Remembering Bay Area activist Leda Dederich

Leda Dederich, a fierce mother, partner, friend, community organizer and digital strategist, passed away on October 11, 2021, nearly five years after being diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Leda drew on her core optimism and joy to embrace each day as fully as possible, and navigated her illness with the wisdom, integrity and love that characterized her entire life: Fearlessly exploring and interrogating the latest medical knowledge, convening a remarkable community of friends and family to provide support, and living each day with deep awareness and compassion for her partner Andy Gaines and their children Jaren and Raina.

Leda's strong heart, brilliant mind and intense commitment to social change had a profound effect on those who knew her, and on the world. Born April 6, 1971, Leda grew up in the controversial commune, Synanon. She spoke of the blessings and challenges of her unconventional childhood with compassion and clarity as she forged a loving and independent adult life. By 17, she'd left home to enroll at Foothill Junior College, before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley, where she completed an honors degree in Comparative Literature. While still at Cal, she answered her first inner call to scout out other worlds as a French-speaking contributor to The Berkeley Guides and Lonely Planet travel guides. She would later choose ScoutSeven as the name for her social change consulting practice, taking her open-minded curiosity and translating gifts into a wide range of organizations who sought her help.

Leda, Andy, Jaren and Raina

A passionate advocate for racial and social justice, Leda was a lifelong activist in the streets and online. She was a street medic at anti-war and anti-globalization protests, and brought her skills and leadership to building the U.S. anti-war movement. In 2003, as the U.S. prepared to invade Iraq, she dedicated herself to working full time with Direct Action to Stop the War. It was an all-volunteer grassroots mobilization that organized tens of thousands of people to take nonviolent direct action against U.S. militarism through the historic shut-down of San Francisco's financial district and ongoing actions against corporate war profiteers. Leda played a key leadership role on the mobilization's media team, including securing office space and other critical infrastructure, and helping amplify the anti-war movement across U.S. and global media.

Leda was also one of the first people to recognize the Internet's potential as a tool for organizing and campaigning. As the Online Director for the Independent Media Institute, she led IMI's online initiatives, including the design, development and operations of the award-winning She was the online campaign manager for Arianna Huffington's gubernatorial campaign in California; the founder and director of dotOrganize, which provided early and important guidance on online organizing; and a senior advisor to the American Association for Justice.

Through her social change consulting practice, ScoutSeven, Leda advised on or led a wide range of racial, social and environmental justice initiatives. She was much more than a vendor to the organizations she worked with: She was a partner and a beacon of clarity in the messiness of justice work. When Green For All started its national nonprofit at the intersection of environmental, economic, and racial justice, Leda was essential to the leadership team, from helping to envision what the organization could be, to the nuts and bolts of developing a comprehensive communications and technology/advocacy platform. She developed the first strategic technology plan and online voter guides for the League of Young Voters; scaled the communications infrastructure for the Story of Stuff Project; and spent the better part of a year working with Agenda in Israel and the occupied territories to provide strategic technology trainings to Israeli and Palestinian social change organizations.

Leda relaxes outdoors

Leda was fully alive in her mind, heart and body. She studied self-defense, which led her to practice Aikido. She loved to dance and was very active at contact improvisation jams, especially at 848 Community Space where she was part of a vibrant community of dancers and activists. She enjoyed countless Rhythm and Motion classes, even during treatment. This year, at her 50th birthday, she instigated a dance party with everyone joining her in a line dance.

Dance was how Leda met her partner Andy Gaines in 2007: They met through their shared dance community and the connection was instantaneous. Their profoundly loving relationship was grounded in their shared social and political values, community commitments and love of dance. When they welcomed their children Jaren (born 2010) and Raina (born 2013), they formed a joyful and intimate family unit that flourished on gentle communication, time in nature, creative expression and community connection. Leda was a fierce and devoted mother who made a practice of parenting with empathy and presence, honoring her children's voices and advocating for their needs. She embraced the opportunity to homeschool her children, both before and during the pandemic, and was an inventive and enthusiastic teacher to her own children and the other children who joined in their homeschooling pod.

Leda confronted her cancer diagnosis with her characteristic ability to hold contradictions. She revisited her evolving prognosis with regret but without bitterness, and was committed to getting the maximum number of days, months, and years with her kids and with the world. She vigilantly maintained and voiced her awareness of the gift of life as she focused on building a loving home and a storehouse of shared memories for her children. She used her talents as an activist and writer to draw attention to conflicting guidance on mammography, so that other women would not miss the opportunity to get early, life-saving screening. She drew strength and support from a circle of friends and family who joined her in prayer, in celebration and in day-to-day care, and she shared the insights gleaned from her own journey with great clarity and generosity.

Leda is survived by her husband Andy; their children Jaren and Raina; her mother Jady Dederich Montgomery; her father, Steven Schiff, and his wife, Bonni; and the other circles of made family and friendship she fostered and cherished.

To honor Leda's memory and to continue her work for the causes and organizations she championed, family and friends have created the Leda Dederich Fund for Social Justice. If you are interested in learning more, or in being a contributor, please send your name, email, and text contact info to

Psychiatric expert: Trump will not hesitate to cause violence to stay in power

by Patrick R. McElligott

Dr. Bandy X. Lee was interviewed by Patrick R. McElligott, who is a retired psychiatric social worker from upstate New York. He has decades of experience in grass roots social-political activism, including working on his late friend Rubin "Hurricane" Carter's case, serving as Onondaga Nation Chief Paul Waterman's top assistant on burial protection and repatriation, and providing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency information on Super Fund sites for federal court cases. Dr. Lee agreed to an interview regarding current events in post-election America.

McElligott: In April, 2017, you organized the "Duty to Warn" Conference. Later, you were the editor and contributor to the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. Has Donald Trump's behaviors since losing the 2020 election reinforced your opinion on the dangers Trump poses to a civilized society?

Lee: Absolutely. We are seeing the last bout of just how much he is willing and able to destroy norms and to push the limits. It is clear he does not intend to leave without placing us in further danger, and without obstructing the president-elect's agenda as much as possible. My regret is that, because of the "gag order" on all mental health experts, which the American Psychiatric Association forced through public campaigns since this administration, the people are still left vulnerable without having learned much. As we see from the 72 million who voted for him again, we are very likely to repeat our errors.

Recently, my brother sent me the following e-mail: "He is the estranged husband who returns on Christmas Eve to murder his wife and children." As the author of Violence: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Causes, Consequences, and Cures, do you think that our culture's serious problems with domestic violence are related to the aggression we are witnessing from Trump and some of his supporters?

