Monday, August 03, 2020

Sports First



"If you're eager to have football come back this fall," tweets Adam Jacobi about an Indiana University freshman offensive lineman, "please read this."


Image



Some colleges obviously have gotten the message, for

Late this spring, colleges and universities issued a wave of announcements: they would be opening -- er, intending to open -- their campuses this fall.

Plans were laid for early departures, scheduled showers, small group cohorts and a half-full campus. Plexiglas was bought and tents erected.

Now, many universities are reversing their plans, announcing both online courses and closed campuses....

College presidents in their announcements have pointed to rising cases, quarantine requirements for their states and restrictions by governors as reasons for their turns to online learning. In some jurisdictions K-12 schools are likely to be remote, creating childcare concerns for staff members with children. Behind the scenes, faculty have been waving red flags about their own participation on campus, with many professors insisting that they should not be forced to teach in person.

Outbreaks have occurred on numerous campuses among staff members or athletes. The New York Times, in a survey of four-year publics and research institutions, has connected more than 6,600 COVID-19 cases, likely an undercount, to roughly 270 American universities.

Bill Maher on Real Time has a recurring segment he calls "I don't know it for a fact- I just know it's true." I don't know it for a fact but I know it's true. Universities have been tempted to open their campuses (and some still plan to do so) because of professional sports.

The National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League have resumed their seasons, thus far relatively smoothly. Major League Baseball has begun a new season, not smoothly, and the Big Kahuna, the National Football League is planning its new season.

"Sports are like the reward of a functioning society," recognizes Washington Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle. This society is not functioning but, well, money talks and the show must go on, no matter the impact upon life and death.

Colleges and universities, especially their athletic programs (as the Ruckers sadly have learned), feel the pressure. And most either are opening their physical sites or planned to do so and are now pulling back. Kudos for those who recognized their mistake and those with the foresight not to have made it at all. Like professional sports, the others worship the god of profit, and people will suffer for it.

  

 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Disqualifying Mistake


With Joe Biden apparently ready to make the announcement- now delayed- of his choice of a running mate

Conservative news outlet The Daily Caller circulated a video of Bass’ comments on Friday. In the clip, Bass — who was then the speaker of the California State Assembly — addressed congregants at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a renovated Scientology church in Los Angeles.

She lauded the church and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, for its humanitarian efforts, saying, “The Church of Scientology, I know, has made a difference, because your creed is a universal creed and one that speaks to all people everywhere. That is why the words are exciting of your Founder L. Ron Hubbard, in the creed of the Church of Scientology: That all people of whatever race, color or creed are created with equal rights.

Many thanks to The Daily Caller, which seems with its clip from 2010 to have saved the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate from at least major embarrassment. Nevertheless, one tweeter demands "Hey people who hate Cancel Culture. is it okay for this shit to be a deal breaker? Cuz for a lot of people it is. Let's see you idiots defend the cult of Scientology.

Yes, it is.  Signers of the tremendous "Harper's letter" properly lament the suppression of free expression because

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.

There is, however, no constitutional right to be the nominee of one of the two major political parties for vice president of the USA, nor to be a heartbeat away from the presidency of a man in his late '70s. Joe Biden promised only that his running mate would be female; it strains credulity to believe there is no qualified woman who has not so praised a dangerous cult. Reduce the universe of possibilities to accomplished black women, and there still should be satisfying options.

We are reminded

The Church of Scientology has been accused by former members of abuse, human trafficking, forced labor and intimidation. Though most of these allegations have surfaced in more recent years, some ex-members had already begun to speak out prior to Bass’ remarks at the California church.

In her statement, Bass said she’d been aware in 2010 that she would be addressing a “group of people with beliefs very different than my own.” Her intention, she said, had been to touch on “an area of agreement in their beliefs — where all people, of whatever race, color, or creed are created with equal rights.”

Since her speech, “published first-hand accounts in books, interviews and documentaries” have exposed the church and “everyone is now aware of the allegations against Scientology,” Bass said.

Notice "allegations." They are numerous and they are more than allegations.  Bass might as well have said "some have criticized the organization but I'm not going to be one of them." In fact, she virtually did so:

The congresswoman stressed, however, that her 2010 address had focused on “things I think most of us agree with ... respect for different views, equality and fighting oppression.”

