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The Start Of Bushfire Season Prompts ScoMo To Push For International Borders To Open

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 7:00am in

morrison map

Australia’s Prime Minister Scotty from marketing has called upon his international colleagues to start thinking about opening up their borders to tourists. The call comes after the Prime Minister discovered that bush fires had already been reported in Australia.

”It’s been a tough time for a lot of Australians what with covid, the bushfires before it and now a new batch of bushfires to deal with,” said Prime Minister Scotty from marketing. ”So, I’m calling on my colleagues particularly those in charge of the Hawaiian borders to start opening up.”

”As open borders will allow for Australian families, maybe a husband with a wife named Jen and a couple of kids to get away from the stress of it all to Hawaii for a few weeks.”

When asked why he was so keen to get borders open and seemingly take a holiday rather than focusing on the pandemic, the Prime Minister said: ”It’s not like I hold a test tube and make vaccines is it?”

”I am here doing my job for not only myself but for all Australians. Be it those hard working tradies who want to head off to Bali to let their hair down. Or those even harder working tradies who want to take the wife and kids to Hawaii. For all those tradies I am there for you.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some business to take care of at my second office, Engadine Maccas.”

Mark Williamson


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Private Eye on Dido Harding and the Cheltenham Coronavirus Outbreak

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 5:43am in

There’s an interesting little snippet in this fortnight’s Private Eye for 28th August – 10th September 2020 suggesting that Dido Harding, the new chair of the interim public health authority taking over from Public Health England, may have been personally responsible for the decision to go ahead with the Cheltenham Festival in March. Among her various other posts and jobs, Harding is a jockey and sits on the board of the Jockey Club. But it seems she may not just be a board member. According to the article ‘No Horse Sense’ on page 9, she was seen meeting the Cheltenham Festival’s managing director shortly before it was decided to go ahead with the racing. Unsurprisingly, this has been widely criticised down here in the Gloucestershire/ Bristol area because it led to a Coronavirus outbreak in the town. The article runs

Baroness (Dido) Harding, chair of the new National Institute for Health Protection, is not an instinctive guardian of public health, it seems. One recent episode suggests she’s happy to sacrifice it for a day at the races.

Perhaps one of the most ill-advised events in public-health terms for some time was the Cheltenham Festival of horseracing between 10 and 13 March this year, organised by the Jockey Club – of which Baroness Harding was and is a board member.

Even before the racing started, cases in the UK had accelerated to more than 300 and policy had moved from “containment” to “delay”. Most observers were incredulous that an even crowding 250,000 people tightly together across four days would go ahead when other large gatherings were being cancelled.

Now a witness at the course early on the first morning between 6.30 and 7 am, reports Harding meeting Cheltenham managing director Ian Renton and others to decide whether to proceed or announce a late cancellation. In other words, rather than merely being a board member at the Jockey Club (as Eye 1522 revealed in connection with her test-and-trace role), Harding was central to the final decision – taken as Covid alarm mounted – to go ahead with the event. The Department of Health declined to comment on the incident.

If this is true, then it shows that Harding is completely unsuited to her new position as she clearly believes in putting the economy and corporate profit before safety and human lives. But as that’s the attitude of Boris, Cummings and the rest of them, who believed in herd immunity at the expense of the deaths of the weak and the elderly, she fits right in. 

Alex Morse Has a Second Opponent: Local Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 3:25am in



On August 7, the Daily Collegian, the student paper at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, lit a fuse that would explode the sleepy primary race in Massachusetts’ 1st District between Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and incumbent Rep. Richie Neal. The outlines and accusations by now are well known — the College Democrats had disinvited Morse from any events that might be scheduled in the future, on account of what they described as inappropriate attention he was paying to students — and the local press made sure that western Massachusetts readers were kept fully abreast of the accusations.  

Between August 7 and 13, the Springfield Republican, also known as Masslive, ran, for instance, 16 stories featuring the mayor, all but one focused on the allegations and resulting fallout, according to a review of local media coverage by The Intercept.

Other local outlets followed suit. On August 10, Albany, New York-based NPR affiliate WAMC News devoted 40 minutes to the allegations on the channel’s daily politics program “The Roundtable.” The panel show exhaustively covered the topic, with lobbyist Libby Post, a frequent guest, likening Morse to President Donald Trump and other politicians with sex scandals. “Men have a problem at times with controlling their — keeping it in their pants is the best I can put it — and it becomes a priority over doing their jobs,” said Post. 

By August 12, however, The Intercept had discovered that the claims were part of a long-running plan by students to take down the mayor and on August 14 reported that Massachusetts Democrats Chair Gus Bickford and Executive Director Veronica Martinez facilitated the letter’s development, assigning the task to state party attorney Jim Roosevelt and offering the students tips in dealing with the press. While the allegations in the letter had received heavy play on local radio, television, and print media, those later revelations did not, even after the state party was pressured by its rank and file into announcing an internal investigation into its own conduct. On local television, the issue continued to play out as he said, he said, with the unsubstantiated allegations of the college students given a full airing, followed by a denial from Morse. Chyrons in clips reviewed by The Intercept from local stations WWLP, Western Mass News, and CBS 3 emphasized Morse’s “sexual misconduct” and the existence of an “official investigation” into the mayor from both the Holyoke City Council and UMass. The conspiracy angle — the fact that the accusations were part of a long-running scheme by students, with the aid of the state party, to take down the Morse campaign — was barely mentioned. 

While the scheme imploded spectacularly, earning a thorough autopsy in the New York Times, it may still have worked. By airing out the allegations so prominently, particularly in the local media, advocates for Neal were able to materially damage Morse, with internal polls showing a spike in the number of voters who held a negative view of the Holyoke mayor — voters who may otherwise have been persuadable as Morse surged into the final month of the campaign.

Those voters, if they’ve relied on local media for their news, would have little way of knowing Morse had been vindicated. After The Intercept revealed the scheme, Masslive put the story on the back burner. Of the next 15 stories it published on the race through August 21, just six touched on the fallout from the MassDems revelations. Instead, the Republican covered the race from a number of more traditional angles, focusing on endorsements, issue positions, and polling.

When the Republican did cover the scandal, it largely continued to focus on Morse’s alleged wrongdoing. The paper’s story from August 16 was headlined, “As Alex Morse defends conduct, UMass policy ‘strongly discourages’ faculty-student relationships.” That article focused on the allegations from the letter and linked the accusations to the #MeToo movement — including name-dropping rapist Harvey Weinstein — but made no mention of the revelations that Mass Dems were involved in the scheme or that the party had exploded into an uproar, and rank and file were demanding resignations. It only mentioned in passing that Morse insisted that he had never dated a student he taught or supervised, a charge that had never been leveled.

