“As I watched President Trump blathering to a group of governors on Monday about
throwing people who have not committed a crime into mental hospitals to prevent mass shootings at schools, I recalled a country where I once lived in which the government had that power — the Soviet Union.
From the mid-1960s until the fall of Soviet Communism, the Kremlin employed the notion of “sluggish schizophrenia” — dreamed up by the Mengele-like psychiatrist Andrei Snezhnevsky — to imprison people on the ground that they were on their way to becoming insane.
Rejected by most civilized nations as a transparent fraud, sluggish schizophrenia was used against dissidents and other citizens who simply dared to seek exit visas. When I worked in Moscow as a reporter in the mid-1980s, I knew an Estonian man who was committed twice for refusing to enter the Red Army during the war in Afghanistan, an act of sanity. It was a literal Catch-22.
Now comes Trump, urging the nation’s governors to return to a time when he said the states could “nab” people and throw them in a padded room because “something was off.”
In fact, the law has required court-ratified findings of actual mental illness for involuntary commitment since around 1881, said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, a professor at Columbia University’s medical school. “It was never the case that people could be involuntary committed for being a little odd, or even for that matter thought to be dangerous to other people unless they had evidence of mental illness,” he said.”
Monthly Archives: February 2018
When the Cat’s Away … – by Thomas Friedman – NYT
“When the cat’s away those mice sure do play, don’t they?
One need look only at the decision Sunday by China’s Communist Party to abolish the country’s presidential term limit, which will enable Xi Jinping to remain in power indefinitely, to appreciate that it’s springtime for strongmen — and nobody has to worry what America thinks about that.
Just being “president” or “prime minister” is so passé now, so 1990s. Xi wants to be emperor, not president. Russia’s Vladimir Putin wants to be czar, not president. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to be caliph, not president. Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi wants to be pharaoh, not president. Hungary’s Viktor Orban wants to be king, not prime minister. And Iran’s Ali Khamenei already has the most coveted title du jour, supreme leader, and he’s bent on keeping it. ’Tis the season.
Martin Luther King Jr., once observed that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” If so, it seems to be taking a detour this decade in some really big important countries. “The arc of history looks less like it’s bending toward justice and liberty and more toward the 1930s,” observed Michael Mandelbaum, the author of “Mission Failure: America and the World in the Post-Cold War Era.” “
Corporate America Is Suppressing Wages for Many Workers – By ALAN B. KRUEGER and ERIC POSNER – NYT
“Even after eight years of economic recovery and steady private-sector job growth, wages for most Americans have hardly budged. It is tempting to think that wage stagnation is intractable, a result of long-term trends, like automation and globalization, that government is powerless to do anything about.In fact, a growing body of evidence pins much of the blame on a specific culprit, one for which proven legal weapons already exist.
But they are not being used.The culprit is “monopsony power.” This term is used by economists to refer to the ability of an employer to suppress wages below the efficient or perfectly competitive level of compensation. In the more familiar case of monopoly, a large seller — like a cable company — is able to demand high prices for poor service because consumers have no other choice. It turns out that many corporations possess bargaining power over their workers, not just over their consumers. Their workers accept low wages and substandard working conditions because few alternative job opportunities exist for them or because switching jobs is costly. In other words, in the labor market, effectively a small number of employers are competing for their labor.Monopsony power is frequently created through noncompete clauses and no-poaching agreements and is aimed at the most vulnerable workers.
Employers like Jimmy John’s have discovered that they can control and intimidate workers by putting terms in their contracts that limit their ability to find new jobs even after they leave their old one. Jimmy John’s discontinued this practice in response to public outcry and litigation, but noncompete clauses remain ubiquitous.In a new study for the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project, we report survey results in which we find that one in five workers with a high school education or less are subject to a noncompete. A quarter of all workers are covered by a noncompete agreement with their current employer or a past one.”
