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Is This the Beginning of the End of American Racism?

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Perhaps the ugly and highly visible epidemic of obvious racism in the US has an upside. Ibram X. Kendi writes in the Atlantic:

Marine One waited for the president of the United States on the South Lawn of the White House. It was July 30, 2019, not long past 9 a.m.

Donald Trump was headed to historic Jamestown to mark the 400th anniversary of the first representative assembly of European settlers in the Americas. But Black Virginia legislators were boycotting the visit. Over the preceding two weeks, the president had been engaged in one of the most racist political assaults on members of Congress in American history.

Like so many controversies during Trump’s presidency, it had all started with an early-morning tweet.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump tweeted on Sunday, July 14, 2019. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”

Trump was referring to four freshman members of Congress: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali American; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, an African American; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian American; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a Puerto Rican. Pressley screenshotted Trump’s tweet and declared, “THIS is what racism looks like.”

On the South Lawn, Trump now faced reporters and cameras. Over the drone of the helicopter rotors, one reporter asked Trump if he was bothered that “more and more people” were calling him racist.

“I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” Trump replied, hands up, palms facing out for emphasis.

His hands came down. He singled out a vocal critic, the Reverend Al Sharpton. “Now, he’s a racist,” Trump said. “What I’ve done for African Americans, no president, I would say, has done … And the African American community is so thankful.”

It was an absurd statement. But in a twisted way, Trump was right. As his administration’s first term comes to an end, Black Americans—indeed, all Americans—should in one respect be thankful to him. He has held up a mirror to American society, and it has reflected back a grotesque image that many people had until now refused to see: an image not just of the racism still coursing through the country, but also of the reflex to deny that reality. Though it was hardly his intention, no president has caused more Americans to stop denying the existence of racism than Donald Trump.

II.

we are living in the midst of an anti-racist revolution. This spring and summer, demonstrations calling for racial justice attracted hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles, Washington, New York, and other large cities. Smaller demonstrations erupted in northeastern enclaves such as Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Bar Harbor, Maine; in western towns such as Havre, Montana, and Hermiston, Oregon; in midsize cities such as Waco, Texas, and Topeka, Kansas; and in wealthy suburbs such as Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and Darien, Connecticut.

Veteran activists and new recruits to the cause pushed policy makers to hold violent police officers accountable, to ban choke holds and no-knock warrants, to shift funding from law enforcement to social services, and to end the practice of sending armed and dangerous officers to respond to incidents in which the suspect is neither armed nor dangerous. But these activists weren’t merely advocating for a few policy shifts. They were calling for the eradication of racism in America once and for all.

The president attempted to portray the righteous demonstrations as the work of looters and thugs, but many of the people watching at home didn’t see it that way. This summer, a majority of Americans—57 percent, according to a Monmouth University poll—said that police officers were more likely to use excessive force against Black “culprits” than they were against white ones. That’s an increase from just 33 percent in December 2014, after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City police officer in the killing of Eric Garner.

What’s more, by early June, roughly three out of four Americans were saying that “racial and ethnic discrimination” is a “big problem” in the United States—up from only about half of Americans in 2015, when Trump launched his presidential campaign.

It would be easy to see these shifts as the direct result of the horrifying events that have unfolded in 2020: a pandemic that has had a disproportionate effect on people of color; the video of George Floyd dying beneath the knee of an impassive Minneapolis police officer; the ghastly killing of Breonna Taylor, shot to death in her own home.

Yet fundamental shifts in American views of race were already under way before the COVID-19 disparities became clear and before these latest examples of police violence surfaced. The percentage of Americans who told Monmouth pollsters that racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem made a greater leap from January 2015 (51 percent) to July 2016 (68 percent) than from July 2016 to June 2020 (76 percent). What we are witnessing right now is the culmination of a longer process—a process that tracks closely with the political career of Donald Trump.

III.

in the days leading up to Trump’s attack on Omar, Pressley, Tlaib, and Ocasio-Cortez, Fox News slammed the “Squad,” especially Omar. All four had been publicly sparring with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over a $4.6 billion border-aid package that they thought did not sufficiently restrain Trump’s immigration policies.

Yet Pelosi promptly defended her fellow Democrats on July 14, 2019. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 6:11 pm

How the Pandemic Defeated America

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Ed Yong  writes in the Atlantic:

How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet’s most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom.

In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2—the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19—infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million. But few countries have been as severely hit as the United States, which has just 4 percent of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed COVID‑19 cases and deaths. These numbers are estimates. The actual toll, though undoubtedly higher, is unknown, because the richest country in the world still lacks sufficient testing to accurately count its sick citizens.

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.

The U.S. has little excuse for its inattention. In recent decades, epidemics of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 flu, Zika, and monkeypox showed the havoc that new and reemergent pathogens could wreak. Health experts, business leaders, and even middle schoolers ran simulated exercises to game out the spread of new diseases. In 2018, I wrote an article for The Atlantic arguing that the U.S. was not ready for a pandemic, and sounded warnings about the fragility of the nation’s health-care system and the slow process of creating a vaccine. But the COVID‑19 debacle has also touched—and implicated—nearly every other facet of American society: its shortsighted leadership, its disregard for expertise, its racial inequities, its social-media culture, and its fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism.

SARS‑CoV‑2 is something of an anti-Goldilocks virus: just bad enough in every way. Its symptoms can be severe enough to kill millions but are often mild enough to allow infections to move undetected through a population. It spreads quickly enough to overload hospitals, but slowly enough that statistics don’t spike until too late. These traits made the virus harder to control, but they also softened the pandemic’s punch. SARS‑CoV‑2 is neither as lethal as some other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, nor as contagious as measles. Deadlier pathogens almost certainly exist. Wild animals harbor an estimated 40,000 unknown viruses, a quarter of which could potentially jump into humans. How will the U.S. fare when “we can’t even deal with a starter pandemic?,” Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina and an Atlantic contributing writer, asked me.

Despite its epochal effects, COVID‑19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar.

Apandemic can be prevented in two ways: Stop an infection from ever arising, or stop an infection from becoming thousands more. The first way is likely impossible. There are simply too many viruses and too many animals that harbor them. Bats alone could host thousands of unknown coronaviruses; in some Chinese caves, one out of every 20 bats is infected. Many people live near these caves, shelter in them, or collect guano from them for fertilizer. Thousands of bats also fly over these people’s villages and roost in their homes, creating opportunities for the bats’ viral stowaways to spill over into human hosts. Based on antibody testing in rural parts of China, Peter Daszak of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit that studies emerging diseases, estimates that such viruses infect a substantial number of people every year. “Most infected people don’t know about it, and most of the viruses aren’t transmissible,” Daszak says. But it takes just one transmissible virus to start a pandemic.

Sometime in late 2019, the wrong virus left a bat and ended up, perhaps via an intermediate host, in a human—and another, and another. Eventually it found its way to the Huanan seafood market, and jumped into dozens of new hosts in an explosive super-spreading event. The COVID‑19 pandemic had begun.

“There is no way to get spillover of everything to zero,” Colin Carlson, an ecologist at Georgetown University, told me. Many conservationists jump on epidemics as opportunities to ban the wildlife trade or the eating of “bush meat,” an exoticized term for “game,” but few diseases have emerged through either route. Carlson said the biggest factors behind spillovers are land-use change and climate change, both of which are hard to control. Our species has relentlessly expanded into previously wild spaces. Through intensive agriculture, habitat destruction, and rising temperatures, we have uprooted the planet’s animals, forcing them into new and narrower ranges that are on our own doorsteps. Humanity has squeezed the world’s wildlife in a crushing grip—and viruses have come bursting out.