“The Roundtable,” an influential public affairs program in the region, regularly features WAMC president and executive director Alan Chartock, who has been in the position since 1981 and is also a professor emeritus of political science at the State University of New York. Chartock, a near-daily guest on “The Roundtable,” has made little secret of his preference in the race, penning an endorsement of the incumbent — “a personal hero of mine,” Chartock wrote — for online outlet the Berkshire Edge on August 8, the day after his last of three interviews with Morse and two days before WAMC aired both the “Roundtable” discussion of the allegations and a series of interviews with Neal. “If there was ever a time to keep Richie Neal where he is,” wrote Chartock, “this is it.” 

For the head of a major local media outlet — WAMC stretches nearly the entirety of upstate New York and from western Massachusetts to Pennsylvania and has substantial reach and influence in the 1st District — to take such a strong position in a strongly contested race even as he interviews both candidates and lends his voice to a daily morning political talk show on the radio station is unusual by mainstream media standards. “Roundtable” host Joe Donahue assured The Intercept in an email that Chartock’s endorsement of Neal was “separate and distinct” from the opinions he offered on Neal and Morse on air. 

“What Alan writes in his columns is separate and distinct from what he says on the radio. He has made it clear again and again that WAMC does not endorse candidates,” wrote Donahue. Chartock, who had been blind copied on the note, replied-all: “Terrific!”

Donahue added that Chartock was but a “voice among many” on “The Roundtable,” which usually features a cast of four guests, of which Chartock is almost always one. The rotating panel includes MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance, University of Albany adjunct professor Rosemary Armao, and others. Donahue told The Intercept that the “opinions of our participants have no role in news making decisions.” A follow-up question on how the timing of the column, coming in the midst of the scandal and before Chartock’s interviews with Neal aired, might affect coverage received no response.

Donald Shaw, founder and editor at investigative news site Sludge, saw strong parallels between Chartock’s questions to Morse in the interviews in early August and Neal campaign talking points. The main line of attack has centered on Morse’s unimpressive attendance record at school board meetings — an attack line Neal has made central to his debate strategy. Neal’s outside Super PACs have organized their ad campaigns around the school board attendance question. 

The debate on August 18 took place after revelations of MassDems involvement in the hit on Morse and opened with a newsy back and forth between the candidates, with Neal denying foreknowledge of the attack. The two went on to debate their considerable ideological differences on everything from pandemic relief to Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Masslive headlined its coverage: “Alex Morse challenged on school committee attendance record during debate with Richard Neal.” 

“A criticism of Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse that has dogged him for years has resurfaced again,” the debate review began. “His attendance record at school committee meetings.” 

Jim Naureckas, an editor with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, or FAIR, called the decline in local news coverage once the story moved to more uncertain ground revealing of media priorities. “It’s a real tell when a story becomes less newsworthy as it becomes more interesting,” said Naureckas. “The evidence of party skullduggery aimed at torpedoing a popular progressive challenger to a powerful establishment politician should have made the initial story more compelling, not less.”

Naureckas suggested that the shift in coverage may well have to do with what delving into the story could show readers and viewers about the political system. “It boils down to what kind of power corporate media is more excited about examining: the power of a college professor over his students, or the power of our political establishment over our elections?” he said. “The level of journalistic enthusiasm suggests the answer.”

Such coverage choices are an example of “laziness and prurience,” FAIR Program Director Janine Jackson told The Intercept. “Much easier — and cheaper — to tell a story that waves toward ‘sex, gay sex!’ and some notion of progressive hypocrisy,” said Jackson. “The more complex story of the fight to beat back progressive change in the party takes more thought, asks more of audiences, and doesn’t segue as well into a Cheetos commercial.”

“The evidence of party skullduggery aimed at torpedoing a popular progressive challenger to a powerful establishment politician should have made the initial story more compelling, not less.”

Meanwhile, some local outlets are simply ignoring the story now that it’s more complicated than a sex scandal. On Saturday, the Berkshire Eagle — where this reporter worked from 2016 to 2017 — endorsed Neal, making no mention of the MassDems and College Democrats plot and asking voters to vote for Neal despite what the paper described as a “crucial question as to how sizable contributions from sectors like Big Pharma and private equity affect Rep. Neal’s use of the considerable power he has amassed on Capitol Hill.”

No matter, the paper said, the time for asking those questions will come later — and anyway, being the largest Democratic recipient of corporate cash is a good thing when you really think about it:

The onus is on the congressman to better demonstrate to his constituents that he is beholden to their interests and not his donors.

Nevertheless, Rep. Neal’s ample fundraising ability is a testament to his place in the leadership in the Democratic Party writ large. 

While he was unsurprised that the paper endorsed the incumbent, Morse said it seemed out of step with voters in Pittsfield, where the paper is based and where eight of 11 city councilors endorsed the mayor’s campaign. 

Mohammed Missouri, executive director of community engagement organization Jetpac, said that the local and state coverage of the race is indicative of deeper issues in Massachusetts media, as well as how the press can hold politicians accountable. “Massachusetts is a small state and our news media’s deep ties to the state’s political establishment makes crucial investigative reporting nearly impossible,” said Missouri. “Many people in politics want our democracy to be more transparent but won’t even talk to local reporters anonymously because there is a genuine lack of trust in whether we have an independent press. The bias towards establishment political figures is too obvious to ignore.”

Local media for the most part is doing a disservice to the public, argued Morse. “There have been a couple of folks who have done their due diligence, but by and large I hear a lot of frustration from voters, supporters, and constituents about how local media was quick to cover the story when it was about the allegations and then hesitant to provide updates,” he said. 

Among those folks is the Daily Hampshire Gazette. After the publication of this article, some of the paper’s readers contacted The Intercept to request the paper’s coverage be included in the review. The Intercept found four articles on the scandal, two of which addressed the allegations and two of which covered the revelations of MassDems involvement in the smear campaign. The Gazette on Thursday endorsed the mayor. “This Tuesday, we urge residents of the 1st Congressional District to vote not just for a man but for a movement,” the paper editorialized. “Western Mass is ready to send a message to the capital that we’re done with the status quo.”

The broader media’s focus on unsubstantiated and salacious details struck Tanya Neslusan, executive director of Massachusetts-based LGBTQ rights organization MassEquality, as disturbing for what they indicated about internal bias. “I find it extremely disconcerting that certain media outlets were willing to publish the vague accusations that had been released by the UMass college Democrats, without taking a moment to check the facts and verify the claims,” said Neslusan. “The fact that the first impulse was to publish unfounded allegations, that fed right into homophobic tropes, is exactly the reason why MassEquality and other LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations still need to exist.”

To Nancy Stenberg, female caucus representative to the Democratic State Committee for the 2nd Hampden and Hampshire District, local media’s emphasis on the allegations, and lack of interest in the more complex story of how the accusations were aired, hints at a number of deeper biases.

“The homophobic bias in mainstream reporting against Alex Morse is insidious and pathological,” Stenberg told The Intercept. “Whether this is a result of a desire to manipulate the outcome of an election or even worse — to destroy the future of a decent, honest, hard-working person — this is not what the calling of the media is supposed to be.”

The post Alex Morse Has a Second Opponent: Local Media appeared first on The Intercept.

