November 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


Polio? Measles? Florida Is Flirting With an Anti-Vaccine Apocalypse: Thanks, DeSantis. (Kiera Butler, 11/05/22, MoJo)

Dr. Mobeen Rathore has spent the better part of his career trying to protect the children in his practice from contracting deadly diseases like measles, whooping cough, and polio. As chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, Rathore remembers a time--just a few decades ago--when vaccination levels in Duval County, in the northeastern part of the state where he works, were lower than those in some of the poorest countries in the world: In 2002, just 77 percent of Duval County two-year-olds were up to date on their shots. So, he and his colleagues at the health department launched an all-out vaccination effort, deploying public health campaigns and training pediatricians to have persuasive conversations with parents. Over the years, they saw their hard work pay off: In 2019, the vaccination rate for two-year-old children in Duval was an impressive 98 percent.

But now, the progress that Rathore and his team made appears to be eroding. This year's survey showed that the Duval vaccination rate has dropped to 92 percent. The pattern in Duval County appears to be even more pronounced for Florida at large. Before the pandemic, the state had been doing pretty well on its decades-long campaign to increase routine childhood immunization rates. An annual state health department survey released in January 2020 found that 93 percent of two-year-olds were up to date on their shots--a major improvement since the first survey of this kind in 2002, when the rate was just 73 percent. This year, the statewide rate had fallen to 81 percent.

If you aren't willing to sacrifice human life to own the libs do you even care about MAGA?

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


What the Pelosi Attack Says About a Post-Truth Church: Some evangelicals are endorsing political violence. It needs to stop. (RUSSELL MOORE, NOVEMBER 3, 2022, Christianity Today)

While all of this is going on, hordes of online commenters and conspiracy theory websites either deny the attack happened at all--as a "false flag" by the Deep State--or positively delight in the humor of it all. Many of them have "Christian. Husband. Father" or some similar designation in their social media bios.

All of this would be bad enough if it were simply happening in the "fog of disinformation." But even after the official Department of Justice affidavit was released with details from the police officers' interview with the alleged assailant--who admits to breaking into the Pelosi home to harm the Speaker--where are the apologies for spreading the lies? Where is the shame at delighting in what could easily have turned into murder?

When looking at some of the responses to the Pelosi beating, Mona Charen asked, "What the hell is wrong with these people?" The answer, of course, is hell.

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that "the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6). He goes on to say to the churches that "bitter envy and selfish ambition" lead to "deny[ing] the truth," and that leads to "disorder and every evil practice" (vv. 14-16).

This imagery of fires from hell shows just how much damage can be done by lies and how easily they can burn out of control. The threat of political violence hangs over our country in ways perhaps not seen since the fiery days of the 1960s.

Indeed, the situation could easily become even more intense. After all, people back then didn't have social media incentives for getting attention through character degradation--the kind that could lead large numbers of people to communicate sympathy with Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, or Sirhan Sirhan.

Where does much of this violence or the threat of it come from? Lies. The idea that the election was stolen by a vast conspiracy of liberals is a lie. That elected officials are part of a secret cabal to drink the blood of babies is a lie. That Jews are pulling the strings of the "globalist" order is a lie. That the federal government designed COVID-19 as a hoax is a lie. That your pastor is a "cultural Marxist" for preaching what the Bible teaches on race and justice is a lie.

What's worse, many of the people spreading such lies know them to be lies.

God is a God of truth, and he commands against both the bearing of false witness and the taking of human life. Jesus himself said the devil "was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

The apostle Paul, too, points to the connection between lies and murder when he speaks of people under the power of sin as those whose "tongues practice deceit" and whose "feet are swift to shed blood" (Rom. 3:13-15).

We are in a precarious and dangerous time, and what's worse, we've become more accustomed to all of it. In early December 2020, when a Republican election official from Georgia called for an end to lies about a stolen election, he warned, "Someone's going to get shot; someone's going to get killed." A little over a month later, police officers were beaten at the United States Capitol. People were chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" And, yes, people were yelling out, "Where's Nancy?"

Is this really the sort of society in which we want to live? Is this really the United States of America we want to leave to our children? And, more importantly, is this the witness of the church we want to display?

The Right prefers its ideology to faith; the rest of us need not pretend they can meld both.

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


Bolsonaro Isn't Playing His Trump Card For Now: Brazil seems on track to ensure a peaceful transfer of power (Tom Shull, 11/04/22, UnPopulist)
In September, The UnPopulist brought you a column by Magno Karl of Livres, a Brazilian classical liberal organization, on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who's been dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics." The nickname, while apt, isn't exact: Unlike Donald Trump, Bolsonaro served in the military, and he was repeatedly elected to political office (as a member of Brazil's National Congress) before winning the presidency.

