Monday, November 23, 2020

BDS Under Scrutiny

God is in the details, it is said. It is said also that the devil is in the details, which sets up a very interesting dynamic.

And so we have Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement and declaring, according to CBS News, "We will immediately take steps to identify organizations that engage in hateful BDS conduct and withdraw U.S. government support for such groups."

It is unclear, nonetheless, what groups Pompeo is referring to. However, in response to the Secretary of State, the Palestinian BDS National Movement issued a statement claiming it "has consistently and categorically rejected all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism, as a matter of principle."

There are at least two problems with this statement. It's one thing to object to "racism" as a "matter of principle." Every person or group can easily say he/she/they do so, but without specifying instances, "a matter of principle" is indistinguishable from "in concept." Additionally, the evidence that Jews constitute a race is weak, though it has had many notable supporters, including a world-renown German of the mid-twentieth century.

Even aside from the anthropological fallacy, it's nearly impossible to conclude that the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic. Its website argues "The fanatic Trump-Netanyahu alliance is intentionally conflating opposition to Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid against Palestinians and calls for nonviolent pressure to end this regime."

As the video below explains, the characterization of Israel as an apartheid state cannot be sustained. Moreover, it's obvious that (despite protestations to the contrary) an organization which believes- accurately or inaccurately- that a nation's existence is based on apartheid would not tolerate the continued existence of that state other than as a parcel of land. When interviewed in July of 2019 by The New York Times

Omar Barghouti, a top B.D.S. spokesman, called the Israeli laws racist and exclusionary. A democratic state could still provide asylum for Jewish refugees, showing “some sensitivity to the Jewish experience,” he said, “but it cannot be a racist law that says only Jews benefit.” Asked if that means Jews cannot have their own state, he said, “Not in Palestine.”

Barghouti, of course, did not specify where in the world Jews, who shaped, formed, and built a democratic land in a region where so few ever have existed, and had lived there continuously for millennia, would have their own state.

That does not necessarily mean that the federal government should withdraw its support for organizations that "engage in hateful BDS conduct," whatever that means.  Pompeo needs to put some meat on the bones of the imprecise "engage in BDS conduct."

This may be an instance of bad policy or good policy. unfortunately, whatever it is, it would inevitably be opposed by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, whose hostility toward the existence of a Jewish state is starkly obvious.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bad Ideas

Kyle Rittenhouse is charged with first degree intentional homicide and first degree reckless homicide in the shooting deaths of two persons, and with attempted first degree homicide in a third shooting, at protests in late August following the killing of an unarmed black man. Accused of the shooting death of two persons and wounding of another at a racial justice/anti-police protest, he now has been bailed out of Kenosha County Detention Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Rittenhouse was released after a conservative organization named Fight Back put up $2 million cash bail, some of it by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell and actor Ricky Schroder, and left Twitter is up in arms (pun intended) by Schroder's contribution.  So, too, is The Young Turks' Aida Rodriguez, who claims

If he would have been black, he would have been under the jail. There would be no two-million dollar bond and I'm just tired of them trying to normalize the other side's opinion when the other side is just evil and wrong.

Would there have been no two million dollar bond, with the alleged perpetrator still in jail, had the accused been black? There is no way to be sure but a few weeks before the murderous incident in Kenosha we learned

A Minnesota nonprofit has bailed out defendants from Twin Cities jails charged with murder, violent felonies, and sex crimes, as it seeks to address a system that disproportionately incarcerates Black people and people of color.

The Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) received $35 million in donations in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, with many of those donations intended to help protesters who were jailed during the demonstrations and riots in May.

The group’s mission was celebrated on social media with praise from Hollywood celebrities, like Steve Carell, Cynthia Nixon, and Seth Rogen. 

There was another particularly famous individual who celebrated the group's mission. (Read on to the end to find out whom.)  Perhaps not surprisingly, given focus on police shooting of unarmed blacks, the spate of donations

was an unexpected windfall.  Prior tax returns in 2017 and 2018 show MFF would pull in about $100,000 in donations.  

We initially got some raised eyebrows especially when we ramped up our activity from $1000 a day to now $100,000 a day, raised eyebrows from our bankers,” said Greg Lewin, the interim executive director of the fund.

Among those bailed out by the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) is a suspect who shot at police, a woman accused of killing a friend, and a twice convicted sex offender, according to court records reviewed by the FOX 9 Investigators.  

According to attempted murder charges, Jaleel Stallings shot at members of a SWAT Team during the riots in May.  Police recovered a modified pistol that looks like an AK-47.  MFF paid $75,000 in cash to get Stallings out of jail.  

Darnika Floyd is charged with second degree murder, for stabbing a friend to death.  MFF paid $100,000 cash for her release. 

Christopher Boswell, a twice convicted rapist, is currently charged with kidnapping, assault, and sexual assault in two separate cases.  MFF paid $350,00 in cash for his release. 

“The last time we were down there, the clerk said, ‘we hate it when you bail out these sex offenders, that is what they said',” Lewin said. 

Personally, I'm not crazy about it, either, especially if it is a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree sexual assault.  Nor is attempted murder, alleged to have involved a weapon nearly identical to Rittenhouse's weapon of choice, a minor charge.

So we learn that blacks, too, are allowed to be released on bail in our criminal justice system.  I can think of better uses of my money than setting (temporarily) free blacks, whites, or any other individuals accused of violent crime, but people are free to spend their money on whatever (within the law) they wish.