Different forms of violence are interrelated, and our culture has maximally cultivated conditions for violence through extreme economic inequality, which divides the population into superior and inferior. When vast segments of the population are deemed "inferior", they will be inclined to try to escape the shame by resorting to other hierarchies, such as white supremacy or gender superiority. These are all what I call, "structural violence." Structural violence is the most lethal form of violence as well as the most potent cause of behavioral violence.

Thirty minutes after my brother's first message, he followed with one noting that Trump had just fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. He expressed concern that Trump might attempt to create a "national emergency" by attacking Iran in January. I said that I think this is more likely an escalation of Trump's attack on our nation's institutions. Does it make sense that a furious Trump would seek to punish the country that he is convinced betrayed him by rejecting him in the election?

I would say we need to be concerned about both. Donald Trump may desire maximum revenge, but he is also a follower, including of public opinion. Our feelings of helplessness arise from a paralyzing anxiety or the complacency that "It can't happen here," but the difference we can make with serious understanding and deliberate preparedness is overlooked. I again lament the American Psychiatric Association's acting as an arm of the government, and not only itself failing to meet its societal responsibility but preventing other professionals from doing so, as outlined in its own ethics code. Education and awareness about psychological dynamics had the potential not only to prevent vast harm to the public's collective mental health but to save a quarter million lives. Instead, by keeping the public in the dark and unable to protect itself, extreme dangers continue.

The formal study of "crowd behavior" began in 1908 (F.H. Giddings). In the late 1950's, sociologists first used photographs and film to support their theories (R. Turner, l. Killian). In general, crowds can behave the existing social structures, such as laws, and can organize in a positive, meaningful manner. However, with the introduction of rumors, panic, and/or hysteria, crowds can easily be led to participate in behaviors that are well outside of the social structures, and include riots and arson. In our nation's history, for example from the post Civil War era until the 1950's, this included groups such as the Ku Klux Klan lynching black Americans, attacking Native American communities, and the too often forgotten "disappearing" of Chinese immigrants by the hundreds (likely thousands) in the "old west." What factors beyond Trump are responsible for the current rise in these types of threats?

A spectrum of theories exist about group behavior, from irrationality as the predominant observation, as by Gustave Le Bon, to the unrealistic "rational choice theory," which dominates a lot of economic and political science models. I find the multi-layered understanding of psychoanalysis to be more consistent with the complexity of the human mind, including in groups. We think of laws and social norms as objects that are "out there," but they are rational constructs that require mental health to operate and have meaning in the collective mind. And just as individuals cannot function at a higher level if the mind breaks down, neither can groups. Unconscious, "primitive" processes take over in situations of regression, but we can guard against this through awareness, education, and engagement in collective decision-making. Many advanced democracies have developed into harmonious, higher-functioning societies, which improve a society's health across many domains. Donald Trump is a product as well as a cause of breakdown of democratic organization.

Yesterday, a news report from Utah showed that a hospital had problems with a group of five conspiracy theorists seeking to enter and film its Intensive Care Unit. They were convinced that it was not filled with COVID 19 patients. Such behaviors cause unnecessary strain on the medical professionals. What factors have turned so many seemingly "normal" people into being aggressively anti-science?

They are not just anti-science but tragically anti-reality now. Taking their cues from a president whose fantasy is that he be a "winner" and that a deadly pandemic be a "hoax", they know well what is required of them. I have defined authoritarianism as "the handing over of all institutional, professional, and personal authority, including over their own survival, so as to appease a single person." The more his followers' minds are controlled, and the more horrific his oppression and massacre of the people, the less they will be able to face the truth. Therefore, a subconscious collusion happens between perpetrator and victims. We can see how powerful this emotional force is if we recall that the pandemic was not always politicized, and the right mindset in the beginning would have changed people's behavior to be life-saving instead of death-spreading.

When the media announced that Joe Biden had won the election, and is indeed the president-elect, public celebrations across the country rivaled those at the end of WW2. By no coincidence, similar celebrations took place across Europe, and in many other places around the globe. However, it appears the January 20 presidential inauguration ceremony will come at a time when the virus will hold an increased risk of spreading. There also seems to be a risk of white nationalist Trump supporters planning to disrupt the events in Washington, DC, on that day. Do you have any thoughts about how those celebrating the long national nightmare coming to an end honor the day?

The public celebrations were phenomenal, indeed. You can see the level of oppression, fear, and sense of seizure people have been living under, the world over. However, I am worried not only about the inauguration but the persistent lack of awareness of psychological factors. Politicians, networks, and social media are still giving him a platform, without realizing how destructive this can be, capable even of disrupting an election through psychological manipulation. After a recent rally in Washington energized him, he responded by "tweet": "ANTIFA SCUM ran for the hills today when they tried attacking the people at the Trump Rally, because those people aggressively fought back. Antifa waited until tonight, when 99% were gone, to attack innocent #MAGA People. DC Police, get going—do your job and don't hold back!!!" He shows that he would not hesitate to cause violence and mayhem to stay in power, in which case there may not even be an inauguration day if we are not vigilant.

I think there are several distinct, though overlapping, levels within the millions that voted for Trump in 2020. Some were motivated primarily by financial issues, others by long term party loyalty, many by an external locus of control looking for a hero, and still others by fear and anger. I remember years ago, when Rubin "Hurricane" called me from the other side of the world, when he was working with Nelson Mandela on an attempt to get peace in the Middle East, based on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Do you think something similar to that is possible in this country, or are we more likely to experience something similar to "the Troubles" in Ireland?

I believe it is useful to keep in mind that followers of Trump are diverse and complex, but we should not miss important overarching patterns. First, there is the psychological injury that relative, not absolute, poverty produces—whether it is relative to previous generations or those currently at the top—and this makes people vulnerable to false authority figures. Sociopathic individuals who exploit such psychological vulnerabilities to claim they will take care of them, when their intention is to plunder, become a gift for the billionaires. There is nothing like mental pathology to distract and detach people from the reality of their unfair power arrangement. So, as a psychiatrist, I consider the time when our society consults with mental health experts, whether for the 25th Amendment or some other intervention, to be the moment when it is ready for truth and reconciliation; for now, we are worsening the troubles just to avoid facing the issue. In my new book, Profile of a Nation: Trump's Mind, America's Soul, I recommend three steps: (1) removal of offending agent (the influential person with severe symptoms); (2) dismantling cultic programming and propaganda, which have vastly increased in recent years; and (3) fixing the socioeconomic conditions that give rise to poor collective mental health in the first place.