Ed Davey Elected Leader of Hated, Failing Party

Ed Davey has beaten his rival Layla Moran and been elected leader of the Lib Dems. But according to an article in Monday’s I by Nigel Morris, ‘Liberal Democrats to crown new leader as party hits ‘rock bottom’, the Lib Dems are still in major trouble with the electorate. The article states that the British public may still hate them for joining the Tories in the coalition government under David Cameron and their leader, the noxious and duplicitous Nick Cligg. The article runs

The new Liberal Democrat leader, who will be crowned this week, will inherit a party whose fortunes remain at “rock bottom” following a succession of dire electoral performances, the polling expert Sir John Curtice has said.

The party’s support has fallen to a 50-year low amid signs that it is still being punished for its part in the Tory-led coalition government of 2010-15.

Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran are vying to become the Lib Dems’ fifth leader in five years, with the victor facing the daunting task of carving out a distinctive niche for a party at risk of being reduced to a bit player on the political stage.

The winner also must decide how to respond to moves by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, to steer his party towards the political centre ground.

Despite their initial optimism that they could attract anti-Brexit voters, the Lib Dems won just 11 seats in last year’s election, and two polls this week showed them languishing on 6 and 7 per cent support.

Sir John, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, told I: “There was a brief moment last year when it looked as though they might be able to turn around their fortunes on a wave of Remain discontent with Brexit, but by polling day in December most of these voters had slipped through their fingers.

“As a result, the party finds itself still at rock bottom and having to start from scratch in persuading voters of its relevance and message.”

Although its vote share edged up to 11.6 per cent in December, it finished the night with two fewer MPs and suffered the embarrassment of its leader, Jo Swinson, losing her seat, plunging the party inito yet another leadership contest. Lib Dem insiders predict a close finish as Sir Ed, who has been acting leader for nine months and served in the Coalition cabinet, faces the insurgent appeal of Ms Moran, who has been an MP only since 2017.

Voting closes on Wednesday, with the result being announced on Thursday.

Mark Pack, the editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire, said the party had some grounds for optimism, including increased membership, a growing local government base and stable finances.

“We cannot afford to be blase about the situation, but there is material for a new leader to have a decent opportunity,” he said.

“One of the clear needs is to communicate the positive vision we have for the country. People just don’t notice we are around. The new leader has to make voters feel we are relevant.”

Mike in his report on Davey’s election reminds us that this is the party of mischief. The Lib Dems targeted the Labour party in various constituencies with misleading graphs and polling figures claiming that Labour couldn’t win there. Davey and Moran have also adopted some of the popular Corbynite policies, like increased taxes for the rich and Universal Basic Income, that Starmer has dropped like the good, corporatist Blairite he is. There’s therefore a real danger that some Labour voters may go over to the Lib Dems, thus weakening opposition to the Tories even further. Because after the Lib Dems’ betrayal of their supposedly liberal principles to join the Tory government in the coalition, you really can’t expect them to honour their promises one bit.

And some of the centrists in the Labour party are also worried about the fate of the Lib Dems. A few weeks ago, Labour MP Ayesha Hazarika was in the pages of the I arguing that Starmer should work out some kind of partnership or pact to save them. Why? She confessed she liked them, and wanted to create some kind of anti-Brexit opposition bloc. I have no time for Hazarika. She seems to me to emblematic of much that is wrong with the Labour party under Starmer. She comes across as a Blairite, and I think her media prominence is entirely due to the fact that she is a young woman from an ethnic minority. Her parents are Indian Muslims, and according to Wikipedia, she went to Laurel Bank, a private girls’ school in Edinburgh. She’s thus a very privileged ex-private schoolgirl, who really doesn’t have anything to offer the working class. But due to her gender and ethnic background, she represents diversity and liberal values.

In fact, it could be argued that centrist, Labour MPs like Hazarika are a particular liability to the Labour party. The Tory media are currently whipping up White resentment against current affirmative action programmes and the anti-racist political consensus. You only have to look at Alex Belfield’s wretched output on YouTube, in which he posts rant after rant attacking ‘left-wing snowflakes’ and their attacks on Britishness and Whites. Such as attacks on the singing of ‘Rule, Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ on the Last Night of the Proms, and an announcement by Channel 4 that one day next year will be entirely given over to Black presenters. And one of the other far-right websites on YouTube has put up a video on the ‘Demonisation of the White Working Class’.

UKIP’s core support came from older, White working class voters, who felt left behind by the mainstream parties. Blair and Brown turned the party away from its working-class roots to concentrate on getting the votes of middle class swing voters. They rejected traditional Labour policies and embraced privatisation, the free market and the destruction of the welfare state. But nevertheless they complacently believed that the working class would still support them as they had nowhere else to go. There is clearly a need to increase the representation of women and ethnic minorities in politics and parliament, but the selection of privileged, Blairite MPs like Hazarika threaten to further weaken parts of working class support for the Labour party. Because if working class voters don’t see Labour offering them anything except more poverty, and appearing to favour the BAME community instead, then some of them will respond to the barely coded racism of the Tories.

As for the Lib Dems, they are treacherous and completely unprincipled. They’ve shown that, whatever they may say about being a centre party and pulling the Tories in a more moderate direction when they were in government with them, they actually did anything but. It was Nick Clegg who wanted to raise tuition fees, for example. Cameron was prepared to give in to the Lib Dems, who had pledged not to raise them. Clegg, Cable, and Swinson have all shown that they are simply another neoliberal party of deceit with nothing to offer Britain’s working people except more poverty and despair. Instead of being given a life-line, the party should die.

And it would only be a good thing if the Blairite faction in the Labour party died out with them.

See also: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/08/27/ed-davey-elected-leader-of-the-party-of-mischief/




Trump Supporters Rush to Defend One of Their Own Who Killed Protesters in Kenosha

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 28/08/2020 - 1:12am in



When Tucker Carlson set off a firestorm of criticism on Wednesday — by describing a 17-year-old Trump supporter who opened fire on protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday, killing two, as a well-meaning kid who decided he “had to maintain order” in the Democrat-run state because “no one else would” — the Fox News host was surfacing an idea that had already spread widely on the far-right.

“The chaos that began with the first George Floyd protests on Memorial Day has reached its inevitable and bloody conclusion,” Carlson told viewers tuning in for his buildup to the Republican National Convention, which had featured, on its first night, two speakers lionized for threatening to shoot Black Lives Matter protesters outside their mansion in St. Louis.

“Last night, three people were shot on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin. Two of them have died. Police say they’ve charged a 17-year-old with murder,” Carlson reported, without revealing that the suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse, was not the anti-fascist radical his viewers might have been led to expect, but a conservative vigilante who had posted video from the front row of a Trump rally in January, and written “BLUE LIVES MATTER” and “Trump 2020″ on his TikTok bio, as Buzzfeed first reported.

Rittenhouse was reportedly charged with six crimes on Thursday, including first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18.