Curtailing those viruses after they spill over is more feasible, but requires knowledge, transparency, and decisiveness that were lacking in 2020. Much about coronaviruses is still unknown. There are no surveillance networks for detecting them as there are for influenza. There are no approved treatments or vaccines. Coronaviruses were formerly a niche family, of mainly veterinary importance. Four decades ago, just 60 or so scientists attended the first international meeting on coronaviruses. Their ranks swelled after SARS swept the world in 2003, but quickly dwindled as a spike in funding vanished. The same thing happened after MERS emerged in 2012. This year, the world’s coronavirus experts—and there still aren’t many—had to postpone their triennial conference in the Netherlands because SARS‑CoV‑2 made flying too risky.

In the age of cheap air travel, an outbreak that begins on one continent can easily reach the others. SARS already demonstrated that in 2003, and more than twice as many people now travel by plane every year. To avert a pandemic, affected nations must alert their neighbors quickly. In 2003, China covered up the early spread of SARS, allowing the new disease to gain a foothold, and in 2020, history repeated itself. The Chinese government downplayed the possibility that SARS‑CoV‑2 was spreading among humans, and only confirmed as much on January 20, after millions had traveled around the country for the lunar new year. Doctors who tried to raise the alarm were censured and threatened. One, Li Wenliang, later died of COVID‑19. The World Health Organization initially parroted China’s line and did not declare a public-health emergency of international concern until January 30. By then, an estimated 10,000 people in 20 countries had been infected, and the virus was spreading fast.

The United States has correctly castigated China for its duplicity and the WHO for its laxity—but the U.S. has also failed the international community. Under President Donald Trump, the U.S. has withdrawn from several international partnerships and antagonized its allies. It has a seat on the WHO’s executive board, but left that position empty for more than two years, only filling it this May, when the pandemic was in full swing. Since 2017, Trump has pulled more than 30 staffers out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s office in China, who could have warned about the spreading coronavirus. Last July, he defunded an American epidemiologist embedded within China’s CDC. America First was America oblivious.

Even after warnings reached the U.S., they fell on the wrong ears. Since before his election, Trump has cavalierly dismissed expertise and evidence. He filled his administration with inexperienced newcomers, while depicting career civil servants as part of a “deep state.” In 2018, he dismantled an office that had been assembled specifically to prepare for nascent pandemics. American intelligence agencies warned about the coronavirus threat in January, but Trump habitually disregards intelligence briefings. The secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, offered similar counsel, and was twice ignored.

Being prepared means being ready to . . .

Continue reading. There’s more — and no paywall.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 4:09 pm

After a Year of Investigation, the Border Patrol Has Little to Say About Agents’ Misogynistic and Racist Facebook Group

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No surprise, since I believe the Facebook group expresses the views of Border Patrol leadership and certainly the views of Border Patrol culture. A.C. Thompson reports in ProPublica:

Brian Hastings, a top Border Patrol official, stared grimly at the television cameras.

It was July 1, 2019, and Hastings was facing down a scandal: News reports had revealed that Border Patrol agents were posting wildly offensive comments and memes in a secret Facebook group.

Agents had shared crudely manipulated images of men sexually assaulting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and frequent antagonist of the Border Patrol; joked about migrants who died while trying to enter the United States; and made racist insults about Central Americans. The group called itself “I’m 10-15,” Border Patrol radio code for “aliens in custody,” and included some 9,500 current or former agents.

Critics of the agency — already concerned about the separation of migrant families and deplorable conditions in detention facilities — saw the vulgar Facebook posts as further evidence that a culture of casual racism and misogyny was festering within the Border Patrol.

On national TV that day, Hastings vowed that any agent who engaged in online misconduct would be held accountable. “We take all of the posts that were put out today very seriously,” said Hastings, who was then the chief of law of enforcement operations for the patrol and now oversees the Rio Grande Valley sector. “Each one of these allegations will be thoroughly investigated.” The internal affairs unit of Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, had already opened an investigation, he said.

Within days, the horrified leaders of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced a separate probe of the group, whose existence was first exposed by ProPublica.

But now, more than a year later, after one of the most sweeping internal investigations in the history of the agency, CBP has provided little new information about “I’m 10-15” or its efforts to address toxic attitudes within the ranks. Instead, it has released a basic summary of its findings. The agency has not said who was behind the group or its most egregious posts. And it has not explained how such a group — whose members included Carla Provost, then the highest-ranking official in the Border Patrol — had existed for nearly three years without any sort of intervention from patrol brass.

And in Congress, the oversight committee said its work has been derailed by a lack of cooperation from CBP leaders, who have refused to provide congressional investigators with the names of employees who made offensive posts or even identify the agents who’ve been disciplined.

“More than a year after the existence of the group was reported, CBP continues to obstruct a congressional investigation into the results of the agency’s findings, blatantly shielding agents that have dehumanized immigrants and fostered a culture of cruelty and violence,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat representing El Paso, Texas, who was mocked by agents in “I’m 10-15” posts.

Last month, the agency told the Los Angeles Times that it had investigated 138 employees, eventually deciding to fire four of them, suspend 38 without pay and issue warnings or reprimands to more than two dozen. CBP investigators cleared 60 agents of any wrongdoing.

But CBP has not revealed the exact offenses that led to this wave of firings and other sanctions, nor has it disclosed the key facts — such as name, rank or location — about the employees who’ve been disciplined. Such information could reveal troubling clusters of agents or supervisors at a particular station and whether the terms of the discipline were appropriate. The agency has long maintained that it is barred by federal privacy law from identifying employees who’ve been found guilty of misconduct, and it typically does not disclose the names of front-line Border Patrol agents.

In response to questions from ProPublica about the terms of the suspensions it has imposed, a CBP spokesperson would only provide general answers. “We are not able to share specific details, however, suspensions generally range from three to 14 days,” the spokesperson said.

Under the terms of the Border Patrol’s union contract, suspensions of up to 14 days are considered relatively minor punishment, while those that extend beyond two weeks are deemed to be more serious.

While CBP has not named the employees it fired, Border Patrol sources said that one of those who was ousted is Waldemar Ortiz, an agent who worked at the station in Deming, New Mexico. The sources requested anonymity because they had gone outside of the official chain of command to share information.

A former U.S. Marine, Ortiz posted comments suggesting that Border Patrol agents lock undocumented migrants in shipping containers, according to The Intercept, which obtained a huge trove of content from the Facebook group. The specific actions that led to the agent’s ouster remain unclear.

One source said Ortiz, who has enlisted the support of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing the nation’s roughly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, could potentially win his job back at an upcoming arbitration hearing. Ortiz did not respond to a request for comment from ProPublica, nor did union President Brandon Judd.

The union has condemned the offensive Facebook posts, saying the “inappropriate content” is not representative “of our employees and does a great disservice to all Border Patrol agents, the overwhelming majority of whom perform their duties honorably.”

ProPublica has not learned the names of the other three employees who’ve been fired or whether they’ll be appealing their firings.

At an unrelated court hearing last year in San Francisco, an attorney for CBP, Laura Myron, argued that documents identifying Border Patrol agents accused of misconduct should not be released to the public. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and no paywall.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 12:33 pm

Border Patrol Launches Militarized Raid of Borderland Humanitarian Aid CampORDERLANDS HUMANITARIAN AID CAMP

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The US Border Patrol is out of control: a government-sanctioned and protected band of arrogant armed bullies and thugs. Ryan Devereaux reports in the Intercept:

CAMOUFLAGED U.S. Border Patrol agents in armored vehicles launched a nighttime raid on a humanitarian aid camp in southern Arizona on Friday. Agents zip-tied volunteers’ hands behind their backs, shouted at them with rifles raised, and confiscated their cellphones, as well as the organization’s medical records. At least two helicopters hovered above the camp and a film crew documented the operation on the ground. Agents moved through camp structures and arrested more than 30 undocumented immigrants who were receiving treatment after trekking through the desert in the middle of heat wave.

