July 11, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


The sabotaging of Kamala Harris: Joe Biden's reputation has been shored up at the expense of his party's future (SARAH BAXTER, 7/11/21, UnHerd)

Biden knew all about her political shortcomings after watching her implode during the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination -- but went on to select her as his running mate, regardless. The optics of having the first woman, first black and first Asian vice-president at his side were too good to resist. And then, as President, he handed her two unwinnable assignments -- solving the "root causes" of the migrant crisis (created by his own open door to families with children), and fending off Republican attempts to reform statewide voting systems (over which she has no power).

"Maybe I don't say no enough," Harris joked last weekend, when asked if she had been given too many tasks, but she didn't seem that amused. "It's just a lot of hard work, but that's why we're here and that's what people wanted. Right?'"

Tough luck, insiders say. Vice presidents always get the worst jobs. There was no love lost between Joe Biden and Barack Obama, either, who haven't seen each other for months despite their supposed closeness. There is, though, more to it than that. The reputation of the "big guy" -- as Hunter Biden likes to call his father -- has been shored up at the expense of Harris in the hope of neutralising any threat to the now 78-year-old Biden running again in 2024.

As a bonus, the stitching up of Harris has put paid to all those wounding accusations, from Donald Trump and his supporters, that Biden was merely a doddery placeman, whom she was eying up for lunch and bound to dispatch on the grounds of senility at the earliest opportunity. The ploy has worked. With her approval ratings on 44%, according to the latest YouGov/Economist poll, Harris is no longer seen as the heir apparent to the President. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


'Freedom!' Thousands of Cubans take to the streets to demand the end of dictatorship (ADRIANA BRASILEIRO AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES, JULY 11, 2021 , Miami Herald)

In an unprecedented display of anger and frustration, thousands of people took to the streets Sunday in several cities and towns in Cuba, including Havana, to call for the end of the decades-old dictatorship and demand food and vaccines as shortages of basic necessities have reached crisis proportions and COVID-19 cases have soared.

From the Malecón, Havana's famous seawall near the old city, to small towns in Artemisa province and Palma Soriano, the second-largest city in Santiago de Cuba province, videos live-streamed on Facebook showed thousands of people walking and riding bikes and motorcycles along streets while chanting "Freedom!" "Down with Communism!" and "Patria y Vida" -- Homeland and Life -- which has become a battle cry among activists after a viral music video turned the revolutionary slogan "Homeland or Death" on its head.

"We are not afraid!" chanted Samantha Regalado while she recorded hundreds of people walking along a narrow street in Palma Soriano.

Send them food and vaccines--we have plenty of both. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


How to Manufacture a Moral Panic Christopher Rufo helped incite an uproar over racism education with dramatic, dodgy reporting. (Sarah Jones, 7/11/21, New York)

Los Angeles public school teacher R. Tolteka Cuauhtin had Googled his discipline, ethnic studies, in March when he discovered he wanted children to honor the Aztec gods of human sacrifice and cannibalism. Should the state of California implement the curriculum that Cuauhtin had helped design, an article in the conservative magazine City Journal reported, students would "chant to the gods Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totek, seeking 'healing epistemologies' and 'a revolutionary spirit. Huitzilopochtli, in particular, is the Aztec deity of war and inspired hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices during Aztec rule."

Cuauhtin found himself in crowded company, the latest educator singled out by right-wing activist Christopher Rufo for crimes against public education. Rufo's article was picked up by American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, who wrote it up in a blog post headlined "The Re-Barbarization of California." The Daily Caller grabbed it. So did Fox News's Laura Ingraham, who interviewed Rufo about his story. He has also captured the attention of liberals. He recently sparred with MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid on her show, visibly sighing as Reid explained the concept of whiteness to him.