Rodriguez stated also

The Washington Post is having a sit-down with Kyle because we want to know what a murderer is thinking and then we wonder why the world and our country is in disarray- because the media, the mainstream media is constantly adding fuel to the fire.

There are many reasons the world and the country are in disarray, but its habit of "shedding light"- as Rodriguez disparagingly puts it- on major events is not one of them.. The media fails in its mission when it avoids shedding light on such matters as the role of the financial and housing industries in prompting the Great Recession or the periodic support given to eugenics by Donald Trump.

She continues, unfortunately "I don't want to hear what he has to say, right- I don't want to hear what he has to say, he's a criminal, a cold-blooded murderer." Well, yes, probably he is, which is no reason he should be ignored. And because the murder he committed was partially motivated by political ideology, there is even more reason to interview him.

There are countries in which the media doesn't dare "shed light" on political affairs or affairs of the state. They would include most notably mainland China, Syria, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, and North Korea, nations in which journalists who report the news objectively sometimes are never heard from again. 

If Rodriguez believes that it's foolhardy or dangerous to bail out people who are accused of serious, violent crimes, her criticism would apply to contributors to the inaptly-named Minnesota Freedom Fund. Those so generous do demonstrate that the USA is, as Rodriguez terms it, "in disarray."

Alas, they would regrettably include the junior Senator from California, who is now the Vice President-elect. It's a nation and world in disarray, or perhaps extreme danger. Donald Trump and Mike Pence thankfully are being dispossessed of power, in favor of 78-year-old Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the latter believing individuals accused of a violent felony deserves swift release from detention pending trial. At least she has no such sympathy- presumably- for Kyle Rittenhouse, a state of affairs most fortunate.


Thursday, November 19, 2020

Rolling On With Unity

Afghanistan. China. Iran. Gulf arm sales. Israeli settlements. Yemen.

In what appears to be "a strategy that radically breaks with past practice, could raise national security risks and will surely compound challenges for the Biden team"

The Trump team has prepared legally required transition memos describing policy challenges, but there are no discussions about actions they could take or pause. Instead, the White House is barreling ahead. A second official tells CNN their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.

And yet

President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, according to five people familiar with the discussions, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into President Donald Trump, his policies and members of his administration.

Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump, said the sources, who spoke on background to offer details of private conversations.

They said he has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office. One adviser said Biden has made it clear that he "just wants to move on."

Donald Trump has no intention of allowing President Biden to "move on." Mitch McConnell, who in all likelihood will return as Senate Majority Leader, has no intention of allowing President Biden to "move on." The Republican base has no intention of allowing President Biden to "move on."

Joe Biden wants to move on because he has no stomach to allow whomever becomes Attorney General to confront private citizen Donald Trump and hold him to account for crimes he committed against the American people.  In the Young Turks video below, Ana Kasparian understands that "if you care about the rule of law, if you care about protecting the democratic process," the past cannot be disappeared.

But maybe this decision will be unrelated to any concern Biden may or may not have about the rule of law or the democratic process.  Following Kasparian, Cenk Uygur notes

Fifty percent of Republicans believe the Democratic Party is led by child molesters. Fifty percent. And who leads the Democratic Party now? Joe Biden does. So he's like "i want to united with the people who are calling me child molester." Why would you want to do that? That makes no sense at all."

Oh, but it does, if you're Joseph Robinette Biden.  In July of 2019, Dr. Jill Biden said

California Sen. Kamala Harris implied her husband Joe Biden is racist with her attack on the former vice president during the first Democratic presidential debate.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo airing on Monday, Jill Biden called Harris' criticism of Biden over race and segregation "the biggest surprise" to her in the party's 2020 race so far -- but said voters "didn't buy it."

Her comments come as Biden and Harris battle to win over black voters, a crucial constituency in the Democratic nominating contest. Biden has pointed to his time as former President Barack Obama's vice president as well as his own legacy on civil rights to defend himself, while Harris has taken aim at elements of Biden's earlier career in the Senate.

In the late-June debate, Harris criticized Biden's comments at a private fundraiser earlier in the month about the "civility" of the Senate during an era in which he worked with segregationists in the chamber. She also lambasted his early-career opposition to federally mandated busing.

"I think that they were looking at the past. I mean, the one thing you cannot say about Joe is that he's a racist. I mean, he got into politics because of his commitment to civil rights. And then to be elected with Barack Obama, and then someone is saying, you know, you're a racist?" she said.

The candidate whom Joe Biden's wife Jill maintained had accused her husband of being a racist was Kamala Harris, United States Senator, State of California.

That same Kamala Harris, a little less than a year later, was offered by his target a position on his ticket, the chance to be vice-president, and a heartbeat from being the first female President of the United States of America.

Mull that over. You're called a racist- according to the person whom you most love and possibly respect- by an individual you then honor with the most important, most desired and desirable, appointment you will ever make.

As Uygur implies, Biden doesn't give a whit that the GOP has promoted the idea that the Democratic Party is led by child molesters.  But if Donald Trump accuses Joe Biden personally of being a child molester, it still wouldn't persuade President Biden's administration to consider holding Trump responsible.

Senator Biden was rolled by Judiciary Committee Republicans on the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination' rolled as Vice-President, because that's practically in the job description; and rolled by Kamala Harris, who humiliated him publicly and later was rewarded by a position seen by many as President-in-Waiting.

