Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Goodnight, sweet Allison

Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Goodnight, sweet Allison

It was either my first or second day of high school in September 1981, and after I had signed up for all my classes, that I was approached by two or three or four upperclass folk. They were a “welcoming committee” of sorts, and offered to show me around and answer any stupid questions that I had. One of those upperclass folk was Allison Payne. For the next couple of days, Allison would stop me when she saw me in the hall and simply ask me how I was adjusting.

Fast forward 14 or 15 years (and another two lifetimes, it seemed, at least to me) and I started watching WGN-TV news. I knew that there was something that seemed familiar about the anchorwoman, Allison Payne, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Fast forward another year (maybe two) and I was listening to Allison and then-Chicago Cubs first baseman Mark Grace interview each other. Grace had asked Allison about high school when Allison said that she was from Detroit—and that when she was in high school, she was in “a special situation.”

That phrase, “a special situation,” triggered my memory. Ooohh, I know what that “special situation” is.

I saw and didn’t see all the work that Allison put in to win those nine local Emmy Awards in Chicago. I remember beaming with pride when Allison interviewed then-presidential candidate George W. Bush, and again when she went on a search for Barack Obama’s Kenyan roots. But all that I really have to say now that Allison has passed is this: Allison, thank you for being welcoming to me.

Let’s read some pundits.

David K. Shipler of Washington Monthly takes a look at American self-inflicted trauma as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

What has happened among Americans? Yes, at first we rallied in an uplifting sense of kinship. Three days after 9/11, as I drove to Kent State in Ohio for a colloquium on race, every American flag hanging from an overpass brought a rush of mournful pride, almost tears.[…]

And then? The administration of President George W. Bush, combined with local police departments across the country, proceeded to inflict damage on civil liberties that no subsequent president or Congress has been brave enough to repair. The FBI was instructed to investigate every citizen’s tip, no matter how ludicrous or obviously based on personal vendetta. One FBI agent told me that some of his colleagues shared his distaste for the strategy, worrying that innocents would be targeted.

[…]

Outside of government, the 9/11 attacks also gave rise to a cottage industry of extremist bigots who conducted sophisticated online smear campaigns against Islam and all adherents, calling every mosque or Islamic center in the U.S. a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and the terrorist organization Hamas.[…]

The wars triggered by the 9/11 attacks—in Afghanistan and Iraq—were bungled, prolonged, and conducted without what wars require: commitment and sacrifice by the broad American public. Without a war tax, without a military draft, the burdens were borne by a tiny fraction of Americans and their families. The dead, both here and there, leave permanent scars. The survivors’ physical and mental injuries now enter a legacy of harm.

Paige Williams of The New Yorker writes about the efforts to preserve a sense of “valor” and some teachable moments at the crash site of Flight 93.

In recent years, research has shown that the country’s political polarization is affecting the way 9/11 is taught and contextualized in classrooms. In 2019, Stoddard put out a survey of more than a thousand middle- and high-school teachers and found that many of them still avoided such “controversial” aspects as the invasion of Iraq and the detainment of terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay. Among the barriers to teaching 9/11 events, teachers mentioned their fear of upsetting parents or administrators. Stoddard and Hess had noted, “Many prominent conservatives took umbrage at what they interpreted as classroom responses designed to foster a critique of the U.S., while many from the opposite side of the political spectrum worried that 9/11 would be exploited to promote a jingoistic form of nationalism.”

Conspiratorial thinking has increased, along with a “rising misunderstanding of Islam.” In 2016, there was a surge of anti-Muslim bullying in U.S. schools. Students, who primarily got their information from family, friends, the internet, or social media, often conflated the religion with terrorism. Maureen Costello, who directed the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program, said after the 2016 election that students emulated the behavior of Donald Trump. During the campaign, Trump had repeatedly vilified Muslims. Costello added, “We could not avoid the fact that children were imitating him.”

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, writing for Al Jazeera, examines the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia since 9/11.

After 9/11, a “cottage industry” of think-tanks, op-ed writers, and retired officials emerged to defend and contextualise the “special” nature of the US-Saudi relationship within a supposed oil-for-security agreement that dated, in their narrative, to the fabled 1945 meeting between President Franklin Roosevelt and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdul Aziz on board the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal.

And yet, when Robert Vitalis, an American political scientist, examined the issue, he found not only that no mention of oil or security was made at the 1945 meeting, but that “oil for security” first surfaced in 2002, months after the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the term has become widely adopted and perceived as historical.