Last summer, Rufo seemed to come from nowhere, arriving on the scene after a national uprising against racism to lead the charge against the supposed excesses of anti-racism education, branding it all with a once-obscure academic term: critical race theory. Armed with a prolific Twitter account and the backing of the conservative Establishment, he brandished "scoops" about the widespread infiltration of the theory and eventually caught the attention of the Trump White House. In short order, he had transformed himself from a limited kind of Twitter star to bona fide conservative influencer. The proof lies offline in the new moral panic he helped instigate. Republican operatives, legislators, and commentators, all professing concern for young hearts and minds, claim that children are being taught to hate white people.

A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal, Rufo didn't just bolt onto Twitter from the void. He is the product of a right-wing movement that has formed countless others from the same mold. A documentary filmmaker who graduated from Georgetown University's school of foreign service, Rufo possesses an impeccable conservative pedigree: Fellowships with unclear purviews litter his resume. A former visiting fellow for domestic-policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, Rufo was also once a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute alongside James O'Keefe of Project Veritas. Later, he worked for a little-known Christian think tank based in Seattle called the Discovery Institute, where he wrote frequently on the subject of homelessness. Before long, Rufo's interests combined in a new cause. After last summer's protests, he wrote a piece for City Journal comparing the diversity training conducted by the city of Seattle to "cult programming" that was picked up by the New York Post. A week later, he promoted a story about the Treasury Department that has since been debunked by the Washington Post. In Rufo's account, Treasury allegedly subjected workers to a radical diversity training that urged them to "accept their white racial superiority." In reality, the document Rufo cites as proof said no such thing.

Despite the flaws in his reporting, Rufo's profile grew, and by last September, he had appeared on Tucker Carlson's show to urge Trump to issue an executive order "abolishing critical race theory trainings from the federal government." Three days later, Trump's budget director sent out a memo relaying Trump's desire that federal agencies "cease and desist" funding diversity programs that allegedly trained "government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda," as Yahoo News reported at the time. Trump would later issue an executive order banning programs that, in the words of the budget director's memo, taught government employees that the "United States is an inherently racist or evil country or that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil."

Though he refers to himself as an investigative journalist, writing dramatically of whistleblowers and documents, Rufo is often responsible for propagating false or misleading accounts like the Treasury Department story and has arguably helped to incite a nationwide panic over the alleged presence of critical race theory in public schools, the federal government, and the workplace.

All facts are their enemy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Capitol rioter who demanded Pelosi be turned over to be lynched cites Bible in court defense (Tom Boggioni July 11, 2021, Raw Story)

According to a report from the Daily Beast's Kelly Weill, one of the Capitol rioters taken into custody by the FBI has chosen to represent herself on charges of multiple counts of violent entry, disruptive conduct, and obstruction of Congress -- and is citing the Bible as part of her defense.

Prosecutors maintain that Pauline Bauer, owner of a Pennsylvania pizza parlor, took part in the Jan 6th insurrection and reportedly told Capitol police "bring Nancy Pelosi out here now... we want to hang that f*cking b*tch."

Weill reports that Bauer is using a sovereign citizen defense -- saying she doesn't recognize the laws of the U.S. government -- and that she is operating under "divine guidance."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ashli Babbitt as the 21st-century Horst Wessel: Symbolic martyr to the fascist cause
 (MATTHEW ROZSA,  JULY 11, 2021, Salon)

There's a disturbing historical echo behind Trump and his supporters' effort to manipulate Babbitt's death this way, an echo also clearly referenced in Rod Serling's script for the "Twilight Zone" episode. That would be the case of Horst Wessel, who became for Hitler and the Nazi Party what Babbitt may now be for the Trump.