Follow Dr. Lee at

Trump ignores election result and plans 'flood' of sanctions — while Biden signals shift in Iranian relations

Trump ignores election result and plans 'flood' of sanctions — while Biden signals shift in Iranian relations

How to save lives and save the economy: 7 key recommendations for the new surge of COVID-19

by Phillip Alvelda, Thomas Ferguson, and John C. Mallery

from the Institute for New Economic Thinking

Less than two weeks ago, COVID-19 was spreading in the United States at a rate of 100,000 new cases per day. Now the rate is approaching 180,000 per day and still rising. As new cases have soared, a somber chorus of political leaders, media editorial outlets, and business figures have gravely proclaimed that "lockdowns don't work" or that "the economic and public health damage from a lockdown are as bad or worse than that inflicted by the virus they are meant to stave off." [1-8] A careful analysis of data comparing differing national responses leads to clear delineation of what works, and what does not. This paper demonstrates not only that lockdowns do work but indicates what other measures can slow and even suppress the Coronavirus, and why. Our study closes with specific recommendations that promise to work better than blanket lockdowns and what nations, states, and even citizens should do to effectively address the pandemic right now.

Lockdowns Work

With over ten months of data from dozens of Coronavirus hotspots around the world, statements proclaiming the futility of lockdowns are now provably false. Strict lockdowns do work, and they work swiftly, within 4-6 weeks. They worked not only to suppress, but to virtually eliminate the virus in Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland, as well as in China, Korea, and Taiwan. Figure 1 below tells the story in one picture of new COVID-19 case counts by country.

Figure 1. New COVID-19 case count by country normalized by population (7-Day moving average). The time dimension on the X-axis counts backward from left to right along the horizontal axis, starting in February 2020 and ending at November 14, 2020 on the left margin. The vertical axis shows a seven-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases per day. The countries that have effectively managed and suppressed the spread of the Coronavirus all cluster in the bottom right corner of the chart. These include China, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland.

Recommendation #1: Save the Economy by Saving Lives First

Limiting economic damage caused by the pandemic starts and ends with controlling the spread of the virus. Dozens of experiments conducted in different countries across the world definitively show that no country can prevent the economic damage without first addressing the pandemic that causes it. The countries that swiftly focused first on pandemic abatement measures are now reopening in stages and growing their economies. Most of the countries that prioritized bolstering their economies and resisted, limited, or prematurely curtailed interventions to control the pandemic are now facing runaway rates of infection and imminent state and national lockdowns. If you still believe that a nation can somehow stimulate and recover the economy without first addressing the pandemic — in other words, trade lives lost to COVID-19 for livelihoods that would otherwise be lost through lockdowns — consider the following chart in Figure 2. It plots the number of coronavirus deaths, a measure of the regional severity of the pandemic, versus the total economic loss, including both the decline in GDP (see end notes on data from EuroStat 11 and OECD 12 GDP Data) and the cost of economic stimulus programs drawn from national budgets and assumed debt (as summarized in this IMF report "Fiscal Policies Database in Response to COVID-19") by country as of the end of Q2 2020. The chart is effectively a rough representation of how well each country has protected its citizens versus the total cost of doing so.

Figure 2. Economic Loss versus the Loss of Lives to COVID-19. This chart draws on IMF economic and stimulus measures against Johns Hopkins COVID-19 data to plot each country's coronavirus deaths against the total economic loss each suffered (including both the decline in GDP and total spending on economic stimulus programs along with debts and liabilities they took on) as of the end of Q2 2020. The economic losses are shown on the horizontal X-Axis; countries doing better are located towards the right with less loss. The Y-Axis plots the number of deaths per million people, a normalized measure of how bad the pandemic is that controls for different country populations. Countries with fewer deaths, who better protected their citizenry are at the top of the graph.

Once one takes the critical analytical step of estimating all the costs of the pandemic response, including those deferred for future payment, different national response strategies become easily distinguishable. Countries that swiftly focused on Coronavirus suppression and elimination, effectively choosing to temporarily sacrifice their economies to limit the Coronavirus spread and save lives, show along the top of the chart, highlighted by the green line. Countries that chose to limit pandemic response in favor of economic stimulus in the name of saving their economies at the expense of their citizen's lives are grouped along the diagonal red line. Those that delayed response or waffled between strategies lie in the middle, like the U.K., suffering the worst of both extremes.

Figure 2 above highlights the clear and consistent limit to how strong any nation's economy can be that is proportional to the local severity of the pandemic: The worse the pandemic was allowed to get, the more the costs of dealing with it piled up, which directly impacted the overall costs to the economy. No amount of spending to bolster the economy with fiscal or monetary stimulus changed this near-straight line relationship. That realization alone should deter national and state leaders from pursuing primarily economic responses to COVID-19. But an even more damning realization emerges when you consider how the graph changes over time.

Those countries, like the United States, that invested in economic stimulus while allowing the virus to continue proliferating continue to suffer from unabated community transmission, deepening the economic damage quarter after quarter as the virus spreads. Those unhappy economy-over-lives countries in Figure 2 are trapped in a calamitous feedback loop of having to invest more and more to stay on that diagonal limit as the virus grows and their GDP continues to decline. They move down and to the left along the red line, requiring ever-increasing economic stimulus, and allowing more and more people to die of the virus until their medical systems are unable to keep up. At that point, when they are suffering both economic and humanitarian disaster, extreme lockdowns are unavoidable. Take the U.S. case, for example. The US started at the upper right hand corner of the graph, and when early action was somewhat delayed in the first surge in the Northeast, the country traveled downward along the red line until the first national lockdown, after which, once the virus abated from the initial hotspots, it enjoyed a brief economic recovery. But as the virus resurged in the south and west, and now sweeps across the nation with each new resurgence worse than that before, the U.S. faces ongoing self-reinforcing growth in both viral and economic damage.

On the other hand, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand, which all invested primarily in swift Coronavirus suppression have effectively eliminated the virus and are seeing their economies begin to grow again. They are also in a positive feedback loop — in this case, a good one — where the reopening economies grow themselves without additional stimulus and suffer diminishing damage from the virus as cases dwindle. Their natural self-sustaining trend in Figure 2 is travel to the right along the green line towards economic recovery. In the process they saved hundreds of thousands of lives; a clear win-win in both economic and humanitarian terms.

A final useful thought experiment that emerges from the above chart is to use it to evaluate the effectiveness, or the return on investment, of direct investment in pandemic response versus investment in economic stimulus.

