub, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, one of Trump's most strident congressional defenders, directed people to The Dirty Truth, a video producer who has promoted QAnon-related conspiracies in the past.

And over that July Fourth weekend, Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, recorded a video of himself taking the QAnon loyalty pledge, a slightly altered version of the U.S. oath of office.

All this has occurred with barely any pushback from Trump or Republican leaders -- or even much acknowledgment that the phenomenon exists. 

July 11, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


The once-mocked 'Never Trump' movement becomes a sudden campaign force (Ashley Parker and Robert Costa, July 11, 2020, Washington Post)

[T]he leading members of the anti-Trump bloc believe they can be helpful to Biden by sharply attacking Trump on divisive and controversial topics that campaigns typically avoid, such as the president's physical health. The Biden campaign, for its part, sees little downside to these outside groups going after the president, an official said.

And unlike in 2016, when many of them bandied around independent candidate Evan McMullin, whose campaign failed to dent Trump, their work this time is aimed on damaging Trump's standing rather than on offering a Republican alternative or challenging Trump at the party's convention.

Other groups in the anti-Trump wing include Right Side PAC, which is led by Matt Borges, former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party and advised by former Trump White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, a financier who has become a Trump critic. And there is 43 Alumni for Biden, formed by officials who worked in the George W. Bush administration.

The Lincoln Project was founded by Republican strategists John Weaver, Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt and former New Hampshire Republican Party chair Jennifer Horn. Lawyer George T. Conway III, who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, is also involved.

Republican Voters Against Trump, which was founded by longtime conservative and self-described "Never Trumper" Sarah Longwell, has concentrated almost entirely on sharing testimonials from traditional Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016, but are planning -- sometimes reluctantly -- to support Biden in November.

The group also includes William Kristol, a conservative commentator, Tim Miller, a Republican operative who worked on Jeb Bush's 2016 presidential campaign, and Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist.

Longwell said she spent most of the three years following Trump's election trying to understand what happened and conducting focus groups with voters who supported Trump in 2016 but now rate his performance in office as "somewhat bad" or "very bad." As her group began testing ads, they quickly realized that slick commercials were often less persuasive than raw testimonials from fellow Republicans with similar doubts about the current president.

They worked for several months to recruit 100 first-person testimonials, largely shot on smartphones -- but now they have more than 400 videos, many of them unsolicited.

"The ones that really stand out tend to the be the ones where someone is really grappling with the decision, someone saying, 'I've been a Republican my whole life, I'm passionate about this party, I'm passionate about these ideas, but I just can't vote for Donald Trump,' " Longwell said. "It feels like they're getting something off their chest, and people really respond to that authenticity and the realness of that."

The group, which has begun airing testimonials on television and online in North Carolina and Arizona, plans to spend between $10 and $15 million and also go on the air in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and possibly Florida. Their target audience is largely white suburban women, a group that has already begun to move away from Trump.

On Sunday, Republican Voters Against Trump will air an ad during "Fox News Sunday," a program Trump frequently watches, in North Carolina and Arizona highlighting 15 Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 but will now vote for Biden.

"It's okay to change your mind," the ad ends. "We did."

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Georgia. Ohio. Texas. Democrats Tell Biden to Go Big (He's Being Cautious). (Jonathan Martin, 7/10/20, NY Times)

With President Trump's poll numbers sliding in traditional battlegrounds as well as conservative-leaning states, and money pouring into Democratic campaigns, Joseph R. Biden Jr. is facing rising pressure to expand his ambitions, compete aggressively in more states and press his party's advantage down the ballot.

In a series of phone calls, Democratic lawmakers and party officials have lobbied Mr. Biden and his top aides to seize what they believe could be a singular opportunity not only to defeat Mr. Trump but to rout him and discredit what they believe is his dangerous style of racial demagogy.

This election, the officials argue, offers the provocative possibility of a new path to the presidency through fast-changing states like Georgia and Texas, and a chance to install a generation of lawmakers who can cement Democratic control of Congress and help redraw legislative maps following this year's census.

Mr. Biden's campaign, though, is so far hewing to a more conservative path. It is focused mostly on a handful of traditional battlegrounds, where it is only now scaling up and naming top aides despite having claimed the nomination in April.

The GOP has not even begun to reckon with the wreckage that Donald could leave in his wake.  The assumption is that when he loses he'll put his ego and energy into some kind of Trump TV.   While obviously toxic, it will be pretty marginal.  The far greater threat is that he could choose to establish his own political party, based around his racism and dedicated to the election of Ivanka or one of his boys from Brazil.  He wouldn't necessarily capture all of them, but his hardcore support is that 30% of Republicans who voted for him and who oppose even the Dreamers.  Peel them off and there's no longer a competitive two-party system.    Meanwhile, as the flight of suburbanites and the virtual imprisonment of minority voters in the Democratic Party pushes it further into neoliberalism, the rationale for the GOP diminishes.  November is going to go a long way to destroying the current Republican Party--deservedly--but we may not have seen anything yet.  A fitting legacy for Trumpism. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


A Modern Martyr: The quiet resistance of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. (Daniel Rey,  07 July 2020, History Today)

Seventy-five years ago, with the Allied victory in Europe merely a month away, a German pastor was led to the scaffold. As far back as February 1933, when many observers saw little threat in the new chancellor, he was one of the earliest to denounce Hitler. Off and on for the next 12 years, Dietrich Bonhoeffer would resist the Nazis: first through sermons and support for Jews, then as a clerical diplomat and double agent. He was a scion of the Prussian nobility and a German patriot; but when his name was called on 9 April 1945 at Flossenbürg concentration camp, he was hanged as a traitor. 

The co-founder of Amnesty International called Bonhoeffer the 'archetypal prisoner of conscience'. Yet, unlike the great martyrs of the 20th century, unlike Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Bonhoeffer achieved little. Whereas Gandhi steered India to independence and King led the push for civil rights, Bonhoeffer left no tangible legacy. Nonetheless, his courage should make him their equal. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way: Airborne transmission would mean there are certain solutions we really need to focus on. (Neel V. Patel, July 11, 2020, MIT Technology Review)

One of the biggest questions we still have about covid-19 is how much of a viral load is needed to cause infection. The answer changes if we think it is aerosols that we need to worry about. Smaller particles won't carry as large a viral load as bigger ones, but because they can linger in the air for much longer, it may not matter--they'll build up in larger concentrations and get distributed more widely the longer an infected person is around to expel aerosolized virus. 

The more people you have coming in and out of an indoor space, the more likely it is that someone who is infected will show up. The longer those infected individuals spend in that space, the higher the concentration of virus in the air over time. This is particularly bad news for spaces where people congregate for hours on end, like restaurants, bars, offices, classrooms, and churches. 

Airborne transmission doesn't necessarily mean these places must stay closed (although that would be ideal). But wiping down surfaces with disinfectant, and having everyone wear masks, won't be enough. To safely reopen, these spots will not just need to reduce the number of people allowed inside at any given moment; they will also need to reduce the amount of time those people spend there. Increasing social distancing beyond six feet would also help keep people safer. 

Ventilation needs to be a higher priority too. This is going to be a big problem for older buildings that usually have worse ventilation systems, and areas with a lot of those might need to remain closed for much longer. The impact of asymptomatic spread (transmission by people who don't feel ill) and superspreaders only compounds the problem even further. But research conducted by the US Department of Homeland Security has shown that in the presence of UV light, aerosolized particles of the size the Tulane researchers studied would disappear in less than a minute. A number of businesses have begun deploying UV-armed robots to disinfect hospital rooms, shopping malls, stores, public transit stations, and more.

For many places, considerable delays in economic reopening might ultimately be the price of getting the virus under control. Otherwise the kind of thing that happened when a single open bar in Michigan led to an outbreak of more than 170 new cases could become commonplace. 

For Brosseau, the best strategy is simply to behave as we did in the early days of lockdown--stay home, and avoid coming into contact with anyone you don't live with. And if you have to leave home, she says, "all I can say is spend as little time as possible in an enclosed space, in an area that's well ventilated, with as few people as possible."

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


Trump Is Selling White Grievance. The Suburbs Aren't Buying It. (Katie Glueck, July 10, 2020, NY Times)

CORNELIUS, N.C. -- On a humid Wednesday morning in this leafy lakeside suburb of Charlotte, American flags fluttered from porches along Main Street, traffic was slow, and the occasional resident ambled out for a walk.

There was only one visible sign of the anger and anxiety that have coursed through this community and so many others across the nation in recent weeks: "Racist," read the faded black graffiti at the base of a Confederate memorial, the kind of statue President Trump has vowed to preserve amid a national discussion of racism in America.

Down the street, as she loaded groceries into her car, Elizabeth Stewart vented her frustrations about Mr. Trump's incendiary approach.

"He's trying to appeal to a base that's gotten more and more narrow," said Ms. Stewart of Davidson, N.C., a small-business owner who supported Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race and Hillary Clinton in 2016 and will support Joseph R. Biden Jr. this year. "It's just extremely divisive."

From North Carolina to Pennsylvania to Arizona, interviews this week with more than two dozen suburban voters in critical swing states revealed abhorrence for Mr. Trump's growing efforts to fuel white resentment with inflammatory rhetoric on race and cultural heritage. The discomfort was palpable even among voters who also dislike the recent toppling of Confederate statues or who say they agree with some of Mr. Trump's policies.

As the president increasingly stakes his candidacy on a message of "law and order," casting himself as a bulwark against "angry mobs" and "thugs,'' there are signs that he is especially alienating voters in bedroom communities who approach the debate over racial justice with a far more nuanced perspective than the president does.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Portland Place couple who confronted protesters have a long history of not backing down (Jeremy Kohler, 7/11/20, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

[T]he McCloskeys are almost always in conflict with others, typically over control of private property, what people can do on that property, and whose job it is to make sure they do it.

They filed a lawsuit in 1988 to obtain their house, a castle built for Adolphus Busch's daughter and her husband during St. Louis' brief run as a world-class city in the early 20th century. At the McCloskeys' property in Franklin County, they have sued neighbors for making changes to a gravel road and twice in just over two years evicted tenants from a modular home on their property.

Mark McCloskey sued a former employer for wrongful termination and his sister, father and his father's caretaker for defamation.

The McCloskeys have filed at least two "quiet title" suits asserting squatter's rights on land they've occupied openly and hostilely -- their terms -- and claimed as their own. In an ongoing suit against Portland Place trustees in 2017, the McCloskeys say they are entitled to a 1,143-square-foot triangle of lawn in front of property that is set aside as common ground in the neighborhood's indenture.

It was that patch of green protesters saw when they filed through the gate. Mark McCloskey said in an affidavit that he has defended the patch before by pointing a gun at a neighbor who had tried to cut through it.

This court record shows the McCloskeys challenged a Portland Place resident "at gun point" who they said encroached on their property. 

The McCloskeys have filed many other lawsuits. They sued a man who sold them a Maserati they claimed was supposed to come with a box of hard-to-find parts. In one trip to the courthouse in November 1996, Mark McCloskey filed two lawsuits, one against a dog breeder whom he said sold him a German shepherd without papers and the other against the Central West End Association for using a photo of their house in a brochure for a house tour after the McCloskeys had told them not to.

"I guess we were saving gas," he would quip in a deposition in another case about why he filed two lawsuits at once.

Mark McCloskey has run off trustees trying to make repairs to the wall surrounding his property, insisting that he and his wife own it. In 2013, he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion's northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation and left a note saying he did it, and if the mess wasn't cleaned up quickly he would seek a restraining order and attorneys fees. The congregation had planned to harvest the honey and pick apples from trees on its property for Rosh Hashanah.

Mark McCloskey left this note after he destroyed bee hives placed just outside of the mansion's northern wall by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation.

"The children were crying in school," Rabbi Susan Talve said. "It was part of our curriculum."

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


The new televangelism: The best US television drama has a strong religious dimension  (Matt Thorne, 11 July, 2020, The Critic)

Concerned by their lack of religious programming, this year the BBC designed a Year of Beliefs strand, including a reality show where light entertainers Les Dennis and Debbie McGee went on a pilgrimage to meet the Pope and confess their quiz show sins. But if the BBC really wanted to put religion back at the heart of their broadcasting, they should look to American TV, where almost every major mainstream channel  has a religious element.

Some shows in the current schedule address religion directly (including HBO's The Young Pope and its John Malkovich-starring sequel The New Pope and Oprah Winfrey's Greenleaf, set in a megachurch). Others are horror thrillers with religious dimensions (Supernatural, where the gates of Hell have opened and our only protection is a pair of wise-cracking brothers, or Lucifer, in which a somewhat-smarmy Devil runs a nightclub and solves mysteries in L.A.). 

It's astonishing how much airtime is devoted to two theological questions: why is there evil in the world and am I going to Hell?

For those who find these shows too silly, there are emotionally driven dramas such as The Leftovers, which follow the lives of those left behind after a Rapture-style event, or smart theological comedies such as The Good Place (a small group of oddballs die and wake up in what seems to be Heaven). But irrespective of which form it takes, it's astonishing how much airtime is devoted to two theological questions: why is there evil in the world and am I going to Hell?

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Rafal Trzaskowski, the Europhile with sights on Polish presidency (BERNARD OSSER, 7/11/20, AFP)

The challenger for the Polish presidency, Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, is a liberal who has promised to turn Poland firmly towards the European Union.

A former deputy foreign minister, the 48-year-old is also the son of a jazz pioneer and great-grandson of the man who created Poland's first schools for girls.

Trzaskowski only joined the race against right-wing President Andrzej Duda at the last minute, after the vote was delayed in May because of the virus pandemic. [...]

Trzaskowski, who is married with two children, was elected mayor of Warsaw in 2018, winning over city residents with an inclusive campaign under the slogan "Warsaw For All."

His record as mayor has been mixed and critics say he has failed to do enough while in office.

In a light-hearted Facebook post when he was elected, he described his love of old books and stated that he had smoked marijuana in his youth although only "rarely."

Trzaskowski said the post was intended to defuse the "denigration campaigns" being waged by supporters of the Law and Justice Party, who he defined as "haters."

In the same post, he also "admitted" he had received a scholarship from George Soros, a US-Hungarian billionaire of Jewish descent who is a favorite target of populist campaigners around the world.

Trzaskowski, who described himself as "pro-Semitic," has in recent days come under attack in a report on Polish public television accusing him of failing to defend the national interest by not ruling out Jewish compensation claims from the Holocaust.

Poland can either be Western or Nationalist.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


The Knock on Grant: Why toppling his bust in Golden Gate Park was a strange way to celebrate Juneteenth (Elizabeth D. Samet, June 27, 2020, American Scholar)

I'm suspicious of all monuments, and I believe in dismantling those that tell warped tales about our national past, suppress its horrors, and gild its errors by encasing them in tragic dignity. Monuments to the Confederacy do all this, and they ought no longer to lord it over us in public parks, town squares, or the halls of the Capitol. Even if I know that in the long run it would have been better and healthier for us to have arrived at this conclusion in an orderly and official way, I also know at first hand the intransigence of all those Americans so deeply in love with the sham chivalry--to steal Mark Twain's phrase--of Robert E. Lee and all the rest. So whenever I learn that the statue of a Confederate has been disturbed in some way during these days of unrest, I think: He certainly had that coming.

Then, on the morning after Juneteenth, a day meant to celebrate the liberation from slavery, I learned that Ulysses S. Grant had become a casualty of the long overdue war against the tyranny of misremembrance, when protestors toppled his bust in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. And my self-satisfied iconoclasm suddenly gave way, first to righteous indignation, then to confusion. Rather than surrender to Grant, Lee would have preferred dying "a thousand deaths," but surrender he did, because Grant had ground down the Army of Northern Virginia with an iron will and "a bulldog grip," as Abraham Lincoln enjoined him to do. Grant is the man who, whatever else he may have failed to do--and he failed at many things--figured out how to win the Civil War, thereby preserving the United States and securing the emancipation of four million enslaved persons.

Most monuments tend to accomplish what Bertolt Brecht accused traditional drama of doing: eroding our capacity for action rather than awakening it, leaving us with the feeling that the human being is fixed rather than capable of change. That's the source of my mistrust. A year ago, my ambivalence notwithstanding, I participated in the dedication of a new statue of Grant at his alma mater, West Point. I hoped this new monument would begin to turn the tide. The Army, just like the country at large, fell in love with those flamboyant cavaliers rendered in bronze, granite, and marble throughout the land while blithely ignoring the fact that their lost cause was "one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse."

Who judged it that? Grant, in his Personal Memoirs, written as he was dying and published posthumously in 1885.

The question for all monuments is: what is it that we are memorializing and why?  The fact is that precious few of us know. Tear them all down and let's use them as civics lessons to see which ones we want to restore and why.    

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


After anti-Semitic posts, NFL star DeSean Jackson speaks with Holocaust survivor (Times of Israel, 7/11/20)

Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson said Friday he spoke with a Holocaust survivor as part of his continuing education after posting anti-Semitic quotes online earlier in the week.

"Thank you Mr. Mosberg for your valuable time and insight today. I'm taking this time to continue with educating myself and bridging the gap between different cultures, communities & religions," Jackson wrote on Instagram.
Edward Mosberg, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor, had written an open letter inviting Jackson to tour the Auschwitz concentration camp with him. [...]

"My post was definitely not intended for anybody of any race to feel any type of way, especially the Jewish community," Jackson said in a video he posted on Instagram on Tuesday. "I post things on my story all the time, and just probably never should have posted anything Hitler did, because Hitler was a bad person, and I know that."

He also wrote in a post on Tuesday evening: "I unintentionally hurt the Jewish community... and for that I am sorry."

"I will fully educate myself and work with local and national organizations to be more informed and make a difference in our community," he wrote.

These are the conversation we need to be having and that the movement for racial justice is fostering. One of the most notable aspects of our moment is that in other countries that are trying to have their own reckoning it is, likewise, occurring under the auspices of Black Lives Matter.  Being the most multi-ethnic, multi-confessional society extant and being Founded upon the truth that all men are Created equal, we are uniquely well-suited to leading the conversation. Those with faith in the Founding are listening and learning.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Rethinking Association: a review of Why Associations Matter: The Case for First Amendment Pluralism by Luke C. Sheahan (Bruce P. Frohnen, Jun 21, 2020, University Bookman)

The right of Americans to form associations for their own self-chosen (legal) purposes and govern them as they see fit is deeply ingrained in American tradition and recognized in the constitutional right to assembly. Unfortunately, courts increasingly have recognized it only as a derivative right growing from the individual right to free speech. Courts have been stretching and reconfiguring this free speech right for over a century. They have turned it into a right of "expression," treating each individual as an autonomous being that creates its own meaning through emotive actions from flag burning to sexual activity. In this schema there is no association proper. There is only "expressive association," which exists purely as a means by which individuals may choose to express their own, individual emotions and opinions.

