Patterico's Pontifications

6/4/2021

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:46 pm



[guest post by Dana]

Friday, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Here are a few news items to talk about. Please feel free to share anything that you think might interest readers, and make sure to give a link.

First news item

What?? On the anniversary of the Tianamen Square massacre:

On the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Microsoft blocked users of its search engine from seeing the photograph of “tank man,” the infamous protester pictured standing alone before a line of government tanks during the 1989 military crackdown. Searching for images of “tank man” on Bing temporarily returned only the message: “There are no results for tank man.” By contrast, Google brings up dozens of sites with the well-known image. After researchers and journalists in the U.S. and United Kingdom noted the difference, Microsoft said in a statement, “This is due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this.”

Here is “tank man” in 1989:

More on the 30th anniversay of Tiananmen:

Hong Kong freedom fighter pays a steep price:

Pro-democracy activist Chow Hang Tung has been arrested by Hong Kong police on the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Ms Chow is vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance which organises annual vigils for victims of Beijing’s deadly crackdown on democracy protesters.

She has been arrested for promoting unauthorised assembly.

It comes as Hong Kong has banned the vigil for the second year running, citing coronavirus restrictions.

Police have closed off Victoria Park, where citizens usually gather each year to mark the anniversary. Thousands of officers have been placed on standby to stop any attempt to hold the event.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only places in Chinese territory where people can commemorate the deadly 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Ms Chow was arrested early in the morning outside her office by officers in plain clothes, according to reports.

She was placed in a black saloon car and driven away, the AFP news agency said.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of her arrest, Ms Chow, who is also a lawyer and a human rights activist, said she was prepared for the inevitable.

“I am prepared to be arrested. This is how Hong Kong is now. If you fight for democracy under an authoritarian regime, being arrested is unavoidable. Let it come. I am willing to pay the price for fighting for democracy,” she said.

Second news item

Facebook says “not so fast” to Trump:

Facebook on Friday announced that it may allow former President Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts to be reinstated in January 2023.

At that time, the social media company will reevaluate whether the risk to public safety of allowing Trump back onto its services has receded.

“We will evaluate external factors, including instances of violence, restrictions on peaceful assembly and other markers of civil unrest,” the company said in a blog post. “If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded.”

Trump, of course, didn’t take the news well:

“Facebook’s ruling is an insult to the record-setting 75M people, plus many others, who voted for us in the 2020 Rigged Presidential Election. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win.”

Good thing he’s not the president. He might try to use the power of government to shut down Facebook…

Third news item

Warnings given:

The sheriff’s department in Orange county, California, advised its officers earlier this year not to affiliate with far-right extremist groups and warned them against engaging with white supremacist websites, according to internal documents reviewed by the Guardian.

The Orange county sheriff’s department’s “extremism awareness” training document from February instructed officers not to share disinformation and to avoid associating with militias, QAnon, rightwing platforms like Gab and 4chan, as well as second-amendment groups or law enforcement “clubs” that could be “avenues for exploitation”.

The 66-page PowerPoint presentation for staff also included a lengthy section on “the extreme left”, warning officers about “Karl Marx’s influence”; the history of the Black Panther party; anti-fascist groups’ vandalism and “improvised weapons”; and animal rights and anti-war protesters.

The training is notable, experts said, because it suggests that sheriff’s officials were acknowledging that their own officers could be drawn to far-right groups and were concerned about the risks of them posting racist or extremist content.

Experts said it was unusual to see this kind of training from local police. But they also criticized the training for falsely presenting the far right and the “extreme left” as equivalent threats, when data shows that white supremacists perpetuated the large majority of recent domestic terror attacks.

Fourth news item

Putin’s special brand of um, reasoning:

Putin on the storming of US Capitol & Belarus: ‘When the protesters went into the Capitol… whether it’s good or bad… probably nothing good but these are not looters or thieves, these people came with political requests. Isn’t that true? It is. But they detained 450 people’

“Look at Belarus – they have a lot of internal problems and we actually want to have a neutral position here… But what’s going on there is being viewed in one light, and what’s happening in the US – in a different light. We need to get rid of double standards.”

