Category: Uncategorized

“No amendment to the Constitution is absolute”

Zachary Evans:

President Biden unveiled executive orders on gun control on Thursday, at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.

“Nothing I’m about to recommend in any way impinges on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “They’re phony arguments suggesting that these are Second Amendment rights in what we’re talking about.”


Biden added that “no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theater and call it freedom of speech. From the very beginning, you couldn’t own any weapon you wanted to own. From the very beginning of the Second Amendment existed, certain people weren’t allowed to have weapons.”

The Biden administration announced six actions to spur various gun control initiatives, which the White House described in a fact sheet. The Justice Department will propose a rule to curb proliferation of “ghost guns,” or guns that are assembled at home through kits or a 3-D printer, and will issue yearly reports on firearms trafficking, among other initiatives.

Biden will also nominate David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. A former SWAT agent with the bureau, Chipman is a gun control advocate and adviser to former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s gun control organization.

Chipman claimed in a Reddit post last year that members of the Branch Dividian religious cult shot down two Texas National Guard helicopters during the 1993 siege at Waco, Texas. While members of the cult did in fact shoot at the helicopters, none were shot down.

Well. According to Biden’s “logic” the following things would be acceptable:

  • A future Republican president can round up protesters of his administration and have them imprisoned. Because no amendment is absolute.
  • Police can torture suspects until they confess. Lawyers? Don’t need them. You see, no amendment is absolute.
  • Reinstituting slavery. No amendment is absolute, after all.
  • A state could eliminate elections and choose whoever it wants in the U.S. Senate. All together now …
  • A state could reinstitute poll taxes and disallow non-whites or women or anyone younger than 30 from voting. No. Amendment. Is. Absolute.
  • Someone who is not the vice president could remove the president from office and take over himself. Our president says no amendment is absolute.
  • Barack Obama or George W. Bush can run for president again. But didn’t they already reach the term limit? Who cares? No amendment is absolute.

By accident the moron in the White House displayed his respect for the Constitution yesterday. And a majority of voters voted for that.


View from the other Bay

The Tampa Bay Times:

On the day before the big game, one of the team owners is wearing an old Packers T-shirt with camouflage shorts. He’s behind the bar pouring beers, wiping the counter and filling bowls with peanuts.

Heaven knows if Marty Leonhard was serving any of his fellow Packers shareholders inside Lenny’s Tap on Saturday. There were 16 people in the bar at 11 a.m. and, statistically speaking, the odds were good that at least one of those morning drinkers also had stock in the team.

This may be a hard concept to grasp in Tampa Bay where stadiums are built — or not — only after years of nasty public debate. But folks around Green Bay willingly toss their money into a proverbial hat to make sure their stadium is competitive and their team stays put.

The Bucs’ opponent in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game is the only not-for-profit franchise in major-league sports in America. In a city with a population just over 100,000, the Packers are owned by 361,311 shareholders. The stock, by the way, pays no dividends and cannot be resold.

It’s been made available only five times in the past 97 years — the last time was in 2011 at $250 a share — and prospective buyers are warned their certificates hold virtually no monetary value. The stock exists only to provide a financial lifeline for the Packers and to give the community a sense of ownership in the team.
Which, around here, makes it priceless.

To me, my certificate is just another piece of Packers art. It’s no different than hanging a picture of Aaron Rodgers on the wall,” said Leonhard, whose family has owned Lenny’s Tap for 45 years and who bought his stock in 1997. “It’s the only game in town. Yeah, we have the Wisconsin Badgers and the Bucks and Brewers. But this is it in Green Bay.

“And if you own a little piece of the team, some people get to walk around like they’re one of the bosses.”

In terms of population, Green Bay is almost identical to Brandon [Florida]. The major difference being Green Bay has 13 NFL championships and 26 Hall of Famers. This is what you would get if the New York Yankees were, say, the Topeka Yankees.

Other fan bases may be just as rabid, just as loyal, but none share the same romance of a blue-collar town and its team that always seemed on the verge of bankruptcy before Vince Lombardi showed up. And few other major-league cities could duplicate the same small-town feel.

“It’s a big-league team in little town America, and I don’t think you’ll ever see another one like it. The money has grown too much in sports,” said retired University of Wisconsin-Green Bay professor Daniel Alesch, who was commissioned by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute to write a white paper on the uniqueness of the relationship. “It really is a love affair between a team and a community.”
It wasn’t unusual in the 1960s and 1970s to see Packers players shopping at the grocer on the corner, or picking up their kids from school. Fans would run into players all around town and, to hear the natives tell it, no one ever complained.

Irene Fennell was still in elementary school in the late 1960s when her 10-year-old brother, Doug, got a copy of a Bart Starr biography. One of the older Fennell children piled his siblings in the car and they drove to the house of the Packers quarterback.

“While the rest of us sat in the car, Doug went up and knocked on the door,” Fennell said. “They invited him right in the house, gave him cookies and a drink and Bart signed his book for him. When Doug said he had five brothers and sisters, they got out pieces of paper and signed autographs for each of us with, you know, ‘Warm wishes’ from Bart Starr. That was Green Bay.”

And the rest of the kids waited in the car the whole time Doug was alone in the house?

“Well, we didn’t all want to knock on the door,” she said. “That would be rude.”

