HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Celerity » Journal
Page: « Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 ... 111 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: London
Home country: USA/UK/Sweden
Current location: Stockholm, Sweden
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2018, 07:25 PM
Number of posts: 12,637

Journal Archives

Covidiot Chuck Woolery tries to save face after his son gets virus


On July 12, ex-game show host Chuck Woolery, noted epidemiologist and member of Trump's loyalty cult, tweeted, "The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most,that we are told to trust. I think it's all about the election and keeping the economy from coming back, which is about the election. I'm sick of it."


AOC - Si es Trump, tiene que ser corrupto


Paul Krugman - A plague of petty grievances

No main link, via email

The great re-closing has begun. California is entering a de facto second lockdown. Many southern states, which actually have worse outbreaks than California, should be doing the same, although it seems all too likely that Republican governors will, true to form, wait too long to take effective actions. Nonetheless, it’s now clear that the rush to resume normal life was an act of immense folly, for which we will pay a heavy price in both lives and money. In today’s column, I emphasized, in particular, the folly of permitting large gatherings and opening bars. This was in part, I have to admit, because I liked the rhetorical device of suggesting that we compromised our children’s future so we could go out drinking. But it’s also true that drinking in groups, a situation in which people naturally become loud and boisterous, has to be among the activities most likely to fuel a pandemic spread by airborne droplets.

It occurs to me, however, that some readers might think that I have a problem with the idea of people having fun, or that I think we got into this mess because people wanted to have a good time. I plead not guilty on both counts. There may be an element of censoriousness in some critiques of reopening; enough with the photos of crowded beaches! But Puritanism, which H.L. Mencken famously described as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy,” wasn’t a major factor in the alarm I and others felt as we barreled toward our current crisis. And for what it’s worth, while bars aren’t my thing, indie music concerts — lots of people standing in a small space, beers in hand while the performers and sometimes the audience sing — are. Today’s music selection is a video I shot eight months, and an eternity, ago. Nor do I believe that the natural human desire for a good time is what got us into our current crisis.

People are people, and can’t be expected to behave with inhuman self-restraint. Anyone who imagines that we can reopen colleges and expect undergraduates to practice social distancing has forgotten what it was like to be 19. But fun-loving young people didn’t drive the disastrous March/April push to LIBERATE (as Donald Trump put it) states under lockdown. Much of that push, instead, came from the top down — from Trump and his allies who wanted to goose the stock market, from business interests who wanted to bring back lost profits. And the psychology behind grass roots opposition to social distancing — behind all those people raging against being required to wear a face mask — doesn’t have much if anything to do with a desire to enjoy life.

What it reflects, instead — or at least that’s what I believe — is a pervasive resentment among some Americans at the idea that they might be asked to bear any burden, even a small inconvenience, for the sake of others. In fact, the small inconveniences seem to provoke the biggest displays of rage. I first noticed this phenomenon decades ago, when I was living in Massachusetts and saw how a local talk radio host whipped up rage against the state’s mandatory seatbelt law. (The law was reinstated after a surge in deaths.) I’ve seen it on environmental issues, with right-wing pundits suggesting violent action against local officials over things like the ban on phosphates in detergents — hey, this was meant to prevent toxic algal blooms, but possibly means that your dishwasher doesn’t work quite as well. In other words, the problem isn’t people who want to enjoy themselves, it’s people who act out their petty grievances — encouraged and empowered by the pettiest, most grievance-filled man ever to occupy the White House. And in the face of a pandemic, pettiness can be lethal.

The woman Roosevelt relied on to put America back to work

Roosevelt is invoked more than ever amid talk of a ‘new deal’ for today’s crisis. Rather fewer, however, recall the woman at the heart of his programme.


There is more mythical nonsense written about the ‘New Deal’ of Franklin Delano Roosevelt than of any other few years in 20th-century American history. It remains the favourite crutch of anyone who wants to propose a new policy—hence immediately demanding a latter-day New Deal. The latest to indulge in self-serving and dishonest New Deal invocations is the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, who has called for a ‘Rooseveltian approach to the UK’. As policy-makers contemplate the economic fallout across the world from Covid-19—with millions unlikely to find their way back to work under the old economic and labour-market paradigm—there may however be lessons from the Roosevelt era. Then great political leaders rose to the challenge of helping people into work and protecting those who, through no fault of their own, were stranded by the ravages of right-wing economic ideology. The United States embraced what after 1945 became the norm in Europe—partnership between trade unions and firms, state-funded employment programmes and a raft of progressive legislation.