Born in the German city of Bielefeld in 1907, Wessel was a law school dropout who joined the SA or "brownshirts," the Nazi Party's paramilitary organization, during the waning days of the Weimar Republic in the late 1920s. He was perhaps more like a member of the contemporary Proud Boys or Oath Keepers; we still don't know how deeply Ashli Babbitt was involved with right-wing extremism. At any rate, Wessel impressed future Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, helped organize the Nazi youth movement in Vienna and staged or led numerous violent street clashes in Berlin with Communists -- the antifa of their day, more or less. Wessel fancied himself as a tough guy and sought out situations where he could act out his macho impulses. Given that, his death almost had elements of farce. After a dispute with his Communist landlady -- which was likely over unpaid rent, not politics -- Wessel was shot on the street by two other Communists on Jan. 14, 1930. He died in a hospital a few weeks later, three years before the Nazis took power in Germany.

Wessel looks like a distinctly mediocre individual in the historical rear-view mirror, but the Nazis transformed his life and death into legend. In a campaign approved by Hitler and led by Goebbels, Nazi propaganda outlets depicted him as a hero. His funeral procession was viewed by 30,000 people who lined the streets of Berlin. He become the subject of a major motion picture and was honored by numerous monuments and books. A song Wessel had written for the SA the year before he died, later universally known as the "Horst Wessel Song," became an unofficial anthem of the Third Reich: According to a 1934 law, every German citizen had to give the "Hitler greeting" upon hearing it. 

As far as we know, Ashli Babbitt didn't write a song and had no previous history of right-wing violence. But like Wessel, she cannot be described as a peaceful protester or even an overzealous advocate for a dubious cause. She died in a violent attack against democracy, as part of the first serious effort in American history to overturn an election by force. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


We've got the Neanderthals all wrong--and are now closer to them than ever (David Farrier, July 11, 2021, Prospect)

Such an empathetic representation may speak well of our times. According to archaeologist Clive Gamble, each age gets the Neanderthal that it either wants or deserves. Since they were first recognised as a distinct species in 1859, Neanderthals have tracked the prejudices, fears and hopes of succeeding generations. Charlie Chaplin's 1914 film His Prehistoric Past, featuring the little tramp as "Weak-chin" in a fur leotard and iconic bowler hat, mocked the caveman stereotype. In the Warner Brothers' 1963 cartoon Mad as a Mars Hare, space-travelling Bugs Bunny was changed into a brutish "Neanderthal Rabbit" by Marvin the Martian's ACME "time-space gun." In the peacenik days of the early 1970s, the discovery of pollen mixed among Neanderthal remains in northern Iraq led US archaeologist Ralph Solecki to propose they were the "first flower people." From the first discoveries at the height of European empire, right through to today's reappraisal as we stand on the cusp of a new age of extinction, when we have looked at our lost cousins, we have unwittingly revealed our own reflection.

The earliest discoveries tapped into bleak contemporary prejudices. Nana and Flint are based on skulls found in Gibraltar--Nana's in 1848 and Flint's in 1926. (Nana's was found before the breakthrough discovery in 1856 of a partial skull with pronounced brow-ridges, in Germany's Neander Thal--or "New man"--valley, although she wasn't recognised as belonging to a newly assigned distinct species until 1864.) Proponents of racial hierarchy seized on the striking difference in their skull shape as evidence of inferiority. Hermann Schaaffhausen, one of the discoverers of the Neander Thal fragment, said that it proved Neanderthals were a lower species of human, akin to "negroes" and "idiots." Thomas Huxley, who also examined the skull, declared that Neanderthals were a "primitive race" closer to Australian Aborigines than modern Europeans.  [...]

In Kindred, her fascinating 2020 study of Neanderthal biology and culture, Rebecca Wragg Sykes makes clear they were skilled stone workers and makers of composite tools. They wore clothes, possibly even shoes, and may have woven plants into three-ply thread. Neanderthal homes were furnished with plant-matter beds and animal-hide floor-coverings. They cooked meat; there's even evidence of wood fragments embedded in fossilised calculus that suggests they used toothpicks. They mixed pigments, favouring black, red, dark brown, and grey when decorating seashell ornaments and the walls of their dwellings. They adorned themselves with bird feathers, and cared for the sick and disabled. The oldest extant artworks we know of, cave paintings in Spain, were made by Neanderthals--as was the world's most ancient known structure, a ring of broken stalagmites assembled in Bruniquel, a cave in southern France, 174,000 years ago. Neanderthals may even have had a form of notation that recorded quantity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US alarmed as Saudi lawsuits threaten to expose secrets (The New Arab, 11 July, 2021)

The legal drama sheds light on Shakespearean rivalries in the top echelons of the Saudi royal family, but Washington fears that a bitter courtroom showdown risks exposing sensitive information related to its covert operations.