The single biggest and most consistent difference between the successful Asian countries and those Western countries that continue to struggle with COVID-19, is universal adoption of high-quality mask wearing and strict adherence to social distancing measure passed, and enforced by, national governments. These governments correctly calculated in advance that the costs of producing and distributing masks for everyone, imposing social distancing, and supporting the poor through short but effective lockdowns would be dwarfed by the longer term economic damage of continuing viral surges and the ongoing stimulus required as long as the virus rages unaddressed.

One need look no further than the U.S. plan to distribute 5 quality masks to every person in the country through the postal service, a plan that was shut down by the Trump administration. (See: "White House Nixed Plan to Send Facemasks to Every Household In US") The cost of such a program would have been in the range of $1 billion, relative to the economic stimulus passed at that time in Q2 congruent with the chart data, of $1.7 trillion, a figure which has since grown to over $3 trillion plus ongoing GDP losses. The relative effectiveness of the contrasting measures is likely in the range of 1,000-to-1 in favor of pandemic abatement over economic stimulus. In other words, a billion dollars spent on masks and social distancing could have had a similar economic effect as a trillion-dollar economic stimulus, and it could have saved as many as 200,000 American lives.

The uncomfortable reality is that the pandemic doesn't respond to political ideology, especially when it flies in the face of nature and reality. Those who resist lockdowns and containment measures early in the wave of infections are not, in fact, avoiding lockdowns. What they are really doing is guaranteeing that the inescapable lockdown will happen regardless, and will have to be more stringent, and for much longer, because they refused more moderate action earlier. (And it will cost more and more, all along the way until the virus is suppressed.) This conclusion follows from the way coronavirus infections ramp up exponentially and taper off much more slowly. All the economy-first boosters are really doing is trading off a few weeks of "freedom" up front for months of extra lockdown on the back-end once the hospitals are overwhelmed and allowing tens of thousands of people to die needlessly in the process.

Doubters should compare the recent trajectories of Belgium and Germany. In the face of the virus resurgence, they both instituted new abatement measures at the same time. But Belgium waited until the prevalence was 10x higher than Germany's threshold to act. The economic difference? Belgium was forced to completely close the economy, while Germany took much milder measures to decrease maximum meeting sizes and adjust the restaurant capacity limits, but otherwise kept the economy open for business. This same dynamic is playing out across different US states, with California and New York following the faster-acting but milder-measure German approach, and the Dakotas and other Midwestern states following the Belgian strategy through cyclical Coronavirus resurgence, overwhelmed hospitals, and ongoing economic ruin. These examples make it obvious that hard lockdowns and their ruinous economic costs are an inevitable result of policy and governance failures to address the pandemic directly and earlier, when milder and less costly solutions could have saved many lives and expenses.

Figure 3. The number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 cases normalized by population for slow actors hoping to stave off lockdowns (Belgium and North Dakota) and swift actors taking milder measures earlier to forestall the need for stricter lockdowns later. The chart clearly shows North Dakota following the Belgian curve, and California tracking to follow the German trajectory.

COVID-19 in the US Now

After ten months of federal inaction and misdirection that has downplayed the virus, and encouraged citizens and state leaders to delay any real national-scale and even statewide measures, and even promoted numerous super-spreader events, the virus is out of control across more than half of the states in the US. Our international allies justifiably look on this as a humanitarian disaster that was completely avoidable. Over 200,000 US citizens have died needlessly. We are back to one 9/11 worth of tragic and unnecessary deaths every two days. Doctors Without Borders is sending teams to the overwhelmed US hospital system to help, as if the US was a third world country unable to help itself.

So what now? Most informed observers can probably agree that the national lockdown was a very blunt sledgehammer that, while it did serve the few states like California, Washington, and New York, that were hard-hit early, also needlessly damaged many states that had yet to see many cases. They can also probably agree that the economic stimulus packages, while it may have kept a few, predominantly medium and large businesses in operations, it did little to nothing for those essential workers most at risk from the virus economically, and kept them not just at risk from the virus, but as active agents in continuing and worsening its spread.

A Better Approach: Use Targeted Abatement and Subsidies

The good news is that we now have much more useful data accessible to us, we can be much more targeted in our response, and much more effective, both in terms of saving lives and saving livelihoods.

Recommendation #2: Ramp-up the Most Cost-Effective Transmission Abatement Measures

David Cutler and Lawrence Summers recently published a paper entitled "The COVID-19 Pandemic and the $16 Trillion Virus," that estimated the total damage from the COVID-19 pandemic at $16 trillion.[14] By comparison, any measures, in even the billion-dollar range, that shave off material percentages of that damage should be pursued on a crash basis. They would pay off around 1,000:1 in forestalled economic damage for every dollar spent. Ramping up the Defense Production Act and leveraging foreign mass production to flood the U.S. market with high quality (K)N95 masks should be at the top of the list. Broad marketing and social media ad campaigns promoting mask usage and social distancing and encouraging citizenship through service in support of public health and the public good would also garner healthy returns on investment, particularly in communities that have been bombarded by conflicted messages from political leaders over the last nine months. Another key category for investment and subsidy is to outfit public transportation, and any essential venue that could host super-spreader events, with improved HVAC systems complete with HEPA filters and increased air flow to limit aerosol transmission. Best practices for room ventilation specify complete air replacement within 6-7 minutes.[16]

Recommendation #3: Geographically Target Measures and Subsidies by Prevalence

We can now use real-time maps of Coronavirus prevalence by county, even by zip code, to focus abatement measures only where there is need, assigning levels of targeted and tiered abatement measures by severity of local virus concentrations. Abatement measures that are inexpensive, such as social distancing and mask wearing, should be universal. Abatement aspects that are costly, such as meeting and business capacity limits, ventilation upgrade requirements, and in extreme cases, even mandatory local closures, can be tuned to the local prevalence and only applied as necessary for each region independently, first at super-spreader venues and, only as a last resort, universally. Economic support can also be geographically targeted, channeled directly into the businesses and households in each zip code by level of severity and applied abatement. With such a system, lockdowns only happen in isolated areas where it is most necessary, while everywhere else, milder suppression measures will suffice. Measures are tuned, then, by geography, and local pandemic severity.

Figure 4. This shows a real-time online COVID-19 Prevalence chart displaying active infection rates by county (left side map), deaths, or even the California Reopening tiers (right hand map) in a zoomable interactive map. Source: These tools can be used to automate targeting of both individual and corporate abatement measures and the application of stimulus only where it is most needed and impactful.