Fifth news item

Texas GOP chair retires:

Texas GOP Chair Allen West announced his resignation Friday morning and said he is considering running for another office, potentially one that is statewide.

During a news conference here, West said a statewide run is “one of the things that I have to go to the Lord in prayer.” He said it would be “very disingenuous with so many people that have asked me to consider something” to not explore a run.

“Many men from Georgia, many men from Tennessee, came here to serve the great state of Texas, and so we’re gonna consider it,” said West, who grew up in Georgia. He added that he was announcing his resignation, effective next month, so that there is no conflict of interest as he weighs his next political move.

West, who has been most frequently discussed as a potential challenger to Gov. Greg Abbott, declined to say whether he was eyeing any particular statewide office, though he told a radio host earlier Friday morning that the host was “safe” to assume West was mulling a gubernatorial run. At the news conference, West also did not say when he would announce a decision on his next step, telling a reporter with characteristic combativeness that his “timeline is in my head and not in yours yet.”

Sixth news item

Don’t tell me you won’t grab a flashlight and check out your pupils in the bathroom mirror:

Our pupils respond to more than just the light. They indicate arousal, interest or mental exhaustion. Pupil dilation is even used by the FBI to detect deception. Now work conducted in our laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that baseline pupil size is closely related to individual differences in intelligence. The larger the pupils, the higher the intelligence, as measured by tests of reasoning, attention and memory. In fact, across three studies, we found that the difference in baseline pupil size between people who scored the highest on the cognitive tests and those who scored the lowest was large enough to be detected by the unaided eye.

We found that a larger baseline pupil size was correlated with greater fluid intelligence, attention control and, to a lesser degree, working memory capacity—indicating a fascinating relationship between the brain and eye. Interestingly, pupil size was negatively correlated with age: older participants tended to have smaller, more constricted, pupils. Once standardized for age, however, the relationship between pupil size and cognitive ability remained.

Seventh news item

What a shame that something with a seemingly good original intention was misused in this way:

The NFL on Wednesday pledged to halt the use of “race-norming” — which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive function — in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and review past scores for any potential race bias.

The practice made it harder for Black retirees to show a deficit and qualify for an award. The standards were created in the 1990s in hopes of offering more appropriate treatment to dementia patients, but critics faulted the way they were used to determine payouts in the NFL concussion case.

Eighth news item

Oh, California, you crazy state:

Workers in California will have to keep their masks on unless every employee in the room is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

That’s the mandate under revised rules approved Thursday night by a sharply divided California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. The guidelines are expected to go into effect by June 15 — the same day that the state more broadly loosens masking and other requirements in social settings in keeping with recent federal health recommendations.

In the run-up to the board’s vote, business groups had harshly criticized the new rules. Board members made it clear the regulations are temporary while they consider further easing pandemic rules in coming weeks or months.

Opponents of the mask requirement for workplaces had already suggested that Gov. Gavin Newsom could use his executive powers to override its decision amid criticism that the revised regulations contrast with his promise to lift most pandemic restrictions on June 15.

Newsom spokeswoman Erin Mellon didn’t mention that option in a brief statement after the vote. She said the panel is independent but that the governor is “hopeful the board will further revise its guidance to reflect the latest science while continuing to protect workers and balancing realistic and enforceable requirements for employers.”

Meanwhile, the smoothest showman of all got busy:

Gov. Gavin Newsom stood on a set designed to look like a game show on Friday and drew winners of the first cash prizes in California’s COVID-19 vaccine lottery, part of an effort to boost immunizations that also gives the governor a chance to give away $116.5 million to potential voters before the recall election.

“Over the course of the last few weeks, as we saw that decline in those first doses, we realized we need to do a little bit more than just our traditional outreach efforts,” Newsom said, acknowledging that some may question the use of cash giveaways to incentivize what he described as doing the right thing. “But we are where we are, and incentives have long worked, and incentives are indeed what we are advancing here today.”

Positioned before crimson and gold curtains on a carefully crafted stage, Newsom plucked numbers from a lottery ball machine in the latest in a series of feel-good announcements from a governor in the middle of a battle to save his political career as he faces a recall election.