Almost unknown

Nearly all of it was down to one woman, the US labour secretary, Frances Perkins. She remains almost unknown in Europe, even though her ideas and actions were reflected in much of what Europe did after the second world war. In 1932 the president, Herbert Hoover, sent the US army in to clear unemployment protesters peacefully camping in Washington DC and rallying to demand work and still-unpaid demobilisation dollars owed from World War One. The feted WWII generals Douglas MacArthur and George Patton led their men against fellow Americans wanting only a square meal. Donald Trump, who evoked the pair in his 2016 presidential election campaign, recently also threatened to mobilise the military against Americans calling for a fair deal for African-Americans, and for an end to the racism of too many police forces who believe they are doing their president’s bidding. In November 1932, Americans elected ‘FDR’ to end the unhappy Hoover years. He turned to Perkins, who held the post of labour secretary until 1945. The first female cabinet member in the US, she delivered a succession of progressive acts, which transformed relations between workers and employers and provided an unprecedented floor of social protection for Americans.

Possibilities opening

Perkins was born just as possibilities were opening up for women to work for progressive causes. Working with Al Smith as governor of New York state, she was a get-things-done do-gooder using state law to set up workplace inspections and a shorter working week for women. She took this forward after 1933, when FDR saw the need for the Democrats to enrol the voting strength of the rising industrial working class. She brought in the Public Works Administration, which put America’s unemployed back to work. She made sure unions and her own department had a stake in the National Industrial Recovery Act. She enacted the Social Security Act to pay federally mandated unemployment benefits and pensions for the millions of older Americans who had no occupational pension. She introduced a national minimum wage and a 40-hour work week became the norm for American workers, while laws regulated overtime. This was a radical programme but Perkins worked hard to bring employers on board. The New Deal helped craft unions but more important was the creation of industrial unions, so that all or most workers in a car factory or steel plant were represented by just one organisation. In contrast, Ford in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s had 14 unions, all demanding special attention to their members’ needs and unable to rise above such differences to speak and negotiate intelligently with one voice and leadership.

More assertive workers

Roosevelt was not always friendly towards workers and unions. He famously denounced the steelworkers’ union and their bosses in 1938, declaring ‘a plague on both your houses’. At the time the brilliant Polish economist Michal Kalecki, Marxist-trained but Keynesian, believed that the full employment delivered by Keynesian policy would eventually lead to a more assertive working class and a weakening of the social position of business leaders. Seeing their political power erode, the business elite would organise a backlash against unions—even if full employment was good for profits, executive pay and shareholder dividends. In the late 1930s, Swedish and Swiss unions grasped the need for an historic compromise with capital, as did German unions after 1950. In Britain, unions ploughed their own furrows, were infiltrated by militants from the Communist Party or various Trotskyist groups and as a result were unable ever to unite. Getting labour-market policy right is one of the trickiest policy problems for progressive politicians. Conservatives can opt for simple, laissez-faire policies and will accept job losses and transfers of value-added wealth to a small number of beneficiaries. FDR and Perkins did not conquer unemployment with their New Deal policies. One in five Americans was out of work in the 1930s. Only the massive rearmament programmes after 1940, when unemployment still stood at 14.6 per cent, made the difference. WWII finally allowed the state in America to take charge of the labour market, beyond Perkins’ cautious, step-by-step advances. In 1944 unemployment was down to 1.2 per cent and women flooded into factories and other work.


Prediction: How Tucker Carlson Is Going To Spin The Resignation Of His White Supremacist Writer

The top writer for Tucker Carlson, Blake Neff, turns out to be a vicious White Supremacist. Will Carlson apologize?


