The Vietnam veterans and other former Special Forces soldiers who meet every Friday at Mike Johnson’s accounting office on Perkins Road plan to watch the 10-part PBS documentary, “The Vietnam
We bevinden ons in Vietnam en trekken van noord naar zuid op de motorfiets. Een aantal jaren terug flikten de presentatoren van Top Gear hetzelfde tr...
by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 24 04:30:05 PST 2018
Donald Trump’s election victory, and the success of demagogues around the world, have caused worried commentators to fret about the rise of illiberalism. In an intriguing new book, however, Patrick J. Deneen argues that part of the problem is that liberalism itself—the thing everyone seems obsessed with protecting—is partially to blame.
As Deneen sees it, liberalism—defined not as progressivism, but rather as an ideology that stresses freedom in the marketplace and in our social relations—has led to the breakdown of societal norms, helping to impoverish our societies and creating the conditions for strongmen to rise. As he phrases it, “The breakdown of family, community, and religious norms and institutions, especially among those benefiting least from liberalism’s advance, has not led liberalism’s discontents to seek a restoration of those norms.” Even potentially more worrisome is that, in his opinion, “Liberalism created the conditions, and the tools, for the ascent of its own worst nightmare, yet it lacks the self-knowledge to understand its own culpability.”
I recently spoke by phone with Deneen, who teaches political science at Notre Dame. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed his provocative analysis of the women’s movement (the value of which he calls into question), why liberals are blind to their flaws, and what the election of Donald Trump says about the society we have established.
Isaac Chotiner: It seems like your book is identifying two different flaws within liberalism, one that is often brought up by the left in its critique of globalization and capitalism, and the other that is brought up by conservatives in their critique of social trends, including the decline of traditional, religious beliefs. Do you think it’s fair to say you are combining those critiques?
Patrick J. Deneen: Yeah. That’s correct. I’m defining liberalism as basically a philosophy that begins with an understanding of human beings as naturally, to use John Locke’s terms, free and independent. That we are by nature creatures that in our natural condition or natural state are understood to be unattached in some ways. Autonomous, freely choosing individuals defined by extensive rights of self-making and self-construction.
What’s interesting is that our political configuration today tends to draw on some aspects of Lockean thinking in what we think of as the conservative, economic realm—the understanding of what the economic man is, the freely choosing individual who treats the world as a marketplace. While on the political left, that’s in many ways what defines our understanding of the social creature, in terms of our relationships, and in many ways informs our understanding of the sexual revolution and many of its effects. Broadly speaking, we have a debate within species of liberalism on the left and the right—not a deeper challenge to the essentially liberal order in which we live.
How do you think your critique differs from the standard left critique of the economic sphere?
I’m sympathetic with many aspects of it. Oddly enough, I find myself also sympathetic with certain aspects of this rather inchoate Trump-esque concern with the effects of globalization, especially on many of our fellow citizens. I’m not an economist, but I’m hesitant to embrace either the market or the state as the two modes of dealing with this contemporary crisis of modern capitalism. One way that I think about that is how norms of economic exchange, for example in a place like a farmers’ market where I live, are not simply dominated by sheer utilitarian calculus. How are our forms of exchange contributing to the health of our town or of our community?
The counterargument is that the regnant economic system has brought millions of people out of poverty, has allowed women more economic opportunities, etc.
A gentleman named Henry Olsen has done some interesting work showing on the one hand that, especially in the most impoverished parts of the world, various forms of economic liberalization measurably improved the lives of those in conditions of poverty. But also it has actually in some ways resulted, in the developing world, in increasing division between those who win in our economic system and those who lose.
So rather than lifting all boats, it tends to lift some boats. We have to really think about the social costs of that, not simply the economic benefits, but what that does to our society. Here it seems to me it’s self-evident that the developed West is experiencing this kind of deep rift, and increasingly an unbridgeable rift, between those who feel they are successful in this economic order and those who don’t. It doesn’t become merely a question of material success but a sort of social solidarity and the capacity of a society to function at some level.
Let’s get into your social critique. I can say my own view is that I think that the sexual revolution and what came in its wake was just much more necessary and important than you seem to, because you worry about having children being seen as impediments to freedom, lower birth rates, etc. But what was or is the reasonable alternative to a real women’s movement and what followed?
It’s interesting how that question is really a species of the last question you asked me: Isn’t the success in the economic sphere, in the material sphere, complemented by the success in the social sphere of what liberalism has achieved? I think when you live within the liberal order you view these developments through the lens of how liberalism evaluates these phenomena, and of course it looks like a success.
What I’m really trying to call attention to in this book is the kind of deep costs and consequences that come from, in both the economic realm and in the social realm, the ascendancy of individualism in our lives. The breakdown of social norms that govern sexual behavior, among other things. The breakdown of family, and family life that we see, especially among those in the lower echelon of our society who are experiencing social breakdown.
The decline of reproduction. The demographic crisis that’s being faced broadly in the West but of course across the world as well. We see a whole set of consequences that, in the light of the liberal worldview, look like successes, and tend not to see the cost or regard the cost as attachable from the successes of liberalism.
You write in the book that liberalism considers “the paramount sign of the liberation of women to be their growing emancipation from their biology.” What exactly are you trying to say?
The other aspect of liberalism that seems to be really quite distinctive is to regard human beings as fundamentally in conflict with nature. And seeing nature as an obstacle to our liberty.
You see this, of course, in the treatment of the world. The way in which we extract anything we want from the world in whatever way we want. It seems to me here that the left is particularly good at calling out the abuse of the human effort to conquer nature in the natural world, the environmental movement.
On the other hand, you see this as well on our own nature and the effort to conquer our nature in the name of our liberation. Here again you have this example where the right lauds the conquest of nature when it comes to the environment, and the left lauds the conquest of nature when it come to our biology, and we tend not to see that these are both a species of the liberal ambition to liberate human beings from our nature, external and internal.
OK, but two things: It might be in a man’s nature to want to sleep with as many women as he wants, whenever he wants, regardless of what they want, or his partner wants. I think that we can agree that being liberated from that is a good idea. And secondly, why, in the book, is your definition of a woman’s nature based so clearly on having babies?
Of course part of human nature is to develop cultural and various kinds of artifices that in many ways shape the aspects of our nature. In a sense, I’m drawing on the arguments by, among others, Aristotle, who talks about the ways that, in regard to eating and sex, human beings are the best of all creatures when we develop the capacity to govern our appetites. Those capacities to govern our appetites are often through development of various cultural forms and norms and laws that on the one hand acknowledge our nature but also govern the worst expressions of our nature. Whether it’s as you just suggested, through the male desire to simply dominate or conquer women, or the desire simply to feed ourselves without realizing that excess in that form is bad.
Of course, there have to be various forms of human artifice, which have often been in the form of culture and through laws that govern the excess of our appetites. We’re dealing now in many ways with this crisis of a lack of self-governance in both the natural world, the environment, and the sexual world, the consequence of the sexual revolution.
But on the culture question, what is the alternative? I assume that you think women or gay people should have equal legal rights. They should have equal access to jobs. They should be encouraged to do the same things that straight men are encouraged to do in a society.
I just want people to see that kind of continuity of these deeper forms of individualism that we have divided up between our current political parties. In fact, to argue that the thing that bothers us most about what the other side stands for might actually be complicit in the things that the other side supports.
I’m assuming in your case the free market ideology of the Republican Party bothers you, and so then maybe one has to be introspective about how that is also reflected in your commitments. And vice versa.
Then one would have to say, “How do I think about this in terms of a society that would value the creation of families and the raising of children?” I’m not saying that we should go back to the Dark Ages or something. But how can we build upon the achievements of liberalism while acknowledging that perhaps we’ve gone too far in the direction of the freed and autonomous human will?
What way do you think we’ve gone too far? How should we be constructing family relations differently?
Part of this is simply what we express is what we value. I’ve worked at three different great universities: Princeton, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. Each of those universities has a career service center when you graduate so you can get a job. None of these—and two of these were Catholic institutions—have a “What It Is to Grow Up and Be a Member of a Family” or “To Build Your Own Family” center. What it is to be a mother or a father. None of these institutions, in other words, cultivate thinking about what it would be and what one would need to think about in terms of shaping and forming a family. We perpetuate, then, certain kinds of commitments, not only by the actions that we recommend but also by what we recommend as being that which should be taken seriously.
I have told you where I disagree with your book, but one thing that was thought-provoking was about Trump, indirectly, and how shocking he is. I don’t agree with Trump’s policies. That’s fine. Lots of politicians’ policies I don’t agree with. The thing to me that is shocking is the type of figure he is, the way he behaves on a daily basis. There’s something just grotesque about him that I think a lot of people can recognize on just a human level. The way he treats other people. The way he talks about other people. The way he behaves in public. I do think there’s a way in which our society would not have put up with that 50 years ago.
I basically think the way our society has changed in the last 50 years is for the better. I also think that there were certain kinds of niceties and formalities about our society that would have led people to say about a figure like Donald Trump 50 years ago, “Are you kidding me? This guy is just grotesque. Of course, he can’t be president.” I think we have lost something there.
One of the things that Alexis de Tocqueville talks about when he visits America is that democratic peoples will come to hate what he calls forms. And you talk about niceties. That’s one way of saying forms. That’s the root of the word formalities.
He says that forms are artifices that keep us from being authentic. They keep us from being equal. They divide men from women. They divide the high from the low. This religion from that religion. So, we have a tendency to want to get rid of forms. We become more informal. We call each other by our first names rather than 50 years ago. We don’t wear hats anymore.
Men don’t wear hats when they go out. We have dress-down Fridays, which now becomes dress down every day of the week.
One aspect of losing the forms is the inability to recognize certain kinds of formalities. It seems to me Donald Trump is almost the culmination of what you rightly call a kind of grotesque figure that one could never have imagined would occupy the presidency. And he seems to be a reflection of a society that’s become much coarser. And I’m always shocked. I guess I’m a bit of a prude I guess.
I wasn’t going to say it.
But when I walk around campus, well, I hear my Notre Dame students using words that I can barely imagine sailors having once used. In just casual conversation, when they’re walking around campus. That to me is indicative of the coarseness of society today.
I know your opinion of Trump, but it seems like while you have a certain sympathy for some of the underlying dynamics of things like Trump or Brexit, you also don’t think that they are going to actually bring about any type of society that you want. But you also believe that liberalism doesn’t know how to deal with the challenges that things like Trump and Brexit represent, so we’re in a pretty bad place.
Yeah. I’m constantly being challenged with what my solution is. Part of the difficulty right now is that we’ve gotten so deeply into a condition which we have now, with the great proponents of liberalism, on both the left and the right. And now increasingly an incoherent and almost just emotion-driven opposition, especially from what’s now being called the populist part of the West. I fear a deeply damaging, unresolvable dynamic that I would expect to continue for the rest of my life. I don’t know that this will be resolved when Trump leaves office.
He’s not going to leave office. Maybe that’s the solution.
Perhaps. But inasmuch as it might be solved, it might be necessary in some ways for especially those who are in positions of most power, which I would say on both the left and the right are essentially the liberals as I described them, to begin to recognize the excesses of the liberal creed and to begin to think about ways that, in order to prevent further blowback of the most damaging kind, how it might be to be cognizant of liberalism’s own inherent trajectories of excess and think about how one would correct those.
I would say in America, the way in which especially the left has responded to Trump, I understand. I carry no brief for Donald Trump. I understand that reaction personally, but it seems to me in the extreme animus that’s been directed toward Donald Trump, there’s been a kind of corresponding neglect of what were the forces that brought him to power.
In the book, I have somewhat of a resigned conclusion, which is I don’t see a grand theoretical resolution that’s practical on the horizon. So I suggest people of goodwill, of whatever political stripe, begin to build the culture more locally. Begin to build the kinds of relationships of solidarity in the household, beyond the household, in their neighborhoods. To try to create new conditions of solidarity closer to home.
I’m happy to strike a blow against liberalism by not including any Amazon.com link to your book in the intro to this interview.
That’s fine. People can find it at their local bookstore.
by email@example.com (Aaron Morvan) @ Programming
Wed May 31 09:26:41 PDT 2017
The Vietnam War, a new 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, will air in September 2017 on OETA.
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 10:08:50 PST 2018
Short-term continuing resolutions to keep the government open, North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker said Tuesday night following a meeting of the House GOP, “are always crap sandwiches.” And yet, Walker and the large conservative bloc he leads, the Republican Study Committee, are leaning toward voting for the crap sandwich presently before them.
Such was the overwhelming sentiment among Republicans following Tuesday night’s gathering. No one in Washington is pleased to be voting for the fourth stop-gap bill since the start of the fiscal year last fall, which represents yet another failure of Democrats and Republicans to reach a budget deal. The House Republican leadership, anticipating rage from conservatives, defense hawks, appropriators, and the not-insignificant group of moderate House Republicans who want to see a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deal, attempted to soothe tempers by providing catered Italian food for the group before presenting the crap sandwich for dessert. It seemed, upon hearing the initial reactions from members leaving the meeting, that the ploy had mostly worked.
The spending bill that House leaders are attempting to pass would advance the ball a little bit. In addition to funding the government for four weeks, it would reauthorize for six years the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has lapsed for months now. The bill would also delay two Obamacare taxes—the medical device tax and the Cadillac tax—for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year. It’s a clever play from Speaker Paul Ryan. The delay in taxes obviously appeals to Republicans while taking the CHIP reauthorization “off the table,” in Walker’s words, offers the party a retort to those who would say Republicans “don’t care about health insurance for children.” Those provisions are also attractive to Democrats, who want to see CHIP reauthorized and have no love for the medical device or Cadillac taxes, either. Most House Democrats, smarting over the lack of a DACA deal, won’t vote for the crap sandwich. But the design gives Republican leaders the opportunity to pick off a few Democratic votes.
They may not need them. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, an appropriator—i.e., someone who’s not especially happy that he doesn’t have a budget framework to work with yet—said “yes,” flatly, when I asked him whether this plan would get a majority from Republicans alone.
“I think there’s an acceptance that it’s got to get done,” Simpson said. “Nobody wants to be here Saturday.”
Other members who are hardly allies of the House leadership sounded resigned to it as well. Both Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, two conservative Freedom Caucus members who can be difficult to corral, told reporters after the meeting that they were leaning toward supporting the bill because it was either that or a shutdown.
That was not the consensus view of the Freedom Caucus. It’s not in their constitution to allow leadership’s first offer on anything to skate through without a challenge. One could almost see the wheels spinning inside the head of the group’s chairman, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, as he tried to come up with a play following the meeting. The Freedom Caucus met after the full House GOP meeting Tuesday night, and when Meadows emerged, he insisted that GOP leaders did not yet have 218 Republicans on board. Though the Freedom Caucus didn’t take an official position against the continuing resolution, it could try to persuade leaders to either pursue a different course or offer a concession elsewhere on the agenda. Meadows proposed a hybrid bill that would fund defense spending for a year at higher levels while funding the rest of the government in the short term. We already know such a bill would fail, though, since Ryan proposed such a “cromnibus” in December and scrapped it shortly thereafter, once it became clear it was dead on arrival in the Senate. Senate Democrats are not going to agree to a bill that takes their sole source of leverage, the defense spending boost, off the table while punting on everything else.
Other Freedom Caucus members, like Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, wanted some sort of commitment from the speaker on DACA, such as an agreement to move a more conservative immigration bill, like the one authored by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Leaders may have to offer up a show vote or some other tweak to mollify these conservatives ahead of the vote.
If the House GOP can resolve these issues and pass the crap sandwich with all (or nearly all) Republican votes, the pressure would then fall on Senate Democrats. Few on Capitol Hill think that the many Senate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won would vote against a spending bill that doesn’t contain a DACA fix. They’ve already shown their cards in the past two short-term spending votes. There’s an extraordinary amount of pressure from the Democratic base on Sen. Chuck Schumer not to let slide another spending bill that doesn’t contain a DACA deal. But even if he chose to whip against it, Schumer might not possess the persuasive powers necessary to keep nine Senate Democrats from voting to keep the government open and reauthorize CHIP for six years.
The House is expected to vote on Thursday at the earliest. If the funding bill passes, expect the Senate to take it up soon after. This process could certainly fall apart in the next 24 hours, but as of now, there is a surprisingly viable strategy for keeping the government open. Never underestimate the allure of the crap sandwich.
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 23 15:06:14 PST 2018
Neil Gorsuch is supposed to be a good writer. In fact, he once was: During his tenure on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch produced a number of witty, lucid, and pithy opinions. But since his elevation to the Supreme Court, Gorsuch’s prose has curdled into a glop of cutesy idioms, pointless metaphors, and garbled diction that’s exhausting to read and impossible to take seriously. It may even be alienating the conservative justices whom Gorsuch was supposed to beguile with his ostensibly impeccable reasoning.
Consider Gorsuch’s dissenting opinion in Artis v. District of Columbia, a rather arcane case the court decided on Monday. After Stephanie Artis lost her job with the D.C. government, she sued D.C. in federal court under both federal and District law, alleging sex discrimination and retaliation. The court eventually ruled against her on the federal claims and dismissed her D.C. claims without ruling on their merits. Artis filed these claims in a D.C. court 59 days later, but because the federal court had taken two and a half years to decide her case, the statute of limitations on these claims had expired. A judge tossed her case.
Was Artis really locked out of D.C. court because a federal judge took so long to rule? In a 5–4 decision authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court held that she was not. Ginsburg pointed to a federal law which states that statute of limitations for a state claim “shall be tolled while the claim is pending” in federal court, “and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed.” In legalese, Ginsburg wrote, tolled simply means suspended, citing multiple federal statutes, precedents, and a law dictionary to prove her point. Thus, the statute of limitations on Artis’ D.C. claims stopped running when she filed them in federal court, and only resumed 30 days after that court threw them out. She now gets another chance in D.C. court.
Gorsuch dissented and was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. He began his opinion like this:
Chesterton reminds us not to clear away a fence just because we cannot see its point. Even if a fence doesn’t seem to have a reason, sometimes all that means is we need to look more carefully for the reason it was built in the first place.
Leave aside the pretentious reference to “Chesterton.” What’s irksome about this passage, as law professor Nicholas Bagley notes, is its redundancy. The first sentence is catchy, but the second stomps all over it, bludgeoning the reader with a gratuitous and clunky explanation.
This crime against the English language might be pardonable if Gorsuch deployed his fence metaphor to clear up some technical complexity. He does not. Instead, he veers from the fence to an ancient rule called “journey’s account.” According to Gorsuch, this rule gives plaintiffs nothing more than a brief “grace period” to refile their claims after a court dismisses them. To illustrate his point, he cites a 1647 treatise by Edward Coke, which states:
“[T]he common law set downe the certaine time of 15 dayes,” because “a dayes journey is accounted in law 20 miles,” as “a reasonable time … within which time wheresoever the court of justice sate in England, the party … wheresoever he dwelt in England … might … by the said account of dayes journies appeare in court.”
Convinced? Neither was Ginsburg, who (correctly) dismissed Gorsuch’s tangent as an irrelevant “history lesson.” She also ridiculed Gorsuch’s “grace period” theory as “entirely imaginative,” given the total lack of evidence that Congress “had any such ancient law in mind when it drafted” this statute. Gorsuch’s dissent, Ginsburg wrote, cannot, “for all its mighty striving,” identify “even one federal statute” that uses the word differently. “From what statutory text, then,” she wondered, “does the dissent start?”
None, as it turns out. Gorsuch’s theory is utterly divorced from the text of the law, and based instead on “our foundational principles of federalism.” Or so he claims. In reality, the court has already unanimously upheld this statute’s constitutionality, and Gorsuch’s federalist fretting makes little sense given the majority’s minimal intrusion upon states’ rights. Yet he closes his opinion with a return to the fence metaphor, accusing his colleagues of disregarding the Constitution:
The Court today clears away a fence that once marked a basic boundary between federal and state power. Maybe it wasn’t the most vital fence and maybe we’ve just simply forgotten why this particular fence was built in the first place. But maybe, too, we’ve forgotten because we’ve wandered so far from the idea of a federal government of limited and enumerated powers that we’ve begun to lose sight of what it looked like in the first place.
Notably, Roberts—who generally shares Gorsuch’s commitment to states’ rights—declined to sign onto this nonsense. Instead, he cast the decisive vote against this warped analysis. Alone among the conservatives, Roberts seems to have recognized how silly Gorsuch’s position is, and how gruesomely it mangles the text of a statute to reach an unfair result. The chief justice deserves credit for refusing to play along with Gorsuch’s pseudofederalist posturing and following the more practical route.