Recommendation #4: Subsidize Non-essential Workers to Avoid Working In-Person

To be clear, during the more extreme lockdowns in those communities struck by high prevalence, people and businesses should not be paid to continue operating nonessential businesses as before. They should be paid explicitly to avoid working in person in order to avoid spreading the virus. While this might sound expensive and burdensome, the alternative is significantly more expensive and burdensome with inevitable wider and longer lasting lockdowns that can no longer be postponed due to the collapse of health systems and overall public health.

Recommendation #5: Subsidize Essential Worker Conditions, Testing, and Sick Leave

Another critically important aspect of pandemic and economic recovery is that truly essential workers, particularly those whose work brings them into contact with many people as part of their services, such as delivery drivers and hospital and grocery store staff, must be supported with subsidized quality PPE, ventilation enhancements, frequent and regular molecular lab testing, and symptom screening to ensure that they are not super-spreaders sustaining the pandemic. They also require leave and healthcare policies that protect them and their families when they succumb to the virus so they have no incentive to hide symptoms and continue working while contagious. This helps curtail the virus, limits company liability, and protects the lives of workers and the public. OSHA and other state employee protection agencies could play a critical role in ensuring the requirement of these protections for essential operations.

Recommendation #6: Speed up Abatement Measure Tuning Using Real Time Data

With the latest COVID-19 testing, case, hospitalization, and mortality data updated daily on a county-by-county basis, analytical tools can expose within a week or two whether current abatement measures are effective. If not, they must be tuned immediately, in the enlightened best interest of both public health and the economy. State and county leaders should have access to, and be trained on how to use these tools, and to learn two critical lessons: once the Coronavirus is on an exponential growth trend, unless aggressively curtailed, a catastrophic end and mandatory lockdowns are inevitable; and that the quicker the abatement measure adjustments happen, ideally as soon as a positive exponential growth trend is identified, the milder the necessary measures. Even the simplest analysis can be immediately helpful. Consider that all one has to do to detect exponential growth in a pandemic case count, is to plot the new cases on the Y-Axis on a Log scale and look for straight lines. Any time there is a straight line, exponential viral growth is happening, and the more positive slope, the speedier (and worse) the growth. Using such a tool, it is easy to attribute different measures and events as well as their effects on viral spread, positive or negative, and immediately adjust such measures accordingly.

The Dakotas are a prime example of poor pandemic governance in this regard. The pandemic in North Dakota has spread exponentially, since June 6, 2020, yet officials only acted to introduce a mask mandate and business capacity limits on November 12, 2020, more than four months after the inevitable exponential trend was obvious to an even casual observer of data. Now, one can already see within the course of two weeks, curve flattening in response to the earlier suggestions by healthcare professionals to wear masks. But taking up that suggestion alone in November after failing to act for four months, is too little, too late. A flat trajectory, while still at high prevalence, means that the virus will keep spreading at its current rate, continuing to overwhelm local hospitals. More severe abatement measures, including business and school closures, will likely be necessary to suppress the virus and recover a working healthcare system. But note that had a mask mandate been instituted in June, most of this growth in prevalence would have been prevented, and no school or business closures would have been necessary.

South Dakota, however, may just take the crown for worst pandemic governance in the U.S. Despite the growing national pandemic, state officials decided to host a 7,500+ person event at Mt. Rushmore on the 3rd of June, complete with fireworks and attendees from all over the nation. This event, in retrospect, proved to be exactly the super-spreader event that local health officials feared.[10] The state then permitted a second, even more impactful week-long super-spreader event, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew 365,979 people from all over the country. Not only did this further accelerate the exponential growth of COVID-19 in South Dakota, it seeded, and accelerated, the pandemic through dozens of neighboring states, likely becoming the primary trigger for the current surge across the mid, and mountain West. A Stanford study calculated the total cost of the event to include over 250,000 new COVID-19 cases across the U.S., over 700 deaths, and a staggering healthcare total expense of over $12.2 billion. [11]

Though the exponential COVID-19 growth accelerated with each trigger, South Dakota leadership resisted taking abatement measures seriously until their hospitals were overwhelmed. And note that even city-posted resolutions at the end of October were sufficient to slow and stabilize the then current prevalence levels of the virus. But again, this minor action, without a mandate, could have saved hundreds of lives and billions of dollars had it been enacted in a timely fashion in June. At this point, it is no longer sufficient to suppress the virus and stop the health and economic damage. South Dakota will be forced to close large parts of its economy to recover.

The effects of each triggering event can be seen at clear inflection points in the charts below within a week of their triggering events, with the exponential growth accelerating at each trigger. Even the blip at the right side of each chart below highlights the pandemic worsening due to the November 3, in-person voting. The need for course correction at each turn was measurable and actionable within a week of each event.

New York and California, on the other hand, are proving much more reactive, tuning measures through gradual re-openings and acting within less than two weeks of a clear exponential trend to re-close open businesses and likely in-person schooling as well. [9] That said, they could have detected within 3 weeks of school re-opening that they were going to have to adjust their measures. Had New York done so sooner rather than later, it might have avoided the additional contagion from school openings that likely facilitated the Rockland County, New York outbreak the following month.

This analysis also makes it very clear which states re-opened schools for in-person learning with insufficient abatement measures and a lack of universal screening test regimens. Florida, Colorado, and Massachusetts are but a few examples of the many states in this category, all of which are experiencing inevitable exponential trends in Coronavirus prevalence as a result.

After allowing exponential growth to continue for over a month-and-a-half, they will now likely have to close in-person instruction and reimpose stricter abatement measures and improved testing regimens for their next re-opening after a period of state lockdowns lower the prevalence. With this new approach they could have seen within a week or two whether new measures and processes were working and adjusted accordingly without having had to close the schools.

Recommendation #7: Subsidize Surveillance/Screening Testing and Reporting

A key point, however, is that for the above-described quick-response strategy to be effective, there needs to be a universally available molecular test that is centrally coordinated with testing data immediately forwarded for real-time analysis and direction of measures and stimulus. With this in place, federal, state, and county officials will have the latest possible data on the state of the pandemic so they can effectively govern and respond locally. This requirement highlights a key limitation with most of the point-of-service on-site and single-use disposable tests. None of them will help assist an effective and timely monitoring and analysis of the response effort, an essential key to effective operations under the pandemic.

Best practices now dictate that universal screening tests should be applied to everyone seeking social, business, or school interaction not less than twice per week with not more than 24-hour turn-around times (since people can become infectious within 2.5-3 days of being infected themselves.) This means that tests must be inexpensive enough for everyone at risk of spreading the disease be tested regularly. Subsidies will almost certainly be necessary to ensure that the economically disadvantaged, who in many cases are more exposed as victims and super-spreader scale carriers, have equal or better testing access than those who offer less risk of infecting others. Even most middle-class citizens can hardly afford the testing at the frequency required. The economic case for making all screening tests free for the duration of the pandemic is compelling, as is the case for free quality (K)N95 mask distribution (as Singapore and Taiwan have done). So too, should the eventual Coronavirus vaccine distribution be free to every person.

