By pardoning Arpaio, Trump made it clear that institutional racism is not just OK with him. It is a goal.

– the Editorial Board of The Arizona Republic

This week’s featured posts are “Fascism as a Unifying Principle” and “The Message in Joe Arpaio’s Pardon“. I also want to call your attention to a column I wrote for UU World magazine: “Of course I’m racist“.

This week everybody was talking about Hurricane Harvey

Usually the big damage in a hurricane comes from the storm surge and the high winds. But in addition to that, Harvey has stalled over the Texas Gulf Coast and is dumping record quantities of rain. By the time it’s all over, some areas may get 50 inches. The worst rain I’ve ever seen personally was 11 inches in one day at Mount Cook Village in New Zealand. The idea of that going on for nearly five days is mind-boggling.

The average annual rainfall here in New Hampshire is 47 inches, a bit higher than the national average of 39, a bit lower than Houston’s annual average of 49.77. So picture that: all of your rain for a year falling in a few days.

Texas Tribune is saying “I told you so”, because they told us so. Last year, TT and ProPublica wrote about how vulnerable Houston had become to floods caused by sudden, massive rainfall. Two causes: (1) climate change, which allows “100-year storms” to happen every few years, and (2) unregulated development, which lets builders pave over wetlands that absorb rainfall.

That second point is the kind of tragedy-of-the-commons that unregulated market economies are prone to. If you own a chunk of wetland, it’s to your economic benefit to build a home or shopping mall or industrial park on it. You hope somebody preserves a wetland somewhere, but why should it be you?

And of course, the Texas congresspeople who voted against recovery aid after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast now have to ask for their own disaster relief. I wasn’t the one who thought to connect that hypocrisy to this New Yorker cartoon, but it’s too good not to copy.

Who are you kidding? You’re all about small government until you get stuck in a tree.

Funny how when natural disasters strike conservative areas, we don’t hear preachers proclaiming God’s judgment against America. But why couldn’t God be angry about something like voter suppression?

and Joe Arpaio’s pardon

I covered that in a featured post.

and whether the government will shut down October 1

From Slate:

At his Phoenix rally on Tuesday night, the president promised the crowd that, even “if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”

Two points about the Wall:

  • Trump only got 46% of the vote to Hillary’s 48%. So while he is legally president (by grace of the Electoral College), he can’t claim a popular mandate for any part of his agenda, including the Wall.
  • Literally no one voted for a wall funded by American taxpayers. Trump promised that Mexico would pay; if that’s not happening, the deal is off.

and the transgender ban

When Trump tweeted this a few weeks ago, the Pentagon basically said: Send us some real orders; we don’t take instructions over Twitter.

Friday, an official directive came out. It stops new transgender recruits from joining the armed forces, and gives Defense Secretary Mattis discretion about what to do with the current transgender troops. It halts insurance coverage for gender-reassignment surgery.

Two lawsuits to overturn the directive have already been filed.

but we shouldn’t move on so quickly from Trump’s Afghanistan speech

A featured post talks about the speech’s national-unity introduction, but the body of the speech deserves attention too. A few minor points

  • He says that his instinct was to pull out of Afghanistan, but “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office”. To me, that says that he owes President Obama an apology.
  • As usual, he was vague on any details. Ostensibly, this was so that the enemy won’t know his plans. But of course, that means the American people don’t know them either. All we need to understand, he thinks, is that we’re going to “win”.
  • Despite the rhetoric, the “new strategy” looks like Obama’s old strategy with a slight escalation.

My major point, though, is an objection I’ve had to the Afghan and Iraq interventions at least since I wrote “Cut and Run” in 2005: When we say (as Trump did) that we have to continue a war because bad things will happen if we pull out, is the point that we can pull out at some future time without those bad things happening? Or is the point that we have to stay forever?

What I want to hear from an American president — and I would want the same thing from Hillary Clinton, if she’d been elected — is an explanation of what exactly we are fixing in Afghanistan, so that it will be more stable when we eventually pull out later. I want to hear measurable benchmarks of progress, with regular updates on whether the measurements are matching our predictions.

And if there is no clear answer to those questions, then I want to hear an explanation of why the cost of the war (in both blood and dollars) is worth paying indefinitely.