Gorsuch’s argument in Artis bears a vague resemblance to his notorious frozen trucker dissent, in which he twisted the actual words of a statute to deny relief to a deserving plaintiff. What’s particularly irritating about this bad Gorsuch opinion, though, is that he makes his terrible argument so poorly.
Notice the fat in the passage above: “clears away a fence that once marked a basic boundary” instead of “clears away a basic boundary”; “but maybe, too”; “maybe we’ve just simply forgotten.” This excess verbiage is one of Gorsuch’s specialties, along with kludgy and archaic idioms. In his brief career on the court, he’s given us “cheek by jowl,” “constable and quarry,” “work enough for the day,” and “at the end of a long day.” He has used “and more besides” twice in the same opinion. He has called one plaintiff’s position “an invitation I would run from fast.” (The “invitation” in question, which the court accepted, allowed the plaintiff to sue more easily for employment discrimination. Sensing a theme?)
Gorsuch tends to write in big blocks of text, with few commas and no section dividers. Endless paragraphs bleed into one another and conclude with faux-folksy aphorisms like “this court often speaks most wisely when it speaks last.” As that maxim indicates, Gorsuch has a habit of lecturing his colleagues in the most condescending tone possible. In his very first dissent, Gorsuch scolded the court for allegedly short-circuiting Congress:
If a statute needs repair, there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation. To be sure, the demands of bicameralism and presentment are real and the process can be protracted. But the difficulty of making new laws isn’t some bug in the constitutional design: it’s the point of the design, the better to preserve liberty.
No doubt the justices in the majority, including Roberts and Alito, needed this ConLaw refresher course from their newest colleague.
Why does Gorsuch write like this? In all likelihood, he’s trying to emulate his idol and predecessor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia was a writer of extraordinary verve and concision. Where Scalia’s prose was lapidary and instinctive, Gorsuch’s is limp and self-conscious. It is, at times, genuinely painful to read.
Artis is a minor case, and there’s no good reason for anyone to suffer through Gorsuch’s entire dissent. (I’d suggest you revel in Justice Elena Kagan’s marvelous prose instead.) But in the near future, the junior justice will begin to receive major assignments, and we’ll have to pay careful attention to his words. Let’s hope he settles in by then and figures out that sometimes a fence is just a fence.
by top gear fan number one @ Reacties op: Top Gear – Vietnam Special
Mon Aug 18 23:54:58 PDT 2014
een en al humor, ik zie graag meer oude specials van jullie. bedankt voor het plaatsten ik zie er graag meer.
by Jamelle Bouie @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 23 16:11:31 PST 2018
To see the importance of recruiting credible, well-funded candidates, one need only look back to November and the Virginia legislative races, where Democrats nearly won a majority in the House of Delegates after almost 20 years in the minority. Those gains were only possible because Democrats fielded an impressive array of candidates for a slew of low-profile, down-ballot races, turning formerly “red” districts into competitive ones.
For 2018, Democrats have not had trouble fielding challengers for races up and down the ballot, from congressional elections to contests for control of statehouses and governor’s mansions. Republicans, on the other hand, are struggling to find viable candidates for even some of the party’s most promising races, including states won by Donald Trump in the presidential election. And the reason is clear: Thanks to President Trump, it’s a bad time to be an ambitious Republican politician.
Even at this early stage in the election cycle, all signs point to some form of a Democratic wave in November, fueled by broad and intense opposition to Trump and his allies.
For Republicans mulling a run this year, the landscape is ominous. There’s the congressional generic ballot, a simple but reliable survey question that asks voters which party they would prefer have control of Congress. Once you adjust for which party controls the White House, notes Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight, the generic ballot is “strongly correlated” with the eventual results as early as 18 months before the election. In 2006, when Democrats took the House and Senate, they held a roughly 10 percentage point average lead in the generic ballot. As of this week, according to Real Clear Politics, they have an average lead of roughly 8 percentage points, with individual polls that range from modest leads of 5 points to substantial ones of 12 or 14 points.
There’s also anecdotal evidence from a collection of special and off-year elections. Last year, Democrats won 14 special elections in Republican-held state legislative districts, in addition to a historic upset in the Alabama Senate race. While Democrats weren’t able to prevail in some deep-red places like Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, they have consistently overperformed in election after election since Trump’s victory. On average, according to left-leaning analysts at the website Daily Kos, Democrats are outperforming past results by around 10 points.
If the environment is fertile for Democratic prospects, it is treacherous for their Republican counterparts, who have struggled to recruit the kinds of candidates who could hold competitive seats or strike at vulnerable ones. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is a liberal Democrat in a state Trump won by nearly 9 percentage points. By any measure, he is a vulnerable incumbent. And yet, Ohio Republicans have yet to field a top-tier challenger. State Treasurer Josh Mandel—who faced Brown in 2012—dropped out of the race earlier this month, citing family concerns. Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance—a Republican with ties to the party establishment in Washington—declined to step into the ring after discussing a possible run with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Thus far, the only challengers to Brown are Rep. Jim Renacci and Mike Gibbons, a self-financing Ohio businessman. There’s still no guarantee that Sen. Brown will win reelection, but in the absence of strong, high-profile challengers, his odds have gone up.
In Virginia, Sen. Tim Kaine is up for re-election. Compared to Ohio, it presents a more difficult political test for Republicans. Hillary Clinton held Virginia’s Electoral College votes, and Democrats swept statewide elections last November. Still, the state is roughly divided between the two parties, and there’s no shortage of credible Republicans in the commonwealth. But only two candidates have stepped up so far to challenge Kaine: Corey Stewart, a Northern Virginia politician whose campaign of white racial resentment nearly toppled Ed Gillespie in the Republican gubernatorial primary; and E.W. Jackson, a far-right minister who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2013.
Likewise, in Minnesota, Republicans haven’t been able to recruit a candidate for the Senate seat once held by Al Franken and now occupied by Tina Smith, who previously served as lieutenant governor. The state is trending toward the GOP, and the scandal around Franken gave Republicans a chance to wring a seat from Democratic hands. But one of the most high-profile Republicans in Minnesota, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has already said he won’t run, rebuffing party leaders, donors, and conservative activists.
The problem is compounded by the growing pace of retirements among Republicans in the House, many in swing districts that could easily fall to Democrats in the absence of a strong Republican effort. Facing a potential wave, Republicans need credible candidates; the fewer they have, the higher the odds of a genuine wipeout that consumes GOP majorities in the House and the Senate.
There are nearly 10 months between now and the midterm elections. As we saw in the 2016 election, there is a lot that can happen in that. But it’s also not that long, and if Republicans can’t solve their recruitment problem soon, they may end up with an even worse electoral landscape than they first imagined.
by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 11:10:35 PST 2018
Regular viewers of the horror-comedy Contemporary American Politics are well aware that the Democratic Party is a bit of a mess. Certainly, the past few months have seen Democratic candidates propelled by revulsion at our healthy president do quite well in places where Democratic candidates have typically done quite badly: We have a Democratic senator from Alabama for the first time in decades and there were rousing results from a series of special state legislative elections just Tuesday night. Still, the party seems to lack a vision that can carry it beyond the Trump era into a future where it can seriously beat back Republican hegemony across the country in a lasting way. On Tuesday, the Nevada Democratic Party unveiled an anti–Mitch McConnell mascot for this year’s campaigns. Mitch McTurtle, they’ve called him. This, my friends, will not do.
In their confusion and desperation, many Democrats cried out for an Oprah candidacy following her speech at the Golden Globes 10 days or lifetimes ago. But there are of course other more conventional candidates thought to be in the running. One of them is Sen. Cory Booker, most famous during his tenure as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, for his viral heroics. He “saved” a hit pedestrian. A freezing dog. A neighbor in a burning building. Imagine if Lassie had a knack for grabbing the attention of local and social media. Imagine if Lassie had then been elected to the United States Senate with the help of the pro-Israel lobby. That’s Cory Booker. As his speech on Trump’s “shithole” comment during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen suggests he’s now moved on to saving America.
It was a performance considerably more lively than his typical store-brand Obama routine, although there was still just enough middle-school sprinkled in to suggest he’s retained the same speechwriters. At one point, he quotes Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, and Gandhi in quick succession, a grand slam of banality that’s no doubt left JFK and Mother Teresa feeling a little jilted wherever they are. The deepest conviction evinced as he’s speaking, stronger than any others he professes over the nine-plus minutes of his speech, is that his glaring and gesticulating and chest-beating are deeply moving to someone somewhere. Reactions to the speech from some Democrats on social media suggests he’s probably right to think so. He’s also, right, of course, that Trump’s comments were wounding to many in immigrant communities. The problem, to this viewer anyway, is that the entirety of the Trump era is so unfathomably and obviously monstrous that choosing any one particular incident as an occasion for a Mr. Smith–ian oration smacks of opportunism. Every straw feels like the last. It cannot be otherwise because American political order itself is rotten. And the Democratic Party, of course, is part of the decay. It is true, as Booker says, that the immigration rhetoric coming out of the White House sounds like racist “social engineering.” This suggests he should save some of his histrionics for Sen. Dick Durbin, who is evidently prepared to grant the administration the largest restrictions to legal immigration in decades in order to save DACA rather than threatening a shutdown to press for a clean bill. In truth, there are probably too many jittery Senate Democrats up for re-election to make a shutdown a real possibility anyway, meaning that a victory for racist rhetoric—abetted by Democrats who would rather make immigration policy with a man who warns about “shithole” migrants than call everything to a halt in disgust—is all but assured. That’s worth yelling about too. Booker won’t do it, and it’s unlikely anyone else will either.
All things considered, the “anger” Booker taps into is much better than the conspiracy of love mush he’s laid on thick lately. We might as well encourage it, lest he lapse into teary tales about composite, yet “1,000 percent real” characters like his drug dealer friend from Newark, “T-Bone.”
Substantively, Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, which would both legalize pot and offer restorative initiatives for people hurt by the war on drugs, is a deeply ambitious piece of legislation and the clearest sign that there might be some there there inside the man who criticized Obama for having the gall to make job losses induced by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital a campaign issue in 2012. He’s also backed Medicare for All, although this stance is beginning to look more like a prerequisite to running in a presidential primary in a post-Bernie world than anything else. The only vision clearly animating Booker is a mirage of himself in the Oval Office, whether that matters to voters will depend on how much displays like Tuesday’s really resonate. Failing that, he might want to find a few more dogs to rescue.
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Sat Jan 20 16:10:03 PST 2018
After it became clear on Friday that Democrats and Republicans were not going to reach an agreement to keep the government open, there was some chatter around the Capitol that we might just be facing a “weekend shutdown”—a couple of days to finalize some tentative agreement that could cruise through both chambers in time for non-essential federal workers to return to the office on Monday morning.
How precious that thinking was.
Both the House and the Senate went into session on Saturday—for press conferences, meetings, speeches, and some procedural votes—and they did not leave with an agreement, or any apparent progress towards one. The impasse, it seems, will have to be resolved by the public.
Republicans and Democrats couldn’t even agree on a proper accounting of what transpired on Friday.
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, has said that he offered to consider the full spending request for President Trump’s promised border wall when the two met on Friday, and that the president later backed out on some tentative agreements once his advisers, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, got to him. But in a briefing Saturday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told a different story: The president asked Schumer for $20 billion to build the wall, and Schumer rejected it, only offering the original $1.6 billion request outlined in the White House’s 2018 budget.
“We absolutely did not reject the full funding request,” a senior Democratic aide told me. “Schumer and Trump agreed by the end that they were close enough on everything that they should pursue a short term CR to facilitate a deal, so nothing was agreed to but they were in good shape on an overall framework. Then Kelly started to unravel it.”
There’s also a dispute over why a deal failed to come together during the frenzied two-hour Senate vote Friday night. The proposal included a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, rather than Feb. 16, as well as a commitment to move a bipartisan immigration bill through the Senate and the House—either in a stand-alone vote in the next few weeks or attached to the Feb. 8 spending bill. The Senate Democratic Whip, Dick Durbin, claims that when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke on the phone to discuss this, Ryan rejected it outright. (There was a moment on the floor last night when McConnell walked back into the chamber from a call, said something to Durbin, and Durbin rolled his eyes and shook his head.) McConnell spokesperson David Popp described Durbin’s characterization as “laughably false,” and said “there was no deal at any time that was blown up by Speaker Ryan. Period.” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said that “the speaker was not part of any deal or involved in any negotiations.”
Whether Ryan formally tanked a “deal”—there’s some wiggle room here—is a technical point. Everyone understands the dynamic. House Republicans do not want to take up the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill. If they did, the Senate could wrap that and all of the other loose ends quickly. If House leaders brought up the Senate’s immigration bill, it could pass the House with mostly Democratic votes, over the objections of conservative members. Such a move could invite a challenge to Ryan’s speakership from the right—especially if the Senate bill doesn’t currently enjoy the president’s support. This, in very condensed form, is the dilemma: Most Senate Democrats will not vote for a spending bill until there’s a path for getting protections for Dreamers passed in both houses, and House Republicans and the White House are saying that they will not negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.
So how does the government reopen? The answer to that won’t be known for a few days.
First, the public must decide who’s to blame. As the shutdown lingers and more people pay attention, polling will more clearly reveal which party is “losing.” The losing side will then sue for peace, and then it’s just a matter of negotiating the terms of surrender. Since the “winning” side has zero incentive to save the losing party, the surrender offer will likely be nothing.
So much of the punditry about shutdowns is about how it will affect the midterm elections, and so little of it is about the very important items that are at stake. But the political fears are just a spur for resolving a policy logjam. Shutdowns are a referendum on a particular policy impasse, and they’re risky because the winner takes the spoils.
by Yascha Mounk @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 03:00:04 PST 2018
This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the president of the United States paid $130,000 to a famous porn actress to stop her from revealing details of an alleged affair between them. For Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter—or really, for just about any of their predecessors—the mere hint of such a payoff would have become the defining scandal of their presidency. But somehow, the sordid story of Stormy Daniels has barely entered public consciousness. Few papers featured it on the front page. Within 48 hours, the conversation had already moved on to the next Trumpian controversy. The normal rules of politics simply do not apply to this particular president.
Granted, the payoff to Daniels is hardly the most egregious of Trump’s misdeeds. If nobody cared about it because the political class was too busy chronicling the larger and more consequential outrages committed by his administration, there might have been something redeeming about this silence. But it doesn’t seem as though this is what’s going on here. Instead, we have simply revised down our expectations—big as well as small, public as well as private.
This alone shows that there was something to the biggest fear that the burgeoning class of Trump-watchers expressed after his ascent to the highest office in the land: that America might quickly start to normalize the president. “In the face of the impulse to normalize,” Masha Gessen wrote the day after the 2016 election, “it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock.” “Washington is going about its business talking about who’s going to get what jobs,” David Remnick observed a few days later. “You would think that Mitt Romney had won. It’s a hallucination.”
Thankfully, though, the most extreme fears about normalization have not materialized. In part because of Trump’s insistence on acting like the worst cartoon version of himself—and in part because many of us took Gessen’s and Remnick’s warnings to heart—the president, by and large, continues to be treated as the aberration he really is. Newspapers that had once insisted on quoting two points of view on every conceivable issue openly state when the president lies. Business leaders who were initially willing to play ball with the administration have deserted his advisory councils in droves. Even Republican congressmen and senators who have supported his legislative agenda time and again have repeatedly felt the need to distance themselves from his most shocking comments.
But while we have mostly managed to resist treating Trump as a normal president, I’m increasingly worried that we have simultaneously fallen into a more subtle trap: Even the private citizens, the business executives, and the politicians who are fully conscious that the president of the United States is a peculiar aberration have not changed their behavior in the day-to-day; despite knowing everything that there is to know about Donald Trump, they go about their personal and professional lives as though we lived in perfectly ordinary times.
Many Republican congressmen and senators, for example, have not only distanced themselves from Trump’s most outrageous comments in public; in private, they have also acknowledged that he is a dangerous fool who will most likely do immense damage to their party, their country, and the world. And yet, they have spectacularly failed to walk that wise talk, neglecting to put real limits on Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or launch nuclear weapons.
Many of the country’s CEOs are concerned about the ways in which this administration creates uncertainty about economic policy and undermines the rule of law. And yet, the markets barely seem to have priced in the possibility of real disruption: over the past year, the stock market has soared from one record to the next as though these risks did not really exist.
Self-declared members of the #Resistance outcompete each other with apocalyptic predictions about the effect Trump will have on the American republic. And yet, public protests against the president have become smaller and smaller with every passing month.
The journalists who cover the administration are probably in the best position of anyone to understand the deep dysfunction at the center of power—as well as the extraordinary ways in which Trump has attacked the press over the past twelve months. But while they have broken some amazing stories, they too have proven reluctant to heed their lessons off the page.
And so the year-end memo which the White House Correspondents’ Association penned for the administration at the beginning of 2018 listed a series of “positive notes from the year now behind us,” lauding Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, for such unremarkable courtesies as being “accessible to individual reporters” and returning “to the longstanding, bipartisan tradition of on-camera briefings.”
Even when the report acknowledges Trump’s severe attacks on the media, it does so in an astoundingly milquetoast manner. While the WHCA complains about the “public denigration of the free press,” for example, it does not call it a shocking and unprecedented attack; instead, it gingerly describes it as one of a number of “areas for improvement.”
All of these indicators point in the same direction: Trump himself has not been normalized. But the fact that the president of the United States is deeply abnormal has.
There is a hopeful way of reading this, and over the past weeks leading pundits have become increasingly tempted to indulge in this kind of optimism: Our institutions, they are starting to claim, are much more solid and resilient than the pessimists might have thought a year ago.
The first days of Trump’s presidency felt like vertigo. After an inaugural speech which George W. Bush fittingly described as “some weird shit,” the White House instituted a chaotic travel ban, floated a rapprochement with Russia, called the future of NATO into doubt, and threatened to end NAFTA. For a few weeks, it seemed as though Trump might move to change the country with scary speed and efficiency.
But that, of course, is not what transpired. The travel ban was, again and again, overturned by the courts; the version that is now being implemented is much-changed and somewhat-attenuated. America’s alliances have undoubtedly suffered a real battering, with levels of support for the United States in countries from Germany to Greece at record lows; but NATO still exists and the U.S. has so far continued to take a tough stance on Russia, selling weapons to Ukraine and implementing sanctions against Putin cronies. Finally, Trump has talked smack about China and stopped the ratification process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership; but for now, the global trade order mostly remains intact. Even Trump’s attacks on independent institutions have ultimately proved reasonably ineffective: though he still insists that he can do what he wants with the FBI, for example, the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller is, for now, continuing apace.
Perhaps, then, it is perfectly rational for all of us to play-act normality. Since our institutions are capable of functioning reasonably well even with a strange and terrible chief executive—since the economy is humming along, since America’s courts continue to adhere to age-old procedural standards, and since a devastating war has not yet broken out—it would seem to make sense both to recognize how bizarre Trump is and to keep going about our daily life as though he weren’t. Eventually, Trump will lose re-election, a more traditional politician will move into the White House, and the nightmare will run its course of its own accord.
This is perfectly plausible. A large portion of Americans long ago made their mind up about the president—and about 50 percent cannot stand him. So long as Democrats run competent campaigns this year, they should make big gains in the House and the Senate. And so long as they run a candidate who isn’t widely hated in 2020, they should have every chance of winning back the White House less than three years from now. Trump’s humbling may not be so far away.
Nor does it seem especially likely that Trump will manage to destroy American democracy in the next few years. While the past 12 months have done little to make me more confident about the stability of our institutions—the serious threat to the independence of law enforcement agencies and the shameful failure of congressional Republicans to hold the president to account are just two of the most obvious warning signs—it takes real competence and strategy to amass power in the hands of the executive. Unlike Hungary’s Viktor Orban or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Donald Trump has so far proven totally lacking in these qualities.
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So the optimistic story has a lot going for it. And yet, I ultimate find it to be dangerously quietist. Why? Because it assesses the degree of danger we face, and the right way to respond to our dire situation, by the most likely outcome rather than the wide range of plausible outcomes.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb persuasively argued in his book, The Black Swan, human beings are terrible at dealing with scenarios in which there is a very small probability of a very bad outcome. Every time I expose myself to a small risk of something really bad happening, and find that the worst case did not materialize, I am likely to conclude that I made the right decision in ignoring the possibility from the start. And yet, what I did was probably irrational for two reasons.