Lost in this hyper-individualist understanding of association are the essential elements of any decent life: community and purpose. In an important act of analytic recovery, Sheahan provides an exhaustive review of the work of sociologist Robert Nisbet. Well known to conservative readers for his Quest for Community, Nisbet wrote extensively on the nature and functions of associations. Sheahan systematically lays out Nisbet's understanding of associations' roles in shielding persons and their communities from overreaching governments and, especially, in forming human personalities.

On the political level, Nisbet notes that "major groups which fall in between the individual and the sovereign state become intermediating influences between citizen and sovereign. They are at once buffers against too arbitrary a political power and reinforcements to the individual's conception of himself and his own power." This crucial function, noted already by Alexis de Tocqueville in his classic study of "administrative decentralization" and its role in protecting democratic liberty, is in fact a byproduct of associations' natural pursuit of their own goals. Families, religious organizations, and book clubs all have reasons for existing that are made concrete in their activities, and also in internal norms. Like associations' actions, their customs and standards of behavior form around common recognition of stated values and internal authority. The resulting obedience is limited, provisional, and subject to a right to exit if the member no longer shares the association's values. Still, internal rules and discipline are essential to the very existence of any meaningful association.

Taken together, these elements of purposive association make up important parts of each person's life; they may be said to make up that life itself. As Sheahan puts it, "Associations in a democracy are not a means to self-government; they are self-government. They are not one option for the ordering of human life; they are the order of human life."

To survive, associations must have real purpose and must be accorded their own integrity and internal governance. Unfortunately, the rise of the commanding, sovereign state, with its claim to be the master community of "its" society, has undermined both these requirements for any genuine community. Simplistic notions of national sovereignty helped rulers centralize power at the expense of more natural, local associations in the name of social cohesion. State actors came to see themselves as entitled to order and re-order these associations to fit with their own designs and notions of justice. The doctrine of sovereignty, put forward by the English Parliament, was rejected outright at the American Revolution. But the vision of the state as a kind of national community responsible for the health, well-being, and egalitarian virtue of its constituent members has infected public discourse over time. It has, among other things, led to the conviction that groups cannot themselves have rights. (This despite the fact that the development of legally recognized rights in the Anglo-American tradition literally began with battles over the rights of groups including the Church as well as various municipalities and classes.) It lay behind programs of transformation such as Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, with its goal of liberating the individual "from the enslaving forces of his environment."

In fairness, as Hillbilly Elegy amply demonstrates, the key to reforming impoverished communities it to liberate them from the social forces of their particular environments and replace those forces with healthy ones, or simply to move the individuals to healthy communities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Knocking at the gates: A review of Alaric the Goth: An Outsider's History of the Fall of Rome, by Douglas Boin. (Clayton Trutor, 7/09/20, New Criterion)

In 410 ad, Alaric I, King of the Visigoths, breached Rome's walls, likely with the aid of collaborators, and led an army of thousands into the city. Alaric's sack of Rome was the culmination of a decade's worth of campaigns against an increasingly unstable western imperial state, which had grown incapable of controlling its hinterlands and the people who inhabited them, including the Visigoths.

This was also the first time in eight centuries that the city of Rome's defenses had ruptured. Luckily for the Romans, Alaric was a professed Christian. He gave refuge to those who sought safety in churches and implored his men not to plunder religious artifacts. Following a three-day pillaging of the city, the Goths under Alaric's command began a campaign southward for Sicily that was derailed by a devastating storm. Less than a year after sacking Rome, Alaric died of a sudden, unknown illness. In the wake of his death, the Goths retreated from the Italian peninsula and established a kingdom within the bounds of the Western Roman Empire, in the French region of Aquitaine. The swift rise and fall of Alaric has often been depicted in arts and letters, typically as an apocalyptic moment in the history of Rome--the beginning of the end. Nevertheless, an English language biography of Alaric was not available until the historian Douglas Boin took on the task.

Boin's Alaric the Goth is an entertaining, highly readable account of a figure who has previously been regarded as a pitiless heel straight from central casting. Boin, in a fresh approach, looks at the events leading up to the sack of Rome from the Goths' perspective; thus Alaric is a cultural outsider, a transient, non-citizen within the Roman realm, seeking out the privileges afforded those with Roman citizenship. Alaric admired Roman culture and, like thousands of other Goths, had fought on its behalf before turning on the Empire.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Edmund Burke and Abraham Lincoln, 'All in All' (GREG WEINER, July 7, 2020, National Review)

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke took aim at Lord George Gordon, who had led the anti-Catholic riots that bore his name. By the time of the Reflections, Gordon resided in Newgate Prison, convicted of libel and unable to afford the security the judge demanded for his freedom. In the interim, Gordon had converted to Judaism. Burke took note. Gordon should stay in Newgate, Burke suggested, to "meditate on his Talmud" until France bought his freedom "to please [the Jacobins'] new Hebrew brethren." Burke continued, referring to the church lands the French revolutionaries had seized:

He may then be enabled to purchase, with the old hoards of the synagogue, and a very small poundage on the long compound interest of the thirty pieces of silver, . . . the lands which are lately discovered to have been usurped by the Gallican Church. Send us your Popish Archbishop of Paris, and we will send you our Protestant Rabbin.

Perhaps excepting Jeremy Corbyn, no British politician would speak this way in 2020. The caustic use of Gordon's conversion and the characterization of Jews as heirs of Judas are unmistakably tinged with anti-Semitism.

As one of those heirs, I cringed the first time I read the passage. But it has never induced a sense of profound offense or inhibited me from calling myself a Burkean or from writing about Burke. The passage is otherwise unremarkable, though it does contain a priceless bit of Burkean wit. After referring to the Gordon rioters as a "mob," he apologizes parenthetically: "Excuse the term, it is still in use here."

But in a 280-character world, Burke would be reducible to one label -- anti-Semite -- and, to the extent that is an offense to the avatars of cancelation, canceled. The accusation consumes a few characters. A handful more words of quotation wrenched from context, a pile-on of denunciation, and a tweet hits its limits. There can be no overall assessment of a scholar-statesman's body of action and writings. There is no space for noting Burke's eloquent parliamentary defense of the Jews whom British troops looted on the West Indies island of St. Eustatius, or his rousing defense of the rights of India against British imperial abuses. In her history of Judaism in British thought, The People of the Book, Gertrude Himmelfarb recalls the Gordon passage as well as the St. Eustatius speech, concluding that the latter may not qualify Burke as "a philososemite," but that it was also an honorable defense of the Jews when no one else offered one.

There is a Yiddish saying: When a man wears a white coat, a speck of dust makes it look dirty.  That is true enough, especially if one lives in a world devoid of nuance, where heroes are spotless and sinners can never be redeemed. When Horatio told Hamlet that his father was "a goodly king," the prince replied: "He was a man. Take him for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again." The passage on Gordon is troubling. But taken for all in all, Burke was a great and admirable man. The cancel caucus would be unable to see it, and Burke knew why. One of his insights, also in the Reflections, was that "those who are habitually employed in finding and displaying faults are unqualified for the work of reformation. . . . By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little." The result is that they can destroy but not build.

July 10, 2020

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Masks help prevent the spread of the coronavirus--here's a breakdown of how effective they are (Sara Chodosh and Claire Maldarelli, 7/10/20, Pop Sci)

A meta-analysis, published in The Lancet at the beginning of June, looked at 172 studies that investigated how COVID-19, SARS, and MERS spread. The study found that mask wearing was strongly correlated with reduced risk of viral transmission and that "face mask use could result in a large reduction in risk of infection with stronger associations with N95 or similar respirators compared with disposable surgical masks or similar [coverings]."

In a more recent study published last week in the journal Physics of Fluids, researchers at Florida Atlantic University used a visualization technique to demonstrate how a variety of masks helped stop the spread of these aerosol droplets. The team looked at three types of masks: A single-layer bandana-style covering, a homemade mask that had two layers of cotton, and a non-sterile cone-style mask. They chose these three on purpose, says study co-author Siddhartha Verma, a professor in the department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering at Florida Atlantic University because they were the three that seem to be most often used by the general public. The researchers also looked at how far aerosols spread with no mask on at all.

In a lab, the team put masks on mannequins and used a mixture of water and glycerin to create a fog that emulated how droplets would travel by talking, coughing, and sneezing. The researchers found that without a mask, droplets traveled more than 8 feet. With a bandana, they reached an average of 3 feet and 7 inches, versus 1 foot and 3 inches with a two-layered cotton homemade mask, and about 8 inches with a cone-style mask.

What amazed Verma the most about the study was just how widespread droplets traveled without a mask on. "Seeing it with my own eyes was a bit surprising." Equally interesting, he says, was how much slower the spread was when the masks fit better on the mannequin's face. Based on these findings, as well as prior studies, he suggests this tip when choosing an effective mask: Hold the mask up to a light--the less you can see through it, the more effective it is.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Trump's unpopularity is putting these historically Republican House seats in danger (Emily Singer -July 10, 2020, American Independent)

In Indiana's 5th District, a suburban Indianapolis seat being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Susan Brooks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a poll showing the Democratic nominee ahead.

According to the DCCC's survey, Democratic nominee Christina Hale leads Republican nominee Victoria Spartz, 51%-45%. That same poll also found Biden leading Trump, 53% to 43%.

Four years earlier, Trump carried this same district by 12 points.

Another DCCC poll from Texas' 6th District, located in the suburbs of Dallas-Forth Worth, showed the Democratic nominee trailing incumbent GOP Rep. Ron Wright by 4 points, 41% to 45%. That same poll also found Trump and Biden tied in the district, even though Trump carried it four years earlier by 12 points.

And in Pennsylvania's 1st District, another suburban seat that's evaded Democrats for years, the Democratic nominee trails GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick by just 1 point, according to a poll from House Majority PAC -- a Democratic super PAC aimed at electing Democrats to Congress.

That survey found Biden leading Trump, 52% to 48%.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Supreme Court upholds American Indian treaty promises, orders Oklahoma to follow federal law (Kirsten Carlson, 7/10/20, The Conversation)

Land in eastern Oklahoma that the United States promised to the Creek Nation in an 1833 treaty is still a reservation under tribal sovereignty, at least when it comes to criminal law, the Supreme Court ruled on July 9. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, "Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word."

To most Americans, it may seem obvious that a government should live up to its word. But the United States has regularly reneged on the promises that it made to American Indian nations in the nearly 400 treaties that it negotiated with them between 1778 and 1871. Many people feared that the Supreme Court would turn a blind eye to another treaty breach in this case, McGirt v. Oklahoma.

We hired the money, didn't we?

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Why I signed the Harper's cancel culture letter: The unhinged responses to it proved our point perfectly. (WENDY KAMINER, 10th July 2020, spiked)

'I rest my case', I'm tempted to say, reviewing the unhinged responses of cancel-culture fans intent on cancelling the judicious defence of free speech in our 'Letter on Justice and Open Debate', published by Harper's this week. I signed emphatically, which makes me one of 'the worst people in the world of public intellectualism', according to In These Times. What's so bad about defending 'the free exchange of information and ideas' and critiquing 'intolerance for opposing views' and 'a vogue for public shaming and ostracism'? In doing so we were not really defending the right to debate and criticise, according to In These Times: we were trying to squelch debate and censor our own critics, exhibiting a 'bizarre aversion to being argued against ... [that] now borders on the pathological'.

This is what citizens of cancel culture have apparently learned from Donald Trump: confound your critics by accusing them of precisely the sins you're busy committing. Social-justice warriors have long demanded protection from the 'trauma' of hearing speech they deem offensive, calling for suppression of the speech and shunning of the speaker. So, employing Trumpian tactics, they accuse free-speech advocates of the censoriousness and psychic fragility that's the raison d'être of their movement.

If you produced a video of cross-dressers reading the letter aloud every head on the Left and Right would explode.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Charley Crockett: 'I don't look like what a country audience expects': Like his ancestor Davy, the singer-songwriter has packed a lot into his short life, turning tragedy into risk-taking Americana (Leonie Cooper,  10 Jul 2020, The Guardian)

It is a journey that has made Crockett even more dedicated to leaving his mark. Releasing eight albums in just five years, Crockett's latest - the sweeping, soulful Welcome to Hard Times - is his gothic masterpiece. Striding through the moodiest moments of Nick Cave and the smooth stylings of Crockett's Texan contemporary Leon Bridges, it also lays bare America's haunting history, with lynchings and chain gangs woven into his deft storytelling.

Of mixed black, Cajun, Creole and Jewish heritage, Crockett is aware that he is a rare presence in old-school-sounding country. "I don't look like what a traditional country audience expects or maybe wants to see," he states. But his outsider status is part of what makes his music so vital. "When Hank Williams started making country music, they said very similar things about him that they said to me," says Crockett, who last year made his debut on country music's most famous stage, the Grand Ole Opry. "Back then it was either country bumpkins or it was high society and that was it."

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


The Public Has Little Faith in a Return to School: Principals, teachers and parents are all skeptical about reopenings. (Francis Wilkinson, July 9, 2020, Bloomberg View)

Only 12.4% of school principals say they are "extremely confident" in their school or district's ability to "preserve the health of staff and students" if school opens in the fall, according to a survey released this week by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Another 22.8% felt "somewhat confident."  [...]

In California, where coronavirus cases are resurgent, officials are now in full retreat from school openings. "Every single school district at this point needs to have plans in place to continue distance learning for 100% of the time," Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told administrators this week.

Principals and health officials are not the only ones lacking confidence.

In a USA Today/Ipsos poll in May, when the pandemic outlook was brighter than it is today, 87% of teachers said they expected difficulty enforcing social distancing among students. A robust 18% said they would quit working if their school were to reopen. Among teachers over age 55, that rose to 25%.

So the majority of principals express limited confidence in their ability to keep schools safe, and almost one-fifth of the teaching corps said in May that they would abandon their jobs if schools reopen.

OK. How's it going with parents?

According to a parallel USA Today/Ipsos poll taken in May, 46% of Americans (47% among parents with at least one K-12 student) support a return to in-person schooling before there is a coronavirus vaccine. If schools reopen in fall, 59% of parents said they would likely pursue at-home learning such as remote school or homeschooling, and 30% said they would be very likely to do so. In a national survey of Hispanic parents and grandparents conducted this month by Latino Decisions, 53% of Hispanic parents or caregivers said they are considering not sending their children to school or childcare this fall even though 83% are worried that their students are falling behind.

The lack of confidence in school openings mirrors a lack of confidence in the president.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


John Roberts' long game (Sam Baker, 7/10/20, Axios)

 Roberts is not turning into a liberal. The law either stays put or moves to the right almost every time he is in the majority, even when it's a majority with the more liberal justices.

But he has a lifetime appointment, a strong sense that it's his duty to preserve public trust in the court, and his own ideas about how to do that.

Roberts' position as the court's only real potential swing vote gives him the power to dictate not just bottom-line outcomes, but also how the court gets there.

"He's a conservative minimalist," said Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and a prominent conservative legal expert.

Adler argues that Roberts is guided by an "anti-disruption principle" -- that he would prefer not to throw people off of existing programs, or overturn precedents, or strike down entire federal laws, when he can avoid it.

That explanation fits with many of Roberts' controversial rulings -- finding a way to uphold the ACA as a tax, stopping the Trump administration from ending DACA (at least temporarily). He takes advantage of workarounds that allow the court to excise one part of a statute without throwing out the whole thing.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


If You Want to Save the Economy, Stop the Pandemic (STEVEN BERRY and ZACK COOPER, 07/10/2020, Politico)

By our calculations, less than 8 percent of the trillions in funding that Congress has allocated so far in response to the virus has been for solutions that would shorten or mitigate the virus itself: measures like increasing the supply of PPE, expanding testing, developing treatments, standing up contact tracing, or developing a vaccine. A case in point is the most recent House Covid-19 package. It calls for $3 trillion in spending; less than 3 percent of that total is allocated toward Covid testing. As Congress considers next steps, it's imperative to shift priorities and direct more funding and effort toward actually ending the pandemic.

Along the same lines, it is vital that elected officials realize that stay-at-home orders, social distancing, masks and school closures are not the primary cause of our economic dislocation. Americans decreased their economic activity before those orders went into effect and will restrict their activity as long as the threat of catching Covid-19 persists. No matter how much cheerleading is done, a phased reopening of the economy is not going to lead to anything approximating full economic activity until we credibly address the pandemic.

...by encouraging irresponsible behavior.  Even if you feel it would be safe to be in public with fellow rule-followers, you can't know that's who'll be there.

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Poll shows Trump's coronavirus approval at all-time low (QUINT FORGEY, 07/10/2020, Politico)

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that a record 67 percent of those polled now disapprove of "the way Donald Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus," while only 33 percent approve -- the widest gulf in public sentiment since ABC News and Ipsos began surveying on the pandemic in March.

The same percentage of respondents, 67 percent, also say they disapprove of "the way Donald Trump is handling race relations" amid protests against police brutality and racial injustice that began in late May after the killing of George Floyd. Just 32 percent of respondents say they approve of Trump's handling of race relations.

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On July 9th, 1951, celebrated author Dashiell Hammett found himself in court in Manhattan, on suspicion of communist activities. The prosecutor, U.S. the Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was Irving Saypol, described by TIME Magazine as the United States's "number-one legal hunter of top Communists."

Several years earlier, Hammett had been elected president of the Civil Rights Congress (CRC), a New York-based defense organization created to protect workers' rights and to abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1947, it merged with the National Negro Congress to protect the rights of African Americans, specifically those who were incarcerated and on death row.

Under Hammett's tenure, as early as 1946, the CRC established a bail fund to assist with releasing people convicted for political reasons. Hammett was one of three trustees of the funds, as well as the labor economist Robert W. Dunn and the millionaire Frederick Vanderbilt Field. On April 3 of the following year, the CRC was labeled as a Communist front group, and added to the Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations.