And if that also has no answer, then I want our troops out now. Yes, bad things will happen, but they’re going to happen eventually anyway.

The worst possible reason to continue a war is so that the soldiers we’ve already lost will not have “died in vain”. In economics, that’s called the sunk cost fallacy. Those soldiers have already died, and if it was a mistake to send them in the first place, then they have already died in vain. Let’s not send more soldiers to die in vain after them.

and you also might be interested in …

Both the LA Times and the NYT have now published opinion pieces making the point I made last week: It’s shameful that Trump’s religious advisers stand by him even as his business advisers abandon him for moral reasons. In the NYT, President Jim Winkler of the National Council of Churches (an association of what we used to call “mainline” Christian denominations) calls out Evangelicals:

Our congregations will continue to witness to a God who loves everyone regardless of race or creed. We need our evangelical sisters and brothers to join us.

In the LAT, Randall Balmer notes the history of the Religious Right, which came together not over abortion, but to defend segregation.

The 2016 presidential election, then, allowed the religious right finally to dispense with the fiction that theirs was a movement concerned about family values. Evangelical voting behavior suggests that the religious right was merely reverting to the racism that prompted its entry into the political arena in the late 1970s.

Last week Boston, this week San Francisco and Berkeley: Planned far-right rallies were overwhelmed by counter-protesters. Police were up to the job. San Francisco reported no major incidents. Berkeley had some scuffling and a few arrests, but I haven’t seen any reports of major injuries.

Last week I wrote an even-handed article about Antifa. The Berkeley protest looks to me like the kind of situation where they do a lot more harm than good. There’s a reason right-wingers schedule these events in communities where they’ll face a lot of opposition, rather than in rural Mississippi or some more sympathetic place. They’re hoping for incidents that make them look like victims.

The WaPo lays out the details of how the police lost control of events in Charlottesville.

When we think about communities affected by the immigration crackdown, we usually picture someplace near the border. This week, both the WaPo and the NYT looked at the effect on Saratoga Springs, a tourist town in upstate New York.

Far from the “really bad dudes” Trump claims to be targeting, in Saratoga Springs ICE is hauling away people with jobs at the famous Saratoga racetrack or in the downtown restaurants. They’re just hard-working folks trying to get along and raise their kids.

After Steve Bannon’s ouster, I hoped that Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller would soon leave the White House too. Miller is still around, but Gorka either resigned or was fired Friday. BuzzFeed has an account of how Gorka manufactured anti-terrorism credentials for himself. It didn’t work in Hungary, but it did in the Trump administration. He doesn’t seemed to be an expert in much of anything, other than self-promotion and anti-Muslim bigotry.

Gorka’s exit together with Arpaio’s pardon made for one of the greatest Friday night news dumps ever. For decades, administrations have put out their worst news on Friday nights, figuring they’ll get less attention that way. I guess they figured a Friday night that featured a major natural disaster was just too good to pass up.

and let’s close the week the way it started … with the eclipse

It was already starting when I posted last week’s Sift, but hadn’t gotten to New Hampshire yet. See how long a week is these days?

Yeah, I know you were out there snapping your own pictures, but I bet you didn’t get these: 12 images from the Earth Polychromatic Imagine Camera (EPIC) show the Moon’s shadow cross the Earth.

Sky and Telescope assembled a gallery of photos submitted by its readers. I’m especially fond of “diamond ring” images, which happen just slightly off totality.

And I’m not sure what kind of photographic tricks you need to do to see the Sun’s corona like this:

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  • QASIMARA  On August 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    You are trying too hard. The majority of images showed white or yellow hood-like plasma coronas, also being referred to as the “sunflower corona”. https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sun+corona&FORM=HDRSC2

  • Anonymous  On September 2, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    “He says that his instinct was to pull out of Afghanistan, but “decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office”. To me, that says that he owes President Obama an apology.”

    Maybe so, but I’m not holding my breath on that one…

  • 1mime  On September 2, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    You wouldn’t be so surprised that Trump’s religious advisors have not criticized him if you saw the “who’s who” on that council. I’d stack the business advisors who quit up against this group of religious hypocrites any day of the week – including Sunday!

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