To the extent that the US and Saudi Arabia do have a special relationship, it emerged after 9/11. Washington and Riyadh worked closely, as the former pursued al-Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan and later extended its “war on terror” to Iraq in 2003. The many connections between the attackers and US partner states, including Pakistan and the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia, were addressed in other far less intrusive or invasive ways, by diplomacy rather than force. One need only imagine how the response might have differed had 15 of the 19 hijackers been Iranian, for example.

9/11 has not fully disappeared as an issue, despite the passage of 20 years and the removal of the “old guard” of senior princes in Riyadh who were in positions of power at the time, with only King Salman remaining from that generation.

Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic defines the notion of “sterilizing immunity” against COVID-19, and looks at why that may be an impossible achievement.

No infection means no disease, no death, and no transmission, the absolute immunological trifecta. It’s why sterilizing immunity has often been framed as a “holy grail,” what researchers aim for when they’re designing their shots, says David Martinez, a vaccinologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But sterilizing immunity also has been a source of trouble. Some people hoped the COVID-19 vaccines could achieve sterilizing immunity, especially after reports in the winter and spring trumpeted the jabs’ surprising power at preventing infections—enough that the CDC told vaccinated people they could shed their masks in May. Then sterilizing immunity came back to bite us, when breakthrough infections began to pop up among the immunized, prompting fear and confusion among those who’d been certain that the vaccines alone could quash the coronavirus’s spread.

COVID-19 vaccines were never going to give us sterilizing immunity; it’s possible they never will. But the reason isn’t just their design, or the wily nature of the virus, or heavy and frequent exposures, though those factors all play a role. It’s that sterilizing immunity itself might be a biological myth.

Perhaps Mark Sumner can slip into the comment section here this morning and better explain, but I was always under the impression that even back in the development and clinical trial stages of the vaccines, scientists explained that the vaccines were not going to be 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection.

Jack Healy, Richard Fausset, and J. David Goodman write for The New York Times about the reactions of the business community (mixed but overall positive) and Republican governors (“infuriating”) to President Joe Biden’s call for new vaccine mandates.

The mandates represented an aggressive change of posture for the administration, which had resisted widespread vaccine requirements as a more contagious variant of the virus fueled resurgent Covid-19 infections and deaths this summer even though about 65 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated.

[…]

But across the country, the more urgent worry for many businesses was how to carry out and enforce new rules that the president estimated would affect 100 million Americans.

Businesses wondered: How would they verify a worker’s vaccination status or track the weekly tests required for workers who do not get vaccinated? How would the rules be enforced? What would happen to workers or companies who refused to comply?

Still, the new mandates could take some pressure off businesses and iron out the current jumble of vaccine requirements. Many companies, including United Airlines and Tyson Foods, were already moving toward requiring vaccines. Business Roundtable, a powerful lobbying group, released a statement supporting the administration’s new orders.

Vaughn Cooper and Lee Harrison write for The Conversation, explaining that new COVID-19 infections are behind the the rise in new variants.

Unfortunately, uncontrolled spread of a virus can overcome even the tightest bottlenecks. While most mutations have no effect on the virus, some can and have increased how contagious the coronavirus is. If a fast-spreading strain is able to cause a large number of COVID-19 cases somewhere, it will start to out-compete less contagious strains and generate a new variant – just like the delta variant did.

Many researchers are studying which mutations lead to more transmissible versions of the coronavirus. It turns out that variants have tended to have many of the same mutations that increase the amount of virus an infected person produces. With more than a million new infections occurring every day and billions of people still unvaccinated, susceptible hosts are rarely in short supply. So, natural selection will favor mutations that can exploit all these unvaccinated people and make the coronavirus more transmissible.

Under these circumstances, the best way to constrain the evolution of the coronavirus is to reduce the number of infections.

Alan Berube and Eli Byerly-Duke of the Brookings Institution write that big cities are taking their time in spending American Rescue Plan funds.

Among the 20 city plans we examined, eight reported no expenditures at all through July. A couple others reported spending just tiny shares of their allocated funds. In total, the cities reported committing $1.3 billion, or 18% of their combined $7.4 billion allocation.

This is not necessarily surprising nor worrisome. Cities have received only half of their FRF dollars, with the second half scheduled to arrive in May 2022. Moreover, Treasury counseled cities to not commit all of their dollars immediately, so that they could respond to changing health and economic circumstances over the coming months.

