Waiting For the Light

I am sleeping on a time bomb,
And I am waiting for the light to come.

– Vertical Horizon “We Are

This week’s featured post is “The Cancel Culture Debate“.

This week everybody was talking about Portland’s resistance to Trump’s secret police

It’s hard to be sure until we get actual polls on the subject, but I don’t think Trump’s invasion of Portland is turning into the vote-getting stunt he’d hoped for. The plan was to create riveting scenes of heroic police clashing with “violent anarchists” from Black Lives Matter, crush the protests and restore “law and order” to a city whose Democratic officials were too weak-willed to handle these America-haters.

Instead Trump got the Wall of Moms, Dads with leaf-blowers, a wall of veterans, and another one of nurses. Portland grandmothers have adopted the hashtag #Grantifa and joined the protests. The goons from Homeland Security have man-handled all comers.

Paramilitary thugs dragging away terrified women who resemble somebody’s Mom from across the street — maybe that’s not the best optics for a federal police action. (Many of the Moms are annoyingly white, which wasn’t in the script at all.) So Trump has been driven to his ultimate defense against reality: declaring it all to be Fake News.

The “protesters” are actually anarchists who hate our Country. The line of innocent “mothers” were a scam that Lamestream refuses to acknowledge, just like they don’t report the violence of these demonstrations!

Reporters on the ground — those from The Oregonian/OregonLive, for example — tell a different story.

Thousands of Portland moms have come together over the past week to join nightly demonstrations in downtown.

They stand arm-in-arm at protests, placing themselves between federal officers and younger protesters in an act of protection. As the number of moms turning out in Portland grew with each protest, mom protest groups began to spring up across the nation in places like New York City, St. Louis and Philadelphia.

I’m a little skeptical of the “thousands” claim, but I have friends here in the suburbs who are searching their closets for yellow t-shirts (the Wall of Moms’ uniform of choice) in case Boston is next on Trump’s list. They’re real moms, and I don’t recall any of them ever mentioning their hatred of America.

The Guardian’s take:

If Trump’s intent was to calm things down, he has failed. But if, as some suspect, the president wanted to ratchet up confrontation for political gain, then it is not clear that it has been a success either.

“It’s a power play by Trump. He thinks he’s going to get his base all riled up by pitting the forces of law and order against the anarchists,” said Josh O’Brien, who travelled from Seattle to join the protests. “But he’s fucked it up like he fucks everything up. Look who’s here with us. Grandmothers. Doctors. Because like most Americans they don’t think people should be abducted from the streets by the president’s secret police.”

Acting Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli tried to push the violent-anarchists narrative by tweeting a picture with this comment:

Here is a shield and a couple of gas masks from a rioter arrested in Portland. Not a sign with a slogan that someone expressing their first amendment rights might carry, but preparations for violence. Peaceful protester? I don’t think so.

Cooch clearly didn’t think this out (or is trying to appeal to people who don’t think clearly): You carry a shield and gas mask when you expect to be a victim of violence, not a perpetrator.

Former Celebrity Apprentice staffer turned stand-up comedian Noel Casler paints a different picture:

If you’re dressed up like a soldier and you’re tear-gassing a mom wearing a bicycle helmet to protect her from your batons, you are not an American soldier or a Patriot. You are the kind of person American soldiers killed to protect us from. Stop it now @DHS_Wolf.

If you wonder what the Portland attack is for, Trump campaign advisor Boris Epshteyn gives a hint: It’s for scary campaign messages aimed at voters far away from Portland. He tweeted video of a violent clash between police and demonstrators with the message “This would be @JoeBiden’s America. It’s a very scary place.”

As many other tweeters pointed out, the video is quite literally Donald Trump’s America. His three years of presidential race-baiting exacerbated the racial tensions that exploded in the George Floyd protests, and the brutality of his secret police increased the violence in Portland.

And if you don’t find all that disturbing enough here’s Thomas Friedman’s take:

when I heard Trump suggest, as he did in the Oval Office on Monday, that he was going to send federal forces into U.S. cities, where the local mayors have not invited him, the first word that popped into my head was “Syria.”

and what might happen in other cities

Over the weekend, protests broke out in several other cities, some of which had been quiet for weeks.

It’s hard to know whether provoking those protests was part of Trump’s plan or not. Certainly, he has talked about sending his DHS police to other cities. More than 200 federal agents have already been in Kansas City long enough for Attorney General Barr to lie about their accomplishments.