The Green Bay Press-Gazette recently ran a feature remembering locals who passed away due to COVID-19. Each resident was memorialized with a paragraph or two, highlighting significant details of their lives. It was noted that one gentleman was married for 57 years, was a math teacher and died while still on the Packers season ticket waiting list.

Around here, the waiting list is simultaneously loathed and revered. Since 1960, Packer games have sold out at Lambeau Field, leaving unlucky fans searching for tickets in the newspaper and on street corners in previous generations, and through ticket brokers and the Internet in recent years. At last count, the waiting list was more than 137,000 long and only a few hundred season tickets come open each year.

When his son was born, Jeff Ash thought it would be a hoot to put Evan’s name on the season ticket list. That was 26 years ago. Every year, the Packers send a postcard to let him know his current spot on the waiting list.

“I moved to Green Bay in 1980 and I wish had I put myself on the list back then because I might just be receiving season tickets now 40 years later,” Ash said. “Somebody signing up today? The list is so much bigger, you’re not going to get tickets in your lifetime.”

Yet it doesn’t deter the fanaticism.

“The schedule comes out in April, and everybody commits it to memory. Your friend may call and say, ‘Hey, we’re getting married October 15.′ ‘Oh, sorry, the Packers have the Vikings that week,’” said Corey Vann, who manages the Hagemeister Park bar. “You go to a liquor store 15 minutes before a game and there’s 100 people buying beer. Once the game kicks off, there’s nobody around. It’s what we do.”

It’s a short walk from the Lambeau Field locker room to the team’s practice field and, for decades, kids have risen before dawn on the first day of training camp to secure a job as an unofficial bike buddy during the summer. The bicycle is turned over to the player, and the child runs alongside with the player’s helmet in hand, or rides on pegs attached to the back tire.

John Gee was a middle school student who had just moved to Green Bay from California in 2005. He convinced another player to pass the word to Aaron Rodgers that he was waiting for the rookie quarterback from the University of California to arrive after a brief contract dispute. When Rodgers walked out of the locker room for his first day as Packer, Gee was waiting with a Cal baseball cap on.

“I was kind of shy growing up and wasn’t the most popular kid because I had just moved to Wisconsin,” said Gee, who is now 28 and a real estate agent back in California. “Aaron would ask me questions to get me to open up. We talked about California, video games, football, music. I tried to get him to check out some metal bands that maybe he didn’t know about. We found common ground with the Foo Fighters.”

For the next three years, they rode together before and after every training camp practice. Suddenly, the shy kid from California had the Packers’ first-round draft pick showing up to watch him play his middle school football games.

By 2008, Rodgers had replaced Brett Favre as the starting quarterback and the Packers deemed it a security risk to have him riding a bicycle across the Lambeau Field parking lot, so Gee was out of a job. Still, their relationship did not end.

“We got together for one last ride the following year, which would have been my junior or senior year. He had already been the starter for a year at that point, but he reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, you want to take one last ride together?’” Gee said. “It’s a difficult thing to conceptualize as a kid but I’ve thought about it a lot over the years and it really is a unique thing. It’s been around since the Lombardi years and there’s really nothing quite like it. You almost feel like you’re part of history.”

Named for the Indian Meat Packing Company in 1919, the franchise would not exist today were it not for the community coming through with the first two stock sales in 1923 and 1935. Conversely, the town of Green Bay would be as anonymous as Sheboygan were it not for the Packers.

It’s not as if it were easy. If it were, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, Akron Indians and Duluth Kelleys would still be in the NFL. It works only because the community was willing to invest, and the franchise consistently won.

And as evolution turned the NFL into a league of bigger and bigger cities, the mystique of Green Bay grew more and more around the nation.

“That small-town story line is how they built interest going back to the 1920s when they started slaying the Bears and the Giants,” said Cliff Christl, the team’s official historian. “A lot of people in small-town America closely identify with the Packers.

“When I first went to work for the team, I told them this is the greatest story in sports. It’s that romance of the team surviving against all odds and then becoming the most successful franchise in the NFL.”

Question of the next month and four years

George Mitchell, who is not one to engage in conspiracy theories:

President Trump questions whether the election results are legit. I have zero idea if he is correct. Only hard evidence matters. But context also matters. In the last four plus years his opponents and the swamp tried to rig/overturn an election. They conjured up the phony collusion narrative. They impeached him for doing what we now know Joe Biden did. So how far fetched is it to think something is amiss … again?

An undebatable debate debacle

The Wall Street Journal watched Tuesday night’s presidential debate so you didn’t have to (I announced volleyball on the radio instead):

No one expected a Lincoln-Douglas debate, but did it have to be a World Wrestling Entertainment bout? Which may be unfair to the wrestlers, who are more presidential than either Donald Trump or Joe Biden sounded in their first debate Tuesday night.

The event was a spectacle of insults, interruptions, endless cross-talk, exaggerations and flat-out lies even by the lying standards of current U.S. politics. Our guess is that millions of Americans turned away after 30 minutes, and we would have turned away too if we didn’t do this for a living.

Mr. Trump no doubt wanted to project strength and rattle Mr. Biden, but he did so by interrupting him so much that he wouldn’t let Mr. Biden talk long enough even to make a mistake. The President bounced from subject to subject so frequently that it was hard to figure out what he hoped to say beyond that Joe Biden is controlled by the Democratic left. Even when moderator Chris Wallace asked a question that played to the strengths of his record—such as on the economy—Mr. Trump couldn’t stick to the theme without leaping to attack Mr. Biden.