Unsurprisingly, the top writer for Tucker Carlson turns out to be a vicious White Supremacist who has has been posting grotesque comments on an online forum for racists and misogynists. For those of us who have followed Carlson during the Trump years, this news is about as shocking as Donald Trump’s mishandling of the Coronavirus. Nevertheless, the news has shocked the industry and amplified calls for Carlson to be dismissed from Fox News. Here is how the story unfolded at CNN over the weekend:
Just this week, the writer, Blake Neff, responded to a thread started by another user in 2018 with the subject line, "Would u let a JET BLACK congo n****er do lasik eye surgery on u for 50% off?" Neff wrote, "I wouldn't get LASIK from an Asian for free, so no." (The subject line was not censored on the forum.) On June 5, Neff wrote, "Black doods staying inside playing Call of Duty is probably one of the biggest factors keeping crime down." On June 24, Neff commented, "Honestly given how tired black people always claim to be, maybe the real crisis is their lack of sleep." On June 26, Neff wrote that the only people who care about changing the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins are "white libs and their university-'educated' pets." And over the course of five years, Neff has maintained a lengthy thread in which he has derided a woman and posted information about her dating life that has invited other users to mock her and invade her privacy. There has at times also been overlap between some material he posted or saw on the forum and Carlson's show.
The full report on Neff’s history of racism and misogyny makes for deeply unpleasant reading, but you can see the same seething white hatred daily on Carlson’s show. Neff, who resigned Friday, articulated online what Carlson basically alludes to every night — that white America is under threat from inferior races.

Carlson’s White Nationalist Career

Carlson’s role in the Trump era has been to translate the ugly racism festering in internet chatrooms around the country into palatable talking points for Republican voters. He has helped to make racism acceptable again and provided a crucial buffer for Trump, who is able to retain total control over traditional Republican voters, because people like Carlson make it acceptable for them to do so. Carlson is apparently set to address the comments of his former writer on his show tonight. The stakes are incredibly high and what he says could well determine the future of his show. Having already lost millions in advertising dollars for his racist dogwhistle monologues, Carlson has a very delicate needle to thread with bosses at Fox News. He has the ear of the president and is the highest rated show on cable news, so he has leverage. But Trump is likely headed towards a historic loss in November, and White Nationalism might suddenly look like very bad business for the corporate news behemoth. Carlson has gotten away with being a race baiting blowhard because he understands the current political power dynamic incredibly astutely. As Trump ascended, so too did Carlson’s race baiting. But power dynamics can change quickly, and Carlson may not have as much leverage as he believes he does.

What will Carlson do?

Those expecting contrition and and unreserved apology from the host will almost certainly be left wanting. Carlson, who recently smeared double amputee Iraq war veteran Sen. Tammy Duckworth for “hating America” and being a “coward” because she would not come on his show, is not one to apologize. Why? Because Carlson believes there is still huge currency in “owning the libs” and being a racist. Just as Donald Trump speaks only to his base, Carlson speaks only to aggrieved white people who tune in to watch him insult women and minorities. They pay his bills and Carlson gives them exactly what they want. He might think Trump will lose in November, but he is gambling that White Supremacy isn’t going anywhere. Carlson will likely attempt to reframe the controversy as another attempt by the far left to destroy America and end his show. Carlson regularly criticizes “cancel culture” so has prepped his audience well for what he is about to say. He will condemn his writer’s words (but not apologize for them), and then tell his audience that the controversy is really a distraction from the dastardly plot concocted by radical liberals to destroy America. Yes, his writer “said something naughty”, but liberals are trying to silence free speech, and that is the bigger issue etc, etc. This is the same playbook Carlson uses over and over and over again to make his audience forget how utterly disastrous the Trump administration is.

The Conservative Playbook: Never Apologize For Anything

“The core appeal of Trump was, if things ever started to fall apart, he would defend you,” Carlson said during a monologue on his show recently. “Yes, he was loud and crude. Most bodyguards are. Only a man like Donald Trump was tough enough to fight the creeping authoritarianism of the education cartel in corporate America.” “If Trump got elected, you could say what you really believed,” he went on. “The basic promise of America could be restored, you could live with dignity. Under Donald Trump, you wouldn't be forced to mouth the lyrics to some repulsive little orthodoxy you hate. You could declare out loud that all lives matter because all lives do matter. God made us all. And if you can't say that, what's the point of living here?” No mention of the 130,000 dead Americans under Trump’s watch. No mention of Trump’s smearing of military servicemen and women. No mention of the thousands and thousands lies Trump tells on a monthly basis, and no mention of his provably treasonous behavior. Americans shouldn’t be concerned about any of that. Instead they should be concerned with whether they can say “all lives matter” after a black man is brutally lynched by a white policeman live on the internet.