But as Karl detailed, Bolsonaro's rise was Trumpian: He gained public attention through minor TV fame and provocative and divisive comments. He generated political momentum through the aggressive use of social media, through claims to be an "outsider" who would reform a corrupt political system, and through the mobilization of conservative Christians' support despite no obvious religious convictions of his own. [...]

Seeking insight, UnPopulist Editor-at-Large Tom Shull conducted an interview with Karl this week about his prognosis for Brazil in the days ahead. The interview, which appears below, has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tom Shull: President Bolsonaro has finally spoken publicly about Sunday's presidential election, nearly two days after he was declared the loser in his reelection bid against Workers' Party candidate Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva. There were fears that Bolsonaro would dispute his very narrow loss to "Lula," as da Silva is known, and employ some stratagem to stay in office. Where do things stand now?

Magno Karl: Bolsonaro's two-day silence after his defeat was broken by a short speech on Tuesday, when his supporters were already blocking highways in more than 100 locations, in more than 10 states, around the country. In his speech, he acknowledged his followers' feelings of "indignation and injustice," but he didn't say that the election results were illegitimate, and he told the protesters that they shouldn't be like the leftists, engaging in vandalism or trespassing on people's property. 

He did not mention the elections, except to thank people for their votes. It was not a standard concession speech: There was no gracious mention to the winner, nor an order for the protesters to go home. It wasn't what people would expect from a solid democracy, but neither was it a call for resistance.

Between Sunday night, when the election results were confirmed, and Bolsonaro's speech on Tuesday afternoon, many other important players in Brazilian politics had spoken, including the heads of the Electoral Justice, the Deputies' Chamber (Congress' lower house) and the Senate (Congress' upper house). They all accepted the election's results. Just as in the election's first round, on Oct. 2, last Sunday's voting occurred without any major incident. It was then hard for Bolsonaro to make a case against its results.

His team did try to raise questions about the number of advertisement spots that his campaign should have received on a few local radio stations. In the week before the election's second round, Brazil's communications' minister called around to the media and spoke about the topic, but later it became clear that if there were any mistakes about the radio advertisements, they had come from Bolsonaro's campaign itself.

So there would have been no grounds for Bolsonaro to try to cling to power, and there would have been no support in the Brazilian political establishment, media or any institutions for such a move--not even the military. Not a single member of the armed forces came out against the election results.

Pretty sad when Republicans can learn about democratic maturity from Latin america.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


PODCAST: Russ Muirhead on the Enduring Appeal of Conspiracy Theory: Yascha Mounk and Russ Muirhead discuss what it is like for a political theorist to turn into a legislator and how to speak to voters who don't already agree with you. (Yascha Mounk, 11/04/22, Persuasion)

Russ Muirhead is the Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics at Dartmouth College and a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. His latest book, co-authored with Nancy Rosenblum, is A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy.

In this week's conversation, Yascha Mounk and Russ Muirhead discuss how legislators can find sensible compromise even amidst vehement disagreement, why we misunderstand the popularity of conspiracy theories, and what Democrats can do to broaden their coalition and defeat right-wing populists.

The views expressed are those of the speakers, not those of Persuasion. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Yascha Mounk: I've known you for many years, but you only recently became an elected official. 

What's it been like going from studying and teaching politics to being a state legislator in New Hampshire?

Russ Muirhead: It's a lot of fun. Sitting in a legislature is like being back in school. I learn so much every day. Any political scientist would probably love serving in the legislature for a couple of years, if they could possibly manage it. 

There's a difference between activism politics, movement politics and legislative politics. In movement politics, it's often about activating like-minded people, coming together, forming a movement. That has an essential place in democratic reform. But legislative politics is about brokering disagreement from the beginning. There's no legislature that's defined just by a movement. There's always more than one party or more than one faction in the legislature. So, legislative politics are about doing politics under conditions of disagreement. 

There's a kind of "right answer" mentality in politics--that the right answers are there, and it's just about authorizing and empowering them. A lot of people in the legislature have that mentality. They kind of think, "if our side just didn't encounter any obstacles, we would be able to legislate the right answers, and the world would be permanently improved as a result of that." And, you know, the phrase that my co author, Nancy Rosenblum, used in the title of one of her books is On the Side of the Angels. It's incredibly tempting to think that about your side. 