Hammett is a great illustration of the divergence between what authors write and what they believe.  At the end of his masterwork, Sam turns Brigid in, even though he loves her, because it is the right thing to do. In his own life, Dah covered for the Sovet-controlled Communist Party and remained loyal to it long after Soviet barbarity had been exposed.   

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Monk, the high priest of bebop: A pianist with a cool playfulness and dry wit, who straddled the worlds of pop and high art (Kevin Le Gendre, 7/09/20, Times Literary Supplement)

Inspired by such trailblazers, Thelonious Monk, who came to prominence in the mid 50s, built an original and enduring repertoire distinguished by its striking use of English. There was the cute informality of "Bye-ya", the romantic, poetic imagery of "Crepuscule with Nellie" and the paradoxical "Ugly Beauty".

In that oxymoronic masterpiece, Monk captured a pivotal debate in aesthetics and human nature. The piece suggests that two diametrically opposed impressions can be intimately related. The attractive can also be the repulsive.  The reader-listener is forced to engage with a quandary for which there is no ready-made answer. Monk is an artist who makes you think.  

"Ugly Beauty" is a musical marvel - it does not shift between its titular extremes, back and forth, but rather it sits between them, ambiguous and teasing. It is blues with a spare, leisurely but enticing melody; the saxophone and piano contrive to float in space while the drums and double bass gently skip forward. There is something hazy and nonchalant in the air, the sense of a lingering question mark, of whimsy and subtle suggestion.

Monk's work has exerted a considerable hold on several generations of listeners and players, with international devotees including Britain's Jonathan Gee and the late Swede Esbjorn Svensson. And the recent release of a previously unissued 1968 concert, Palo Alto, has triggered a frenzy similar to that which greeted John Coltrane's "lost" album Both Directions At Once when it was found in 2018. On this new recording, Monk's quartet, which features the tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, gives commanding performances of  much-loved originals such as "Well, You Needn't" and "Ruby My Dear" and of the Tin Pan alley staple, "I Love You (Sweetheart Of All My Dreams)". Monk also plays a captivating unaccompanied version of "Blue Monk". 

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Joe Biden's surprisingly visionary housing plan, explained: Cut child poverty by a third, break down racial segregation, and stabilize the economy. (Matthew Yglesias, Jul 9, 2020, Vox)

The idea of funding the program at the full level to meet family needs has existed for decades. But multiple DC-based housing policy wonks tell me it was Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond's Pulitzer Prize-winning book about housing instability in Milwaukee, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, that helped put it on more people's radars.

It's a heartbreaking book, and the epilogue speaks about vouchers in a way that stretches beyond the arcana of federal budge policy: "A universal housing voucher program would carve a middle path between the landlord's desire to make a living and the tenant's desire, simply, to live."

Stephanie Collyer and Chris Wimer of Columbia University's Center on Poverty and Social Policy helped me quantify the impact more precisely with a mathematical model. Looking at detailed data from the 2019 Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, they identified currently eligible households that are not receiving assistance. They then modeled the impact of getting assistance on household budgets. One nuance here is that the official poverty measure somewhat perversely fails to count the receipt of rental assistance as a form of income, thus saying that unassisted families are by definition no poorer than assisted families. But the census also publishes a supplemental poverty measure that corrects for this and other flaws.

They find that the properly measured poverty rate falls by 22 percent under this proposal, while child poverty falls by 34 percent. Not bad for a policy that would cost just a fraction of Trump's tax cuts.

One nuance is that the underfunding of the program mitigates the landlord discrimination problem somewhat, because under the current system, if one family can't use a voucher, that frees up money for someone else.

Will Fischer, the senior director for housing policy and research at CBPP, cautions that in the real world, "we can't flip a switch and get a voucher to everyone who's eligible overnight." He says it's a critical goal, but to achieve it takes not only money for vouchers but also investments. "At the same time we're expanding the voucher program, we should be building our capacity to help families with vouchers rent in a wide range of neighborhoods, and we should be taking steps to increase the supply of housing, especially in the tightest markets."

One model is a Seattle program Dylan Matthews profiled for Vox last year that involved a partnership between the city housing authority and the housing authority for the surrounding suburbs in King County. The idea was to give families a bit of extra money as well as hire navigators who would help families understand the value of relocating to "high opportunity" neighborhoods, away from concentrated poverty and blight.

Raj Chetty, an economist with the Opportunity Insights team that helped evaluate the project, called it "the largest effect I've ever seen in a social science intervention."

One simple change vastly improves the idea: use the vouchers to purchase the property, so that rather than just helping recipients you are building wealth for them..  

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Ancient Liberty, Modern Divisions (Iain Murray, 7/08/20, Law & Liberty)

In more modern research, Valentina Arena of University College London has identified a difference in the definitions of libertas that emerged between the two ever-shifting factions of Republican Rome, the optimates and the populares. The optimates, she finds, used libertas to mean the freedom guaranteed by Rome's mixed constitution. The populares, on the other hand, focused on the traditional formulation of libertas populi to argue that any political arrangement that did not give preference to the people over elites was no freedom at all. [...]

The Gadsden Flag libertarians need to understand that bookish libertarians simply want to improve the lot of those who have gotten a raw deal from the institutions the Gadsden libertarians seek to defend. The bookish libertarians need to understand the value the Gadsden libertarians see in those institutions and recognize that when people feel their way of life is threatened they are liable to react harshly.

The synthesis of this mutual understanding could be of benefit to both. An American liberty that sees its cops not as soldiers, but as guardians of ordered liberty, for instance, should be a liberty that both can agree on. Similarly, if American liberty is centered on a constitutional order and its institutions, both sides should agree that an over-mighty executive should be restrained by Congress and courts, even if that means a popular executive doesn't always get his way.

The American tradition of liberty has long encompassed both Roman interpretations of the term. It would be a tragedy to see us repeat the mistake of the Senate and People of Rome in allowing the difference in interpretations to divide us.

The point of republican is that it affords no preference and can not be used to preserve privilege. The error in the argument here is that it is the populists trying to preserve their status.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


A great technology wave is cresting over America because of the pandemic -- and it's largely a good thing (Jurica Dujmovic, 7/08/20, Market Watch)

With offices closed around the world, many people are working from home for the first time. For others, remote work has been part of work life for some time.

In all cases, this trend has shown that many businesses can thrive even when employees don't come into the office every day. The amount of time, energy and money saved on commuting and real estate alone is an incentive enough for many companies to completely rely on a remote workforce.

This change sent ripples of disruption across many industries. The fact that people can now work wherever their laptop is fundamentally changed labor-migration dynamics. There is no need to relocate to city centers when you can work from the comfort of home. Downtown properties are losing tenants, and in some cases their values are plummeting. In suburbs and rural areas, the opposite is happening: Property values are rising as a growing number of people decide to stay and work from home, enjoying peaceful life only small towns can provide.

July 9, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Top US General Slams Confederacy As 'Treason', Signals Support For Base Renaming (KATIE BO WILLIAMS, 7/09/20. Defense One)

"Those generals fought for the institution of slavery. We have to take a hard look at the symbology," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told the House Armed Services Committee. "The Confederacy, the American Civil War, was fought and it was an act of rebellion. It was an act of treason against the Union, against the Stars and Stripes, against the U.S. Constitution. Those officers turned their back on their oath."

Milley said he had recommended a commission to look at the issue.

"The way we should do it matters as much as that we should do it," he said, acknowledging that there are some in the military who see Confederate symbols as "heritage," while others recognize them as "hate."

The heritage of the defenders is hate.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Trump's Appointees Voted Against Him, Pelosi Says As President Criticizes Supreme Court (JOCELYN GRZESZCZAK, 7/9/20, Newsweek)

"The Supreme Court, including the president's appointees, have declared that he is not above the law," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday during a press briefing.

The 7-2 decision in Trump v. Vance was led by Chief Justice John Roberts and states that Trump must turn over his tax returns and other information to a grand jury in New York.

Roberts argued that the Constitution does not grant the president absolute immunity.

"In our judicial system, 'the public has a right to every man's evidence.' Since the earliest days of the Republic, 'every man' has included the President of the United States," Roberts wrote.

Roberts was joined in his opinion by Trump's two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 PM


Supreme Court says eastern half of Oklahoma is Native American land (Tucker Higgins & Dan Mangan, 7/09/20, CNBC)

The 5-4 decision, with an opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, endorsed the claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land, which encompasses 3 million acres in eastern Oklahoma, including most of the city of Tulsa.

The decision means that only federal authorities, no longer state prosecutors, can lodge charges against Native Americans who commit serious alleged crimes on that land, which is home to 1.8 million people. Of those people, 15% or fewer are Native Americans.

"Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law," Gorsuch wrote.

"Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word," he wrote. [...]

"For MCA purposes, land reserved for the Creek Nation since the 19th century remains 'Indian country,'" Gorsuch wrote in the opinion in McGirt's case.

...like you ought not put stuff in writing if you want Justice Gorsuch to ignore it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden immigration plan grants citizenship to 11 million illegal immigrants (Stephen Dinan, 7/08/20,  The Washington Times)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden on Wednesday formally embraced citizenship rights for 11 million illegal immigrants and a full erasure of all of President Trump's get-tough border policies, as part of the party's new unity platform.

The former vice president would expand sanctuary locations, limit ICE's ability to deport criminals in local jails, and reverse deportations for some military veterans already ousted because of criminal records.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


19th Century Radical Chic: The Transcendentalists' Love Affair With John Brown
Thoreau and Emerson's effort to canonize the abolitionist fanatic helped spark the Civil War. (JIM BOVARD, 7/09/20, American Conservative)

[L]ate in his life, Thoreau mutated into an apologist for bloodthirsty political fanaticism. Thoreau, following in the footsteps of his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, believed that "our whole life is startlingly moral. There is never an instant's truce between virtue and vice." Thoreau was a Transcendentalist with boundless faith in absolute truth and absolute goodness. And he never doubted that he perceived those absolutes far more clearly than the vast majority of people who "lead lives of quiet desperation," as he wrote in Walden.

Thoreau was justifiably fiercely opposed to slavery. He had initially been wary of fire-breathing Abolitionists who wanted the nation to pay any price to end slavery until he met and swooned for John Brown in 1857. Thoreau donated to Brown after hearing him make a rabble-rousing speech. Thoreau bragged that he "never read" the political columns in newspapers because "I do not wish to blunt my sense of right." Maybe that helped explain Thoreau's obliviousness (or lack of concern) regarding Brown's notorious murders in Pottawatomie, Kansas, when he and his sons hacked to death five men living in a pro-slavery portion of the state. That 1856 carnage embodied one of Brown's favorite sayings: "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin."

In October 1859, Brown led a band of zealots attacking Harper's Ferry, Virginia to seize the federal arsenal, part of his plan to end slavery via the mass killing of slaveowners across the South. Mount Holyoke University professor Christopher Benfey aptly characterized Brown in the New York Review of Books in 2013 as someone who was "murderous, inept, politically marginal, probably insane." Most of the nation was horrified by Brown's attack at Harper's Ferry, which was speedily put down by federal troops led by Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee. Even the nation's foremost abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, condemned Brown's attack as "a misguided, wild, and apparently insane-effort." Horace Greeley wrote in  the New York Tribune that "the way to universal emancipation lies not through insurrection, civil war, and bloodshed, but through peace, discussion, and quiet diffusion of sentiments of humanity and justice." 

But Thoreau decided that Brown was literally Jesus--or at least that Jesus and John Brown were "two ends of a chain which I rejoice to know is not without its links." In "A Plea for John Brown," an oration delivered in Concord, Massachusetts two weeks after Brown's attack, Thoreau referred to Brown as an "angel of light" and described Brown's Harper's Ferry accomplices as his "twelve disciples." Thoreau hailed "the new saint who would make the gallows as glorious as the cross."

Thoreau exalted Brown: "No man has appeared in America, as yet, who loved his fellow man so well, and treated him so tenderly." That was balderdash on par with Stalin's apologists gushing in the 1930s about the "peace-loving Soviet Union."

...is that you equate abolition with Bolshevism.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Assad angered as Russia meets representatives of Syria's Alawites (July 9, 2020, MEMO)

Syria President Bashar Al-Assad [ha]s been shaken by meetings held by Russia with members of his Alawite community, NEWSru has revealed.

The Russian site reported the meetings were held at the headquarters of the Russian diplomatic mission to the United Nations in Geneva, with participants saying they had received death threats as a result of their participation in the talks.

Al-Assad, they added, perceives these meetings as a threat to his status as a legitimate representative of the Alawite sect and as a defender of its interests, especially since the delegations have been engaged in direct exchanges with a major military and political ally.

This reality is one of the main reasons President Obama's handling of Syria was so savvy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


George Washington and Self-Government ( William B. Allen, Jul. 9th, 2020, Real Clear History)

Washington was less sanguine than Madison about the possibility of erecting stable political authority on the foundation of fluctuating public sentiment. Accordingly, his conduct of the government was based upon constant reaffirmation of the authority conveyed to representatives--as in his forceful response to the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 and an express argument on behalf of the rule of law, rather than fluctuating opinion--brought together with complete confidence in the ability of the people retrospectively to evaluate the performances of their representatives. Representatives must deliberate and act, and the public can evaluate their judgments and choices and hold them accountable at the appropriate time.

Washington's view required that two things be accomplished: first, he needed to adopt and defend clearly stated policies (while deferring to the deliberation of the legislature), and, second, he needed to anticipate the faithful fulfillment of the public's wishes, even in cases that seemed to run counter to sentiment (such as the Jay Treaty's abandonment of the claims of slaveholders).

The first objective Washington accomplished in a masterful manner by means of his approach to managing his Cabinet--requiring of diverse officers carefully deliberated and explicit enunciation of grounds for decisions, and then making the decisions based upon his judgment of what was fitting. This was manifested over a series of contested policy crises throughout his administration (public debt, national bank, excise taxes, Proclamation of Neutrality, the Jay Treaty, etc.). The second objective was pursued through deliberate addresses to the Congress and the public, in which Washington explicitly justified his conduct, not by claims of superior wisdom but by means of a willingness to submit the test of his judgment to the subsequent evaluation of the people, upon the presumption of good intent on his part.

Washington's "Farewell Address" of 1796 takes up this task magnificently. However, it is important to remember that throughout his career he emphasized this posture as essential to the establishment of self-government. He frequently emphasized the establishment of a "national character," through which the people habituate themselves to acting in a certain manner. He declined ever to claim authority for himself by right, deferring to civil authority when in military command (even when that authority was feckless); he retired from authority in a timely and deferential manner, disavowing reliance upon "influence" in responding to critical urgencies (such as Shays' Rebellion), and arguing strenuously against the practice of "instructing" representatives how to vote, a practice that abolishes true political deliberation. All these precepts of just statesmanship coalesce in a powerful exposition in the "Farewell Address," which rehearses the highlights of Washington's career and forms his parting admonitions on the evidence of his consistent pursuit of these goals.

Thus, the "Farewell Address" might well be subtitled, "A Principled Defense of Self-Government in Practice." In that address, Washington highlighted the people's "love of being one people," their love of union, as the basis of their readiness to act consistently to secure the "blessings of liberty." He expressed this wish in several forms, beginning in 1783, when he declared forthrightly that the promise of self-government was a prospect held out to citizens who had only to claim it for themselves in order to enjoy repose under their "own vine and fig tree." Indeed, he went on to say that if they should fail to enjoy happiness, they would have none but themselves to blame. Self-government, and political happiness, demanded civic responsibility.

"It is their right; it is their duty."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Two of Trump's Top Targets Are Slipping Away From Him (Hanna Trudo, Jul. 9th, 2020, Daily Beast)

"Why is he physically coming here? I'm thinking that it is a little bit more about nostalgia," Fergus Cullen, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said about Trump's upcoming rally in Portsmouth,  just 10 minutes away from Cullen's home town of Dover.  "They have to feed his ego. He's had this fixation about New Hampshire. He can't accept that maybe he just plain lost."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Here's why carbon emissions at utilities can fall even during a powerful economy (Rachel Koning Beals, 7/08/20, Market Watch)

The report, issued by sustainable-investing advocates Ceres and other partners, including power industry participants, found that power sector CO2 emissions decreased 8% between 2018 and 2019, while SO2 and NOx emissions decreased 23% and 14%, respectively. During that time, U.S. GDP rose 2.3%, meaning that an expanding economy pushed utilities to churn out more power yet because of the energy mix, emissions were down. Widening the snapshot, from 2000 to 2019, CO2 emissions decreased 28% while GDP grew 45%.

"While experts expect an even more dramatic plunge [in emissions] in 2020 due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be critical to ensure we continue the momentum in decarbonizing the power sector," said Dan Bakal, senior director of electric power at Ceres. "Utilities should deploy zero-carbon resources and electrify other sectors in order to accelerate the pace of decarbonization as the economy recovers and energy demand increases."

July 8, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


The religious roots of a new progressive era: Welcome to the post-Protestant Reformations (Ross Douthat, July 7, 2020, The New York Time)

[I] may have underestimated a different religious tribe -- the direct heirs of the Protestant Mainline, the "post-Protestant" subjects of Joseph Bottum's "An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America," a book I commend to anyone interested in understanding what is happening to liberalism right now.

Bottum makes two points of particular relevance to our moment. First, he argues that the Mainline moral sensibility has survived even as Mainline metaphysical belief has ebbed, and that you can draw a clear line from the Social Gospel of the late 19th century to the preoccupations of social justice movements today.

This point was plausible but somewhat abstract when the book came out in 2014. But the palpable spiritual dimension of so much social justice activism, before and especially after the George Floyd killing -- the rhetoric of conversion and confession and self-scrutiny, the iconoclasm and occasional anti-Catholicism, the idealization of communities of virtue and the accusatory frenzy of online witch hunts -- has made that religious lineage impossible to ignore.

Second, Bottum stresses that it's more useful to think of the post-Protestants -- the "poster children," he sometimes calls them -- as an elect rather than an elite, defined more by their education and their moral sensibility than by their overt wealth or power. They are not identical to the managerial elite discerned by other theorists of late-modern class hierarchy; instead, they stand adjacent and somewhat underneath, as adjuncts, consultants, bureaucrats and activists -- advisers and petitioners and critics rather than formal leaders, with more economic precarity and moral zeal than those they criticize or serve.