First, if I run a very small risk of a bad outcome over and over again, the cumulative probability of something very bad happening can quickly grow to be substantial. If the likelihood of me being hit by a car when I rush across the street is 1 in a 100,000, for example, but I do so 10,000 times over the course of many years, this gives me at least a 1 in 10 chance of being involved in a serious accident at some point in my life.
Second, it may be deeply irrational to expose myself to the possibility of something very bad happening even if the cumulative risk remains reasonably low. Out of 10 people who consistently run a small risk of getting run over in the street, nine will lead somewhat better lives as a result: They will spend less time waiting around at intersections, and perhaps they will even seize some opportunities that their more risk-averse compatriots missed. But unless they believe that those small benefits justify a 10 percent chance of suffering very serious injuries—or dying a premature death—they will have acted irrationally. In cases involving a black swan hindsight is not 20/20.
This is directly relevant to the Trump era. For in the end, all of the people who are acting cravenly, or cowardly, at the moment are likely to be vindicated. If we somehow manage to muddle through the next three years—if we avoid war with North Korea, if Russia does not go on any more foreign adventures, if the economy does not crater, and if our independent institutions manage to put up enough resistance to retain some degree of independence—they can point at the fortunate outcome and proudly pronounce their wisdom. “Weren’t you silly to get all freaked out?” they will say. “In the end, the threat wasn’t all that bad. After all, everything turned out just fine!”
But this would be far too self-congratulatory a way of reading our collective behavior during the Trump presidency. For the truth of the matter is that we are proving unwilling or unable to take the radical steps that would be justified by the very real danger of black swan events. That failure should give us pause. For it suggests that humanity’s tendency to act normal in circumstances that are anything but is a much greater political danger than we usually recognize.
If some of the worst-case scenarios do yet come to pass, we will have but ourselves to blame. And even if they don’t, our inability to react to the clear threat posed by Donald Trump should make us more skeptical about whether humanity will prove able and willing to confront dangers like climate change in the decades to come. If we are capable of living life as though everything was normal even though we know that a deeply dangerous man has his fingers on the nuclear button, we will also be capable of continuing to drive our SUVs even as Miami Beach is submerged in seawater.
by Robin @ Reacties op: Top Gear – Vietnam Special
Mon Dec 07 09:03:34 PST 2015
Beste autostrada, Ik heb toch even gewacht maar de Vietnam special laadt bij mij niet hoop dat jullie er wat aan kunnen doen wil graag mee lachen. Mvg. Robin.
Interviews with director Ken Burns, veterans, refugees, and community members on Vietnam.
Join BRTV for a Live Recording of VETS TALK featuring Vietnam Veterans sharing their stories. This event will be filmed for a television special airing on WHUT-TV in October 2017. Come network, hear the stories of our veterans and enjoy the camaraderie of being a part of a community focused on providing military veteran a forum to educate, entertain and inspire.
Top Gear Wiki
The Vietnam Special was a special featured as the final episode of series 12 of Top Gear. The presenters travelled the length of Vietnam on three two-wheeled automobiles. Jeremy rode a scooter whilst Richard and James rode motorbikes. Along the way the presenters were given numerous challenges. The special was featured as the 8th episode of the 12th series of Top Gear UK. The trip started in the city of Saigon is Southern Vietnam. The presenters were given 15 million Vietnamese dong to buy a...
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Aaron Morvan) @ Programming
Tue Jun 13 08:09:21 PDT 2017
PBS and OETA pack the summer of 2017 with specials from across the world, from outer space to the depths of the ocean.
by Christina Cauterucci @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 11:08:45 PST 2018
This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.
When a few disparate women—spread across several states and with little history of organized activism—conceived of a women’s march on a whim after Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016, no one knew how it would turn out, or whether it would happen at all. Nothing about the march went as planned. The promised venue, the Lincoln Memorial, was unavailable; organizers hadn’t so much as called the National Park Service to see if any other events were scheduled before they created a Facebook invite. The original name—the Million Woman March—had to be revised to avoid co-opting a 1997 rally. On the day of the march, the planned route had to be scrapped because the crowd was so many times larger than expected, with hundreds of thousands of women smashed ass-to-groin on the D.C. roads where they were supposed to be marching.
No one knew what to expect after the event, either. More than 3.3 million people had poured onto streets across the country. There was no precedent for such a massive, spontaneous demonstration and no clear path forward. Most major protests are culminations of years of movement organizing with clear benchmarks and discernible goals. This thoroughly grass-roots, multi-issue march felt more like a beginning. But the beginning of what?
One year later, it’s still hard to assess the impact of an event so unprecedented in its size and formation. No rally since then has come close to rivaling the crowds of that day, leading some to wonder whether the march had sustained its early momentum. The organizers have coordinated some smaller actions, like a daylong strike and an 18-mile walk against guns and police brutality, and they have urged the organization’s more than 548,000 Twitter followers to lobby their elected officials on a slew of progressive issues. Many of the marchers, including an offshoot group called March On, have channeled the energy of the march into their first attempts at political activism. The Women’s March pulled more newbies into the political fold than any single event in U.S. history, and women—as voters, organizers, and candidates—have already fueled a surge of Democratic victories in state and local elections across the country. If Democrats retake the House this year, it is clear they will have women to thank.
But the activism inspired by the Women’s March has grown beyond simply defeating Republicans at the ballot box. What began as an outpouring of grief and anger at Trump’s election has evolved into a broader re-examination of the feminist movement and the structural factors that allowed a man like Trump, who openly demeaned just about every marginalized demographic in America, to ascend to the nation’s highest office.
“Right now, our democracy is in crisis, and it doesn’t at all surprise me that women were the first to call for a march and to show up by the millions,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a recipient of the MacArthur genius grant. “Somebody in the family is in crisis, and we respond. Somebody in the community is in crisis, and we organize.”
Last week, Poo was a guest of Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes, one of a handful of activists invited by celebrities involved in organizing the Time’s Up initiative to combat the sexual harassment and abuse of low-wage workers. Time’s Up grew out of the #MeToo movement—a months-long reckoning that has shown what the energy born of the Women’s March can accomplish, but also how far the movement for gender equity still has to go. If the nasty shock of Trump’s election proved that women weren’t as equal in contemporary American society as they thought they were, then #MeToo has shown that inequality still pervades every industry and class. It is a testament to the solidarity of the post-march movement that women of different colors and classes have committed to fighting these injustices together. Of all the little silver linings in post-election activism, the awakening of complacent liberals to the realities of modern-day sexism and racism might be the most significant and surprising.
For many women, the march was an inspiration to start bridging these gaps. Cheryl Brown, 56, is part of an activist group that formed from a text chain after the march last January and is now a 100-person email list, whose members live all over the country and coordinate actions—phone banking, letter writing—a few times a week. In addition to their political work, members of Brown’s group have pledged to join at least one additional activist group that represents an identity different from their own. Brown, a black Catholic, now attends the meetings of an otherwise all-white Jewish women’s organization. “They’re hearing my message, and I’m also hearing their message and bringing it back to my own group,” she told me at the Women’s Convention in Detroit in October. “We’ve had some hard conversations about race. Even with white women you consider to be your close friends, you don’t always have those conversations, because you don’t want to offend anyone.”
The Women’s Convention, which was organized by the Women’s March and brought together nearly 5,000 attendees for a kind of make-your-own-activism boot camp, showed how far those conversations had come. The convention reflected a new, inclusive vision of feminism that treats all issues as women’s issues, with more than 100 panels, spread over three days, ranging from informational sessions on topical issues (“Fighting the Prison and Detention Industrial Complex”; “How Disability Rights Can Save the Women’s Movement”) to more tactical advice about how to get involved (“Protecting Immigrants on a Local Level Through Policy Campaigns”; “The Role of Cities in Protecting Reproductive Freedom”).
Some of the most popular sessions centered on cross-racial dialogue. A session on “Confronting White Womanhood” was well past capacity at around 200 attendees; when organizers scheduled a repeat session for the next day due to the high demand, about 500 people showed up. The main event on Saturday, a lunch honoring Maxine Waters in the name of Sojourner Truth, was billed as a corrective to the fact that “the Women’s Movement has never sufficiently included, let alone centered, black women’s experiences in the fight for gender justice.”
The women’s movement that is currently underway has taken direct aim at that imbalance. “I’m not going back to a suffragist movement where Susan B. Anthony says she’d rather cut off her right arm [than] demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman,” said activist Brittany Packnett during one session on putting more black women into positions of power. “I’m not going back to a feminist movement that says women make 80 cents to the man’s dollar when that’s not true for women of color.”
Ingrid Vaca, a domestic worker and undocumented activist who immigrated from Bolivia in 2000, said women were listening to her stories and ideas with a newfound dedication. “I feel that in a lot of meetings, a lot of conventions, nobody talks about us,” Vaca said.
“Coming from this convention, I am feeling really good, because they said they are not only feminist, they are not working just for undocumented or immigrant women, but also for domestic workers. It makes me feel like I have a space in this world.”
For some women, that process has been educational and, at times, exhilarating. Sarah Schulz of Women of Michigan Action Network (WOMAN), whose 1,300 members hail from a small community in central Michigan, said her group has, in the last year, organized an anti–Muslim ban event with a local Islamic center, supported a ballot petition to reform the redistricting process in Michigan, and successfully pressured their representative in Congress, Rep. John Moolenaar, to hold a town hall about the GOP’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“This is the most patriotic thing I’ve ever done,” Schulz, 40, told me. “I’m just this lady, this mom. I literally woke up on Nov. 9 and thought, ‘What the hell, what am I going to do?’ But somebody told me once that the antidote to despair is action.”
The members of WOMAN, who are mostly white, also supported a group of local high school students of color when they protested the national anthem during a recent football game. “For some people in the group, the initial reaction was to be the white savior: ‘Oh, we’ll do it for them, we’ll take a knee,’ ” Schulz said during the “Confronting White Womanhood” session at the convention. “It took a lot of discussion and communication before we figured out that wasn’t the best way to do it.” Instead of hijacking the action, WOMAN members recruited volunteers to use their bodies as shields to safely escort the students off the field, and directed media inquiries to the students, keeping themselves out of the spotlight.
That kind of collaboration represents a step forward for newcomers to social justice organizing, for whom the impulse toward showy actions is strong, and the learning curve for effective allyship is steep. The Women’s March has helped build a kind of fast-track to movement leadership, both by modeling how it’s done—Women’s March co-president Bob Bland had little experience in traditional activism before she made a Facebook event for the march that went viral—and by creating opportunities for concentrated self-education that would normally occur over a period of years.
“It’s amazing to work with people who have never organized before, because there’s a sense of energy and urgency for them. They absorb everything,” said Carmen Perez, one of the co-founders of the march. “It’s not always easy. … There are sometimes things people say that are dismissive of certain communities—and so again, it’s how do you, instead of shaming them, how do you use that as a teaching moment?” Perez points to Facebook video conversations the march organizers have moderated over the past year, on subjects including immigration reform and Trump’s Muslim ban, as examples of how they’re trying to get new activists up to speed on intersectional feminism without alienating them.
“What I’m practicing as a woman of color is patience—patience with a community that is fresh to this fight,” said black writer and stylist Michaela Angela Davis at one convention panel. “Let them learn from us. But y’all better learn quick.”
Some of the newcomers are still catching up on the basics. “What’s a palm card?” asked one woman during a small session led by Baltimore Women United, a voter-turnout organization formed after the 2016 election. Most of the attendees were leaders of their own local activist groups, eager to ask questions like “How did you get that voter data?” and “What do you say to get people to stay and listen when you’re canvassing?” The members of Baltimore Women United have focused their own efforts on getting Democratic and independent women to donate to progressive candidates and vote more regularly, targeting “inconsistent” voters who’ve come out for two of the last three primaries. They do one action a month—registering people to vote at community gatherings, knocking on more than 2,500 doors to spread the word about a primary date—always on the 8th, to “reclaim” the date from the horror they felt when Trump was elected last November.
That grass-roots organizing began to pay dividends in November, when women won electoral victories both substantive and symbolic. Democrats won 15 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates: 11 of those were picked up by women, one of whom is a transgender woman who unseated the man behind a bill banning trans people from certain school bathrooms. In New Jersey, a young woman and first-time candidate was moved to run for office after a male county legislator posted a meme on Facebook that asked, “WILL THE WOMEN’S MARCH PROTEST BE OVER IN TIME FOR THEM TO COOK DINNER?” She beat him handily. Last month, women—and especially black women—helped Democrat Doug Jones win an upset victory in Alabama over Republican Roy Moore, who had been accused of pursuing, and in some cases assaulting, teenage girls. It was the first time Democrats had won a statewide race in Alabama in decades.
The challenge for activists will be to sustain those results over the coming year, and translate that momentum into tangible gains for women of all backgrounds. The Women’s March organization, which now has several full-time employees (though representatives won’t say how many), plans to launch its own nationwide “voter registration tour” in Las Vegas on the anniversary of the march. “The fact that we saw a flip happen in Alabama as well as Virginia is kind of a ray of hope for us,” Carmen Perez, one of the four co-chairs of the march, told me. “Last year was a time to get people engaged, and to educate them, and to give them the tools that they needed in order to work in their local communities, or on a state level or a federal level. And now it’s time to get people out to the polls.”
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Ken Burns aims to win hearts and minds with his epic Vietnam series, but loses sight of how we got involved.
by Seth Stevenson @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 24 02:45:07 PST 2018
Ben Shapiro was 5 feet 2 inches and extremely prepubescent when, in the mid-1990s, he enrolled as a sophomore at a private Jewish high school in Los Angeles. The scrawny new kid had skipped ahead two grades, was too smart, talked too much, and got brutally bullied. Things came to a head when, on an overnight school trip, a few of Shapiro’s classmates handcuffed him to a bed and beat him with their belts.
“I hate bullies,” the conservative commentator, now 5 feet 9 inches and a workout enthusiast, told me over lunch. “I think bullies are evil. From the time I was pretty young I had to grow a thick skin. You can either feel like you’re victimized or you can decide that success is the best revenge.”
Shapiro first hit my and many other left-wing radar screens in March 2016, when he called out the bullies at Breitbart News. A Breitbart reporter named Michelle Fields had been physically assaulted after a Donald Trump press conference by Corey Lewandowski, who was then Trump’s campaign manager. When Fields complained, Lewandowski said Fields was “delusional” and denied the incident had occurred. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks suggested Fields was just angling to get attention. Despite a Washington Post writer’s eyewitness account corroborating Fields (and, later, video evidence), the editors at Breitbart opted to accept the Trump team’s brazenly false version of events over the word of their own reporter.
Which made Shapiro furious. Shapiro had known Breitbart’s founder, Andrew Breitbart, ever since he emailed to compliment a column Shapiro wrote for the Daily Bruin as a 16-year-old undergrad at UCLA. Breitbart eventually hired Shapiro, years later, but died a month after Shapiro came aboard. Under a new boss, Steve Bannon, Breitbart News cozied up to the Trump campaign and to the burgeoning alt-right movement. Shapiro was disgusted by both. The treatment of Fields was his breaking point.
“In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully,” he said in a statement at the time, explaining his resignation from Breitbart, “and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda.”
If you remember this dark chapter of the election cycle, you’ll recall that, among his cohort, Shapiro’s stubborn acknowledgment of plain fact at the risk of offending the Trump campaign qualified as a brave and self-destructive act. “In March 2016 I wrote a piece that went viral on the right,” conservative pundit Jonah Goldberg told me when I called to talk about Shapiro, “likening the change in the GOP to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Some psychological trigger was flipping. It was disturbing. When everything seemed really crazy, Ben and I would talk and compare notes. There was this underground mentality. You made new friends in foxholes.”
Fields got little support from other right-wingers. “When the whole ordeal happened, Breitbart immediately threw me under a bus,” she told me. “Close colleagues abandoned me. Fox took me off the air. People didn’t want to alienate Trump. I was in this storm and Ben reached out to me and said he wanted to jump into the storm with me. He knew it would hurt him with his base, with people that liked him.”
Shapiro’s stand put him in the crosshairs of more bullies, attracting a hail of anti-Semitic harassment from Trump’s hordes of deplorables. Shapiro would open his inbox each day to see images of himself photoshopped into gas chambers, yellow Jewish stars pinned to his chest. There were death threats and threats to his family. “The reason they came after me,” Shapiro says, “was because I was anti-Trump, I was openly Orthodox, and I had worked for Breitbart. That combination was absolutely toxic.”
A report by the Anti-Defamation League, covering August 2015–July 2016, found that Shapiro was the direct target of at least 7,400 anti-Semitic tweets. This made him easily the most targeted journalist in the study. And the abuse hasn’t stopped. The morning I visited his office, roughly a year after the election, Shapiro discovered that alt-righters had gotten around to doxing his sister, who is an opera singer, and were spamming her YouTube clips with anti-Semitic messages.
“During the campaign, a bunch of talk-radio people were treating the alt-right as just another legitimate member of the Republican coalition,” says Goldberg, who was the sixth–most targeted journalist on that ADL list. “A lot of the GOP establishment and the cable news establishment said, ‘These guys are a social media force. Aren’t they interesting.’ But people like Ben knew that anyone forming an alliance of convenience with those guys wasn’t someone you wanted anything to do with.”
It’s tempting to view all this through the lens of Shapiro’s high school nightmare. To create a psychoanalytic narrative in which the indignation of that bound and beaten kid animates Shapiro’s better impulses. In his noblest moments, after all, he has bucked his party and stood up to some of the most despicable bullies of our era. Perhaps it was because he’d been bullied before, and worse than most, that he held his ground when it would have been far easier, personally and professionally, to accede to the Trump avalanche.
But there’s an addendum to that high school story. Shapiro’s father came to the school to confront the students who’d bullied Shapiro. “My dad came into the room where the kids who’d done this to me were,” Shapiro told me, “and the rabbi started talking, and my dad said, ‘Shut up.’ And then he said to the kids, ‘I have a ball-peen hammer in the back of my car and I will take it to you if you ever touch my son again.’ He did not actually have a ball-peen hammer in his car. That’s a pretty indicative story of who my dad is. Those kids didn’t bother me from then on.” (Ben’s dad, David Shapiro, confirmed the bullying incident and his response to it but told me he would not have said “shut up” to a rabbi.)
Here we find a different formative lesson: Posturing with bared teeth will cow your foes into submission. In Shapiro’s lowest moments as a pundit, he is victim turned aggressor. Quick to mock, devoid of empathy, obnoxiously cocky. Shapiro may despise Trump, but he chooses to focus most of his ire on the president’s favorite punching bags: the mainstream media, the Hollywood elite, and the carcass of Hillary Clinton. After Trump’s Charlottesville comments, Shapiro called the president “responsible for mainstreaming the alt-right” and declared that “granting them a smidgen of respectability is morally disgusting.” But Shapiro has also claimed “There is no evidence of systemic discrimination against minorities” by police departments and maintains that President Obama purposefully “divided Americans by race.”
Which leaves me with an ancient dilemma: Is the enemy of my enemy my friend? Shapiro is among a dwindling cadre of Trump-averse conservatives at a time when the mainstream GOP and its media apparatus are following (and sometimes leading) our cretinous president straight into the muck. Shapiro is ascendant, with a growing media empire and a large audience who adores him. Should there arise a constitutional crisis in which this president attempts to roll his tanks (metaphorical or otherwise) over the ramparts of American democracy, I will be relying on influential right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro to help America hold the line. The question I keep asking myself is: Will he?
* * *
On a Thursday morning in October, as he does nearly every weekday, Shapiro drove 15 minutes from his home in North Hollywood, California, to his office in nearby Sherman Oaks, arriving shortly before 9 a.m. He had his hair and makeup done, then hustled across the hall into a small recording studio adorned with nothing but a desk and a wall-mounted flat-screen monitor. There, live, extemporaneously, without a single pause or retake, he delivered an hour-plus monologue to a gargantuan online audience.
On this particular morning, Shapiro was weighing in on George H.W. Bush’s nonconsensual butt-cupping habit. (He declared Poppy’s behavior indefensible unless the 93-year-old was “deep in the throes of dementia.”) At one point, he took a detour to recommend War and Peace, a book he said he’d devoured on his most recent vacation, and remarked that Tolstoy “is a conservative guy in many ways.” His myriad rants on a wide-ranging number of topics were issued off the cuff—he happily showed me his laptop screen to prove he uses no notes.