Barr said Wednesday that Operation Legend had netted 200 arrests in two weeks as the Department of Justice announced plans to deploy additional federal law enforcement agents in Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So far, federal authorities have announced one arrest — a 20-year-old KCMO man wanted for warrants and allegedly spotted in a stolen vehicle, where two stolen handguns were found — though it has not been connected to a homicide or shooting investigation.

Similar numbers of agents are supposed to be heading to Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, and possibly Philadelphia and Baltimore, but what they’ll do there is not at all clear. What problem are the agents trying to solve, and what will they do about that problem that local police aren’t already doing?

Operation Legend is named for LeGend Taliferro, a 4-year-old boy shot and killed in his bed in Kansas City on June 29. How exactly federal agents would prevent similar crimes has never been spelled out.

Of all those cities, Chicago is the one that I know best, so I’ll focus there.

It’s worth remembering that policing was a serious issue in the 2019 Chicago mayoral campaign. So if the federal government changes the way Chicago is policed, or stops Chicago from making its own changes, that raises a democracy issue: Do the people of Chicago get to decide how their city will be policed, or is that up to Trump?

Channel 5 asked all the candidates for mayor the same seven questions; the second one was about policing and the consent decree the city had recently negotiated with the State of Illinois to reform the Chicago Police Department. Lori Lightfoot answered:

I am the only candidate in this race that has a broad depth of experience in dealing with issues related to police excessive force and abuse, accountability and reform. My perspective on these issues stems from my roles as a federal prosecutor and the head of the former Office of Professional Standards, in which I made countless recommendations to terminate police officers who failed to properly perform their duties, including in police-involved shootings. More recently, I led the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF), whose report served as the underpinnings for both the Obama DOJ report and recommendations on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the consent decree. There would be no consent decree without the PATF. I also served as the president of Chicago Police Board, where I held officers accountable for misconduct. Before resigning from the police board to run for mayor, I significantly increased the number of officers that were terminated for serious misconduct or received lengthy suspensions.

In the first round of the multi-candidate race, Lightfoot was the leader with 17.5% of the vote. In the runoff between the top two candidates, she got 73.7%. I think it’s fair to say that the voters of Chicago want a policing approach like Lightfoot’s, and not a tear-gassing baton-swinging approach like Trump’s goons have implemented in Portland.

It’s not clear how Lightfoot’s approach will affect the frequency of violent crime in Chicago over the long term. But doesn’t the city have a right to find out?

Really American describes itself by “We believe it is our duty as patriotic Americans to stand up against fascism in all of its forms.” They’ve been making some really biting anti-Trump videos. Like this one.

A number of voices are expressing disappointment that the militia-Right or libertarian-Right, after decades of warning us about the threat of government tyranny, has so totally failed to notice the rise of real authoritarianism, and at times has even applauded it. But if you’ve been paying attention, you shouldn’t be surprised. Anti-government rhetoric has long been applied only in very particular ways: If the government is using its power to counter either white supremacy or the dominance of the super-rich, that’s tyranny. But if it’s using its power to keep the lower orders in their places, that’s OK.

Jonathan Korman has altered the Gadsden flag to capture what it really means these days.

and the next stimulus package

Back in May, Democrats foresaw that the virus would not be gone by summer, and that the economy would not have a V-shaped recovery. So they passed the next stimulus bill, the $3 trillion HEROES Act. Mitch McConnell reacted by denouncing it as a “liberal wish list”. He predicted that if more stimulus was needed “the President and Senate Republicans are going to be in the same place. We’ll let you know when we think the time is right to begin to move again.”

But as so often happens in this post-policy era of the Republican Party, the time has come and the President and Senate Republicans are not in the same place. That’s the problem when a party focuses on marketing to the exclusion of policy. When they do realize they need to do something, it’s hard to figure out specifically what, because up until that moment they have only been thinking about how to spin an issue, not how to resolve it. The White House in particular has been completely focused on the spin of the V-shaped recovery. (On June 5, Trump responded to a positive jobs report by saying that the economy is “not on a V-shaped recovery, it’s a rocket ship.”)

But there is no V-shaped recovery. Like so many Trump policies, reopening the country produced only a short-term effect. He got his good jobs report in June, but the subsequent surge in Covid-19 cases has states shutting down again, and layoffs are rising. So we’re back to the same problem as in March and April: People need to eat and pay the rent, but there are few jobs, and no jobs at all that many people with Covid risk factors can do safely.