Carlson deals in deception and manipulation. More specifically, he deceives his viewers in order to manipulate them. He creates a fictitious world where the white majority are the persecuted and white culture is in danger of being wiped out by the rampaging “education cartel” (whatever that is), then convinces them not to pay attention to Trump’s grotesque incompetence. Don’t look there because the liberals are far, far more dangerous. And this is what he will do tonight. Don’t mind the disgusting White Supremacist I hired to write most of my material because the liberals are so much worse. There are apparently growing calls for Tucker Carlson to run for president in 2024 should support for Trump collapse completely before November. Carlson may not have any intention of running for office, but he has a political base of his own that gives him real power in the right wing media world. A Republican strategist close to the White House told Politico recently that: “If you are a Republican politician and you want to know where Republican voters are, all you have to do is watch Tucker Carlson every night.” Carlson knows this and is gambling that the connection he has with Republican voters will be enough to help him survive this scandal. They have given Trump a pass for three and a half years and ensured total obedience from the party and the right wing media, so Carlson’s thinking will almost certainly prove to be correct. If you don’t believe Tucker Carlson is the most dangerous person in America right now, tune in tonight and you’ll see exactly why.

A New Understanding of Herd Immunity

The portion of the population that needs to get sick is not fixed. We can change it.


Edward Lorenz was just out of college when he was recruited into World War II. He was assigned to be a weather forecaster, despite having no experience in meteorology. What Lorenz knew was math. So he started experimenting with differential equations, trying to make predictions based on patterns in data on past temperatures and pressures. One day, while testing his system, he repeated a simulation with a few decimals rounded off in the data. To his surprise, a radically different future emerged. He called this finding “the butterfly effect.” In a complex model, where each day’s weather influences the next day’s, a tweak in initial conditions can have wild downstream consequences. The butterfly effect became central to the emerging field of chaos theory, which has since been applied to economics, sociology, and many other subjects, in attempts to deconstruct complex phenomena. That field is now helping predict the future of the pandemic—in particular, how it ends.

Chaos theory applies neatly to the spread of the coronavirus, in that seemingly tiny decisions or differences in reaction speed can have inordinate consequences. Effects can seem random when, in fact, they trace to discrete decisions made long prior. For example, the United States has surpassed 125,000 deaths from COVID-19. Having suppressed the virus early, South Korea has had only 289. Vietnam’s toll sits at zero. Even when differences from place to place appear random, or too dramatic to pin entirely on a failed national response, they are not. There is enormous variation even within the U.S., which could also seem chaotic. Some places took limited measures and were barely hit; others locked down but suffered greatly. New York City has been slowly reopening since early June, but despite that—and despite mass outdoor gatherings in the throes of civil unrest over the past six weeks—the city has not seen even a small increase in daily reported cases. By contrast, other cities that have attempted to reopen have seen incapacitating surges.

But just as barely predictable meteorological events arise from totally predictable laws of physics, the complex dynamics of a pandemic center on an extremely limited set of concepts in basic viral biology. Early failures to test and shut down in the U.S. have been amplified through the butterfly effect. Current decisions will be as well. When phenomena appear chaotic, mathematical modelers make it their job to find the underlying order. Once models can accurately describe the real world, as some now do, they gain the predictive power to give clearer glimpses into likely futures. In mid-February, the Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch told me that this virus could infect most people in the United States if the country’s leaders did not take action. At the time, the U.S. had only a handful of confirmed cases. Few people were imagining the future Lipsitch saw—in which millions, even hundreds of millions, of Americans could fall ill. This was, at least in part, because we weren’t testing for the virus.

Lipsitch even received some criticism from scientists who felt uncomfortable with his estimate, since there were so little data to go on. Indeed, at that point, many futures were still possible. But when a virus spreads as quickly and effectively as this one was spreading in February—killing many while leaving others who had few or no symptoms to spread the disease—that virus can be expected to run its course through a population that does not take dramatic measures. Now, based on the U.S. response since February, Lipsitch believes that we’re still likely to see the virus spread to the point of becoming endemic. That would mean it is with us indefinitely, and the current pandemic would end when we reach levels of “herd immunity,” traditionally defined as the threshold at which enough people in a group have immune protection so the virus can no longer cause huge spikes in disease. The concept of herd immunity comes from vaccination policy, in which it’s used to calculate the number of people who need to be vaccinated in order to ensure the safety of the population. But a coronavirus vaccine is still far off, and last month, Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that, because of a “general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling,” the U.S. is “unlikely” to achieve herd immunity even after a vaccine is available.

