27 August, 2020

The GOP Tries to Make Its Case


 He and his brother were sons of a single mother; they lived with relatives and slept three in the bed. He got an education, went into business, ran for Congress in an overwhelmingly white district in Charleston and beat the field, included the son of former-Sen. Strom Thurmond. How did a black man who started with nothing do that? “Because of the evolution of the Southern heart.” That is a beautiful phrase.

Mr. Scott said his grandfather would have been 99 this week. That old man had suffered indignities; no one had even bothered to teach him to read and write. But he lived to see his grandson become the first African-American elected to both the U.S. House and Senate. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said, with an air of what seemed fresh wonder.

It was beautiful, and affectionate about America to the point of tenderness.

How to fact-check

26 August, 2020

Black Homeowners Face Discrimination in Appraisals


 They had expected their home to appraise for around $450,000, but the appraiser felt differently, assigning a value of $330,000. Ms. Horton, who is Black, immediately suspected discrimination.

The couple’s bank agreed that the value was off and ordered a second appraisal. But before the new appraiser could arrive, Ms. Horton, a lawyer, began an experiment: She took all family photos off the mantle. Instead, she hung up a series of oil paintings of Mr. Horton, who is white, and his grandparents that had been in storage. Books by Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison were taken off the shelves, and holiday photo cards sent by friends were edited so that only those showing white families were left on display. On the day of the appraisal, Ms. Horton took the couple’s 6-year-old son on a shopping trip to Target, and left Mr. Horton alone at home to answer the door.

The new appraiser gave their home a value of $465,000 — a more than 40 percent increase from the first appraisal.

23 August, 2020

China's Communist Party is a threat to the world, says former elite insider


 "The relationship between China and the United States is not a conflict between the two peoples, but a contest and confrontation between two systems and two ideologies," Cai told CNN.

Cai said she had been stranded by the coronavirus pandemic after arriving in the US last year as a tourist. She declined to disclose more details about her current situation or plans for the future, citing fears over her personal safety.
Since coming to power in late 2012, Xi has consolidated his position and authority over the Party, which ranks among the world's largest political organizations with 90 million members. He has unleashed a sweeping crackdown on political dissent, civil society and the mostly Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region, and tightened control over Hong Kong, a former British colony that was promised a high degree of autonomy when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
Now, according to Cai, the Communist Party aims "to replace the free and democratic system of modern mankind represented by the United States, and the values and order of peace, democracy, freedom and justice," with its own model of governance.

The Prophecies of Q


 The Seventh-day Adventists and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are thriving religious movements indigenous to America. Do not be surprised if QAnon becomes another. It already has more adherents by far than either of those two denominations had in the first decades of their existence. People are expressing their faith through devoted study of Q drops as installments of a foundational text, through the development of Q-worshipping groups, and through sweeping expressions of gratitude for what Q has brought to their lives. Does it matter that we do not know who Q is? The divine is always a mystery. Does it matter that basic aspects of Q’s teachings cannot be confirmed? The basic tenets of Christianity cannot be confirmed. Among the people of QAnon, faith remains absolute. True believers describe a feeling of rebirth, an irreversible arousal to existential knowledge. They are certain that a Great Awakening is coming. They’ll wait as long as they must for deliverance.

The Amazing Disappearing Election


 This year may be a good chance for the United States to consider whether we really need an 18-month-long presidential election. Elections in Japan are limited to 17 days of campaigning for seats in its upper legislative house and 12 days for the lower house. In many parliamentary democracies, snap elections mean that campaigns rarely run much longer than a few weeks. With the need to focus on the coronavirus and the Trump administration’s response to it, 2020 may demonstrate an uncomfortable truth: The months of coverage of conventions and debates is more helpful in providing advertising revenue to the news industry than it is in informing citizens about the political decisions they are asked to make.

20 August, 2020

How to talk — and ask — about QAnon


MIT Technology Review’s Ohlheiser: QAnon has essentially become a distribution mechanism for a whole bunch of linked conspiracy theories. … During the pandemic, QAnon has become the brand name for a whole bunch of circulating conspiracy fueled misinformation.

As researchers like [Stanford Internet Observatory’s Renee] DiResta have documented, there’s been cross-pollination between QAnon/Pizzagate content and anti-vaccine Facebook groups for years. The pandemic has accelerated that connection, and now QAnon accounts and networks are also key distributors of health misinformation. More recently, they’ve also kind of laundered their secret pedophile ring content through a few more mainstream-friendly arguments: for instance, they’ve helped to propel an easily debunked conspiracy about Wayfair and child trafficking onto Twitter’s trending list, where it was then picked up on Instagram and TikTok and spread even further, and hijacked the #savethechildren hashtag across social media.

Right Wing Watch’s Holt: The movement has inspired criminal action among some of its followers, including kidnapping, violence​ and murder. The FBI considers it a threat to national security.