At a certain point in each of his shows, Shapiro crows, in his pinched, adenoidal tenor, that his is the “largest and fastest-growing conservative podcast in the country.” He’s almost certainly correct. The Ben Shapiro Show, which launched in September 2015, now generally gets between 250,000–350,000 downloads per day on SoundCloud. A video version of the show—just a couple of cameras pointed at Shapiro’s face as he monologues—attracts an additional 250,000–350,000 views per day on YouTube.
And then there’s Shapiro’s massive Facebook presence. Each day’s video is posted on Facebook Live, where it will regularly get another half-million views, sometimes even 1 million. According to CrowdTangle, the analytics tool we use at Slate, Shapiro had more Facebook engagements (likes, shares, and comments) in December than any other conservative site or personality except for Fox News and Breitbart. Shapiro’s Facebook page spurred 2.5 times more engagement than the Daily Caller’s, 6 times more than Sean Hannity’s, and 11.5 times more than Laura Ingraham’s. On Dec. 1, 2016, Shapiro’s page had 444,378 likes. Now it has 3.2 million.
If podcasts are the new talk radio, there’s a case to be made that Shapiro is the new Rush Limbaugh. “We have as many people listening to our show as any of the major radio shows,” he told me with confidence. Yet he doesn’t consider talk radio his competition. “I think they’re almost two completely separate audiences. I think talk radio is largely 60 and over. My podcast is almost entirely 40 and younger. Something like 55 percent of our audience is under the age of 30,” he said, citing internal numbers I can’t confirm.
Shapiro’s climb into the right-wing media pantheon is partly thanks to his deftness at poking holes in the left-wing dogma of the day. He’s starred in several popular YouTube videos in which he “owns” (meaning browbeats into mumbling doubt) lefty college kids who dare to ask him questions during his campus speaking gigs. He takes evident joy in flogging the boogeymen and women his audience loves to hate—the aforementioned Hollywood/media/Clinton vortex. But perhaps the greatest source of Shapiro’s appeal is that, at 34 years old, he speaks a different sort of conservative language. He’s handy with Twitter memes and pop culture references. He connects with a younger online audience in a way that a baby boomer host like Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, can’t. He can be as rabid as the old-school radio guys, but his vibe—his humor, his mode of attack, the character he plays on air—feels new.
When the New York Times called Shapiro “the cool kid’s philosopher,” cool kids on the left rolled their eyes, but it’s true that for millennial conservatives, Shapiro presents a more evolved species of pundit. He often strives to acknowledge and address the strongest arguments of those he disagrees with. (Here he is earnestly and respectfully debating a conservative transgender woman.) He recommends highbrow books (recently, Jan Swafford’s biography of Johannes Brahms). He listens to Pod Save America. He is the anti-Limbaugh in his personal life: physically fit, happily married, a devoted father.
He’s also willing to condemn hypocrisies on his own side, which is a quality rare in pundits of any stripe. In a podcast segment about Trump’s feud with NFL players who knelt in protest during the national anthem, Shapiro beseeched his audience to “take off your partisan hats.” He then asked them to imagine a player kneeling to protest Roe v. Wade—and to imagine their horror if President Obama petulantly demanded the player be fired.
Moments like this have made him a favored conservative listen among some of his audio counterparts on the left. In September, This American Life host Ira Glass tweeted, “I really like listening to @BenShapiro. He’s interesting. I’ve learned things.” Mike Pesca, host of Slate’s The Gist, had Shapiro on his show in 2016. “There’s no real reason why political talk—even heavily opinion-inflected political talk—has to sound like propaganda,” Pesca told me. “Hannity, Rush, and Laura Ingraham, who I’ve listened to a lot, are a closed loop. They don’t consider contrary evidence. Ben does. I can focus on the fact that I disagree with how Ben weighs the evidence, but I get the sense that he is at least acknowledging the evidence.”
“On an anecdotal basis,” says Shapiro, “I would guess that probably 20–25 percent of my audience are people on the left, because they feel like it’s an honest voice from the other side.”
* * *
Over a sidewalk lunch near his office (interrupted by a passer-by who recognized Shapiro and effused, “I’m such a huge fan!”), Shapiro recounted his middle-class childhood in Burbank and North Hollywood. He has three younger sisters—one the opera singer, one an artist, one married to a rabbi. His father was a musician who never hit the big time and mostly stayed at home to raise the four kids. Shapiro’s mother worked her way up from secretary to successful entertainment executive. His parents grew increasingly religious during this time, becoming Orthodox when Shapiro was 11.
After surviving those ugly high school years, Shapiro enrolled in college at 16, choosing UCLA to stay near his family. A few days into his first semester, he became incensed enough by what he deemed to be an anti-Israel editorial in the student paper that he asked to write a rebuttal. He soon became a regular columnist for the Daily Bruin. By 17, he’d joined the stable of the right-leaning Creators Syndicate and was appearing in newspapers across the country. By the time he left school, he’d published a book about academia titled Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America’s Youth.
He went straight to Harvard Law, thinking he’d make lots of money as a lawyer, and graduated cum laude—writing another two books along the way, including one about the dangers of pornography. When he began applying for law-firm jobs, he says, his side gig as a political writer torpedoed his chances. “I walked into one interview with a guy at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who, before I sat down, he didn’t even say hello, he goes, ‘It’s always been my contention that conservatives and religious people in general have a Freudian fear of sex.’ That’s how he opened the conversation. I was like, fuck, I’m not getting this job.”
Shapiro secured a position in real estate law at a large Los Angeles firm but quit after 10 months. “It was meaningless work,” he says. “Drudgery. My entire mode is speed, and the mode of a corporate law firm is to be slow and bill more hours. When I told a partner I was quitting, he goes, ‘You know, you’re giving up the most money you will ever make in your life. You will never have a job like this again, that has the kind of potential earnings that you’ll have here.’ ”
“Was he right?” I asked.
“He was dramatically wrong.”
Shapiro now writes four pieces a day for the Daily Wire, a conservative news and commentary site he launched in 2015 with investment from the Texas fracking billionaire Wilks brothers. He also writes a weekly column for National Review and another weekly column for national syndication. He writes every other week for the Jewish Journal. He’s written eight books of his own (including How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them and, perhaps ironically, Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans) and ghostwritten another 12. This is in addition to his daily podcast, the three or four books he says he reads each week, and his busy public speaking and retweeting schedule. (At one point when I was spending time with Shapiro, he asked for privacy for 10 minutes so he could say his prayers. I opened up Twitter to kill time and soon noticed Shapiro actively retweeting things.)
When I marveled at his productivity, Shapiro replied, “I remember what my fourth grade teacher said to me. ‘Don’t let potential be written on your tombstone.’ I always felt like, OK, that’s good advice. When there’s an opportunity, I try to grab it.”
“That’s some heavy advice for a fourth-grader,” I remarked.
“I was a heavy kid.”
He was also a pretty blinkered kid. He rushed ahead in school, skipping the third and ninth grades, while being raised in a strict religious environment. (At one point, he thought he wanted to become a rabbi.) He went through college much younger than his classmates and experienced almost no social life. “I’m not a ‘friends’ person by nature,” he said, explaining that he spent, and still spends, almost all of his free time with his family. “I went to a couple of parties in college and I thought they were boring.”
He says he graduated college a virgin and, in accordance with Orthodox tradition, remained a virgin until his marriage at 24. He met his Orthodox wife through one of his sisters. On their first date, he told me, they had a four-hour conversation about “free will and determinism.” They were engaged three months later.
He has never tried marijuana or any other drug. When I asked if he wasn’t a little curious, he mounted a quintessentially conservative miniargument against curiosity. “I’m not someone who feels the need to try every experience,” he said. “I was a virgin until I was married, but I don’t think I missed out. I feel like my sex life is fantastic.”
* * *
If you didn’t hear about Shapiro when he quit Breitbart in 2016, perhaps you heard about the speech he gave at the University of California, Berkeley, in September 2017, where students attempted to bar him from appearing. There were nearly 1,000 demonstrators and nine arrests. Police in riot gear set up a security perimeter.
The students seemed to equate Shapiro with his erstwhile Breitbart colleague, Milo Yiannopoulos—a vile, alt-right provocateur who, among other disgraceful acts, once led a racist online attack against comedian Leslie Jones so egregious that Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter. (Shapiro has been adamant about his distaste for Yiannopoulos.) During protests at other campuses where Shapiro has spoken, students and sometimes even professors have labeled Shapiro a neo-Nazi, which is an extremely misguided critique at the very least.
But here is where I should mention that a lot of smart people detest Ben Shapiro, and not without reason. For example: Shapiro didn’t resign from Breitbart, despite ample evidence of its monstrous racism, until the victim of Breitbart’s thuggishness was a white female colleague in peril. And while Shapiro is no Milo, he has also said some vile things. There was, for instance, an October interview with ABC’s Nightline, in which Shapiro said transgender people suffer from “mental illness.” Or this 2010 tweet in support of Israeli settlements:
On Oct. 9, 2017, known as either Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day depending on which way you swing, the Daily Wire posted an animated video mocking the Native Americans who Christopher Columbus encountered when he landed in the West. The video portrayed Native Americans as savage cannibals and then displayed a ledger comparing their putative contributions to the culture of the Western Hemisphere with those of post-Columbus Europeans. The Native American column listed only three contributions: “dreamcatchers,” “tomahawks,” and “cannibalism.” On the Western culture side of the ledger were contributions such as “science,” “underwear,” and “not-scalping.”
The outrage on the left was swift and loud. When I asked Shapiro about the video a few weeks after it had published on his site, he absolved himself of responsibility. “I don’t know how it happened,” he told me. “Somebody greenlit it. I was on vacation. I had no idea they were going to do it. The first time I saw it was on the Monday morning it went up. My initial response was we should take it down immediately.”
He ended up leaving the video on the site overnight. “I didn’t want to quash satire even if it was bad satire,” he said. “I think it’s misfired satire rather than this was supposed to be some sort of objective telling of what happened on Columbus Day. But the more I thought about it the more I hated it. It missed the part where all of the Native Americans died.” He took it down the next morning.
I asked him if he thought the video was racist. “The only reason I’m hesitant to use the word racist,” he said, “is because the question is how much of it was culturally oriented as opposed to racially oriented. How much of it was saying Native Americans are inherently inferior, and how much of it was that Native American culture was inferior to Western culture, which is a contention with which I generally agree. I am somebody who says Western civilization is the best civilization by nature. I tweeted on Columbus Day that the purpose of Columbus Day is to say that the Western civilization arriving in the Americas was a great good for civilization, even though awful things happened to the Native Americans. I’m not going to pretend awful things didn’t happen to the Native Americans. That’s why I took the video down. I didn’t like it. I took it down. I don’t know what else I can do.”
The fact that Shapiro uses the term feminist as a pejorative tells you a fair amount about where he’s coming from. He calls himself a libertarian on gay marriage and thinks the government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all—yet he also told me that among his “great fears” is that California will order its schools (including the kinds of religious schools where Shapiro might personally send his kids) to teach the “sanctity” of gay marriage, which he could not abide. “I think homosexual activity is a sin,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a genetic component to homosexual orientation. But the view of all religious people I know has always been that sexual behavior is something that is up to you.” He then offered me an analogy that he felt elucidated the choice gay people have: “For example, I may have a desire to sleep with many women, but I do not.”
When I asked about abortion, Shapiro said he thinks it should be illegal and that doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted. He also told me he believes that women should be forced to carry a fetus to term even if it is the result of rape or incest. “The question doesn’t change,” he said, when I pressed him on this. “The question is whether that baby is a human life or is not a human life. If it’s a human life, well, if you are raped, then you don’t get to kill the person sitting next to you.” The one generous exception he’ll make in this scenario is if the despondent woman becomes suicidal. Anything short of actual, imminent suicide won’t do.
That’s the problem with the enemy of your enemy. Generally, there’s a reason he’s not already your friend.
* * *
I don’t need my conservative commentators to agree with me about everything, or even most things. What would be the point of auditing different viewpoints if they never differed?
I’ve listened to dozens upon dozens of episodes of the Ben Shapiro Show in reporting this piece. I almost always disagree with his rants, yet I find them fascinating. He often constructs well-crafted arguments that flow from first principles I deem wackadoo. This helps me understand conservative thinking even if it rarely changes my mind. Increasingly, though, I find I’m listening most closely to Shapiro to determine one thing: When it really hits the fan, will he go Trump? In a time of crisis, where will this shepherd of millennial conservatives lead his flock?
A recent Esquire story limned the despair of the Never Trumpers, conservatives who’ve discovered that “the rise of Trump changed the old refrain ‘It can happen here’ into something more dire and pressing: ‘It’s happening now and must be stopped.’ ” These are the Republicans, or erstwhile Republicans—many of them older dudes of waning influence, like Bill Kristol and George Will—with whom I’ve found unexpected common cause in this strange era. We can set aside our bitter fights about deregulation and tax policy and focus on the looming hazards at hand: threats to the rule of law, attacks on democratic institutions, unchecked kleptocracy. I had hoped Shapiro would be among this tribe, given his rejection of Trump during the campaign, and hoped he’d take his large and youthful fan base with him. But I’m not sure.
Shapiro insists that if autocracy encroaches, he’ll be manning the barricades. But he distinguishes Trump’s bluster from his actions. “Trump is a hammer. Sometimes he hits a nail and sometimes he hits a baby,” he told me. “The big problem I see on the right is the unwillingness to say when he hit a baby. We just pretend the baby was a nail. When he said he wanted to start looking at removing the licenses from NBC, I said, ‘This is insane. This is nuts.’ if Trump were to start shutting down press outlets, I would stand outside NBC. But aside from saying that the comment is nuts and that we have to oppose it, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Because he hasn’t actually proposed a policy.”
With regard to the ongoing Mueller investigation, Shapiro prefers to take a wait-and-see attitude. “If there’s an actual crime there, then I think the Republicans are going to be in serious trouble. They’re going to be in a really difficult position. Right now it’s a lot of talk.”
These days, on podcast segments about the latest horrifying rhetoric wafting from the White House, Shapiro tends to briefly acknowledge that Trump is saying “silly” things but then shifts his focus to over-the-top responses emanating from the dippiest emissaries of the extreme left. Alpha Never Trumper David Frum has described this stratagem, popular among Trump-phobic conservatives desperately trying to thread the needle with their pro-Trump comrades, as: “Hope for the best. Make excuses where you can. When you can’t make an excuse, keep as quiet as you can. Attack Trump’s critics in the media and Hollywood when all else fails.”
When I sat down with Shapiro, he defended this middle-way approach. “After Charlottesville,” he said, “I did an entire episode just ripping Trump up and down.” (This is true. That episode of his podcast was the most viscerally angry I’ve heard him sound.) “[But] it is my honest opinion that every human being has good things and bad things. I don’t have to make an overall call on Trump as a quote-unquote human being. I may have my feelings about him as a human being. I may think that he’s a bloviating gasbag who’s unqualified for the office. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the president of the United States. Now, the question is, is he going to do things that I like, or is he going to do things that I don’t like?”
Lately, Trump has been doing things Shapiro likes very much. In the last weeks of 2017, as Trump began to get traction on some policy goals Shapiro favors (tax cuts and, especially, moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem), Shapiro’s criticisms of the president seemed to soften. Trump’s split with Steve Bannon delighted Shapiro—it marginalized both the alt-right and, Shapiro hopes, Bannon’s populist policy ideas. While Frum frets that “Trump is changing conservatism into something different,” one of Shapiro’s recent columns for the National Review argued that Trump is merely the “salt” in conservatism’s “stew.” Too much salt ruins a stew, Shapiro concedes, but “the occasional dash adds necessary flavor.”
On Jan. 5, in the 447th episode of his podcast, Shapiro began the new year by reaching what seems to be a final accommodation. “He is what he is in my view,” Shapiro said of Trump. “I don’t think he’s the world’s most stable guy. I don’t think he has the character of a president that I would prefer. But I will enjoy the policy wins that he’s brought. And I can live with that cognitive dissonance. Everyone else should learn to, too.”
In de achtste aflevering van seizoen 12 doet Top Gear wat de Amerikanen destijds niet lukte: van het zuiden naar het noorden van Vietnam trekken.
by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 16 13:52:04 PST 2018
No Senate Republican, with the possible exception of John McCain, has taken a stronger verbal stance against President Trump than Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who has declared the president “a threat to the stability of the entire world.” On Wednesday, Flake plans to make a speech in advance of Trump’s Fake News Awards that compares Trump’s anti-press rhetoric to Joseph Stalin’s. As much as this might delight a president who worships dictators—especially dictators of Russia—Flake means it as a harsh criticism.
If Flake’s formidable speech last year announcing his retirement at the end of this congressional session is any guide—he lambasted “the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals” and said that all Trump represents “is dangerous to a democracy”—his remarks on Wednesday are sure to be robust. But from what his office has leaked of his comments, and in his public remarks about his hopes for the future of the Republican Party, Flake continues to misunderstand and underestimate his own not insignificant power. The result is that, no matter how forceful his words or genuine his objections, Flake’s opposition to Trump has been essentially token.
He can do better but only if he starts reconceiving his place in the Senate.
This past weekend, Flake went on television to outline his speech, which has already enraged Republicans. (Flake is expected to say, in part, “The president has it precisely backward—despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him fake news, it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”) But in the process of defending his approach to Trump, Flake was forced to explain why he has overwhelmingly voted for Trump’s agenda. “I’m a conservative, and when something like health care reform comes up … I voted some 30 times to repeal and replace Obamacare,” he told Christiane Amanpour on CNN:
Why should somebody expect, because I have disagreements with the president on some policy and behavior, for me to change my vote and vote differently? Should I do it just out of spite? Or to hobble the presidency? I find it interesting when people expect me, because I have disagreements with the president, to want to hobble him, or to vote against what I consider good policy just out of spite. I don’t do that and I don’t think I should.
On the surface, this approach makes a certain amount of sense. Flake is a staunch conservative with an extremely conservative voting record. Trump, eschewing the phony populism that characterized aspects of his campaign, is now pursuing a typical conservative legislative agenda. Why wouldn’t Flake vote for it? But if Flake legitimately believes that Trump’s presidency “is dangerous to a democracy,” then wouldn’t hobbling him be the right thing to do, regardless of what policy goals get sacrificed in the process?
The clear upshot of Flake’s remarks over the past year is that this is an extraordinary time, and in extraordinary times, you … know the rest. But Flake seems entirely unwilling to take actions commensurate with either the times—which he correctly recognizes as frighteningly dangerous—or his own words. He seems to believe that anything too radical would be a violation of his conservative principles, when in fact he should be willing to temporarily put aside his commitment to those principles for his commitment to—by his own account—larger ones.
The Republicans have a 51–49 advantage in the Senate and control all major committees by a single vote. This is why Flake, McCain, and Bob Corker—who has implied Trump may bring about a nuclear holocaust—need to threaten the GOP agenda, which in many ways is their own. If they don’t want to switch parties—an idea that is sneered at, but should upset Republicans less than the prospect of nuclear war—they need to threaten to withhold their committee votes. (Flake sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for instance, and the confirmation of judges remains arguably the most important Republican policy priority after tax cuts.) By simply demanding certain things, Flake and a colleague would force the GOP majority to go along with some circumscription of Trump’s power.
A small list of things they could demand, none of which are an affront to small-c conservative principles: a bill protecting Robert Mueller’s investigation, actual oversight of Trump’s business dealings and Emoluments Clause issues, a new look at the president’s power over nuclear weapons, promises from Trump to refrain from attacking ethnic and racial minorities and the media, promises from Trump to cease attacking the Justice Department’s integrity, ethics compliance among members of the executive branch, acceptance of 2016’s election results, and a promise to not try and restrict the franchise.
These are merely some ideas. They may have others. And, indeed, you might say that all of these things are far-fetched or pointless—that Trump will never comply with them or that his promises are made to be broken. All the better: In that case Trump’s agenda must be made to suffer—a prospect that is the only thing that could force other Republicans to begin putting pressure on Trump.