So if the Trump Administration is laying foreign policy traps for President Biden or setting fires which must be put out, there is no downside for the 45th President or his party.  If Republicans want to demonize the Democratic Party as pedophiles, socialists, or anti-Christmas, they will. They know this is Joe Biden and there will be no penalty to be paid.


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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Proxy Vote

In a recent interview with Axios, an angry Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was asked why Democrats lost House seats in this month's election and remarked

Well, it happened simply because we were not able to discipline ourselves according to voter sentiment. We kept making that mistake- this foolishness- about you got to be this progressive or that progressive.

That phrase- "defund the police"- caused Jaime Harrison tremendously. I'm not saying it was the only problem.

Although he claimed "I don't blame progressive members," he maintained

When you ask somebody "why would you want to defund the police? They'll tell you "That's not what we mean. This is what we mean." My position is, in politics, the moment you start explaining what you mean, you are losing the argument.

Between those two remarks, Clyburn emphasized  "Stop sloganeering. Sloganeering kills people. Sloganeering destroys movements. Stop sloganeering."

On NBC, Clyburn said much the same, arguing

And I also can tell you about the Senate here in South Carolina. Jaime Harrison started to plateau when defund the police showed up with a caption on TV. That stuff hurt Jimmy and that's why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I've always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.

Funny thing about that, though. In mid-October, Harrison Senate candidate Harrison had told an interviewer "There needs to be some reform to our criminal justice system," a position approximately 93 people in the country, maybe 3 or 4 in South Carolina, would disagree with. Far more significantly, he added "I oppose all of these efforts to defund the police."

Nonetheless, the unpopular slogan may have critically injured the Democratic nominee, as Clyburn contends. But it would not have had nearly the impact unless it were credible, and Harrison made it clear he stood behind law enforcement. Instead, the slogan may have have been a proxy for a movement no Democrat (and few Republicans, actually) dare question.

Among House Democrats who lost their seat on November 3, few if any supported defunding the police. Overall, few Democrats specifically endorsed the concept, let alone the slogan, of defunding the police. There was very little of "defunding the police means giving greater support to housing, health, and education." The idea was opposed or ignored.

Yet, somehow Clyburn, Elissa Slotkin, and other House moderates appear convinced that the notion of defunding the police was electoral suicide.

But maybe Democrats were perceived by many voters as supporting police defunding because it of their overwhelming support of another social justice movement- black lives matter or, as it appears in writing, Black Lives Matter.

CNN exit polling found 57% of respondents have a "favorable view" of Black Lives Matter and 37% an "unfavorable view."  However, that same poll found that 49% believe the "economy" is "excellent/good" ("not good/poor," 50%).

That's no typographical error. With an economy worse than at any time since the Great Depression, roughly half of Americans allegedly believe it is in good or excellent shape. Opinions as to why, or whether President Trump is wholly, partially, or not at all responsible can differ. However, the notion that the economy is buzzing along smoothly is bizarre.

Thus, it is unlikely there is an actual +17 for Black Lives Matter (if at the polls) or black lives matter (if by phone). Probably, a large portion of whites heard or read "black lives matter" and were determined not to cast a vote for the notion that black lives don't matter because the vast majority of whites do believe the lives of blacks matter- or at least that they mustn't admit otherwise.

For many voters, an attitude toward defunding the police may be a proxy for an attitude toward the summertime protests of racial inequity.  The raison d'etre of Black Lives Matter is a national defunding of police- yet, voters claim they approve of it. Something, as they say, is not kosher.

It is likely that Clyburn et al. are on to something, and that prevalence of the "defund the police" slogan hurt Democrats who stayed a mile away from both the slogan and the concept. Asked a question about "black lives matter," voters nod yes; remind them of urban violence and their attitude changes- and it affects their vote.

Not all slogans are strategically damaging, of course. Nonetheless, Democrats have practiced inept messaging in recent years, and, however counter-intuitive, Black Lives Matter probably is no exception.


Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Anything Goes

"Woman who killed husband's lover with 13 blows of a pickax says she regrets the last blow."

 If that sounds silly, a former president evidently begs to differ. On 60 Minutes

 “A president is a public servant. They are temporary occupants of the office, by design,” Obama told correspondent Scott Pelley. “And when your time is up, then it is your job to put the country first and think beyond your own ego, and your own interests, and your own disappointments.”

“My advice to President Trump is, if you want at this late stage in the game to be remembered as somebody who put country first, it’s time for you to do the same thing,” Obama said.

O.K., O.K.; Barack Obama is entitled to believe that if President Trump were to utter the words "Congratulations to Joe Biden," Trump should be remembered as somebody who put country first.

That would make Mr. Trump a true patriot, according to his predecessor, pretending the last four years were only a dream. Maybe Obama hasn't heard

More than 130 Secret Service officers who help protect the White House and the president when he travels have recently been ordered to isolate or quarantine because they tested positive for the coronavirus or had close contact with infected co-workers, according to three people familiar with agency staffing.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has sidelined roughly 10 percent of the agency’s core security team — is believed to be partly linked to campaign rallies that President Trump held in the weeks before the Nov. 3 election, according to the people who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the situation.

In all, roughly 300 Secret Service officers and agents have had to isolate or quarantine since March because they were infected or exposed to infected colleagues, according to two people with knowledge of the figures.

Of course, this was no accident on the part of the incumbent, but has been part of his covid-friendly strategy,  given he told Bob Woodward it is "passed through the air" and "more deadly" than "strenuous flu" and 19 days later assured Americans "this is like the flu."Nearly a quarter of a million deceased Americans later and a former President maintains that if Trump were only to acknowledge what almost every American understands- that Joe Biden will be President- he "would be remembered as someone who put country first."

