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Zorro

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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 11,727

Journal Archives

The next Lost Cause?

The South’s mythology glamorized a noble defeat. Trump backers may do the same.

The Lost Cause offered former Confederates and their descendants a salve for the past. According to this mythology about the Civil War, the South was the victim, even in defeat. Confederate armies were not vanquished on the battlefield but overwhelmed by insurmountable Union resources; Confederate soldiers were heroic martyrs, none more so than Robert E. Lee; defense of states’ rights, not slavery, caused the war; and African Americans were “faithful slaves,” loyal to their masters and the Confederate cause. Through distortions and omissions, White Southerners constructed a version of history that absolved them of blame. Although they were a defeated minority, they organized to spread their message through monuments, literature, film and textbooks across the country — where it dominated for more than a century, shaping partisan politics, American culture and, of course, race relations.

Even as Confederate monuments tumble this summer, we may be witnessing an attempt to form a new lost cause. Today, President Trump describes his opponents as “unfair,” the pandemic sapping his popularity as a “hoax,” the polls that show him losing to Joe Biden as “fake,” and the election in which he’ll face ultimate judgment in November as “rigged” or potentially “stolen.” His defenders are already laboring to cast him as a righteous, noble warrior martyred by traitors and insurmountable forces. They rely on the same tools that were used to promulgate Confederate myths: manipulating facts, claiming persecution, demonizing enemies and rewriting history. In other words, Trump is laying the groundwork to claim moral victory in political defeat — and to deny the legitimacy of the Democratic administration that would displace him.

The original Lost Cause will never be replicated. It articulated a fully developed set of beliefs about slavery, honor and region, grounded in the experiences of a slaveholding republic. Trump and his followers do not have such a coherent ideology, nor do they enjoy the kind of geographical monopoly that the Confederates possessed. But their arguments are animated by some of the same tactics that allowed the Lost Cause to thrive for more than 150 years, which may help Trumpism, too, live on past its political moment. If it succeeds in attracting adherents, they will be a minority. Nevertheless, a small but vocal set of defenders can still shape our politics and our society. We’ve seen it before.

The Lost Cause was not born in defeat. Although most Confederates believed that their quest to create an independent slaveholding nation would triumph, they also laid the foundation for a new mythology long before Appomattox. In 1863, Walter Taylor, Lee’s adjutant, marveled at Confederate success given “our numerical weakness, our limited resources and the great strength & equipments of the enemy.” Taylor did not believe that such odds were decisive, but when Lee’s army surrendered at Appomattox in 1865, the general managed to twist defeat into a moral victory. “After four years of arduous service,” his farewell address began, “marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.”

Trump is already arguing that the odds are stacked against him: The man who claims to have worked tirelessly to put America back on track is being overwhelmed by left-wing extremism and political correctness. The “Fake News Media” prevents him from getting his message out. Millions of fraudulent votes were cast in 2016, and November’s election will be bogus, too, thanks to mail-in ballots.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/07/31/lost-cause-donald-trump/

How the pandemic and a broken unemployment system are upending people's lives

Ten bucks left, no place to go: How the pandemic and a broken unemployment system are upending people’s lives

He had five days to move out of the house in Brightwood Park, and now Daniel Vought stood looking at the plastic crates stacked in the living room holding his things. T-shirts. Power cords. Pokémon cards and stuffed animals. His beloved guitar — a Gibson Explorer electric — still hung on the wall. He figured it would be safer staying behind.

A new housemate was coming, one who could actually pay $800 a month for the room Vought, 30, had lived in rent-free since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the Georgetown bar where he worked.

For four months, his unemployment benefits application had been snared in red tape at the D.C. Department of Employment Services, a black hole of unanswered emails, phone holds and automated voice messages offering delays instead of answers.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the nation’s capital have been sucked down the same confusing abyss. Through July 29, the employment office has fielded more than 133,000 claims, nearly five times the number processed in all of 2019.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coronavirus-unemployment-delays-dc/2020/08/01/50016264-c522-11ea-8ffe-372be8d82298_story.html

Data isn't just being collected from your phone. It's being used to score you.

Operating in the shadows of the online marketplace, specialized tech companies you’ve likely never heard of are tapping vast troves of our personal data to generate secret "surveillance scores” — digital mug shots of millions of Americans — that supposedly predict our future behavior. The firms sell their scoring services to major businesses across the U.S. economy.

People with low scores can suffer harsh consequences.

CoreLogic and TransUnion say that scores they peddle to landlords can predict whether a potential tenant will pay the rent on time, be able to “absorb rent increases,” or break a lease. Large employers use HireVue, a firm that generates an “employability" score about candidates by analyzing “tens of thousands of factors,” including a person’s facial expressions and voice intonations. Other employers use Cornerstone’s score, which considers where a job prospect lives and which web browser they use to judge how successful they will be at a job.