The humanitarian group, No More Deaths, a faith-based organization out of Tucson, believes the operation was likely part retaliation, part violent publicity stunt. The raid marked the second time in two years that the Border Patrol descended on one of No More Deaths’ aid stations immediately after the group published materials that cast a negative light on the border enforcement agency.

On Wednesday, the group shared documents regarding a remarkably similar raid on the same camp three years ago, which showed the Border Patrol’s national union clamoring for a crackdown on No More Deaths. On Thursday, less than 24 hours after the documents were posted online, Border Patrol entered the camp without a warrant and took an undocumented woman into custody. The agency then surrounded the location and set up a checkpoint to detain and search volunteers as they came and went. The camp remained surrounded until Friday’s raid.

Montana Thames, who gathered accounts from the detained volunteers, described the operation as a militarized show of force that featured the same Border Patrol tactical teams that were recently deployed to suppress protests in Portland, Oregon. According to Thames, who is also a No More Deaths volunteer, when agents entered the camp in Arivaca, Arizona, roughly 10 miles north of the border, they claimed that they had a warrant but refused to show it. “They pretty aggressively got people out of there and then trashed the camp,” Thames told The Intercept on Saturday. In addition to the aircraft hovering above the camp, volunteers reported the use of at least two dozen marked and unmarked vehicles, ATVs, and armored personnel carriers.

Some of the agents looked to be members of the Border Patrol’s BORTAC teams, the same commando-style units that were filmed bundling protesters into unmarked cars in Portland, volunteers said — photos from the raid appear to back up those claims. According to Thames, members of the tactical unit raised their rifles and shouted at volunteers while they were zip-tied. The decision to wait until nightfall to conduct the operation felt deliberate and produced “unnecessary trauma” for the migrants receiving care and volunteers alike, Thames said: “They started rolling in when the sun was setting, raided the camp when it was dark, and created a lot more fear and chaos.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more (and there’s no paywall).

I was just reading a review of a book about the Stasi — the East German secret police. The Border Patrol has a similar cullture but with no need to keep it secret.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 August 2020 at 10:02 am

“Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” @50

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Jeremy Adelman writes in PublicBooks.org:

For two turbulent years, General James Mattis was President Donald Trump’s defense secretary. It was little secret that Mattis had profound disagreements with the president’s foreign policy decisions and strongly disapproved of his character, which ultimately led to the general’s resignation, in late 2018. But after leaving the DOD, Mattis went silent and refrained from publicly critiquing Trump. Until June 3. In the midst of a pandemic, and after days of watching the militarized suppression of legal and peaceful protests in cities across America, Mattis finally spoke out. “I have just watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled,” he wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic, alluding to the dispersal of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square with tear gas and rubber bullets. “Never did I dream that troops … would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”

Mattis’s outrage spurred many other establishment figures and organizations to denounce the repression and side with America’s homegrown, Black-led democracy movement. In what will surely go down as a critical moment in recent times, Mattis exhibited the power of voice—in this case the voice of a decorated, hard-to-dislike onetime loyalist—in shaping history.

Voice is to modern politics what DNA is to genetics. The strength of a democracy—and the measure of autocracy—can be gauged by the extent to which citizens are able to express themselves. One work that has deeply influenced how we think about voice is Albert O. Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States. Now enjoying its 50th anniversary, it is a classic in the history of human sciences. But can a classic book of the fevered 1960s speak to us in our modern fevered times?

As Facebook and Amazon partition the attentional marketplace and politics turns tribal, the institutions governing modern life appear deaf to the clamor. What is so agonizing about the global street protests today is that there is a sinking feeling that the police will not change their ways, that gun lobbies will continue to pump the marketplace with ammunition, and that carbon-based fuels will dominate our energy options. When the Trump presidency ends, and the toll of years of toxicity and mismanagement becomes clear, we are going to need guidance on how to move forward. Can Exit, Voice, and Loyalty help us?

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty was conceived when the United States was at the height of its global power. It was the 1960s; civil rights, feminism, and consumer movements were on the march. Hirschman was optimistic about what lay ahead. He assumed that governments and firms would take heed of what they were hearing from the citizens who were agitating for change.

But by the late 1960s, as Hirschman traveled to Stanford for his fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), there were early warning signs that all was not well. He had recently published a study of the World Bank. One of the case studies was a project in Nigeria. His field notes were full of jottings about farmers complaining about freight rates, merchants grousing about cheating tax collectors; the air in Nigeria in 1966 was thick with tension. Yet Hirschman’s observations made little difference in his hopeful analysis. Soon after, a horrible civil war erupted in Biafra. Hirschman was shocked and dismayed. What was the value of social science if it failed to heed its own evidence of a looming crisis? He went to CASBS in search of understanding. During his stay, the great French psychologist Serge Moscovici delivered a paper on the role of small groups (including early Christians, suffragists, and the first Nazis) in swaying majorities. How did people who were marginal, disenchanted, and persecuted convince others of the value of their perspective? And what about the opposite: cases where people remained loyal to institutions (such as governments waging unpopular wars in the Mekong Delta) that had stopped listening to their constituents?

At the time, one example of how small groups could influence larger ones was the rising consumer movement. Hirschman struck up a correspondence with the crusading consumer activist Ralph Nader; they formed a mini mutual-adoration club. Nader became famous for his campaign against Chevrolet and its Corvair model, which had been implicated in a series of deadly accidents. Nader used testimonies from lawsuits against Chevrolet to mount a public campaign to indict the model and its maker. His work led to the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, a milestone in government commitment to consumer safety and the creation of the (now disarrayed) protectionist state. Later, “Nader Raiders” mobilized successfully to reform the Federal Trade Commission and get it to pay more attention to consumer safety. Hirschman took note. This expression of consumer citizenship struck him as a model for reforming capitalism.

Exit, Voice, and Loyalty was influenced by all of these inputs: Hirschman’s misjudgment in Nigeria; Moscovici’s analysis of the power of small groups that speak loudly; and Nader and the consumer movement. The book is like a road map through the intricacies of disappointment. What to do when your government stops listening, your car dealer sells you lemons, or the local public school cuts after-school music to save some money? For Hirschman, there were three options. One was exit. You could leave your country. (Hirschman was familiar with this option. He had fled tyranny, war, and intolerance on many occasions, starting in the spring of 1933, when he fled the Nazi takeover in Germany at age 17.) You could give up on Chevy and buy a Ford. You could withdraw from the public school and opt for a private one. In our day, examples of exit include General Mattis’s resignation from Trump’s cabinet, the decision by the majority of Britons to part ways with the European Union, and the flight of 70 million refugees worldwide from persecution and obscene neglect.

Another option was voice: expressing anger in a letter to the editor or making a complaint to the sales rep or, as many of the students at Stanford were doing the year Hirschman was in residence, protesting the Vietnam War. When demonstrators clashed in the streets of Paris and outside the Democratic Party convention in Chicago in 1968, or marched on Washington in the summer of 1963 to push for equal rights for African Americans, they exercised what Hirschman called voice: proclaiming one’s discontent loudly and publicly, in the hope that rulers got the message and changed their ways. In our day, we see voice when citizens hang a banner over a police station in Seattle declaring, “This Space Is Now Property of the Seattle People,” or pressure the governor of New York to make public the records of abusive police officers, or take to the streets of Beirut to denounce a corrupt and kleptocratic regime.

There was a third option: stay loyal. Hirschman didn’t think too much about loyalty. It wasn’t really an active option, more like a default setting. To this day, it remains the weakest conceptual leg of his famous tripod.