Everything can be forgotten, Barack Obama believes, and has since he was elected President.  His "look forward, not backward" was a handy excuse for condoning Bush-era torture and illegal domestic surveillance and the Justice Department handing to corrupt financial executives a "don't even worry about jail" card.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Barack Obama believes all can be forgotten and forgiven if only the current incumbent bows to the inevitability of a Biden presidency.  Not surprising, but reprehensible.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

What Might Have Been

Media critic determined not to allow reality to intrude upon his world is oh, so outraged:

Whether obscene (ludicrous) or outrageous (depends on what the meaning of "outrageous" is), it is accurate. That brings us, oddly, to a seemingly unrelated profile by the Atlantic's Emma Green of mega-church pastor Andy Staley, who is the son of Charles Stanley, whom Green explains was "a televangelist and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention who wrote the devotional that President George W. Bush used to read each morning."

Some Christian pastors believe that encouraging believers and non-believers in prayer and study of Scripture is more important than conducting an ideological crusade. Staley the Younger is far more interested in preaching the Kingdom of God than in promoting politics of the left, right, or even of the middle. As Green tells it, Staley refuses to reveal which presidential candidate he voted for in 2020 and 2016, says "he’s a conservative guy with conservative values," and says his daughter "is a die-hard Trump fan.

Staley refuses to reveal which presidential candidate he voted for in 2020 and 2016, states "he’s a conservative guy with conservative values," and describes his daughter as "a die-hard Trump fan." Moreover, he remarks "If you’re asking me, ‘Did Donald Trump inflame, or make worse, or stir up racial tension’—I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “I don’t know that I would place that on the shoulders of Donald Trump.”  And yet

In Stanley’s view, the biggest way in which Trump has damaged the reputation of the church is in his penchant for name-calling and belittling people: mocking a reporter who has a disability during a campaign rally, for example, or calling people from Mexico criminals and rapists. He believes that the president’s attacks on journalists were “a terrible move”: “The first thing totalitarian leaders or governments do is they silence the media,” he said. When high-profile evangelical leaders publicly align themselves with Trump, “the perception is unavoidable” that they believe that kind of rhetoric is okay, especially among the young people Stanley cares most about reaching. Trump’s language “should undermine his credibility with Christians. It certainly undermined his credibility with the generation that, again, has low to no tolerance for any of that,” he said.

Even the man Green notes is "a child of the religious right recognizes "the first thing totalitarian leaders or governments do is they silence the media." In one of the many efforts of the President to do so:

Nonetheless, there are people on the right and probably centrists in the media who will condemn Amanpour. Largely disregarded is that what we have witnessed from Trump is a President who expected to get re-elected and flex his muscles as never before. Trump needed to restrain his actions (if not his rhetoric) as he geared up over over the last four years for a bid to gain the mandate of a second term. And he would have claimed a mandate as no others have, for reasons no others have.

Amanpour seems to understand this; Reverend Staley, also. Others do, too, though for many people it's difficult to acknowledge that our self-proclaimed "greatest country in the world" came within 41-42 electoral votes of going down that totalitarian road.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Not Militias

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

So goes the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Nonetheless, at 26:56 of the (very choppy) video below, Max Brooks can be (sort of) seen remarking

The real danger we're facing is homegrown insurgency. Think about it. This is the first time since the 1990s that militia enlistment has gone up during a Republican administration. It always goes up during Democrats, down during Republicans.

Thankfully, Bill Maher asks ""Militia,' meaning"? and Brooks replies "militia meaning any sort of armed government- anti-government group...."

A tweet from Matthew Ingram, self-described as a writer "about digital media for the Columbus Journalism Review," thus presumably a credible individual:

The article, from the solidly left Media Matters For America, to which Miller links is entitled "Militia leader Stewart Rhodes says he has men stationed outside of D.C. ready to engage in violence on Trump's order." Timothy Johnson writes

Oath Keepers militia leader Stewart Rhodes said that he has armed men on standby outside of Washington, D.C., to supposedly prevent the 2020 presidential election from being stolen from President Donald Trump....

Rhodes also indicated his militia will be involved in a rally to support Trump planned for this weekend in the nation's capital.

Johnson goes on to note "the organization’s purpose has shifted from opposing the government to instead act as a pro-Trump vigilante group." However, Johnson twice otherwise invokes "militia" in his article of eight paragraphs.

But it is absurd to refer to such right-wing paramilitary groups as "militias".

The Second Amendment specifically grants to members of a "well-regulated militia"- and to no one else- the right "to keep and bear arms." The framers were not speaking of, nor anticipating, individuals forming an armed anti-government group.

The founders conceived of either "a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency" or "the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service." They did not mean individuals banding together to upend the government or intimidate the government, or to keep in power their hero against the popular will.

Nonetheless, we have reasonable, well-meaning, even ideologically liberal people referring to the Proud Boys and other armed groups as "militias." 

It is probably a stretch to label them all "terrorists" because their intended target generally are not innocents but the targets of their vendetta. Nevertheless, they do not comprise a "militia." Rather, they are vigilantes and affording them the credibility of "militias" is linguistically nonsensical- and strategically dangerous.