The incident came after a third night of protests in Kenosha over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black father who was critically wounded by a police officer who fired seven shots into his back, but throughout his report on the fatal shootings Carlson pretended, as he has for months, that there were no non-violent protests over police violence against communities of color, just “riots.”

In Carlson’s telling, the moral of the story was not that Rittenhouse — who was photographed and caught on video from multiple angles shooting three men — had provoked trouble by responding to a militia group’s Facebook call for “patriots willing to take up arms and defend” the city from “evil thugs,” but that he was something closer to a victim, prodded to fill a vacuum by the misrule of the city’s Democratic mayor, John Antaramian, and the state’s Democratic governor, Tony Evers.

 Volunteers clean graffiti from a high school near the Kenosha County Courthouse following another night of unrest  on August 25, 2020 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rioting as well as clashes between police and protesters began Sunday night after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, seven times in the back in front of his three children. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Kyle Rittenhouse was photographed hours before the shootings on Tuesday, among a group of volunteers who cleaned anti-police graffiti from a high school in Kenosha.

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

“Kenosha has devolved into anarchy because the authorities in charge of the city abandoned it,” Carlson told Fox viewers unaware that the city had not, in fact, collapsed into chaos just because they were being shown isolated scenes of violence on a loop.

“People in charge, from the governor of Wisconsin on down, refused to enforce the law. They stood back and they watched Kenosha burn,” Carlson claimed, oblivious to the fact that video recorded by witnesses to Tuesday’s events showed Rittenhouse and other heavily armed young vigilantes had spent most of the night standing close to armored police vehicles outside a business they appointed themselves to guard.

At one point in a livestream broadcast that night, a police officer could be heard offering water to the militiamen, including Rittenhouse, and telling them: “We appreciate you guys, we really do.”

Later that night, after Rittenhouse wandered a short distance away and got into a confrontation with a man he shot in the head, video recorded by a pro-Trump YouTuber, Drew Hernandez, seemed to show Rittenhouse running back down the street in the direction of the police vehicles. As he retreated from the scene, the video appeared to catch Rittenhouse telling someone on his phone: “I just killed somebody.”

According to the police complaint against Rittenhouse, released on Thursday evening, his friend Dominic Black told a detective that he received a call from his friend Kyle at 11:46 pm on Tuesday, in which the gunman stated that he shot someone.

A subsequent analysis of the video by the New York Times visual investigations unit suggested that, moments before Rittenhouse opened fire, a single gunshot was fired into the air for unknown reasons by someone standing near the parking lot where the confrontation took place.

Shelby Talcott, a video journalist for the Daily Caller, a conservative site founded by Carlson, captured footage of Rittenhouse fleeing the scene of the first shooting, as protesters shouted that he had shot someone.

Video shot by another pro-Trump YouTuber, Brendan Gutenschwager, appeared to show Rittenhouse pursued by several protesters who suspected him of carrying out the first shooting. After he tripped and fell, just a block away from the police, two of those men attempted to disarm him, one by kicking him and another by hitting him with a skateboard.

Rittenhouse fired at both of them, apparently killing the skateboarder, Anthony Huber, with a shot to the chest as they struggled for the rifle, and then shooting a third protester, Gaige Grosskreutz, causing a gaping wound in his arm. Grosskreutz, a member of a social justice group who was wearing a hat with the word “paramedic” emblazoned on it, also appeared to be armed with a handgun.

In a remarkable scene at the end of Gutenschwager’s video, Rittenhouse can be seen walking with his hands up, apparently trying to surrender to the police officers he had been chatting with earlier in the evening, as a bystander shouts that he shot the protesters, but the officers drive right past him in the direction of the men he shot.

While all of this footage was available to Carlson before he went on air, later in his monologue he professed to have no idea what exactly had happened or whether — because the men who had attempted to disarm the vigilante after he had shot someone in the head could be seen kicking and hitting Rittenhouse — a jury might ultimately decide that he had acted in self-defense.

In this, Carlson was closely following a consensus explanation that had formed during the 24 hours after the shooting by pro-Trump YouTubers, bloggers, and commentators, who decided, after studying slow-motion imagery and still photographs, that the young man who had traveled to Kenosha from his home in neighboring Illinois to defend the city from residents enraged by the shooting of Jacob Blake, was merely acting in self-defense.

Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, suggested on Twitter that the slow-motion video convinced him that the killings were “100% justified self defense.” Hours before Carlson went to air, Gosar also blamed the violence on Kenosha’s local government. “Armed citizens defending themselves will fill the vacuum,” he wrote.

One of Rittenhouse’s defenders was Elijah Schaffer, a freelance producer for Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV and a pro-Trump political activist who released a misleading account of a fight involving Black Lives Matter protesters in Dallas in May. Writing on Twitter on Wednesday, Schaffer described the Turkish journalist Tayfun Coskun’s photograph of the protesters attempting to disarm the gunman as Rittenhouse “being attacked by #BLM rioters.”

“One of the attackers,” in Schaffer’s words, was “about to assault him with a skateboard.”

That “assault” by the skateboarder Anthony Huber ended with his failed effort to wrest the gun away from Rittenhouse and being fatally shot in the chest.

Schaffer also thought a 20-second interview he did with Rittenhouse before the shootings provided important “context” as to what took place later, since the vigilante did not say anything racist or political in that third of a minute.

As Jamelle Bouie, a New York Times opinion columnist, noted on Twitter, an obvious flaw in the conservative argument that Rittenhouse was just defending himself from the second and third men he shot is that they were only “attacking” him because he had just shot someone else in the head.

Carlson’s defense of Rittenhouse also hinged on the false idea that he had taken to the streets to oppose a phantom movement of violent radicals using the protests as cover. “The Justice Department could have stopped all of this months ago,” Carlson ranted over footage of Kenosha recorded by another of the conservative gonzo video bloggers who descended on the city this week, searching for images of chaos to discredit the protest movement. “If federal prosecutors had treated the organizers of BLM and antifa the way they treated Roger Stone, our cities wouldn’t look like Kosovo tonight.”

Another conservative journalist who interviewed Rittenhouse earlier in the evening was Richie McGinniss, who directs video for the Daily Caller, the website that was once used to smear Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

McGinniss appeared on Carlson’s show on Wednesday to discuss what happened in Kenosha and his own effort to save the life of the first man shot and killed by Rittenhouse, who was later identified as Joseph Rosenbaum.

What made Carlson’s interview with McGinniss odd, however, was that the Daily Caller videographer repeatedly referred to Rittenhouse as “the alleged shooter,” even though he was standing just six or seven feet away from Rosenbaum when he was shot and seemed to have been filming the confrontation at the time.

It is unclear if McGinniss has video of Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum, but he told Carlson that he witnessed the crime at close range. Even so, Carlson failed to ask him directly if he could say for certain that Rittenhouse did shoot Rosenbaum in the head and cause his death. Instead, McGinniss offered what sounded like testimony to the gunman’s good character. “The 17-year-old who I interviewed earlier in the night, he actually mentioned that he was there to maintain peace, in the absence of police,” McGinniss said.