With regards to those values, she said, “my views have not changed.”

Anti-Scientology activist is too generous:

Bass has only barely distanced herself, maybe from a couple of feet to a couple of yards. She still stands behind an organization which a German government agency recognized as early as 2010 (the year of the congresswoman's speech) "rejects the democratic system; its long-term goal is a social order in which it is the sole authority."  The previous year, ABC News had exposed the non-church.



 


The Scientology "Church" operates a concentration camp called "The Hole" at its California headquarters but Bass shares its "respect for different views, equality, and fighting oppression." (It is also grotesquely anti-gay; maybe that would get the Democratic congresswoman's attention.)


 


It is now 2020, ten years after Karen Bass publicly promoted the (not a church) Church of Scientology. She could have admitted that she was wrong back then. Alternatively, she might have maintained that it is had some legitimate aims but has turned into a dangerous cult. She did neither and if Joe Biden has any sense, has eliminated herself from contention as either a governing partner or effective national candidate.


Saturday, August 01, 2020

Serendipity


The most interesting, albeit uninformative, exchange in the hearing conducted by House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Friday took place between Dr. Anthony Fauci and Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio. 

An advocate- finally- of wearing a mask and promoting social distancing, Fauci made the rather obvious observation "Crowding together, particularly when you’re not wearing a mask, contributes to the spread of the virus."

While Fauci's objectives were to encourage responsible behavior and to avoid controversy, Jordan's aims were threefold: 1) to criticize Democrats; 2) to undermine the efforts made by the more aggressive states to curtail spread of the coronavirus; and 3) to criticize recent protests against police brutality. He concluded

Protesting, particularly according to the Democrats is just fine, but you can’t go to work. You can’t go to school. You can’t go to church. There’s limits placed on all three of those fundamental activities, First Amendment activities, but protesting is just fine.

Fauci, however, would not satisfy the congressman's itch, refusing either to criticize the protests or to acknowledge support for them, which would have the doctor to criticism that he is a liberal, a Democrat, anti-Trump, or evil combination thereof.


 

A couple of Democrats on the committee, Twitterati, and centrist and left-of-center pundits everywhere happily noted that studies have found that the black lives matter protests did not lead to an increase in the deadly disease.

Those findings are, or would have been, counter-intuitive. Although the vast majority of demonstrators wore masks and the protests obviously took place outdoors, social distancing was extremely rare. Researchers at the private non-profit National Bureau of Economic Research conducted a study, not peer-reviewed, of the 281 large USA cities which experienced protests and the 34 which did not. The study found that it

is almost certain that the protests caused a decrease in social distancing behavior among protest attendees, we demonstrate that effect of the protests on the social distancing behavior of the entire population residing in counties with large urban protests was positive. Likewise, while it is possible that the protests caused an increase in the spread of COVID-19 among those who attended the protests, we demonstrate that the protests had little effect on the spread of COVID19 for the entire population of the counties with protests during the more than three weeks following protest onset.

Black Lives Matter protests may

be viewed as dangerous by non-attendees due to the occasional presence of violence, including police response to these protests, and elicit avoidance behavior. There are other possible explanations for our findings as well, such as avoiding travel outside the home due to additional traffic congestion or street closures, or due to lack of available activities from businesses closures near protest sites. Additionally, non-attendees may perceive a higher risk of COVID-19 infection due to the protests and choose to stay home.

The researchers acknowledge the possibility that there may have been a rise in infection among the actual attendees, who are relatively young and thus less likely to exhibit symptoms and who thus would not show up in Covid-19 statistics. However, they do believe that social distancing actually increased in the cities which experienced the protests and that therefore the incidence of the disease was no higher than it would have been had there been no demonstrations.

Presumably, Dr. Fauci is aware of this and if not, should pay more attention. He could have explained all this to Jim Jordan, hence to the committee, hence to the television audience, and to the country. It could have been what is typically, patronizingly referred to as a "teaching moment," explaining that social distancing and wearing masks are both important, as is being outdoors if in a group of individuals. Instead, he chose the classic "no comment" mode, maintaining the adoration of the media and of the left without incurring the ire of President Trump. Not bad for a day's work.