This point, too, is particularly useful to understanding the new power struggle within the liberal upper class. In theological terms, we're watching the post-Protestant elect wrestle power away from the more secular elite, which long paid lip service to the creed of social justice but never really evinced true faith.

And that power, once claimed, could be used the way the old Mainline used its power: not to replace liberal political forms but to infuse them with a specific set of moral commitments and to establish the terms on which important cultural debates are held and settled. Who should have sex with whom, and under what conditions and constraints? Which religious ideas should be favored, and which dismissed with prejudice? What conceptions of the country's past should be promoted? Which visions of the good life taught in schools? What titles or pronouns should respectable people use? Just as the old denominations once answered these questions for Americans, their post-Protestant heirs aspire to answer them today.

If they succeed where the religious right failed, it will be because post-Protestantism enjoys an intimate relationship with the American establishment rather than representing an insurgency of outsider groups, because centrist failures and Trumpian moral squalor removed rivals from its path, and because its moral message is better suited to what younger Americans already believe.

If they fail, it will probably be because of three weaknesses: the absence of a convincing metaphysics to ground post-Protestantism's zealous moralism; the difficulty of drawing coherence out of its multiplicity of causes; and the absence of institutional embodiments that make for deep loyalty and intergenerational transmission.

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Reproductive Coercion Wins at the Supreme Court (Melissa Gira Grant/July 8, 2020, New Republic)

The Supreme Court has affirmed the rights of certain employers to deny contraceptive coverage in their health plans in a case involving a private Catholic health service challenging a long-fought-over provision of the Affordable Care Act. This front in that battle concerned the Trump administration's rules granting employers, schools, and other entities who must offer a health plan "moral" or "religious" exemptions from covering contraception, as mandated by the health care law. In a 7-2 ruling in Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, the path was cleared for Trump's rules to move forward.

"For over 150 years, the Little Sisters have engaged in faithful service and sacrifice, motivated by a religious calling to surrender all for the sake of their brother," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas, for the majority. "But for the past seven years, they--like many other religious objectors who have participated in the litigation and rulemakings leading up to today's decision--have had to fight for the ability to continue in their noble work without violating their sincerely held religious beliefs."

The Affordable Care Act's rules mandating private health plans cover a range of contraceptive care--including 18 methods explicitly identified by the Food and Drug Administration--have not changed. But today's ruling expands the range of employers (and others who offer insurance plans, like schools) who are allowed to exclude some or all of these methods if they have religious or moral objections.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor recognized this denial of access in their dissent. "For six years, the Government took care to protect women employees' access to critical preventive health services while accommodating the diversity of religious opinion on contraception," Justice Ginsburg wrote. A win for Little Sisters and the Trump administration exemptions may be a win for "religious freedom," but it cannot be one without also being a loss for reproductive freedom.

...their English antecedents and Anglospheric history, for this right of "reproductive freedom" (nice reversal of quotes there!) that ought be set off against the oft-mentioned and explicitly protected right of religious freedom.  It's such a slam dunk they even let Justice Thomas write the opinion. The culture wars are a rout.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


A Declaration of Interdependence: Rereading the American Declaration of 1776 (Jonathan English, July 8th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

First, while engaging in social and political initiative, the Declaration expresses a sense of humble human dependence on divine providence for assistance. In its closing sentence, it asserts that the representatives act with "a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence." Further, the Declaration conceives of ultimate authority and justice as belonging to the Supreme Judge, as the Declaration "appeal[s] to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions." Finally, and most famously, the Declaration locates the source of inalienable human rights firmly in the Creator, declaring, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." (Martin Luther King, Jr. would later identify this text as the American creed, essential to the American dream.[4]) Thus, the Declaration expresses a dependence on the Creator or Supreme Judge, an understanding that equal dignity and respect for rights are required by God, and a conviction that violations of those rights, through action or "intention," are ultimately subject to divine judgment. The sense conveyed is that recognition of this authority counsels respect for human rights and dignity.

Second, the Declaration stresses empathetic, energetic dependence on one another. In its first sentence, the Declaration speaks of the people of all thirteen colonies as being "one people." In the second paragraph, they are referred to as "the People," in the last paragraph as "the good People." Most explicitly, in the final sentence of the Declaration, the signers "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." They were highly dependent on one another--economically, politically, and psychologically for support and continued existence. To state the obvious, the signers put pen to paper; they did not adopt the Declaration anonymously. Thus, if captured, they could have faced execution as traitors to the British crown. So, to say they mutually pledged to each other their lives was not overstatement. It was a sober statement made in the context of war. Finally, it was a unanimous declaration. Every state eventually approved the resolution for independence. While not every state was ready to approve the Lee Resolution when it was first introduced on June 7th, by the following month, all states agreed. This feeling of mutual dependence resonated in pithy existential expression with republication of Franklin's political cartoon of a severed snake, representing the ultimate consequence of disunited colonies/states. Its caption: "Join, or Die."

Of course, while the Declaration articulates and models interdependence in this way, where each citizen depends on others but also has a corollary responsibility to contribute to society, this is not to negate the strong current of individual initiative and freedom constitutive of the United States. One source of this strength and initiative came from America's continuous stream of enterprising immigrants. America was built largely by immigrants, individuals who fled persecution in search of freedom, who often possessed great initiative and entrepreneurialism. (Which makes the current administration's general antipathy toward immigrants and aversion to refugees so remarkable, counterproductive, and inconsistent with American principles, in many respects.) Another reason for this significant role of individual responsibility in America relates to its democratic and limited form of government. In order to protect freedom and rights, the government of the United States was always understood to be a limited government, with only enumerated powers. Thus, citizens within society bore a moral responsibility towards others. Regarding the duty of charity inherent in morality and justice, John Locke's influential treatise had strong words: "it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty."[5] And as John Adams wrote, "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."[6]

Third, the Declaration emphasizes the dependence of government on both the just exercise of power and on the consent of the governed. In other words, government is dependent on its relationship with the governed--its treatment of individuals and its respect for rights--for both legitimacy and survival. And, as a corollary, it is dependent on its respect for higher natural law, "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." One of the self-evident truths asserted in the Declaration is the idea that "to secure these [unalienable] rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." From this follows the Declaration's next assertion: "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness." This point about government legitimacy flowing from justice and consent is central to the document's argument.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda (Margaret Sanger, October 1921, Birth Control Review) https://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/webedition/app/documents/show.php?sangerDoc=238946.xml
Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


How Migration Restrictions Undermine Meritocracy: ICE's recent decision to bar foreign students enrolled at universities with online-only classes is the tip of the iceberg of a much larger problem. (ILYA SOMIN, 7/08/20, THE VOLOKH CONSPIRACY)

The federal government's recent decision to bar foreign students from remaining in the United States if they are enrolled at universities scheduled to have online-only classes has drawn widespread criticism. Co-blogger Irina Manta summarizes some of the injustices inherent in this policy here. I would add that, even if the students in question can continue to "attend" online classes from abroad, they are likely to be denied access to other important educational resources such as library books and other research materials, laboratory equipment, and so on. In addition, it can be extremely difficult to take an online class if you are living in a time-zone many hours away.

It is arbitrary and unjust that some students are effectively cut off from educational opportunities they have earned and paid for merely because of morally arbitrary circumstances of birth. The difference between "foreign" and "domestic" students usually comes down to citizenship status, which in turn is largely dictated by who your parents are or where you were born. Allocating educational opportunities on such a basis is morally arbitrary, and certainly contrary to the meritocratic principles on which university admissions are supposed to be based.

The new ICE policy is just the tip of a much larger iceberg of ways in which migration restrictions undermine meritocracy. Many of them are actually much more severe.

It's the politics of personal inadequacy.
Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


Poll: Most Americans Disagree with Trump's Approach to Police Reform (VOA News, July 08, 2020)

A new poll conducted by Monmouth University found that more than three-quarters of American adults, 77%, want to "change the way police operate," and 18% want to "get rid of police." 

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Study could rewrite Earth's history (Curtin University, July 8, 2020)

Curtin University-led research has found new evidence to suggest that the Earth's first continents were not formed by subduction in a modern-like plate tectonics environment as previously thought, and instead may have been created by an entirely different process.

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Supergenes play a larger role in evolution than previously thought (University of British Columbia, July 8, 2020)

Massive blocks of genes -- inherited together 'plug and play' style -- may play a larger role in evolutionary adaption than previously thought, according to new research in Nature. [...]

The study could help resolve a question left unanswered by Darwin's theory of natural selection -- namely, how populations of organisms that live side-by-side and mate with each other are still able to adapt unique traits and diverge into separate species.

They aren't, thus they mate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


South Carolina Democrat aiming to unseat Lindsey Graham raises $13.9 million in quarter (Reuters, 7/07/20) 

The South Carolina Democrat challenging Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham nearly doubled his fundraising this spring, his campaign said on Tuesday, in the latest sign of the mounting campaign hurdles facing Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:38 PM


Trump Pushed CIA to Give Intelligence to Kremlin, While Taking No Action Against Russia Arming Taliban (Ryan Goodman, July 8, 2020, Just Security)
Why would the Russian government think it could get away with paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers? One answer to that question may be the extraordinary response that Moscow received when the Trump administration learned of a precursor to the bounty operation. From mid-2017 and into 2018, Pentagon officials became increasingly confident in intelligence reports that the Kremlin was arming the Taliban, which posed a significant threat to American and coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan.

President Trump's actions in the face of the Russia-Taliban arms program likely signaled a weak US resolve in the eyes of Putin and Russian military intelligence.

Three dimensions of Trump's response are described in detail in this article, based on interviews with several former Trump administration officials who spoke to Just Security on the record.

First, President Trump decided not to confront Putin about supplying arms to the terrorist group. Second, during the very times in which U.S. military officials publicly raised concerns about the program's threat to US forces, Trump undercut them. He embraced Putin, overtly and repeatedly, including at the historic summit in Helsinki. Third, behind the scenes, Trump directed the CIA to share intelligence information on counterterrorism with the Kremlin despite no discernible reward, former intelligence officials who served in the Trump administration told Just Security.

...they were traitors too, as Senator Duckworth said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New research shows realism is the key to wellbeing (CHRIS DAWSON & DAVID DE MEZA, 8 JULY 2020, Reaction)

July 7, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:13 PM


A Letter on Justice and Open Debate (Harper's, July 7, 2020)

The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion--which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation.

Posted by orrinj at 9:57 PM


Tucker Carlson Doubles Down on Duckworth Attacks, Calls Her a 'Coward' and 'Fraud' (Justin Baragona, Jul. 07, 2020, Daily Beast)

Pilot flew Black Hawks to serve her country - and please her father (Phillip O'Connor, 4/09/18, Post-Dispatch)

On Nov. 12, Marines were battling insurgents for control of Fallujah, a hotbed of militant resistance, about 40 miles west of Baghdad. It would end up being the deadliest month for coalition forces. Reports listed 141 killed during the 30 days.

For Duckworth's crew, the day had been long but uneventful. They left early from their base at Camp Anaconda and squeezed in a stir fry and chocolate milk shake lunch and Christmas shopping during a stop near the Baghdad airport. Next to her in the cockpit that day sat Chief Warrant Officer Dan Milberg, 39, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War, who had been pulled from his civilian life as a Des Peres public safety officer and placed on active duty.

The two hadn't flown together in a while. His wry sense of humor made him one of Duckworth's favorites to fly with.

As the more experienced aviator, Milberg served as the pilot in command. As such, he ran the mission, monitored the aircraft's systems, talked to air traffic control and other aircraft, read the maps, checked the course and called out obstacles. Meanwhile, Duckworth took on the less intensive duty of flying the aircraft. But one of the reasons she liked Milberg was that he was an excellent trainer who was more than willing to teach others. On this day, he turned command over to Duckworth and took the controls himself.

Black Hawks typically fly in pairs and trade off on who flies lead. As the two helicopters lifted off that afternoon, Duckworth's aircraft, Chalk One, maneuvered into the lead or "missile bait" position for the 25-minute flight to Balad.

A bright sun shone in the western sky and cast long shadows across the unending tans of the desert. The searing heat of the Iraqi summer had passed. It was about 4:30 p.m., the temperature reached only into the 90s, and the cooler afternoon air made for smooth flying weather. The helicopter skimmed along at 130 mph, just 10 feet above the tops of palm groves that sprinkled the countryside. They were 10 minutes from home. Duckworth busied herself trying to make one final call to flight controllers at Taji before she switched radio frequencies to her base at Balad.

Just then a distinctive metallic tap, tap, tap could be heard, bullets against metal.

She turned to tell Milberg they'd been hit by enemy fire.

He never heard the words.

Just then, the rocket-propelled grenade pierced the Plexiglas window beneath Duckworth's feet and erupted in an enormous yellow-orange fireball in the cockpit. [...]

Duckworth graduated from the University of Hawaii and, thinking she might want to work in the Foreign Service, moved to Washington to attend George Washington University and study international affairs. She soon noticed that all of her closest friends were active-duty or retired military. She felt attracted by their values of duty and honor and country, the same values her father had instilled in her. [...]

After she was commissioned as an officer, Duckworth requested assignment to a combat arms branch, even though the Army didn't require women to do so. She felt it unfair not to be held to the same standard as the men, who were required to include a combat arms branch among their preferred choices.

She wanted to be considered a soldier, not a female soldier.

Determined to win one of the few coveted seats to train on the Black Hawk, she relied on her father's teachings about hard work. She spent extra hours at night on flight simulators to hone her skills. She finished near the top of her 1993 flight school class at Fort Rucker in Alabama. She was the only woman. Certainly, her father would be proud. Instead, he told her it still wasn't the Marines. [...]

In October 2003, Duckworth was in the process of turning over command to one of her lieutenants when she learned that the unit was being called up. Duckworth, meanwhile, was to be transferred to another company that wasn't being activated.

She was crestfallen and pleaded with her battalion commander not to be left behind.

I don't want to be one of the only aviation officers in the state of Illinois to stand here and wave goodbye to the companies. I want to go with you, she told him.

Eventually, state Guard leaders determined that soldiers were needed to fill other vacant jobs in the battalion. So she would get to go to Iraq after all. She went to Fort Knox for training.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 PM


Jordan Hall carries the name of Stanford's controversial founding president. A new committee will consider requests to remove it. (Elena Kadvany, 4/21/20, Palo Alto Weekly)

"David Starr Jordan and Louis Agassiz, by virtue of their racist ideologies and practices, are incompatible with Stanford's values on initiative, diversity, equity, and access in learning," the professors wrote in a March 9 letter to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. "The name and statue were in place long before the Psychology Department came to occupy the building, and we do not identify with either of the features."

The letter notes the "precedent set" by the Palo Alto school district by renaming Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School after a contentious debate in 2018.

"Featuring Jordan's name on one of the main buildings of Stanford's entrance i) tarnishes our national and international reputations, ii) undermines Stanford's values of initiative, diversity, equity, and access in learning, and iii) prevents staff, students, and faculty, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g., minority, immigrant, low-income), from developing a sense of inclusion and belonging at Stanford," they wrote.

Psychology doctoral students also support the renaming of Jordan Hall. They reported in a survey that Jordan's name and the Agassiz statute elicit negative feelings, such as anger, discomfort, disrespect, distress and hurt, and that removing the two would increase positive feelings such as comfort, optimism, trust and credibility, the professors said in their letter.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 PM


The Essentials: How Univision has guided Latinos through a historic election cycle (Stephania Taladrid, SUMMER 2020, Columbia Journalism Review)

"People depend on us," Ramos, who is sixty-two, told me recently from his office, in Miami. "Univision is a lifeline to survive in the United States, and our audiences expect us to do much more than just deliver the news." The notion of a television network being a lifeline may seem an exaggeration, but in polls, Latinos have consistently ranked Univision as one of the most trusted institutions in the United States, second only to the Catholic Church. Its coverage, entirely in Spanish, reaches the homes of people who speak it as a first language. During its prime-time news hours, Univision has an audience of nearly two million.

Univision grew from the first Hispanic TV channel in the US, which went live in San Antonio in the summer of 1955. In the early sixties, a group of businessmen, including Emilio Azcárraga Vidaurreta, a Mexican communications tycoon, bought the channel and some others to create the Spanish International Network, now known as Univision. Among the group's purchases was KMEX-TV, a station based in Los Angeles, where Ramos--freshly arrived from Mexico City--began working as a reporter in the mid-eighties. KMEX, he realized, was not a typical newsroom. It hosted health and employment fairs for its audiences and offered advice on the best schools for Hispanic youth. The mission was not only to inform, but also to empower and serve Latinos--
a mandate that Univision eventually made its own.

Since then, the Hispanic community in the United States has quadrupled in size, comprising some sixty million people. This year, for the first time, Latinos are the country's largest minority voting group. Many of them see Ramos and his colleagues as the best large-scale advocates they have, and Univision as their main access point to politics. "There is an absolute leadership vacuum at the national level," Torres told me. When Julián Castro dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, in January, he delivered a blunt message: "It simply isn't our time." Congress now has the largest class of Latinos in history--totaling thirty-eight--but there are only four Latino members of the Senate. Ramos, the elder statesman of the Latino media elite, outranks them all.

Over the decades, if it's been covered at all, the Latino demographic has typically been cast in the press as a "sleeping giant"--a term meant to evoke its tremendous, yet dormant, potential. "For a long time, everyone expected the sleeping giant to wake up, without anyone setting the alarm," Stephanie Valencia, a cofounder of a research group called Equis Labs, told me. Many Latinos felt disengaged from the political process because no one was speaking directly to them. News outlets repeated the failures of candidates, who for decades saw the Latino electorate as a monolith. It didn't matter whether politicians or journalists were addressing Mexicans, Central Americans, Puerto Ricans, or Dominicans--their message remained the same. And, for the most part, it centered on immigration. As a corollary, Latino turnout has lagged compared to that of other voting groups. In 2008, the last time the country saw an economic crisis comparable to today's, participation rates among Latinos were dismal. In 2016, less than half of eligible Latino voters cast their ballots.

Only recently have campaign strategists begun to tap into Latino voters' yearning to be part of the political process. And Univision has been uniquely positioned to cover the community's political rise. During the 2016 election cycle, Ramos made headlines for being ousted from a press conference at which he grilled Trump about the wall and deportations. Ramos has been similarly tough on Democrats. "Would you take responsibility for the three million people that were deported during the Obama-Biden administration?" he asked Biden in February. "Many people are expecting you to apologize for that--to say that it was wrong."