So Flake jumps ship or withholds his votes, paving the way for another Republican Trump critic who isn’t seeking re-election to do the same, paving the way for the above scenario to play out. I know it sounds absurd, and I understand why Flake and his saner colleagues are hesitant to threaten to vote against things they believe in. But if Flake wants us to believe that we are living in perilous times, he needs to start acting like it. Only creative solutions will be effective. His words on Wednesday might be inspiring—and are certain to be more honorable than the sniveling abjectness of most of his colleagues—but they are unlikely to do anything to stop the president he quite obviously detests.
by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles
Mon Jan 22 16:01:19 PST 2018
About one year ago, an estimated 4.2 million people participated in the Women’s March, which is thought to have been the largest demonstration in American history—several times larger than the massive protests of the Vietnam War Moratorium of 1969. By the end of 2017, thousands of anti-Trump protests across the country brought a total of between 5.2 million and 8 million people to the streets. This past weekend’s marches again brought out hundreds of thousands of participants. These protests are only the most visible manifestations of broad and seething discontent with our president and those advancing his agenda in Washington, discontent that has also encouraged tens of thousands of people to consider running for office and prompted hundreds of thousands of phone calls to Congress last year from those hoping to defeat the repeal of Obamacare, one of the key items on the president’s legislative agenda.
Through all of this, the Democratic Party has exhibited little of the confidence and daring one would expect from a party on the right side of what may well be an unprecedented movement in the history of American politics. Monday was no different. “After several discussions, offers, counteroffers, the Republican leader and I have come to an arrangement,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the ranking Democrat in Washington, announced this morning. “We will vote today to reopen the government to continue negotiating a global agreement with the commitment that if an agreement isn’t reached by February the 8th, the Senate will immediately proceed to consideration of legislation dealing with DACA.”
So ended, in Schumer’s words, the “Trump shutdown.” This moniker is a not insignificant bit of obfuscation on the Democrats’ part. It is of course true, as Schumer and others have said over and over again, that the Republican Party has the presidency, the House, and the Senate, making the shutdown the first to occur with ostensible one-party control of government. It is also true that moving forward on a funding bill required 60 votes in the Senate that the Republican Party did not have, even with the support of vulnerable shutdown-wary Democrats. The vast majority of Senate Democrats, who did not lend them that support, are responsible for the shutdown. Those Democrats have spent the past three days blaming it on Republican procedural incompetence rather than making a straightforward, honest case to the American people that the shutdown’s true purpose—securing a DACA deal—was worth it. “It’s the president’s and congressional Republicans’ responsibility to govern,” Schumer said in a speech Saturday. “It’s their responsibility to keep the doors open and the lights on around here.” The word for this is cowardice.
Luckily for Democrats, polls repeatedly showed that the American people backed their framing. A Public Policy Polling/Center for American Progress poll released Sunday found that 52 percent of Americans blamed President Trump and Republicans for the shutdown. It also found that 58 percent of Americans wanted to include Dreamers as part of a package deal to reopen the government. Forty-two percent of Americans, the poll says, would have strongly supported this.
The deal Democrats agreed to instead amounted to not much more than they were offered by the Republicans immediately before the shutdown: an extension of government funds until Feb. 8, a six-year extension of the needlessly beleaguered CHIP program, and a pinky promise from Mitch McConnell that a vote on a DACA fix will be held before the latest round of government funding expires. That assurance from McConnell was evidently solid enough to win over Democrats who, exactly a year ago, were moaning endlessly about his theft of Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat. Even assuming clean, pure, and virginal intent on McConnell’s part, it is not at all certain that the House will even take up a DACA fix not attached to a must-pass spending bill. This was, really, the point of the shutdown, which, after just three days of dithering from Democrats and nauseating lectures from Republicans about the harms of “manufactured” crises, is already over.
There may well be another shutdown in the coming weeks. But an opportunity was blown Monday. In 2013, the last shutdown, triggered by Republicans demanding the delayed implementation of Obamacare and spending cuts, lasted over two weeks. Since 1990, shutdowns have lasted, on average, 11 days. What might a competent party have done with that time? The shutdown was perhaps the first action by congressional Democrats that can properly be called “resistance.” In an act more significant than simply voting against nominees or bills in routine procedure, they briefly called government under this deeply, widely, and justifiably reviled administration to a halt. They could have, over the course of two weeks or so, taken a moral stand for a moral immigration policy—pushing until the bitter end for a clean DACA solution and proclaiming, with high rhetoric and theater, that all of our nation’s immigrants are worth fighting for. Substantively, this intransigence might have extracted concessions. Or it might not have. Either way, the Democrats would have both lifted the morale of the DACA enrollees who’ve been kicked around by this process and galvanized an activist base eager to see its representatives match their outrage and energy.
Then again, it’s plausible that a drawn-out showdown would have been purely depressing—treating us to more indignities like Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, perhaps the most outspoken immigration advocate in Congress, conceding funding for the wall in desperation. This is where we’re at. A project that will be either dubious or outright laughable in implementation—publicly called a symbol of pig-headed xenophobia and bigotry by nearly all prominent Democrats at the beginning of this administration—will very probably be funded at the end of all this with their support, if a deal is ultimately passed. The largest changes to the legal immigration system in decades, proposals that would have been called far-right a year ago, have also been put on the table by the Democratic Minority Whip, Dick Durbin, who on Monday called DACA “the civil rights issue of our time.” If that is so, then it is fitting that this civil rights issue, like others past, will likely be resolved with a slimy compromise to be challenged by activists who are none too pleased. “Dems failed to fight & use their leverage to protect immigrant youth,” United We Dream co-founder Cristina Jimenez tweeted. “A false promise to vote on immigration from Rs is not a strategy to win. We won’t be fooled.”
This is the voice of the Democratic Party to come. Leaders like Schumer and Durbin might not realize it, but the people most likely to be the party’s standard-bearers in 2020 clearly do. Every top-tier contender in the Senate—Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren—voted against Monday’s resolution. There’s some hope for the near-future in that. But for now, in the present and a year into the Trump administration, the only thing more astonishing than the man in the White House and the demands he’s made on our national conscience is the fecklessness of the party opposing him.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 23 17:22:47 PST 2018
Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.
The American government was back in business Tuesday, as the latest federal shutdown was relegated to the history books, but that didn’t stop media of all stripes from picking through the (mostly Democratic) wreckage. Rich Lowry argued in National Review that the “short, mostly weekend shutdown shows the limits of the resistance.” Yes, there appears to be a Democratic wave forming, he wrote, but the shutdown shows that even a highly motivated left “doesn’t mean that Democrats can act with impunity so long as they are fighting under an anti-Trump banner.”
National Review’s David French examines Democrats’ favorite fear/justification when on the wrong end of things: the we’re too nice explanation. French asks “does the Left lose because it’s too civil?” The short answer is: no. While liberals think of themselves as valuing inclusion, civility, and dialogue, “this is precisely the opposite of the way conservatives experience and perceive progressive culture.” Democrats often deploy a “different kind of mean” whether on radio or late night or on cable news, French surmises. “[Democrats are] losing in part because their own incivility and rage drive millions of Americans to the polls to vote in perceived self-defense.” In fact, French sees Trump’s ascendancy as the direct result of many Republicans “down to the very marrow of their bones” believing that the Republican Party was itself “too nice” and “was unilaterally disarming in a no-holds-barred political war.”
In other news
How will that political war play out in the midterms? At the Federalist, Jordan Gehrke sees House Republicans “headed for a bloodbath in our nation’s suburbs in 2018” for the same reasons many other observers see losses coming, namely that Trump is “deeply unpopular among millennials, minorities, and college-educated women.” Gehrke, however, sees a way out of midterm GOP carnage: make the election about impeachment. Gehrke says impeachment is the “one big card” the GOP has to play. “Trump needs to start tweeting the following words: If Republicans lose the House, Democrats will impeach Trump,’ ” he writes. “Republicans everywhere should follow his lead and echo this message every time they leave home.”
Chuck Ross at the Daily Caller checks in on the #releasethememo crowd and finds Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee “are warming up to the idea of voting to release a four-page memo that alleges FBI and Justice Department abuses related to the infamous Steele dossier and secret surveillance warrants obtained by the Obama administration.”
At National Review, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues that in an era of hyperpartisan, nationalized politics, a Supreme Court that truly has a swing justice, allowing it to dole out good and bad verdicts to each side, could be the glue holding the republic together. And the swing vote on a swing court, Justice Anthony Kennedy, “may be the one man preventing the United States from political breakdown,” he writes.
The Supreme Court’s role in this scene, with Kennedy as the swing justice, has been to moderate and restrain the ambitions of each party. Kennedy deals out victories and defeats to each side—giving slightly more defeats to social conservatives. In effect, he constrains what each side can do to the other. His mercurial jurisprudence replicates and even gives the savor of legitimacy to a closely divided country … I’ve begun to think that what’s left of our constitutional regime relies on the impression of legitimacy given to it by a swinging Supreme Court, the Kennedy Court.
Breitbart picked up an Army Times story about the veterans group AMVETS, which says the NFL approached the group about buying a print ad in the gameday program for the Super Bowl—before the league then rejected its ad which included the hashtag #PleaseStand. Breitbart writes that the reversal came “because [the ad] criticized the league’s widespread protests against the country during the playing of the national anthem.”
In more esoteric corners, right-wing site Judicial Watch says it has court documents showing that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was part of an FBI cover-up of a “connection between a Florida Saudi family and the 9/11 terrorist attacks” that could “further rock” the Russia investigation. And John Daniel Davidson at the Federalist takes aim at those on the left who blame mass shootings in America on “toxic masculinity,” writing that that argument “can only be described as bigoted.”
Motorbike across Vietnam like the Top Gear Boys! The idea behind the event and the experience that can be enjoyed by the masses.
Let's Go! Dream Team 2 | 출발드림팀 2/ 2nd ep. of Vietnam Special- Couple Survival Match (2013.05.04) - K-Tube
Let's Go! Dream Team 2 | 출발드림팀 2 2nd ep. of Vietnam Special- Couple Survival Match (2013.05.04)In this week's episode, Dream Team goes to Vietnam, the center stage of Hallyu Wave, for the f
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 16:12:56 PST 2018
From the beginning of its brief, nonillustrious existence, Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission had a special connection to New Hampshire. Trump launched the commission to justify his claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election, many of them in the Granite State. He placed New Hampshire’s Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner on the panel to give the group a phony patina of bipartisanship. The commission also traveled to the state for its second and last meeting, an acrimonious affair during which co-chairman Kris Kobach defended his false allegation that thousands of illegal votes swung the vote in New Hampshire in 2016.
In early January, the commission disbanded in response to a lawsuit by a Democratic member who was iced out of discussions by his Republican colleagues. The hunt for illegal voting in New Hampshire, however, will continue apace. Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature passed a law requiring the state to investigate voters who fail to provide certain documents after casting a ballot. Gardner appointed the state’s former Deputy Attorney General Orville “Bud” Fitch to carry out the work. Fitch will soon pass along a list of suspects to the attorney general’s office so prosecutors can bring charges against these allegedly fraudulent voters.
How did New Hampshire wind up with a powerful voter fraud czar given that there’s no proof voter fraud is an actual problem in New Hampshire? The story begins with a trade-off the state made with the federal government years ago. Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, requiring states to make voter registration simple and accessible.
The next year, to obtain an exemption from the NVRA—and thus free itself from mandates like offering registration at motor vehicle agencies—New Hampshire’s Republican governor and legislature agreed to enact same-day voter registration, allowing new voters to both register and cast their ballots on Election Day.
In recent years, Republicans—unhappy with this decades-old trade-off—have asserted that same-day registration opens the door to voter fraud. A frequent fear is that Massachusetts residents pour over the border to vote illegally. Current Republican Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed this theory shortly before the 2016 election. “We have same-day voter registration,” Sununu said, “and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them in all over the place.” He added that “there’s no doubt there’s election fraud here,” calling the system “rigged.” (After Trump echoed these claims in February, Sununu reversed himself entirely, stating that “I’m not aware of any widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire.”)
Republican state lawmakers have seized upon these allegations—which remain entirely unsubstantiated—as grounds to restrict the franchise. In 2012, the legislature passed a voter ID bill over the Democratic governor’s veto. The law included an exception: Voters without the necessary identification can sign an affidavit at the polls attesting to their identity and domicile. After the election, the state sends postcards to these voters’ addresses. If they do not return the postcards, or they bounce, their names are added to a list maintained by the attorney general’s office.
For several years, the attorney general lacked the resources to look into these individuals. In 2013, the state’s House Election Law Committee concluded that “the inability to deliver mail” does not prove voter fraud. And in February, the secretary of state’s office explained that unreturned cards don’t indicate illegal votes. For example, when the city of Dover, New Hampshire, looked into why hundreds of cards had bounced, it found an innocent explanation for each one. (Many voters had simply moved.)
But that wasn’t good enough for many Republicans. So, in June, the GOP-controlled legislature established and funded a new position in the secretary of state’s office to investigate each bounced or unreturned card. Under this new law, the state must also investigate individuals who, according to a program called Crosscheck, are registered in another state. It is not illegal to be registered in multiple states. Crosscheck, which Kobach developed, also has a 99.5 percent false positive rate.
Fitch began his hunt for fraudsters in August. He is authorized to conduct his own detective work, interviewing individuals who live at addresses provided by voters who did not return their postcards. (About 900 cards bounced or received no reply after the 2016 election.) He must also attempt to “confirm the eligibility” of voters flagged by Crosscheck. Eventually, he will send a list of names to the attorney general’s office whose voter eligibility he cannot verify, “for further investigation or prosecution.”
On Friday, I spoke with Fitch at the secretary of state’s office to discuss his work. I began by asking him to describe his job duties.
“This is not a legally appropriate moment in the process for me to provide that information,” he told me. I followed up by asking what issues he focused on in his work. “Elections issues,” he said. I asked what, exactly, that meant.
“What part of those words don’t you understand?” he replied.
I asked Fitch what steps he planned to take to confirm the identities of individuals who did not respond to the postcard after signing an affidavit at the polls.
“I’m not prepared to articulate them today,” he said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Some of these processes are very new,” he told me, adding: “I would not want to go on record as saying exactly what all the steps are because I think we’re still working through exactly what they may be.”
“So just to be clear,” I said, “you won’t clarify how the state will confirm the identities of individuals who don’t respond to the postcards?”
“To be clear,” Fitch said, “we are in the midst of a relatively new process. We are trying to use the most efficient and effective process that we can. As we do so for the first time in some instances we are learning from that process and we are refining it. And I think it’s not an appropriate moment in time to say this is the final process we adopted because we haven’t got to the final process.”
“So what does the process look like now?” I asked. Fitch wouldn’t tell me. He did say that “transparency is very important to this office,” but added that “we have to know what [the process] is before we can be transparent about it.”
Fitch’s refusal to reveal any details about his investigative work is reminiscent of Kobach’s own tactics. His “election integrity” commission collapsed because he hid key documents from Democratic commissioners and the public. Moreover, as Kansas secretary of state, Kobach became notorious for misusing data in order to create the impression of mass voter fraud. (He did precisely that in order to claim rampant fraud at the New Hampshire polls.) Voting rights advocates fear Fitch’s office will produce a Kobach-like report that inflates spurious evidence to justify voter suppression measures—in particular, the end of same-day registration.
There is, of course, a chance that Fitch will discharge his duties impartially. At the end of our interview, he told me he feels “professionally obligated to be agnostic” about the existence of voter fraud in New Hampshire and approaches the question impartially. But it is impossible to evaluate this claim without some idea of what Fitch is actually doing. And his utter lack of transparency raises the distinct possibility that New Hampshire now has a Kris Kobach of its own.
by email@example.com (Aaron Morvan) @ Programming
Wed May 03 14:11:13 PDT 2017
OETA is set to to air "20 Years of Made in Oklahoma Food Innovations," a production of Oklahoma State University. The half-hour special premieres Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.
Douglas Godshall remembers missions behind enemy lines with Special Forces in Vietnam (photos, videos)
Douglas Godshall, who will be the guest speaker at a commemoration of Vietnam Veterans Day in Garfield Heights on March 29, served with the Army's Special Forces in Vietnam in 1968-1969.
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 09:52:13 PST 2018
With Donald Trump (possibly) set to announce the winners of his much-hyped “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday, retiring Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate about the president’s hostility toward free speech and, well, reality. Flake attacked Trump for calling the Russia investigation a “hoax,” for promoting conspiracy theories about Barack Obama being born in Kenya, and for suggesting ludicrously that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The senator also compared POTUS—a member of his own party!—to Josef Stalin and Bashar al-Assad, two men who typically are not thought of as models of great American-style leadership. The relevant passages:
It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.
This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party.
(Trump called the media “the enemy of the people” in February 2017.)
Later, initially quoting a December Politico piece:
“In February…Syrian President Bashar Assad brushed off an Amnesty International report that some 13,000 people had been killed at one of his military prisons by saying, ‘You can forge anything these days, we are living in a fake news era.’”
This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President. Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible.
Flake has made these sort of high-minded condemnatory speeches his “thing” since announcing in October that he wouldn’t seek re-election this year. As my colleague Isaac Chotiner wrote Tuesday, though, the Arizona senator will never influence POTUS’s behavior unless he withholds his support for legislation Trump favors until the president agrees to specific demands related to ethics and good governance. Flake’s remarks Wednesday did not discuss any such tangible course of action—and, given that he becomes more of a lame duck every day, the clock’s ticking.
U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Vietnam
Intercountry Adoptions from Vietnam to the United States through a Special Adoption Program Commenced September 16, 2014. Vietnam’s Central Adoption Authority, the Ministry of Justice, announced that it has authorized two U.S. adoption service providers to facilitate intercountry adoptions in Vietnam. On September 16, 2014, the Ministry of Justice officially presented the licenses to two ...
Today in Conservative Media: There’s a Whole Lotta Democratic Mansplaining and Feministsplaining Going Around
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 17 17:34:34 PST 2018
After a week of stalled immigration negotiations, Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist suspects Democrats aren’t actually all that keen to strike a deal on DACA. So far, she notes, Democrats have been essentially unwilling to offer anything by way of negotiation to find a permanent fix to the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented immigrants who were brought the U.S. as young children to remain. “[Democrats] were unwilling to offer any concessions to get it—no wall, no drawdown of random visa lotteries, no de-emphasis on chain migration, no move to a Canadian- or Australian-style merit immigration system,” Hemingway writes. “In fact, one of their proposals would actually expand chain migration, by which family members can get an easier path to U.S. residency and citizenship than other applicants.” If Democrats wanted to find a solution to the problem of immigrants who arrived as undocumented children, she surmises, Democrats would have done it early in the Obama presidency when they had control of both the House and the Senate. So why didn’t they? (The Democrats nearly got the mountaintop on creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, but the bill, which passed the House, couldn’t overcome a Republican filibuster and died on the vine 55-41.) Hemingway has an answer: DACA is to Democrats what Obamacare Repeal is for Republicans. That is, it’s a better political weapon than actual policy.
In other news
Cory Booker’s animated performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday isn’t sitting well with many in conservative circles. Booker berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the hearing, and David French at National Review sees hypocrisy in the left lauding a card-carrying mansplainer. “He didn’t just mansplain, he mansplained at maximum volume,” French writes. “If he were a Republican, this exchange would be taken as proof-positive that he doesn’t respect women … It would be compared to Donald Trump’s physical approaches to Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate and used as evidence that Republicans aren’t just misogynistic, they’re menacing.”
In other ’splaining news, Ben Shapiro, for Townhall, tackles the latest #MeToo moment that’s ensnared Aziz Ansari. “Men are now being pilloried for the sin of taking women too literally – of not reading women’s minds,” he writes of Ansari, which brings him to his underlying point: “Feminists, it’s time to stop ‘feministsplaining’ sex to men.”
In National Review, Shapiro also waded into the racial dynamics of President Trump’s character to answer the question: “Is President Trump a racist?” Shapiro writes Trump certainly “makes racist statements,” but his “worldview is not openly racist” like, say, white supremacist Richard Spencer. Categorizing Trump as a racist writ large is a political tool, Shapiro concludes, that “alleviates the requirement to honestly assess his actions and statements.” “Rather than analyzing whether a given statement is racist, or whether it could be interpreted otherwise, the media simply use Trump’s alleged racism as a skeleton key answering every question,” he writes.