A rare US Justice Department filing in a Massachusetts court in April noted Aljabri's intention to "describe information concerning alleged national security activities".

"The (US) government is considering whether and how to participate in this action, including if necessary and applicable, through an assertion of appropriate governmental privileges," the filing said, without elaborating.

In a second filing a month later, the Justice Department asked the court for more time as national security matters require "'delicate' and 'complex' judgements by senior officials".

The filing said the government was prepared to "provide further information" to the court in secret.

Legal experts have said Washington could invoke the "state secrets privilege", which would allow it to resist a court-ordered disclosure of information deemed harmful to US national security.

When we violate our own ideals and conspire against democracy we ought to do so publicly, precisely because we are ashamed of ourselves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Europe escape Gazprom's energy stranglehold? (Deutsche-Welle, 7/11/21)

"Thus far, Gazprom has never really exerted pressure on its Western European buyer countries -- at least, it has never become known," he said. "If a precedent happened now, for the first time, this would have devastating consequences for Gazprom in the political debate."

For if Gazprom actually began "to exert overt pressure" in autumn, this would enormously fuel an already heated debate in Europe about the short-, medium- and long-term role of gas within the framework of decarbonization and strengthen the position of all those who champion a much quicker withdrawal from using natural gas, Lohmann told DW.

Russia's existential terror is entirely justified. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An edition of the Bible aimed at right-wing evangelicals has quietly scrubbed references to slavery and 'the Jews' (Paul Rosenberg, 7/11/21, Salon)

Long before Donald Trump made attacks against "political correctness" a key theme of his 2016 election campaign, evangelical leaders like Wayne Grudem, author of "Systematic Theology", have railed against it, particularly when they see it invading their turf -- with gender-neutral language in Bible translations, for instance. But a new study by Samuel Perry, co-author of "Taking America Back for God" (I've previously interviewed his co-author, sociologist Andrew Whitehead), finds Grudem himself involved in much the same thing.

"Whitewashing Evangelical Scripture: The Case of Slavery and Antisemitism in the English Standard Version," looks at how successive translations have changed in the English Standard Version of the Bible, for which Grudem serves on the oversight committee.

In revisions from 2001 through 2016, Perry shows, the word "slave" first gains a footnote, then moves to the footnote and then disappears entirely -- in some contexts, like Colossians 3:22, though not others -- to be replaced by the word "bondservant," which could be described as a politically correct euphemism. A similar strategy is used to handle antisemitic language as well, Perry shows.

Sola whatever... 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Argentina Beats Brazil 1-0 to Win Copa America, 1st Major Title in 28 Years (Reuters, July 11, 2021)

Brazil piled on the pressure in an exciting second half but even with five strikers on the field they could not get an equalizer against an Argentine defense protected by the outstanding Rodrigo De Paul.   

"First, we have to congratulate our opponents especially for the first half when they neutralized us," Brazilian defender Thiago Silva said. 

"In the second half, there was no contest -- only one team tried to play football, the other just wasted time as we knew they would. It's not an excuse, we didn't do what we had to, principally in the first half." 

Argentina's win was a particular triumph for Barcelona striker Messi, who picked up his first-ever title in a blue-and-white shirt after more than a decade of club and individual honors. 

The Argentine players surrounded their captain at the final whistle. Goalkeeper Emilian Martinez celebrated what he called a Maracanazo, a remarkable win at the famous Rio stadium.   