Back in February, Lipsitch gave a very rough estimate that, absent intervention, herd immunity might happen after 40 to 70 percent of the population had been infected. The idea of hitting this level of infection implied grim forecasts about disease and death. The case-fatality rate for COVID-19 is now very roughly 1 percent overall. In the absolute simplest, linear model, if 70 percent of the world were to get infected, that would mean more than 54 million deaths. But the effects of the coronavirus are not linear. The virus affects individuals and populations in very different ways. The case-fatality rate varies drastically between adults under 40 and the elderly. This same characteristic variability of the virus—what makes it so dangerous in early stages of outbreaks—also gives a clue as to why those outbreaks could burn out earlier than initially expected. In countries with uncontained spread of the virus, such as the U.S., exactly what the herd-immunity threshold turns out to be could make a dramatic difference in how many people fall ill and die. Without a better plan, this threshold—the percentage of people who have been infected that would constitute herd immunity—seems to have become central to our fates. Some mathematicians believe that it’s much lower than initially imagined. At least, it could be, if we choose the right future.


NYT : Fracking Firms Fail, Rewarding Executives and Raising Climate Fears

Oil and gas companies are hurtling toward bankruptcy, raising fears that wells will be left leaking planet-warming pollutants, with cleanup costs left to taxpayers.


The day the debt-ridden Texas oil producer MDC Energy filed for bankruptcy eight months ago, a tank at one of its wells was furiously leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. As of last week, dangerous, invisible gases were still spewing into the air. By one estimate, the company would need more than $40 million to clean up its wells if they were permanently closed. But the debts of MDC’s parent company now exceed the value of its assets by more than $180 million. In the months before its bankruptcy filing, though, the company managed to pay its chief executive $8.5 million in consulting fees, its top lender, the French investment bank Natixis, later alleged in bankruptcy court. Oil and gas companies in the United States are hurtling toward bankruptcy at a pace not seen in years, driven under by a global price war and a pandemic that has slashed demand. And in the wake of this economic carnage is a potential environmental disaster — unprofitable wells that will be abandoned or left untended, even as they continue leaking planet-warming pollutants, and a costly bill for taxpayers to clean it all up.

Still, as these businesses collapse, millions of dollars have flowed to executive compensation. Whiting Petroleum, a major shale driller in North Dakota that sought bankruptcy protection in April, approved almost $15 million in cash bonuses for its top executives six days before its bankruptcy filing. Chesapeake Energy, a shale pioneer, declared bankruptcy last month, just weeks after it paid $25 million in bonuses to a group of executives. And Diamond Offshore Drilling secured a $9.7 million tax refund under the Covid-19 stimulus bill Congress passed in March, before filing to reorganize in bankruptcy court the next month. Then it won approval from a bankruptcy judge to pay its executives the same amount, as cash incentives. “It seems outrageous that these executives pay themselves before filing for bankruptcy,” said Kathy Hipple, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and a finance professor at Bard College. “These are the same managers who ran these companies into bankruptcy to begin with,” she said.

MDC’s listed telephone number appears to be disconnected, and repeated attempts to contact its C.E.O., Mark Siffin, and the company’s bankruptcy lawyers were unsuccessful. Whiting Petroleum and Diamond Offshore did not respond to requests for comment, and Gordon Pennoyer, a Chesapeake spokesman, declined to comment. The industry’s decline may be just beginning. Almost 250 oil and gas companies could file for bankruptcy protection by the end of next year, more than the previous five years combined, according to Rystad Energy, an analytics company. Rystad analysts now expect oil demand will begin falling permanently by decade’s end as renewable energy costs decline, energy efficiency improves, and efforts to fight climate change diminish an industry that has spent the past decade drilling thousands of wells, transforming the United States into the biggest oil producer in the world. The environmental consequences of the industry’s collapse would be severe.