17 August, 2020

The Nobody Problem


 I wrote a piece years ago, when I was on Twitter, and called them Accelerants – people who seem to exist only to make conflict on social media nastier. And I think the really essential piece is this: no one cares enough about them individually to know how morally they act themselves, and so they can engage in moral censure of everyone and everything. If you are enough of a visible personality that people might track your history, people can respond to your moral judgments by pointing out areas where you yourself have failed to act morally, or at least, to areas where your moral beliefs appear to be inconsistent. But if no one cares about you enough to remember what you’ve said and done in the past, you’re free. And in the middle of a Twitter mobbing there’s so many low-follower accounts coming at people that no one could possibly respond to them all even if they cared enough to know something about them. They draw power from their powerlessness; they have the strength of a faceless horde. Facelessness, after all, means there can be no accountability.

‘I’m sorry, but it’s a fantasy’


A bunch of our teachers have told me they will put in for retirement if we open up this month. They’re saying: “Please don’t make us go back. This is crazy. We’re putting the whole community at risk.”

They’re right. I agree with them 100 percent. Teachers don’t feel safe. Most parents said in a survey that they’re “very concerned” about sending their kids back to school. So why are we getting bullied into opening? This district isn’t ready to open. I can’t have more people getting sick. Why are they threatening our funding? I keep waiting for someone higher up to take this decision out of my hands and come to their senses. I’m waiting for real leadership, but maybe it’s not going to happen.

It’s me. It’s the biggest decision of my career, and the one part I’m certain about is it’s going to hurt either way. 

16 August, 2020

The Enemy Within


America is not some finished work or failed project but an ongoing experiment. And it is an experiment that, by design, will never end. If parts of the machine are broken, then the responsibility of citizens is to fix the machine—not throw it away. The Founders, with their unsentimental assessment of human nature, brought forth a constitutional system robust enough to withstand great stress and yet capable of profound correction to address injustice. (The Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. The Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.) The scale of the Founders’ achievement was unprecedented. Except in small pockets here and there, a democratic system such as ours had never before been tried; the Founders applied it to a nation that would soon span a continent. I think of our own document’s durable capacity when I consider the travails of the United Kingdom, which lacks a written constitution. The lesson is not that we can sit back in relief. It is that we must continue conducting the experiment.

15 August, 2020



 He’s seen a lot and he’s learned a lot, he says. He’s learned to say hello to every resident he sees, his smile always open, ready to connect. And he’s learned to listen.

“Hi, brother,” shouts a man passing through, balding and wearing a loose-fitting sweatshirt.

“Take care, take care,” Mitchell shouts back, his tall frame and broad shoulders bending down to reach into his mail trolley for another bundle.

When he finishes this building, he’ll go on to the next one, then the next, as he’s done nearly every day for two decades, touching every mailbox on his route, the final link in a network that binds us all.

14 August, 2020

Mike Schur Talks Morality and Ethics in The Good Place — and Everywhere Else


 I’ve spent five years on this show about moral philosophy, so I learned a lot about intention. Intention does matter. There’s a difference between someone intending to hurt someone and someone intending to be funny and make a joke and it going horribly wrong and miscalculating. But we have to be better at understanding that the things we say, regardless of their intention, can be really hurtful and can contribute to this ongoing problem of people feeling disrespected and less than and everything else. Tina Fey’s statement when she asked for the blackface episodes of 30 Rock to be pulled off of streaming, I thought her statement was really good. Because what she said was, “It wasn’t our intention. Our intentions were very specifically to comment on how dumb people are when they do things like engage in this kind of behavior.” But intention isn’t the only thing that matters.

09 August, 2020

The new referees in American politics are Facebook, Google and Twitter, and they would be wise to pay attention to lessons the old media tried to learn.


In fact, two people close to the Facebook fact-checking process told me, the vast bulk of the posts getting tagged for being fully or partly false come from the right. That’s not bias. It’s because sites like The Gateway Pundit are full of falsehoods, and because the president says false things a lot.

That’s the messy political reality — not the sort of neat systemic answer that makes engineers comfortable. The global surge in misinformation isn’t a matter of code, or an eternal political truth, or the structure of information. It’s just how the social-media-fueled, right-wing populism of 2020 works. And while Google, Facebook and Twitter dance around to refuse saying it out loud for obvious regulatory reasons, it makes them look dishonest and, at times, as Mr. Frankel now says of his boss’s accommodations, “ridiculous.”


Johnny 'Joey' Jones: I marked my 'Alive Day' this week, 10 years after losing my legs, and want to share this


I've often looked back on that day with conflicting emotions. I’m grateful to have lived through it and angry about having to live with its permanent effects on my life.

But now, ten full years later, I realize this isn’t just some amazingly unique experience I have.

No, not many of us live through war but all of us survive life.

We live through bankruptcy, divorce, cancer and losing loved ones. But we’re all still here, not just making the best of our circumstances, but making our circumstances the best life we can live.

We get up every morning and decide the pain and frustration is worth it. That the smiles on the faces of our spouses and children make life a fight worth fighting and victories worth celebrating.

As one of a select few who is permanently attached to an “Alive Day” let me be clear -- we aren’t just the resentment of war, we are the resilience of war.