The overall signal from many big cities seems to be that they do not feel under immediate pressure to commit and spend the first tranche of flexible federal dollars. In some cities, plans are still working their way through the legislative process. In others, as researchers from the Nowak Metro Finance Lab note, a bottom-up community engagement process to inform allocations is still playing out. And many cities may be awaiting the publication of the final Treasury FRF rule, so they can be sure their spending priorities meet official eligibility requirements.

Randall Balmer writes for The Guardian that abortion never was the real issue for (white) evangelicals.

Evangelicals considered abortion a “Catholic issue” through most of the 1970s, and there is little in the history of evangelicalism to suggest that abortion would become a point of interest. Even James Dobson, who later became an implacable foe of abortion, acknowledged after the Roe decision that the Bible was silent on the matter and that it was plausible for an evangelical to hold that “a developing embryo or fetus was not regarded as a full human being”.

I first began researching the origins of the religious right after a meeting at a Washington hotel conference room in November 1990. The gathering marked the ten-year anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s election to the presidency and, for reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, I was invited to this closed-door celebration. There I encountered a veritable who’s-who of the religious right, including (among others), Ralph Reed of Christian Coalition; Donald Wildmon from the American Family Association; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Ed Dobson, one of Jerry Falwell’s acolytes at Moral Majority; Richard Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail mogul; and Paul Weyrich, cofounder of the Heritage Foundation and architect of the religious right.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe writes about the many-sided fragilities of the lives of Black men.

When someone like Williams dies, Black people aren’t only mourning the loss of a great actor who created indelible performances in such HBO dramas as “The Wire,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “Lovecraft Country.” We aren’t only haunted by the now-unanswerable questions about the next role Williams, who was 54, could have made his own, or the emotional depths he was still discovering in his artistry.

More than a headline or a hashtag, it’s also a reminder of the fragility of Black men’s lives. Black men have the highest rates of hypertension and diabetes in America. They suffer the worst outcomes from prostate cancer and heart disease. They are more likely than any other group to die by homicide. Nationwide, they have the lowest life expectancy.

And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first six months of 2020, the nation’s life expectancy dropped from 78 to 77. Statistics were even more dismal for Black people, who lost nearly three years. Black people between the ages of 35 and 44 died at nine times the rate of their white counterparts.

No demographic has a higher COVID-19 mortality rate than Black men.

David Nakamura of The Washington Post reports that due to an Ohio data correction, FBI data now shows that hate crimes across the United States have spiked to its greatest numbers since 2001.

The FBI issued its annual hate crimes report Aug. 30 and said it had tallied 7,759 incidents. But Ohio reported just 34 bias crimes, less than 10 percent of the previous year, which state officials now attribute to a technical glitch.

The state’s new figures show that 580 hate crimes were reported last year, according to Bret Crow, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, representing a 41 percent increase over 2019.

The data would mean that the number of hate crimes across the country spiked by nearly 14 percent in 2020, with the increase driven largely by more attacks on people who are Black or Asian. In Ohio, crimes targeting Black people rose from 92 in 2019 to 129 last year, while attacks targeting Asians held roughly the same at 10, one fewer than the previous year.

Attacks targeting White people in Ohio rose from 59 to 104, according to the state.

Finally today, Nektaria Stamouli of POLITICO Europe reports on the efforts of the EU to keep Afghan migrants outside of EU borders, and the rising tensions between the EU and Greece over the issue.

In the wake of Afghanistan’s collapse, EU officials have sought to keep the vast majority of Afghans fleeing the Taliban outside the EU’s borders. But in doing so, they are also trying to ensure EU funding and support doesn’t go toward the controversial methods some of its border countries have used to stay shut — including building fencing and turning back migrants, a practice human rights activists say verges on illegality.

Greece is at the center of that quandary. The country shares both land and sea borders with Turkey, which has recently served as a frequent waystation for people heading to the EU from destabilized countries like Syria and Afghanistan. And it has responded with some of the bloc’s strictest border policies, frequently drawing condemnation from human rights groups.

Yet, from Greece’s perspective, it is effectively shouldering the burden of policing the whole bloc’s borders. Last year, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen thanked Greece for effectively being the “European aspida” — the Greek word for shield. Because of that, Greece argues, it deserves more EU assistance.

“We’re committed to strengthening our continuous engagement with European and neighboring countries to manage migration in the most constructive and effective way, but obviously we also need fair and adequate support from the EU to do so,” Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi told POLITICO.

Everyone have a great day!

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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