A special election in a Wisconsin state Senate race Tuesday night in a district Trump carried by 17 points had Democrats crowing about an electoral wave come the midterms. David Byler parsed the results for the Weekly Standard to see if Republicans should be worried, and he finds that yes, Republicans should “seriously worry about their chances in November.” “Republicans have, on average, been underperforming Trump in special elections since his inauguration, and the election in Wisconsin’s 10th District is no exception.” In 2017, Democrats outperformed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote tally by an average of 10 points; in Wisconsin Democratic candidate Patty Schachtner outperformed Clinton by more than 20 points. It’s just one race, comprising a particularly small sample size, which Byler writes doesn’t amount to a wave—yet. After Tuesday night’s results, however, he posits “Democrats are still the favorites to control the House in 2019.”
Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling That Required Redrawn Congressional Map
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Thu Jan 18 18:18:49 PST 2018
The Supreme Court intervened Thursday in a legal dispute over gerrymandered North Carolina congressional districts, temporarily blocking a lower court ruling that invalidated the current map and imposed a Jan. 24th deadline for state lawmakers to redraw the entire congressional map. A three-judge federal court panel ruled last week in League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho that the state GOP had intentionally—and successfully—drawn the map of congressional district’s in the state to ensure the GOP would keep its seats. The court found the Republican districting methodology to be unconstitutional and imposed a quick deadline on legislators to come up with a newly drawn map because candidates in North Carolina can begin filing to run for congress on Feb. 12.
The Supreme Court granted a stay in response to North Carolina Republican leaders’ request, meaning the districts are unlikely to be changed before November’s election. “The decision was not unexpected, because the Supreme Court generally is reluctant to require the drawing of new districts before it has had a chance to review a lower court’s ruling that such an action is warranted, especially in an election year,” the Washington Post notes.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor both dissented from the Court’s unsigned order, indicating they would not have accepted the Republican lawmakers request that the court wait until it had come to decision in two similar cases it’s currently considering. The court has already heard arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a gerrymandering case in Wisconsin, which involves state races; a case in Maryland, which the court has agreed to hear, challenges the composition of a single Maryland congressional district.
In the North Carolina case, the Republican in charge of the redistricting effort in the statehouse, Rep. David Lewis, justified the current drawing of the map saying: “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” Unsurprisingly, Republicans hold 10 of 13 congressional seats despite the state’s shift toward a battleground state. At the presidential level, the state as flipped back and forth with Trump narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016, after Obama won the state in 2008 before losing it in 2012 to Mitt Romney. The governor and attorney general of the state are both Democrats; both senators are Republicans.
The federal court’s original ruling earlier this month marked the first time a federal court had ever invalidated a state’s entire congressional map. In 2016, the court also rejected the composition of two specific North Carolina congressional districts on the grounds that the largely black districts were drawn using race as the predominant factor. “The Supreme Court has ruled that racial gerrymandering can violate the Constitution,” according to the New York Times. “But it has never struck down a voting map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.”
Top Gear Wiki
The Vietnam Special was a special featured as the final episode of series 12 of Top Gear. The presenters travelled the length of Vietnam on three two-wheeled automobiles. Jeremy rode a scooter whilst Richard and James rode motorbikes. Along the way the presenters were given numerous challenges. The special was featured as the 8th episode of the 12th series of Top Gear UK. The trip started in the city of Saigon is Southern Vietnam. The presenters were given 15 million Vietnamese dong to buy a...
by Fred Kaplan @ Slate Articles
Fri Jan 19 02:55:08 PST 2018
This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.
One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. foreign policy stands as wobbly and diminished as his critics had predicted. Our commitments are doubted (mainly because he has thrown doubt on whether he’d honor them). Our allies are seeking separate routes to security and fortune that bypass us and our interests. Our adversaries are probing the vacuums as areas for expansion. No one quite knows what we stand for, if anything. A Gallup poll released this week shows America’s esteem around the globe at an all-time low, with the average rating plunging nearly 20 percentage points—in some of our most closely allied countries, more than 40 percentage points—since last year.
And yet, by his very abrogation of leadership, Trump has shown just how important the United States remains—more so than many theorists of an “America in decline” have assumed in recent years. For rather than shrug, adjust, and move along, most of the world’s leaders—at least those aligned with the global order that the United States helped create—have reacted to Trump’s hostile insularity with dismay and alarm.
The Asian leaders who signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement have formed their own pact since Trump withdrew—but it’s unclear whether they can withstand Chinese pressures without a U.S. bulwark. The European Union has held more talks on self-defense since Trump wavered on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (which holds members to regard an attack on one as an attack on all)—but no one believes the EU might emerge as a military organization with anything like the power of a U.S.-led NATO.
For better or worse, there is no country or set of countries, other than the United States, that has the resources, breadth of interests, or experience necessary to preserve and protect the global order. By squandering those resources, disavowing those interests, and decimating the ranks of diplomats and bureaucrats who have built up that experience, Trump threatens to implode that order. This is why so many of our allies are anxious—and why some of our foes are so gleeful, though even some of them are a bit nervous: Russia and China, for instance, aren’t exactly powers that savor the unpredictable.
Daniel Sneider, a lecturer of East Asian studies at Stanford University who has been living in Tokyo, told me, “People describe the U.S. as being in long-term decline, and while some officials talk about alternative arrangements—for instance, building their own nuclear arsenals—they are not ready to seriously contemplate a world where the U.S. is not the dominant power in the region. Even the progressives who are in power in South Korea now, and who see the U.S. as a danger these days, are far from ready to think about a situation where there is no alliance.” Experts who have spent time in Western Europe come away with a similar impression.
Of course, American power isn’t what it once was; nor could it be, whoever might sit in the Oval Office. The peak of that power came during the Cold War, when the world was divided in two spheres—the U.S.-led capitalist West vs. the Soviet-led East—and America built its power on the metrics of what was needed to win that contest. America won when the Soviet foe imploded—but the game imploded too. The metrics of power shifted as geopolitical power diffracted. Some countries, which had been under the thumb of one bloc or another, became more powerful; other countries became less so; still others lost control of their borders as the Cold War’s ideological categories gave way to tribal or sectarian rivalries.
The larger emerging reality was that no country had the ability to control events in the way, or to the degree, that a few countries once did.
At the turn of this century, President George W. Bush and his entourage of neoconservatives misunderstood the new situation. Believing that the implosion of the Soviet Union left the United States as “the sole superpower,” they thought they could impose American power—military, economic, political—at will, unilaterally, with scant resistance. They didn’t realize that the end of the Cold War (and of the bilateral international political system that went with it) made us less powerful, less able to impose our will on others, and more dependent on the cooperation of allies.
President Obama did recognize these new complexities—the limits of power, the need to attract allies—and applied this insight to policies with, almost inevitably, mixed results. Trump—who, by his own admission, knows nothing of history or much else to be learned from books—misperceived this mixed record as the result of “weak” and “stupid” leaders who let foreigners exploit them in one-sided treaties and trade deals.
In a way, Trump was repeating Bush’s fallacy, with an added twist. Some of Bush’s people coupled their illusions about American omnipower with further illusions about the exportability of American values: freedom, democracy, civil society. Trump’s allergy to these notions may keep him from launching a crusade like the one in Iraq. Yet it also lays bare the fact that, during his reign, America seems to stand for no principles at all.
This is another way in which, through his negative example, Trump has revealed something special about America. The absence of any moral values, in his words or actions on the world stage, highlights the fact that America once did stand for something. Of course, these principles were often laden with hypocrisy, or used as cover for neo-colonialist ventures, but at least we stood to be judged—by ourselves and by others—on the standard of those ideals.
Throughout our history, even advocates of realpolitik—a foreign policy built strictly on the pursuit of vital interests and a balance of power—have acknowledged that, in the competition for influence, America gains an advantage from the appeal of its ideals. George Kennan, the architect of our Cold War containment policy, scorned those who wanted to chase demons around the globe, but he wrote that we would ultimately triumph over the Soviet Union if we stayed true to our ideals domestically, as they would long outlast the Soviets’ ideals.
Here is where Trump’s authoritarian impulses at home compound his lack of principles abroad. His tweets of support for Iranian protesters aren’t credible, much less inspiring, as long as he bans those same Iranians (and most Muslims) from crossing our borders or denigrates his own country’s peaceful protesters and critics in the press as “scum,” “sons of bitches,” and an “enemy of the people.” Similarly, he can’t stand as leader of the free world as long as he pillories other democracies that rely on that leadership as freeloaders—or as long as the only major foreign leaders for which he’s had only words of praise are those of Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. (Israel’s prime minister is another exception.)
The recent kerfuffle over whether he described Haiti and several countries in Africa as “shitholes” or “shithouses” misses the point. First, there’s no real difference between the two terms. (It’s a puzzle why his defenders think that uttering the latter word, instead of the former, exempts him from charges of racism.) Second, what’s important isn’t the word but the context. He was complaining about letting in so many people from Haiti and Africa—and so few from Norway. It is, of course, no mere coincidence that Haiti and Africa are predominantly black, and Norway overwhelmingly white. But the important point is that Trump fails to grasp the entire history—and the ethos—of America. We have always let in people from “shitholes.” The roots of our great migrations—Italy, Ireland, the Slavic countries, even, at one point, Germany, the home of Trump’s ancestors—were all the shitholes of their day. Trump was suggesting that the people from the shitholes are shit—that they’re less worthy of American citizenship and, more broadly, American attention.
This is not merely an issue of moral principle—or rather, it’s an issue that underscores the links between principle and power. Trump says he’s all about “winning,” but this behavior—which reflects a broader attitude—is no way to win the global competition of ideas and influence.
A failure to understand all sorts of linkages lies at the heart of Trump’s larger failure as a world leader. He gave his generals freer reign to launchair strikes on ISIS strongholds and may, as a result, have accelerated the jihadis’ military defeat—but he then offered no political or diplomatic overtures to stabilize the area (which means the violence will continue) or to weaken jihadis’ presence elsewhere in the world (which means terrorism will persist). He demands that North Koreans dismantle their nuclear weapons, even threatens war if they launch more missile tests—but offers nothing in exchange for their restraint and even undermines his top diplomat’s stab at exploring negotiations. He goes on a worldwide tour, makes meaningless nice-talk with the leaders who are shrewd enough to roll out the red carpet and make him feel good—and comes away with nothing, no new advances in trade or security or anything else, thinking that the nice talk itself was an outcome to be celebrated.
No other president has so relished a Chinese military parade or a sword dance with Saudi princes, yet skipped a trip to London (London!) for fear of inciting personal protests. No juxtaposition captures quite so succinctly just how dreadful Donald Trump has been as an American avatar on the global stage.
And yet Trump has made many foreigners pine for the America that once was, rather than dismiss us out of hand, if only because they realize they can’t get by as well as they’d like without us. Which means the affection, or the trust, or at least the bedrock perception of reliability might be regained, to some extent, after he’s gone.
by Chance Dorland @ The Korea Observer
Thu Jun 29 19:39:17 PDT 2017
The Nikkei Asian Review recently published a piece on rather surprising Moon Jae-in supporters leading up to the special election he won to replace former President Park Geun-hye who current remains jailed following her impeachment. Moon’s support from this group was so surprising, it’s even been dubbed “the great sensation”. Who are they? North Korean […]
The post More North Korean Defectors Supporting Moon Jae-in, Shifting View On Pyongyang appeared first on The Korea Observer.
by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 16 15:01:35 PST 2018
On Saturday, Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand provided a pertinent reminder that the road to mass incarceration is paved with good intentions. In a trio of tweets, Gillibrand, a likely contender in the 2020 presidential race, expressed her support for the campaign to recall Aaron Persky, the judge who sentenced Brock Turner to just six months in jail for violent sexual assault. She even included a fundraising link to the campaign. “Can you give to help make sure justice wins?” Gillibrand asked, imploring her supporters to “stand with survivors” by financing the recall effort, which has already received enough signatures to go on the ballot in June.
Turner’s crime is, indeed, an outrage. But the recall campaign against his sentencing judge will not ensure that “justice wins.” Instead, the crusade against Persky threatens to exacerbate injustice by frightening other judges into imposing longer sentences across the board. Gillibrand is right to question whether Turner got off easy on account of his race and class. But her attempt to punish Persky via recall is a dangerously misguided mistake, one that will mostly harm lower-income racial minorities.
Turner was a 19-year-old swimmer at Stanford when he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party. A jury convicted him of three felony sex offenses. The victim wrote an eloquent impact statement, while Turner’s father wrote a grotesque defense of his son that dismissed the assault as “20 minutes of action.” Under state guidelines, Persky, who sits on the superior court of Santa Clara County, California, should have sentenced Turner to a prison sentence of two to 14 years. Instead, he gave Turner six months, justifying this lenient (though still lawful) punishment by explaining that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on Turner.
That reasoning, taken together with the bare facts of the case, paints a picture of a sexist, retrograde judge with little sympathy for rape victims and excess empathy for their assailants, particularly white and privileged ones. The recall campaign has seized upon that impression, asserting that Persky reduced Turner’s sentence because he was “an elite athlete at a top university and that alcohol was involved.”
The truth is more complicated. While explaining his decision from the bench, Persky did note that Turner was drunk during the crime, stating that his inebriation may slightly mitigate his “moral culpability.” The judge added, though, that he didn’t “attach very much weight” to that sentiment. Instead, Persky focused on three factors that judges must evaluate under California law: age, remorse, and criminal history. The judge noted that Turner is “youthful,” “has no significant record of prior criminal offenses,” and has expressed “a genuine feeling of remorse.” All of those factors weigh against a lengthy prison sentence. Thus, Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail, as well as three years’ probation, requiring him to register as a sex offender for life.
To be clear, Persky erred badly. He should not have mentioned Turner’s intoxication given that he did not ultimately view it as a major mitigating factor. (Especially when taken out of context, the reference to alcohol has a victim-blaming undertone.) Nor should he have given so much credence to Turner’s hollow contrition; in a statement to the court, Turner blamed his crime on the “party culture and risk taking behavior” at Stanford, claiming that it “shattered” him. Moreover, regardless of his age and record, Turner clearly deserved several years in prison for his heinous assault, as California guidelines indicated.
But Persky does not seem to have handed out a light sentence because of a personal bias toward young white men. Rather, he appears to have followed the recommendation of the Santa Clara County Probation Department, which suggested six months’ jail time for Turner. An Associated Press analysis found Persky routinely follows the probation office’s sentencing recommendations, imposing relatively lenient sentences across racial and class lines. Palo Alto deputy public defender Gary Goodman told the AP that Persky often issues lighter sentences because he has “progressive ideas” about the potential rehabilitation of first-time offenders.
None of this means Persky should be immune from criticism. His comments during Turner’s sentencing were tone-deaf, and his reliance on the probation office in this case was plainly unsound. (Perhaps in recognition of these facts, Persky transferred himself to civil court.) But the recall campaign seems unlikely to infuse the judiciary with the feminist values that Gillibrand espouses. Instead, it seems poised to send a ripple of fear through judges who might favor holistic sentencing and rehabilitation over lengthy incarceration.
We already know that judicial elections have pernicious effects on the administration of justice. A famous Brennan Center study found that trial judges in Washington and Pennsylvania hand out longer sentences the closer they are to re-election. It also found that state supreme court justices rule less frequently in favor of criminal defendants during election cycles that feature more television ads, and that Alabama judges are more likely to override a jury’s recommendation of life in prison and impose the death penalty during election years.
This data comes as little surprise, since a majority of judicial election ads focus on criminal justice. These ads typically tout a candidate’s “tough on crime” approach or attack an opponent as “soft on crime” by citing rulings that favored criminal defendants. Elected judges know a single “soft on crime” decision can end their careers, so they tend to become more stringent as a re-election fight looms.
There is not yet data on the specific impact of recall campaigns, in part because only eight states permit judicial recalls, while 39 elect their judges. But many legal experts agree a high-profile recall campaign against a judge who imposed a light sentence would have a similar effect as a contested judicial election, driving up sentencing across the board.
“The current recall movement,” Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote in the New Yorker, “could have the effect of pressuring judges to play it safe by sentencing more harshly—and there is no reason to believe that will be true only in cases with white male rape defendants.” University of San Francisco School of Law professor and Slate contributor Lara Bazelon agreed, writing that the recall campaign would lead to other judges “looking over their shoulders at an image of Judge Persky burning in effigy and factoring in considerations designed to save their jobs.” Georgetown Law professor Paul Butler put it best in the New York Times:
[Persky’s recall] would inevitably lead to harsher punishment because, politically, it’s always safer for a judge to throw the book at a convicted criminal rather than give him a break—even when giving him a break is the right thing to do. The people who would suffer most from this punitiveness would not be white boys at frat parties. Almost 70 percent of the people in prison in California are Latino and African-American. Those are the groups that would bear the brunt of zealous punishment.
Many local attorneys have also leapt to Persky’s defense. Santa Clara County public defender Molly O’Neal said she was “alarmed by the hysteria” regarding Turner’s sentence. “We need to be very careful we’re not hanging judges out to dry based on one decision,” O’Neal noted, “especially because he is considered to be a fair and even-tempered judge.” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who tried Turner, also opposes Persky’s recall. The Santa Clara County Bar Association issued a statement condemning the recall effort as a “threat to judicial independence,” and pointed out that there were no other “allegations of impropriety” during Persky’s tenure. And California public defender Sajid A. Khan wrote that the recall would “have a chilling effect on judicial courage and compassion” and “deter other judges from extending mercy,” instead encouraging them “to issue unfairly harsh sentences for fear of reprisal.”
“I fear,” Khan concluded, “that this shift will disproportionately impact the underprivileged and minorities in our communities and perpetuate mass incarceration.”
Khan is right to worry. Backlash to Turner’s sentence has already spurred California to pass a new mandatory minimum law. As Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies has noted, this measure will primarily burden racial minorities since so many white defendants have the means “to avoid the most draconian consequences of the carceral state.”
Persky’s opponents have a noble goal in wanting to stamp out sexism from the criminal justice system. Their chosen tactic, however, will have tragic unintended consequences. If Gillibrand plans to campaign against mass incarceration, she should withdraw her support for the recall immediately. Penalizing Persky will only send a message to members of the judiciary that their job security depends upon being as harsh as possible to every defendant.
by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles
Mon Jan 22 07:52:48 PST 2018
On this week’s episode of my podcast, I Have to Ask, I spoke to David Frum, a senior editor at the Atlantic and the author of the new book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. A former George W. Bush staffer and well-known neoconservative, Frum has become obsessed over the past couple years with Donald Trump’s assault on American norms and institutions, and the threat he represents to American democracy. Below is an edited excerpt from the show. In it, we discuss how American democracy has weathered a year of Trump, whether it is worth thinking of the president as having an ideology, and how Frum himself has changed.
You can find links to every episode here; the entire audio interview is below. Please subscribe to I Have to Ask wherever you get your podcasts.
Isaac Chotiner: I considered illegally leaving jury duty to make this podcast, so I hope you bring your A game today.
David Frum: I’ll do my best. Although I must say the last chapter of the book begins with a note from a reader who said he was inspired by previous articles I’d written not to skip out on jury duty. I don’t know if you’ve gotten the message on that.
I clearly did not read the book as well as I should have.
I want to read you something you recently wrote: “Maybe you do not much care about the future of the Republican Party. You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy. The stability of American society depends on conservatives’ ability to find a way forward from the Trump dead end.” Can you expand on that for a minute and connect it to what you think is going on with conservatism in America today?
I worry a lot, I think you worry a lot, about democratic breakdown. We’re always inspired to think of the spectacular examples from the 1930s. When democratic breakdown has taken place in more normal places, and especially when it has occurred in the United States, and it has, it is because people with resources become frightened that they will not be able to win and they will lose. In losing, they will then lose assets that they have that they value very highly. They then begin rewriting the game so that they are not at risk of losing.
That’s what happened in the American South after Reconstruction. To some degree that’s what happened in the cities of the Northern United States in the 1920s and ’30s after the mass immigration. I think it’s a little bit of what has happened in a lot of American states since 2010 and especially since 2014.
Where do you think we are versus where you thought we would be after a year of Trumpism?
First, we know way more about the Russia scandal than we did a year ago and that I ever imagined probably we would. We don’t know everything. What we know is so dark, so disturbing. I think this could qualify as the most severe espionage scandal in American history, and yes, I include the Rosenbergs. There may be more still to come. What has been amazing to me is how little practical political impact those revelations have had. I don’t imagine that if there are even greater revelations that they will have any more impact than we’ve already had.
The president’s attacks on institutions and on legality have been more blatant and less effective than I might have thought. I thought he’d be a little stealthier about this. To come right out there and denounce the FBI—that was something I did not imagine he would do. On the other hand, while he’s had some successes perverting the Department of Justice, he’s been less successful at interfering with the work of the FBI than I might have feared. He’s been less successful in corrupting the U.S. attorney’s offices as well.