Friday, November 13, 2020

Armed, Sometimes Dangerous

As in the cliche, there is a lot to unpack here:

Climate change is a matter of science and of fact. However, problems with policing go well beyond unarmed citizens being killed and is subject to interpretation- and misinterpretation- of data.

The videos do indeed rarely tell the whole story. And so it should be helpful to learn that The Washington Post in 2015 started recording the more than 5,764 incidents that have occurred by an on-duty police officer of a fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer. It found 3,344 victims were armed by a gun, some others with any combination of gun, knife, vehicle, toy weapon, or "other." It listed 169 cases as "unknown" and 366 as "unarmed."

As extensive as is the data presented, we cannot determine whether the number of unarmed individuals killed by a police officer has declined or increased in recent months or over the period of the (ongoing) study. However, we do know not only that the vast majority of victims has been armed but we do know of the demographics of the victim, as well as the annual number and circumstances of the killings. The Post explains

... the FBI in 2015 committed to improving its tracking and last month launched a system to track all police use-of-force incidents, including fatal shootings. The new system, however, is still voluntary...

The Post’s reporting shows that both the annual number and circumstances of fatal shootings and the overall demographics of the victims have remained constant over the past four years.

The dead: 45 percent white men; 23 percent black men; and 16 percent Hispanic men. Women have accounted for about 5 percent of those killed, and people in mental distress about 25 percent of all shootings.

About 54 percent of those killed have been armed with guns and 4 percent unarmed.

“We’ve looked at this data in so many ways, including whether race, geography, violent crime, gun ownership or police training can explain it, but none of those factors alone can explain how consistent this number appears to be,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist at the University of South Carolina who has studied police shootings for more than three decades.

Year to year, the statistics have remained relatively constant. It being Twitter, when Fang stated "police killings of unarmed have rapidly declined," he did not specify what time frame he was using, nor note that many of those armed lacked a gun. But if Fang was trying to make the point that most victims of police shootings are armed, he was being accurate. Moreover, killing a civilian is not justified merely because the victim was armed or even armed and threatening. and statistics never bring back the dead.

Nonetheless, one thing is clear. When a police officer shoots an individual, the odds that he (or she) is armed with a weapon of one sort or another is very, very good.  Often lost in the swirl of emotions and the appeal of identity politics, it is a fact is no less significant than it is inconvenient.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Never Assume A Candidate Wants To Win

A Democratic-leaning political scientist would like a word with the Democratic Party:


The answer is "no."  Bitecofer believes Ossoff (presumably Reverend Warnock, also) should nationalize the campaign, which is to culminate in a vote on January 5, 2021. 

She's probably right that national issues should be featured by the Georgia Democratic Party to excite partisans to move them to vote, which otherwise may be difficult because the presidential election has concluded.  That is what occurred in that presidential race, which ended in Joe Biden gaining more popular votes than any candidate ever. Donald Trump now stands at #2, which did not prevent a Democratic victory. It was a base election, which the Georgia runoff also probably will be.

Bitecofer legitimately believes also that Jon Ossoff may not want to win.  It's impossible to determine because almost no one can know what he, or the Party, has in mind if he loses.  However, a candidate of one of the two major political parties disinterested in winning an election would not be unprecedented.

John McCain may have had no inkling when he selected Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate that she would prove to be an albatross around his neck in November. He may not have realized that courageously telling a supporter at a general election rally that no, Barack Obama is not an Arab, would dampen enthusiasm among Republicans. He may not even have understood that emphasizing that he and Palin are "mavericks" (accurate, within Republican Party politics) would be counter-productive when running against a guy who was aiming to be the first black President ever.

Yet, there is another clue. In a period when we are reminded of the graciousness of each losing presidential candidate to the winner over at least the past few decades, that of John McCain demands particular attention. On November 5, 2008 he stated in his concession speech

I've always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Sen. Obama believes that, too. But we both recognize that though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation's reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit — to dine at the White House — was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.

"There is no better evidence," McCain maintained, that "America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time," than "the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States." Barack Obama not only emerged victorious but "has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country."

It's hard to understand the reason even to vote against an individual whose victory he believed illustrated the fairness of the nation and its people. It would have been fair to ask the Arizona senator why he ran against the man whose victory confirmed that this is "the greatest nation on earth"  and whose election was needed to erase the stain of "the cruel and prideful bigotry" characterizing the first half of the 20th century. 

In the absence of concrete evidence to the contrary, issuance by a candidate lauding the election of his opponent must suggest that the loser never intended to win. So if victory in the Georgia runoff is not the highest priority for Jon Ossoff, other Georgia Democrats, or someone well-connected to the state party, they can take solace with the likelihood that twelve years ago, the GOP candidate for the presidency of the USA did not run his own race with steely-eyed determination.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

No Joking Matter

It was on Wednesday night, when things were already looking bleak, but not hopeless, for President Trump when in Orlando, Florida the President's religious advisor, Paula White, appeared with son Brad Knight and 

led a marathon prayer service at the New Christian Destiny Centre, calling on the almighty for divine intervention in the presidential race.

In a video widely circulated on social media by Right Wing Watch, the “prosperity gospel” pastor can be seen denouncing the “demonic confederacies” working against Mr Trump and declaring that “angels from Africa, from South America” are coming to his aid.

"Angels are being dispatched from Africa right now," she said, adding, "They're coming here."

Speaking in tongues, in which a person utters sounds thought of as a secret language unknown to the speaker, features in Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, as well as other religions.