One of the key early targets for ramped-up testing capability should be school students, faculty, staff, and their families. They should be tested not less than twice per week and using only tests whose results are delivered within 24 hours of the test. In addition to the test frequency requirement described above, another new recommendation is that not only should the students and teachers be tested, but also their families. This is based on the recent CDC report highlighting the high likelihood of household spread15; Coronavirus transmission within the home is such a high probability that, when calculating the risk of school pods by their size, family members should be included in the pod size calculations and surveillance testing plans. Note that this substantially increases the volume/scale requirements for surveillance testing, the need for significant cost reduction to make the greater frequency and breadth of testing affordable for schools, and subsidies to support those schools and communities that cannot otherwise afford complete regimens. There are three important reasons that suggest this focus. First, a majority of U.S. states have collected case data that definitively shows that the Coronavirus prevalence started to ramp up exponentially exactly congruent with the start of in-person classes in August and September. Note that this is despite a general sparseness of reporting of cases attributed to individual schools. And while there is no specific systemic or irrefutable smoking gun for specific universities, the state data makes it clear that school cases are being under-reported. This aligns with numerous anecdotal reports that school reporting is suppressed "for privacy reasons." Second, ensuring that children can safely attend in-person classes is a key requirement to free up at least half of America's K-12 parents to go safely back to work instead of having to remain at home caring for children and managing their remote learning. And third, college students, coming to campus from all over the U.S. and even the world, act as vectors, collecting the coronavirus from wherever it is prevalent, and then seeding new infections as students travel. In that sense, campuses are super-collector as well as super-spreader venues and it is critical to dampen the activity that underpins the exponential spread of the virus.

A comprehensive testing infrastructure should have three tiers of testing: Broad building, campus, and city-scale surveillance testing using waste-water sampling, universal inexpensive individual screening tests, and precision diagnostic tests, all supplying real-time results to official county, state, and federal analytical offices.

Charting the Course Ahead

The next few months will be difficult for the economically focused countries like the US, where too many states allowed COVID-19 to spread unchallenged. At this point the prevalence is high across the entirety of many states. This means that the local divide-and-conquer approach cannot be effective until those broader regions have the Coronavirus under better control. Broad regions require a wider scale lockdown for at least a few weeks, and as seen from the data above, the sooner they start, the quicker their recovery should be, at a correspondingly lower cost. The uncomfortable implication is that effective regional measures and lockdowns implicitly require travel limits and quarantines for those in high prevalence areas in what is effectively a divide-and-conquer strategy. Without these travel restrictions, unaddressed local prevalence becomes state, and then national prevalence over the course of a few weeks as infected people spread the virus from regions of high prevalence.

China, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, and Iceland all took such measures to bring the Coronavirus successfully under control. They used swift response to extensive data, and the national scale-up of testing and tracing along with divide-and-conquer border-control approaches to isolate healthy regions from the virus-ridden. They have all successfully contained and even eliminated the virus domestically and are reopening their economies. The most recent Chinese efforts even focused measures down to the city block scale. The U.S., the U.K. and broader European countries have, so far, failed to respond similarly, and continue to struggle with renewed explosions of exponentially growing community spread. With a coordinated national response that facilitates local focus and swift response to changing Coronavirus environments, the US can succeed by following the examples set by successful countries.

In summary, governments should:

1. Suppress the Virus: Prioritize investment in directly stopping the spread of the virus and saving lives first, and de-prioritize inefficient purely economic stimulus. Once the virus is suppressed the economy can then begin to fix itself.

2. Distribute PPE: Immediately ramp up production and distribution to flood the market with free, high-quality N95 and KN95 masks for every American, not just the healthcare workers.

3. Enhance Strategic Communication: Develop and distribute paid advertising from trusted celebrity spokespersons on both sides of the political isle to promote mask wearing, social distancing, virus uptake, and calls for universal support of our country's social contract and the public good. Even in the multi-billion-dollar investment range, the cost will be negligible, less than 1/1,000th of what would be incurred in economic damage without them.

4. Use Early-warning: Use real-time data-driven analytics systems to drive rapid coronavirus response with early detection of exponential growth in Coronavirus prevalence.

5. Divide and Conquer: Geographically target abatement measures when and where the prevalence is worst, and in particular, as soon as exponential growth is identified using the real-time data. This strategy has been successful in China, Taiwan, France, and

6. Deliver Targeted Support: Target subsidies to those same geographic areas that specifically suffer shutdown losses from the targeted measures above. Subsidies should be prioritized to protect and compensate essential workers including school students, faculty, staff, and their families so they are not super-spreaders in their continued work, and to pay for other economically disenfranchised people not to work, and stay home, both to avoid further community spread of the virus.

7. Implement Best Practices: Train local governments to use the more sophisticated tools, understand the dashboards, and use them to rapidly respond to changes in the pandemic growth by immediately adjusting abatement measures in response to exponential growth detection.

Those in power where the Coronavirus is widespread must act now on the best scientific advice available. But for individuals, waiting for an already delayed government response in the face of an exponentially surging virus is a fool's game. Do not wait for governments to act. Lock your family down. Convince your schools to return to remote instruction. Move your church services online. Order food deliveries and take-out. Avoid bars, clubs, gyms, restaurants, and cafes. Convince your friends, neighbors, church, and business colleagues to do the same. Convince everyone to take up masks and social distancing as a public service for the common good.

Do it to save lives. Maybe save a friend, or teacher, or someone you love. Maybe even save yourself.


