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Top 10 Quick-Takes

SHORT THOUGHT-PROVOKING BRIEFS



Every police killing, like every plane crash, warrants careful review by a federal agency.


A Distinctly American Problem Needs Systematic Investigation


APRIL 18, 2021

Conor Friedersdorf

Staff writer at The Atlantic


Aviation deaths once looked like an intractable problem. Then the federal government began probing every plane crash with an eye toward preventing future loss of life. Our skies got much safer as a result. A similar approach could reduce police killings. A federal agency should investigate every single killing and significant injury caused by American police officers, who have long killed people at higher rates than cops in many other wealthy democracies.


Police killings and protests against them have loomed large in United States politics for at least the past seven years. Right now the nation is focused most closely on the trial of Derek Chauvin, who infamously knelt... (continued reading at https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/04/us-needs-ntsb-police-killings/618624/)



WILL TRUTH MAKE A COMEBACK?


January 18, 2021

Deborah Lipstadt has been fighting Holocaust Deniers for years. The good news is… she won! She completely disproved and discredited them.


Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot professor of Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, was sued for libel in 1996 by David Irving for having called him a Holocaust denier. After a ten-week trial in London in 2000, in an overwhelming victory for Lipstadt, the judge found Irving to be a "neo-Nazi polemicist" who "perverts" history and engages in "racist" and "anti-Semitic" discourse.


The Daily Telegraph (London) described the trial as having "done for the new century what the Nuremberg tribunals or the Eichmann trial did for earlier generations." The Times (London) described it as "history has had its day in court and scored a crushing victory."


Lipstadt encourages us all to go on the offensive against those who assault the truth and facts. "Truth is not relative," she says. (Listen to her TED talk.)


"STOP THE STEAL"

Now we need to begin the work of disproving those who promote the "Stolen Election of 2020," which is based on utter contrivance, twisted facts, discredited witnesses, misrepresentation of the facts, and conspiracy theories--the very same tactics that the Holocaust Deniers used to deny the "most well-documented historical event" in history.


“Denying the 2020 Election Results threatens our democracy,” says Lipstadt. Read her full article from the Washington Post.



Hold America Together


January 17, 2021


BRAVER ANGELS Ambassador, John Wood, Jr., writes today:

"It is fair that Americans should be thinking in terms of accountability for those we may consider directly and indirectly responsible for the events on the 6th. It is fair Americans feel that they must look for ways to resist the deplatforming and social targeting they fear will be unjustly aimed at them because of this event. The stage is now set for a new escalation of our cold civil-war.


But in the end, Braver Angels is here to help Americans choose another way.


The violence that unfolded in the Capitol could never merely be the result of the actions of a few lawless individuals, or the ill-chosen words of a few pundits and politicians. A long arc of disintegrating trust between the American people and their institutions, and the American people and one another, has allowed us to careen into alternate realities where a few desperately feel that there is no recourse by which to redress their grievances save violence.


Meanwhile many more feel unwilling to communicate across the divides that allow this despair to rise.


This was true before the storming of the Capitol. This was true before the violence that swept across America over the summer. It is the mutual alienation of the American people that tills the soil for chaos and rends the fabric of democracy.


Calling each other out is not the path by which we repair the tears of democratic society. We must call each other in.


Watch the National Town Hall Meeting with nearly 5,000 participants from across the USA, or read the full letter from John Wood, Jr.




A Call For An Evangelical Reckoning On Trump


January 14, 2021

I'm glad to see some evangelical leaders calling for a "reckoning" between their Christian faith and their support of Donald Trump.


Ed Stetzer, head of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College in Illinois, talked with Rachel Martin of NPR news yesterday. She asked Stetzer how it came to be that Evangelicals convinced themselves that character didn't matter when it came to Donald Trump?

Read the full article from NPR news.


The Art of the Big Lie: The Bigger the Better


By Andrew Higgins

Jan. 10, 2021, New York Times LINK to full article


The utility of lying on a grand scale was first demonstrated nearly a century ago by leaders like Stalin and Hitler, who coined the term “big lie” in 1925 and rose to power on the lie that Jews were responsible for Germany’s defeat in World War I. For the German and Soviet dictators, lying was not merely a habit or a convenient way of sanding down unwanted facts but an essential tool of government.


It tested and strengthened loyalty by forcing underlings to cheer statements they knew to be false and rallied the support of ordinary people who, Hitler realized, “more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie” because, while they might fib in their daily lives about small things, “it would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths.”


By promoting a colossal untruth of his own — that he won a “sacred landslide election victory” — and sticking to it despite scores of court rulings establishing otherwise, Mr. Trump has outraged his political opponents and left even some of his longtime supporters shaking their heads at his mendacity.


To some extent, each new generation is shocked to learn that leaders lie and that people believe them. “Lying never was more widespread than today. Or more shameless, systematic, and constant,” the Russian-born French philosopher Alexandre Koyré wrote in his 1943 treatise, “Reflections on Lying.”