“It’s just hard to believe this is America,” Carlson said. “We can’t put up with this.”

When the complaint against Rittenhouse was released late Thursday, it said that McGinniss told a police detective that he did clearly see the teen shoot Rosenbaum at close range as the victim reached for the rifle. Footage recorded earlier in the evening showed that Rosenbaum was incensed by the presence of the armed militia members in the neighborhood.

The complaint cited a coroner’s report which “indicated that Rosenbaum had a gunshot wound to the right groin which fractured his pelvis, a gunshot wound to the back which perforated his right lung and liver, a gunshot wound to the left hand, a superficial gunshot wound to his lateral left thigh, and a graze gunshot wound to the right side of his forehead.”

As the momentum to excuse Rittenhouse’s crimes as justified spread online Thursday, amplified by far-right figures around the globe, Jamelle Bouie called it “the single most ominous development of the year.”

The journalist Matt Prigge noted that the increasingly obscene lionization of Rittenhouse echoed the wave of praise in 1970 for the National Guardsmen who killed four anti-war protesters at Kent State, documented by the historian Rick Perlstein in his book, “Nixonland.”

At a news conference on Friday, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said that he did not want armed volunteers like Kyle Rittenhouse on the streets during protests.

“This group of people that are carrying weapons here, if they’re in their house — and again, I support the Second Amendment — if they’re in there protecting their property, I have no issue with that,” the sheriff said. “The people that have been here carrying guns, they haven’t been arrested because it’s a right that they have. Have we asked for them to come? Are we asking for them to come in and support things? I’m not.”

“You could clearly see the situation escalated Tuesday night because a 17-year-old boy carrying what appears to be an assault rifle, who has no idea how to handle a situation like this,” Beth added. “I don’t care if he had the right intentions or not, two people are currently dead, and one almost had his arm blown off.”

Last Updated: Friday, Aug. 28, 10:07 p.m. PDT
This article was updated to add new information on Thursday and Friday, including the formal police complaint against Kyle Rittenhouse, and to note the participation of Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple facing weapons charges for brandishing guns at protesters, in the Republican National Convention the night before Rittenhouse traveled to Kenosha to join a volunteer militia patrolling the streets.

The post Trump Supporters Rush to Defend One of Their Own Who Killed Protesters in Kenosha appeared first on The Intercept.

‘Threadbare’ US System Denounced as Study Shows 12 Million Lost Employer-Tied Health Care During Pandemic

New data on how many lost their health insurance, which often means health care, due to Covid. And the numbers are not getting better soon.

Night and Day

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 11:30pm in



Joe and Jill Biden

Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Joe and Jill Biden watching fireworks during the Democratic National Convention, Wilmington, Delaware, August 20, 2020

The grammar of American presidential elections is, for obvious reasons, Christian. The other party’s candidate is mired in sin and error; ours will bring redemption and salvation. But not this time. Joe Biden is a devout Catholic, yet the shape of his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination at its virtual convention was based on the cosmogony of one of Christianity’s great early rivals, Manichaeanism. The Manichaeans believed that the world had been taken over by an evil demiurge, the Prince of Darkness; while he was in the ascendent, humans had lost their reason and became “like unto a man bitten by a wild dog or serpent.” The great battle of existence is between these forces of darkness and those of light, which must reconquer the universe.

In the twenty-five minutes of his stirring address, Biden used “dark” or “darkness” seven times, “light” or “bright” twelve times. Usually, the terms appeared together in the absolute Manichaean opposition of “a battle for the soul of this nation.” There was no doubt who the Prince of Darkness was. Biden did not name Donald Trump, but his refusal to do so merely served to magnify the president into a vastly malign force who has “cloaked America in darkness,” plunged the country into “this season of darkness,” and written “this chapter of American darkness.” Biden modestly stopped short of identifying himself, as the logical implication would have it, as the god of light, suggesting merely that “I will be an ally of the light, not of the darkness.”

Biden did not want this grand framing of his candidacy to be understood as a flight of poetic fancy. “The choice could not be more clear,” he said. “No rhetoric is needed.” Light and darkness are not, for him, rhetorical constructs, but the defining energies of our present political reality. He truly does want voters to see the election in November as an existential and even cosmological struggle rather than as a normal part of the electoral cycle.

In the buildup to Biden’s speech, the Catholic nun Sister Simone Campbell, delivering the opening blessing of the final night, summoned into the cyberspace of the convention a divine spirit that would create the world all over again:

The very first paragraph of the Scripture that informs the three Abrahamic traditions tells us: The Divine Spirit breathed over the waters of chaos and brought forth a new creation. Encouraged by this promise that a new creation can come from chaos, let us pray: O Divine Spirit!

Normally such prayers can be cynically dismissed as just another part of the established ritual of party conventions, like the balloons and placards. But Campbell’s startlingly millenarian supplication was fully in tune with the political mood music. The cosmological chaos she conjured had already been established in the big speeches as a metaphor for Donald Trump: Michelle Obama, for example, telling voters that “if we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden.” Campbell, moreover, gave a very specific political meaning to the termination of existing American history, calling on the divine spirit to inspire “a vision that ends structural racism, bigotry, and sexism so rife now in our nation and in our history.” Most importantly her ecstatic prophecy was a purposeful prelude to Biden’s own speech, with its equally rapturous promise that the great chaos of Trump would be followed, not just by a new administration, but by a new moment of creation.

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Hence Biden’s resort, in his peroration, to one of his favorite passages of poetry, the famous chorus from The Cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney’s version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes:

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

The point of Heaney’s concluding phrase is that, of course, hope and history do not rhyme in any existing language. The once-in-a-lifetime tidal wave of justice must come from outside the frame of history’s hopelessness. It must have a miraculous quality. Heaney’s next verse is explicit:

Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

It is thus ironic that in the same speech Biden mocked Trump for believing in miracle cures for the Covid-19 pandemic: “He keeps waiting for a miracle. Well, I have news for him, no miracle is coming.” Yet Biden himself is invoking the miraculous, the advent of a moment when the history that has brought the United States into its winter of Trumpian darkness falls away and a new reign of light dawns.

This oracular quality gave Biden’s address a genuine and unexpected kind of grandeur. But it also exposed two tensions implicit in his candidacy. One is that you can do Manichaean polarity or you can do hands-across-the-aisle amity—but it is hard to do both. It makes sense for Biden to appeal to Republican and independent voters by aiming, as he put it, “To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment.” This appeal is deeply embedded in Biden’s political persona, and it was underlined at the convention by endorsements from Colin Powell and John Kasich and a slickly edited video on Biden’s “unlikely friendship” with John McCain.

On the level of ordinary electoral history, this is clever campaigning. But on the deeper level toward which Biden is pitching his candidacy, how can the final battle between darkness and light not be “a partisan moment”? If Trump is the Prince of Darkness, the Republicans are his demonic minions. And the difficulty for Biden is that this opposition also has real political purchase. For most of those who will vote for Biden, the Republican Party, as it now exists, really is a dire threat to democracy, and this damn well is a partisan moment.