1. Donald L. Luskin, "The Failed Experiment of Covid Lockdowns," The Wall Street Journal,…

2. Marc Siegel, "Coronavirus lockdowns don't work," Fox Business,

3. Nigel Farage, "Coronavirus 'lockdowns don't work'," Fox Business,

4. Bradley Byrne, "Business and School Lockdowns Don't Work,"

5. Richard Tice, ""Lockdowns don't work": Brexit Party chair on rebranding to be anti-lockdown voice," LBC,

6. Robert Verbruggen, "Lockdowns Don't Work," National Review,

7. Surjit S Bhalla "Lockdowns don't work. It remains a mystery as to why the world entered one", The Indian Express,

8. "Lockdowns don't work", The Critic,

9. "COVID-19 pandemic in New York (state) Government Response," Wikipedia,

10. Lisa Kaczke, "South Dakota health experts warn Mount Rushmore fireworks could cause coronavirus spike," Sioux Falls Argus Leader,

11. Dhaval Dave, Andrew I. Friedson, Drew McNichols, Joseph J. Sabia, "The Contagion Externality of a Superspreading Event: The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and COVID-19,"

12. The Eurostat 'flash estimates' for GDP, as released in the euroindicators news release (125/2020) on 14 August 2020

13. OECD's quarterly national accounts data, available at OECD.stat. Data for economic losses by country are much less than perfect. But the IMF and a few other institutions have made attempts to collect the available indicators. As stated at Our World In Data, "In both cases, for References 12 and 13 above, the data relates to the percentage change in GDP compared with the same quarter of the previous year (Q2 2019). This is calculated using a volume measure of GDP and as such, is adjusted to account for inflation between the years. The data is also seasonally adjusted. Note that estimates of GDP are often subject to revision as more data becomes available to national statistical agencies. The pandemic has impacted agencies' ability to collect information that inform their GDP estimates. Eurostat notes that this is likely to have impacted the quality of the data in some cases (see:" We would also caution that data on contingent guarantees in particular can be treacherous: many clearly have not been taken up in reality and that total losses on loans, equity injections, and such, will not fully show until after the pandemic ends.

14. David Cutler and Lawrence Summers, "The COVID-19 Pandemic and the $16 Trillion Virus," JAMA Network,

15. Carlos G. Grijalva, Melissa A. Rolfes, Yuwei Zhu, Huong Q. McLean, Kayla E. Hanson, Edward A. Belongia, Natasha B. Halasa, Ahra Kim, Carrie Reed, Alicia M. Fry, H. Keipp Talbot, "Transmission of SARS-COV-2 Infections in Households — Tennessee and Wisconsin, April–September 2020,"

16. Kimberly A. Prather, Linsey C. Marr, Robert T. Schooley, Melissa A. McDiarmid, Mary E. Wilson, Donald K. Milton, "Airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2,"

This paper lists only a few authors who contributed the majority of the writing, but it represents the results of shared data, experiments, analysis, contributions, collected work and tireless discussions, presentations, and brainstorming sessions across a large group of international contributors. They include some of the world's leading scientists, physicians, epidemiologists, engineers, public health officials, and government leaders across the front lines of the pandemic response, many of whom work on a voluntary basis. This report was improved, in particular, by discussion and comments from Sean Davis, Charles Morefield, David Mussington, and Kim Prather.
Regardless, the views expressed represent the personal views of the contributors and do not reflect official policy or position of their respective employers. All errors and omission are the responsibility of the authors.

Can a moderate win Wisconsin?

by Abe Ratner

The priority of the 2020 Democratic voter was always clear: to remove a dangerous executive by the remedy that remained.

The means to that end was equally clear to the vast majority of the political establishment and pundit class: we had to run a moderate. Ideally someone with a talent for straddling and equivocating on any issue of both importance and complexity; certainly someone minimally frightening to the moneyed class and those similarly motivated by fear of "moving too far left" and "socialism."

The conflicting electoral theories of the party's radical and moderate wings were continuously reiterated. In the moderate vision, a sufficient number of these waffling centrists return to the fold; in the radical one, a swell of energy and turnout from young people and new voters carry an exciting progressive candidate to victory. I suspect that many Democratic voters never understood the latter theory to exist in explicit opposition to the former: that as they internalized it, perhaps voter turnout could supersede the losses a radical candidate sustained among centrists.

Of course, the extent to which working-class moderates and independents are truly disinclined towards a social-democratic program remains to be determined in elections up and down the ballot for years to come. But there's no denying that the progressive movement failed to forcefully enough assert that there was little objective reason to remain slave to old ways of thinking: that in a country everyone knows is mortally polarized, enthusiasm is vital and turnout is everything, and that what persuadables remain may most value perceived integrity or some aesthetic understanding of strength and competence, or be immovably concerned with singular wedge issues. These realities were overwhelmed by the insistence of the establishment counter- narrative, which inundated Democratic voters from all directions. It said that a radical progressive or socialist couldn't win a general election, would lose horribly, would ensure another Trump term. Ultimately, to beat Trump, Democrats had to vote Biden. So a newly radicalized electorate nominated a relic of a bygone political era.

Sometime soon, progressives and socialists must be able to more effectively bring their case to the Democratic electorate, and that will mean a continuing reckoning with the entrenched power structure and propaganda apparatus of the Democratic party. The competition for power will certainly not be easy, but poking holes in the narrative that swung this last primary isn't too hard. Exceptions to the purported dominion of centrism can be readily observed— simple, digestible contemporary political history that has always suggested that theory was at least fallible, and certainly not a universal truism.

Wisconsin has received inordinate focus in the aftermath of 2016. Hillary Clinton never visited Wisconsin— Trump took it by less than a point, and it has haunted Democratic nightmare-scapes ever since. The Democratic National Convention was intended to convene in Milwaukee, and a ghostly assemblage did technically occur; for his part, Trump has visited the state twice in the last month. It's also the setting of an electoral politics that the moderate narrative of electability cannot account for.

The Badger State has a storied progressive history dating back a century. Prior to 2016 it had swung blue in every presidential election since 1988. But it has also long maintained a decidedly purple character: it regularly elects Republican governors, senators, and statehouses.

The centrist narrative suggests that such a state would reward political moderation, both in Democrats and Republicans, in statewide elections. Its governors and senators would make significant efforts at bipartisan appeal, stake themselves to middle-ground policy, and generally avoid inflaming the ire (or perhaps passion) of either political base.

So it's noteworthy that quite the opposite has been true: the last decade in Wisconsin politics has been dominated by figures who do little to gesture to this political mold.

The central figure in that decade is Governor Scott Walker, a hardline social and fiscal conservative who won two elections and a recall effort, each by at least five points, before losing to Democrat Tony Evers in 2018. It's possible that Walker's radicalism contributed to his demise in 2018's blue wave— it's evident that he was rewarded for it for eight years prior.

Walker shunned the compromises typical of moderate, purple-state Republican governance that many of his fellows embraced, including Medicaid expansion, which was quickly implemented in far more conservative states, from Iowa and Ohio to Arizona and North Dakota. He rose to national prominence early in his first term amid an effort to wrest bargaining rights from public unions (this most directly led to the recall effort); he campaigned on a radical opposition to abortion, including in cases of rape or incest. In the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples, he raised the prospect of amending the constitution to explicitly narrow marriage to heterosexual relationships. All of this inspired fervent resistance to the Walker administration, both within Wisconsin and nationally, much as the Trump administration does now. He was nevertheless successful, for nearly a decade, in holding together a decisive majority coalition of Wisconsinites (something, worth noting simply as an aside, that Trump does not ever seem likely to do in the nation at large, or in Wisconsin itself).