You mentioned the FBI, the lack of success he’s had. Do you view that lack of success as a consequence of him being incompetent? Or do you view it as a consequence of him not having a plan or an idea of undermining democracy in some specific way. It’s not that he’s incompetent. It’s just that he doesn’t even think in those terms. He just thinks about what’s in front of him and who cares how American democracy is doing.
I think Donald Trump is quite wily. I think to the extent that Michael Wolff has persuaded or convinced large numbers of people that Trump is a drooling, senile imbecile he has not done anybody any favors, nor has he reported accurately. I think Trump is wily. He has authoritarian instincts. He has no ideology of any kind, but he hates any kind of restraint. You give him a restraint, and he will break through it.
What I think has been protective to some degree of the institutions to date is that Donald Trump has a very shrewd intuition for individual weaknesses and how to bully and domineer over individual people. He’s less good at figuring out systems and finding the weak point of a system and how to manipulate a system.
He’s wily enough that I think he will eventually learn. He certainly has the impulse to try. It is harder to corrupt the whole of the FBI than it is to bully one deputy attorney general as he has successfully bullied the deputy attorney general.
You said something about him having no ideology at all. I definitely believed that a year and a half ago. I’m not sure that I do now. I think that he has a strain of America First nationalism, which I used to be more cynical about him actually believing. He just keeps returning to the same nationalist core issues, the way he talks about race. It does seem to be a core of his thinking in a way that maybe I underestimated. I don’t know if I would say anymore that he has absolutely no ideology. I do think there is something there.
He’s got impulses and prejudices and bigotries and resentments. An ideology … Let’s always remember that term began as an insult, not a compliment. Not as a neutral term either.
Was it during the Dreyfus affair that it came about?
The term actually began to circulate in the early 19th century. The Emperor Napoleon was the person who popularized the term. He didn’t coin it. He meant it disdainfully. What ideology was was a way of grouping together ideas into idea sets. You have a bunch of ideas about free trade, therefore it’s going to follow that you have a bunch of ideas about how Parliament should be organized therefore and so on.
In Napoleon’s view, he wanted to pick and choose. He didn’t know why he had to be told by liberals, as the ideologists he disliked then were, why he couldn’t take some from Column A and nothing from Column B. In Donald Trump’s case, when I say he doesn’t have an ideology, his ideas don’t necessarily go together. He’s very skeptical of trade, but he doesn’t care enough about it to understand how it works.
I agree with you in that sense that he’s uninformed, he doesn’t understand these things beyond a very surface level. But I had been under the impression a couple years ago that essentially the last person in the room to tell him something can convince him. I think there’s some way in which that’s true. At least in the very short term. But I also think around issues like trade and nationalism and around racial issues he does keep coming back to these core parts of himself. Now maybe as you say, that’s just petty prejudices. It’s not something that we want to deem an ideology. But I definitely think that’s an aspect of him that was underestimated by a lot of people.
Well, let me use a different word to convey what I mean. I don’t think he has political ideas. Had Jeff Sessions somehow become president of the United States, he would never have been interested in building the wall because if your job is to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants in the United States, if that’s the thing you really want to do, there could not be a worse return on investment than building the wall.
As Jeff Sessions knows, and Donald Trump may or may not know, somewhere between a quarter and a third of illegal immigrants in the United States come by airplane. They arrive on a visa and overstay their visas. You could build a properly functioning entry/exit visa for a lot less than the cost of a wall. That’s what you would do. You would have enforcement at the workplace. These are the ideas that people who think about the immigration issue a lot and have Jess Sessions’ point of view, these are the things they would emphasize. Donald Trump can’t be bothered.
He’s prepared to trade away everything Jeff Sessions cares about in order to get the wall because the wall has become now a part of his ego. He doesn’t care whether it works, he doesn’t care whether it makes sense, he doesn’t care whether it will achieve the things that Donald Trump claims for it. He just wants to do it because he said he would do it. It’s an extension of his will. That’s what I mean when I say he doesn’t have an ideology. He doesn’t think, “How do I rationally connect the ends I supposedly have to the means I have?” That doesn’t mean he’s an all-purpose idiot, because when he is dealing with things where he does have ideas—self-protection, self-enrichment, the magnification of his own power—he can be very wily and very effective.
One of the lessons of Trump, given how awful he’s acted and how 35 to 40 percent of the country is willing to put up with it, is that partisanship acts strongly on people. As someone who follows your Twitter feed and knew you a little bit back in Washington when I lived there, it does seem to me that you’ve changed in other ways now that you’ve kind of made this big change of distancing yourself from the Republican Party and from the Republican Party’s president in very strong terms. I’m wondering: Do you feel that partisanship in a different way? That by being off the team you’ve noticed some of your other views have started to change in some way?
That’s an interesting question. First of all, I should stress I remain a registered Republican. I remain a very conservative person in a lot of ways both personally and ideologically. Here are some things, though, that I think do happen. Because Donald Trump is so cruel he magnifies things that might have seemed like the ordinary frictions of life. He makes them big. You really can’t not look at them. When the president of the United States demeans people in ways that …
It’s one thing when Tucker Carlson does it on his white nationalist Fox News show. That’s bad enough. When the president of the United States says these things, it’s like a magnifying mirror and you really have to think about them.
Yeah, there’s some things … I think part of it is things happen in my own life. I now have a daughter who is just entering the workforce. I hear stories from her and some of the things that she’s been subjected to. When you come along at this moment of revulsion against the way women are treated in the workforce I think partly the magnifying effect of the president and the micro fact of having a daughter of age to be the target of such things, things like that have an impact on my thinking. Sure.
Right. Just following your Twitter feed, the way you talk about gender issues, about gun control, about even things like the Iran nuclear deal.
Gun control, that’s maybe an example of how it works. Gun control was an issue where I have never liked the kind of politics of the NRA. The part of it that is about, “Well, we need the guns so that private citizens can overthrow the state.” I have always taken the view we all pay a lot of taxes so that Cliven Bundy has zero chance against the United States Army. When the day ever comes that Cliven Bundy might have a chance, then we need to pay more taxes so that he won’t have a chance.
Before Newtown I just never talked about it. It was just part of the party bargain. There were things I cared a lot about that other people maybe cared less about and they went along with those things. In return, I kept my lips buttoned about gun violence. Newtown, again, you see it through the prism of your own children. There’s something in me that just said, “I cannot be on the sidelines on this issue.”
If in 2020, or probably 2024, a Marco Rubio is running for president on that conservative line that he ran on last time, can you see going to work for another Republican administration like that? Or do you feel like something within you has switched in some way and it’s hard to imagine that?
No. I don’t think it would happen. I think the Republican Party is going to … The divide between those who took one side and those who took the other side of this debate will be a long-lasting one. I think if you’re thinking about getting a job in a future Republican administration everything depends on your birthday. People who think the way I do if you’re 32 you will absolutely be in the ascendancy in the Republican administrations before your time is done. I’m 57, about to turn 58. For the rest of my working career these are going to be the wrong views for future Republican administrations.
There are a lot of liberals who admire your writing on Trump but also are still very angry about your support for the Iraq war and kind of feel like, “Oh, whatever David Frum says I don’t want to listen to it.”
It’s not even a thing I worry about very much. I go around, I ask questions, I gather information, I organize my thoughts, I type them, I send them out there. People respond … The customer is always right on these things. Some people say, “I don’t want to read what you said because I don’t like the Iraq war.” Others say, “I don’t care about the Iraq war. I just don’t like that look on your face so I’ll never listen to you.” Or, “Your last name reminds me of somebody I didn’t like in …” Listen, don’t listen. You’re either going to listen or you’re not going to listen. It’s not for me to tell people why they should listen to me.
The Iraq war, the thing that is a true quandary for me about it is I neither want to be untrue to the past. I supported it. On the other hand, there’s also a risk of—part of telling the truth about the past is to face the limits on one’s role. I can’t emphasize that point too much because then it sounds like disavowing responsibility. But I would not exactly [have been] a member of the inner Cabinet in those days.
Is there anything in terms of going forward that would be of bigger importance to American democracy in your mind than Democrats taking over at least one house of Congress in 2018 and then in 2019 beginning proper oversight of the Trump administration?
That will do some good but understand the limits. First, as Democrats do that, Republicans will rally more tightly to President Trump, not less. I think there is a real risk of Democrats veering off into far-left precincts that will mean that their successes in 2018 may be a prelude to disappointments and failures in 2020. Nor do I think that the left-hand side of the American political spectrum is immune to the illiberal forces out there in the land.
We saw in the Bernie Sanders campaign among his supporters, not Bernie Sanders himself, some of the divisive anger, men against women, and yes, some racial anger too. I think this is why I keep emphasizing that we need to study systems of power, not quirks of personality, because Donald Trump may decide tomorrow to spend more time with his golf and indulge himself more in Filet-O-Fish. I don’t think when he does that, that he will take all of the ills that he’s exploited away with him.
OK, so then what is the most important short-term thing that needs to happen to begin this process of bringing the country back to a healthier place?
I see Donald Trump in some ways as one of those oncoming trucks that you see when you’re doing a little bit at the wheel and the adrenaline of having to react and pull away and pull yourself upright gets you safely home. I think people need to be less sectarian.
One last story from the book. In the conclusion I mention an experience I’d had. I was at a panel and somebody came up to me afterwards and didn’t like what I’d been saying and said of people on his side, “We need to learn from Trump. We need to be as tough and as ruthless. We need to play the game in the way that he did.” He went on, “Take no prisoners.” I said, “I just can’t disagree with that more. If you emulate Trump you don’t defeat him. You just replace him.” I worry about that.
by RYAN LUCAS, NPR, Carrie Johnson, NPR @ Houston Public Media
Tue Jan 23 09:55:52 PST 2018
The attorney general could be the first member of the Cabinet to have talked with investigators in the special counsel's office as they investigate potential criminal conduct
Fort Bragg Veterans Break Their Silence About Secret Vietnam Missions :: WRAL.com
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Thu Jan 18 09:42:45 PST 2018
What is this?
Here’s the deal: Rick Saccone is running to replace former Rep. Tim Murphy—a Republican who vocally supported restrictions on abortion but then got caught asking an extramarital ladyfriend to have one—in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. The Fightin’ 18th is in the southwest corner of the state; it includes some Pittsburgh suburbs and some rural areas and has been safely Republican for more than a decade. Trump won it by 19 points in 2016.
But Democrats are trying to compete in a lot of typically Republican places this year, right?
Democrat Doug Jones recently won a Senate race in hard-red Alabama, as you may have heard, and Republicans are relatively unpopular right now even in typically Republican areas. The Democrats’ Pennsylvania special election candidate, Conor Lamb, is a Marine veteran and, like Jones, a former prosecutor. He’s culturally red, as it were—he’s hinted that he personally opposes abortion, and his first TV ad brags that he “loves to shoot [guns],” though he’s stopped short of actually saying he’ll vote with the NRA or against abortion rights. He’s also outfundraised Saccone. The only recent, publicly available poll of the race had Saccone ahead by 12 points, but the campaigns’ internal polls reportedly each say the margin is in the single digits.
So who’s going to win?
I don’t know.
Is there anything else interesting, funny, or characteristically Trumpian about Trump’s tweet that people should know about?
Remember last week when the president seemed unaware of his own party’s position on DACA in a public meeting, then tweeted critically and conspiratorially about a surveillance bill his administration supports? Well, White House staffers have apparently been making a big deal of insisting that his visit to Pennsylvania on Thursday isn’t a partisan campaign appearance that would need to be financed by the Republican Party, but rather a trip related to Trump’s public duties as president. This effort was pretty severely undermined by Trump announcing on Twitter that he was going to Pennsylvania “in order to give my total support” to a specific Republican candidate. (In an act of great fortitude, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is still insisting the trip is not campaign-related, even after Trump’s tweet.)
Who’s going to win the election?
I still don’t know. We’re done here. This conversation is over!
by Yascha Mounk @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 23 07:47:00 PST 2018
Democrats are feckless. When it counts, they always fold. After all, they’re more beholden to donors and lobbyists than they are to their base.
This narrative is so old, so straightforward, and so pleasingly infuriating that it just rolls off the tongue. So when Democrats in Congress struck a compromise with Republicans to reopen the government late on Monday, the despairing headlines immediately took over every left-of-center publication in the country. “Schumer Sells Out the Resistance,” Michelle Goldberg concluded over at the New York Times. “The Democrats Are Losers,” my colleague Osita Nwanevu announced here at Slate. Twitter was no less forgiving: By the end of the evening, #SchumerSellout was trending across the country.
When I sat down to write this article, I assumed that the great minds of Twitter were right. You see, even though my job is to follow public policy pretty closely, there are times when I lose track of what is going on. Monday was such an occasion: It was the first day of the semester, and I spent the whole day printing syllabi, meeting with students, and teaching my introductory sessions. So when I finally got a chance to go online, and read the news, I assumed that all the despairing headlines must be right. My heart sank pondering what concessions Chuck Schumer must have made to draw such righteous anger.
Then I started reading up on the actual details of the deal.
In case you’ve forgotten—I certainly wish I had—Republicans currently hold unified control over the federal government. They were seemingly more than happy to let health insurance for 9 million American children expire indefinitely. And lest we forget, conservatives are much more hostile to central functions of the government—from collecting taxes to ensuring compliance with environmental standards—than liberals. A few weeks ago, it very much looked as though they held all the cards in their hands.
Buoyed by grassroots support, the Democratic leaders in Congress turned the tables. They made it clear that they had two big preconditions for any long-term deal to fund the government. First, children’s health insurance would have to be extended for a substantial period of time. Second, Republicans would have to strike a deal to protect the 900,000 Dreamers who will be at risk of deportation unless Congress offers them a more certain future by the beginning of March.
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Monday’s deal is a full victory on the first count. The CHIP program has been extended for six years. Nine million children—a very large share of whom, by the way, are brown or black—will keep access to health care. The moral importance of this accomplishment should be evident to everybody.
The deal is, admittedly, only a partial victory on the second count. Mitch McConnell made a public and detailed promise on the floor of the United States Senate that he would undertake to broker a bipartisan agreement on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. If our politics were minimally sane, we should be able to trust such an unequivocal statement by the Senate majority leader. But since congressional Republicans have, again and again, shown just how little store they set by conventional markers of morality (like, say, the Ninth Commandment), it is perfectly sensible to mistrust McConnell.
But that just doesn’t mean that we have seen “the Senate Democratic leadership sell the Dreamers out,” as Goldberg argues in the Times. After all, Democrats have only voted to extend funding for the government for another three weeks. Once that time is up, the fate of the Dreamers will not rest in McConnell’s hands any more now than it did a few days ago. For if the Senate majority leader goes back on his word, Democrats will enjoy exactly the same leverage they held until Monday: By withholding their votes, they will be able to shut the government down. And since McConnell’s betrayal will be so blatant, they will find it much easier to put blame for any resulting shutdown squarely on Republican shoulders.
It is tempting to think that passionate partisans are obsessed with winning at any price. But often, the truth is a little more complicated: Though they think of themselves as wanting to win, they actually crave the righteous anger that comes with losing. Convinced that they have been betrayed too many times to count, they start to take as much pleasure in finding an excuse to hate on their traitorous leaders as they do in actually accomplishing their stated goals.
This tendency has long been a dominant feature of the conservative movement. From grassroots anger at congressional “RINOs” in the 1990s to today’s fears among the hosts at Fox News and the headline writers at Breitbart that the party establishment is about to sell Trump voters out, accusations of betrayal have become a constant theme of political discourse on the right. From the point of view of achieving conservative policy goals, the results have been decidedly mixed: On the one hand, Republicans have become ever less willing to strike compromises with Democrats for fear of drawing the anger of their base. But on the other hand, they have resorted to empty grandstanding that has deeply damaged the country without actually doing much to turn their agenda into reality.
The left should be very careful not to fall in the same trap. The thing that counts is not whether Democrats preserve their purity by refusing to strike a deal with the Republicans, nor even whether they look like they’re winning. It is, rather, whether they accomplish their important goals.
By any reasonable measure, Monday’s deal was, on that count, a real step in the right direction.
Nine million kids will be able to keep their health insurance. And while it is a crying shame that 900,000 Dreamers still have to live in fear of what the future might hold, Schumer and his much-maligned troops have protected their power to fight for their fate a few short weeks from now.
The conventional wisdom on the left has quickly become that this doesn’t matter because congressional Democrats will never have the guts to stand up for the dreamers. Based on their performance over the past year—and especially over the past days—I’m willing to take a bet that they will.
Lynn Novick, co-director of the new THE VIETNAM WAR documentary shares her insight.
by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles
Mon Jan 22 07:51:01 PST 2018
A Polish doctor who has lived in the U.S. for nearly four decades has been jailed and faces deportation for two decades-old misdemeanor charges, the Washington Post reports.
Lukasz Niec, who was arrested on Tuesday morning, is a lawful permanent resident who has lived in Michigan since childhood and has an American wife, daughter, and stepdaughter, his sister told the Post. He does not speak Polish and has no family there, she said.
The Department of Homeland Security detained Niec because of charges dating back to 1992, when Niec was a teenager, according to the Post. One involved a fight after a car crash, according to his sister, leaving him with a conviction for malicious destruction of property. The other involved a conviction for receiving and concealing stolen property, which his sister said was expunged from his record.
According to the Post, the Immigration and Nationality Act allows immigrants to be removed for crimes involving “moral turpitude.”
In the past, immigration officials have prioritized the deportation of immigrants with a history of violent crimes. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Trump administration, however, has shifted its priorities, sweeping up a broader group that more frequently includes low-level offenders and those without criminal records.
The vast majority—90 percent—of deportations involve Mexicans, Haitians, and Central Americans, according to NPR. Mexicans make up about half of all undocumented immigrants, a slight decrease from previous years offset in part by growing numbers of undocumented immigrants from Central America, according to an April Pew Research Center report.
But immigrants from other countries are facing crackdowns as well, and NPR reported that deportations to the rest of the world increased by 24 percent. In an article detailing some of the shock experienced by Irish communities in Boston over deportations, NPR reported a sense that many were surprised to learn Irish immigrants, a group often thought of to be safe by virtue of its whiteness, would be included in immigration sweeps.
According to the Grand Rapids, Michigan, NBC affiliate station, dozens of doctors and hospital employees have written letters in support of Niec, who specializes in internal medicine. His wife told the Post he was needed at the hospital because of a shortage of doctors during flu season.
He has been detained for nearly a week, and his family does not know when he will see a judge.
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Thu Jan 18 17:35:54 PST 2018
Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.
The government has been careening—in slow motion—toward a shutdown all week, and it’s looking increasingly likely Washington could go dark Friday night. With the latest Continuing Resolution passing the House Thursday night, all eyes are on the Senate and specifically Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Haley Byrd writes for the Weekly Standard. McConnell needs 60 votes to keep the government up and running, but he will “need help from Democrats to squeeze the bill through the chamber” and “finding those votes is proving to be an uphill climb.” How steep? “At least three Republican senators—Lindsey Graham, Mike Rounds, and Rand Paul—have come out against the House CR,” Byrd writes. “That tally could also include Mike Lee, who has consistently voted against short-term spending bills in the past. Making the math even more difficult, Senator John McCain won’t be able to add his vote to the bill, because he is in Arizona for ongoing cancer treatments.”
Who’s to blame? Or better question: who will be blamed if a deal can’t be worked out and the government goes dark? The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro has an idea who will take the hit, at least by the media. “The media are blaming Republicans. Because of course they are,” Shapiro writes. “When Republicans pass a continuing resolution Obama refuses to sign, and the government shuts down, that’s Republicans’ fault. When they try to pass a continuing resolution and Democrats prevent that passage, that’s Republicans’ fault.”
In other news
Following another surprising pickup by Democrats in a Wisconsin special election Tuesday night, David Byler of Weekly Standard takes a deep dive into the evolving midterm electoral math. The takeaway? “As goes Trump, so goes the GOP.” In 2017, that wasn’t a good thing. The problem for a Trump-dependent GOP, Byler writes, is that last year voters simply didn’t like the policies the White House pushed, and they didn’t really like Trump either. “Put simply, the president’s main public-policy initiatives haven’t been very popular—which helps explain why Trump’s overall approval rating is as low as it is,” he continues. “Large segments of the American public think the chief executive has issues with competence and empathy.”