The other tension is that elections are won and lost on emotions, and the emotional power of Biden’s campaign will depend on how it answers a question that the convention left hanging in the air: Should Trump be magnified or diminished? If the incumbent is to be seen as an evil demiurge, then the appropriate emotions to bring to bear in the battle for America’s soul are the rather violent ones of anger and fear. But there was, at the convention, an equal and opposite impulse: to minimize Trump, to reduce him almost to nothing. Kamala Harris did this very effectively in her acceptance speech with a single, glancing reference in which she showed her utter contempt by not even bothering to be explicit: “I know a predator when I see one.” Michelle Obama minimized Trump with a different image, as though he were a small man with the waters rising above his neck, “clearly in over his head.”

In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, Charles Darwin suggested that our physical reactions to feelings of “scorn, disdain, contempt, and disgust” manifest themselves only in the presence of something “which does not excite in us certain other strong emotions, such as rage or terror.” This implies that revulsion is a kind of luxury—we can afford to express it only when we are not in the grip of the more potent sensations of fury and fear.

Running counter to Biden’s tendency to raise Trump to the status of spiritual evil, the broad thrust of the convention suggested that Democrats believe that mere contempt for him is a luxury they can indeed afford. The gamble is that abhorrence of Trump is sufficiently strong to motivate voters and that Biden and Harris, rather than tapping into their wrath and dread, can therefore offer them comfort and empathy instead.

Certainly it is hard to imagine a more comprehensive display of pure disdain by a former president for his successor than Barack Obama’s masterly speech to the convention. Without the presence of a physical audience, and with the speaker facing the camera directly, his facial expressions were magnified into a new kind of visual eloquence. Darwin noted that one of the primary gestures of contempt is a movement of the mouth that “appears to graduate into one closely like a smile.” Obama signaled the beginning of his attack on Trump with a cold little laugh. Darwin wrote that

the partial closure of the eyelids…or the turning away of the eyes…are likewise highly expressive of disdain. These actions seem to declare that the despised person is not worth looking at or is disagreeable to behold.

In the middle of his lacerating putdown of Trump, Obama paused and blinked slowly four times, a perfect counterpoint in semaphore to a brutally laconic summary of a presidency too disagreeable to behold:

He’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

The scorn was magnificent, but it signaled an awareness that Trump, even in his absence, was powerfully present. Obama was implicitly alluding to a truth that everyone knows but that cannot be openly articulated at a party convention: that the Democratic ticket is not Biden-Harris. It is Trump-Biden-Harris—very much in that order. The Democratic candidates are primarily defined by what they are not: not Trump. The path of the 2020 campaign is to be a via negativa. Each of those clauses in Obama’s deadly characterization of the incumbent begins with “no,” planting the idea that Trump is a nothing and that a Biden presidency will be the nullification of this nonentity, the double negative that makes a positive.

The strange displacement of the convention accidentally underlined the power of conspicuous absence. The speakers addressed a literal void, but also a figurative one. It was not just the usual throng of delegates and journalists that was patently not there. It was the protagonist himself, Trump—not quite Hamlet without the prince, more Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi without the grotesque king. Jill Biden, speaking from a vacant classroom in Brandywine High School, where she used to teach English, acknowledged the ghostliness of the moment:

This quiet is heavy. You can hear the anxiety that echoes down empty hallways. There’s no scent of new notebooks or freshly waxed floors. The rooms are dark as the bright young faces that should fill them are now confined to boxes on a computer screen.

This is a perfect example of being not-Trump. Jill Biden is here using one of Trump’s favorite rhetorical devices: the conjuring of an image through a statement of its absence. Trump uses it against targets as diverse as Megyn Kelly (“I refuse to call [her] a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct”) and Kim Jong-un (“I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’”). Jill Biden occupied Trump’s rhetorical form but altered its content from insult to poignancy, from hostility to empathy. In this, she followed deftly along the negative path.

The pregnant emptiness she brought to life is what the Democrats seem to be banking on. They seek to evoke the anxiety that echoes down the hallways of a polity emptied of its grandeur, its self-confidence, its sense of destiny, by a presidency that has made a mockery of them all. The pandemic that shaped the entire form of the convention also killed off the American greatness that Trump claimed to have restored. When Obama spoke of “the awesome power of his office,” he was using the same rhetorical trick to call to mind the oxymoron that Trump has brought into existence: an awesome powerlessness, the astounding implosion of the idea of the United States as the most formidable country the world has ever seen.

The eerie, gothic quality of Jill Biden’s performance was superbly judged because it was intended to summon too those ultimate absences that haunt her husband, the dead. Trump got elected in large part because he could evoke, however crudely, a sense of loss. He could suggest that there was a world of pure white Americanism, of good industrial jobs, of proper authority, that used to exist but had been stolen by the forces of change that put a Black president in power. Trumpism is a Ghost Dance for white, male America, an act of faith that the invaders can be banished and the old order restored. The mines and steel mills have no more returned to the Midwest than the buffalo did to the Great Plains, but this soured, curdled grief for a vanished world (part real, part imagined) remains at the heart of Trump’s emotional appeal.

So it makes sense that part of the Democratic strategy is to take this idea of loss and give it a much more personal, physical, and poignant content. Jill Biden set this tone of mourning when she spoke of

the indescribable sorrow that follows every lonely last breath when the ventilators turn off. As a mother and a grandmother, as an American, I am heartbroken by the magnitude of this loss—by the failure to protect our communities, by every precious and irreplaceable life gone.

And she moved skillfully from this general lamentation to the image of her husband as the embodiment of the nation’s grief. After the death in a car accident of Biden’s daughter and first wife, Jill inherited, as she put it, “a man and two little boys standing in the wreckage of unthinkable loss.” That “wreckage” rhymes with the “carnage” that Trump, in his inaugural address in January 2017, claimed as America’s condition after the Obama years. But the echo is also a transformation—from political hyperbole to human event. She dramatized her husband as a man who has metaphorically twice walked away from the wreckage of death, once from that car crash in 1972, and again from the death of their son Beau from cancer in 2015. Having begun with the notion of a hauntingly empty space, she returned to an image of Joe, four days after Beau’s funeral, putting on his suit to “walk out into a world empty of our son.”

The image of emptiness was also used by Michelle Obama: “Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair.” Biden himself practically ushered his audience into the void: “I have some idea how it feels to lose someone you love. I know that deep black hole that opens up in the middle of your chest and you feel like you’re being sucked into it.”

This is not, to put it mildly, the sunny rhetoric of uplift that party conventions usually broadcast. Yet it addresses another inescapable fact: death is on the ticket. With Biden being potentially the oldest president ever inaugurated, the possibility of his death in office is very real. The selection of Kamala Harris as a relatively young running mate cannot be divorced from the understanding that she might have to assume the higher office if Biden dies or becomes incapacitated. Jill Biden, by placing death at the center of her husband’s persona, also managed to suggest that he transcends it. He contains it within him, carries it on his back, but still somehow survives.