The former Vice President wasn’t much better, interrupting nearly as much. And for the candidate who says he wants to bring people together, he was ready with his own name-calling. He called Mr. Trump a “racist,” a “clown,” and told him to “shut up, man.” He spun out falsehoods as fast as the President, notably in asserting that 100 million people would be vulnerable to losing their health insurance due to pre-existing conditions. The Obama Administration set up a special fund for pre-existing conditions in the transition to ObamaCare, and the takers were only in the thousands. Mr. Trump didn’t know enough to be able to rebut him.

No one won this fiasco, but Mr. Biden did succeed in passing the test of appearing coherent for 90 minutes. Mr. Trump had done him the favor of calling his mental capacity into question for months, so expectations were low. Mr. Biden passed that bar, albeit in highly scripted fashion.

The former Vice President kept his focus on Mr. Trump’s divisive political style and management of the pandemic. The truth is that Mr. Biden hasn’t offered anti-virus policies that are much different than Mr. Trump’s, except for a mandate to wear masks, which he has since walked back. His indictment is mainly about Mr. Trump’s temperament and narcissism, which Mr. Trump reinforced with his interruptions and “you’re worse” taunts. Mr. Trump succeeded again in making his pandemic policies sound worse than they are.

The benign explanation for the President’s performance is that like other incumbents in their first debates he was overconfident and underprepared. A less benign view is that he grew flustered as the debate went on and lost his cool and whatever focus he had at the start. He was so scattershot with his answers that he rarely offered a sustained case for his own policies. When Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump had called veterans “suckers” and “losers,” Mr. Trump didn’t refute it but brought up Hunter Biden.

Mr. Wallace had a hard task as the two men brawled, but he didn’t help by injecting himself too much into the debate. His verbose questions often took one side of the issue, as if playing gotcha in his Sunday interview program, when the point should have been to solicit information to help voters.

We hope for better when the two vice presidential candidates debate next week. Maybe one of them will act like a President.

The wrong race

Matt Taibbi:

A core principle of the academic movement that shot through elite schools in America since the early nineties was the view that individual rights, humanism, and the democratic process are all just stalking-horses for white supremacy. The concept, as articulated in books like former corporate consultant Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility(Amazon’s #1 seller!) reduces everything, even the smallest and most innocent human interactions, to racial power contests. 

It’s been mind-boggling to watch White Fragility celebrated in recent weeks. When it surged past a Hunger Games book on bestseller lists, USA Today cheered, “American readers are more interested in combatting racism than in literary escapism.” When DiAngelo appeared on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon gushed, “I know… everyone wants to talk to you right now!” White Fragility has been pitched as an uncontroversial road-map for fighting racism, at a time when after the murder of George Floyd Americans are suddenly (and appropriately) interested in doing just that. Except this isn’t a straightforward book about examining one’s own prejudices. Have the people hyping this impressively crazy book actually read it?

DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. 

If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.” 

DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This academic equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.

DiAngelo’s writing style is pure pain. The lexicon favored by intersectional theorists of this type is built around the same principles as Orwell’s Newspeak: it banishes ambiguity, nuance, and feeling and structures itself around sterile word pairs, like racist and antiracist, platform and deplatformcenter and silence, that reduce all thinking to a series of binary choicesIronically, Donald Trump does something similar, only with words like “AMAZING!” and “SAD!” that are simultaneously more childish and livelier. 

Writers like DiAngelo like to make ugly verbs out of ugly nouns and ugly nouns out of ugly verbs (there are countless permutations on centering and privileging alone). In a world where only a few ideas are considered important, redundancy is encouraged, e.g. “To be less white is to break with white silence and white solidarity, to stop privileging the comfort of white people,” or “Ruth Frankenberg, a premier white scholar in the field of whiteness, describes whiteness as multidimensional…” 

DiAngelo writes like a person who was put in timeout as a child for speaking clearly. “When there is disequilibrium in the habitus — when social cues are unfamiliar and/or when they challenge our capital — we use strategies to regain our balance,” she says (“People taken out of their comfort zones find ways to deal,” according to Google Translate). Ideas that go through the English-DiAngelo translator usually end up significantly altered, as in this key part of the book when she addresses Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” speech:

One line of King’s speech in particular—that one day he might be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin—was seized upon by the white public because the words were seen to provide a simple and immediate solution to racial tensions: pretend that we don’t see race, and racism will end. Color blindness was now promoted as the remedy for racism, with white people insisting that they didn’t see race or, if they did, that it had no meaning to them.

That this speech was held up as the framework for American race relations for more than half a century precisely because people of all races understood King to be referring to a difficult and beautiful long-term goal worth pursuing is discounted, of course. White Fragility is based upon the idea that human beings are incapable of judging each other by the content of their character, and if people of different races think they are getting along or even loving one another, they probably need immediate antiracism training. This is an important passage because rejection of King’s “dream” of racial harmony — not even as a description of the obviously flawed present, but as the aspirational goal of a better future — has become a central tenet of this brand of antiracist doctrine mainstream press outlets are rushing to embrace. 