Friday, July 31, 2020

No Power?


 This is precious:
 

Also this:

You may have heard of the US Constitution’s emolument clause, which in Section 9 of Article I declares

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

Further, you may have noticed that Trump violates this clause daily, at least $971,000- and counting- having been transferred from taxpayers to the President’s private businesses.



So the Constitution means nothing to Donald Trump, unless he can cite, or twist, it to support actions he’d take anyway. However, the GOP might not even need the Constitution in order to delay the election.   Steve M points out that the National Constitution Center has found

Three opinions from the Congressional Research Service explain scenarios about the possible delays in the presidential election process. One report, released last month, indicates a state under its own laws could postpone the general election date that results in the selection of electors; in the election this year that date is Tuesday, November 3, 2020. At least 45 states have statutes that deal with election day emergencies, the CRS says.

Steve M goes on to explain

There are several states in which Republicans fully control the government but voters might prefer Joe Biden to Donald Trump -- Florida, Arizona, and possibly Georgia and Texas. There are other possible Biden states in which Republicans control the legislature -- Pennsylvia, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin. What might happen in those states?

Trump may also sign an Executive Order, such as he has on 213 occasions thus far, this one to delay the election. That might well be overturned by the federal courts, eventually reaching the US Supreme Court. Even though fast-tracked, the issue would not be settled overnight. Meanwhile, Trump might encourage his goons- such as those who came armed to several state capitols a few months ago to protest state closure regulations- to take to the streets. And as we learned from dispatch of DHS forces to Portland, Oregon, the President has at his command resources to use and abuse.

It’s not likely it would come to any of that. If Trump believes in mid and late October that he will win, he’ll have little incentive to delay the election.  If the election is very competitive, he’s likely to let it go forward (with, of course, GOP voter suppression) because he’d rather win an election than not, and not go full authoritarian until he’s granted a second term. However, if he appears to be a sure loser, Donald Trump will find some way at least to try to postpone the election, especially because the longer a vote is delayed, the more likely it is that a vaccine for Covid-19 will be ready.

In this election, Donald Trump has a lot at stake- the opportunity to leverage his power into ever greater personal fortune; his ability, absent a pardon from President Biden, to remain unindicted; and the potential to shape the USA into the sort of authoritarian state favored by TayyipErdogan, Xi Jinping, and Vladimir Putin.  We know for sure only that the United States Constitution would not deter the self-designated Chosen One.



Thursday, July 30, 2020

A Simple Explanation


Reactions in liberal twiterverse to campaign news earlier this week were not surprising:


Joe Biden served loyally as vice-president to a president whom many, if not most, Democrats believe walks on water. Even then, Biden declined to run for President in the 2016 election cycle (excellent timing, as it turns out).




It may not be sensible to take advice about brotherhood from a guy who believes old people are "crusty" and uses white as a pejorative. 

But my favorite is from the woman who responded merely "Because it's a black woman."

The names which are believed to comprise Biden's current short list are Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Val Demings, Susan Rice, and Karen Bass. Each of the last three is black (and unlike Harris, on both sides of the family). All are women. And none has been attacked as excessively ambitious.

The notion that only blacks, or only women, or only black women are labeled "ambitious" or "opportunistic" would surprise Robert F. Kennedy, assassinated in June, 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the night of his victory in the California primary.  The Guardian has noted that only a month earlier, 67% of voters in a Gallup poll "saw him as an opportunist." Another word commonly applied to the white man from New York State was "ruthless."

In a famous exchange between Harris and Biden in a June, 2019 Democratic presidential debate 

There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school everyday, and that little girl was me,” she said.

Moments after the exchange, her campaign tweeted a photo of a young Harris and an accompanying caption that read: “There was a little girl in California who was bused to school. That little girl was me.” 

And the kicker was that Harris had attacked Biden for having the same position on busing that she held. In a post sometime after the debate I wrote (typed)


The former vice-president maintained

I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed. I did not oppose-

After Harris reminded him that she was bused to school in Berkeley, California, Biden responded "because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision" and Harris countered with "so that's where the federal government must step in."