The main idea of the convention—and the big wager of the entire campaign—is that Biden’s personal mourning can be generalized as the state of the nation. In her acceptance speech Harris said that “we are a nation that’s grieving. Grieving the loss of life, the loss of jobs, the loss of opportunities, the loss of normalcy. And yes, the loss of certainty.”

Here again, Trump’s rhetorical territory is being occupied. Though the expression is radically altered, this is conceptually not that different from what Trump might have said in 2016. It implies that there was once a shared “normalcy” and “certainty” that has been taken away. This is a highly dubious proposition, but it occupies the empty space of loss that Trump created. And the thrust of so many speeches at the convention was to negate Trump’s hold on that imaginative desert by suggesting that Biden has a superabundance of what Trump so cruelly lacks: empathy. In praising his vice-president Obama homed in on “his empathy, born of too much grief.”

The message is that Biden’s terrible excess of grief leaves him with plenty left over to share with the whole country.* It is an extraordinary notion: Biden as the philanthropist of sorrow, possessed of more than he can ever use himself. The great negative of grief becomes a positive asset to be redistributed in the form of empathy—a word that echoed through the convention speeches like the refrain of a hymn. (Michelle Obama used it five times in eighteen minutes.)

This is the apotheosis of that great slogan of second-wave feminism: The personal is political. The personalities of presidential candidates always carry weight, but Biden’s own suffering is made to carry almost the entire weight of his political appeal. There is a kind of sympathetic magic at work—because Biden transcends the darkness of grief, America can, through him, transcend the darkness of the history that has produced Trump. He embodies the term coined by the psychologist Henri Nouwen—the “wounded healer.” Jill Biden expressed this utter personalization of politics most explicitly: “How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole. With love and understanding—and with small acts of kindness. With bravery. With unwavering faith.”

But when we bring it back to real politics, the notion is at once deeply affecting and highly problematic. On the one hand, there is something appropriate about the image of America as embodied in a man with a deep black hole in the middle of his chest: that hole is a portal through which the Democrats have passed into a language of brokenness and grieving. Perhaps, in this, there is evidence that something has been learned from the debacle of 2016. Trump won in part because both Obama and Hillary Clinton explicitly countered “Make America Great Again” with “America is already great.” It might have seemed like a smart soundbite, but it reeked of smugness and it was, for millions of voters, patently untrue. It relied on the clichés of American exceptionalism that so many citizens knew to be hollow. Trump ruthlessly exploited the gap between the rhetoric and the reality.

At least this time, “America is already great” is off limits. Democrats obviously cannot use it when fighting a Republican incumbent, but what is striking now is how stark, how dark, the alternative is. Under the pressure of the political chaos of the Trump presidency, the horrors of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter protests, and Biden’s mournful persona, the party has embraced a radically different image: of an America that is shattered, sagging under the burdens of mass death, economic disruption, malign government, and national impotence. The Democrats’ battle hymn in 2020 is a De Profundis, a cry from the depths.

It is not, of course, unusual for opposition parties to suggest that a great malaise has taken hold under the reign of the incumbent. What is different this time is that having adopted a language of grief, the Democratic convention also edged toward an acknowledgment that American suffering just might be a chronic condition rather than an aberration. The standard rhetoric imagines pain as a temporary affliction, created by the idiot currently in the White House and sure to end when our man replaces him. The underlying assumption is that the default and the defining condition of the US is its unparalleled perfection.

It was little remarked that in his address Barack Obama used a short but explosive word: “myth.” He was speaking of the generations of migrants and of African-Americans and of their actual experiences: “They knew how far the daily reality of America strayed from the myth.” The myth is all those big words embedded in the foundational political texts: democracy, freedom, equality. Biden, too, used a short word with a sharp edge: “And finally, to live up to and make real the words written in the sacred documents that founded this nation, that all men and women are created equal.”

“Finally” here means to do at last what has not been done before. These two small words, “myth” and “finally,” pointed to the presence of another black hole—the perennial gap between American ideals and the millions who are excluded from their remit. They also implicitly conceded that simply putting the good guys back in charge does not fill that hole, since even eight years of Obama-Biden did not “finally” end structural racism and poverty. A just and decent normality, these words admit, cannot be restored. It has to be, as in Campbell’s prayer, “a new creation.”

To that extent, Biden’s persona as a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief, does help to create an imaginative space for radical change. Acknowledging brokenness is a necessary condition for a genuine fix. Grief leads to magical thinking, and there are moments when magical thinking might have its place as a way of leaping beyond the bounds of a history that has continued to repeat itself in racism, impoverishment, and injustice. In the Heaney poem that Biden quoted, believing in miracles and cures and healing wells is not mere fantasy—it is a way of breaking the cycle of despair and releasing a powerful surge of justice.

But a broken nation is not a macrocosm of a broken family. It cannot be healed by love and understanding alone, by religious faith and “small acts of kindness.” Both Biden and Harris placed family at the center of their candidacies. Both suggested that America is a family that looks and feels like theirs—like Biden’s in its sense of loss, like Harris’s in its diversity. Because it has a basis in truth, this creates an illusion of intimacy that is indeed the negative of Trump’s persona. Trump says: I am not like you; I am richer, smarter, superior. Biden and Harris are saying the opposite: I am just like you; my family is a representative fragment of the American mosaic. If Harris can bring together a family with Indian, African, and Jewish heritage, America can glory in its diversity. If the Bidens can overcome tragedy, America can emerge from its present nightmare. The Harris and Biden clans are the parallel, in the world of light, to the Trump brood’s cynical privatization of power in the world of darkness.

This impression of intimacy is a political asset, but it is also deceptive. It implies that the problems that Trump’s accession brought to the surface are primarily problems of his personal character—and that they can be solved by having nicer leaders with nicer families. The nation, as Michelle Obama put it, has been “underperforming not simply on matters of policy but on matters of character.” “Character,” said Biden, “is on the ballot.” And yes, of course it is. Maybe most of the electorate feels the same disgust that Barack Obama enacted for them at the convention. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe the strategy of leaving rage and fear to Trump in his domain of darkness will pay off in November. But kindness and empathy are not a program for government or tools for structural change. A real republic is one in which citizens are not dependent on the benevolence of others for their basic needs.

The decision, it seems, has been made: to campaign more in sorrow than in anger. But if the soundtrack of the Biden-Harris road movie is to be a lament, it is crucial that the idea of mourning at its heart be properly understood. It is not the same as the toxic nostalgia that fueled Trump’s success in 2016. The difference lies in the idea of restoration. Trump told his voters not just that they had lost something (which was often true) but that he could bring it back (which was mostly a lie). But the point of genuine mourning is that the thing you are grieving for cannot be restored. The grief is an acceptance that the loss is irreparable. There is and always will be the empty chair at the table, the black hole in the chest.