The book’s most amazing passage concerns the story of Jackie Robinson:

The story of Jackie Robinson is a classic example of how whiteness obscures racism by rendering whites, white privilege, and racist institutions invisible. Robinson is often celebrated as the first African American to break the color line…

While Robinson was certainly an amazing baseball player, this story line depicts him as racially special, a black man who broke the color line himself. The subtext is that Robinson finally had what it took to play with whites, as if no black athlete before him was strong enough to compete at that level. Imagine if instead, the story went something like this: “Jackie Robinson, the first black man whites allowed to play major-league baseball.”

There is not a single baseball fan anywhere – literally not one, except perhaps Robin DiAngelo, I guess – who believes Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier because he “finally had what it took to play with whites.” Everyone familiar with this story understands that Robinson had to be exceptional, both as a player and as a human being, to confront the racist institution known as Major League Baseball. His story has always been understood as a complex, long-developing political tale about overcoming violent systemic oppression. For DiAngelo to suggest history should re-cast Robinson as “the first black man whites allowed to play major league baseball” is grotesque and profoundly belittling.

Robinson’s story moreover did not render “whites, white privilege, and racist institutions invisible.” It did the opposite. Robinson uncovered a generation of job inflation for mediocre white ballplayers in a dramatic example of “privilege” that was keenly understood by baseball fans of all races fifty years before White Fragility. Baseball statistics nerds have long been arguingabout whether to put asterisks next to the records of white stars who never had to pitch to Josh Gibson, or hit against prime Satchel Paige or Webster McDonald. Robinson’s story, on every level, exposed and evangelized the truth about the very forces DiAngelo argues it rendered “invisible.” 

It takes a special kind of ignorant for an author to choose an example that illustrates the mathematical opposite of one’s intended point, but this isn’t uncommon in White Fragility, which may be the dumbest book ever written. It makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina.

Yet these ideas are taking America by storm. The movement that calls itself “antiracism” – I think it deserves that name a lot less than “pro-lifers” deserve theirs and am amazed journalists parrot it without question – is complete in its pessimism about race relations. It sees the human being as locked into one of three categories: members of oppressed groups, allies, and white oppressors. 

Where we reside on the spectrum of righteousness is, they say, almost entirely determined by birth, a view probably shared by a lot of 4chan readers. With a full commitment to the program of psychological ablutions outlined in the book, one may strive for a “less white identity,” but again, DiAngelo explicitly rejects the Kingian goal of just trying to love one another as impossible, for two people born with different skin colors. 

This dingbat racialist cult, which has no art, music, literature, and certainly no comedy, is the vision of “progress” institutional America has chosen to endorse in the Trump era. Why? Maybe because it fits. It won’t hurt the business model of the news media, which for decades now has been monetizing division and has known how to profit from moral panics and witch hunts since before Fleet street discovered the Mod/Rocker wars. 

Democratic Party leaders, pioneers of the costless gesture, have already embraced this performative race politics as a useful tool for disciplining apostates like Bernie Sanders. Bernie took off in presidential politics as a hard-charging crusader against a Wall Street-fattened political establishment, and exited four years later a self-flagellating, defeated old white man who seemed to regret not apologizing more for his third house. Clad in kente cloth scarves, the Democrats who crushed him will burn up CSPAN with homilies on privilege even as they reassure donors they’ll stay away from Medicare for All or the carried interest tax break. 

For corporate America the calculation is simple. What’s easier, giving up business models based on war, slave labor, and regulatory arbitrage, or benching Aunt Jemima? There’s a deal to be made here, greased by the fact that the “antiracism” prophets promoted in books like White Fragility share corporate Americas instinctive hostility to privacy, individual rights, freedom of speech, etc. 

Corporate America doubtless views the current protest movement as something that can be addressed as an H.R. matter, among other things by hiring thousands of DiAngelos to institute codes for the proper mode of Black-white workplace interaction. 

If you’re wondering what that might look like, here’s DiAngelo explaining how she handled the fallout from making a bad joke while she was “facilitating antiracism training” at the office of one of her clients. 

When one employee responds negatively to the training, DiAngelo quips the person must have been put off by one of her Black female team members: “The white people,” she says, “were scared by Deborah’s hair.” (White priests of antiracism like DiAngelo seem universally to be more awkward and clueless around minorities than your average Trump-supporting construction worker). 

DiAngelo doesn’t grasp the joke flopped and has to be told two days later that one of her web developer clients was offended. In despair, she writes, “I seek out a friend who is white and has a solid understanding of cross-racial dynamics.” 

After DiAngelo confesses her feelings of embarrassment, shame and guilt to the enlightened white cross-racial dynamics expert (everyone should have such a person on speed-dial), she approaches the offended web developer. She asks, “Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism I perpetrated toward you in that meeting?” At which point the web developer agrees, leading to a conversation establishing the parameters of problematic joke resolution.

This dialogue straight out of South Park – “Is it okay if I touch your penis? No, you may not touch my penis at this time!” – has a good shot of becoming standard at every transnational corporation, law firm, university, newsroom, etc. 

Of course the upside such consultants can offer is an important one. Under pressure from people like this, companies might address long-overdue inequities in boardroom diversity. 

