Divine Intentions

No Sift next week. The next new Weekly Sift articles will appear July 20.

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And, but for the interference with his arrangement, there would be no cause for such marriage. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Judge Leon M. Bazile (1965)
denying the motion of Richard and Mildred Loving
to vacate their conviction for miscegenation

If Chief Justice Warren and his associates had known God’s word and had desired to do the Lord’s will, I am quite confident that the 1954 decision would never have been made. The facilities should be separate. When God has drawn the line of distinction, we should not attempt to cross that line.

Rev. Jerry Falwell
“Segregation or Integration: Which?” (1958)

Savannah Guthrie: If a state clerk refused to issue a marriage license to an interracial couple, would you agree with that too?
Ted Cruz: There’s no religious backing for that.

— The Today Show, 6-29-2015

Today’s featured post “You Don’t Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot” puts those quotes in their proper context.

It’s kind of ridiculous what’s been happening to this blog’s traffic. The Sift had 228K views in June, compared to 13K last June and 215K in all of 2013. Runs like this always end eventually, but usually traffic recedes to a higher plateau than before. I hope some fraction of the new readers become regulars.

This week everybody was still reacting to marriage equality

I discussed this to a certain extent in the featured post. But Mike Huckabee’s op-ed deserves some further attention. This is how the Huckabee administration will respond to the “religious freedom” issues raised by the same-sex marriage decision. (I use the scare quotes because the traditional meaning of religious freedom is very different than what Huckabee has in mind. He’s practicing a kind of Newspeak.)

The whole piece is full of Religious-Right jargon, so I may have to decrypt it in some future Sift.


I have a certain respect for the Tennessee clerks who resigned rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If your conscience won’t let you do your job, resign in protest. There’s a fine tradition there. Imagine if, say, Colin Powell had resigned as Secretary of State rather than take the Bush administration’s bogus case for invading Iraq to the UN. Resigning in protest makes much more sense to me than the Texas clerks who want to keep their jobs, but not do them.

That said, I hope Decatur County replaces its clerks with people who want to serve the whole public, rather than just the people they approve of.

and talking about Greece

Greece soundly defeated a referendum to accept the new bailout package offered by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (collectively known as “the Troika”). Nobody really knows what happens now: Will the Greek banking system collapse? Will some new deal get negotiated? Will Greece end up abandoning the euro? I could speculate, but The Guardian and The Atlantic probably speculate better.

As for how the euro figures in the development of the crisis, this Vox video explains it pretty well.


Remember a few years ago, when some people still didn’t realize that President Obama was shrinking the deficit he inherited, and Tea Partiers were predicting a Greece-like debt crisis for the U.S.? With a few more years of perspective, it’s clear that there is a lesson for the U.S. in the Greek experience, but it’s the exact opposite of the one the Tea Party wanted to teach us: Keynes was right. When you get into a deep recession, the government needs to spend more, not less.

Recessions always balloon the deficit: Tax revenues go down and safety-net payments go up. Governments can react in two ways:

  • austerity: Cut government spending wherever possible to get the deficit back under control.
  • stimulus: Increase government spending to get the economy moving again.

In their responses to the deep 2007-2008 recession, the world’s advanced economies created an accidental macro-economic experiment: In spite of intense Republican opposition, America went for stimulus, while Europe chose austerity. Within Europe, the healthier economies like Germany, France, and the UK had their austerity moderated by democratic opposition. But Italy, Spain, and Portugal had credit problems, so they had to ignore popular opposition and impose the harsher austerity bond markets demanded. Greece was in a class by itself: Needing bailout money from the Troika, it had to take the extremely harsh terms the Troika imposed.

Here’s what happened:

The U.S. came out of the recession fastest, followed by the European countries that practiced moderate austerity, followed by the harsh-austerity countries, with Greece trailing far behind. (The graph would show a more dramatic U.S. advantage if the base point were the start of the recession rather than 2010. Ireland and Germany are only slightly behind the U.S. at the end of the graph, but they were far above us at the beginning of the recession.)

The Troika-imposed austerity was supposed to close the Greek government’s deficit, restore market confidence in Greek debt, and cause a rebound in the Greek economy (through a macro-economic mechanism Paul Krugman calls “the Confidence Fairy“). Instead, it accelerated the deflationary cycle, shrunk the economy further, and increased the deficit — which of course required more budget cuts.

Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz comments:

The disparity between what the Troika thought would happen and what has emerged has been striking — and not because Greece didn’t do what it was supposed to, but because it did, and the models were very, very flawed.

University of Maryland economist Peter Morici agrees:

Already, the Troika, … has imposed five years of budget cuts, higher taxes and labor market adjustments. The Greeks have endured a 25- percent contraction in GDP, 25-percent cut in private-sector wages and 25 percent unemployment.

Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio has soared to 180 percent from 130 percent of GDP, and that is an impossible burden to repay. … Another round of austerity would only further pummel the Greek economy, and impose economic deprivation that European leaders should be ashamed to engineer.

So, has the Tea Party learned anything from this? Don’t be silly; their economics is faith-based, not evidence-based. In his announcement speech, Bobby Jindal promised:

I will grow the private sector economy by shrinking the size, scope, and reach of the federal government

Jindal, in other words, wants to go the way of Greece.

and still the Confederate flag and racism

It’s hard to satirize some people. In an effort to defend the idea that the Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern heritage rather than hate, the KKK is having a rally at the South Carolina capitol.


This week I noticed video-journalist AJ+ for the first time. In this piece, she wanders through South Carolina asking people about racism:


Bianca Campbell makes Georgia’s open-carry law real, describing her recent trip to the bookstore.

The idea of openly carrying a gun to protect myself has never been a realistic option—only when I’m imagining myself as Storm from X-Men dismantling oppressive systems with Black feminist thunderstorms and a small silver glock just in case. In reality, if the cops saw me with a gun, a bag of Skittles, or even a loosey cigarette, they would probably shoot me and ask questions about my permit later. [my note: She’s only slightly exaggerating what you can see in this video.] As a Jamaican-American whose parents had to navigate the country’s unjust immigration system, I’ve almost always known that papers and permits don’t save dark-skinned people.

And so now, Georgia’s open carry policy, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole foundation of America’s justice system works as it was always intended: allowing certain people to feel safe at the expense of others existing in fear. I was without arms and face-to-face with a man who may or may not have wanted to kill meand a man who had the freedom to make that decision without repercussions.


Here’s how to show that Negro president that whites are still on top in Tennessee:

and the unending tide of Republican presidential candidates

Chris Christie announced. Donald Trump surged in the polls after describing Mexican immigrants as “rapists”.

President Obama was in La Crosse  this week, and he previewed how an anti-Scott-Walker general-election campaign might go:

We’ve seen what happens when top-down economics meets the real world. We’ve got proof right here in Wisconsin. There was a statewide fair-pay law that was repealed. The right to organize and bargain collectively was attacked. Per-student education funding was cut. Your minimum wage has been stuck in place. Meanwhile, corporations and the most fortunate few have been on the receiving end of hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax cuts over the past four years…

What happens when we try middle-class economics? Just across the river, it’s a pretty interesting experiment. In Minnesota, they asked the top two percent to pay a little bit more. They invested in things that help everybody succeed, like all-day kindergarten and financial aid for college students. They took action to raise their minimum wage and they passed an equal pay law. They protected workers’ rights. They expanded Medicaid to cover more people.

Now, according to Republican theory, all those steps would’ve been bad for the economy, but Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower than Wisconsin’s. Minnesota’s median income is around $9,000 higher.

and Bernie Sanders

Bernie continues to draw huge crowds and rise in the polls, but 538’s Harry Enten and The Hill‘s Eddie Zipperer do their best to throw cold water on the Sanders surge. They do make a few good points:

  • In national polls, Sanders is still way behind, and most of his recent rise mostly comes from consolidating the left, not making inroads on Clinton supporters. When you take Elizabeth Warren out of a poll — as most have done by now — Sanders’ support increases without hurting Hillary.
  • In New Hampshire polls, the ones that have Sanders within striking distance of Clinton usually list Joe Biden as a candidate, which splits the establishment vote. If you assume Biden isn’t running — which seems likely — Clinton’s lead increases.
  • Sanders has yet to draw much black and Hispanic support. Non-white voters aren’t a big factor in New Hampshire and Iowa, but they are a huge chunk of the Democratic coalition nationally.

That third point is interesting. As a group, minority voters are highly pragmatic. They have a long, sad history with guys they never heard of (especially white guys) saying stuff that sounds good. So they tend to stick with candidates they know and have come to trust.