Joined by Knight, White led a prayer service also on Thursday night. Not only is she a White but preaches a prosperity gospel, a happy coincidence for Trump. On Thursday, she vowed her followers would "override" the will of man and "we overturn it, we overturn it right now, and it will be no more, it will be no more because it is our right by the blood of Jesus, and you will give it to us."

In the video below, if you can look beyond the childish laughter of Ana Kasparian- who lends a note of childish levity- The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur can be seen explaining

Apparently God loves Joe Biden because the sound of victory seems to be headed on to Joe Biden. And she says God chose so I guess God chose Joe Biden. So once Biden is declared the winner, Paula White and all those pastors are just immediately going to flip and go "well, that's it, God wanted Joe Biden, we love Joe Biden then."

I remember when they all flipped and were in favor of Barack Obama because God had chosen everything and they said God was going to choose in 2008 and they said God was going to choose in 2012. And he did- he chose Barack Obama.

A little surprisingly Uygur, a secular Muslim, largely nailed it.  The of se individuals will not claim to love Joe Biden. Nonetheless, most white evangelicals (as the term is generally understood by non-theologians), whether or not advocates of the prosperity gospel, do believe God chooses. Moreover, they maintain that God chose (even) Barack Obama, however few actually voted for him.

They believe, as it's most often characterized, that God is in control. To them, this means not only that God controls human activity in the same manner that a parent controls her child, in which some minor decisions are left to the child, lest she grow up hopeless and helpless. It means that God is determinative; the Almighty is intimately involved with everything and everyone and at every time. God not only can make the final decision but does so invariably.

Uygur reminds us of Jesus' legendary concern for the poor and maintains "media, Democrats, as usual, are so scared to point these things out." He continues in a mocking voice "We don't want to offend religious people, we don't want to offend religious people." Yet

If you can't make fun of that, what has this world come to. Do you have any courage? That is why we allow fundamentalists- not all religious people- run roughshod over us because they just throw the religion card.

There are serious consequences when Republicans run roughshod over Democrats.  The left- and most Americans- will pay for decades in part because of the unwillingness or inability to challenge the GOP on religion in the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Democrats

trod extremely gingerly around anything involving Barrett’s religion or personal life. They instead sought to focus extensively on how her past comments suggest she might have prejudged cases on abortion rights and Obamacare.

In fact, the words “religion,” “Catholic,” “Christian” and “faith” were invoked in relation to religious issues about 80 times over two days of question-and-answer sessions with Barrett. Republicans and Barrett accounted for 75 of them; Democrats, only five.

Among the few times that Democrats did invoke faith, they praised Barrett for hers or sought to insulate themselves from the perception that they might be raising it as an issue.

It's probably tactically wise, except perhaps for professional comedians, to resist the urge to make fun of Paula White or other evangelical/Pentecostal Christians in favor of challenging them.  It is past time for media figures to ask such theologically and politically conservative Christians about the incidence of liberal or Democratic outcomes. A sample series of questions might be

-Was God responsible for the election of Joe Biden?

-If so, did you vote for him?

-If not, why were you defying the will of God?

That's only a start. But it's a necessary one, and cowardice is not a good look for journalists or a major political party.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020


On Monday, President Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, as had been almost expected. So the most significant (and telling) news might have been that

Richard Pilger, director of the elections crimes branch in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, told colleagues in an email that the attorney general was issuing "an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested." Pilger also forwarded the memo to colleagues in his resignation letter.

Pilger's resignation email didn't make clear whether he plans to stay in the department in another capacity.

Barr's densely worded memo had told prosecutors they could take investigative steps such as interviewing witnesses during a period that they would normally need permission from the elections crimes section.

But as of yesterday afternoon, that was the only the most recent ember because, as David Cay Johnston had noted Sunday, on Friday

Trump forced the resignation of Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who since 2018 had run the National Nuclear Security Administration. Thet agency keeps high-grade radioactive elements, known as fissile material, out of the hands of terrorists and rogue states. Trump’s Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette wanted to cut the budget for this work while Gordon-Hagerty sought increased funding.

Senator James Inhofe, a far-right Republican from Oklahoma, criticized the Trump administration for going soft on keeping nuclear materials from rogue states and terrorist groups. “People who should be doing all they can to support the critical work of the NNSA are instead trying to undermine it,” Inhofe said in September.

After Gordon-Haggerty was ousted, Inhofe challenged the competency of the Energy secretary, a rare break with the obsequious deference to Team Trump by Republican lawmakers over the past four years. The firing, “demonstrates he [Brouillette] doesn’t know what he’s doing in national security matters,” Inhofe said.

Trump also fired Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, in what appears to be a move to ensure that Islamophobes exercise greater power in the agency.

The third appointee, Neil Chatterjee,  was demoted from the chairmanship of the powerful Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to being just one of the five commissioners. Running diversity training, which Trump generally banned by executive order, was behind the demotion, Chatterjee told The Washington Post. “Guilty as charged,” he told EE News.

However, it wasn’t diversity, but Trump’s love of dirty coal that was behind Chatterjee’s demotion, both Green Tech Media and  The Wall Street Journal reported. Chatterjee had supported a tax on carbon, which economists across the spectrum have said for years would be the most efficient way to create incentives that speed the shift away from fossil fuels.

Friday was a particularly vindictive day for the President as he removed also Michael Kuperberg, executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which produces the National Climate Assessment. The action,CNN reported, has been interpreted by "critics" as "the latest sign that the Trump administration intends to use its remaining months in office to continue impeding climate science and policy."