‘There Is No Ice’ – by David Leonhardt – NYT
“There is no ice where there is almost always ice,” The Washington Post’s weather experts tweeted yesterday, referring to an area north of Greenland.
Lars Kaleschke, a German physicist, explained: “There is open water north of Greenland where the thickest sea ice of the Arctic used to be. It is not refreezing quickly because air temperatures are above” freezing.
How different are this year’s temperatures? “In 2018, there have already been 61 hours above freezing at Cape Morris Jesup, Greenland,” writes Robert Rhode, a climate scientist. “The previous record was 16 hours before the end of April in 2011.”
This is scary stuff.
Something different. How did a decorated sportswriter end up as a blogger for a high-school basketball team in Morton, Ill.? The answer is in the best story I read yesterday.
When Walter Cronkite Pronounced the War a ‘Stalemate’ – by Mark Bowden – NYT
“One of the enduring myths of the Vietnam War is that it was lost by hostile American press coverage.
Exhibit A in this narrative is Walter Cronkite, the CBS News anchor, billed as the nation’s most trustworthy voice, who on Feb. 27, 1968, told his audience of millions that the war could not be won. Commentary like this was remarkable back then because of both custom and the Fairness Doctrine, a federal policy requiring broadcasters to remain neutral about the great questions of the day.
The doctrine was rescinded in 1987, so now we have whole networks devoted to round-the-clock propaganda. But when Cronkite aired his bleak but decidedly middle-of-the-road assessment of the war 50 years ago, immediately after the Tet offensive, it was a significant departure. It struck like revelation. From the pinnacle of TV’s prime-time reach, he had descended to pronounce:
“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.” “
Source: When Walter Cronkite Pronounced the War a ‘Stalemate’ – The New York Times
David Lindsay Jr.
In 1789, When Nguyen Hue defeated the Chinese invaders camped near Hanoi, it was the 7th time since AD 937, that the Vietnamese had defeated the Chinese in pitched battle. The Viets were at their very core, the people who threw foreign invaders out of their land. In 1858, the French invaded Vietnam, and it took them a year to win that first great battle. It took them till 1913 to destroy last group of resistance fighters. They proceeded to exploit and rape the country for roughly 100 years, until the Japanese invaded during WW II, and the French surrendered without a fight. About 1933, the French colonial government announced an amnesty. The non-communist nationalist resistance group turned in their guns. They were rounded up and executed. The communist did not come forward. After the massacre, only the communist resistance group was left to continue the fight against the French. During WW II, only Ho Chi Minh and his communist fighters fought successfully against the Japanese. He was aided with guns, supplies and money by the US OSS. He was our man in Vietnam against the Japanese. By 1954, when these Viets defeated the French, they were national heros, three times over. It is hard to believed anyone could undermine their national popularity. They had earned the mandate of heaven. David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNewsWorldwide.wordpress.com
How $225000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times
“CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The gravel parking lot at the Fitzgerald family’s truck dealership here in central Tennessee was packed last week with shiny new Peterbilt and Freightliner trucks, as well as a steady stream of buyers from across the country.But there is something unusual about the big rigs sold by the Fitzgeralds: They are equipped with rebuilt diesel engines that do not need to comply with rules on modern emissions controls. That makes them cheaper to operate, but means that they spew 40 to 55 times the air pollution of other new trucks, according to federal estimates, including toxins blamed for asthma, lung cancer and a range of other ailments.
The special treatment for the Fitzgerald trucks is made possible by a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing. The trucks, originally intended as a way to reuse a relatively new engine and other parts after an accident, became attractive for their ability to evade modern emissions standards and other regulations.The survival of this loophole is a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers.”
Source: How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s E.P.A. – The New York Times
I Was a Marine. I Don’t Want a Gun in My Classroom. – The New York Times
“Here is something I didn’t think about: I did not think about arming myself to protect my students. President Trump on Thursday specified that he wants only certain teachers — “highly adept people, people that understand weaponry” — to be armed. I will immodestly state that among professors in the United States, I am almost certainly one of the best shooters. But I would never bring a weapon into a classroom. The presence of a firearm is always an invitation to violence. Weapons have no place in a learning environment.
