Unrequited Love of Country

All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear. We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. … It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.

Doc Rivers, coach of the L.A. Clippers basketball team,
responding to the Jacob Blake shooting

This week’s featured post is “The Four Big Lies of the Republican Convention“.

This week everybody was talking about the Kenosha and Portland shootings

As I often remind Sift readers: You don’t want to follow breaking news through a weekly blog put out by one person. We know that a caravan of MAGA trucks went through Portland Saturday night, ramming their way through BLM protesters who they pepper-sprayed. Eventually, there was a fatal shooting of someone who appears to have been a Trump supporter.

Meanwhile in Kenosha, where eight days ago Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by a police officer as he tried to get into a vehicle where his kids were sitting in the back seat, a 17-year-old vigilante from Illinois killed two people and wounded a third on Tuesday. He has been charged with murder, but has become a hero to the far right. The boy walked right past police officers while holding his AR-15 and was not stopped or questioned. He went home to Illinois, where he will face an extradition hearing September 25.

James Fallows:

I can’t recall any pairing of events as closely-comparable-yet-starkly-different:
-Black man is shot in the back 7 times, while getting in car w his kids;
-White youth carrying AR-15 walks away, after killing people.

By the same police force, in the same town, in the same week.

As best I can make out, the Republican response to the current violence is that none of this would be happening if Trump were president.

The quote at the top of the page is from a three-minute, thoughtful, emotional — and apparently spontaneous — speech from L.A. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers. Here’s some more of it.

The training has to change in the police force. The unions have to be taken down in the police force. My Dad was a cop. I believe in good cops. We’re not trying to defund the police and take all their money away. We’re trying to get them to protect us just like they protect everybody else. … All we’re asking is that you live up to the Constitution — that’s all we’re asking — for everyone.

Before becoming a coach, Rivers was a player. He has never been a politician or a pundit. But I would argue that this statement was far more astute and well-spoken than anything ever said by Laura Ingraham, who famously told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble”.

Fahrad Manjoo:

With the arrest in Kenosha it’s time for moderate white leaders and clergy to speak out against fundamentalist white violence.

In case the snark went past you: A similar demand is made of moderate Muslims every time a Muslim commits an act of terrorism, and is often made of Black leaders after violence arises from a protest against racism. Of course you won’t hear any similar demand directed at “moderate white leaders”. That’s a major aspect of white privilege: Whites are individuals; they don’t bear responsibility for the crimes of other whites.

I can’t find the video, but Wednesday night I heard TNT basketball commentator (and NBA Hall-of-Famer) Charles Barkley talk about how “exhausting” it is to be black, and complain that nobody expects Tom Brady to explain what’s happening in the white community.

and the NBA-led general sports strike

When we think about changing government policy from the outside, we usually only talk about three tactics: voting, peaceful protest, and violence. This week the world of sports reminded us that there is another arrow in the quiver: general strike.

Historically, general strikes have been associated with broad organizations: radical multi-industry unions like the Wobblies, or a national Communist or Labor Party. In America, the only example I can think of is the Seattle general strike of 1919, which was called by the Wobblies and the AFL.

What swept the sports world this week, though, was a bottom-up strike in response to the Jacob Blake shooting discussed above. It started during a team meeting of the Milwaukee Bucks, the team whose territory is closest to Kenosha. (Currently, all NBA games are being played in a Covid-free bubble at Disney World in Orlando.) We can’t say exactly who started the conversation, but some reports attribute it to George Hill.

Wednesday, the Bucks were about to play a game that could send them to the next round of the playoffs, but the team decided not to take the floor. Their opponents, the Orlando Magic, could have responded by claiming a forfeit, but instead they joined the Bucks in refusing to play. Two more games were scheduled later that day (one had already been played), and those four teams also voted not to take the floor.

After the fact, the Bucks team owners — three rich white guys — got in line behind their players. TNT announcer Kenny Smith walked off the set in support of the NBA players. The WNBA joined the boycott. (In the photo below, players from the Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream wear t-shirts with seven bullet holes in the back.) So did professional tennis, soccer, baseball, and hockey. The NFL season won’t begin for nearly two weeks, but practices were cancelled.

The entire sports world was on strike.