Trump’s approval rating typically is reflected in the rise or fall of the generic Republican share of the congressional vote. That makes Democrats the odds-on favorite to win back the House. The dynamics of the Senate map make it a more daunting task for Democrats despite the national mood. “To take back the Senate, Democrats basically have to pitch a perfect game,” Byler writes. That is, Democrats will need to successfully defend seats in red states West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, and Missouri, while picking up two Republican seats with Arizona and Nevada being the most likely targets. At the state level, expect Democratic gains as well. “The president’s party has lost governorships in almost 80 percent of the midterm elections since World War II. Republican incumbents, moreover, are term-limited in key states like Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, and Florida,” Byler writes. “But blue gains might not all be in the usual places.”
Wesley Smith explains for National Review how religious voters can justify their support for President Trump—“ an act of self defense.” The Trump administration’s creation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) helped validate evangelicals faith in the president. The new initiative aimed at helping protect medical professionals from being compelled to perform procedures that violate their religious beliefs, despite the president’s shortcomings, “prov[es] that at least as far as the free exercise of religion goes, his administration is a friend to people of faith,” Smith writes. “[It] communicates a strong message to medical employers that they will could face the wrath of government if they try and coerce their religious employees to act in contravention of their faith.”
“We now live in a society in which people of good will possess radically divergent moral beliefs, including about the morality of services or procedures in the medical context,” Smith concludes. “If we are going to keep from bursting apart, we will need comity and tolerance.
The new HHS office is a positive step toward that end.”
Some of the categories (and winners):
News Anchor Who Ran Fastest to His Mommy Crying
— CNN’s Don Lemon
Dumbest News Anchor
— CNN’s Chris Cuomo
Most Pathetic News Outlet
You get the idea.
Breitbart and the Daily Wire both picked up on a new U2 music video for the Irish band’s new single “Get Out of Your Own Way.” The stop-motion animation video features Trump in the White House and a KKK rally outside. “According to the Israeli graffiti collective Broken Fingaz Crew, who directed the video, the imagery pokes at the worldwide rise of fascism, which apparently includes the election of President Trump,” the Daily Wire notes.
The Daily Wire also covered the reboot of the ’90s TV show Party of Five about five orphaned siblings forced to live together after their parents die in a car accident. The new version, the Daily Wire explains, will be recast with a “leftist-inspired new twist: five Latino children uniting after their parents are deported to Mexico.”
Epic Road Trip – The boys travel 1000 miles across Vietnam. With a budget of only US$1000, they are forced purchase motorcycles.
The boys try to travel the entire length of Vietnam on motorbikes
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Mon Jan 22 12:58:26 PST 2018
Shortly after voting to end a government shutdown on Monday afternoon, a group of a 10 or so centrist Senate Democrats, along with a handful of Republicans, gave a press conference outside the chamber to congratulate themselves on the extraordinary bipartisan achievement of funding the government at current spending levels for another 17 days. This informal “common sense caucus”—or as Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly called it, “the potato chips and oranges caucus”—had been meeting in Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ office over the weekend to negotiate the handshake “arrangement” that will reopen the government.
The group included several Democrats who had voted to filibuster the previous spending bill on Friday, like Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen. They congratulated each other for what they’d secured: a commitment from the majority leader to debate immigration through regular order after Feb. 8 if no deal is struck beforehand.
That process could produce a bipartisan bill, such as the Gang of Six legislation, that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not previously agreed to allow on the floor.
Looking at the smiles and backslapping among these Democrats, one couldn’t help but wonder: Do they have the faintest idea how pissed off the Democratic base is?
Democrats were not able to secure an immigration deal through the three-day shutdown, only a commitment to a future process that could produce such legislation. They also were not able to secure any commitment that House Republicans would take up the fruits of their labor. And yet cloture was invoked easily, 81 to 18, with only 16 of 49 Democrats voting nay.
The rage from activists was swift and unsparing.
“Today’s cave by Senate Democrats—led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats—is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement. “These weak Democrats hurt the party brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018.”
“A lot of Democrats are channeling their inner Marco Rubio today,” tweeted MoveOn Washington Director Ben Wikler, referring to the oft-caving Florida senator. Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, called it a “betrayal.” CREDO labeled Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “the worst negotiator in Washington—even worse than Trump.”
Much of the criticism came from within the building, too, especially from the House side. “I do not see how a vague promise from the Senate Majority Leader about a vague policy to be voted on in the future helps the Dreamers or maximizes leverage the Democrats and American people have over the Republicans right now,” Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the most vocal advocate for Dreamers in Congress, said in a statement.
The furor mostly stemmed from a total lack of faith in McConnell’s willingness to uphold such a handshake agreement. It’s only been a few weeks, after all, since the majority leader failed to make good on agreements he reached with both Collins and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in exchange for their votes on tax reform. Why do Senate Democrats suddenly trust him to follow through on his immigration commitment?
A couple of Democrats said that while they don’t personally trust McConnell, they have faith in their colleagues who do.
“You’ve got to start trusting each other and working together at some point,” Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth said. “I have no trust in the Republican leadership, but I’m going to take a deep breath and show some trust in my moderate Republican colleagues who were willing to step forward on this.”
Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey—who argued that McConnell made not just a promise to Senate Democrats, but “to the country”—said “I don’t know [McConnell] enough to say that I trust him, but I do trust the people who were in [Collins’ office] the last couple of days.”
Bill Nelson reiterated several times that the commitment from McConnell was “ironclad,” but his evidence for that was largely McConnell’s public statements and the “glare of the spotlight” applied to them. In other words: words.
“Bottom line,” Nelson said, cutting to the chase, “in order to get anything done, you’ve got to have good will and the ability to work together.”
New Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, meanwhile, said that “I’m going to take everybody at their word.” Ah, to be a freshman.
No one could really say the truth about why Democrats accepted this offer from McConnell: that it was the best they were going to get.
This shutdown was always going to be decided by the “blame game,” as annoying as that is to say. As each side made their arguments in recent days, Republicans had the more straightforward one—Democrats were responsible for the shutdown because they filibustered a funding bill in order to secure something else. A DACA fix is popular; shutting down the government over one is much less so, especially in many of the states Senate Democrats are trying to hold in November. The polling was beginning to gravitate in Republicans’ favor.
“I hear our numbers are dropping like a rock,” Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York told Bloomberg on Monday.
There is no compelling evidence that rejecting McConnell’s offer would have resulted in a better outcome for Democrats. Polling would have drifted further to Republicans’ side, and McConnell would have waited patiently to accept Schumer’s unconditional surrender. It is surprising that McConnell even offered a handshake agreement, and may have only done so to bring Flake and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham back on the team. Democrats chose to save face by accepting a less-than-“ironclad” commitment because that is what you do when you’ve made a losing tactical decision.
Find out when Top Gear Vietnam Special is on TV. Episode guide, trailer, review, preview, cast list and where to stream it on demand, on catch up and download.
We meet some of southern Vietnam's young entrepreneurs supporting internet start-ups.
Vietnam plans to open three special economic zones that offer investors greater incentives and fewer restrictions than available to date in the country, the investment minister said.
by firstname.lastname@example.org (Aaron Morvan) @ Programming
Tue Nov 21 14:05:36 PST 2017
Preview this winter's holiday specials and season two of Victoria.
by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles
Wed Jan 24 06:49:51 PST 2018
The conservative Twittersphere has, for the past week, been dominated by an inescapable hashtag: #releasethememo. It’s a social media campaign that has enlisted Twitter randoms, figures from Trumpworld, conservative pundits, alt-right voices, and a slew of Republican congressmen alike. “Americans deserve to know the contents of the memo,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Friday. “Democrats & deep state govt officials are doing everything they can to protect those within the government who used their positions of influence to target those they disagree with politically.”
Tweets like this have been joined in the conservative press with wild-eyed proclamations. On Thursday night, Sean Hannity announced that the abuses detailed in the memo amount to a scandal “worse than Watergate.” It’s as-yet unclear how highly this particular controversy ranks among the other allegedly Watergate-dwarfing imbroglios claimed by the right—below Benghazi and between Fast & Furious and the Clinton emails, perhaps?—but we can rest assured that it’s up there.
The memo is a four-page document authored by Rep. Devin Nunes of California and House Republican aides accusing law enforcement officials in the Obama administration of improperly procuring a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance warrant for Carter Page using information obtained, in part, by investigator Christopher Steele. The document charges that these officials were required to, but did not disclose, that Steele’s research had been funded by Democrats in their warrant application. Riveting stuff.
If you’re wondering how anyone yelling about this happens to have access to the details of an allegedly suppressed and highly sensitive document, it’s because some of those details have already been shared with, among other parties, the New York Times. Perhaps dozens of members of the House were authorized to access the memo itself in a special viewing room after an intelligence committee vote last week. If the memo did, in fact, contain the evidence of unprecedented malfeasance Republicans are claiming it does, its contents would presumably have leaked in more detail by now. Absent better leaks, the American people will have to wait, with undoubtedly labored and bated breath, the 19 congressional working days it will evidently take the memo to be processed and released to the public, should both Nunes and President Trump sign off. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out at the Intercept, Trump has the authority to declassify the memo and any related intelligence immediately, should he choose to, and House Republicans could put the memo to a vote on an accelerated timeframe as well. The fact that these options don’t seem to be on the table is telling.
The point of this charade, obviously, is to cast further doubt on the impartiality of the Justice Department and the FBI as Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation continues. More and more Republicans have joined in the effort to undermine the investigation over the past few months and early January saw House Speaker Paul Ryan and other mainstream Republicans like Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham backing probes on Christopher Steele and his dossier. It’s thus unclear whether the memo’s eventual release will be accompanied by the actual documents that form the basis of the accusations leveled in it, allowing the public to judge the veracity of Nunes’ and the Republicans’ claims for themselves.
Suspicions that those claims are laughably weak should be heightened by the fact that the right is already moving on to another alleged scandal. On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about missing texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and Mueller attorney Lisa Page, who, as revealed late last year, exchanged anti-Trump messages that led to Strzok’s dismissal from Mueller’s investigative team. “In one of the biggest stories in a long time, the FBI now says it is missing five months worth of lovers Strzok-Page texts, perhaps 50,000, and all in prime time,” Trump wrote. “Wow!” This characterization can be considered a bit of restraint on Trump’s part given that some on the right are also calling this matter, you guessed it, “worse than Watergate.” Contrary to Trump’s claim, it’s unknown how many messages between the two are actually missing—about 50,000 non-missing messages, in total, were on the Justice Department’s servers.
Among those non-missing messages are quotes and passages Republicans have delighted in magnifying and stripping from all potentially illuminating context. One of the latest in the newest batch of messages released by the Justice Department to Congress on Friday is a comment made the day after the election. “[T]here is a text exchange between these two FBI agents, these supposed to be fact-centric FBI agents saying, ‘Perhaps this is the first meeting of the secret society,’” House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy said in an appearance on Fox News Monday. “So I’m going to want to know what secret society you are talking about, because you’re supposed to be investigating objectively the person who just won the Electoral College.” The conservative site the Daily Caller reported that their attempts to obtain a copy of this exchange from House Republicans for context were “unsuccessful.”
We can expect more of these shenanigans as the Mueller investigation heads for the finish, although additional grandstanding from Republicans at this point is probably overkill. The Republican base is already well-primed to dismiss his findings out of hand.
South Carolina ETV
PBS presents Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War September 17-21, 24-28 at 8 p.m. on SCETV. This 10-part documentary film series tells the epic story of the Vietnam War as never before. Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed to life. It includes rarely seen archival footage from around the globe, photographs, historic television broadcasts, home movies, and audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.
by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles
Fri Jan 19 14:36:37 PST 2018
The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.
The latest on the looming government shutdown is that there’s still no agreement to avoid it. Politically, the post-shutdown question is always which party takes the blame for creating an inconvenient if not catastrophic suspension of certain federal services. On that front, HuffPo polling expert Ariel Edwards-Levy finds that current public opinion is all over the place while New York’s Eric Levitz makes a good case that the ultimate answer will be “no one will take the blame at all because it’ll be forgotten by November”:
A little over three months ago, a psychopath in Las Vegas perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in American history. It was off the front page within days, out of the policy conversation within weeks, and barely figured in year-end reflections on Trump’s first year in office. Last June, an anti-Trump gun-lover — who took “the resistance” concept a bit too literally — opened fire on the Republican congressional baseball team. The event passed from the headlines in about 48 hours. If Trump hadn’t congratulated Steve Scalise on the wonders that bullets had done for his waistline, the incident would be deep down the memory hole by now. Last week, we learned that the president had an affair with a porn star that apparently involved an act of sadomasochism perpetrated with a Forbes magazine, and I’ve already forgotten the first half of this sentence.
The only caveat I’d add to these fine individuals’ observations is that the idea of giving a “path to citizenship” to individuals who were brought illegally to the U.S. through no fault of their own as children—DACA recipients or Dreamers—is always popular when it’s polled. If the Democrats do end up winning a staredown over DACA and tying a permanent “path to citizenship” bill to the eventual agreement to continue funding the government, that becomes an accomplishment that isn’t going to go away by November—and perhaps not before 2020—because the Democrats won’t let voters, especially in their own base, forget that they made it happen.
But today’s meter is still unchanged because hey, maybe they’ll still all get together tonight and have a few drinks and a few laughs and figure this whole thing out.
Today in Conservative Media: Homeland Security Secretary Goes to Congress, Trump’s Deep-Fried Diet Medically Vindicated
by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 16 17:31:23 PST 2018
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Senate testimony Tuesday made waves for what she said and what she didn’t hear. When asked about the White House meeting last week where President Trump used the term “shithole countries” to refer to African and Central American nations he considered undesirable for the U.S. to accept immigrants from, Neilsen testified that she didn’t hear Trump use the derogatory term.
Democratic senators at the hearing were livid, but Jim Geraghty at National Review makes the pragmatic case that Democrats can go after Nielsen all they want, but they have to consider the alternative, which could be worse—far worse! “Whenever President Trump appoints someone qualified and competent for a position, lawmakers of both parties would be wise to confirm that nominee and just do their best to work with the nominee, come what may,” Geraghty writes. “[C]onsidering Trump’s unpredictable and arbitrary criteria for personnel decisions, there’s no guarantee that the replacement will be an improvement … There’s a good chance you’ll dislike the next nominee even more than the current cabinet member.”
Secretary Nielsen’s testimony inspired further commentary when she said she intended to ask the Justice Department to prosecute local officials involved in maintaining sanctuary cities across the country, which defy federal law in order to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Ben Shapiro at the Daily Wire breaks down some of the potential legal arguments behind the case for prosecution, noting that, even on the right, “Nielsen’s comments will likely touch off a firestorm—and could lead to conflict between federalists among conservatives and immigration hawks.”
In other news
Breitbart enthused about President Trump’s physical Tuesday with a post titled: Very Healthy Genius: Trump Smashes Medical Exam. The Daily Caller’s lead piece described Trump’s physical this way: “The President Did Exceedingly Well”: Trump Took a Cognitive Exam and Aced It.
At the Weekly Standard, Eric Felten doesn’t see the timing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s bombshell subpoena of former White House strategist Steve Bannon as coincidental, noting a “bummed-out witness is a talkative witness.” Bannon, of course, not only has fallen out with the White House; he also lost his post at Breitbart after his comments about the Trump family came out in Michael Wolff’s recent book. “It is no coincidence that the special counsel’s team produced a subpoena for Bannon, after all these months, days after his ex-boss tweeted ‘Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone,’ ” Felten writes. “The witness who has been dumped like a dog by his old friends is a prosecutor’s dream.”
On New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s last day in office, the editors at the Weekly Standard devoted a column to Christie’s once promising political career to assess—what happened? “It’s hard to overstate the optimism with which conservatives viewed the Chris Christie of the years 2010 to 2013,” the editors write. “Over the last four years, Chris Christie has exchanged his reputation as a tough-talking and effective conservative governor for that of a shrill and scandal-prone politician who scrapped his own principles and kowtowed to Donald Trump in a futile attempt to gain favor.”
by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles
Fri Jan 19 22:25:08 PST 2018
A group of mostly Senate Democrats filibustered a Republican bill to fund the government Friday night, and the government is now officially in a shutdown.
The vote, which began around 10:15 p.m., was kept open for about two hours as senators frantically tried to find a way forward. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, two Republican senators who voted against the bill, did much of the work, shuttling back and forth between separate clusters encircling the Democratic and Republican leaders.
About an hour into the vote, it looked as though a deal could be imminent. The two leaders, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, twice walked off the floor to a private area to go over details; Graham and Schumer at one point fist-bumped each other. They were mulling an idea Graham had been trying to sell each leader in the hours before the vote: A three-week government funding bill, rather than a four-week bill. The one-week difference seems silly, because it… is. Graham’s argument, though, was that he didn’t want to let this linger for another month, but also didn’t want the next deadline to “land” during the week of President Trump’s State of the Union in late January. Early February it is, then.
But the deal never congealed before the deadline, and Schumer and McConnell went their separate ways to talk to their respective members. Democrats would look like total cavers to accept a three-week bill rather than a four-week bill they had described as a sin against God; Republicans felt confident enough about their position that they could run out the clock against Democrats.
When McConnell, at 12:15 a.m., finally voted “no”—a procedural move that allows him to bring the measure up for a vote again—the vote was called at 50 to 49. Though the cloture vote required 60 to break a filibuster, getting a majority was key for McConnell, since it allowed him to suggest that the bill would have passed if not for the Democratic filibuster.
McConnell believes that the Democrats have made an incredibly stupid move: filibustering a spending bill, none of the contents of which they objected to, in order to secure a deal related to “the issue of illegal immigration.” Though finding a solution for the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program polls well, a shutdown over the issue does not, and it especially does not in the states where Senate Democrats are most vulnerable.
The Democratic caucus is split between numerous potential presidential candidates trying to win over the progressive base and others who are trying to keep their seats in states that Trump won. This divide is not lost on McConnell, and he intends to skewer Democrats over it.
Schumer, for his part, labeled this the “Trump Shutdown,” and the product of the president’s inability to accept an immigration deal on which Democrats made concessions. Schumer, who had visited the White House earlier in the day, emphasized that he had put the border wall on the table, only to be rejected.
“Every American knows the Republican Party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House,” Schumer said after the vote. It’s a failure of Republicans to govern, he argued, to not consult the minority party.
The Senate will go through the motions of some additional votes Friday night before returning Saturday.
The blame game is now underway, judging by the number of statements in my inbox. Republicans in Congress, frankly, seem much more confident than their Democrats counterparts that they have the stronger argument on this one. That doesn’t ensure that the rest of the country will buy it.
President Trump presented the Medal of Honor to retired Army Capt. Gary Rose for conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War. During a four-day battle in Laos with North Vietnamese troops, Rose — a special forces medic — treated more than 50 soldiers under fire despite his own injuries.
Houston Public Media
Get an advance look at the film coming to TV 8 in September; featuring interviews with filmmakers, behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive clips from the series.
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by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles
Tue Jan 16 20:49:58 PST 2018
If you’re already figuring and fretting over the midterm elections in November and whether there truly is a Democratic wave gathering, there were a handful of statehouse special elections on tap Tuesday in Wisconsin and South Carolina. If you’re desperately seeking more data points to add to your tea leaves, the place to start is Wisconsin State Senate District 10. In the heavily Republican western Wisconsin district that Trump carried by 17 points, including a victory in every county in the district, Democrat Patty Schachtner scored an upset win of the open seat Tuesday.
The seat had been in Republican hands for the past 17 years. Even with the seat, Democrats in the state are still at an 18-14 disadvantage in the state Senate, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, “Democrats saw Tuesday’s victory as a sign they were taking hold of the energy that benefited their party in special elections last year in Alabama, Virginia and Oklahoma.” There were two other special elections in Wisconsin, but the 10th district garnered the most attention because it was considered competitive for the first time in years making it a potential bellwether of electoral things to come.
In the state’s other contested race Tuesday, Republican Rick Gundrum “defeated Democrat Dennis Degenhardt for an open seat in eastern Wisconsin’s solidly red 58th Assembly District,” the Associated Press reports. In an uncontested race in the 66th Assembly District, which covers Racine, Democrat Greta Neubauer was declared the winner.
PBS Fall 2017 lineup has a mix of hard-hitting journalism, history, family trees, Great Performances, and a dramatic slate of Masterpiece dramas. The broadcaster announced its full fall schedule wi…