November 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Muslim Americans make historic gains in 2022 midterm elections (Alejandra Molina, 11/11/22, RNS)

Nabeela Syed made history in this year's midterms when she defeated a Republican incumbent in Illinois' 51st District, making her the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly and among the first Muslims elected to the state Legislature.

"It is so important for us to have a seat at the table, for us to have a voice in the legislative process," Syed, a 23-year-old Indian American who is Muslim, told a local TV news reporter soon after her win. Syed recalled a conversation with a friend who said he never thought he'd see a name like hers on hundreds of yard signs in their community. [...]

Syed is among a cohort of new candidates who made history this year by becoming the first Muslim Americans to be elected to the state legislature in states like Texas, Illinois, Georgia and Minnesota. All of them are Democrats, many are women and a rising number are Somali Americans.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the 2022 midterms have been a historic election, tracking a record-breaking 145 American Muslim candidates running for local, state and federal office, including 48 state legislative candidates in 23 states.

As a result, more than 80 Muslim candidates won local, state, federal and judicial seats in over 20 states, according to a report from CAIR and the Jetpac Resource Center, a nonprofit that works to increase Muslim representation in U.S. government and politics. This signals the highest number of electoral wins among Muslim Americans since Jetpac and CAIR began tracking. In 2020, 71 were elected.

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Nearly three-quarters of Jewish voters think Trump and Maga are a 'threat to Jews in America', survey finds (Abe Asher, 11/11/22, Independent)

The J-Street survey found that 74 per cent of respondents view Mr Trump and the Maga movement as a threat to Jews in America, while 72 disapproved of AIPAC's endorsing and financially supporting candidates who voted against certifying the results of the last presidential election.

As many as 76 per cent of voters said they believe that Mr Trump and his allies in the Republican Party are directly responsible for rising anti-semitism and white supremacy in the US. Just last month, Mr Trump criticised American Jews in a social media post for being insufficiently appreciative of his support of Israel.

While American Jewish voters on average remain broadly supportive of Israel, they are not Israeli citizens and reject the notion driven by many on the right that criticism of the Israeli state is inherently anti-semitic. The overwhelming majority of respondent to the J-Street survey - 89 per cent - said a person can criticise the policies of the far-right Israeli government and still be "pro-Israel".

The survey also found that voters support the US's re-entering the Iran nuclear deal and still support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict roughly along the parameters laid out by the Barack Obama administration.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM


Democrats' Chances of a Senate Majority Just Got Brighter (DARRAGH ROCHE, 11/11/22, Newsweek)

Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, wrote on Twitter overnight: "I've seen enough: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) wins reelection in #AZSEN, defeating Blake Masters (R)."

Victory in Arizona would not hand Democrats control of the Senate, but the majority could be decided in Nevada, where Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is in a close race against Republican Adam Laxalt.

Laxalt led with 48.97 percent of the vote to Cortez Masto's 48 percent with 90 percent of ballots of counted, but analysis from poll tracker FiveThirtyEight suggests the race will break in the Democrat's favor.

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Demographics can help explain Israel's steady march to the far-right (Honaida Ghanim, 11 Nov, 2022, The New Arab)

The emerging alliance - between the Israeli right and extreme right - is expected to work tirelessly to achieve Israeli sovereignty over all of what it considers the "Land of Israel". The Palestinian question must be destroyed alongside the Palestinian presence, and Jewish supremacy between the "river and the sea" secured. The final stage may be the rebuilding of the Third Temple, which the Israeli right dreams of and considers its final goal and destination. While the religious-settler and nationalist right's plan is unlikely to happen in one fell swoop, they are definitely on track to achieving it.

"The election results reflect the ongoing process of Israel's ratcheting towards the right and far-right, and is linked to several overlapping factors which indicate that this bloc will continue gaining strength"
Rightwards march likely to continue if unopposed

Israel's right and far-right's hold on power will likely increase unless serious pressure is applied. This prediction is based on a series of demographic shifts, namely the growth of religious, Haredi, and Sephardic and Mizrahi groups, which have filled the void left by the decline of the secular Ashkenazi parties and elites i.e. the State of Israel's founders.

The secular Ashkenazi constituted 85 percent of the Jewish population immediately prior to Israel's establishment, with most ascribing to nationalist socialist politics. This percentage has plummeted: today the secularists (the majority Ashkenazi) form around 40 percent of Israel's Jewish population.