In the five decades since its publication, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty has been viewed as a guide to understanding how and why people squared up to the disappointments in their ruling institutions. It’s how I read it as a graduate student observing the explosion of voice in a democratizing Latin America in the 1980s. Indeed, it was how Hirschman himself read his own book amid the stream of essays that reprised its concepts to explain the fall of East Germany or the jostling between private and public medical systems. It was a book that helped us think about how to force institutions to change. We did not read it for insights about institutions themselves.

Nowadays, it’s our institutions that are in deep, deep trouble. Too often their leaders resist change, waiting for the outcry of the moment to blow over. Big organizations go through the motions of listening, make the right noises, but usually do nothing.

How can we get the ossified organizations of modern life to respond? Doing so requires a different reading of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Sure, we remember the famous trifecta of concepts mentioned in the title. But there are other recurring words all through the text that are equally important: “recuperating,” “recovery,” and “renewal.” They are the counterpoints to the decay and decline that figure in the book’s subtitle.

Whether organizations can swing from decline to recuperation depends on . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

For decades, the takeaway was that we needed effective voice. But over time, market solutions to common problems became the policy orthodoxy. We let rulers extol the virtue of exit options: if you don’t like your school, start a charter; if you don’t like public health systems, enjoy the manifold benefits of private insurance; and if you don’t like your state, leave (though good luck getting a visa). So we watched as institutions developed artful ways to dodge their civic and public commitments.

There was an additional step in Hirschman’s argument. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 2:20 pm

Jennifer Rubin proposes some questions to ask Republican candidates for Senator

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This list is from her column in the Washington Post:

  • Are you supporting the lawsuit to take away all Obamacare protections for people with preexisting conditions? If not, what have you done about it?
  • Couldn’t we have avoided Trump’s bungling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 150,000 people in the United States, if you voted to impeach him?
  • Isn’t refusal to confront Russia on bounties for killing U.S. troops a betrayal of our men and women serving overseas? If you had removed the president for betraying our national security regarding Ukraine, he wouldn’t be repeating that pattern now, would he? Do you regret your vote?
  • You voted for a $2 trillion tax cut on the promise it would pay for itself. It didn’t come close. Should we reverse it? How can you then oppose spending a similar amount on support for unemployed Americans, state and local governments, and voting by mail?
  • Will you denounce attempts to undermine mail-in voting? Will you pledge to recognize the results of the election and rebut efforts to delegitimize it?
  • Has the administration “succeeded” in fighting the coronavirus? Why haven’t you insisted on a national testing and tracing program?
  • Was it appropriate to send without the permission of the governor unidentified federal forces to gas and attack protesters in Portland, Ore.? What did you do about it?
  • Why did you vote to confirm Cabinet officials such as Scott Pruitt for the Environmental Protection Agency (only Collins voted against him), Tom Price for the Department of Health and Human Services, Ryan Zinke for the Interior Department and Alexander Acosta for the Labor Department — all of whom left office under the cloud of ethics violations (including Acosta, for his participation in Jeffrey Epstein’s plea deal)?
  • Is the economy in better or worse shape in January 2015, when your term began?
  • When have you condemned Trump’s racist rhetoric?
  • Have we “won” the trade war against China? If not, why haven’t you reclaimed Congress’s power over tariffs?
  • What reason do voters have to believe you would stand up to Trump if he is reelected?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 2:04 pm

Trump goes postal

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Judd Legum has another excellent column at Popular Information:

In politics, things can change quickly. But, as of now, Trump is trailing Biden in the polls by a significant margin. And the president is lashing out, claiming mail-in voting will make November’s election “INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT” and suggesting it should be delayed until more people can safely vote in person.

Trump, however, lacks the authority to delay November’s election. He does, however, have the power to undermine the ability of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to facilitate mail-in voting. And that’s what Trump is doing.

It started in May when the Trump administration installed Louis DeJoy, a top Trump fundraiser and Republican operative, as the new Postmaster General. DeJoy has little familiarity with the USPS, but he has “given more than $2 million to the Trump campaign or Republican causes since 2016,” including “including a $210,600 contribution to the Trump Victory Fund on Feb. 19.” Before assuming the role of Postmaster General, DeJoy was “the finance chairman for the RNC convention.”

Upon assuming office, DeJoy immediately took actions to degrade . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 10:36 am

Trump heads to his own golf club as Covid-19 surges and jobless benefits expire

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Not a leader and only a simulacrum of a president. President Trump makes his 283rd golfing trip of his term as coronavirus death toll passes 153,000. The Guardian writes:

Donald Trump prompted a familiar barrage of criticism on Saturday by visiting one of his own golf clubs as the country remains caught in numerous intensifying crises, from the raging coronavirus epidemic to anti-racism protests to the failure to extend benefits to tens of millions of jobless Americans.

Trump arrived at his Virginia golf club in the morning, according to a report from the White House pool, after leaving Washington via motorcade and dressed in his usual golfing attire of a baseball cap and a polo shirt.

In the 2016 campaign, and before, Trump often lambasted then president Barack Obama for his visits to the golf course and claimed that he would be too busy to play the sport if he was president. Since taking office, Trump’s visits to golf courses have far outpaced those of Obama.

Trump’s latest visit comes as the death toll in the US from the coronavirus tops 153,000 with more than 4.5 million positive cases – by far the largest totals in the world. It also happens as Washington fails to agree on an extension to a vital $600 weekly payment to jobless Americans – who will now lose that benefit.

The visit triggered much online criticism, including from some anti-Trump Republicans. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 August 2020 at 8:55 am

President Trump promised a rollout of an overhaul to the US healthcare system within two weeks

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The promise was made two weeks ago. I can find no signs of the overhaul of the US healthcare system, but I did find this report by Anne Gearan, Amy Goldstein, and Seung Min Kima in the Washington Post:

It was a bold claim when President Trump said that he was about to produce an overhaul of the nation’s health-care system, at last doing away with the Affordable Care Act, which he has long promised to abolish.

“We’re signing a health-care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health-care plan,” Trump pledged in a July 19 interview with “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace.

Now, with the two weeks expiring Sunday, there is no evidence that the administration has designed a replacement for the 2010 health-care law. Instead, there is a sense of familiarity.

Repeatedly and starting before he took office, Trump has vowed that he is on the cusp of delivering a full-fledged plan to reshape the health-care system along conservative lines and replace the central domestic achievement of Barack Obama’s presidency.

No total revamp has ever emerged.

Trump’s latest promise comes amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has infected millions, caused more than 150,000 deaths and cost Americans their work and the health benefits that often come with jobs. His vow comes three months before the presidential election and at a time when Trump’s Republican allies in Congress may least want to revisit an issue that was a political loser for the party in the 2018 midterm elections.

Yet Trump has returned to the theme in recent days.

“We’re going to be doing a health-care plan. We’re going to be doing a very inclusive health-care plan. I’ll be signing it sometime very soon,” Trump said during an exchange with reporters at an event in Belleair, Fla., on Friday. When a reporter noted that he told Fox’s Wallace that he would sign it in two weeks, Trump added: “Might be Sunday. But it’s going to be very soon.”

Trump’s decision to revive a health-care promise that he has failed to deliver on — this time with less than 100 days before Election Day — carries political risks. Although it may appeal to voters who don’t like the ACA, it also highlights his party’s inability to come up with an alternative, despite spending almost a decade promising one.

It also raises questions about what exactly his plan would look like and whether it would cover fewer Americans than the current system as the pandemic ravages the country. . .

Continue reading.

Today was the day President Trump said he would reveal the plan.

Why do some people continue to support this lying buffoon?

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2020 at 1:42 pm

Trump brings trouble

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Maureen Dowd has a good column in the NY Times. It begins:

Macbeth has his doubts.

But his wife taunts him about his manliness until he bloodies his country.

It’s hard to believe, four centuries after Shakespeare, that the fear of being unmanned is still so potent that it could wreck a country.