What most distressed Mr. Koyré, however, was that lies don’t even need to be plausible to work. “On the contrary,” he wrote, “the grosser, the bigger, the cruder the lie, the more readily is it believed and followed.” LINK to full article



Eric Metaxas Succumbs to Full Delusion--So Sad


Michael Gerson writes this morning (12/9/20) in the Washington Post:


President Trump’s naked attempt to overturn a fair election — with key elements of Joe Biden’s victory vouchsafed by Republican state officials, Republican-appointed judges and even the Justice Department — has driven some Trump evangelicals to the edge of blasphemous lunacy.


“I’d be happy to die in this fight,” radio talk-show host Eric Metaxas assured Trump during a recent interview. “This is a fight for everything. God is with us. Jesus is with us in this fight for liberty.”


Just to be clear, Metaxas has publicly committed his life to Donald Trump, claimed that at least two members of the Trinity favor a coup against the constitutional order, endorsed the widespread jailing of Trump’s political enemies for imaginary crimes, claimed Abraham Lincoln’s blessing for the advance of authoritarianism and urged Christians to pray to God for the effective death of American democracy. This is seditious and sacrilegious in equal measure. LINK TO FULL ARTICLE



Trump Continues Frivolous Lawsuits to Overturn Election (For Nefarious Purposes)

Dec. 6, 2020


Heather Cox Richardson reported this weekend that… “As several states continue to count votes from the November election, President-Elect Joe Biden’s popular vote margin over Trump is now more than 7 million. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan, all states in which Trump contested the vote, have already certified their election results for Biden. In all six of those states, judges have ruled that Trump’s lawyers have provided no evidence of fraud. They have used words like “baseless,” “flimsy,” “obviously lacking,” “dangerous,” and “not credible.”


Yet Trump persists in his claim that he won the election. “To what end?” some people might wonder? The old rule of thumb is “to follow the money.” In this case, as long as Trump keeps the claims of election fraud going full steam, he can keep the coffers to his personal treasure chest open (much of the money that is contributed by his manipulated loyalists goes directly into his personal and business enterprises—read the small print at the bottom of his solicitations).


Same is true with his intended “Run for President in 2024.” After firing so many loyal senior staff you might ask if ANYONE would even join his senior team next time around? Doesn’t really matter. As long as he can keep his “Campaign Coffers” open, the more money pours into his business enterprises. Call it, “A Golden Parachute” of sorts. So far he's raised over $200 million. How fitting for the fired CEO of America. And, how embarrassing to be one of those so deceived by such a scoundrel!

(Full Article)



The Success of Partnership Between Capitalism and Government


Neil Irwin writes on Nov. 14 in The Update…The nine months of the pandemic have shown that in a modern state, capitalism can save the day — but only when the government exercises its power to guide the economy and act as the ultimate absorber of risk. The lesson of Covid capitalism is that big business needs big government, and vice versa.


With astonishing nimbleness and speed, businesses in the United States and worldwide have accomplished remarkable feats — most notably the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies trying to fight the virus. (The German drugmaker BioNTech developed the vaccine with Pfizer.) But the list includes other important achievements: keeping grocery store shelves stocked even as much of the capacity to process and distribute food was disrupted, and redeploying factories to make ventilators and personal protective equipment.

But those private-sector achievements have been matched by efforts on a scale that only the public sector can manage — to channel resources to the places most in need and to protect the economy from huge risk.


Operation Warp Speed has used a mix of financial incentives to coax the private sector to invest in vaccine development on a scale and at a speed it couldn’t have on its own. Congress enacted legislation to support millions of small businesses, many of which would have closed otherwise, and funneled money to ordinary Americans to help prevent a collapse in spending. The Federal Reserve announced it would stand ready to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds and other assets, ensuring that large companies would have access to capital even amid a market collapse.


Big business and big government both play vital roles in making the modern economy work. The pandemic has showed how these two can’t really be disentangled — they rely on each other more than partisans may care to acknowledge. Read More...




Status of Trump's Election Lawsuits:

Update-Nov. 14, 2020


By Heather Cox Richardson,

November 14, 2020


In courtrooms, where they face professional sanctions for unfounded allegations, Trump’s lawyers are not alleging any such fraud. Indeed, they are admitting they have no proof that such a thing occurred: a lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania to stop certification of the vote says those bringing the lawsuit are in the process of compiling evidence of fraud and “intend to produce it” later. So far, Trump has lost every challenge he has brought. Sixteen assistant U.S. attorneys assigned to monitor cheating in this election today told Attorney General William Barr that they had found no evidence of substantial fraud. Respectable law firms are declining to represent him, at least in part because lawyers are not supposed to bring frivolous lawsuits. This afternoon, Trump put his lawyer Rudy Giuliani in charge of the campaign lawsuits as well as all communications about them to the public.