The downside, which we’re already seeing, is that organizations everywhere will embrace powerful new tools for solving professional disputes, through a never-ending purge. One of the central tenets of DiAngelo’s book (and others like it) is that racism cannot be eradicated and can only be managed through constant, “lifelong” vigilance, much like the battle with addiction. A useful theory, if your business is selling teams of high-priced toxicity-hunters to corporations as next-generation versions of efficiency experts — in the fight against this disease, companies will need the help forever and ever.

Cancelations already are happening too fast to track. In a phenomenon that will be familiar to students of Russian history, accusers are beginning to appear alongside the accused. Three years ago a popular Canadian writer named Hal Niedzviecki was denounced for expressing the opinion that “anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities.” He reportedly was forced out of the Writer’s Union of Canada for the crime of “cultural appropriation,” and denounced as a racist by many, including a poet named Gwen Benaway. The latter said Niedzviecki “doesn’t see the humanity of indigenous peoples.” Last week, Benaway herself was denounced on Twitter for failing to provide proof that she was Indigenous. 

Michael Korenberg, the chair of the board at the University of British Columbia, was forced to resign for liking tweets by Dinesh D’Souza and Donald Trump, which you might think is fine – but what about Latino electrical worker Emmanuel Cafferty, firedafter a white activist took a photo of him making an OK symbol (it was described online as a “white power” sign)? How about Sue Schafer, the heretofore unknown graphic designer the Washington Post decided to out in a 3000-word article for attending a Halloween party two years ago in blackface (a failed parody of a different blackface incident involving Megyn Kelly)? She was fired, of course. How was this news? Why was ruining this person’s life necessary? 

People everywhere today are being encouraged to snitch out schoolmates, parents, and colleagues for thoughtcrime. The New York Times wrote a salutary pieceabout high schoolers scanning social media accounts of peers for evidence of “anti-black racism” to make public, because what can go wrong with encouraging teenagers to start submarining each other’s careers before they’ve even finished growing?  

“People who go to college end up becoming racist lawyers and doctors. I don’t want people like that to keep getting jobs,” one 16 year-old said. “Someone rly started a Google doc of racists and their info for us to ruin their lives… I love twitter,” wrote a different person, adding cheery emojis.

A bizarre echo of North Korea’s “three generations of punishment” doctrine could be seen in the boycotts of Holy Land grocery, a well-known hummus maker in Minneapolis. In recent weeks it’s been abandoned by clients and seen its lease pulled because of racist tweets made by the CEO’s 14 year-old daughter eight years ago. 

Parents calling out their kids is also in vogue. In Slate, “Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill” wrote to advice columnist Michelle Herman in a letter headlined, “I think I’ve screwed up the way my kids up about race.” The problem, the aggrieved parent noted, was that his/her sons had gone to a diverse school, and their “closest friends are still a mix of black, Hispanic, and white kids,” which to them was natural. The parent worried when one son was asked to fill out an application for a potential college roommate and expressed annoyance at having to specify race, because “I don’t care about race.” 

Clearly, a situation needing fixing! The parent asked if someone who didn’t care about race was “just as racist as someone who only has white friends” and asked if it was “too late” to do anything. No fear, Herman wrote: it’s never too late for kids like yours to educate themselves. To help, she linked to a program of materials designed for just that purpose, a “Lesson Plan for Being An Ally,” that included a month of readings of… White Fragility. Hopefully that kid with the Black and Hispanic friends can be cured!

This notion that color-blindness is itself racist, one of the main themes of White Fragility, could have amazing consequences. In researching I Can’t Breathe, I met civil rights activists who recounted decades of struggle to remove race from the law. I heard stories of lawyers who were physically threatened for years places like rural Arkansas just for trying to end explicit hiring and housing discrimination and other remnants of Jim Crow. Last week, an Oregon County casually exempted “people of color who have heightened concerns about racial profiling” from a Covid-19 related mask order. Who thinks creating different laws for different racial categories is going to end well? When has it ever?

At a time of catastrophe and national despair, when conservative nationalism is on the rise and violent confrontation on the streets is becoming commonplace, it’s extremely suspicious that the books politicians, the press, university administrators, and corporate consultants alike are asking us to read are urging us to put race even more at the center of our identities, and fetishize the unbridgeable nature of our differences. Meanwhile books like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, which are both beautiful and actually anti-racist, have been banned, for containing the “N-word.” (White Fragility contains it too, by the way). It’s almost like someone thinks there’s a benefit to keeping people divided.

Virus economics for the economically ignorant

As of the end of last week, according to the state Department of Health Services, Wisconsin had 5,687 coronavirus-positive people, with 1,376 hospitalizations and 266 deaths.

(The latter number is what DHS claims, irrespective of what number of those 266 dead Wisconsinites died of the coronavirus, as opposed to testing positive for the coronavirus after death.)

As of the end of last week, according to the state Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin had 392,408 first-time unemployment claims over the past five weeks. Put another way, each coronavirus positive result has cost 69 Wisconsin jobs so far.

Walter E. Williams:

One of the first lessons in an economics class is everything has a cost. That’s in stark contrast to lessons in the political arena where politicians talk about free stuff. In our personal lives, decision-making involves weighing costs against benefits. Businessmen make the same calculation if they want to stay in business. It’s an entirely different story for politicians running the government where any benefit, however minuscule, is often deemed to be worth any cost, however large.