These are only the six highest-profile individuals canned ("sacked," as the British would say) by the President whom we have been criticized as so unfairly and rashly accusing of being a fascist or would-be dictator.

There may have been others, and there will be others because that's what an arsonist does. This wouldn't be the first person who, asked to leave his home because of bad behavior, determines to burn the house (or apartment building) down. He's only by far the most important.

Much of what President Trump will be doing in his remaining months in office will be legal; some of it will not be. Some of what he did in the nearly four years before the recent election was legal; much of it was not. These actions, as well as the lies spewed at a record rate intended to overturn the election and upend confidence in democracy generally, must not be forgotten- or forgiven.

In his waning days in office, President Trump may pardon himself, resign and have a President Pence pardon him, or may do neither. The first is of dubious constitutionality and the second obviously enormously corrupt. Either one gives a President Biden and his Attorney General an opportunity for legal action, and the third an even greater opportunity.  In the absence of a finding that they are not sufficiently serious, crimes of the other 330,569,399 (as of this moment) Americans  are not (or should not be) ignored. Nor should they if committed by the  President of the United States of America.



Monday, November 09, 2020

Decisiveness Of SARS-CoV-2

Start with the truth and end with the truth, with the nonsense in the middle. Washington Post reporters

Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Matt Viser and Michael Scherer have written a revealing post-mortem on the 2020 presidential campaign with the apt heading "How Trump's erratic behavior and failure on coronavirus doomed his re-election." In the following paragraph, they start and end with the truth, with nonsense in the middle:

But the president finally lost, aides and allies said, because of how he mismanaged the virus. He lost, they said, over the summer, when the virus didn’t go away as he promised; when racial unrest roiled the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death and protesters ran rampant through the streets; and when federal and local authorities gassed largely peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square across from the White House so Trump could stage a photo op. And he lost, they said, during a roughly three-week stretch from late September to mid-October, when an angry and brooding Trump heckled and interrupted his way through the first debate and then, several days later, announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bless our liberal hearts that we comfort ourselves by believing there was in Trump's defeat a significant ideological component, that voters were so antagonized by urban violence that it upended the campaign of the right-wing racist. The Lafayette Square incident was a fiasco, demagoguery gone awry; however, there is little evidence that it had a significant impact on the election.

For all of Trump's bigoted values, the issue of urban violence receded into the background not only because the B/black L/lives M/matter protests declined in number but also with the campaign's failure to play its hand to the fullest. If it had understood that the election would be lost by the candidate who became the issue, it would have emphasized the following, here with a partisan, conservative, and misleading spin from The Federalist:

.... the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate was a huckster for a bail fund that sought to free violent criminals who were rioting on the streets of Minneapolis, and she was very effective at it. In the wake of deadly fires and looting, Harris asked her five million plus Twitter followers to donate money to bail out the “protesters” arrested in the riots.

Instead, and as the Post quartet writes

From the beginning, Trump and Biden made wildly different bets on the path to victory in 2020, taking divergent routes on nearly everything: from tone and message, to how to run their respective campaigns — and whether to wear a mask.....

Yet through it all, Trump kept returning to a faulty strategy of trying to wish, tweet and riff away the deadly virus. He forced his team to create an alternate reality in which he held massive rallies — supporters packed together, few sporting masks — and said that the coronavirus was only a modest threat and was going to disappear any day.

That was obviously going to prove a losing strategy as it made Donald Trump, rather than Joe Biden, the issue in the campaign.  Deaths from the coronavirus continued to mount and then...... Donald Trump got sick.

Trump's poll numbers significantly declined- more than I had expected- after that, probably for two reasons:

1) Trump had signaled many times that it was unnecessary to wear a mask and especially for him, the "Chosen One" and man of superior genes;

2) It represented a bad bet by the allegedly master deal maker, who gambled that Covid-19 would not intrude upon his recklessness.

Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairperson of the Republican National Committee (and obvious source for much of the Post story), said "shortly" before November 3 "if he loses, it's going to be because of covid." He did, and it was.



Sunday, November 08, 2020

For Some, The Time Is Right

It's not summer, but autumn. However, across much of the country- especially the upper Midwest and the Northeast- the weather is even better than in the summertime. Therefore, cue up  Martha Reeves:

Calling out around the world

Are you ready for a brand new beat

Summer's here and the time is right

For dancing in the street

They're dancing in Chicago (dancing in the street)

Down in New Orleans (dancing in the street)

In New York City (dancing in the street)

This weekend they have decided to party hearty, hopefully understanding

- Heading into the election, Democrats were counting on record-breaking fundraising and a vulnerable GOP to flip a number of state legislatures in a crucial Census year. That would have allowed Democrats to redraw unfavorable congressional and state legislative maps that would influence election results for the next decade. Instead, it’s the Republicans that will do just that after Democrats seem poised to miss nearly all their statehouse targets. (Fortune)

- Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far lost seven incumbents in Tuesday’s election, and that number could increase to about a dozen as more votes are tallied in New York, California and Utah. That would leave Democrats with a razor-thin margin — and an even more emboldened GOP minority — as the party looks to govern under a potential President Joe Biden.... The most likely scenario for Democrats is a net loss of between seven to 11 seats. (Politico)

- The potential for such far-reaching legislation all but vanished barely 24 hours later as Democrats saw their chances to reclaim the Senate slip away — and with it the ability to pass legislation on a party-line vote. Instead, House Democrats will be forced to make deals with a Senate that is still led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is likely to have little interest in legislation of the scope the Democrats were envisioning. (The Washington Post)

Democrats got beaten in state elections, lost seats in the House of Representatives after being expected to gain them, and are extremely likely to remain the minority in a Senate they were expected to gain control of. However, they did win back the presidency over a fellow whose empathy and love for Americans stricken by Covid-19 was encapsulated in "it is what it is."