His political opponents called Friday’s production another example of the governor using taxpayer dollars in attempt to win over voters. Others viewed the display as smart political strategy from an incumbent looking to distance himself from the recall and deliver an upbeat message to Californians.

Ninth news item

But we were told it was just a group of tourists at the Capitol that day:

A US Capitol Police officer knocked unconscious on January 6 has condemned Capitol rioters for injuring police and robbing her of the ability to do her job.

“When will I be free … of my brain injury? When will I be free and full again?” the officer said in a written statement read by prosecutors at a federal court hearing Friday.

The unnamed police officer’s statement adds to a growing chorus of law enforcement victims and their families calling for recognition of the severity of the attack by Trump supporters.

“On January 6, you and a group of others purposefully set out to break our police line,” the officer said in the statement. “When you do that, when you set out with purpose in mind to hurt someone, it’s not only an assault but a theft.”

She added: “You stole months of me working alongside this country’s most dedicated police officers. … You’ve stolen my ability to be present.”

Miscellaneous

Jake Tapper’s The Devil May Dance is a fun, Rat Pack-meets-the-mob-meets-the-Kennedys caper involving the underbelly of Hollywood, politicians, and everyone in between. The delightful Charlie and Margaret Marder find themselves once again in the middle of unexpected intrigue and danger as they fervently work to solve, well, the mystery. Good fun. Hope to see another in the series. This is summer reading.

News of the World is a fine film with a fine performance by the ever-reliable Tom Hanks. In the post-Civil War, a world-weary itinerant “reader of the news” finds himself putting in the miles to return a young white girl raised by the Indians back to her family. Things don’t go as planned, they face harsh conditions, violent threats, and attacks, but love still wins the day if not in an unexpected way.

Have a good weekend.

–Dana

Ahead of First Post-Presidential Rally, Republican Aides Still Can’t Corral Trump

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:13 am



[guest post by Dana]

The Republican, er, Retrumplican Party continues to be exhausted by the former president who just can’t stop relitigating the past instead of looking to the future:

A cadre of aides and advisers working to tame Donald Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election, including his fixation with debunked voter fraud theories and ballot audits, are realizing the task at hand is much tougher than they thought.

Over the past few weeks, Trump has faced pleas from inside his orbit to move the ball forward as Republicans approach the 2022 midterm elections, when the party hopes to regain control of both congressional chambers, and brace for his high-profile return to the campaign trail. Several former advisers and allies still close to the 45th President said he is under mounting pressure to concentrate on promoting GOP policy priorities and defining his successor, rather than re-litigating his failed reelection campaign.

But the former President has brushed those voices aside, choosing instead to listen to a crowd of characters both on television and in his wider circle who have encouraged him to keep his focus on the 2020 election.

Trump’s preoccupation with the election is expected to take center stage on Saturday, when he kicks off his first post-presidential summer with an address to the North Carolina Republican Party. The speech, a preview of the campaign-style rallies he plans to start hosting next month, will signal to what degree he intends to ignore advice from those imploring him to redirect his message toward the future. Because it will be his first public appearance in three months, sources close to the former President said the tack he decides to take will be critical in setting the course going forward — not only for him, but for all Republicans on the ballot in 2022.

But wait. Didn’t Leader Kevin McCarthy himself excoriate Liz Cheney for relitigating the past rather than focusing on the future? Why, yes he did. And in fact, that was the basis of ousting her from her leadership position. However, Cheney was directly responding to Trump’s own and ongoing statements about the past election and calling him out for the Big Lie.

Unsurprisingly, Trump is apparently bored by the real issues of the day instead remains hyper-focused on relitigating the past:

Sources familiar with Trump’s thinking describe him as bored by the issues his advisers wish he would focus on — from threats to America’s energy infrastructure to increased inflation and other economic concerns. He is so obsessed with his unsuccessful quest for reelection, one ex-Trump official said, that he has been moving himself toward irrelevance.

“It’s like a slow leak of a balloon that is now laying on the floor,” is how the ex-Trump official described it.