The starting point for these changes was the immigration of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East in the fifties, most of whom were conservative and religious. Today they form nearly half the Jewish population. The Mizrahi/Sephardic groups allied themselves with the Herut Party (the major conservative nationalist party from 1948 until it merged with Likud in 1988), driven by discriminatory policies adopted by the establishment elite towards them.

However, what started as a pragmatic alliance and protest vote against policies enacted by the establishment Mapai party, quickly became a strategic alliance between Likud and the Mizrahi/Sephardic groups. Likud took advantage - investing in identity politics and opening its doors to the Mizrahi/Sephardim, while Mapai had effectively barred their entry. Over time, a significant number of Mizrahi/Sephardim managed to advance to top positions in the party.

In Netanyahu's era a populist discourse was adopted alongside a language of incitement against the old-guard elite and "deep state institutions", which he considered biased to the founding elite. The conservative and marginalised classes of the Mizrahi and Sephardic communities became synonymous with supporting Likud and the right-wing; as well as Shas, a Haredi, religious, political party.

Then there is the settler bloc, today over 750,000-strong, alongside the ultra-orthodox Haredi bloc who today exceed 1,250,000, and who have gone through a process of ultra-right nationalist indoctrination and become an inseparable component of the right-wing camp.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Latinos support Democrats over Republicans 2-1 in House and Senate elections (Gabriel R. Sanchez, November 11, 2022, Brookings)

The Latino electorate was once again pivotal to election outcomes across the nation, including key Senate races in Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado. The 2022 Midterm Voter Election Poll, conducted by the African American Research Collaborative (AARC), has a large sample of Latino voters with enough samples from key states (n-400 per state) to explore important differences across the diverse Latino electorate.

Latino voters remained solidly Democratic in their voting preferences in 2022, with 64% of Latinos reporting that they voted for a Democratic house candidate, compared to 33% who reported they voted for Republican candidates. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Liz Cheney says 2022 midterm elections were a 'rejection' of Trump and a 'victory for team normal' (Sophia Ankel, 11/11/22, Business Insider)

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said Thursday that the 2022 midterm elections marked a "rejection" of former President Donald Trump and a "victory for team normal."

Speaking at an Anti-Defamation League event, Cheney ⁠-- a fierce Trump critic ⁠-- said the outcome of the elections was proof that people are "coming together to say we believe in democracy," per reports from The Hill, CNN, and others.

"Well, I think that it was a clear victory for team normal," Cheney said. "We believe in standing up for the Constitution, and for the Republic and a real rejection of the toxicity, and the hate, and vitriol, and of Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Chances of Finding COVID-Causing Virus Ancestor 'Almost Nil,' Virologists Say: A genome analysis finds SARS-CoV-2 and bat coronaviruses shared an ancestor just a few years ago, but extensive recombination has muddied the picture (Smriti Mallapaty, 11/11/22, Nature)

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably shared an ancestor with bat coronaviruses more recently than scientists had thought. But finding the direct ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 is very unlikely, say researchers.

The full genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and several closely related bat coronaviruses suggest they shared a common ancestor several decades ago. But the viruses are known to swap chunks of RNA with each other, a process called recombination, so each section has its own evolutionary history. In the latest analysis, presented at the 7th World One Health Congress in Singapore on 8 November, scientists compared fragments of coronavirus genomes. The analysis suggests that some sections of bat coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 shared a common ancestor as recently as 2016--just three years before the virus emerged in people in late 2019.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Inside the Justice Department's decision on whether to charge Trump in Mar-a-Lago case: "If Trump were anyone else, he would have already faced a likely indictment," said lawyer Bradley Moss, who represents intel agency workers in cases involving classified information (Ken Dilanian, 11/11. 22, NBC News)

In February, a week before the National Archives warned the Justice Department that former President Donald Trump had kept Top Secret documents at his Florida compound, Asia Janay Lavarello was sentenced to three months in prison. She had pleaded guilty to taking classified records home from her job as an executive assistant at the U.S. military's command in Hawaii. 

"Government employees authorized to access classified information should face imprisonment if they misuse that authority in violation of criminal law," said Hawaii U.S. Attorney Claire Connors, who did not accuse Lavarello of showing anyone the documents. "Such breaches of national security are serious violations ... and we will pursue them."