The extra $600 per week of unemployment insurance, which was part of the previous Covid-response package, the CARES Act, expires Friday. In practice, that means that many people have already gotten their last increased unemployment check. This extra money has been key, not just to keeping those 20 million households afloat, but the entire economy. For example, August rent or mortgage payments might be hard to scrape together for many families — a problem that will cascade to real estate companies and banks.

McConnell is still predicting a new bill, but now says it will take “weeks“, and began his statement with “hopefully”. He wants a $1 trillion bill, with maybe $200 a week in additional unemployment, rather than $600.

and the rising Covid-19 death rate

After not having a thousand-death day since June 4, the US had four this week, not counting the 993 on Saturday. By WorldoMeter’s count, which runs a little higher than some others, the US had its 150,000th death today. Other counts are lower, but in all versions of the stats we’ll probably pass 150,000 this week.

If you squint at the graph just right, it looks like the US Covid-19 case count might have peaked this week. I wouldn’t count on that, but that’s the appearance at the moment.

Trump’s cancellation of the Republican Convention’s events in Jacksonville led to a series of sarcastic ” … but it’s safe to send your kids to school” social media posts. In addition to the convention,

  • Barron Trump’s school won’t be fully opening, and won’t decide whether to offer any in-person classes at all until August 10, but you should be planning to send your kids to school five days a week.
  • Florida Senator Rick Scott’s grandchildren will be “focused on distance learning right now” to “make sure they’re safe”, but schools should be open for your kids, especially if you’re poor and looking to cash in on “a subsidized meal”.

and AOC

I had been resisting paying attention the the AOC/Ted Yoho flap, because it looked like one of those somebody-said-a-bad-word kerfuffles that get people upset but never go anywhere.

But it eventually got my attention, because AOC gave a truly epic speech on the floor of the House. The provocation was not just Yoho arguing with her rudely on the steps of the House, and then walking away saying “fucking bitch” (as overheard by a reporter). But when his remark came out in the press, Yoho took to the floor of the House to offer one of those I’m-didn’t-really-do-anything-but apologies. His was particularly self-righteous, concluding that “I cannot apologize for … loving my God”, as if the Ancient of Days Himself had whispered “fucking bitch” into Yoho’s ear.

AOC’s response was masterful. She avoided all the usual ways such complaints are type-cast and pushed aside: It wasn’t that Yoho said a bad word or that her feelings were hurt. She spoke not with the attitude of someone pleading helplessly for justice, but as a person wielding moral authority. The question is not what Yoho’s judgment has done to her, but what hers does to him.

Mr. Yoho mentioned that he has a wife and two daughters. I am two years younger than Mr. Yoho’s youngest daughter. I am someone’s daughter too. … What I am here to say is that this harm that Mr. Yoho levied, tried to levy against me, was not just an incident directed at me, but when you do that to any woman, what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters.

He — in using that language, in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to stand up to say that is not acceptable.

… What I believe is that having a daughter does not make a man decent. Having a wife does not make a decent man. Treating people with dignity and respect makes a decent man. And when a decent man messes up, as we all are bound to do, he tries his best and does apologize. Not to save face, not to win a vote. He apologizes genuinely to repair and acknowledge the harm done so that we can all move on.

Lastly, what I want to express to Mr. Yoho is gratitude. I want to thank him for showing the world that you can be a powerful man and accost women. You can have daughters and accost women without remorse. You can be married and accost women. You can take photos and project an image to the world of being a family man and accost women without remorse and with a sense of impunity. It happens every day in this country. It happened here on the steps of our nation’s Capitol. It happens when individuals who hold the highest offices in this land admit, admit to hurting women, and using this language against all of us.

More and more I’m coming to believe that AOC is a once-in-a-generation political talent. Whether you agree with her positions on particular issues or not, her abilities are on a par with Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Whether she’ll achieve what they did is still up in the air at this point in her life. But she has the talent.

and you also might be interested in …

It can’t be complete week without a Trump corruption story. Tuesday, the NYT reported:

The American ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson IV, told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that President Trump had asked him to see if the British government could help steer the world-famous and lucrative British Open golf tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland, according to three people with knowledge of the episode.

NPR adds:

Lewis Lukens, the embassy’s former second-in-command, confirmed in a text to NPR that Johnson told him about the president’s request. “I advised him that doing so would violate federal ethics rules and be generally inappropriate,” Lukens wrote.

