The scary, the interesting and the utterly batshit...
It's nearly impossible to believe that we have made it this far... as the canceled year of 2020 limps toward the finish of this uniquely cursed trip around the sun, the news rains down on us incessantly. Here's a round up of important, interesting or just plain batshit stories from the past week that kept us up all night, made us do the confused dog head tilt or nearly knocked us out of our chairs.
Also, Peggy Noonan should retire -- her op-ed in the Journal slamming Kamala Harris for dancing, being awesome and experiencing joy in public while failing to critique Trump's punching-nun dance moves to music by a band that I am pretty sure was trolling him when allowing him to use their gay hookup anthems is just so -- well, I guess I will use her word -- embarrassing. The WSJ reporting is still pretty good, but their opinion pages stink like a week old rat king corpse in the Bronx during an extended sanitation strike on a 127 degree day. It's bad. Bad like the people who grade debates on tone rather than veracity. So, also Peggy.
The Atlantic: The Case Against Donald Trump
What we have learned since we published that editorial is that we understated our case. Donald Trump is the worst president this country has seen since Andrew Johnson, or perhaps James Buchanan, or perhaps ever. Trump has brought our country low; he has divided our people; he has pitted race against race; he has corrupted our democracy; he has shown contempt for American ideals; he has made cruelty a sacrament; he has provided comfort to propagators of hate; he has abandoned America’s allies; he has aligned himself with dictators; he has encouraged terrorism and mob violence; he has undermined the agencies and departments of government; he has despoiled the environment; he has opposed free speech; he has lied frenetically and evangelized for conspiracism; he has stolen children from their parents; he has made himself an advocate of a hostile foreign power; and he has failed to protect America from a ravaging virus. Trump is not responsible for all of the 220,000 COVID-19-related deaths in America. But through his avarice and ignorance and negligence and titanic incompetence, he has allowed tens of thousands of Americans to suffer and die, many alone, all needlessly. With each passing day, his presidency reaps more death.
I cannot explain the elite and establishment resistance to court reform from Democrats without noticing that the people most reluctant to fix things tend to be cis-hetero white men. The issues on the chopping block in front of a 6-3 Republican court tend to be issues that do not directly affect the rights and dignity of these white men. These men will continue to be able to marry whom they want to. They will retain their reproductive rights. They will be allowed to vote and won’t have to wait all that long to do so. They will not be executed after receiving ineffective counsel. They will not be sent back to “where they came from.” Their children will not be kidnapped and thrown into a cage.
Whenever you hear a white guy, be he a constitutional “scholar” or otherwise, telling you that we don’t need to reform the courts, what you should hear is: “It is what it is.” You should read their callous disregard for the rights and liberties of other people between the lines of their platitudes about institutional respect and civility. Why in the hell would I care that the Supreme Court be maintained as a “legitimate” institution when that institution has been set against the very idea that my vote should matter and my life should have value? There is little McConnell (should he survive his zombie affliction) and the Republicans can do in 2024 or 2028 that is worse than what they’ve already done from 2014 (when McConnell took control of the Senate) through today. Sure, I suppose things can always get worse, but you’d have to be white not to see how bad things are now.
But we’ll be dealing with the damage—to our institutions, to our communities, to the very notion of normalcy—long after November 3. As we prepare for landfall, we have two basic responses to consider: We can try to evacuate, or we can run towards the storm. To recover in the long term, we’ll need to figure out a way to do both.
Evacuation means, simply, finding a way to make the noise stop. You do this by logging off, hiding your phone, or refusing to engage with anything stressful online. Running towards the storm means being there for the worst of it. You do this by spending even more time online, filling all your screens with the latest news and actively pushing back against falsehood and harm, publicly on social media and privately in group chats with friends and family.
The decision whether to run towards or away from the storm is not made at a single point in time. To log off indefinitely, on the grounds that it’s become too stressful to engage online, would be a breach of civic responsibility. It’s also a social justice issue, as the people on the informational front lines—who often have no choice about being there—are disproportionately members of marginalized groups. Others’ refusal to step up reinforces those marginalizations and sends the implicit message: You’re on your own.