Related to decision-making is the issue of being overly safe versus not safe enough. Sometimes, being as safe as one can be is worthless. A minor example: How many of us before driving our cars inspect the hydraulic brake system for damage? We’d be safer if we did, but most of us just assume everything is OK and get into our car and drive away. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 40,000 Americans lose their lives each year because of highway fatalities. Virtually all those lives could be saved with a mandated 5 mph speed limit. Fortunately, we consider costs and rightfully conclude that saving those 40,000 lives aren’t worth the costs and inconvenience of a 5 mph mandate.

With the costs and benefits in mind, we might examine our government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first thing to keep in mind about any crisis, be it war, natural disasters or pandemics, is we should keep markets open and private incentives strong. Markets solve problems because they provide the right incentives to use resources effectively. Federal, state and local governments have ordered an unprecedented and disastrous shutdown of much of the U.S. economy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

There’s a strictly health-related downside to the shutdown of the U.S. economy ignored by our leadership that has been argued by epidemiologist Dr. Knut Wittkowski, formerly the head of the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design at Rockefeller University in New York City. Wittkowski argues that the lockdown prolongs the development of the “herd immunity,” which is our only weapon in “exterminating” the novel coronavirus — outside of a vaccine that’s going to optimistically take 18 months or more to produce. He says we should focus on shielding the elderly and people with comorbidities while allowing the young and healthy to associate with one another in order to build up immunities. Wittkowski says, “So, it’s very important to keep the schools open and kids mingling to spread the virus to get herd immunity as fast as possible, and then the elderly people, who should be separated, and the nursing homes should be closed during that time, can come back and meet their children and grandchildren after about 4 weeks when the virus has been exterminated.” Herd immunity, Wittkowski argues, would stop a “second wave” headed for the United States in the fall. Dr. David L. Katz, president of True Health Initiative and the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, shares Wittkowski’s vision. Writing in The New York Times, he argued that our fight against COVID-19 could be worse than the virus itself.

The bottom line is that costs can be concealed but not eliminated. Moreover, if people only look at the benefits from a particular course of action, they will do just about anything, because everything has a benefit. Political hustlers and demagogues love promising benefits when the costs can easily be concealed. By the way, the best time to be wrong and persist in being wrong is when the costs of being wrong are borne by others.

The absolute worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and possibly its most unrecoverable damage, is the massive power that Americans have given to their federal, state and local governments to regulate our lives in the name of protecting our health. Taking back that power should be the most urgent component of our recovery efforts. It’s going to be challenging; once a politician, and his bureaucracy, gains power, he will fight tooth and nail to keep it.

Fascism, Wisconsin Law Enforcement Division

Scott Shackford:

A family in Oxford, Wisconsin, is suing the local sheriff’s department after a patrol sergeant threatened to arrest a teenage girl for disorderly conduct for posting on Instagram about being infected with COVID-19.

Amyiah Cohoon, 16, is a student at Westfield Area High School in Westfield, Wisconsin. According to this lawsuit, she and schoolmates went to Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida for a spring break trip in early March, right as the coronavirus was beginning to spread and businesses began to shut down. She and her classmates canceled the trip early and returned home.

Once home, Cohoon began developing symptoms associated with COVID-19. She sought medical assistance, but at the time they were unable to test her to see if she was infected. She was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection with “symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” according to the lawsuit.

Cohoon went home and posted on Instagram letting people know that she had COVID-19 and was in self-quarantine. Her condition worsened and she was brought to the hospital for treatment. She posted again about the experience on Instagram. Finally, they were able to test her, but the test came back negative. According to the lawsuit, doctors told her it was likely she missed the window for testing positive, but she probably did have COVID-19, despite the test results. (False negative results have been an ongoing issue in accurately diagnosing infections.)

After she returned home from this visit, she posted again on Instagram and included a picture of herself at the hospital wearing an oxygen mask.

The very next day, Patrol Sergeant Cameron Klump from Marquette County Sheriff’s Department showed up on the family’s doorstep. He was there under orders from Sheriff Joseph Konrath to demand that Amyiah and her father, Richard Cohoon, remove Amyiah’s Instagram posts. If they refused, Klump said the family faced charges for disorderly conduct and Klump told them he would “start taking people to jail,” according to the suit.

Konrath’s justification was that there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. He found out about the Instagram post from Amyiah’s high school. The Cohoon family had contacted the school to let them know about Amyiah’s infection, but nobody ever contacted them back to get more information. It appears that instead the school contacted the police. Under the threat of arrest, Cohoon complied and deleted the allegedly illegal Instagram post.

That evening the family would discover that a school administrator sent out an alert to families accusing Cohoon of making it up and assuring families that any information of infection was just a rumor. “Let me assure you there is NO truth to this,” the message read. “This was a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed. This rumor had caught the attention of our Public Health Department and she was involved in putting a stop to this nonsense.”

The family then connected with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, and the Institute sent a letter to Konrath warning him that he had violated Cohoon’s First Amendment rights and demanded both an apology and the promise that there would be no further threats of criminal charges against the family for Amyiah’s post.

Konrath refused, and now the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty is suing Konrath and Klump in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin for violating Cohoon’s First and 14th Amendment rights. Her Instagram posts are protected speech, the Institute argues, and there was nothing about her posts that violated the county’s disorderly conduct law, and even if they did, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has held that disorderly conduct statutes in the state cannot be applied to speech protected by the First Amendment.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty is asking the court to rule that Cohoon’s  posts were protected speech and order that the sheriff’s department may not threaten or cite Cohoon or her family for these posts, plus paying “nominal damages.”