Even before the current downturn, methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, was being released from production sites in America’s biggest oil field at more than twice the rate previously estimated, according to a recent study based on satellite data. Some experts say that with the industry in disarray, efforts to fix leaks of methane, which pound for pound can warm the planet more than 80 times as much as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, may fall by the wayside. Low natural gas prices may lead to increases in flaring or venting, the intentional release of excess gas, the International Energy Agency said this year. It is also likely that many companies haven’t set aside enough money, as required by law, to restore well sites to their original state. An analysis of recently bankrupt oil and gas companies’ financial statements, prepared for The New York Times, shows a funding shortfall. The federal government estimates that there are already more than three million abandoned oil and gas wells across the United States, two million of which are unplugged, releasing the methane equivalent of the annual emissions from more than 1.5 million cars.


Hydraulic drilling companies across America are going bankrupt and letting methane spew into the atmosphere. Instead of spending to seal well heads they are just paying bonuses and dissolving.

NYT : As Disease Sweeps the U.S., a Record 5.4 Million Americans Have Lost Health Insurance


The coronavirus pandemic stripped an estimated 5.4 million Americans of their health insurance between February and May, a stretch in which more adults became uninsured because of job losses than have ever lost coverage in a single year, according to a new analysis. As Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, the study, to be released Tuesday by the nonpartisan consumer advocacy group Families U.S.A., found that the estimated increase in uninsured laid-off workers over the three-month period was nearly 40 percent higher than the highest previous increase, which occurred during the recession of 2008 and 2009. In that period, 3.9 million adults lost insurance.

“We knew these numbers would be big,’’ said Stan Dorn, who directs the group’s National Center for Coverage Innovation and was the author of the study. “This is the worst economic downturn since World War II. It dwarfs the Great Recession. So it’s not surprising that we would also see the worst increase in the uninsured.” The findings are certain to fuel the debate in Congress over the next round of virus relief. The study is a state-by-state examination of the effects of the pandemic on laid-off adults younger than 65, the age at which Americans become eligible for Medicare. It found that nearly half — 46 percent — of the coverage losses from the pandemic came in five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York, and North Carolina.

In Texas alone, the number of uninsured jumped from about 4.2 million to nearly 4.9 million, the research found, leaving three out of every 10 Texans uninsured. In the 37 states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 23 percent of laid off workers became uninsured. The percentage was nearly double that — 43 percent — in the 13 states that did not expand Medicaid, which include Texas, Florida and North Carolina. The study comes in the thick of the campaign season, when health care — and in particular the Affordable Care Act — is expected to be a major issue.

Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., are seeking to expand the law, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. But President Trump and Republicans have pressed to repeal it, and the administration has asked the Supreme Court to overturn it. Definitive data on loss of coverage will not be available until mid- to late-2021, when the federal government publishes health insurance estimates for 2020. “But,” Mr. Dorn said, “policymakers need to know now what the approximate magnitude is of insurance losses to decide what they need to do. So this is our best estimate for what the actual coverage losses have been.”


The Cost of the Evangelical Betrayal

White, conservative Christians who set aside the tenets of their faith to support Donald Trump are now left with little to show for it.


The closest thing social conservatives and evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump had to a conversation stopper, when pressed about their support for a president who is so manifestly corrupt, cruel, mendacious, and psychologically unwell, was a simple phrase: “But Gorsuch.” Those two words were shorthand for their belief that their reverential devotion to Trump would result in great advances for their priorities and their policy agenda, and no priority was more important than the Supreme Court. Donald Trump may be a flawed character, they argued, but at least he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. And then came Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. That is the case decided in mid-June in which the majority opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, protected gay and transgender individuals from workplace discrimination, handing the LGBTQ movement a historic victory. “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Gorsuch wrote for the majority in the 6–3 ruling. It was a crushing blow for the religious right, and it must have dawned on more than a few of Trump’s evangelical supporters that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, the outcome of the case would have been the same; the only difference is that the margin probably would have been 7–2.