Cases like Lavarello's are a major part of the calculus for Justice Department officials as they decide whether to move forward with charges against the former president over the classified documents found in his Florida home, current and former Justice Department officials tell NBC News. In another example, a prosecutor advising the Mar-a-Lago team, David Raskin, just last week negotiated a felony guilty plea from an FBI analyst in Kansas City, who admitted talking home 386 classified documents over 12 years. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

People familiar with the deliberations of Attorney General Merrick Garland and his top aides say the AG does not believe it's his job to consider the political or social ramifications of indicting a former president, including the potential for violent backlash. The main factors in his decision, these people say, are whether the facts and the law support a successful prosecution -- and whether anyone else who had done what Trump is accused of doing would have been prosecuted. The sources say Justice Department officials are looking carefully at a cross section of past cases involving the mishandling of classified material.

It's a simple case of republicanism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


David Shor's (Premature) Autopsy of the 2022 Midterm Elections (Eric Levitz, 11/10/22, New York)

 In the past, you've argued that it's largely futile to try to change swing voters' policy preferences, at least within the time frame of a campaign. Your critics on the left argue that your view is unduly fatalistic: Rather than changing their policy positions to appeal to the median voter, Democrats should try to reframe the policy debate in a manner that gives them an advantage. 

In this case, Democrats did not change their position on abortion. Indeed, to the frustration of many pragmatists, they declined to hold an "up or down" vote on codifying Roe, but instead pushed a maximalist bill that would leave fewer restrictions on abortion than the pre-Dobbs status quo. And yet, despite this absence of moderation, the politics of abortion changed overnight. Which might suggest that Democrats can rapidly remake popular opinion on an issue if they only find the right way to politicize it. 

I think it's important to emphasize that what happened with abortion is extremely rare. It's very rare for party ownership of an issue to shift this rapidly. And I think it really boils down to this concept of "thermostatic" public opinion.

So, the president's party almost always does poorly in midterm elections. That's a very consistent pattern going back to the 1930s. And we see a similar phenomenon overseas. In local elections in England, or regional elections in France and Germany, the party with national power tends to do less well.

I think the best explanation of this comes from a paper by Joseph Bafumi, which basically found that voters like to balance out policy change. They just have a very strong sense of status-quo bias and loss aversion. And as a result, they react negatively to dramatic changes in policy. So when policy moves left, they move right. And when it moves right, they move left. Just as when the temperature goes up outside, you move the thermostat down, and vice versa.

You can see this in polling of whether the government has a responsibility to provide universal health care. Support for universal health care went up during the Bush Administration, then down as Obama tried to push Obamacare, and then up again when Trump tried to repeal Obamacare.

So the theory is: The reason why the party that controls the presidency does poorly in midterms is that voters are trying to balance out policy change by creating divided government. And I think what's really unique about this midterm cycle is that Republicans created a radical policy change -- and one that was quite unpopular -- without controlling the presidency or the legislature. And that allowed Democrats to plausibly run as the party that was going to make less change than the opposition, which is a super-unusual situation.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


November 10, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/10/22, Letters from an American)

What is clear is that there is a war erupting in the Republican Party. After former president Trump surged to an unexpected victory in 2016, there appeared to be a sense in the Republican Party that he had figured out how to mobilize previously unengaged voters to deliver victories to the Republican Party, and established Republicans increasingly rallied to his standard. 

But he has led the party to defeat now for the third time. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost control of the House, with Democrats picking up 41 seats. In 2020, of course, he lost the election, as well as control of the Senate. And while this year's outcome is not yet clear, the Democrats have had one of the best midterm performances in recent memory. Suddenly, Trump no longer seems to have a magic formula. 

White nationalist Nick Fuentes told his audience that the solution to the fact Republicans are in a minority and keep losing elections is to establish "a dictatorship." "We need to take control of the media or take control of the government and force the people to believe what we believe or force them to play by our rules." 

Others seem to think the answer is just to dump Trump, although as Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) warned Republicans in his closing argument in Trump's first impeachment trial: "If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel--and for all of history." 