"I think it was a big mistake," Biden responded. "It took too long to get it right."

Biden, for lack of money or will, largely failed to engage with Latinos in the primaries. He lost to Sanders among these voters in all states with a sizable Hispanic population except Florida. Now that Biden is the presumptive Democratic nominee, it's unclear whether his campaign can win over the demographic in time for November. Laura Jiménez, Biden's Latino-engagement director, told me recently that it was crucial for the campaign to "meet people where they are," but she wouldn't offer any specifics on the budget allocated for doing so, the plan she would follow, or even the lessons she had learned from the primaries. Events continue to be online only.

Univision sees its responsibility to educate Latino voters--to be "the bridge between candidates and voters," as Ramos told me. But ultimately, a news channel--no matter how much trust it has earned from its audience--cannot compensate for the work of campaigns. "You can give people the information they need to go out and vote, but they will need to have an incentive to do so," Torres said. "That is where politicians have to come in and take Latinos seriously. Latinos will listen. They will know who is doing the work that needs to be done--and who isn't."

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


Trump 'going with his gut' in fanning racism, frustrating some White House aides (Geoff Bennett, Peter Alexander and Carol E. Lee, 7/07/20, NBC News)

 Some White House officials are privately expressing frustration over President Trump's recent embrace of a message stoking racial and cultural divisions.

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Conservative Sites Pull Articles, Twitter Suspends Accounts After Daily Beast Investigation (Madeline Charbonneau, Jul. 07, 2020 , Daily Beast)

A Middle East propaganda network that duped conservative media went dark on Tuesday after The Daily Beast revealed that fake personas had been used to plant more than 90 opinion pieces in 46 different publications.

Sixteen Twitter accounts tied to the network, all bearing fake identities spreading propaganda, were suspended Monday after The Daily Beast sent Twitter the results of its extensive investigation. Twitter said the accounts were suspended for violating their platform manipulation policy.

The publications duped by the fake writers were largely conservative outlets including Washington Examiner, Newsmax, and American Thinker. The pieces often espoused pro-United Arab Emirates beliefs and were tough on Iran, Turkey, and Qatar. The phony authors behind the pieces used fake credentials to give themselves more credibility, and propped up the articles that other fake personas had written on their own fake accounts.

The sites refusing to pull the stories are at least being intellectually honest.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


How Long Will Margaret Sanger Last? (ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS, July 6, 2020, National Review)

[I] wonder, too, whether these crusaders will train their gaze on one of our nation's far more serious offenders of racial equality: Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. She was, after all, a foremost proponent of the eugenics movement -- motivated by her particular animus toward poor non-whites -- and her campaign to legalize birth control was motivated in large part by her desire to prevent the "unfit" and "feeble-minded" from reproducing.

After several decades of brushing aside pro-life critiques of its tainted history, Planned Parenthood is now fielding similar complaints from some of its own employees. Just last month, more than 350 current and former staffers of Planned Parenthood's Greater New York affiliate -- along with several hundred donors and volunteers -- published an open letter condemning Sanger as "a racist, white woman" and arguing that the organization is guilty of "institutional racism."

We are all iconoclasts.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Brazil's Bolsonaro, long dismissive of virus, says he has COVID-19 (MARCELO DE SOUSA and DAVID BILLER, 7/07/20, AP) 

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro said Tuesday he has tested positive for the coronavirus after months of downplaying the virus's severity.

Bolsonaro confirmed the test results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters in the capital Brasilia.

"I'm well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can't due to medical recommendations," Bolsonaro said.

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The Idea Of Entropy Has Led Us Astray (Aaron Hirsh, 7/07/20, Nautilus)

Many historians have noted the intimate connection between the theory of natural selection and the ascendant political and economic views of the society in which Darwin was a well-placed member. The Victorian elite were committed to the idea that the unfettered competition of Adam Smith and David Ricardo's free market would drive economic and social advancement. In Darwin's theory, they found nature's own reflection of the social system they favored. As J.M. Keynes put it, "The principle of the survival of the fittest could be regarded as a vast generalization of the Ricardian economics."

Yet while this observation has often been made in relation to Darwin's work, the theory of thermodynamics has largely escaped similar contextualization. Perhaps physics, in all its rigors, is deemed less susceptible to social involvement. In truth, though, Darwinian and thermodynamic theories served jointly to furnish a propitious worldview--a suitable ur-myth about the universe--for a society committed to laissez-faire competition, entrepreneurialism, and expanding industry. Essentially, under this view, the world slouches naturally toward a deathly cold state of disorder, but it can be salvaged--illuminated and organized--by the competitive scrabble of creatures fighting to survive and get ahead.

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The American Founding vindicated against its despisers on the Right and LeftThere can be no meaningful defense of Western civilization, of "order in history," without a thoughtful and manly defense of the great achievement that is the American republic. (Daniel J. Mahoney, 7/03/20, Catholic World Report)

[R]eilly has provided a learned, serious, and passionate defense of the tradition bequeathed to us by our Fathers, political, religious, and philosophical. He has provided vital arguments for responding to the assaults on the American proposition from both the secular Left and the traditionalist Right. I welcome and applaud his achievement even if I cannot assent to every step in his argument.

Let us begin closer to home with Reilly's account of the moral foundations of the American republic. Reilly is particularly helpful at showing that the most significant and thoughtful among the Founders (an eclectic lot, to be sure) were not partisans of moral relativism, or atomistic individualism, or a reductive and dehumanizing scientific materialism. For the most part, Thomas Hobbes appalled them, for reasons a young Alexander Hamilton eloquently recounted in his essay from 1775 entitled The Farmer Refuted. Hamilton wrote on that occasion:

Moral obligation, according to [Hobbes], is derived from the introduction of civil society; and there is no virtue but what is purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians, for the maintenance of social discourse. But the reason he ran into this absurd and impious doctrine was that he disbelieved the existence of an intelligent superintending principle, who is the governor and will be the judge of the universe.

Firmly rejecting political atheism in all its forms, Hamilton goes on to affirm that natural rights must always find their sturdy foundation in "the law of nature" rooted in the "eternal and immutable law" of God. Rejecting both despotism and moral antinomianism, the Founders uniformly defended liberty under God and the law. Even Jefferson, the most modern and Epicurean of the Founders, a deist of a shaky sort, and not a classical theist, was appalled by Hobbes' conventionalist view that morality had no grounding in the nature of things, except the minimalist  (and amoral) imperative that human beings preserve themselves. There is a thin reed for rights in Hobbes, but no rational foundation for moral and civic obligation.

Reilly is undoubtedly right that the Founders belonged to a different, and infinitely saner and more elevated, spiritual universe than the one inhabited by Thomas Hobbes. Statesmen more than theorists, they still drew on classical wisdom (Aristotle and Cicero) even as they adopted the idiom of modern philosophy and political philosophy. This is a point that needed to be stressed to a greater extent by Reilly as he addresses these matters. In a founder such as John Adams the Bible's ethical monotheism shines forth, even if Adams ultimately leaned toward Arminianism and even a morally robust deism. Hamilton founded the Society for Christian Constitutionalism in 1796, fearful that Jacobin atheism and proto-totalitarianism was making steady progress on American shores. A deeply thoughtful founder such as James Wilson admired John Locke but feared that his thought could be misconstrued and thus give powerful support to skeptical and morally subversive intellectual and political currents. All of this is true, and none of it supports Hanby's and Deenen's portraits of an American Founding as a vehicle of radical individualism, moral relativism, and a budding philosophy of radical autonomy culminating in the unencumbered self.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pounding to nothingPatrick Porter reviews The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, by John Bolton (Patrick Porter, 7/04/20, The Critic)

Importantly for Bolton, in the end he fights alone, bravely against the herd. He fights against other courtiers, even fellow hawks, who Bolton treats with dismissive contempt - Nikki Haley, Steve Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, or James Mattis who like Bolton, champions strategic commitments and views Iran as a dangerous enemy, but is more selective about when to reach for the gun. The press is little more than an "hysterical" crowd. Allies like South Korea, who must live as neighbours with one of the regimes Bolton earmarks for execution, and who try conciliatory diplomacy occasionally, earn slight regard. Critics, opponents or those who disagree are 'lazy,' 'howling' or 'feckless.'  

For a lengthy work that distils a lifetime's experience, it is remarkably thin regarding the big questions of security, power and order. The hostile world for him contains few real limits other than failures of will. He embraces every rivalry and every commitment, but explanations are few and banal. 'While foreign policy labels are unhelpful except to the intellectually lazy,' he says, 'if pressed, I like to say my policy was "pro-American".' Who is lazy, here? 

The purpose of foreign policy, too, is largely absent. Armed supremacy abroad, and power-maximisation, seems to be the end in itself, regardless of what is has wrought at home. This makes his disdain for Trump's authoritarian ways especially obtuse: what does he think made possible an imperial presidency in the first place?

 There's little room for principled or reasonable disagreement. What is intended to be personal strength and clarity comes over as unreflective bluster, in a town where horse-trading and agility matter. Unintentionally, it is a warning to anyone who seeks to be effective as well as right, and to those of us who debate these questions.

The most provocative part of the book comes at the end, and points to a man more conflicted than his self-image of the straight shooter. Bolton issues an extended, uneasy defence of his decision not to appear as a witness before the House impeachment inquiry against a president he believed to be corrupt. Having celebrated the need to "pound away" with inexhaustible energy, it turned out his ammunition was low. 'I was content to bide my time. I believed throughout, as the line in Hamilton goes, that "I am not throwing away my shot".' Drawing on a characteristic claim to certainty, 'it would have made no significant difference in the Senate outcome.' How can he know this? And even if the odds were long, was there not - for once - a compelling basis in civic virtue to be that relentless grey battleship, pounding away? He now hopes "history" will remember Trump as a one-term president. History needs willing agents.

In the end, it was Donald's Islamophobia that saved him from Bolton.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


H.G. Wells must fallWhen it comes to cancel culture, socialism is the ultimate prophylactic (Michael Coren, 7/07/20, The Critic)

Wells argued that the existing social and economic structure would collapse and a new order would emerge, led by "people throughout the world whose minds were adapted to the demands of the big-scale conditions of the new time ... a naturally and informally organized educated class, an unprecedented sort of people." The "base," the class at the bottom of the scale, "people who had given evidence of a strong anti-social disposition," would be in trouble. "This thing, this euthanasia of the weak and the sensual, is possible. I have little or no doubt that in the future it will be planned and achieved." He wrote of, "boys and girls and youth and maidens, full of zest and new life, full of an abundant joyful receptivity . . . helpers behind us in the struggle." Then chillingly, "And for the rest, these swarms of black and brown and dingy white and yellow people who do not come into the needs of efficiency . . . I take it they will have to go."

It's not clear where the Jews would come into this but if Wells wasn't a professional anti-Semite he was certainly a talented amateur. "I met a Jewish friend of mine the other day and he asked me, 'What is going to happen to the Jews?' I told him I had rather he had asked me a different question, What is going to happen to mankind? 'But my people--' he began. 'That,' said I, 'is exactly what is the matter with them.'" And of the First World War,

"Throughout those tragic and almost fruitless four years of war, the Jewish spokesmen were most elaborately and energetically demonstrating that they cared not a rap for the troubles and dangers of English, French, Germans, Russians, Americans, or of any other people but their own. They kept their eyes steadfastly upon the restoration of the Jews."

It was explained that the first volunteer for the American forces in Europe was Jewish, that there were numerous German-Jewish winners of the Iron Cross, and that Jews died for every nation. His response was sullen dismissal, then: "There was never a promise; they were never chosen; their distinctive observances, their Sabbath, their Passover, their queer calendar, are mere traditional oddities of no present significance whatsoever." Leon Gelman, President of the Mizrachi Organization of America, responded:

"H.G. Wells is brazenly spreading notorious lies about the Jews. His violent language betrays a streak of sadism that is revolting. If any man who professes to be an enlightened human being can preach such heinous distortions, then mankind is doomed to utter darkness."

It's why abortion is so central to the Left.

July 6, 2020

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The Race-Hustler-in-Chief (TIM MILLER,  JULY 6, 2020, The Bulwark)

[T]here are only three ways to interpret Trump's remarks:

1) He is purposefully instigating racial tensions because he believes that it will help him politically if there is a race war.

2) He is a racist with no self-control and is engaging in self-sabotage.

3) He is too stupid to realize what he is doing and he is just recklessly tweeting anything that he sees on Fox & Friends or that his racist buddies said to him in a recent phone call.

I'll take a little from doors numbered 1, 2, and 3, depending on the day.

But no matter which door you open, what greets you on the other side is a president who is inserting himself into random racial disputes in a way that ignites and inflames tensions rather than assuages them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Trump's misreading the map, looking for Electoral College votes in some of the wrong places (David Wasserman, 7/06/20, NBC News)

According to an Ad Age analysis of data compiled by the tracking firm Kantar/CMAG, the Trump campaign last week pre-booked $99.7 million of fall advertising, with the plurality -- $37.5 million -- going to Florida. To be sure, there will be many more buys to come. But the $18.4 million the campaign laid out in Ohio, which Trump carried by 8 points in 2016, exceeded the costs of its buys in the true battlegrounds of North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and Michigan.

By contrast, the Biden campaign's first general election TV foray is squarely focused on the six states closest to the "tipping point" of the Electoral College -- Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- even though polls show him well ahead in all of those states.

In light of polls showing Biden a threat elsewhere, it's understandable that Trump's team would be tempted to put out fires in red states. But what Trump's campaign might not grasp is that in the modern polarized era of American elections, TV ads move numbers only on the margins and individual states don't move independently so much as demographic groups do.

Ohio is demographically similar to Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania: It has an aging, large blue-collar white population, a modest Black population and a relatively low Latino share. But Ohio voted for Trump by 7 to 8 points more than the three other states. If Biden is competitive in Ohio come November, he'll have already won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- and almost certainly the presidency -- rendering Ohio irrelevant.

...he's lost all the swing states but has to hold OH and TX to avoid utter humiliation.
Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Grover Norquist's Anti-Tax Group Took Money From the Paycheck Protection Program (JORDAN WEISSMANN, JULY 06, 2020, Slate)

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, a loud opponent of government spending, notoriously once said: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." But his libertarian ideological commitments don't seem to have stopped the group he leads, Americans for Tax Reform, from accepting government aid to weather the coronavirus crisis.

On Monday, the Feds released a giant trove of data on borrowers who received money through the Paycheck Protection Program, the rescue effort for small and midsize businesses that offered forgivable loans to employers in return for avoiding layoffs. Along with restaurants, dentists' offices, manufacturers, and such, the PPP was also available to nonprofits, like Norquist's outfit. Lo and behold, the Americans for Tax Reform Foundation--ATR's "educational" arm-- appears to have taken between $150,000 and $350,000 in aid.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Florida Teen Dies After Mother Took Her to Church Coronavirus Party, Then Treated Her With Hydroxychloroquine (EMILY CZACHOR, 7/6/20, Newsweek)

The medical examiner's report notes that Davis attended a 100-person church event, where people were not required to wear face masks, roughly two weeks before she died in a Miami-Dade County hospital. During the nine days that followed, she was given antibiotics, hydroxychloroquine and oxygen via her grandfather's portable machine by her parents while at home.

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Democrats, Biden Look to Accelerate Southern Political Shift (Associated Press, July 06, 2020)

From Mississippi retiring its state flag to local governments  removing Confederate statues from public spaces, a bipartisan push across the South is chipping away at reminders of the Civil War and Jim Crow segregation.  

Now, during a national reckoning on racism, Democratic Party leaders want those symbolic changes to become part of a fundamental shift at the ballot box.  

Many Southern electorates are getting younger, less white and more urban, and thus less likely to embrace President Donald Trump's white identity politics. Southern Democrats are pairing a demographically diverse slate of candidates for state and congressional offices with presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, a 77-year-old white man they believe can appeal to what remains perhaps the nation's most culturally conservative region.  

"There's so much opportunity for everyone in this region," said Jaime Harrison, Democratic challenger to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and a 44-year-old Black man.

Decades of economic development have coaxed new residents to the area. That includes white people from other parts of the country, Black families returning generations after the Great Migration north during the lynching and segregation era, and a growing Latino population. Harrison noted that even younger native Southerners, Black and white, are less wed to hard-partisan identities than their parents and grandparents were.

"Sometimes we get held back by leadership that's still anchored in old ways," Harrison said. But "all of these changes are starting to move the dynamics in so many communities. ... That's not to say we're forgetting our past. But it won't be the thing that's dragging us back."

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How to build Black wealth (William G. Gale, July 6, 2020, Brookings)

Without cultural change, it is hard to see how public policies alone will be able to close the entire Black-white wealth gap. Nevertheless, reforms could reduce the net worth differential significantly. Policy reform should aim to both redress injustices committed in the past and to provide equal opportunity for all today.

First, we need to consider the ways to address a national history (and disgrace) of structural racism that has denied Black households access to resources. Reparations to Black Americans have been proposed since the Reconstruction Era--and very recently by William "Sandy" Darity and Kirsten Mullen. Reparations are not novel; notably, Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II received compensation in response to a clear societal wrong. Reparations can help Black households build wealth through direct payments and access to mechanisms of wealth accumulation. Since even achieving equality of opportunity going forward will not address the intergenerational disadvantages that Black households already face, reparations are a source of racial justice and an equitable policy.

Policies that reduce the cost of college attendance and student loans could also increase opportunities for wealth accumulation for Black households. Likewise, policy makers should correct existing homeownership policies that have disproportionately benefited white households and have implicitly and explicitly restricted Black homeownership and create new policies to support Black homebuyers. Creating automatic IRAs and making the Saver's Credit refundable would provide workers without employer-sponsored retirement benefits (who are disproportionately Black) access to tax-advantaged retirement savings and offset the cost of saving for low-income workers, reducing the wealth gap between elderly white and Black Americans.

All these policies, however, would affect people after they enter adulthood. By that point many of the inequalities related to human capital and financial wealth have already taken effect. To affect wealth accumulation more durably, earlier life interventions are needed. These include a strong social safety net, including the availability of high-quality, affordable child care, employment and training programs, and baby bonds.