The sheriff’s department is not backing down or even acknowledging an overreaction. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, their position remains that the one negative test means that she did not have COVID-19, which simply isn’t how it works. The Sentinel reports:

Sam Hall, an attorney for the sheriff, said the teenager “caused distress and panic” among other parents by claiming she had contracted the coronavirus despite getting a negative test result.

“This case is nothing more than a 2020 version of screaming fire in a crowded theater,” he said, referring to speech that is not protected by the First Amendment.

That the sheriff’s lawyer is misusing the much-maligned “fire in a crowded theater” argument from Schenck v. United States is a huge tell that these guys don’t have a leg to stand on. It’s a bad argument, a bad precedent (it was about censoring anti-war activism), and the Supreme Court has subsequently weakened that decision and broadened our free speech protections.

And even if that ruling remained relevant, Amyiah Cohoon was not engaging in the equivalent of “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” Because of the significant number of false negative test results, it’s appropriate for health staff to treat her as though she likely has COVID-19 based on her symptoms. It’s also appropriate for the Cohoon family to attempt to warn families of the students who went with her to Florida that they might have been exposed, too.

It’s the school officials and the police who behaved irresponsibly, not Amyiah or her family.

A tale of two areas

Michael Smith:

There sure seems to be an undercurrent of worry that the more sparsely populated areas of this country might advance economically while the more densely populated cities languish as a result of the physical reality of disease transmission.Cities have a transmission modality that simply cannot be overcome absent a vaccine for this virus. The reality is that the only reason any “curve flattening” is happening today is that the virus is being deprived of fresh victims, that solution provides little more than a temporary respite and a false sense of security – because the underlying condition promoting spread – the population density – has not changed.

National policy is being driven by a fear that originated in our major population centers.

I get it. Nobody wants to spread this disease – but the fact is that New York state’s 2900 deaths would have to increase by 27 times to equal the 79,000 annual deaths due to heart disease and cancer the CDC reported for the state in 2017 (the latest I could find at the CDC website).

At 7900 deaths nationwide so far, this pandemic doesn’t crack the top 50 for mortality classifications in the nation.

I understand the pandemic deaths are concentrated in a short period of time and when things happen over a short period, they have more impact – but I still question the need for Kansas or Utah to be driven by situations in New York.

The real pandemic is not the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it’s fear.

Wisconsin is a perfect example of what Smith is talking about. As of Friday out of Wisconsin’s 1,916 cases, 955 are in Milwaukee County and 244 are in Dane County. Some counties have not had a single case, and other counties’ measure in the single digits. Yet state government is stupidly treating every part of Wisconsin the same, mandating, for instance, statewide school closings when school administrators could have told you that was a really bad idea.

If politicians weren’t being profiles in cowardice maybe after this ends they could figure out that the state should not treat, for instance, Milwaukee and Marathon the same. And perhaps small towns could market themselves as superior places to live over crime-plagued and now disease-riddled urban areas.

My cool uncle

Today’s blog is about a member of my family who died earlier this month. A gathering of a group of his friends is taking place Saturday, when I cannot be there due to sportscasting commitments.

Even though I come from a relatively small family, I had a lot of relatives in my parents’ generation, some of whom are still living. My father was the oldest boy in his family, and my mother was the youngest of three, so I had aunts and uncles older and younger than my parents.

On my father’s side, I have three aunts I could describe as the “cool aunts.” Two are younger than my father, and the one who is older lives in California and New Mexico, which makes her automatically cool. Whatever fashion look I got from middle school Christmas gifts came from them.

Greg was one of the uncles who married into the family. With one exception, all the uncles in my family married into the family. After I started watching movies. I decided that Greg was like having Steve McQueen as your uncle, and the uncle I’m related to was like having Burt Reynolds as your uncle. (He died in 2016.)

Greg went into the Army after high school and then the Special Forces in Vietnam, was injured there and then spent nearly a year at an Army hospital in Okinawa. He almost never talked about his Vietnam experience. He was one of those people you had to work on to get him to open up, but when you did, he could be hilarious.

He talked quite a bit about his experience immediately after Vietnam, which was three years at UW–Madison as an engineering student on the GI Bill in the height of the protests against the war in which he had just fought. Greg had a second-floor apartment on State Street, and would watch the daily antiwar protest start on the Library Mall and then proceed up State Street to the Capitol, with the protestors/mob smashing business windows along the way. He knew Paul Soglin when Soglin was a UW Law School student and a leader of the protesters.

One day, Greg went to a class. This happened to be the day of a student strike protesting the war, which was to close the campus. As he told the story, he found his access to the classroom blocked by a student who announced he couldn’t go in. Greg said he had a class. The student said he couldn’t go in. The student found out that getting in the way of an ex-Green Beret was a poor decision on the student’s part. As Greg told the story, he was the only student who actually went to class that day, which made him easy to find when the police came to arrest him for assault, which was later amended down to disorderly conduct.

My uncle and aunt lived in Auburn, N.Y., for a few years. (That was where, as Greg told the story, their motorcycle broke down.) Then they came back to Wisconsin so Greg could take over his father’s building business. Thereafter he was a stockbroker and then started a machine shop in Appleton, which made him a reader of Marketplace Magazine back in a previous life of mine. He was a fan of my work.