In hindsight, we think of Obama as naturally being the favorite-son black candidate, and he did eventually get enthusiastic black support. But in the 2008 cycle blacks were slow to get on board. (Obama’s earliest supporters were young whites who resented Clinton’s vote to authorize the Iraq War.) He had to prove himself as a viable candidate with white voters before many blacks would take him seriously. Hispanics got behind him even later.

Sanders has a good record on racial issues, but he represents an overwhelmingly white state and (whether the perception is fair or not) is not the first person you think of when you remember important civil rights battles. The non-white vote is not lost to him, but he will have to work to win it.


That said, I have to shake my head at how much effort pundits devote to discounting Sanders. Networks give serious attention to Republican longshots like Santorum or Perry, but can’t seem to mention Sanders without pointing out that he can’t possibly win. As someone — I thought Andy Borowitz, but now I can’t Google up a reference — put it:

Someone needs to tell the millions of people about to vote for Bernie Sanders that no one is going to vote for him.

And when somebody does notice the Sanders phenomenon, the narrative usually then shifts to “Is Hillary screwing up?” not “What is Sanders saying to raise such enthusiasm?”

and religion

Interesting article on ISIS and Islam:

Dalia Mogahed suggested that the relationship between Islamic texts and ISIS’s brutality is actually the reverse of what both ISIS and many of its enemies claim. It’s not, she said, the group’s interpretation of Islamic texts that drives its brutality—it’s the group’s desired brutality driving its interpretation of the texts. “We start at the violence we want to conduct, and we convince ourselves that this is the correct way to interpret the texts,” she said.

That’s long been my theory about American social conservatives and Christianity. The political positions come first, and they drive the Biblical interpretation. I mean, why take literally some obscure Leviticus text condemning homosexuality but not “Sell your possessions and give to the poor“?


I have ambivalent feelings about Bill Maher, particularly when he talks religion. But when he’s right, he’s right. In this video, he wants to know why the Democratic Party or the “liberal media” get all the credit for heaping scorn on Christianity, when he’s the only one actually doing it.

And here, Maher points to the House vote to let meat companies refuse to tell us what country their meat comes from. Bill combines the two goals of “erasing meat labels and repealing the estate tax” into a single slogan for the Republican Party: “Eat shit and die.”

Here’s a package of underpants. There’s a label on it, tells you where it’s from: Honduras. … Here’s a pound of ground beef (or whatever). Where did it come from? Fuck You is where it came from. … Shouldn’t you be able to know that? Next time you hear Republicans say they want to “protect” you from “burdensome regulations”, this is what they mean. But this isn’t really de-regulation; this is reverse regulation. Regulations are supposed to protect people from corporations, not corporations from people.

and let’s close with a visual pun

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Comments

  • JELC  On July 6, 2015 at 11:37 am

    What are the units on that Real GDP graph? It looks like % of GDP from another year, but that’s confusing, because we don’t have the zero year. I clicked through to the link you provided, and they don’t seem to have the full graph either.

    • weeklysift  On July 10, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      It’s percentage of real GDP above or below the 2010 figure. In other words, it’s normalized so that all countries are equal at the end of the first quarter of 2010.

      • JELC  On July 11, 2015 at 10:06 pm

        Thanks!

  • Irene  On July 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

    About regulation, keep in mind that now corporations *are* people.

    • Anonymous  On July 7, 2015 at 11:48 pm

      I’ll believe that corporations are people when Texas executes one.

  • donbi33  On July 6, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Pundits comment that Bernie is still way behind. Where do his numbers fall in the ranking of Republican candidates?

    • weeklysift  On July 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Since Trump is leading with 18% of the Republican vote, Bernie probably has more supporters than any of them. I haven’t seen any head-to-head polls of how Bernie runs against, say, Bush.

  • Dennis Maher  On July 7, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    So can we let KY, MS, and AL go? And in IL downstate is the moocher and in NY its upstate. I lived in KY IL and now NY and it occurred to me recently that without NYC, upstate is just KY.

  • JJ  On July 18, 2015 at 10:05 am

    “Tea Partiers were predicting a Greece-like debt crisis for the U.S.” One thing that argument ALWAYS ignored is that the U.S. has control of it’s financial policy in a way that Greece doesn’t. U.S. debt is denominated in dollars, and the U.S. controls the supply of dollars. Greek debt is denominated in Euros. Greece doesn’t control the supply of Euros, the European Central Bank controls that. This gives the U.S. important options that Greece doesn’t have.

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