But it is. And it has.

Donald Trump’s warped view of masculinity has warped this nation’s response to a deadly pandemic. And Trump doesn’t even have a diabolical Lady MacTrump whispering in his ear, goading him about being a man. He goads himself, fueled by ghostly memories of his autocratic father.

As the Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt writes: “The tyrant, Macbeth and other plays suggest, is driven by a range of sexual anxieties: a compulsive need to prove his manhood, dread of impotence, a nagging apprehension that he will not be found sufficiently attractive or powerful, a fear of failure. Hence the penchant for bullying, the vicious misogyny, and the explosive violence. Hence, too, the vulnerability to taunts. Especially those bearing a latent or explicit sexual charge.”

Trump’s fear of emasculation led to his de-mask-ulation. Instead of cleaving to science and reason, he stuck with the old, corny Gordon Gekko routine, putting concern for the stock market above all else.

Like Macbeth, the president made tragic errors of judgment and plunged his country into a nightmare. Our trust in government is depleted, and our relationships in the world are tattered. As Fintan O’Toole wrote in The Irish Times, the world has loved, hated and envied the United States. But never before has it pitied us. Until now.

Trump has always said that the whole world is laughing at us because it’s taking advantage of us. That sound you’re hearing is not laughter.

“He could be on his way to re-election now if . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the column:

After the president began doing the coronavirus briefings again, he tried a “new” tone, saying he was getting used to masks — “Think about patriotism. Maybe it helps. It helps” — then face-planting by offering good wishes to a past party pal and accused pedophile enabler, Ghislaine Maxwell. But then things got really crazy as he defended a retweet of a doctor who has promoted hydroxychloroquine as well as declaimed on the existence of alien D.N.A. and demon sperm.

“I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her,’’ he told reporters. (As he told Barstool sports: “It’s the retweets that get you in trouble.”) He fell into more self-pity, complaining about his ratings compared to those of Dr. Anthony Fauci: “Nobody likes me. It can only be my personality, that’s all.”

Written by LeisureGuy

2 August 2020 at 5:57 am

Read this Twitter thread

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Clink the link (the date) to see the whole thread.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 5:51 pm

The Man Who Made Stephen Miller

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Jean Guerrero is an investigative journalist and author of Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump and the White Nationalist Agenda, forthcoming from William Morrow (HarperCollins) on August 11, from which this Politico article is adapted. The article begins:

In December 2012, with the Republican Party reeling from a brutal election that left Democrats in control of the White House and the Senate, the conservative activist David Horowitz emailed a strategy paper to the office of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

Horowitz, now 81, was a longtime opponent of immigration and the founder of a think tank and a campus freedom-of-speech advocacy group. He saw in Sessions a kindred spirit—a senator who could reawaken a more nationalist fire in the Republican party. The person he emailed it to was a Sessions aide: Stephen Miller. Horowitz, who recalled the episode in an interview and shared the emails with me, had known Miller since the aide was in high school.

Horowitz encouraged Miller to not only give the paper to Sessions but to circulate it in the Senate. Miller expressed eagerness to share it and asked for instructions. “Leave the Confidential note on it. It gives it an aura that will make people pay more attention to it,” Horowitz wrote. The paper, “Playing to the Head Instead of the Heart: Why Republicans Lost and How They Can Win,” included a section on the political utility of hostile feelings. Horowitz wrote that Democrats know how to “hate their opponents,” how to “incite envy and resentment, distrust and fear, and to direct those volatile emotions.” He urged Republicans to “return their fire.”

“Behind the failures of Republican campaigns lies an attitude that is administrative rather than combative. It focuses on policies rather than politics. It is more comfortable with budgets and pie charts than with the flesh and blood victims of their opponents’ policies,” Horowitz wrote, adding that Democrats have the moral high ground. “They are secular missionaries who want to ‘change society.’ Their goal is a new order of society—‘social justice.’” He argued that the only way to beat them is with “an equally emotional campaign that puts the aggressors on the defensive; that attacks them in the same moral language, identifying them as the bad guys.”

Horowitz wrote that hope and fear are the two strongest weapons in politics. Barack Obama had used hope to become president. “Fear is a much stronger and more compelling emotion,” Horowitz argued, adding that Republicans should appeal to voters’ base instincts.

It is perhaps the most compact crystallization of the relationship that propelled Miller, now a senior policy adviser and speechwriter in the Donald Trump administration, to the White House and of the importance that relationship has had in the administration. The friendship between Miller and Horowitz began when Miller—who did not respond to interview requests for the book from which this article was adapted—was in high school and continued throughout his career. Tracing it reveals a source of Miller’s laser focus on immigration restriction, which has over the past few years resulted in a ban on travel from mostly-Muslim countries and a policy that separated families crossing the border into the United States to seek asylum. If you want to understand the language Trump uses to talk about immigrants and his opponents, or the immigration policies he has put into place, often via Miller, you have to also understand David Horowitz, and the formative role he played in Miller’s career and life.

Miller met Horowitz shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when Miller was a teenager growing up on the Southern California coast. He was going through a period of family turmoil. A few years before, they had moved out of a million-dollar home in a wealthy white neighborhood to a slightly smaller house in a more diverse neighborhood. Miller’s father Michael was having financial troubles and fighting several legal battles related to his real estate company, including a fight with his brother whom he permanently separated from the family with a no-contact order in a settlement agreement. Rather than attending a private school the way Michael’s youngest son later did, his oldest son Stephen found himself at a diverse public school, which celebrated Día de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo.

When his father was tangled up in lawsuits, Miller found comfort in a number of conservative California-based talk radio show hosts, including Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh complained about multiculturalism and the poor, whom he called “the biggest piglets at the mother pig and her nipples” in his book The Way Things Ought To Be. Miller read the book and later cited it as a favorite.

Geographically, the 16-year-old was nearly as far from the 9/11 attacks as he could be in the United States, but he was transformed by the tragedy. He wondered why his high school didn’t recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He called into a local right-wing talk radio show, the Larry Elder Show, to complain about his school’s alleged lack of patriotism.

When Miller heard about Horowitz through a classmate, he reached out to him and invited him to speak at Santa Monica High School. Horowitz had heard Miller on the radio, as had other right-wing provocateurs who would go on to shape Trumpism: Steve Bannon, Andrew Breitbart and Alex Marlow. Like them, Horowitz was riveted by the teenager’s furious rants against multiculturalism. He thought he was “gutsy,” a kindred spirit. He agreed to speak at his school.

Horowitz ran, and continues to run, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, which was later renamed the David Horowitz Freedom Center: A School for Political Warfare. The foundation says it “sees its role as that of a battle tank, geared to fight a war that many still don’t recognize.” The enemy? In the foundation’s words, it’s the “political left,” which “has declared war on America and its constitutional system, and is willing to collaborate with America’s enemies abroad and criminals at home to bring America down.” Horowitz says the political left poses an “existential threat.” Horowitz has been labeled an anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a hate watch group.

Horowitz’s parents were members of the Communist Party, and he supported the New Left in the sixties and seventies, and worked with the Black Panther Party. But he became disillusioned after a white friend he had recommended to work for them as a bookkeeper, Betty Van Petter, was murdered.

The murder was never solved, but Horowitz blamed the Black activists. He came to believe liberals had waged a wrongheaded “war against ‘whiteness.’” White European males, primarily English and Protestant Christian, created “America’s unique political culture … [which] led the world in abolishing slavery and establishing the principles of ethnic and racial inclusion,” he wrote in his book Hating Whitey. “We are a nation besieged by peoples ‘of color’ trying to immigrate to our shores to take advantage of the unparalleled opportunities and rights our society offers them.”