Last month, the State Legislature in West Virginia, where my university is located, introduced the Campus Self-Defense Act. This would prohibit colleges and universities from designating their campuses as gun-free zones. If this act becomes law, I will resign my professorship. I will not work in an environment where professors and students pack heat.When I was a young Marine, I had to learn how to use many weapons. It was part of my mission to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” My mission these days is to write books and teach literature and creative writing. It’s a noble calling, too. But no one should be asked to put his life on the line for it.”
The Left Is Energized. Now It Needs to Vote. – David Leonhardt – NYT
“The Trump presidency has brought a political awakening for American progressives. It began even before he took office, with the organizing for the Women’s March. Then came the citizen activists who protested at airports and later helped save health insurance for millions of people. Now high school students are trying to transform the gun debate.
In a new article in the journal Democracy, two academic researchers tell the story of the energized progressive movement. The leaders are most often suburban women alarmed by President Trump’s assaults on decency and the rule of law. The movement is more bottom-up than top-down, more face-to-face than virtual, more Middle American than coastal. It does not always identify itself with the Democratic Party, even if it supports almost exclusively Democrats.
The movement is “pervasively pragmatic,” write the researchers, Lara Putnam of the University of Pittsburgh and Theda Skocpol of Harvard. It spans “the broad ideological range from center to left” and (despite media coverage to the contrary, they argue) spends little time on Bernie-versus-Hillary fights. Above all, it is trying to elect progressives, including to oft-ignored local offices — and it’s now focused on the 2018 midterms.
That’s smart. Elections are precisely what progressives should be emphasizing. Protests can have an effect, as happened with Obamacare repeal and is happening on guns. But major progress on almost every issue — climate change, immigration, middle-class living standards and gun deaths — depends on electing people who want to make progress. Trump and the current leaders of Congress plainly do not.
Political movements have two main ways to win elections: persuasion and turnout. On persuasion, I think progressives’ best hope is an economic message that focuses the white working class on the working-class part of its identity, rather than the white part. But today I want to concentrate on turnout, because it has an even greater potential to change American politics.”
America Is the Gun – by Charles Blow – NYT
“There are things that we could do right now that could lessen the lethality of the guns currently available and we could ban some guns — neither of which is likely to happen.
I’m convinced that we must think big and systemically. We must treat gun violence in this country as a public health crisis, because it is
First, we must repeal the N.R.A.-backed Dickey Amendment, named for the man who sponsored it, former Representative Jay Dickey, an Arkansas Republican. It reads: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” “
The Consequences of Judicial Activism on the Supreme Court – The New York Times
“The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today on one of the most impactful labor law cases in decades, but most people already know how it’s likely to turn out. In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the court will consider whether all public-sector workers have a First Amendment right to be under so-called right to work, which allows workers to opt out of paying fees to unions that bargain on their behalf.
The Supreme Court is widely expected to rule in favor of Janus on a party line 5-to-4 basis and overturn a 1977 precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. Abood permitted fair-share fees, which cover only organizing and collective bargaining and do not include social or political activities in the public sector.Why are we so sure about the Janus outcome? The court heard a similar case in 2016, and it split 4-4 after Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden death. Neil Gorsuch has proved himself more conservative than Justice Scalia on most issues, so there is little hope that labor will win this time around.Many observers have noted that if the court bans fair-share fees, it will hurt unions by, first, depleting them of funds and, second, undermining solidarity through the encouragement of free riding.
But fewer people have considered what conservatives are risking: Union fair-share fees do not exist in an employment vacuum; the same logic and legal framework that permits the government to mandate these fees allows the government to conduct itself as an employer. Janus is largely being discussed as a case that is likely to defund and disrupt labor unions, but the case cannot simply injure unions and leave everything else intact.”