The downside of a spontaneous strike is that it’s not clear how to end it, because you don’t go in with a set of demands. The NBA playoffs resumed on Saturday, after an agreement between the players union and the league. Team owners will contribute $300 million over the next decade to economic growth in Black communities. In addition, several teams will help make voting easier in their home cities.

The Toyota Center will become a voting center in October, and this, this is something NBA owners should be getting behind. The Hawks have turned State Farm Arena into a polling place, the Pistons have done the same with their practice center.

At a minimum, the players made a lot of people pay attention to their concerns. Wednesday night, the NBA TV network had no games to cover, so the network’s commentators — many of whom are black ex-players or coaches — mostly talked among themselves about racial justice, sharing stories of their own experiences. It was the kind of conversation you might have expected to hear on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show, but it was all the more effective for being people not known as political reporters or pundits.

That evening was a reminder that even though sports fans are spread across the political spectrum, and may even be more conservative than liberal, the athletes who entertain us are largely Black or Hispanic or immigrants. It may be CEOs who buy the corporate boxes in the stadiums, but a large number of players come from poverty.

Workers have power, if they just say no. We’ve known that ever since the plebians walked out of Rome in 495 BC. But we tend to forget.

It’s hard to say what could provoke a general strike in the wider world, but I’m going to guess it would happen in exactly the same way: Not because some political leader called for it, but because a person here and a person there decided they just couldn’t keep doing nothing. And from there, no one would want to be the first person to disrespect those already striking.

and natural disasters related to climate change

It wouldn’t be 2020 if we didn’t also have some natural disasters to report. Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. (Remember when something like that would lead the news for an entire week?) And wildfires in California forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate. (If I didn’t have Facebook friends in California, I don’t think I’d have noticed.)

and the virus

We’ve had our 6 millionth confirmed case now, but that’s just a number. American deaths are now up to 187K.

A couple of incidents looked like evidence of the Trump administration corrupting the CDC and the FDA. The CDC changed its testing guidelines:

The new guidelines raise the bar on who should get tested, advising that some people without symptoms probably don’t need it — even if they’ve been in close contact with an infected person. Previously, the CDC said viral testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.

The change literally happened while Dr. Fauci was knocked out; he was having surgery at the time. CNN claims the CDC gave into White House pressure:

A sudden change in federal guidelines on coronavirus testing came this week as a result of pressure from the upper ranks of the Trump administration, a federal health official close to the process tells CNN, and a key White House coronavirus task force member was not part of the meeting when the new guidelines were discussed.

“It’s coming from the top down,” the official said.

The point seems to be to push case-counts down by doing less testing.

Matt Yglesias:

It’s notable that the White House keeps using “it’s okay we had everyone tested” as their explanation for holding various events while simultaneously pressuring the CDC to shut down testing of asymptomatic people in an effort to juke the Covid stats.

Which is to say it’s sometimes hard to know in politics what’s incompetence and what’s malice, but in this case we know that the White House knows the value of frequent testing of non-symptomatic people. They use it all the time and speak publicly about it.

Meanwhile, a planned FDA announcement of approval of convalescent plasma as a treatment for covid-19 got turned into something else.

The White House would upend those plans, turning a preliminary finding of modest efficacy into something much bigger — a presidential announcement of a “major therapeutic breakthrough on the China Virus,” as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany previewed in a tweet late that Saturday night. …

The misrepresentations became a stunning debacle for the FDA, shaking its professional staff to the core and undermining its credibility as it approaches one of the most important and fraught decisions in its history amid a divisive presidential election — deciding when a coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. Yet again, the president had harnessed the machinery of government to advance his political agenda — with potentially corrosive effects on public trust in government scientists’ handling of the pandemic.

I have to believe that, no matter where the testing is and what the science says, Trump will announce a vaccine before the election. Will that be followed by mass resignations at the FDA? Or will yet another government agency be corrupted?

and the Republican Convention

This got covered in the featured post.

and you also might be interested in …

Actor Chadwick Boseman died Friday at 43 after a long battle with colon cancer. Here’s how good an actor he was: I saw both 42 and Black Panther and never connected that the same guy had the lead in both. I just saw T’Challa on the screen; the thought “Isn’t that Jackie Robinson?” never crossed my mind.