Horowitz, who is Jewish like Miller, argues that Protestant Christian doctrines are fundamental to America and are under direct assault by Muslims, progressives and anyone who argues with his ideology. Having leaped from left-wing radicalism to right-wing radicalism, he uses the language of the civil rights movement to attack it, painting conservative white men as victims of discrimination and defending hate speech with appeals to “intellectual diversity.” “Academic freedom is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech,” reads the “Academic Bill of Rights” he created for his youth group, “Students for Academic Freedom.” Meanwhile, his acolytes learn to invert and deflect criticism. Liberals and people of color are “bigots,” “racists,” and “oppressors,” Horowitz has said multiple times. “The racists here are blacks who have been brainwashed into thinking all cops are white and oppressing them,” Horowitz has tweeted.

When Miller invited Horowitz to speak at his high school, the goateed older man had recently been defending young conservatives in several cases against allegations of racism, sexism and homophobia. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s disturbing.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 1:01 pm

Speculation that Trump wants to ban TikTok because of Sarah Cooper

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For example:

See Stuart Emmrich’s article in Vogue, which begins:

Donald Trump abruptly announced on Friday that he plans to ban TikTok from the United States, telling reporters traveling with him on Air Force One that he could issue an executive order as early as Saturday to shut down the Chinese-owned video app.

“As far as TikTok is concerned we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told the reporters traveling back with him to the nation’s capital after a trip to Florida, according to a pool report. Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to ban TikTok in the United States.

“Well, I have that authority. I can do it with an executive order or that,” he said referring to emergency economic powers. (Later press reports questioned whether the president actually had that power to do so, and the ACLU tweeted that banning TikTok was “a danger to free expression and technologically impractical.”)

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was looking at banning TikTok as well as other Chinese social media apps, citing national security concerns. Pompeo added that the Trump administration was evaluating TikTok as it has with other Chinese state-backed tech companies like Huawei and ZTE, which he has previously described as “Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”

But are national security concerns really behind Trump’s sudden pronouncement? Or is there another reason why the president wants to ban TikTok? Social media had their own answer: It’s all about Sarah Cooper.

Cooper, of course, is the actress and comedian who has come to Internet fame by posting videos of her lip syncing Trump’s speeches and interviews to hilarious effect, whether it’s him denying he retreated to the White House bunker because of a threat posed by protestors, dodging a question about what his favorite Bible phrases are, or, most memorably, recreating his now-famous “People, woman, man, camera, TV” interview. With more than half a million followers on TikTok, Cooper has been written up by The Hollywood Reporter, The Washington Post and The New York Times and appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and The Ellen Show. (“You make me so happy,” Degeneres said). A profile in the Times of London was headlined: “How Sarah Cooper’s Trump Takedowns Made Her America’s New Comedy Hero.”

And true to form, on Friday night, she posted a video lip synching to Trump’s later comments about TikTok, as he arrived back in Washington and headed to the White House. “We’re looking at TikTok. We may be banning TikTok, we may be doing some other things, there are a couple of options,” she intones, using a recording of a quick press briefing Trump gave before boarding a helicopter, which could be heard whirring in the background. “But a lot of things are happening, so we’ll see what happens. But we are looking at a lot of alternatives with respect to TikTok.” (Cooper even supplies visual effects, with her hair seemingly blowing in the wind as she mouths Trump’s words.) . . .

Continue reading.

And in addition, here’s an interview with Sarah Cooper, in which she makes some interesting points:

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 12:21 pm

New USPS policies seem to pave the way to privatization

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Whenever the government spends a substantial amount of money on a service, private corporations work to privatize the service and thus get the money for themselves. Of course, the government runs the service without having to show a profit, and profits are what private corporations want. So when a government service is privatized, costs go up and service quality goes down, thus securing the profit the corporation wants.

If the USPS goes private, for example, Rural Free Delivery will very likely cease to be free. Small post offices will be closed. Deliveries will become less frequent and delivery times longer. All that so that the corporation owning the service can grow its profits.

Rachel M. Cohen reports in the Intercept:

JULY HAS BEEN a flurry of confusion and stress for postal workers, as a barrage of new measures are threatening to fundamentally overhaul and undermine the culture and operations of the U.S. Postal Service.

Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on a memo from the new USPS Postmaster General Louis DeJoy urging postal staff to leave behind mail at distribution centers if they thought it would cause a delay for letter carriers. Another memo stated that the USPS would be looking to cut transportation and overtime costs, bringing about “immediate, lasting, and impactful changes” to the federal agency.

The following week, postal workers learned of yet another new pilot program called Expedited to Street/Afternoon Sortation, or ESAS, that would be rolling out in 384 delivery units nationwide beginning on July 25. The crux of this program, as outlined in an unsigned memo dated July 16, is to send letter carriers out to deliver mail more quickly in the morning by prohibiting them from sorting any mail in their offices before they go.

These changes could delay mail from getting to its final destination by at least one day, if not longer. While the USPS memo billed ESAS as an effort to “improve consistency in delivery time” to customers, reduce overtime, and increase efficiency, postal workers were alarmed and shocked by these new dictates, which appeared to directly undermine a core value of their work.

“These are changes aimed at changing the entire culture of USPS,” said Mark Dimondstein, the national president of the American Postal Workers Union. “The culture I grew up with, and of generations before me, is that you never leave mail behind. You serve the customer, you get mail to the customer. Prompt, reliable, and efficient.”

Dimondstein said the union is putting in place an ESAS monitoring and reporting plan to evaluate the impacts of these new changes to service. “We are definitely getting our members educated and we will fight this post office by post office, community by community,” he said. The union is also coordinating with members of Congress to discuss strategies, and Dimondstein said he’s hoping for oversight hearings in early fall.

“I think the best way to put it is we’re concerned,” said Arthur Sackler, manager for the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, a postal industry advocacy group. “Maybe this will just delay mail delivery once, but we’re worried if there’s no real time to sort, and no overtime, then there could be a cumulative growing impact.”

Sackler said his group has still gotten no information or clarity about these new rules and their potential consequences from the federal agency. “We haven’t been told anything, we haven’t been consulted, and over the last three decades the Postal Service has had a good track record of talking to unions and industry groups if there are going to be changes.”

In a statement, USPS spokesperson David Partenheimer told The Intercept that the Postal Service “is developing a business plan to ensure that we will be financially stable and able to continue to provide dependable, affordable, safe and secure delivery of mail and packages to all Americans as a vital part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. The plan, which will be presented to the Board of Governors when it is finalized, will include new and creative ways to help us fulfill our mission, and will focus on the Postal Service’s strengths to maximize our prospects for long-term success.” In addition to developing the broader business plan, Partenheimer said, “the Postal Service is taking immediate steps to increase operational efficiency by re-emphasizing existing plans that have been designed to provide prompt and reliable service within current service standards.”

Postal workers have been on high alert since May, when it was announced that the USPS Board of Governors had selected DeJoy to serve as the new postmaster general and CEO. DeJoy has been a top Republican Party fundraiser, including for the Republican National Convention and the president’s reelection effort, which prompted questions about how exactly he secured his new gig.

DeJoy previously worked as chair and CEO of New Breed Logistics, a massive warehousing and distribution company, and is the first postmaster general in over two decades to have never worked at USPS. He replaced outgoing postmaster general, Megan Brennan, who was appointed in 2015 and had been a career-long USPS employee, beginning as a letter carrier in Pennsylvania.