But there's a kind of wisdom that comes from political activity. It might come just from looking at the details of policy. This is the realization that there are no right answers. Very rarely do we face a question to which there exists just a right answer, a great answer. We're always, in politics, in a world of "second best", at best.

Mounk: You just made me realize something that I hadn't thought about before: a parallel between two different institutions in our democracies. One quintessentially democratic institution is an adversarial legal system, in which somebody makes the case for prosecution and somebody makes the case for defense. Now, by and large, people who are part of that system understand that they're gonna really strongly play one of these roles. But you need both roles for the system to come to the right results. 

Now, in a way, parliaments were conceived of as a similar thing. You don't try to suppress factions: you try to organize and verbalize them in the hope that the debates between them and the clashes between them lead to policy that's closer to the public good. But that doesn't really seem to be people's self-understanding, most of the time.

Muirhead: You're putting your finger on something really important about making politics work in the United States. The very best lawyers always understand the other side: they understand the other's case. They can try the case on the other side and do a great job because they know the weaknesses of their own side. It's a very bad lawyer who doesn't know how to make the case on the other side. Well, in politics, we have a lot of people--a lot of Democrats--who look across and think, "why are there Republicans? Because people are evil, because people are frail and self interested--a bunch of privileged people who are trying to defend their privilege." And the Republicans look at the Democrats and see a bunch of self-serving cultural elites, professors like me, and people who don't want to work; people who are "takers, not makers." And they think, "Well, the world would just be much better off if we didn't have that side." 

We've taken a very, very giant step toward delegitimizing the other side. But also, we've made it more difficult for us to understand our own weaknesses, to answer for them, to guard against them, and to build a real coalition.

And I don't mean to compress politics to just two sides. But let's just work with that. If you're a progressive, and you can't give an account of what conservatism really looks like, and what a conservative party ought to be, then you're driving with your eyes closed, and you're gonna make it harder, paradoxically, to build your party, because you can't take those little bits of wisdom from the conservative side and try to acquire them. 

Mounk: The second point that you're insinuating is that being able to give a fair account of what the other side believes actually helps win elections. Why is that? 

Muirhead: It would help Democrats win elections if they could understand and give a better account of conservatism than most conservatives could offer. We operate under a framework of constitutional rules. Now, you and I, as political-legal thinkers, might have a better constitution in mind for a country like the United States than the one that the United States actually possesses. So, let's just put aside our ideals for a moment. We've got the Constitution: it has the Senate, in which the states are represented. Meanwhile, progressives are geographically very clustered. And so for the progressive party to build a majority, they need to create a geographically dispersed majority, they need to appeal to people outside of Boston and San Francisco. You need a durable, extensive and diverse majority to rule under our  constitution, and there's no way to do that without creating a really cacophonous, heterogeneously diverse--or, as we like to say, "inclusive"--majority. Purity rituals are not going to get us there. The deepening conviction that the way you think is the perfect way to think, and that your party isn't actually a party, it's really the side of the angels, doesn't get you there either. What does get you there is a really capacious political imagination, where you can close your eyes and imagine how the world looks to somebody who sees it from the other side of the political fray. Only then can you start to, like I said, not just manipulate people who disagree with you, but actually capture some of the pieces of wisdom and insight that the other side has and bring them over to your side, mix them in with your philosophy to get something that can elect 54 senators. 

Mounk: What does it take for Democrats to be able to win in Indiana or Missouri, or perhaps in one of the Dakotas? And to anticipate one of the frequent objections to this: Am I just saying that we should throw in our cards and give up on anything that's important to progressives? 

Muirhead: I think that the real defect in American politics right now is a lack of ambition. Both sides want to win the next election, and only the next election, and they're content to win it just barely. I see this absence of ambition as even more definitive on the Republican side than the Democratic. It's always easier to see the flaws in your opponents; but trying to disenfranchise people on the margin, so that you can get that 0.4% advantage and barely win the congressional seat in a swing district--I mean, that wasn't the way Ronald Reagan thought about American politics. He took his conservatism to the country, he argued for it. I found it unconvincing and, in many ways, repellent--but he won 49 states after serving for one term. And that was a reflection of not just his capacity as a speaker, but of his ambition. 

The last Republican I saw who had that ambition was Karl Rove, when he helped get George W. Bush elected in 2000. We're going to try to build a "durable governing majority"--that's a quote that sent chills up the spines of liberals all over the country when they read it. And he wanted to make conservatism compassionate: he took this thing from the progressive side, compassion, and tried to acquire it for conservatism. What liberals need to do is exactly that. Democrats tend to speak the language of equality, and less the language of virtue or distinctiveness or deservingness.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


State Revenues Continue Strong for First Third of Fiscal Year (GARRY RAYNO, 11/05/22,

State revenues continue to perform ahead of what budget writers estimated for the first third of the 2023 fiscal year.