We are grateful to be alive and damn lucky to be Americans.

To each and every American struggling today to make it until tomorrow, let today be your “Alive Day” -- the day you chose to live. The day you get to look your pain and the uncertain path ahead in the eye and say, “I win.”

White Fragility: Sin, Redemption and the Gospel


To this point, DiAngelo asserts, “Exploitation came first, and then the ideology of unequal races to justify this exploitation followed” (p. 16). Perhaps, but why do we exploit other people whether on the basis of race, gender, disability, etc.? DiAngelo provides no answer. It’s as though she is willing to see racism as a “hereditary corruption,” the first half of Calvin’s definition of original sin, but not as a “depravity of our nature,” the second half of Calvin’s definition (Calvin’s Institutes, Book II, Ch. 1.8). DiAngelo is committed to racism being something that corrupts us from the outside (via socialization), but she is unwilling to acknowledge the deeper and more terrifying truth: the human tendency towards exploitation, and its racialized justification, is something that comes out from the deepest parts of the human heart.

As the Apostle Paul explains, human depravity is rooted in idolatry: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator...” (Romans 1:25 ESV). This, in my estimation, is the best one-sentence explanation for the origins of racism and white supremacy. White supremacy is not merely an intellectual justification for exploitation. It is a false god that demands allegiance and human sacrifice.

03 August, 2020

How the Pandemic Defeated America


Despite ample warning, the U.S. squandered every possible opportunity to control the coronavirus. And despite its considerable advantages—immense resources, biomedical might, scientific expertise—it floundered. While countries as different as South Korea, Thailand, Iceland, Slovakia, and Australia acted decisively to bend the curve of infections downward, the U.S. achieved merely a plateau in the spring, which changed to an appalling upward slope in the summer. “The U.S. fundamentally failed in ways that were worse than I ever could have imagined,” Julia Marcus, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, told me.

Since the pandemic began, I have spoken with more than 100 experts in a variety of fields. I’ve learned that almost everything that went wrong with America’s response to the pandemic was predictable and preventable. A sluggish response by a government denuded of expertise allowed the coronavirus to gain a foothold. Chronic underfunding of public health neutered the nation’s ability to prevent the pathogen’s spread. A bloated, inefficient health-care system left hospitals ill-prepared for the ensuing wave of sickness. Racist policies that have endured since the days of colonization and slavery left Indigenous and Black Americans especially vulnerable to COVID‑19. The decades-long process of shredding the nation’s social safety net forced millions of essential workers in low-paying jobs to risk their life for their livelihood. The same social-media platforms that sowed partisanship and misinformation during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa and the 2016 U.S. election became vectors for conspiracy theories during the 2020 pandemic.

[Residency]u/Dr_D-R-E details the horrific situation and working conditions as a physician in an overwhelmed hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.


When you don’t know if you’re going to catch it because there just isn’t enough equipment, you start recording videos of yourself in the car on the way home so that your daughter will have some memory of you if you don’t make it, when you see your coworkers crying in the parking lot at the end of the day, noticing that a lot of people are carrying rosaries for the first time, when the attendings let it slip that they’re drinking more than usual at home to calm down. The hospital feels like it’s on fire, you know it’s on fire, you can see it’s on fire, but you still feel cold.

You can’t convey that to people. You can’t make them understand that.

I’ve worked in the inner city for almost my entire training, I’ve seen ridiculous shit, but I NEVER thought that at an American hospital, the infrastructure would be so pushed beyond our limit.

When I hear people bitch about how “hospitals used COVID to excuse poor quality care and protect negligent doctors” it makes my blood boil. How many times did they have to push patients on bipap with BP 70/30 into an elevator because that’s as stable as you could get them before moving to a higher level floor? Did they ever do a residency in pediatrics then have to titrate levophed and start dialysis on a 70 year old? Did they have to admit a 26 year old, look them in they eyes and say “this will help, you’re gonna be okay” before intubating and feeling this person was going to die... finding out 2 weeks later you were right?

Call me callous, angry, traumatized, but I hope some of these people encounter the hell that is COVID so they can eat their words from their precious, healthy populations that walk around mask free thinking they’re smarter than the herd.

Ask Herman Caine’s family what they think about masks. Survive stage 4 cancer but die because you can’t be bothered to wear a mask.

02 August, 2020

Shane Burcaw on being a "disabled person"

As I got older, I began to realize that the things I was experiencing were just flat-out ableism in its many forms. Teachers talked down to me because they lacked an understanding of disability. Kids treated me differently because they lacked experience with disability. The systems that provide care were broken and needed fixing. The working world undervalued disabled workers and failed to provide accommodations.⁣

These are not problems inherent to me as a person; they are a reflection of society’s shortcomings. Being disabled isn’t bad; society treats disabled people badly.⁣

Today, I’m a disabled person. I am no longer ashamed of that language. I don’t feel a need to shy away from it to fit in with non-disabled people. My disability is not shameful or a problem. For me, this identity-first language fills me with pride, and this pride encourages me to fight for better access and treatment for myself and millions of others.