But the real question is how will Trump’s MAGA base respond to a speech primarily focused on “Stop the Steal” grievances? Trump is counting on them to still be just as angry as he is about the alleged election fraud. So much so, that he has lately been indulging in “unhinged and false notions about being “reinstated” as commander-in-chief…claim[ing] the Arizona audit could lead to similar investigations in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Georgia that would ultimately prove he won the 2020 election…” According to his fantastical notions, Trump believes that he will be reinstated to office sometime this summer, as Charles C.W. Cooke at National Review confirmed:

I can attest, from speaking to an array of different sources, that Donald Trump does indeed believe quite genuinely that he — along with former senators David Perdue and Martha McSally — will be “reinstated” to office this summer after “audits” of the 2020 elections in Arizona, Georgia, and a handful of other states have been completed. I can attest, too, that Trump is trying hard to recruit journalists, politicians, and other influential figures to promulgate this belief — not as a fundraising tool or an infantile bit of trolling or a trial balloon, but as a fact.

It will be tempting for weary conservatives to dismiss this information as “old news” or as “an irrelevance.” It will be tempting, too, to downplay the enormity of what is being claimed, or to change the subject, or to attack the messengers by implying that they must “hate” Trump and his voters. But such temptations should be assiduously avoided. We are not talking here about a fringe figure within the Republican tent, but about a man who hopes to make support for his outlandish claims “a litmus test of sorts as he decides whom to endorse for state and federal contests in 2022 and 2024.” Conservatives understand why it mattered that the press lost its collective mind over Russia after Trump’s fair-and-square victory in 2016. They understand why it mattered that Hillary Clinton publicly described Trump as an “illegitimate president” who had “stolen” the election. And they understand why it mattered that Jimmy Carter insisted that Trump had “lost the election” and been “put into office because the Russians interfered.” They should understand why this matters, too.

The scale of Trump’s delusion is quite startling. This is not merely an eccentric interpretation of the facts or an interesting foible, nor is it an irrelevant example of anguished post-presidency chatter. It is a rejection of reality, a rejection of law, and, ultimately, a rejection of the entire system of American government.

Can America really handle another insane season of Trump? Or will Trump’s flight of fantasy fizzle out? Well, not if he has anything to say about it. He won’t give up, give in, or back down. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that when Trump is attacked, doesn’t get his way, or loses power, you better buckle up.

–Dana

Court: Biden Plan to Prioritize Women and Minorities for Coronavirus Relief Is Unconstitutional

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:12 am



I am late to this, but it’s significant enough to post about even a few days late.

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of a conservative legal group that sought to stop President Joe Biden’s administration from giving priority status for COVID-19 relief to restaurants and bars owned by women and certain minorities.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Appeals Court issued a 2-1 opinion Thursday that said the government cannot allocate limited coronavirus relief funds based on race and sex. It issued an order for the government to stop using the criteria when processing an application from Antonio Vitolo, an East Tennessee restaurant owner.

The lawsuit was brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty on behalf of Vitolo, who owns Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee. The suit targets the three-week period from May 3 until May 24 during which the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund has been processing and funding requests only from businesses owned by women, veterans, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

The Sixth Circuit’s opinion, which you can read here, puts the issue more directly and (I think) appropriately:

This case is about whether the government can allocate limited coronavirus relief funds based on the race and sex of the applicants. We hold that it cannot.

The opinion notes that the Government can point to no specific incidents of past discrimination that are being remedied by the law. Nor could the Government show much in the way of evidence of intentional discrimination against these groups — other than by presenting a handful of statistics that are dependent on so many different variables that there is no way to draw an inference of intentional discrimination from the examples given. Nor can the Government show that it was involved in such discrimination itself. Meanwhile, to the extent that policymakers were worried that women or minorities lacked access to credit, or had been deprived of the benefits of previous coronavirus relief packages, policymakers could have targeted relief to people who suffered from such maladies (poor credit or lack of benefit from previous programs) regardless of race.

That Biden tried to do this is shameful, and a perfect example of the race pandering that is one of his worst habits. But it’s not just Biden who is to blame. The opinion points to a regulation that appears to date back to 1998, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, under which the Small Business Administration “presumes certain applicants are socially disadvantaged based solely on their race or ethnicity.” And Congress passed the law knowing about that regulation. There is more broken here than a single president.

This kind of thinking is wrong. I’m glad a court recognized it.


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