In the current environment, why should Congress be kept informed about whatever Russia might be doing to help Trump get re-elected? Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted:

The [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] has cancelled all further briefings on foreign election interference.  The Administration clearly does not want Congress or the country informed of what Russia is doing. The last DNI was fired for doing so, and the [intelligence community] has now been fully brought to heel.

I had a hard time figuring out what to do with the Falwell sex scandal. It’s salacious and couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, but I try not to encourage my weakness for schadenfreude. So I wondered: Is there anything insightful being written about this?

Fortunately, there was. Slate’s Jeffrey Guhin used this incident as a reason to review the official Catholic meaning of scandal: It isn’t just to have something shameful exposed, but to do spiritual harm to others by demoralizing them religiously.

As Thomas Aquinas put it, to scandalize someone is to cause their spiritual downfall. This is why the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis was a scandal in both senses: not only was it a devastating blow to the reputation of the church, but it also led many to stop believing in the existence of God, or at least in the necessity of the Catholic Church.

So while most people debate whether the sex or Falwell’s hypocrisy is worse, Guhin sees something else:

[S]ociologists like me are interested in scandal because it connects to our social construction of reality, the idea that just about every social thing, when you get down to it, is rooted in beliefs we all work together to maintain. Money’s only money because we say the numbers means something. Voting only counts because a bunch of people agree it should. And while this is largely a collective effort, some people have more power over what we believe than others. For evangelicals, it’s people like the son of Jerry Falwell Sr., the president of Liberty University. And Falwell’s scandal isn’t just a religious scandal—his downfall can cast doubt on religion and broader themes of authority. .. [W]hen these powerful figures scandalize us, we lose our faith in our social world, or in our capacity to govern it.

He connects this idea to the Trump scandals, which are not merely shameful, but are causing the rest of us to lose some of our faith in democracy.

Yet for many, watching Trump and the third or so of the country who will never give up on him has been an experience of ongoing existential anxiety. Was everything we believed about America hopelessly naïve? What if democracy will never actually work?

Like so many conservative grifters, Falwell is managing to fail up. Because Liberty University didn’t want to go through the ordeal of firing him for cause, they owe him a $10.5 million severance package in exchange for his resignation. This is in addition to whatever he may have made off suspicious real estate deals.

If you work for state government and have to deal with sexual harassment, it’s good to know that the state attorney general is there to enforce the law. Unless you work for Alaska, where the AG has been doing the harassing.

Here’s a good example of systemic racism:

Dermatology, the medical specialty devoted to treating diseases of the skin, has a problem with brown and black skin. Though progress has been made in recent years, most textbooks that serve as road maps for diagnosing skin disorders often don’t include images of skin conditions as they appear on people of color.

That’s a glaring omission that can lead to misdiagnoses and unnecessary suffering, because many key characteristics of skin disorders — like red patches and purple blotches — may appear differently on people with different complexions, experts say.

Like a lot of systemic racism, it’s not KKK-style get-those-bastards race hatred. It’s just a presumption that white is normal, and that white problems are the ones that matter. “What about people of color?” just kind of slips the minds of decision-makers.

You think you’ve moved to a sleepy-but-sophisticated Boston suburb, and then there’s a feral pig attack.

and let’s close with something distracting

It’s definitely been a cute-puppies week. Enjoy this husky and 49 other puppy photos.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • reverendsax  On August 31, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    Thank you for the cute puppies! …Cause there won’t be any cute puppies if Trump is re-elected!!!!!

  • Dave Weissbard  On August 31, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Doug, you mentioned earlier that you were moving.and now the pig story. Moving To Bedford?

    • weeklysift  On September 4, 2020 at 6:32 am

      Yes. I’ve actually been in Bedford for two years, but living with a friend rather than in my own apartment, which was under construction.

  • Josh  On August 31, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    So you’re saying the 30-50 feral hogs guy was on to something?

  • George Washington, Jr.  On August 31, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    Falwell’s scandal wasn’t unexpected. Many of us were aware of his relationship with Giancarlo Grada, and assumed he purchased the house in Miami Beach to buy Granda’s silence. The culture of abuse, both sexual and otherwise at Liberty University was also not a secret. It was only a question of when the stories would blow up to the point that they couldn’t be ignored anymore.

    I wouldn’t feel too bad for Liberty U., however. Falwell Jr. made a fortune off of it by turning it into what is primarily an online university. In fact, it’s second only to University of Phoenix in that area.

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