Brand-name retailers purchase “risk scores” from Retail Equation to help make judgments about whether consumers commit fraud when they return goods for refunds. Players in the gig economy use outside firms such as Sift to score consumers’ “overall trustworthiness.” Wireless customers predicted to be less profitable are sometimes forced to endure longer customer service hold times.

Auto insurers raise premiums based on scores calculated using information from smartphone apps that track driving styles. Large analytics firms monitor whether we are likely to take our medication based on our propensity to refill our prescriptions; pharmaceutical companies, health-care providers and insurance companies can use those scores to, among other things, “match the right patient investment level to the right patients.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/31/data-isnt-just-being-collected-your-phone-its-being-used-score-you/

Federal Agents Don't Need Army Fatigues

If you’re an officer of the law, dress like one. Leave the soldiering to soldiers.

Masked men, clad indistinguishably from soldiers, yanking civilians off the street in the dead of night and throwing them into unmarked cars is the modus operandi of totalitarian regimes — or the stuff of dystopian fiction.

But that’s now the reality in America. In recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security has sent hundreds of federal agents into Portland, Ore., to quell protests over racism and police violence.

The Justice Department and the Oregon governor appear to have negotiated a withdrawal of those agents. But Bill Barr, the attorney general, told Congress this week that federal agents would be headed to other cities, including Cleveland, Milwaukee and Detroit. On Monday, the mayors of Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Albuquerque, Washington and Kansas City, Mo., sent a letter to Congress asking for legislation to stop the Trump administration from deploying federal agents to cities without their consent. Federal agents should assist local jurisdictions, if they ask. But, at least in the case of Portland, the conduct of federal officers clearly made a bad situation worse.

Many of those federal agents aren’t easily recognizable as law enforcement officials, nor do they act like them. Even the military is concerned about the public confusion sewn into society when heavily armed federal agents dress like soldiers. All the more reason that the federal agents on the streets of American cities be required to wear uniforms that clearly identify themselves and their civilian agency.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/31/opinion/federal-agents-trump-uniforms.html

As pandemic benefits expire, Senate Republicans and Trump can't get their act together

IT HAS been slightly more than four months since Congress and President Trump met what was still an incipient coronavirus pandemic with $2.7 trillion worth of economic and health-care support. Passage of the Cares Act in late March, by overwhelming consensus of what is usually a bitterly polarized and divided legislature, represented hopeful evidence that American democracy could still function when it really had to.

At least that was our evaluation then; recent events in Washington, though, cause us to reconsider. Progress against the pandemic has faded and, in some places, turned into regression. As a result, the economic recovery has stalled, just as we were warned it would. Yet Congress and the president are deadlocked on a new round of urgently needed economic support. The immediate consequences are likely to be worst for those least able to withstand them: the expiration, at midnight Friday, of both a $600-per-week federal supplement to unemployment insurance and a moratorium on evictions.

The main problem is disarray among Republicans, who have wasted precious time debating a counterproposal to the $3 trillion Heroes Act that the Democratic House passed months ago. There are differences within the Senate GOP and between the Senate GOP and Mr. Trump. The latest intra-GOP flap arose when the White House contradicted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) long-standing demand that any bill must include liability protections for businesses and universities that reopen.

This has to stop. The Cares Act was not only a symbolic victory for the political process, it was a substantive one, too. The billions of dollars in aid to households, through additional unemployment insurance or direct payments, coupled with the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, have so far protected vulnerable families from what otherwise would have been catastrophic economic losses. In fact, personal disposable income actually rose in the second quarter of 2020, even as the economy shrank at an annual rate of 32.9 percent. Ideally, Congress would produce a new bill that modified what was inevitably imperfect about the Cares Act and included funds to help state and local governments. Especially urgent within aid to the states would be generous financial support for the November elections. As important as it is to salvage the economy, it might be even more vital to salvage the legitimacy of the vote.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/as-pandemic-benefits-expire-senate-republicans-and-trump-cant-get-their-act-together/2020/07/31/cf05c7c2-d354-11ea-8c55-61e7fa5e82ab_story.html

GM is tripling the size of its EV fast charging network

General Motors is hoping to bolster consumer demand for electric vehicles by tripling the size of its fast charging network.

The automaker is adding more than 2,700 fast chargers over the next five years in conjunction with its EVgo partnership. Chargers will be installed in a variety of areas across cities and suburbs, including grocery stores, retailers and other "high-traffic" locations, with the aim of letting people charge their cars while running errands, the company said in a press release. It takes under a half hour for a car to fully charge.

The strategy stands in contrast to Tesla's own fast charging network, known as Supercharger, that originally focused on providing quick-charge capability along Interstate routes to facilitate long-distance drives. GM CEO Mary Barra said on a call with reporters that the focus on metropolitan areas was a result of customer feedback, and a desire to tap into an underserved potential customer base who live in apartments without access to personal garage charging systems.

But Tesla's network only charges its own vehicles, while EVgo's pumps can charge a variety of vehicles (including Tesla (TSLA) models).

https://www.cnn.com/2020/07/31/cars/gm-fast-charging-network-expansion/index.html
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