"I'm speechless," he said. "I knew my dream would come true, and where better than the Maracanazo and giving the title to the best in the world and fulfilling his dream." 

A comedy classic of flopping any time an opponent came within a yard half the time and actually getting spiked brutally the other half. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


There Is No Debate Over Critical Race Theory (Ibram X. Kendi, JULY 9, 2021, The Atlantic)

Republican operatives have buried the actual definition of critical race theory: "a way of looking at law's role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country," as the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who helped coin the term, recently defined it. Instead, the attacks on critical race theory are based on made-up definitions and descriptors. "Critical race theory says every white person is a racist," Senator Ted Cruz has said. "It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin," said the Alabama state legislator Chris Pringle. [...]

And now the Black Lives Matter demonstrators, cancel culture, the 1619 Project, American history, and anti-racist education are presented to the public as the many legs of the "monstrous evil" of critical race theory that's purportedly coming to harm white children. The language echoes the rhetoric used to demonize desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, in 1954.

In the 1950s and '60s, the conservators of racism organized to keep Black kids out of all-white schools. Today, they are trying to get critical race theory out of American schools. "Instead of helping young people discover that America is the greatest, most tolerant, and most generous nation in history, [critical race theory] teaches them that America is systemically evil and that the hearts of our people are full of hatred and malice," Trump wrote in an op-ed on June 18.

After it was cited 132 times on Fox News shows in 2020, critical race theory became a conservative obsession this year. Its mentions on Fox News practically doubled month after month: It was referred to 51 times in February, 139 times in March, 314 times in April, 589 times in May, and 737 times in just the first three weeks of June. As of June 29, 26 states had introduced legislation or other state-level actions to "restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism," according to Education Week, and nine had implemented such bans.

I have been called the father of critical race theory, although I was born in 1982, and critical race theory was born in 1981. Over the past few months, I have seldom stopped to answer the critiques of critical race theory or of my own work, because the more I've studied these critiques, the more I've concluded that these critics aren't arguing against me. They aren't arguing against anti-racist thinkers. They aren't arguing against critical race theorists. These critics are arguing against themselves.

What happens when a politician falsely proclaims what you think, and then criticizes that proclamation? Is she really critiquing your ideas--or her own? If a writer decides what both sides of an argument are stating, is he really engaging in an argument with another writer, or is he engaging in an argument with himself?

All you really need to know about teaching the history of race in America is that the Right thinks our history is perfect so race need not be mentioned. 

Of course, you couldn't teach Mr. Kendi's anti-racism book because he is as incoherent as his critics. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


 Peek Behind Boebert's Hilarious Sock Puppet Screwup (Mark Sumner, July 11 | 2021, AlterNet)

So, Lauren Boebert set up what's clearly a throwaway sockpuppet account to boost her own posts, retweet some decidedly odd comments about men, and to follow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (oh yes, Freedom Fighter follows AOC). But mostly what Boebert's sockpuppet points out is that there's a mystery out there that needs to be solved -- and it's all about a date.

Boebert's sockpuppetry was discovered by comedy writer Toby Morton in a way that's almost as hilarious as Morton's work on South Park. In a solid Karen moment, Boebert came to chase Morton away when he was filming a bit at a location that Boebert felt was too close to her Colorado bar. During this encounter, Boebert used her phone to video Morton. But where did that video actually pop out at a time when Boebert wanted to shore up her position in an argument with Morton? From @freedom53597835.

At the moment, Boebert is still feeding posts into the burner account in a hilario-pathetic effort to prove that it's so, so not her burner account. But, as the activists at Meidas Touch point out, the discovery of this account from Boebert only fires the starting gun for the real search--her other accounts. In particular, the Freedom Fighter account was created in February, meaning that it was created after the events of January 6 and after Boebert was aware that she had been accused of leading insurgents on tours of the Capitol that were designed to show them how to subvert the building's security.