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Trump's Presidential Approval Is Sinking, Even Among White Men: Gallup Poll (Rachel Olding, Jul. 06, 2020, Daily Beast)

President Trump's approval rating has sunk to 38 percent, according to Gallup's latest poll, with significant drops even recorded among his most loyal support base: old white men. 

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Court orders Dakota crude pipeline shutdown, in win for Native American tribes in long-running saga (Yun Li, 7/06/20, cnbc)

A district court ruled Monday the Dakota Access Pipeline must shut down within 30 days, by August 5, according to a copy of the brief obtained by USA Today.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia scrapped a key permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and ordered the pipeline to end its three-year run of delivering oil out of North Dakota's Bakken shale basin to its endpoint in Illinois. The decision marked the end of a years-long legal battle over the Energy Transfer Partners-owned pipeline's environmental damage to the Missouri River.

President Donald Trump granted the permit in 2017 over the objections of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists, arguing the oil spills could contaminate their water source and put their culture at risk. 

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Trump's worst nightmare may be happening (Rick Newman, 6/30/20, Yahoo Finance)

This is precisely how a double-dip recession could occur, according to forecasting firm IHS Markit. Until recently, IHS thought the economy had bottomed out in April, with a robust recovery likely this summer and fall--provided coronavirus cases declined and stayed in check.

That's not happening. The daily count of new coronavirus cases in the country has recently exceeded the high from early April, when the disease was ravaging the northeast and a few other areas. In at least 7 states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas, the average number of daily cases is more than double the count from two weeks earlier. Broader testing explains part of the rise in cases, but hospitalizations have started rising again, after falling from late April to mid-June. More people going to the hospital means more people are getting dangerously sick from the virus, regardless of testing. Some governors are reimposing lockdowns to ease stress on hospitals that are filling with Covid patients.

As Covid rises, the economy sinks. Governors have no choice but to close more businesses as infections spread, if for no other reason than to spare hospitals and their workers. Even if governors didn't force closures, many consumers would know there's a problem and lock themselves down at home until it seemed safer to go out. Others are simply foolish, gathering in crowds without masks or other protections, as if invulnerable to a microscopic assailant they can't see.

If the reimposed lockdowns persist, there could be another downturn in spending and overall economic output, rather than a sustained recovery. "In this scenario," IHS writes in a recent analysis, "this combination of factors continues to fuel the increasing pace of new cases and deaths into the fall, when the turn to cooler temperatures exacerbates the spread of COVID-19. The resulting direct decline in consumer spending and knock-on effects is sufficiently sharp to push the economy back into recession beginning in the fourth quarter."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Old, White, and Right: The Politics of The VillagesHow the fast-growing Florida community became so Trump-friendly. (WILLIAM W. STEINER,  JULY 6, 2020, The Bulwark)

To understand the politics of The Villages, one must know something about its background. It started as a stereotypical Florida retirement community built of "premanufactured homes" in the 1970s. But few people wanted to live in a mobile home on an old cow pasture in Central Florida, away from the beaches and ocean breezes. The developers switched gears, added a host of community activities and amenities, and started building affordable single-family homes in the 1990s and the growth hasn't stopped since. According to Census Bureau estimates, it has been the fastest growing metropolitan area in the country over the last decade. The population today is estimated to be over 120,000 people, 80 percent of whom are over the age of 65. In 2016, the Census Bureau labeled Sumter County, where The Villages is located, the "oldest" county in the United States.

The politics of The Villages initially mirrored patterns typical across the country. Older voters tend to lean Republican with an eye toward "conservative" values. In the 2000 presidential election, the Republican/Democratic split in Sumter County was about 54/43. That differential has widened with every presidential election since then. In 2016, the split was 69/30 for Donald Trump. In addition, The Villages is perhaps the "whitest" large community in the United States: The most recent Census Bureau estimates show 96.8 percent of Villagers identifying as non-Latino white, with 0.3 percent identifying as African-American. In recent years, those demographics have coalesced with a president who makes a point of highlighting racial and cultural divisiveness. It is now more acceptable in much of America to publicly display your prejudices and one can now see instances of such behavior out in the open in The Villages.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Where we went wrong: Expert says these 3 blunders caused new Israeli COVID chaos (NATHAN JEFFAY, 7/06/20, Times of Israel)

"We could have [had] a smaller second wave if we would have treated the situation better," Gabi Barbash, a former director-general of the Health Ministry, told The Times of Israel.

And he cautioned against pointing fingers at citizens for their conduct, suggesting that the buck should stop with leaders. "The public is not clear of responsibility, but I was raised in the army, with the saying 'there are no bad soldiers, there are bad commanders,'" said Barbash.

His comments come as the number of new daily virus cases, which had dropped to low double digits through most of May, is soaring to some 1,000 per day, and the number of active cases is at an all-time high of more than 11,600. New restrictions reducing gathering sizes at synagogues and event halls to 50 went into effect Monday morning, and the cabinet is to consider further restrictions on Monday evening.

But Barbash, professor of epidemiology and preventative medicine at Tel Aviv University and former CEO of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, says the government could have prevented things getting this bad. He said that while the current government brought together Likud and its former foe Blue and White ostensibly so they could deal with the emergency, "it didn't help in any way, it didn't do anything good."

Barbash added: "It's a corona government that is really not about the corona."

In his view, the government both failed to take preventative measures and went too far in easing restrictions in late April and early May, because it didn't stand firm in the face of pressure from the public. "As a result they have taken steps they shouldn't have taken," he said.

The intensity of the second wave has largely been caused by "management issues," according to Barbash, who added that Israel "should have responded more and earlier."

It's still the first wave,

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Like the nation's founders, Americans say: 'More immigrants, please' (Jeff Jacoby, 7/05/20, The Boston Globe)

THE GALLUP POLL has been measuring public opinion on the subject of immigration since 1965, regularly asking respondents whether the flow of immigrants to the United States should "be kept at its present level, increased, or decreased." Over the years the numbers have fluctuated greatly, but one finding has never changed: The percentage wanting less immigration always exceeded the percentage wanting more immigration.

Until this month.

On July 1, Gallup reported that for the first time, by a ratio of 34 percent to 28 percent, the share of Americans who favor more immigration surpassed that of those who want immigration reduced. (Another 36 percent support keeping immigration at its current level.)

Note that this is at a time when immigrants are swamping and replacing us.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US utilities are skipping the gas 'bridge' in transition from coal to renewables (Dennis Wamsted, 6 July 2020, Renew Economy)

Last week was a momentous one in the U.S. utility sector's transition from fossil fuels to renewable power generation. Utilities in three states announced plans to close one or more of their coal plants and build new renewables--without adding any new gas-fired generation to serve as a "bridge."

Two of the three proposals, from Tucson Electric Power (TEP), in Arizona, and Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), are part of comprehensive resource plans that outline the two companies' intentions to transition to lower-carbon generation resources.

Such plans have become increasingly common across the U.S. utility sector, but the TEP and CSU proposals are markedly different as they do not rely on the construction of new gas-fired generation to support the transition.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


All Productivity is Good: Even Automation (Rob Atkinson, Jul 02, 2020, American Compass)

One of the few times when I have found myself in agreement with Paul Krugman is when he famously wrote, "Productivity isn't everything, but in the long run it is almost everything." Yet, today, this statement is not only passé, but downright suspect, at least among many U.S. elites. For in a world characterized by neo-Luddite fear of new technologies and outlandish claims that technology will destroy most of our jobs, public and elite opinion has shifted to a view that "productivity is almost nothing, especially if any worker loses their job from it."

This matters greatly because for over 200 years the United States political system supported, or at least didn't significantly object to automation. That enabled extremely high rates of productivity growth.

But now many elites tell us that automation is harmful. This dominant narrative is diminishing support for automation and enhancing support for productivity-reducing policies.

An economy exists to create wealth.  The critics believe it is to create work.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


States that rushed to reopen damaged their economies -- just as experts warned (Josh Israel, June 29, 2020, American Independent)

According to economists with Nomura, a financial services company, "high frequency data on service sector activity suggests businesses and consumers may already be responding to the surge in new cases," Axios reported on Monday. The same report cited a Deutsche Bank analysis that found "states with faster case growth are now underperforming economically based on measures of small business activity, restaurant bookings and consumer spending."

CBS News last week reported that economic growth was stalling in states with surges of coronavirus cases. The network quoted economist Ian Shepherdson of the research consultant firm Pantheon Macroeconomics: "More people are staying home as cases soar, and small firms are shedding jobs."

CBS said that data released by small-business scheduling software company Homebase shows that hours worked by leisure and hospitality employees "increased until mid-June but have now stalled" in places where rising infection rates combine with consumer fears of lax social distancing and face cover use.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'We've got to do something': Republican rebels come together to take on Trump (Daniel Strauss,  5 Jul 2020, The Guardian)

But unlike the last presidential race, where the effort never truly took off, this time those rebel Republicans have formed better organized groups - and some are even openly backing Trump's Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.

In 2016, as Trump steamrolled his way through the Republican primary, some Republican lawmakers and operatives tried to mount an effort to stop him. Elected officials and veterans of previous Republican administrations organized letters, endorsed Hillary Clinton, and a few set up meager outside groups to defeat Trump.

That's happening again - but there are differences. The outside groups are more numerous and better organized, and most importantly, Trump has a governing record on which Republicans can use to decide whether to support him or not.

"I think it's qualitatively different," said Republican operative Tim Miller, who co-founded one of the main anti-Trump organizations. "A lot of people who opposed [Trump] did the whole, 'Oh, Hillary's also bad, and Trump's bad, and everybody can vote their conscience' kind of thing."

Miller said that 2016's effort was far more of a "pox on both your houses" phenomenon versus 2020's "organized effort to defeat him".

They have a huge advantage over the Democrats, because, being conservatives, they're using comedy against him.

July 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 PM


The Atlantic Coast Pipeline Has Been Canceled (Jackie Mogensen, 7/05/20, MoJo)

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been canceled, energy companies leading the project announced Sunday, citing "litigation risk" and uncertainty about the financial viability of the project.

The decision to abandon the pipeline is a win for Native American groups and environmentalists, who argued in a Supreme Court case last month that the pipeline was moving forward under an invalid permit issued by the US Forest Service, in addition to presenting a threat to the ecosystem and scenery. The proposed, 600-mile pipeline would have crossed the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, which runs through 14 states between Georgia and Maine.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Trump's failing culture wars (Shane Savitsky, 7/05/20, Axios)

Google Trends data shows Trump's "Sleepy Joe" name-calling isn't generating nearly the buzz "Crooked Hillary" (or "Little Marco") did in 2016. Base voters who relished doubting President Obama's birth certificate aren't questioning Biden's. [...]

Other factors are working against Trump's playbook. Tech platforms are increasingly moving to shut down hate speech and flag misinformation, killing the sources of some of Trump's favorite conspiratorial material.
And search metrics suggest that for the most part, a nation with more than 125,000 dead from the coronavirus has less patience for the president's usual tactics.

Trump's attempts to find an alternate culture-war footing -- highlighted by his Mount Rushmore speech on Friday -- with Confederate statues and police defunding appear to face their own limits.

Google Trends data shows that searches for "coronavirus" are far outpacing those for "statues," "police" and "antifa."

The president's disconnect with popular sentiment on two issues of the day -- the virus and protests against structural racism -- have led to some self-inflicted wounds, including his sparsely-attended rally in Tulsa and his tweet about an elderly Buffalo protester being shoved by police.

Trump's continued attack line about Biden "not leaving his basement" hasn't taken hold measurably with voters, according to the search data. Biden's actions in terms of social distancing largely align with a majority of voters' own anxieties.

America has already moved on from Donald; he's just playing out the string.  When hate speech bans harm your campaign you know you oughtn't lead America.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Donald Trump's shrinking electoral map (GABBY ORR and MARC CAPUTO, 07/05/2020, Politico)

The most telling sign of Trump's defensive posture is his recent mammoth TV ad buys. The campaign is spending big to retain states he won in 2016 and to shore up support in places a Republican should already dominate in, like Georgia or Florida's Panhandle. [...]

[P]rivately, campaign aides, senior administration officials and GOP donors have begun to acknowledge what they call a more plausible scenario: a pair of losses in the Rust Belt, most likely Michigan and Wisconsin. That would mean the president has to win some proven Trump-averse states to crack the 270-vote threshold needed to clinch a second term.

Gone are the days of forecasting a landslide victory, said one person close to the Trump campaign. The president's team is now recasting its expectations to identify not where Trump can win more, but how he can lose less.

....is Texas absorbing all their time and money as they fight a rearguard action to hold one major state.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Deadly Brain-Eating Amoeba Confirmed in Florida (Allison Quinn, Jul. 04, 2020, Daily Beast)

Health officials in Florida have sounded the alarm over the discovery of a rare, brain-eating amoeba in the county that encompasses Tampa and several other cities.

It ought to be the state bird.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


The Heroism of Civilization (David Deavel, July 4th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

[W]hat keeps civilization going is not just extraordinary heroism but the kind of courageous action that we more often call fortitude: faithfulness in the daily duty of civic, family, and religious life. I think we can still identify plenty of heroic actions of the sort I fantasized about in America today. What we increasingly lack is this longsuffering consistency in building and maintaining society. During World War I, one Edwardian Karen demanded in the street to know why G.K. Chesterton was not out "defending civilization." "Madam," he replied, "I am civilization."

What we lack are the people being civilization.

In 2012 (blessed, peaceful, irenic 2012!) Charles Murray identified the growing vast cleavages in American life in his book Coming Apart. There, he identified what was separating the rich from the poor in terms of civic life, work, religion, and, most importantly, marriage. American adults who were not in the upper socio-economic quintiles were not marrying, were having fewer children, and, when they did, were having them outside of marriage.

When I reviewed his book at the time, I wrote that despite chapter subtitles such as "It's Worse Than It Looks!" he was probably too optimistic about many of the trends. The behavior at the bottom was spreading through the middle classes in 2012. Things have only become worse.

Demographers Lyman Stone and Bradford Wilcox write in a recent Newsweek article titled "Empty Cradles Mean a Bleaker Future" that the story we have not been hearing over at least the last twelve years is that American birthrates have fallen through the floor. Despite many decades of American fertility exceptionalism in which American women averaged around 2.1 children in their childbearing years--the rate necessary to replace a population--the drops seen around the time of the Great Recession of 2008 have continued. This year, Mr. Stone and Dr. Wilcox forecast, American fertility rates will fall below 1.7, putting us in the company of China and the other European and Asian countries that have been aging and, some of them, shrinking.

Why aren't there more children? Mr. Stone and Dr. Wilcox observe that there are certainly worries in times of economic and health uncertainty; the drop that happened in 2008 was swift, and the drop in pregnancies this year has been noticeable, too. But the drop in fertility after 2008 continued through economic recovery into the time just before we locked everything down. Women are actually reporting on surveys a desire to have more children than such surveys revealed in the recent past. But it is now likely the case that one out of four women born in the 1990s will end her childbearing years without having any children.

The main driver for that is the drop in marriage. Marital birth rates have remained steady, if not stellar. But women also worry about the enormous time demands and difficulties involved in raising children. These two are not unconnected: Being a mother is very hard, even with a husband as an active and present father. While some women will go ahead and have a child without a husband or even a man in sight, the takers for this situation are not surprisingly fewer and fewer. The difficulties are exponentially multiplied in such situations and the results are, as decades of social science research show, much worse for children--especially boys. 

As with nearly all divides between social health and pathology, we elites are the heroes of civilization.  But we shirk our responsibility to convey the power of our institutions with our lessers so that they might join us.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Blaming Adam : The origins of human things are flawed, no question, and inequalities remain. But should we not try to honor the principles of Washington or Jefferson and distinguish them from the prejudices of the day that they shared? (Glenn Arbery, July 4th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

History amply demonstrates that origins are always flawed. Rome, for example, began with Romulus's murder of his brother and with the rape of the Sabine women. The question to ask is whether the founding enterprise was worthwhile despite its flaws. Nowhere is this questioning more explicit than in Milton's Paradise Lost, which the Wyoming Catholic College juniors read in the same semester as texts of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.

The extraordinary thing about the presentation of Adam in the poem is that in Book X he reflects explicitly on what it means to be the flawed origin, not just of a nation, but of the human race itself. After the Fall, Adam comes to a full recognition of the miseries he will bequeath upon his offspring:

O voice once heard
Delightfully, Increase and multiply, [730]
Now death to hear! for what can I increase
Or multiply, but curses on my head?
Who of all Ages to succeed, but feeling
The evil on him brought by me, will curse
My Head, Ill fare our Ancestor impure, [735]
For this we may thank Adam...

Adam's very first thought after perceiving how thoroughly he would be cursed by his own progeny is to blame his own origin:

Did I request thee, Maker, from my Clay
To mold me Man, did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me, or here place [745]
In this delicious Garden? as my Will
Concurred not to my being, it were but right
And equal to reduce me to my dust,
Desirous to resign, and render back
All I received, unable to perform [750]
Thy terms too hard, by which I was to hold
The good I sought not. To the loss of that,
Sufficient penalty, why hast thou added
The sense of endless woes? inexplicable
Thy Justice seems...

The passage seems altogether appropriate for the present day. To my mind, the real questions being raised in the current political climate are not political at all, but metaphysical and religious. Did I ask to exist? And, more than that, did I ask to exist in this way, burdened with this history, subject to these limitations?

Even He found the limitations too much, so how couldn't we.  But the important thing to realize is how religious this moment is; how completely dependent on our recognition of our natural sinfulness.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


The Most Endearing Of The New Englanders Who Won Our Independence: a review of The Education of John Adams by R. B. Bernstein (KEVIN R.C. GUTZMAN, 7/05/20, American Conservative)

Two accounts of John Adams are current among Americans today. The first, purveyed by popular historian David McCullough in his mega-bestselling John Adams, focused on the Massachusettsian's peculiar--though appealing--personality. Reading it, one might think that Adams had been a mere character. The other, developed by academic historian Gordon Wood in a chapter of his seminal The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 entitled "The Relevance and Irrelevance of John Adams," makes Adams an out-of-place if powerful thinker. Richard Bernstein's new book joins the personality and political science of the Colossus of Independence. 