But Johnson apparently went ahead and raised the matter with David Mundell, then secretary of state for Scotland, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The State Department inspector general — presumably the one Trump fired in May — investigated and wrote a report, which has not been released.

538 has a fascinating breakdown of why Florida was a bellwether in 2008, 2012, and 2016, but resisted the blue wave in 2018. Some factors that helped Republicans in 2018 won’t be there this year. Meanwhile, CNN observes that Trump hasn’t led in a Florida poll since March. The RCP polling average has Biden up in Florida by 7.8%.

The best explanation of defund-the-police I’ve seen so far:

The baseball season launched (finally) on Thursday, with the Yankees beating the Nationals 4-1 in a stadium with no fans. An interesting compromise: Both teams knelt on the field prior to the national anthem, but no one knelt during the anthem.

It’s a 60-game season. If anybody is going to hit .400 in our lifetimes, this is the year to do it. And then we can all argue about whether it should count.

The Miami Marlins have postponed their home opener because 11 players and two coaches have tested positive for coronavirus. That this has happened already raises doubts about the plans for the whole season.

and let’s close with something realistic

People are having fun with photo-realism software.

Dutch photographer and digital artist Bas Uterwijk shines a light on what iconic figures from history might have looked like in real life. By using various digital manipulation tools, he is able to create photorealistic portraits of famous artists, leaders, mummies, philosophical thinkers, and even the models of paintings.

I’m not sure exactly what he bases this on, but this is his Jesus of Nazareth:

Doesn’t he look like he would forgive your sins?

And somebody else has used Roman statues to produce photorealistic images of the Roman emperors.

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  • wcroth55  On July 27, 2020 at 1:57 pm

    I’m seeing posts that suggest the apparent flattening out of either COVID infections or deaths may actually be the result of faulty, possibly fraudulent, reporting, after the data flow was changed to go to HHS instead of the CDC.

    I have no proof, but would love any real information on this that can be found. The correlation is certainly high, but we all know the danger of mistaking correlation for causation.

    • weeklysift  On July 29, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      I’ve seen that too, but, like you, nothing but speculation. I’ll will see if there’s anything more reliable.

  • Roger  On July 27, 2020 at 2:44 pm

    The Jesus is v. interesting. My 16 y.o. did one this month, FWIW, https://www.rogerogreen.com/2020/07/26/lydster-creating-another-jesus/

  • Ron Cordes  On July 27, 2020 at 3:18 pm

    Doug – here is the first such poll: Morning Consult, poll of 1,994 Registered Voters taken between July 23 and 26. This is a general Approve/Disapprove poll of Trump’s actions as President, not specifically on the economy, the pandemic, etc. Approve: 36%. Disapprove: 61%. The 25% is the largest spread I have seen to date.

  • LdeG  On July 27, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    I suspect he chose his model based on this reconstruction, done in 2002. I have used this to make a point from time to time.

    • weeklysift  On July 29, 2020 at 4:56 pm

      There are definite similarities. I feel like this one has more personality.

      • LdeG  On July 30, 2020 at 11:27 am

        A different personality, I think. More appealing, and perhaps he was making a point by that.

  • George Washington, Jr.  On July 27, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    When the George Floyd protests began, right-wing talk show host Michael Savage opined that people vote Republican in times of civil unrest, based on fear and a desire for order. He based this on a single data point – Nixon’s election in 1968 (it doesn’t hold true if you include earlier periods). It’s known that someone in Trump’s circle follows Savage’s show, as he and his callers are an excellent barometer of what the base is thinking. It’s entirely possible that Trump decided to deliberately re-ignite the protests by sending federal officers to Portland for no reason other than to harass protesters and provoke a reaction, based on Savage’s “analysis.” If that was the reason behind this action, it’s failed spectacularly.

  • Nancy Weston  On July 28, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Just wanted to thank you for writing the weekly sift. I read it thoroughly every week. Excellent reporting and compelling writing. I have no idea how I got connected to this newsletter, unless it’s through Unitarian Universalism. I am so glad I did. Thank you again.

    • weeklysift  On July 29, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      One thing my parents never taught me is how to take compliments. I usually just don’t respond, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice or don’t appreciate them.

  • Anonymous  On July 28, 2020 at 9:51 am

    Yes, thank you. You have a valuable talent for cutting through the noise.

  • Guest  On July 29, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Thrilled that you are coming around on AOC, Doug, this is very encouraging news. Don’t look now, but she would be eligible for a presidential run in 2024…

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