To summarize: Biden said that he supported busing to achieve school integration only if ordered by the local government, whereas Harris supported it even when ordered by the federal government.  Following the Senator's spontaneous, heartfelt message, by the next morning a supporter could buy for $29.99 to $32.99 a t-shirt reading "That Little Girl Was Me," which featured "a picture of a young Harris against a black backdrop." Six days later, however

“I think of busing as being in the toolbox of what is available and what can be used for the goal of desegregating America’s schools,” Harris said. After a reporter asked Harris to clarify whether she supports federally mandated busing, she replied, “I believe that any tool that is in the toolbox should be considered by a school district.”

Busing to achieve school integration was fine by both Biden and Harris- as long as the decision was made by the school district itself.




Before flaming out, Harris raised a huge amount of money from an encounter which- on her part- was in retrospect stunningly dishonest. There is only one reason- not race or gender- that some Democratic heavyweights believe the California senator should be considered unacceptably ambitious. It's because she is.



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Yes, Russia, Russia, Russia

That's an issue which many people said was fake news," President Trump told Axios' Jonathan Swan on Tuesday, 7/28/00..

That was in response to Swan raising the issue of intelligence report(s) that Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. And so, in honor of the President, I will note that "many people say that Donald Trump is stupid."

Donald Trump embodies more sins and shortcomings than almost any American alive. However, actual stupidity is not one of them. Swan reports

In 2018, Gen. John Nicholson, then the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, accused Russia of providing money and arms to the group, saying, "we know that the Russians are involved."

Trump told “Axios on HBO” that he was not aware of Nicholson’s comments, and said evidence that Russia was aiding the Taliban “never reached my desk.”



Well, yes, but he stated also "I have heard that, but again it's never reached my desk." Because he wasn't informed, Trump eludes responsibility but cannot be accused of being daft, suffering from dementia, or having advisors so worried about his response (or lack thereof) that they'd keep critical information from him.

Additionally, the President never actually claimed that he wasn't advised of the intelligence, instead contending it "never reached my desk." That may be accurate because the intelligence report may never have been placed upon his desk. Trump may have learned a thing or two about splitting hairs from Bill Barr, for whom it works very well in congressional testimony.

(Something to look forward to whenever the USA gets its first female President: most women are not as prone to using such deceptive colloquialisms.)

It also may be splendid timing on the part of the President. Swan effectively questioned the President on the intelligence report about Putin's Russia. But the interview took place on Tuesday and thus the Axios guy didn't have the opportunity to ask the interviewee about the military's announcement on Wednesday that the USA will

cut by about a third the 36,000-strong U.S. troop contingent in Germany, faulting the close U.S. ally for failing to meet NATO’s defense spending target and accusing it of taking advantage of the United States on trade.

 “We don’t want to be the suckers any more,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday about the decision. “We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills; it’s very simple.

President Trump thereby nurses his grudge against the country which is the largest (aside from the USA) contributor of developmental and military support to Afghanistan. It's "a slap in the face to a friend and ally," Senator Romney notes, and it further weakens the trans-Atlantic alliance, a major foreign policy tactic of Trump's friend and ally in the Kremlin.

It's highly unlikely that Trump had specifically asked the military to hold off on its announcement. Yet, the timing of the announcement benefits the commander-in-chief, an individual skilled at making known his desires and smart enough to understand their importance.



Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Not Such A Big Tent



This unusually popular governor is regarded as one of "the good ones," a moderate, anti-Trump Republican who advocates "a bigger tent party." The Hill notes

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), a frequent critic of President Trump, said Monday that while he was unsure whether he would vote for the president in November, he would not rule it out.

Asked by conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt whether he intended to vote for the president, Hogan replied “Like everybody else, I get to go into the voting booth and pull the lever for the person that I think is going to do the best job. And we’re going to figure that out in the next 100 days.”

“I’m going to try to make that decision like everybody else in America. I think we’ve got a long way to go,” Hogan said. “And I think right now, if the election were held today, the president would be in real trouble. But he’s certainly got time to turn things around. And I’m hoping that he’s able to get some of these things taken care of.”