Bernstein, the first lawyer to write an Adams biography, notes in his preface that "Adams lived with books at his elbow and a pen in his hand." He early set himself the task of "teach[ing] his contemporaries and posterity what he had learned." Bernstein's account would be filled with "clashes of personality," yes, but also with "principled intellectual disputes about political theory and practice." As the second president put it in a famous missive to his beloved wife Abigail:

I could fill volumes with descriptions of Temples and Palaces, Paintings, Sculptures, Tapestry, Porcelaine, &c. &c. &c.--if I could have time. But I could not do this without neglecting my duty. The Science of Government it is my Duty to study, more than all other Sciences: the Art of Legislation and Administration and Negotiation, ought to take Place, indeed to exclude in a manner all other Arts. I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry, and Porcelaine.

Adams's earnestness strikes one as his most appealing characteristic. His devotion to the needs of posterity ranks a close second.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Republican internal polling signals a Democratic rout (Harry Enten, 7/04/20, CNN)

All but four of the nine conservative or Republican sponsored polls have been from monthly Restoration PAC releases. And if anything, the polls that this group sponsors have been some of the worst for Trump recently.

This reminds me a lot of what happened just two years ago. Almost universally, Democrats were the ones publishing their House polls publicly. They went on to have a net gain of 40 seats in the House. Democrats also won the House popular vote by 9 points.

Indeed, the 2018 example speaks to a larger pattern going back since 2004. Although Democrats tend to publish more internal polls publically, they do very well when that advantage is overwhelming.

When Democrats put out 70% or more of the internal House polls, there is a big swing in their direction in terms of the popular vote. Since 2004, Republicans have never published 70% or more of the internal House polls. The only time there was anything close to this on the their (2010), they picked up more House seats than in any election in the last 70 years.

When Democrats put out around 60% of the internal House polls, the national environment is usually fairly unchanged from the prior election.

Anything less and Republicans are likely going to do well, such as the aforementioned 2010 election when Democrats share of the internal House polls released publicly was a mere 35%.

Democrats would definitely take a political environment that is mostly the same as it was in 2018. The numbers out recently suggest it could be even better for them. They point to a national political environment in which they're favored by double digits.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


A breakthrough for electric vehicle drivers (The Week, July 5, 2020)

The first cross-country electric-vehicle charging route is complete, said Sasha Lekach at Mashable​. Electrify America has finished its network of EV chargers "every 70 miles on the 2,700-mile journey" from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles along Interstates 15 and 70. "The best part" is that the route "includes super-fast chargers at public stations recharging cars at speeds up to 350 kilowatts."

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Defiant President Trump is reportedly convinced that venting white grievance is his path to reelection victory (Tom Porter, 7/05/20, Business Insider)

[T]rump reportedly believes that "following his own instincts on race and channeling the grievances of his core base of white voters" will see him beat Biden in November, a White House official and outside adviser to the president, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the publication. 

Gotta love the claim that he isn't personally racist, it's just that the Trumpbots are and he has to serve up what they demand. 

July 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


U.S. Population Growth Has Been Driven Exclusively by Minorities (Alexandre Tanzi, July 4, 2020, Bloomberg)

U.S. racial and ethnic minorities accounted for all of the nation's population growth during the last decade, according to new Census Bureau estimates.

The data underscore the nation's growing diversity and suggest that the trend will continue as the White population ages and low birth rates translate to a declining share. Non-Hispanic Whites declined to 60.1% of the populace in 2019 and their number shrank by about 9,000 from the 2010 Census to slightly more than 197 million.

Over the same period, the U.S. added 10.1 million people identified as Hispanic. The median age for White non-Hispanics rose to 43.7 years -- more than a decade older than the median Hispanic of any race -- with Black and Asian American residents in between.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Why I decided to become a U.S. citizen in the age of Trump (Mariana Atencio, 7/04/20, NBC News)

My country of origin was torn apart by corruption, division and lack of leadership. We cannot let that happen -- let alone encourage it -- here. You could say I come from the future and know what pandering and misleading tactics can do to a prosperous, democratic nation, like Venezuela used to be.

We don't need a president who tosses paper towels and poses with a Bible, but one that provides precise information and solutions and promotes empathy. During my reporting trips, I've seen Trump be insensitive, like on his visit to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, but I've also seen him be comforting, as he did in going to the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael.

Now more than ever, we need that comfort -- and a message of unity. That means not referring to COVID-19 as a "Chinese virus" or "kung flu," since that term could encourage hate crimes against Asian Americans; surreptitiously enacting rules that will hurt refugees and immigrants; and calling protesters "thugs," which literally means "ruffian" or "criminal" and is considered code for a racial slur.

Despite all of these actions and the crises this country is going through, I still decided to become an American because I know this nation is bigger than any of these ills. I am choosing to live under Trump, even though he's so disparaging of immigrants, because we are more than four or eight years of turmoil. America is still very young!

I have seen the hope the United States inspires in the eyes of all the immigrants I've met throughout the years who have come here in search of a better future and found it -- immigrants like Alison Jimena Valencia Madrid, the 6-year-old girl whose devastating cries from a detention center put a face to the family-separation crisis at the border. I later interviewed her as she was going to school and putting up her first Christmas tree, instead of hiding from the menace of gang violence in her home country.

In my case, I was born with the waters of the Caribbean Sea grazing my feet, just like a certain Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, who grew up to be a hero and scholar. Like him, I came to America on a scholarship to Columbia University. For me, this is the country of Hamilton, of the American promise -- not of Trump. I believe it will be immigrants and people from other historically marginalized groups who bring forth the new ideas and renewed optimism this nation needs to move forward.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Trump pushes racial division, flouts virus rules at Rushmore (STEPHEN GROVES and DARLENE SUPERVILLE, 7/04/20,  Associated Press)

At the foot of Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day, President Donald Trump made a direct appeal to disaffected white voters four months before Election Day, accusing protesters who have pushed for racial justice of engaging in a "merciless campaign to wipe out our history."

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


The case for optimism: By 2030, everything will be so cheap that we'll be able to end poverty (ADELE PETERS, 7/01/20, Co.Exist)

A decade ago, mainstream experts weren't predicting that the cost of solar power would fall as steeply as it has by 2020--it's now down more than 80% so far. Tony Seba, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor, was one of the few to get the forecast right. Seba and investor James Arbib, who run a think tank called RethinkX, now say that similar changes could happen in other parts of the economy, transforming the cost of everyday life so significantly that it could pull people out of poverty.

"We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history, a transformation every bit as significant as the move from foraging to cities and agriculture 10,000 years ago," Seba and Arbib write in a new report called Rethinking Humanity. They predict costs falling by at least 10x in key sectors including transportation, food, energy, materials, and information, while production processes simultaneously become more efficient by an order of magnitude. "Within 10 to 15 years," they write, "everyone on the planet could have access to the 'American Dream' for a few hundred dollars a month." [...]

The report also predicts that the cost of energy will continue to fall. In many markets, renewable electricity is already cheaper than fossil fuels, but they say it will drop further, and the cost of battery storage will also steeply fall. Other forms of energy, such as gas used for cooking or heat, will move to cheap electricity. The cost of producing food will also dramatically fall, the report says. The "precision fermentation" that companies such as Perfect Day use to make a vegan ice cream with a protein genetically identical to dairy milk, or that Impossible Foods uses to give its plant-based burgers the characteristic taste of beef, will become much cheaper: In a separate paper, the analysts predict that it will fall from $100 a kilo in 2019 to around $10 in the next five years, and $2 a kilo in 2030. That means new foods can be cheaper than food made from animals; the analysts think that the livestock industry will shrink and be replaced with a new production system where foods are engineered from a molecular level. The cost of groceries for a family could fall from hundreds a month to $51 a month.

The cost of communications will also fall. Seba points to the example of an Indian company called Reliance Jio, which gives away free phones with a phone plan that offers 20 gigabytes of data for $20 a month; he suggests that it will be possible to provide 10 times as much data by 2030 for the same cost, shrinking phone bills. The cost of clean water will also shrink, as technology such as desalination drops in cost. In total, the report says, it could be possible to provide someone's basic needs--1,000 miles of transportation, 2,000 kilowatt-hours of energy, complete nutrition, clean water, 500 square feet of living space per person, communications, and even continuing education--for less than $250 a month by the end of the decade. By 2035, that cost could be cut in half.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


How Christianity Created Capitalism (MICHAEL NOVAK, JULY 20, 2010, Acton)

It was the church more than any other agency, writes historian Randall Collins, that put in place what Weber called the preconditions of capitalism: the rule of law and a bureaucracy for resolving disputes rationally; a specialized and mobile labor force; the institutional permanence that allows for transgenerational investment and sustained intellectual and physical efforts, together with the accumulation of long-term capital; and a zest for discovery, enterprise, wealth creation, and new undertakings.

The people of the high Middle Ages (1100--1300) were agog with wonder at great mechanical clocks, new forms of gears for windmills and water mills, improvements in wagons and carts, shoulder harnesses for beasts of burden, the ocean-going ship rudder, eyeglasses and magnifying glasses, iron smelting and ironwork, stone cutting, and new architectural principles. So many new types of machines were invented and put to use by 1300 that historian Jean Gimpel wrote a book in 1976 called The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages.

Without the growth of capitalism, however, such technological discoveries would have been idle novelties. They would seldom have been put in the hands of ordinary human beings through swift and easy exchange. They would not have been studied and rapidly copied and improved by eager competitors. All this was made possible by freedom for enterprise, markets, and competition-and that, in turn, was provided by the Catholic Church.

The church owned nearly a third of all the land of Europe. To administer those vast holdings, it established a continent-wide system of canon law that tied together multiple jurisdictions of empire, nation, barony, bishopric, religious order, chartered city, guild, confraternity, merchants, entrepreneurs, traders, et cetera. It also provided local and regional administrative bureaucracies of arbitrators, jurists, negotiators, and judges, along with an international language, "canon law Latin."

Even the new emphasis on clerical celibacy played an important capitalist role. Its clean separation between office and person in the church broke the traditional tie between family and property that had been fostered by feudalism and its carefully plotted marriages. It also provided Europe with an extraordinarily highly motivated, literate, specialized, and mobile labor force.

The Cistercians, who eschewed the aristocratic and sedentary ways of the Benedictines and, consequently, broke farther away from feudalism, became famous as entrepreneurs. They mastered rational cost accounting, plowed all profits back into new ventures, and moved capital around from one venue to another, cutting losses where necessary, and pursuing new opportunities when feasible. They dominated iron production in central France and wool production (for export) in England. They were cheerful and energetic. "They had," Collins writes, "the Protestant ethic without Protestantism."

Being few in number, the Cistercians needed labor-saving devices. They were a great spur to technological development. Their monasteries "were the most economically effective units that had ever existed in Europe, and perhaps in the world, before that time," Gimpel writes.

Thus, the high medieval church provided the conditions for F. A. Hayek's famous "spontaneous order" of the market to emerge. This cannot happen in lawless and chaotic times; in order to function, capitalism requires rules that allow for predictable economic activity. Under such rules, if France needs wool, prosperity can accrue to the English sheepherder who first increases his flock, systematizes his fleecers and combers, and improves the efficiency of his shipments.

In his 1991 Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II points out that the main cause of the wealth of nations is knowledge, science, know-how, discovery-in today's jargon, "human capital." Literacy and study were the main engines of such medieval monasteries; human capital, moral and intellectual, was their primary economic advantage.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


Died on the 4th of July: Fisher Ames, Founding Father (Stephen B. Tippins, Jr., July 3rd, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

Despite his growing melancholy, Ames managed to parlay early success as a country lawyer into a seat at Massachusetts's constitutional ratifying convention. From there he upset Samuel Adams in the nation's first congressional elections in 1788. Once in Congress, he helped author the First Amendment, played a vital role in lobbying for Alexander Hamilton's financial policies, and wrote the lower house's address to Washington when he retired from the presidency. Most famously, he arose in opposition to Jefferson's Republicans on the question of funding Jay's Treaty. His words movingly evoked the faith that composes a nation and binds its pledges to others:

What is patriotism? Is it a narrow affection for the spot where a man was born? Are the very clods where we tread entitled to this ardent preference because they are greener? No, sir; that is not the character of the virtue, and it soars higher for its object. It is an extended self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting itself with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus we obey the laws of society, because they are the laws of virtue. In their authority we see, not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense, and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it.

For what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable when a state renounces the principles that constitute their security? Or if his life should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be in a country odious in the eyes of strangers and dishonored in his own? Could he look with affection and veneration to such a country as his parent? The sense of having one would die within him; he would blush for his patriotism, if he retained any, and justly, for it would be a vice. He would be a banished man in his native land.

Funding of the treaty helped stay a war with Britain and ushered in a decade of prosperous trade with the country from which we won independence.

Successes notwithstanding, Ames was forced to forego reelection in 1796 due to declining health. To his chagrin, nothing he achieved while in office seemed to carry any lasting influence. The United States were shifting culturally and electorally. The Federalists were declining as a party. The Republicans--the "Jeffs" as he called them--were growing. Soon, war with Britain would come; France under Napoleon would loom as a threat; rights-speak would become the vernacular of the governed as well as the governors; and Jefferson's shadow would forever cast itself upon the nation.

Ames believed that there was little he and like-minded Federalists could do but "mitigate a tyranny." His outlook not only struck many of his contemporaries as alarmist, but later thinkers--even conservatives--tended to agree. Russell Kirk, in The Conservative Mind, wrote, "Ames was wrong, so far as the immediate future was concerned; for already a counterbalance to American radicalism was making its weight felt. That saving influence was in part the product of an innate moderation in the planter society Jefferson represented."

But Jefferson's planter society happened to have hung its hat on an immoderate--and infamously peculiar--institution. And whatever Federalist ideals were in place before Reconstruction, we lost them in its wake.

Ames's philosophy can be summed up as follows: the "power of the people, if uncontroverted, is licentious and mobbish." But if checked by a powerful and well-led state, a more virtuous citizenry could be procured, one that feels a "love of country diffused through the Society and ardent in each individual, that would dispose, or rather impel every one to do or suffer much for his country, and permit no one to do anything against it."

July 3, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


The Confederate Flags of Comer's Store (TIM WEBSTER, JULY 2, 2020, Ordinary Times)

My summer stays there always included a visit to Comer's Store, a quarter mile east toward Gastonia. [...]

The walls were covered with Confederate flags of all sizes and some were cheap enough to consider saving for. These flags were in a whole different category from American flags. The American flag was a sacred object that could only be touched in a certain way and required elaborate display and interaction protocols. But the Confederate battle flag was a banner under which to imagine how a boy might attain manliness and power. As children, we had no idea what principles of government or causes it represented. It was just a cool, brightly colored banner that could help a lad feel strong and bold. It was what you used to cap off a fort or a tree house you built in the woods. It was a streamer to be placed on the rear carrier of your silver Sears bike. And later, it was what you put in the front license plate holder to establish emotional ownership of a "new" 48 Ford just bought with your Winn Dixie bag boy earnings. Catching bugs on its way to Myrtle Beach for a few days of wild teenage freedom, it declared: We are proud and feisty Southern boys and we will not be made to feel inferior to the Yankees running the country .

Oddly, in 1960 and for many years after in my mind, that flag had no relationship whatsoever to Blacks living in the dilapidated structures of Kings Mountain's "colored town" where my dad went to recruit cotton pickers in September. It had no connection in my mind to the obvious discomfort of Black teenagers coming for the first time to use a new high school building with "us" in 1965. As teens during the whole decade of the 60s, most of "us" were utterly unaware of far off events. The bombing of churches in Montgomery seemed like a terrible thing done by individuals we might now call "bad apples" in Alabama, a distant place with a loud governor. For me, it took many years to see how much pain and suffering has been caused by the ideas and ideals of white supremacy.

It took even longer to recognize the clever ways that we have been seduced into being quiet cogs in the oblivious culture that can't see racism in our flags and monuments. The monuments and flags made us white Southerners feel -- instead of the progeny of defeated defenders of human cruelty -- like just good ordinary people who appreciate "our heritage." To my child mind in 1960 the Confederate flag never was intended to hurt anybody. As a pedagogic device, Mr. Comer's flags for sale worked much better than the angry and confusing "Impeach Earl Warren" billboard that he sponsored. Mr. Comer used those flags to efficiently recruit me and others of my generation into a special kind of passive, blind and "nice" racism. This kind of racism has no anger in it, but it is racism nevertheless -- on autopilot. It is time now to remove the shackles from our eyes as we remove the monuments and take steps to ostracize the offensive flags.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The scandal of the Declaration (Noah Millman, July 3, 2020, The Week)

The custodians of Jefferson's memory highlight the ways in which Jefferson did wrestle morally with the institution of slavery, which he saw as fundamentally in conflict with republican ideals and corrosive of the character of the free, white, slave-owning population of Virginia. But he could not see a way of ending slavery without inconveniencing that same free, white, slave-owning people. So while he waited for an imagined future emancipation date, he would do nothing consequential to further the cause of the slaves' freedom. He even refused a large bequest from his old friend, the Polish nobleman and Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciusko, intended for the purchase of slaves to give them their freedom, along with land, livestock, and farm equipment to enable them to live the life of yeoman independence that Jefferson claimed to favor over all others.

What was the reason for this lethargy? Jefferson was emphatic that people of African descent could never be the equal of, nor live peaceably among, people of European descent. So Jefferson took a harsher line on miscegenation than many of his fellow Virginians (particularly ironic given that all the slaves he did free were relatives of Sally Hemings), worked to prevent freedmen from residing in Virginia, and believed (as most of his contemporaries did) that emancipation would have to be accompanied by deportation of the previously enslaved to Africa or to Santo Domingo. Jefferson could dream of a more egalitarian world in which slavery had vanished, even if he could not see how to get there. But he had a positive horror of a world where he would have to live with the descendants of slaves as equals.