That his star is tarnished became clear today not just on cable television and Twitter, where right-wing users complained about his hand-picked candidates, and in Pennsylvania, where Republicans were stung by the loss of a Senate seat, but also on media owned by right-wing kingmaker Rupert Murdoch. Today the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal noted Trump's perfect record of electoral defeat and said: "Trump is the Republican Party's Biggest Loser." 

Apparently stung, Trump unleashed a furious rant on Truth Social, claiming credit for DeSantis's start in politics. It included an astonishing claim: "I was all in for Ron, and he beat Gillum, but after the Race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County, and Ron was going down ten thousand votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win. I stopped his Election from being stolen...." 

This is an apparent reference to the 2018 election that put DeSantis in the governor's chair rather than his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum. The race was very close: just 32,463 votes out of 9 million cast, about 0.4%, separated the two candidates. Considering what we now know about Trump's approach to election results, a claim to having rigged the 2018 Florida election was one heck of a statement. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted that even though Trump "is a pathological liar... this requires some explanation, if only a clear and definitive confirmation that this did not happen."

Pundits are already suggesting Florida governor Ron DeSantis as a replacement for Trump as a presidential candidate in 2024. This is terribly premature. If, in fact, the party is going to move beyond the Trump years, it seems it might well not turn to DeSantis, who, among other things, is still under investigation for flying a plane load of legal migrants to Martha's Vineyard, an act not just cruel but possibly illegal. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


After months of stubborn inflation, glimmers of hope emerge (Jeanna Smialek, 11/11/22,  New York Times)

After stripping out food and fuel costs, both of which jump around, prices rose by 6.3% on an annual basis, down from 6.6% in the prior reading. And that core inflation measure pulled back sharply on a monthly basis, posting its slowest increase in more than a year.

The report provides early evidence that the Fed's campaign to slow rapid inflation may be helping to ease price pressures, working alongside recent healing in supply chains. The central bank has lifted interest rates from near zero to nearly 4% this year as it tries to slow consumer and business demand and give supply a chance to catch up.

Stocks surged on the news, as investors took it as a sign that Fed officials might raise rates less aggressively and inflict less economic pain in their quest to tame inflation. The S&P 500 soared 5.5%, its best one-day performance since April 2020, which marked the early market recovery from a coronavirus-induced meltdown.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


'Unstoppable' renewables help climate, security (Julien MIVIELLE, 11/10/22, AFP) 

The Ukraine war has led to a serious energy supply crunch and oil and gas price spikes that have forced especially European countries to quickly search for new suppliers as they head into winter.

"In the short term, this will have an impact," said La Camera, director general of IRENA.

"But in the medium and long term, there is no other way than to accelerate decarbonisation. Because ultimately renewables are not only good for the climate, jobs, GDP, but are a real way to ensure energy independence."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also highlighted the strategic aspect of a shift away from dependency on Russia and other oil and gas suppliers to clean and safe renewables. [...]

"The market is the engine," he said. "The market is already saying clearly that we are moving toward a system based on renewables and complemented by hydrogen, mainly green. No one can stop this progress."

Even under ex-president Donald Trump, "coal-fired power plants were already closing in the United States," said La Camera.

"The question is not where we are going but how fast and at what scale."

As Confucious said, since renewables are inevitable just lie back and enjoy them.
Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Jim Crow and Black Economic Progress After Slavery (Lukas Althoff & Hugo Reichardt, November 10, 2022, )

This paper studies the long-run effects of slavery and Jim Crow on Black Americans' economic outcomes. We trace each Black family's linked census and administrative records between 1850 and 2000 to measure how long they were enslaved and where they lived during Jim Crow. We show that Black families who were enslaved until the Civil War have considerably lower education, income, and wealth today than Black families who were free before the Civil War. The disparities between the two groups have persisted because most families enslaved until the Civil War lived in states with strict Jim Crow regimes after slavery. In a regression discontinuity design based on ancestors' enslavement location, we show that states' Jim Crow regimes sharply reduced Black families' economic progress in the long run, largely by limiting their access to education. Using quasi-experimental variation, we show that gaining school access closed 80 percent of the gap in human capital caused by exposure to strict Jim Crow regimes.

As Thomas Sowell has shown, black immigrants succeed at the same rates as white.  Depriving the enslaved and then freed generations of the typical immigrant experience retarded development as well, not just the maintenance of Jim Crow for a century.  This is the case for reparations.