Hogan, who said he wrote in his father rather than voting for either Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016, has suggested he may not vote for Trump before, and has been particularly outspoken in his criticism of the White House’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the administration of leaving states to fend for themselves.

“It’s mixed messages — bouncing from one message to the other,” Hogan said earlier this month. “[Trump’s] entire administration is telling everyone to take it seriously while he tells everybody to not take it seriously.”

This presumably is the reason Hogan refuses to rule out voting for the evil presence in the White House:

The Maryland governor also suggested earlier in July he is considering a 2024 presidential run.

“After this November election is over, regardless of who wins, there are a large majority of Americans who are completely convinced our political system is fundamentally broken, and they’re going to be looking for something different,” Hogan told The New York Times.

Seemingly, perhaps, but not necessarily, and only in part because Republican voters- even ADJT (after Donald J Trump) will not be looking for a presidential nominee with the persona of a Larry Hogan.

It's hard to believe anyone reasonably concerned about human relations could entertain voting for the man who decades ago denied housing to blacks based on race, later maintained "laziness is a trait in blacks" which "is not anything they can control," typically discriminated against blacks (and women) in casinos he owned, catapulted himself into GOP hearts by claiming Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and whose enthusiasm for stoking racial animosity and tension has only increased the past few months.

It's possible, though, that Hogan is not an exception. (Videos below are from October, 2018 and December, 2015, respectively.) Georgetown law professor Sheryll Cashin, a student of residential segregation has written

In 2014, the Obama administration offered Maryland a selective “New Starts” grant of $900 million to finally build what was called the Red Line — a project that would not only have connected thousands of Black Marylanders to better jobs but would also create a comprehensive transit system that might restart the Baltimore region’s economy and improve race relations by building literal connections between communities.

Today, there’s no construction of rail in Baltimore. The $900 million has been returned to the federal government. The state of Maryland redirected $736 million of state funds originally set aside for the Red Line to building roads instead — in predominantly white areas. And the U.S. Department of Transportation, which was supposed to investigate whether that decision was illegal and discriminatory, quietly closed the case without making any public findings.

Transportation investment and disinvestment have been central in Baltimore’s long saga of racial segregation and inequity, and the Red Line was the most recent chapter. Since Gov. Larry Hogan killed the Red Line in 2015, it has become a rallying cry for transit and racial-justice activists in Baltimore and beyond.

But the full extent of the injustice is just coming to light. Material obtained by a legal clinic I worked with at Georgetown Law School, through Maryland’s freedom-of-information statute, shows that federal officials acknowledged the potential racial impact of the decision to cancel the Red Line and the possibility that the decision violated civil rights law — and then for unclear reasons, dropped their investigation.

It was Hogan’s decision to cancel the Red Line.... 

In Jan. 2015, Gov. Hogan took office. Less than six months later, in June 2015, he announced that the Red Line was canceled.

Hogan, founder of an eponymous commercial real estate business, was an established skeptic of transit rail, which he deemed too expensive, and a believer in highway asphalt. In his first bid for governor, he argued against light rail — which opposing suburbanites sometimes derided as “loot rail” — and strenuously advocated for roads. Rail, no; roads, yes — polar positions that helped to defeat Black Democrat, Anthony Brown.

While Hogan did not cancel a line connecting wealthy suburbs to the District of Columbia's Metro subway

He returned the $900 million selective federal grant for the project and reallocated all of the state money that had been earmarked for the Red Line's first construction phase — $736 million — to road projects in exurban and rural areas. In the end, not a single road or pothole in Baltimore would be paved with the money that had been set aside for the Red Line.



Larry Hogan is probably not a racist, possibly not even someone harboring racial animus. However, he has a high tolerance for those who are. And as someone who recommends "avoiding divisive rhetoric," the Red Line is a reminder of the motivation of Republicans with doubts about Donald Trump Hogan is illustrative of most of the Republicans who have their doubts about Donald Trump. The President is crude, rude, and phenomenally corrupt but at least he supports the kind of government Republicans favor.


 


Sports First

"If you're eager to have football come back this fall," tweets Adam Jacobi about an Indiana University freshman offensive li...