My point is not to demonize the nation's third president unduly. Even Ben Franklin, president of the Abolition Society, had previously owned slaves, until he saw black children learning in school, and concluded that perhaps slavery was not their natural condition. Even Abraham Lincoln believed that after emancipation the freed slaves would have to be shipped overseas, until their valor in battle proved to him their worth as fellow citizens. Our national inheritance bequeathed to us from Jefferson is substantial, including as it does the doubling of the size of the country. But James Polk, who brought into the Union a territory of not dissimilar scope, is not honored with a temple on the Potomac. What elevates Jefferson is the Declaration. If we have hidden from ourselves the full picture of this founder, it is precisely because we do not want to admit either that he did not really believe his own fine words or that he was too cowardly and too greedy to live by them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GOP Is Abandoning the American IdeaDo we still hold the proposition that "all men are created equal" to be self-evident? The party of Trump is turning instead toward the idea of the Confederacy. (GEORGE THOMAS  JULY 3, 2020, The Bulwark)

When I say that the Republican party is embracing the idea of the Confederacy, I mean that it is embracing what the Confederacy stood for. If the idea of America was, as the first Republican president Abraham Lincoln put it in his Gettysburg Address, that this is a nation "dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal," the Confederacy was an explicit rejection of that proposition. Alexander Hamilton Stephens, the vice president of the Confederate States of America, was exquisitely clear about this:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery--subordination to the superior race--is his natural and normal condition.

This has been the central quarrel in American history. A nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to human equality gave sanction to human bondage in its Constitution and laws.

This tension was played out in Fredrick Douglass's brilliant and searing "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" delivered on July 5, 1852. Speaking to a largely white audience, Douglass insisted, "The Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny . . . . The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost."

But Douglass continued to his fellow citizens: "The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me." To those enslaved and denied citizenship because they were black, the Fourth of July was "a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim." Douglass, speaking nine years before the Civil War, was following black Americans forgotten by history, who drew sustenance from the Declaration's principles. Acting as citizens, a status they were all too often denied by law, they claimed the Declaration's promise of equality, and asked their fellow Americans to recall the language of its creed: "all men are created equal."

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution formally sanctified the principles of the Declaration. Taken together, these "Civil War amendments" abolished slavery, made all persons born in the United States citizens regardless of race, commanded the equal protection of the laws, and secured the vote for citizens regardless of race. The amendments promised a new birth of freedom. And for a fleeting moment, America experienced this rebirth with black Americans elected to the Senate and House of Representatives. But this promise was short-lived; it gave way to racial apartheid wherein white supremacy was written into American law.

Black Americans would have to wait another century to be genuinely included within the terms of American democracy, with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Just at the Civil War amendments were in part inspired by the way in which Douglass and Lincoln drew on the principles of the Declaration, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were inspired by the civil rights movement as exemplified by Martin Luther King Jr.'s continued appeal to the principles of the Declaration to spur a nation to live up to its creed.

Those laws were passed over a half-century ago.

The struggle for America persists.

The brilliance of the American idea animates Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton, which first came to Broadway in 2015 and has premiered as a movie this weekend. The musical not only teaches Americans about their history, it properly claims that history for immigrants and citizens of color. Even more brilliantly, it embodies the idea of America by casting George Washington and company with actors of color. Miranda has Angelica Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton's sister-in-law, sing a line from the Declaration--"We hold these truths to be self-evident / That all men are created equal." She later riffs about getting Thomas Jefferson to "include women in the sequel." It is an imagined America, but one made real by this son of immigrants. The show became an enduring success, with more than a million sales of its soundtrack and hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren taken to see it for free.

Yet alongside a few such cultural highs, there is the persistent reality of racial inequality. The ugly and brutal murder of George Floyd by officers of the state. Countless other black Americans brutalized by those who represent the law.

This is the sense in which President Trump has embraced the idea of the Confederacy.

The Right can't help but despise a multiethnic multiconfessional America.

July 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Giving people free money has kept 12 million people out of poverty and given the economy a crucial boost (Joseph Zeballos-Roig, 7/01/20, Business Insider)

Despite the lack of future clarity, experts say the assistance that's already been provided has offered struggling families a financial cushion amid an extraordinary blend of public health and economic crises. New research indicates the government intervention helped keep around 12 million people out of poverty, and many jobless workers saw their incomes increase during the pandemic.

The bump in earnings led to a quick rebound in consumer spending for the lowest-paid workers. Economists at Opportunity Insights -- a Harvard University research group -- estimate that spending from the bottom quarter of ZIP codes, ranked by income, plummeted 30% in March compared to pre-coronavirus levels. Now, it's down roughly 3% from January, though the speed of the recovery remains highly uncertain.

In other words, giving people money through unemployment benefits or direct payments packed a positive punch for the economy, helping many buy groceries, make rent payments, and support their essential needs.

"You give lower income people money and they're spending all of it, which is the biggest economic boost," Amanda Fischer, policy director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told Business Insider.

Robust federal action also appeared to have led to a decline in poverty. Another study from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago indicated the poverty rate dropped to 8.6% in March and April from 10.9% in the first two months of the year -- in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

"It shows that the government is perfectly capable of creating income security, not just in moments like this but in general," Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project, a left-leaning think-tank, told Business Insider.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Jeff Sessions Just Told Us Who He Is (JEFF GREENFIELD  JULY 2, 2020, The Bulwark)

It's not often that a man who has spent three and a half decades in public life opens a window into his truest self. But that's what Jeff Sessions did in the course of a New York Times profile. Never has Maya Angelou's famous dictum--"when someone shows you who they are, believe them"--had more force.

The former Alabama senator and U.S. attorney general, now struggling to win his old job back in the face of ridicule from his former boss, was praising his tenure in the Justice Department as a firm ally of the police, even as significant majorities of Americans, black and white, are coming to grips with the persistence of indefensible police conduct.

In contrasting his policies with those of ex-president Barack Obama, here's what Sessions said:

The mantra was: "Back to the men and women in blue" . . . The police had been demoralized. There was all the Obama--there's a riot, and he has a beer at the White House with some criminal, to listen to him. Wasn't having a beer with the police officers. So we said, "We're on your side. We've got your back, you got our thanks."

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


P. D. JAMES: A CRIME READER'S GUIDE TO THE CLASSICSShe refined the crime novel to its dark, poetic core and created a roster of iconic detectives along the way. (NEIL NYREN, 7/02/2020, CrimeREads)

James' most important character was, of course, Adam Dalgliesh, one of the most iconic figures in crime fiction. The only child of an elderly couple, the son of a vicar, he lost a wife and baby son early on, and since then has led a very private life. He is also a respected poet, a fact that mystifies many onlookers who can't quite square one man being both a poet and a policeman. Dalgliesh also worries about it himself sometimes: "People tell me things. It had begun when he was a young detective-sergeant and then it had surprised and intrigued him, feeding his poetry, bringing the half-shameful realization that for a detective it would be a useful gift. The pity was there. He had known from childhood the heartbreak of life and that, too, had fed the poetry. He thought, I have taken peoples' confidences and used them to fasten gyves round their wrists" (The Murder Room).

James always said that she gave Dalgliesh the qualities she most admired in either men or women--"compassion without sentimentality, generosity, courage, intelligence, and independence" (A Certain Justice)--but some of those qualities can cut both ways. His detachment is both his strength and his weakness: "How long could you stay detached, he wondered, before you lost your own soul" (A Mind to Murder, 1963). His independence and lack of sentimentality make him prone to personal antipathies and occasional sudden anger, and his "cold sarcasm could be more devastating than another officer's bawled obscenities" (Devices and Desires).

However, he is a listener, be they witnesses, suspects, or his own team members. "This quiet, gentle, deep-voiced man," thinks one interviewee, "hadn't bothered to commiserate with her on the shock of finding the body. He hadn't smiled at her. He hadn't been paternal or understanding. He gave the impression that he was interested only in finding out the truth as quickly as possible and that he expected everyone else to feel the same. She thought that it would be difficult to tell him a lie" (A Mind to Murder).

These qualities, though, can also strike terror in his subordinates. When he invites them to talk with him about what they had seen and heard, it meant that he "now expected to hear a brief, succinct, accurate, elegantly-phrased but comprehensive account of the crime which would give all the salient facts so far known to someone who came to it freshly. This ability to know what you want to say and to say it in the minimum of appropriate words is as uncommon in policemen as in other members of the community. Dalgliesh's subordinates were apt to complain that they hadn't realized a degree in English was the new qualification for joining the C.I.D." (Shroud for a Nightingale).

What he hears, though, is key, and out if it will often come an intuitive sense that something important has been said. It isn't a "hunch," it's a certainty, and his team has to respect it: "Inconvenient, perverse and far-fetched they might seen, but they had been proved right too often to be safely ignored" (Shroud for a Nightingale). For Adam Dalgliesh, "it wasn't the last piece of the jigsaw, the easiest of all, that was important. No, it was the neglected, uninteresting, small segment which, slotted into place, suddenly made sense of so many other discarded pieces" (The Black Tower).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's resistance led intel agencies to brief him less and less on Russia (Jim Sciutto, July 01, 2020, CNN)

Multiple former administration officials I spoke to for my upcoming book, "The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World," which will be published August 11 by Harper Collins, paint a picture of a President often unwilling to hear bad news about Russia.

According to one former senior intelligence official, the President's briefers had one simple rule with Trump: never lead with Russia.

Early in his term, Trump's briefers discovered that when his oral briefing included intelligence related to Russia's malign activities against the United States, including evidence of its interference in US politics, Trump would often blow up at them, demanding to know why they kept focusing on Russia and often questioning the intelligence itself, multiple former administration officials said.

"The President has created an environment that dissuades, if not prohibits, the mentioning of any intelligence that isn't favorable to Russia," a former senior member of Trump's national security staff told me.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


July 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Yale: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Likely Much Higher Than Reported (Ethen Kim Lieser, 7/01/20, National Journal)

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall number of U.S. deaths for any cause between March and May was 781,000--or 122,300 more than the historical average for the period.

For the same three-month period, the number of deaths officially listed as due to COVID-19 was 95,235--or 28% less than that excess number.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


Just 12 per cent of Americans are proud of their country (EMILY GOODIN, 7/01/20,  DAILYMAIL.COM)

A new Pew Research Poll released on Wednesday has bad news for Donald Trump - a majority of Americans are dissatisfied with how the country is being run and think that he is a 'poor' or 'terrible' president.

The poll was conducted June 16-22 as coronavirus cases spiked in several states that began the reopening process and the economy is still recovering from the hit it took during the pandemic. Additionally, racial tensions remain on the rise amid demonstrations against about police violence and support for the Black Live Matters movement.

The Pew poll found that the number of Americans satisfied with how the country is going has dropped 19 points, from 31 per cent in April to a mere 12 per cent in June.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Far Right's People Problem (CAMERON HILDITCH, June 25, 2020, National Review)

Since the French Revolution, mainstream conservatism has been rooted in certain assumptions about human nature that are said to be true of all people across time and space. These include the recognition that our nature is both fixed and flawed and that consequential knowledge about how societies function is necessarily diffuse among its members, together forming the conviction that excessive centralization should be avoided. Because these things are true of all people everywhere, conservatism in the American tradition holds that there is no basis for according different legal or political privileges to people based on their race, sex, or any other immutable characteristic. The capacity to reason and to make decisions is an individual trait shared by virtually everyone, and so conservatism has traditionally regarded the individual as the ultimate, final, and irreducible political unit. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence is a salient example of this kind of thinking.

The key thinkers on the radical right call this brand of politics "universalism," and they don't care for it in the slightest. The notion that anything of any political significance is universally true of all people everywhere is anathema to them. These writers regard traits shared by all individuals, including reason, conscience, and consciousness, as insufficient grounds for a working political regime. For Carl Schmitt, successful politics is built upon the "distinction between friend and enemy." He argues that "what ultimately underpins politics is the fundamental distinction between us and them." Thus, Schmitt emphasized the local community or tribe as the necessary foundation for politics. As he saw it, classical liberalism "ignores this precondition of a constructive politics because it is biased toward universalist ideologies." The kind of affirmation of universal human dignity that one finds in the Declaration of Independence hinders the development of an 'us-versus-them' mentality by maintaining that the most important aspects of human beings as political actors are things that they all share -- an obvious lie in Schmitt's eyes. This friend/enemy foundation for political action has been widely accepted by subsequent thinkers on the far right. Alain de Benoist, for example, thinks that universalism engenders an "ideology of sameness" that opens the door to globalism and the subsequent exploitation by capitalists of what should be locally autonomous ethnic communities. After the work of Nietzsche and Heidegger, the most important founding text for the radical Right is Oswald Spengler's Decline of the West, in which much of the same dismissal of a politically relevant 'human nature' is present. According to Spengler, "cultures" are the great actors on the stage of world history. "Mankind," by comparison, is simply "a zoological expression, or an empty word."

Most of the thinkers in Sedgwick's book are self-described pagans who hold Christianity in contempt and deeply regret the starring role it has played in the history of the West. Larry Siedentop, most emphatically not a man of the far Right, has observed that "the most distinctive thing about Greek and Roman antiquity is what might be called 'moral enclosure,' in which the limits of personal identity were established by the limits of physical association and inherited unequal social roles." This moral enclosure, whereby duty is circumscribed by race or caste, is what the thinkers of the radical Right are trying to retrieve from pagan antiquity. When working as a contributor to the publication Europe-Action between 1963 and 1967, de Benoist became a devotee of the philosopher Louis Rougier, and embraced his rebuke of Christianity as "an egalitarian and thus subversive doctrine" responsible for destroying the hierarchical social model derived from "the old pagan wisdom of Europe." He would subsequently publish a book in 1981 entitled On Being a Pagan. Jean-Yves Camus identifies the following as the most important sentence in all of de Benoist's writings for understanding his work: "I hereby define the Right, by pure convention, as a positive thing; and the progressive homogenization of the world, extolled and effected by two thousand years of egalitarian ideology, as a negative thing." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


THE TYRANTS AMONG US: a review of From Oligarchy to Republicanism:
The Great Task of Reconstruction By Forest A. Nabors (Alexandra Hudson, 6/29/20, Modern Age)

In Book VIII of the Republic, Plato outlines five political regimes: aristocracy (rule by the few and wise), timocracy (rule by the militaristic few), oligarchy (rule by the hedonistic and unwise few), democracy (rule by the many), and tyranny (rule by a single power-hungry man). Aristocracy is Plato's ideal regime, while oligarchy is very undesirable. The difference is not the number but the character of the rulers. In both regimes, the polis is ruled by the few. In an oligarchy, however, they lack virtue, ruling for themselves instead of for the common good.

In From Oligarchy to Republicanism, Forrest A. Nabors uses Plato's typology to recast the common narrative of the American Civil War. The conventional account pits pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions against each other. Nabors argues that the war is better understood as a clash of political regimes: the democratic North versus the oligarchic South.

That is not to say that Nabors downplays slavery. The wretched institution is central to his story. But he argues that the crucial issue was less slavery in itself that the kind of regime that slavery created in much of the United States. He writes:

Nabors's argument echoes prewar Republican rhetoric claiming that slavery in the Southern states was a threat to the survival of republicanism throughout the Union. Slavery, he argues, led the Southern gentry to think of themselves inherently superior to most of their fellow human beings, an attitude antithetical to the American project founded on the equality of persons. In Nabors's telling, these sentiments transformed the South into a society of barons and serfs rivaling any in history. In this sense, the Civil War could be seen as a continuation of the struggle against feudalism that began in Europe. [...]

To think of the conflict between the North and South only as one of freedom versus slavery was mistaken. Rather, the war was a struggle between civilization and barbarism. Slavery was barbaric, Sumner argued, because in being subjected to slavery, "man, created in the image of God, is divested from the human character, and declared to be 'chattel'--that is, a beast, a thing, or an article of property."

"Bad as slavery is for the slave," Sumner went on, "it is worse for the master." He noted that George Mason had said that "Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant," that Thomas Jefferson had claimed slavery "transforms those into despots," that John Locke had declared slavery "the state of war continued," and that Adam Smith had concluded that "there is not a Negro from the coast of Africa who does not possess a degree of magnanimity which the soul of his sordid master is too often scarce capable of conceiving." Violence, not love of humanity, shaped the moral character of slaveholders and thus the political character of slave states. Slave society was founded on brutality, and its leaders were trained to use violence to make their way in the world, which deformed their souls and obscured their sense of morality.

The Civil War was a foreign war.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Swing state voters give Trump dismal marks as coronavirus cases spike (Jacob Pramuk, 7/01/20, CNBC)

As cases spike in pockets of the U.S. South and West after states reopened their economies, likely voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin believe Trump shoulders much of the blame, the survey released Wednesday found. 

When asked to select two people or groups most responsible for the recent increase in hospitalizations, 35% said the president -- the largest share among the answers. Trump was followed by "people not wearing masks" at 34%, "states reopening their economies too soon" at 32% and "people not social distancing" at 29%. 

Those answers are, of course, all: Donald.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oklahoma voters approve Medicaid expansion as coronavirus cases climb (RACHEL ROUBEIN, 07/01/2020, Politico)

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a ballot measure to extend Medicaid to tens of thousands of poor adults, making their state the first to expand government-backed health insurance during the pandemic.

The vote, which passed with 50.5 percent support, also throws a wrench in the Trump administration's plan to make Oklahoma the first state to receive its permission to cap Medicaid spending, a longtime goal of conservatives hoping to constrain the safety-net entitlement program.

Oklahoma has become the fifth state where voters defied Republican leaders to expand Medicaid through the ballot. Missouri will hold a similar vote on Medicaid expansion later this summer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THOUGHT LEADER (self-reference alert):

Happy 90th Birthday to an Underappreciated American Scholar (Walter E. Williams, July 01, 2020, Daily Signal)

My colleague not only writes when you and I are asleep or enjoying ourselves, but he might write with two hands.

Sowell cares about people. He believes that compassionate policy requires dispassionate analysis. He takes seriously the admonition given to physicians: "primum non nocere" (first, do no harm).

In many respects, Sowell is an Austrian economist like the great Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, who often talked about elites and their "pretense of knowledge."

These are people who believe that they have the ability and knowledge to organize society in a way better than people left to their own devices--what Hayek called the fatal conceit. Their vision requires the use of the coercive powers of government.

In my book, Thomas Sowell is one of the greatest economist-philosophers of our age, and I am proud to say that he is one of my best friends. Sowell demonstrates something that is uniquely American; namely, just because you know where a person ended up in life, you cannot be sure about where he started.

One of the most important ways in which he influenced my own thinking was unintended.  In writing about the benefits of immigration he noted that modern African, Haitian and other black immigrants succeed at similar levels as European, Asian or others.  And he argued that what makes the historic black underclass unique in America is that slaves were denied the normal immigrant experience with unsurprising knock-on effects.  It is the implicit case for reparations.