And yet, Trump followers are rallying around the belief that Trump won the election and Democrats are trying to steal it. This belief is being pushed across the internet by the “Stop the Steal” campaign. That disinformation project is the work of Republican political operative Roger Stone, a self-described “dirty trickster,” whose looming imprisonment for conviction of seven felonies Trump commuted this summer. Stone’s political action committee created a “Stop the Steal” website back in 2016, raising money with the warning that the Democrats planned to steal the election that year. Several right-wing groups launched a similar project around the 2018 midterms. Trump supporters are planning a rally in Washington, D.C., tomorrow. Read more...



How did things get so bad that Americans couldn't come together to confront a universal threat like COVID-19?


By Karen Kaplan, LA Times

November 8, 2020

One year ago, a report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security assessed the readiness of 195 countries to confront a deadly disease outbreak. Topping the list of most-prepared nations was the U.S.

But that forecast didn’t account for one crucial factor: the toxic degree of partisanship that would turn something as simple as wearing a face mask into a political statement.

How did things get so bad that Americans couldn’t come together to confront a universal threat like COVID-19?

A new report published in Science offers an explanation — political sectarianism. Political sectarianism goes beyond mere disagreements.

What pushes mere enmity into the realm of political sectarianism is a “poisonous cocktail” of beliefs that turns opponents into mortal enemies regardless of the issue, according to the 15 experts in political science, social psychology, sociology and cognitive science who co-wrote the report.

This cocktail has three key ingredients, they said. The first is “othering,” which is a “tendency to view opposing partisans as essentially different or alien to oneself.”

The second is aversion, a reflex to “dislike and distrust” one’s political opponents.

The final ingredient is moralization, which causes us to see our opponents as not merely wrongheaded, but evil.

“It is the confluence of these ingredients that makes sectarianism so corrosive,” they wrote. “When all three converge, political losses can feel like… Read More…


POPE FRANCIS INVITES CHRISTIANS TO CARE FOR THE VULNERABLE November 9, 2020

Pope Francis recently released his third encyclical, titled Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship. By using the parable of the good Samaritan, Francis invites people to reflect on the ways in which we can accompany, care for and support the most vulnerable in our society. In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, Francis implores humanity to recognize our interconnectedness as a propelling force for good. The message strikes a holistic and inclusive tone, an invitation that aligns with our ongoing ecumenical and inter-religious work as a church and with our partners. Read More...

INDIGENOUS PEOLES DAY STATEMENT November 9, 2020

On Oct. 12, Presiding Bishop Eaton shared an Indigenous Peoples Day statement. With nearly 5,000 American Indian and Alaska Native members of the ELCA and 30 ELCA congregations in American Indian and Alaska Native communities, Lutheran identity is inextricably bound to American Indian and Alaska Native identity. In fact, Alaska Native congregations are some of the oldest Lutheran places of worship. In 2016, the ELCA took steps to repudiate one of the most fundamental bases for colonialism, the "Doctrine of Discovery,” a papal bull from 1493 validating the seizure of lands from Indigenous people and nations based on the false teaching that Indigenous people are neither human nor Christian and therefore do not have sovereignty or government. Bishop Eaton calls upon the church to continue this work of repudiation and repentance: “We must learn and tell the stories. We must educate ourselves and everyone within the sound of our voices about all the corners of our country's dark and shameful past. We must build and strengthen relationships anew. Today and every day we commit to do our part to understand, respect and celebrate American Indian and Alaska Native people, their congregations and communities, and the church.” Read more...

DID YOU KNOW…

*The Doctrine of Discovery is a papal bull from 1493 validating the seizure of lands from Indigenous people and nations based on the false teaching that Indigenous people are not human nor Christian, and therefore do not have sovereignty or government. The Doctrine of Discovery undergirds the entire experiment of the United States and continues to inform and justify supremacist laws, policies and practices. Christ's church, including the ELCA, continues to be complicit in its application today. Read Further...


TRUMP'S RISE WAS NOT A FLUKE

November 8, 2020

Despite Joe Biden’s win, critics of President Trump are still grappling with how many people voted for him. Given the close margin, Democrats can stop writing off Trump’s initial rise as a fluke, Nina Khrushcheva wrote this week for Project Syndicate: Just as the “Soviet Union used to attribute its obvious decline on its citizens’ corrupt desire for American jeans and jazz … Democrats chose to place all the blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss on Putin and Russian election interference. But the US did not destroy the Soviet Union; the Soviet system destroyed itself. And the Kremlin did not elect Trump; American voters did.”

If this election was a contest for America’s “soul,” as Biden repeatedly posed it, Andre M. Perry writes for Brookings that substantial support for both candidates shows that “America isn’t Trump, but Trump still represents a good part of America’s soul. Confronting that part means confronting the nation’s racism, xenophobia, and classism. If, someday, we prove successful in battling those demons, then Trump was the mirror America needed.”

Read Further...

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