The Bostock case was not the only major legal setback for social conservatives and evangelical Christians. By a 5–4 margin, the Court—in June Medical Services v. Russo—delivered a significant defeat to the pro-life movement, striking down as unconstitutional a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only a single abortion clinic. This dashed the hopes of those who were counting on Trump’s appointees to lead the Court in overturning Roe v. Wade. (Both of Trump’s Supreme Court choices were in the minority.) Social conservatives can point to some important religious-liberty victories. But overall, this term was a judicial gut punch for the president’s evangelical supporters. The “but Gorsuch” argument has not been destroyed, but it has been substantially weakened. “The GOP gives social conservatives little or nothing legislatively, and hasn’t for a very long time,” the conservative blogger Rod Dreher told Vox’s Jane Coaston. “True, they have blocked some bad things over the years. That’s not nothing. But I think we’ve always known that judges are the real deal here.” “Every institution—the media, academia, corporations, and others—are against us on gay and transgender rights, and GOP lawmakers are gutless. The only hope we had was that federal judges would protect the status quo. Now that’s gone.”

Legislatively, Trump, compared with other presidents, has not achieved all that much for the pro-life cause and religious-liberties protection. For example, George W. Bush’s pro-life record is stronger and Bill Clinton achieved more in the area of religious liberties, signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. (Trump has done a fair amount administratively for the pro-life cause.) Trump has also achieved next to nothing in terms of enacting education reforms. Elsewhere, Trump has engaged in a bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, and established more intimate and admiring relationships with many of the world’s despots than with leaders of America’s traditional allies. And on issues that have traditionally concerned conservative evangelicals, such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, Trump has been awful: The deficit and the debt exploded under his watch, even pre-pandemic. Based strictly on the standard of advancing causes that conservative evangelicals most care about, a fair-minded assessment of the Trump record is that some important things were achieved, especially in appointing federal judges. That clearly would not have happened in a Hillary Clinton presidency. But in virtually every other area, including the outcome of several key Supreme Court decisions, Trump has fallen short of the promises and expectations.

Now think about what the cost has been of the uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians. For now, focus just on this: Christians who are supporters of the president have braided themselves to a man who in just the past few days and weeks tweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year’s annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as “kung flu” during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense. These provocations by the president aren’t anomalous; he’s a man who vaulted to political prominence by peddling a racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States—he later implied that Obama was a secret Muslim and dubbed him the “founder of ISIS”—and whose remarks about an Indiana-born judge with Mexican heritage were described by former House Speaker Paul Ryan as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”


Elissa Slotkin Is Sounding the Alarm. Will Democrats Listen?


When one of Elissa Slotkin’s staffers passed along a New York Times report alleging that Russia had put bounties on the heads of American troops in Afghanistan—and that President Donald Trump either did not consume the relevant intelligence or did not act upon it—“my stomach,” the Michigan congresswoman says, “dropped to my knees.”

Slotkin spent the next 72 hours in an incredulous haze. A veteran CIA analyst before coming to Congress in the Democratic wave of 2018, she thought she had seen it all. She had served at length in the Middle East, lost friends and gained Top Secret clearance. She had personally briefed both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in the White House situation room and in the Oval Office, on grave national security threats. And yet Slotkin’s imagination could not stretch far enough to accommodate either of the two scenarios now confronting her. How could something so sensitive not reach the president? Or, if it had, how could he have ignored it?

The congresswoman inhaled every bit of news coverage, watching carefully for conflicting details or any confirmation of the original Times story. She called former colleagues in the intel community in search of explanations. Finally, she took to social media, writing a series of uncharacteristically pointed tweets about Trump and Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. “Something has been off about that relationship since the beginning,” she wrote, “and Americans are quite literally paying in blood for his pandering to Putin.” The irony was not lost on Slotkin. Here she was, four months out from Election Day, one of the most endangered Democrats in the country, representing a district Trump carried by 7 points, spending her Sunday morning doing precisely what she had vowed to avoid: picking a Twitter fight with the president of the United States.

There will be consequences—of this, Slotkin is certain. She cannot hope to win reelection this fall without persuading a significant number of voters in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District to split their tickets—four more years for Trump, two more years for her—and every feud with the White House is equivalent to a few more straight-party ballots being punched. Whether Slotkin can have it both ways, speaking her mind about the president and winning over some of his supporters, may well determine not only her fate but the fate of Democrats in swing districts and battleground states across the country.

Go to Page: « Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 ... 111 Next »