The New Yorker: The Growing Threat of American Political Violence
Matthew Feldman, a professor at the University of York who studies right-wing extremism, said that November 3rd has all the hallmarks of being a potential “trigger moment.” He told me that polarization is growing on both sides, but he, too, believes that the far right represents a more lethal threat. “At the fringes on the right, a narrative is building that the left is stealing the election,” he said, warning that extremists may decide that “their way of life” will disappear “if they don’t take action.” But, he added, would-be attackers often await a signal from leaders that violence is acceptable. “Scholars have long talked about a kind of license that comes from the top,” Feldman told me. “One of the surest signs of these trigger events is an increasingly apocalyptic tone. And, of course, the biggest culprit has been Donald Trump.”
He was a senior CIA official tasked with getting tough on Russia. Then, one night in Moscow, Marc Polymeropoulos's life changed forever. He says he was hit with a mysterious weapon, joining dozens of American diplomats and spies who believe they’ve been targeted with this secret device all over the world—and even at home, on U.S. soil. Now, as a CIA investigation points the blame at Russia, the victims are left wondering why so little is being done by the Trump administration.
Forbes: How the SAT failed America
“It’s the evil empire,” he says. “The SAT is basically a dodge. . . . It provides a shiny scientific cover for a system of inequality that guarantees that rich kids go to the most selective colleges. It makes all that sound like science when it’s not.”...
When nervous young test takers sit down for their exams, proctors are instructed to read from a script that informs them that if they provide personal details, they’ll receive valuable information about scholarships and colleges. Most sign up, and for 47 cents per test taker, College Board “leases” student data, including ethnicity, religion, gender and their parents’ educational backgrounds, to colleges and other third parties. The practice initiates an onslaught of promotional mailings and brochures that students’ families must endure in the years leading up to admission. (Late last year, a class action suit was filed in federal court in Illinois, claiming the College Board is violating the state’s child privacy laws and using deceptive practices to enrich itself. College Board points out that a similar suit was dismissed several years ago.)
The Atlantic: The Mad Mad World of Niche Sports
Or, as the Darien parent told me, they’re using athletics to escape “the penalty that comes from being from an advantaged zip code.” She continued: “Being who you are is not enough. It might be enough in Kansas. But not here.” ...
The stampede of the affluent into grim-faced, highly competitive sports has been a tragicomedy of perverse incentives and social evolution in unequal times: a Darwinian parable of the mayhem that can ensue following the discovery of even a minor advantage. Like a peacock rendered nearly flightless by gaudy tail feathers, the overserved athlete is the product of a process that has become maladaptive, and is now harming the very blue-chip demographic it was supposed to help.
The Wall Street Journal: Health Agency Halts Coronavirus Ad Campaign, Leaving Santa Claus in the Cold
A federal health agency halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.
As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included.
A political party whose policies can't win a majority of voters instead engineered a Supreme Court majority: appointed by popular-vote losing Presidents, confirmed by Senators representing far less than half our country.That Court finds counting votes inconvenient. Surprised? https://t.co/ITJZok5sS4
This is what speaking truth to power looks like. Thank you, @CoryBooker. pic.twitter.com/1SLXDtmagl
"Jared Kushner actually just said that Black Americans must "want to be successful" in order for President Donald Trump's policies to help them"https://t.co/HW9N147UY5
You Wanna Watch Obama Read Trump For Filth? Sure You Do. by @SER1897 https://t.co/jdFF7PRNlb
This would instantly generate impeachment hearings in any other administration. https://t.co/tfdYNNbOQD
OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM BORAT SAGDIYEV pic.twitter.com/vM92Lam5vV
Here's something good:
Politics, freaky weather, robot CEOs: There's only so much more news she can take. A star-studded sketch comedy special. Watch trailers & learn more.