Greg was never a parent, so he probably didn’t really know how to deal with little kids. I do recall that he would take quarters and hold them in his fists, and my brother and I would work to get the quarters out. That was difficult, because he was a strong guy.

One of the purposes of cool uncles is for them to introduce you to activities your parents may not necessarily endorse. That included driving their truck in a field a couple of years before I was legally able to do so. A couple of decades later, in their basement following the Packers’ clinching their second consecutive Super Bowl berth, I sat in their basement and smoked the only tobacco product I have ever smoked in my life — a Cuban cigar.

Before that, he purchased a dark green 1969 Corvette. (Which replaced a Harley–Davidson motorcycle.) I’m not sure which 427 V-8 engine it had, but I do know it had the M-22 “rock crusher” four-speed manual transmission. It did not, however, have power steering or brakes. He took it out with me one day, and we reached, shall we say, extralegal speeds. And then he let me drive it. I had never driven a stick before, nor had I ever driven a car without power steering before. (They’re easier to drive while moving.) He was amazingly patient while I figured out how to take off without killing the engine. Later on he bought another one he was going to rebuild, but I don’t believe he ever finished it.

A Fathom Green 1969 Corvette, not necessarily the aforementioned Fathom Green 1969 Corvette.

He was single-minded in his pursuit of his hobbies. The first I remember was photography. He had more lenses and filters than I previously seen in 1970s-vintage photography (before zoom lenses became a thing). He also thought it was fun to take his flash and fire it in people’s faces to temporarily blind them. Sometime later he took up pool, and then after his vision made it hard (in his opinion) to play he dropped that for piano.

They had a succession of dogs. The first I remember was Brandy, a golden retriever that might have been the best-trained dog I have ever seen. If you snapped your finger, she would stick out a front paw for a handshake. She went bird-hunting, even when she was old enough to need painkiller shots before she went out. On the day of the bicentennial Independence Day, Greg, Brandy, my dad, my brother and I all went out on the Madison lakes in a boat he owned, on one of those perfect summer days. Earlier that day our new puppy, Dolly, followed Brandy around so close that she kept getting hit in the face by Brandy’s tail.

Brandy was followed by Kelly, an Irish setter. I went out with them as he was training her, and nearly collapsed laughing when she started barking at a bulldozer blade that was just sitting in the woods. Greg thought that was less funny than I did.

About a decade later, when Mrs. Presteblog and I were living in Appleton, they went to a Caribbean island for a diving vacation. My brother was tasked with caring for Kelly and their other dog (I believe she was Susie the black-and-white setter), but he had to be out of town that weekend, so he asked me to feed them and let them out. I got to their house, and of course the dogs were overjoyed to see humans and seemed quite sad at the prospect of my leaving them alone. And so I brought them back to our house, where we had our two dogs and one cat, for the rest of the weekend.

Nick the male spaniel thought having three girl dogs around was the greatest thing ever. Puzzle the female spaniel did not agree, and decided to follow me around even more than usual out of jealousy we had never seen before from her. The cat, meanwhile, got up on our fish mounted in our loft, a place we never would have guessed she could have reached due to her girth, to stay away from the dogs while monitoring their presence. We have a photo of my feeding four dogs treats, all of them at rapt attention.

They also had, for a while, big birds. I got an introduction to one of them when he let out a macaw (Tigger, I think, was his name) and said macaw flew up onto my back, and then walked up to my shoulder.

I didn’t hunt with Greg, but cars were a common interest, as were the Packers, in their Gory Years and then in the 1990s when they returned to the top of the NFL. So was music.

One day we visited them in Richland Center. They had what appeared to be a state-of-the-then-art sound system with big speakers and a reel-to-reel tape player. For whatever reason he decided to play Chicago’s “Ballet for a Girl from Buchannon,” which included “Make Me Smile.” I had heard the latter, but not the whole thing. And never as loudly as he played it that day.

Did that make an impression? Well, I have seen Chicago four times in concert, most recently in Madison in May, with our trumpet- and trombone-playing sons.

I always looked forward to going to their house. He started presenting us with Bloody Marys you could chew and beer chasers. We watched Super Bowl XXXI there, with my parents and a group of their friends. (Afterward we decided in a snowstorm to drive to Lambeau Field, but that’s another story.)

One Sunday we decided to visit Frank’s Pizza Palace in Appleton. He wasn’t dressed for the day when we got there, and so someone made a comment about that. He didn’t say anything, but went upstairs and returned a half-hour later, wearing a suit, outdressing everyone else in the restaurant.

An even more epic night than that was Dec. 31, 1999, when the family determined the best way to depart 1999 and welcome 2000 was a course-per-hour dinner. We went along with our oldest son, who couldn’t see anything because he was four months in utero. I remember driving home after 2 a.m., listening, for one of the few times in my life, to Art Bell to see if any of the more dire predictions of Y2K were coming true. The next day — actually later that day — we drove back to watch the 2000 Rose Bowl.

These are my experiences with Greg that stand out. I hadn’t seen him for a few years after my uncle and aunt divorced. I now regret not having reached out to him since then. We’ll have to schedule a Bloody Mary you can chew sometime this weekend in his memory.