Perhaps this true sense of bereavement is a necessity for America—a hard, sad, relentless reckoning with the knowledge that much of what it has been should be allowed to die, that the structures of inequality and oppression and rapaciousness that have been a part of its life for so long must finally be let go. A false notion of greatness must be given a decent burial. Biden can perhaps be the chief mourner at its obsequies. If there is really to be a new creation, there must be no doubt that the old world is dead.

—August 26, 2020

The post Night and Day appeared first on The New York Review of Books.

On Adam Tooze, Ideology and Liberal Historiography

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 11:16pm in



If Jamie Dimon quipped that to make sense of Dodd-Frank one needed the services of a lawyer and a psychiatrist, the same is no doubt true of the business of deciphering Donald Trump. But historians can contribute too.18 Trump offered to a bewildered present a throwback to an earlier era. Born in 1946, the same year as Bill Clinton, Trump would take office at seventy years of age, recycling a rancid version of the baby boomer narrative, which in the 1990s had still seemed fresh. Trump’s racial attitudes reflected the animosities of the era of civil rights, desegregation and New York in the 1970s. His boorish manners and sexism echoed the Manhattan party scene of the 1980s, when bond traders toasted one another as “big swinging dicks.” The sense of national crisis that drove his campaign was a reflux not so much of the recent past as of the first moment when modern Americans felt the world changing around them—the late 1970s and early 1980s. The trauma of defeat in Vietnam, America’s urban crisis and angry Japan bashing—thirty years on Trump was still harping on those fears, but now transposed onto new enemies: China, Islam and undocumented Latino immigrants.--Adam Tooze (2018) Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, 569.

One of the non-trivial sub-texts of Tooze's argument is the complacency of the Democrats and even the whole 'political class' in the face of the rise (and eventual) triumph of Trump. I don't want to claim that Tooze always or even often treats his targets as complacent, but it is a recurring theme in the book.* Now, interestingly, on Tooze's presentation, the complacent uniformly believe not just in technocratic skill, but also that by and large the present system is unavoidable (interestingly this flattens any difference between "the determinism of Thatcher and Merkel,"  and that this system is in some world-historical sense progressive ('progress' is repeated frequently in the book).

Tooze is very critical of the political class. Even so, as Perry Anderson notes (83ff.) in his by now (justly) famous review essay, Tooze also admires the complacents's skill which consist in, in part, in managing, so it seems, the irrationality that democracies naturally generate without undoing the liberal status quo (free trade, markets, glocal integragration, etc.) My interest in mentioning this is not Anderson's who is engaged in a polemic from the Marxist left against Tooze's self-proclaimed left-liberalism (p. 21 Crashed; p. 53 in Anderson).+

In fact, I quote the passage at the top of the post  because it is a place where Tooze alerts the reader to his own intellectual perspective (qua historian). And the way I read him, Tooze treats Trump as a kind of expression of atavistic sentiments and outlooks (e.g., 'throwback;' 'recycling;' 'reflux.' etc.) That is to say, just like the complacents, Tooze embraces, despite his sense of contingency, a notion of progress (in his terms an arc of  history) in which some ideas are modern and modernizing and others are old-fashioned or outright primitive. (Because of his progressive Marxism, Anderson can't really object to Tooze's stance here.)

To be sure, Tooze is doing multiple things in the quoted passage: first he explains, briefly, where Trump's ideas come from given Trump's social milieu and personal trajectory.  Second, he is conveying the sense of bewilderment of an establishment of having to confront these ideas and the manner in which they are performed anew. Third, he himself is judging these ideas/performance ("boorish," etc.) I don't think any of these three features are objectionable, and Tooze is transparent about them.

But, fourth, because Tooze treats these ideas as atavistic, he can't quite explain their nature (or their appeal) qua historian (or engaged citizen). So, while throughout the book, Tooze understands the grounds of popular dissatisfaction would with the status quo (the complacents), we're now left with a mystery why the progressive left could rarely capitalize on this dissatisfaction. For, and again Anderson is good on this, why did not ordinary citizens embrace the progressive Keynesian solutions Tooze advocates at the ballot box?

And, in my view, part of the problem for Tooze -- and this emblematic for much liberal thought in the broad sense -- is that he views the fears and desires Trump represents so well as atavistic to be overcome rather than as permanent possibilities of the human condition.** Now the moment one says this one draws the suspicion one is willing to slide into a normative defense of Trump and author authoritarian tendencies. (I have learned that to cast even minimum doubt on the reality of say, moral progress of humanity, is to invite opprobrium.)

But  the fact that those whose business is not to be bewildered were, as Tooze correctly notes, "bewildered" by Trump's rise (and Brexit, etc.) shows that there is a defect in the self-conception of contemporary liberalism. That's different from suggesting that there is a defect in contemporary liberalism that causes the rise of Trump and other authoritarian tendencies (that may be true, too). Since I care about liberalism's survival I think this is a defect in our self-conception worth addressing. The moment one respects what is taken as atavistic as a permanent possibility, one might govern and campaign (and communicate, and theorize, etc.) in a different fashion. For, even recognizing a possibility as a possibility allows one to better prevent it from happening and not treat it as mystery. It is also a start of a better explanation of why it did happen.

That is to say, I think one of the problems in contemporary liberalism is the unstated assumption that certain forms of progress are permanent and that once achieved no back-sliding is genuinely possible. But an ideology that takes its own victories for granted (in being justified and secure), after the fact, really is an ideology.*** What I admire in liberalism is a willingness to learn from experience and self-correct; it strikes me this is a feature within liberalism we need to change, or, better yet, revert back to the wisdom of Judith Shklar and Karl Popper (here; here; here) and be willing to expect the worst.


*The admiring, even hagiographic interpretation of Varoufakis as agent against such complacency is characteristic (e.g. "the deliberate default on the ECB’s bond holdings planned by Varoufakis was supposed to puncture this complacency.") I will treat Tooze treatment of Greece some other time. 

+Anderson (pp. 82ff) and Tooze also present themselves as defenders of 'democracy' (without really pinning themselves down to what this might mean consistently). Yet, both have a tendency to ignore how the institutional status quo is in many places shaped by democratic processes.

**My own blogging from 2015 and 2016 reflected my recognition that as a phenomenon Trump represents a permanent possibility in liberal democracy.

***This one reason why Kuhn's work on paradigms was so controversial; because he undermined this self-conception of scientific progress.

Fascism or Caesarism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 9:00pm in

Is fascism making a comeback? As a historian, my first reaction has been to answer the question with a resounding...

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Trespassing should certainly not be a criminal offence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/08/2020 - 5:00pm in


Politics, Society

I thought this excellent piece on the the drawbacks of the current law of trespass was worthy of a wider audience: George Monbiot has been writing in a similar vein: The Book of Trespass, by Nick Hayes, is massively researched but lightly delivered, a remarkable and truly radical work, loaded with resonant truths and stunningly... Read more