Hence, the celebrations. House Democrats are attacking each other while there is dancing in the streets in big cities throughout the USA over Joe Biden's victory, House Democrats are attacking each other, diminishing what little chance Reverend Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff have in their upcoming Senate election runoff. If either of them loses, Mitch McConnell will remain in charge of the gov- uh, er, the Senate.  In what is an understatement and bullish- for Democrats- view of the political landscape, AP News on Thursday observed

And even if Trump were to ultimately lose, the closeness of the presidential contest raised the prospect that a Biden presidency would have difficulty enacting progressive priorities or quickly move past the cultural and partisan fissures of the Trump era.

In June, 2008, Barack Obama maintained his presidency would be seen as "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." Ocean rise didn't slow, the planet did not begin to heal, and now it's President-elect Joe Biden who "seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states, only sees the United States."

Good luck with that. Fortunately, a large hunk of the celebrants realize it's not going to happen.  Unfortunately, Joe Biden may not, and unless Democrats begin to realize that control of state legislatures, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court are important political objectives, such celebrations in the future will constitute empty gestures.

Some Politically Agnostic

The Washington Post has reported

An angry dispute erupted among House Democrats on Thursday, with centrist members blasting their liberal colleagues during a private conference call for pushing far-left views that cost the party seats in Tuesday’s election that they had worked hard to win two years ago.

The bitter exchange, which lasted more than three hours as members sniped back and forth over tactics and ideology, reflected the extent to which the 2020 campaign exposed simmering tensions in the party....

“We need to not ever use the word ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again. . . . We lost good members because of that,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who narrowly leads in her reelection bid, said heatedly. “If we are classifying Tuesday as a success . . . we will get f---ing torn apart in 2022"....

 “There is no question that that was a huge albatross on the necks of so many of our candidates, who unfortunately went down,” said a lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private discussions. “There has to be a reckoning within our ranks about this because a lot of Justice Democrats don’t give a damn about the Democratic Party. . . . They’re all about purity and orthodoxy, and it is damaging our opportunities.”

Nonetheless, a Pennsylvania Democrat, Conor Lamb, who barely won re-election, stated

Spanberger was talking about something many of us are feeling today: We pay the price for these unprofessional and unrealistic comments about a number of issues, whether it is about the police or shale gas. These issues are too serious for the people we represent to tolerate them being talked about so casually.

In a case of bad timing or unintended irony

“Democrats’ messaging is terrible; it doesn’t resonate,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, said in an interview. “When [voters] see the far left that gets all the news media attention, they get scared. They’re very afraid that this will become a supernanny state, and their ability to do things on their own is going to be taken away.”

Supernanny state? One wonders what Representative Schrader would have said if told a mere ten months ago that the next President of the USA would be elected on a platform which included the requirement that all Americans walk around wearing a mask.  Neither Medicare for All nor the Green New Deal can hold a supernanny candle to "I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask."  That man, thankfully, was elected President of the United States of America.

Moreover, the executive director of Justice Democrats, Alexandra Rojas, was right when she told the Post reporter "They had one job and they blew it. We need a Democratic Party that stands for something more than just being anti-Trump."

We learn "Chuck Schumer is "pushing for $50K of student debt to eliminated by executive order in Biden's first 100 days."  Luckily, he and Senator Elizabeth Warren had introduced a resolution in September which "asked the president as of 2021, whether it be former Vice President Joe Biden or current President Trump, to 'take executive action to broadly cancel federal student loan debt' as the country faces a pandemic and both a “historic public health and economic crises.” 

This is good policy and good strategy.

It would reduce cynicism about politics. Moreover, it would reduce cynicism of government, which can only redound to the benefit of America's de facto party of government, the Democratic Party, particularly when that is the party in power.

Alternatively, Democrats can take the advice of Spanberger, Schrader, Lamb, and other centrists and take a passive approach, standing for nothing and doing little.

Yet Americans are looking to Democrats to do more than end the pandemic- which eventually will be accomplished primarily by vaccine- but also to make their lives better.  When Democrats relieve the crushing burden of student debt or reduce doctor bills through health care reform significantly bolder than Obamacare, they benefit in another way.

Suddenly, GOP charges that Democrats want to install a "nanny state" or "defund the police" or "give out free stuff" lose their power. They are neutered because things have been accomplished which Democrats can tout rather than being on the defensive about supporting people who believe they are "entitled" or opposing police.

An activist approach would confer an additional benefit. When Joe Biden is unable to make good on his campaign promise to unify a (inevitably) divided country, Democrats can present an alternative vision. It may be a vision of a nation of greater racial justice, better education, fewer climate crises, or of middle class and working class Americans who are not suffering under the crushing burden of debt because of a health emergency. They can actually go on the offensive rather than running scared from every demagogic charge from Republicans about crime, health care, taxes, the environment, or simply needing help from other Americans.

And because if you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything.


BDS Under Scrutiny

God is in the details, it is said. It is said also that the devil is in the details, which sets up a very interesting dynamic. And so we ...