For October state levies produced $165 million in revenues with business taxes, the room and meals tax and interest earnings producing most of the $42.7 million in surplus for the month.

October's total is also 17.5 million more than the state collected a year ago, when the year's revenue surplus was over $400 million.

For the first four months of the 2023 fiscal year, state revenues total $770.2 million, which is $132 million more than estimates and $23.7 million than a year ago.

Business taxes produced $41 million in October, which is $22.6 million over estimates and $14.6  million more than a year ago.

According to the DRA, the largest contributor is estimates being up 26 percent over the same month a year ago.

For the year to date, business taxes have produced $298.8 million, which is $75 million more than estimates and $13.1 million more than a year ago.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


A church draws families together across the US-Mexico border. A wall pushes them further apart. (Annalisa Quinn, 11/04/22, Boston Globe)

TIJUANA, Mexico -- The Border Church, or La Iglesia Fronteriza, is not a building -- or if it is, it only has a single wall. Instead, it is a weekly, bilingual, interdenominational service held simultaneously on either side of the US-Mexico border.

On the Tijuana side, under El Faro, the city's iconic white lighthouse, a group of about 50 gathers each week. Many are people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador fleeing gang violence or poverty. The church is a place where they come to pray, to receive help with asylum claims, and to find some solidarity with others hoping to reach the United States. Others are deportees from America, often people who came from Mexico as children and were sent back as adults to a country they hardly knew.

Almost by definition, the people gathered in Tijuana are in a state of flux. Guillermo Navarrete, the church's lay pastor, sometimes looks at them and sees invisible questions hanging over their heads, he said. "What will happen? What about me?"

Through gaps in the wall, the other half of the congregation -- Americans who join in solidarity or because of a family connection in Mexico -- is just visible in San Diego, about a hundred feet away across a no-man's land surveilled by cameras mounted on high white towers. The barrier, made up of rusted steel shafts, runs down the beach and into the Pacific Ocean.

Today, because of the distance separating them, the two halves of the congregation communicate mostly by WhatsApp calls or Facebook Live. But when the group first began to hold irregular services in the early 2000s, the collection of fences and dead space and watchtowers we call "the wall" was just one fence, with spaces big enough to pass the sacrament between.

Eventually, a new fence with a wire-mesh barrier was installed, and congregants from both sides could only exchange a "pinky kiss" with the pads of their smallest fingers. A second fence was also installed on the US side, some 50 yards from the first, such that congregants and others who come to meet family and friends across the border can now hardly see or hear each other, let alone touch.

"The body and blood of Christ became contraband," said Seth David Clark, the church's pastoral director on the US side, who has written a book about the church.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Who knew huckleberries were a real fruit? (Jenna Russell, , 11/05/22, Boston Globe)

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. -- Before he landed here for the summer, scooping ice cream and steaming cappuccinos just outside the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Mustafa Ceren was not familiar with the huckleberry.

It did not take long for him to grasp the critical importance of the elusive fruit.

"Vanilla, chocolate, huckleberry," the affable 23-year-old declared through the window of his takeout ice cream stand. "That's the classics."

No one born east of the Mississippi would agree; indeed, it is questionable how many easterners would even recognize the huckleberry as a real thing. (I confess that for years -- many years -- I thought "huckleberry" was a cute country nickname for some familiar fruit, like raspberry, or a catch-all term for a jumble of mixed berries.)

But here, in the gateway to the Great Northwest, the huckleberry is both real and king -- a finicky, mercurial king who refuses to grow in captivity and thrives only in precise alpine conditions.

A century of efforts to tame it have failed. Turf wars have broken out over coveted, productive swaths of its habitat. And as the frozen product fetches $30 per pound on Amazon, the huckleberry exerts a magical pull on the customers who line up outside Espresso West.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


French lawmaker suspended after shouting, 'Go back to Africa,' in Parliament (Ellen Francis and Rick Noack, 11/04/22,  Washington Post)

Carlos Martens Bilongo, a 31-year-old Black lawmaker who represents a district north of Paris, was addressing the National Assembly, or lower house, about migrants stranded at sea, when another member of Parliament, Grégoire de Fournas, 37, interrupted him and shouted that someone should ''go back to Africa.''