A bevy of worker violations and complaints have racked up at DeJoy’s old stomping ground. When he was CEO, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that New Breed’s hiring practices were “motivated by anti-union animus” when it avoided hiring any Longshore union members after it secured an Army contract in California. Between 2001 and 2015, New Breed and its affiliates paid more than $1.7 million for violations of labor law, wage and hour regulations, employee discrimination, and aviation regulations. In 2014, the New York Times reported on four women who worked in a Memphis warehouse for New Breed who suffered miscarriages after their supervisors refused their requests for light duties while pregnant. That same year New Breed merged with XPO Logistics, and since 2015, XPO and its affiliates have paid more than $30 million for a range of workplace violations. Last year, hundreds of drivers, warehouse workers, and intermodal drivers at XPO facilities worldwide protested against abuse and wage theft. Then when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, XPO offered to “lend” workers up to 100 hours of time off, but said they would have to repay that time.

DeJoy vowed to bring about change to USPS, criticizing the organization for having “an expensive and inflexible business model” that he said he looked forward to tackling head-on. “I did not accept this position in spite of these challenges, I accepted this position because of them,” he told USPS employees in a June 15 video address.

Postal service workers feel particularly unnerved by the new ESAS program and DeJoy’s appointment given the Trump administration’s announcement in 2018 that the president would like to restructure and privatize USPS. The White House suggested that USPS could save money by raising rates, ending door-to-door delivery, and cutting down days of mail service. This past April, Donald Trump called the Postal Service “a joke” and tried to force the agency to quadruple its package rates in exchange for Covid-19 relief.

Delaying mail delivery in the name of cutting costs and efficiency, Dimondstein argued, means that people will lose confidence in one of the most trusted federal agencies in the country, which, unlike its private competitors, delivers everywhere, including to unprofitable and rural areas. “Undermining and degrading the Postal Service helps frustrate the customer, which sets the stage to privatizing it,” he said. “The Trump administration is on record for raising prices, reducing service, and reducing workers’ rights and benefits. This [pilot] may be Trump’s first foray to try and actually accomplish some of those things.”

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-N.J., pointed to the implications denying   . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, it’s important, and it will affect you directly.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2020 at 11:20 am

Trump’s ‘Delay the Election’ tweet checks all 8 rules for fascist propaganda

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Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University, is the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from The Twentieth Century. He writes in the Washington Post:

Just before 9 this morning, President Trump wrote this and pinned it to the top of his Twitter feed: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

With this tweet, the president both revives fascist propaganda and exploits a new age of Internet post-truth: He follows a trail blazed by fascists, but adds a twist that is his own.

A fascist guide to commentary on elections would have eight parts: contradict yourself to test the faith of your followers; tell a big lie to draw attention from basic realities; manufacture a crisis; designate enemies; make an appeal to pride and humiliation; express hostility to voting; cast doubt on democratic procedures; and aim for personal power.

Trump achieves all eight with admirable concision in this one tweet. He decries voting by mail, but praises absentee ballots, which are nothing else but voting by mail. The blatant contradiction, the test of faith for the true believer, is there right at the beginning, a gatekeeper for the rest of the tweet.

The big lie, in all capitals, is that the coming elections will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent in history. Historically speaking, the greatest source of inaccuracy and fraud in our elections is the suppression of African American votes, which is bad now but has been much worse. Of course, this is not at all what Trump means, and that is the point of a big lie: to replace a familiar reality with a nonexistent problem.

My entire state votes by mail. Sorry, Mr. President. It works great.

Tyrants in general and fascists in particular like to manufacture crises. Something that is true but of limited significance is transformed into an emergency that requires breaking all the rules. So, true, it does take time to count ballots, and some states do it better than others. But the claim that this requires an extraordinary step such as delaying an election is a manufactured crisis.

The cleverness of the manufactured crisis is that it plays out at the level of emotions rather than facts. If people accept it, they put their emotions in the service of the tyrant. The next move, made in the next sentence of the tweet, is to invoke humiliation. The “great embarrassment” has not happened and will not happen, but if we choose to feel humiliated, we then look for the wrongdoer.

This has been the siren song of tyrants: Some shady enemy has done us wrong, and we must restore our honor. In this tweet, the enemy is implicit: Someone has made voting improper, unsafe and insecure. From the context, it is clear that what is meant is that Democrats have tried to make voting easier. In fact, paper ballots are the most proper, safe and secure way to vote.

The basic substance of the message, then, is a call to resist voting and question democratic procedures. In that way, the final three traditional fascist objectives are achieved. Citizens are supposed to forget about their individual right to cast a ballot and doubt the familiar procedures of democratic elections, while the president simply remains (as he imagines it) in power.

So we circle back to the grand contradiction. The president claims . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2020 at 12:49 pm

Dismantle the Department of Homeland Security

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Richard A. Clarke served on the National Security Council for Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He writes in the Washington Post:

President Trump has, often intentionally, damaged essential federal departments and agencies, driving from their ranks thousands of career civil servants who are global experts and national treasures. The country is seeing the results play out at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but such damage has happened across the federal bureaucracy.

No national institution has been more damaged than the Department of Homeland Security. The youngest of the federal departments, the DHS is among the largest by employee count, ranking just below the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs. It was created in 2003 by smashing together 17 agencies from five departments in an ill-conceived response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Its divisions and agencies are now largely leaderless, because the White House refuses to nominate senior managers to replace those who have left. Quick, who is the secretary of homeland security?

You get my point.

Trump has done far more damage to the DHS, however, than leaving it leaderless. He has branded it as the department that cages children, swoops innocent citizens off U.S. streets, sends warriors dressed for the apocalypse to deal with protests, hunts down hard-working people doing “essential jobs” to forcibly deport them, and harasses foreign students at leading universities. The DHS has become synonymous with unsympathetic government overreach, malevolence and dysfunction.

For the patriotic, underpaid Americans working hard in the agencies of the DHS, what Trump has done to their reputations is a tragedy. The department, however, was doomed from the start. When such an agency was proposed before the Sept. 11 attacks, I was working in the White House, where I coordinated many “homeland” issues for almost a decade under President Bill Clinton and, later, President George W. Bush. Blocking the creation of the DHS was one of the few things on which Vice President Dick Cheney and I agreed. We thought that such a department would be too large, too diverse in function and too difficult to integrate into a well-functioning institution.

Congressional leaders, however, wanted to “do something” after 9/11, and it became impossible for the Bush administration to maintain its opposition to the idea of a homeland security agency. Instead, the Bush administration embraced it and quickly merged a raft of agencies ripped from their home departments. The new department never really came together.

For more than a decade, reports from the Government Accountability Office, think tanks and congressional committees have documented the failures of the DHS to coalesce into an effective entity. Its image steadily declined and was not helped by the popular television series “Homeland,” which despite its name depicted a dark world of CIA intrigue, portraying missions and functions that the DHS never actually had.. Contrary to popular belief, Homeland Security has never been the government’s lead counterterrorism entity. The FBI, part of the Justice Department, leads counterterrorism efforts within the United States.

The next administration would be well advised not to try to make the existing DHS structure work, for it will end up as another presidential administration that has failed in that task. Instead, the department should be reimagined — perhaps as part of a Reinventing Government effort, the first of which was led by then-Vice President Al Gore — with more manageable and mission-consistent entities. It should also shed its Orwellian name.

Federal departments and agencies develop personalities and images from their mission, and they attract people who identify with those personas. These identities are almost immutable, but new organizational designs and branding can reinvigorate and redirect agencies. Breaking up the DHS could have positive results.

One possibility would be to create a Department of Public Safety and Protection composed of the agencies engaged in protecting Americans on water, in cyberspace, in air travel and after natural disasters, as well as protecting U.S. leaders. A Department of Public Safety and Protection could include the Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the cyber agency CISA, Transportation Security Administration and the Secret Service. Such a smaller department could be better integrated into a well-functioning whole, with an improved public image, fewer agencies, greater transparency and positive outreach. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 July 2020 at 10:47 am

This was the week America lost the war on misinformation

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Margaret Sullivan was the only good Public Editor the NY Times had. (The Times has since abolished the post, presumably because it kept pointing out errors and misjudgments by the Times.) She writes in the Washington Post:

You may have heard about the viral video featuring a group of fringe doctors spouting dangerous falsehoods about hydroxychloroquine as a covid-19 wonder cure.

In fact, it’s very possible you saw the video since it was shared on social media tens of millions of times — partly thanks to President Trump who retweeted it more than once, and who described the group’s Stella Immanuel, also known for promoting wacky notions about demon sperm and alien DNA, as “very impressive” and even “spectacular.”

Given this and a few other hideous developments, it’s time to acknowledge the painfully obvious: America has waved the white flag and surrendered.

With nearly 150,000 dead from covid-19, we’ve not only lost the public-health war, we’ve lost the war for truth. Misinformation and lies have captured the castle.

And the bad guys’ most powerful weapon? Social media — in particular, Facebook.

Some new research, out just this morning from Pew, tells us in painstaking numerical form exactly what’s going on, and it’s not pretty: Americans who rely on social media as their pathway to news are more ignorant and more misinformed than those who come to news through print, a news app on their phones or network TV.

And that group is growing.

The report’s language may be formal and restrained, but the meaning is utterly clear — and while not surprising, it’s downright scary in its implications.

“Even as Americans who primarily turn to social media for political news are less aware and knowledgeable about a wide range of events and issues in the news, they are more likely than other Americans to have heard about a number of false or unproven claims.”

Media coverage of the 2016 campaign was disastrous. Now’s the last chance to get 2020 right.

Specifically, they’ve been far more exposed to the conspiracy theory that powerful people intentionally planned the pandemic. Yet this group, says Pew, is also less concerned about the impact of made-up news like this than the rest of the U.S. population.

They’re absorbing fake news, but they don’t see it as a problem. In a society that depends on an informed citizenry to make reasonably intelligent decisions about self-governance, this is the worst kind of trouble.

And the president — who knows exactly what he is doing — is making it far, far worse. His war on the nation’s traditional press is a part of the same scheme: information warfare, meant to mess with reality and sow as much confusion as possible.

Will Sommer of the Daily Beast took a deeper look this week into the beliefs of Stella Immanuel — the Houston doctor whom Trump has termed “very impressive” and “spectacular.”

“She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches,” Sommer wrote. “She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by ‘reptilians’ and other aliens.”

Immanuel said in a recent speech in Washington that the power of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment means that protective face masks aren’t necessary. None of this has a basis in fact — but try telling that to the tens of millions who have not only seen it but been urged to believe it.

The video featuring Immanuel and others eventually was taken down by Facebook. But as usual, it was far too late.

And Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted it out calling it a “must watch,” got his hand slapped by Twitter — briefly losing his right to sully the truth and jam the gears of reality. . . .

Continue reading. There’s even more. The US is becoming a basket case.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2020 at 11:59 am

Trump administration “war on coronavirus” has some flaws

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Remember when Trump claimed he was a “wartime President” because of his role in directing the fight against Covid-19? (And also remember when he said he would accept no responsibility for what happened?)

It doesn’t seem to be going well. From Kevin Drum’s daily tracking post this moring:

Written by LeisureGuy

30 July 2020 at 10:08 am

Ultimate Immunity: A gift the GOP wants to offer businesses

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Judd Legum in Popular Information has a column worth reading. It begins:

With the pandemic raging and unemployment well above 10%, Congress is rushing to pass another relief bill. Extended unemployment assistance will expire in days, millions are at imminent risk of eviction, and there are still major backlogs in COVID-19 testing.

But the top priority for the White House and Senate Republicans is not economic relief or improving testing to slow the spread of the virus. The top priority is to grant businesses near-total immunity if they expose their workers or customers to COVID-19. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly said the Senate will not vote on any bill that doesn’t include a liability shield for businesses.

Successfully suing a business for exposing someone to COVID-19 is already extremely difficult. Part of the reason is that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s good to know.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2020 at 10:44 am

The US moves toward closed/authoritarian government: Ex-CIA director Brennan writes in upcoming memoir that Trump blocked access to records and notes

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More and more the US federal government hides from citizens what it is doing. This is par for the course for authoritarian dictatorships, of course, and that is the direction the US is going. Citizens are treated as serfs, without voice or power and subject to arbitrary punishment and on-going lies and cover-ups. This report by Shane Harris in the Washington Post is simply one example. There are many, many more.

In the fall of 2018, when former CIA director John Brennan decided to write his memoir, he asked the agency for his official records, including his notes and any documents that he had reviewed and signed that were classified. The CIA, where Brennan had worked for nearly 30 years, said no.

It was a break with decades of tradition. The CIA routinely lets former directors review classified files when writing books about their careers. Their manuscripts are scrutinized to ensure they don’t expose any national secrets.

After months of “haggling,” Brennan learned that the CIA was following the orders of the man he had spent the previous two years publicly excoriating — President Trump, who in August 2018 “had issued a directive . . . that purportedly forbids anyone in the intelligence community from sharing classified information with me.”

Brennan recounts his battles with the president in the memoir he eventually wrote, with limited access to unclassified and heavily redacted material: “Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad.” The Washington Post reviewed portions of the book, which is scheduled to be published on Oct. 6.

Trump’s directive appears tailored to one of his most prominent critics. In tweets, op-eds and television appearances, Brennan has denounced Trump as a unique threat to U.S. national security and democracy, once labeling his comments at a joint news conference in Helsinki with the president of Russia as “treasonous,” a comment that even some of Brennan’s friends and fellow Trump detractors said went too far.

Trump has accused Brennan of being a leading figure in a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his campaign and discredit his election.

Former intelligence chiefs bite back as Trump goes after Brennan’s security clearance

But national security experts said they’d never heard of a president targeting a former high-ranking official this way, critic or otherwise.

“It’s unprecedented, as far as I know,” said Mark Zaid, a lawyer who has represented government whistleblowers and former intelligence agency employees who have written books.

“This is demonstrative, once again, of a vindictive, political president whose actions have nothing to do with actual national security decisions,” Zaid said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere acknowledged that Trump had issued the directive. “The President has constitutional authority to control access to classified information, which he exercised here in view of Mr. Brennan’s erratic behavior and the President’s belief that access to classified information should be solely for the benefit of the government and the American people,” Deere said.

In August 2018, the same month that Brennan says Trump issued his order, the president said he was revoking Brennan’s security clearances.

Trump accused Brennan of making “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the Internet and television — about this Administration,” according to a statement then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders read to reporters at a briefing.

Trump’s threat turns out to have been an empty one. “My security clearances have never been revoked because there is no legal basis to do so,” Brennan writes.

In January of this year, Brennan says, he wrote to the current CIA director, Gina Haspel, after learning about the president’s order to keep him from receiving classified information. “It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Agency’s refusal to grant my request reflects the current administration’s desire to punish and retaliate against me for speaking out as a private citizen — an abuse of power designed to chill the exercise of my First Amendment rights,” he argued.

Brennan says Haspel never responded to his letter or contacted him to discuss the situation, a silence he found “very disappointing” given their years working together at the CIA.

“So much for my fervent hope that interactions with my successors would be unencumbered by Washington’s partisan waters,” Brennan writes, in a dig at Haspel, who current and former officials say has made it her practice to stay on Trump’s good side.

The CIA declined to comment on Brennan’s book or the president’s directive. . .

Continue reading. For what it’s worth, I always thought Gina Haspel, who by all accounts enthusiastically participated in the torture of suspects, was a worthless person of low moral character. Brennan himself is (or at least was) a strong proponent of torturing people (provided, of course, that he got to pick the people — he certainly did not want to be tortured himself).

Written by LeisureGuy

29 July 2020 at 9:27 am

Posted in Books, GOP, Government, Law, Politics

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