Then there are the state's representatives in our foremost legislative body— the radical polarity of which similarly befuddles centrist expectations of a purple state. Republican Ron Johnson, elected in 2010, and Democrat Tammy Baldwin, elected in 2012, have each carved out a sustainable base of support, on different sides of the aisle, despite (or because of) their radical proclivities.

Baldwin is widely considered to be among the more progressive members of the senate. Her strong progressive record and willingness to take positions well-left of the mainstream Democratic Party is observable going back two decades, to her time in the lower chamber. In 1999, while serving her first congressional term, she was one of 57 congresspeople to vote against the Financial Services Modernization Act, which (among other effects) eliminated regulations prohibiting the consolidation of investment and commercial banking providers. She has been a vocal proponent of single-payer healthcare for the duration of her time in congress, and introduced single-payer legislation as early as 2000. In 2002, she voted against the authorization of the Iraq War; later in the Bush administration, she was among 26 cosponsors of articles of impeachment against Vice President Dick Cheney, and in 2009, she was among 75 Democrats to oppose an amendment that ultimately deauthorized federal funding for ACORN, the collection of community organizations.

In 2012, she carried this record— and her associated reputation as one of the most liberal members of congress— to a five-point victory over Republican Tommy Thompson, a former governor. As a senator, she has continued to take strong progressive stances on healthcare, immigration, prescription drug policy, labor codetermination, and wealth inequality. She was reelected in 2018 by a margin of nearly eleven points.

Her colleague, Sen. Johnson, has made similarly little effort to cultivate bipartisan appeal. From his initial emergence as a Tea Party-inflected business-conservative (previous to his run for Senate, he had no experience in public service and had spent the entirety of his career working for a plastics manufacturer) to present day, Johnson has embraced both rhetorical and political radicalism over moderate, purple Republicanism.

He actively campaigned on his opposition to the 2009 fiscal stimulus (not an outlying stance among Republicans at the time, but one that put him at odds with the majority of Americans) as well as his strong disbelief in any man-made effect on climate. He railed against the excesses of Social Security and expressed support for multiple proposals to cut benefits. In the 2010 wave, he bested three-term incumbent Russ Feingold by five percentage points.

Johnson has been a steadfast conservative vote in the senate, reliably advocating a rigid right- wing politics on healthcare, climate, immigration, same-sex marriage, and abortion— and in recent years, he has become one of the most zealously Trump-aligned legislators in the body, twisting himself through contortions notable equally for their extremism and pandering. (All in a state in which the president, despite his 2016 victory, consistently registers negative approval ratings.) It became clear early in the administration that Johnson intended to do the president's dirty work: following the failure of the American Health Care Act in March of 2017, Johnson memorably suggested that Senator John McCain's brain tumor had, in conjunction with the time of night, likely played a role in McCain's vote. He has become a prominent booster of unsubstantiated conspiracies of FBI corruption and mutiny, and was an unusually strong apologist for Trump's effort to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, even among his Republican colleagues— he was, arguably, himself a player involved in the effort. He has severely moderated a once-hawkish disposition towards Russia, and in his capacity as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee has pursued information on Hunter Biden's ties to gas company Burisma and other international firms, which was packaged into a report released last month.

Where does this leave each senator, today— in the highly polarized Trump era, in an inherently

polarized state? Morning Consult data on senatorial approval from the fourth quarter of 2019 (the most recent available) suggests that both are poised to continue holding together their coalitions. Each is well underwater with the opposition party, but makes up for that deficit with even more overwhelming support from his or her own base. (Baldwin: -53/+67; Johnson: -26/+54.) Baldwin registers a margin of +5% approval with independents, while Johnson sits at -3%. All in, Baldwin scores a +10%; Johnson scores a +6%.

And this, anecdotally but persuasively, strikes at the philosophical core of the theory of moderate electability— a theory which blanketed our papers, feeds and television screens for months and which ultimately convinced the Democratic primary electorate: that purple districts, purple states, and a purple country are won by splitting the difference between blue and red, and in doing so, minimally repelling an imagined slice of voters in the middle who are liable to swing either way.

It's a theory that already leaves aside all other non-ideological contours along which individual human beings vote— on integrity, on personality, on antiestablishment orientation, on any number of others — and it continues to ignore the incredible polarization of our times, despite widespread recognition of that polarization.

At best, in a strategic quest for the greatest achievable good, it kowtows to a theorized portion of the electorate that may or may not, in this or any given election, compose any substantial number. At worst, its danger is threefold: that the conventional candidate is actually less popular; that what success is won by moderation is fundamentally pyrrhic; and obviously, that some deploying the theory are doing so dishonestly, not out of political pragmatism but in the interest of personal power and enrichment. In which form said deployment is more damaging than we can possibly quantify.

The likely reality is that there are presently merits to both electability arguments—the doctrine of the moderate and the ambition of the radical— and also that both are imperfect frameworks that ultimately meet with entirely unrelated factors on election day. It's plain that while the radical argument is founded on an aspiration, at least at the national level, the moderate one is not the truism its proponents suggest, and it never has been. Early, often, evidenced insistence on this fact to the Democratic electorate is, certainly for now, an important part of successfully pitching the American people on a radical restructuring of government and society.

Haiti has a long history of being assaulted by its Latin American neighbors

by Lautaro Rivara

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Thirteen United Nations peacekeeping missions are underway in various countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Haiti has been the epicenter of the UN peacekeeping missions in Latin America and the Caribbean; there have been eight UN missions since the International Civilian Mission in Haiti (MICIVIH) was deployed in Haiti in 1993. On October 15, 2019, the UN finally ended its 15-year-long peacekeeping mission in Haiti that began in 2004, leaving behind a "mixed legacy."

The most dramatic intervention took place in 2004, after the coup d'état against the democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Camille Chalmers, executive director of the Haitian Platform to Advocate Alternative Development, a civil society organization network, said in 2019 that a domestic political conflict was used as the pretext. The coup was carried out by ex-military personnel whose forces had been dissolved by Aristide in 1995. Backed by the United States, Canada and France, the army of the coup entered from the Dominican Republic and marched to Port-au-Prince.

After Aristide's forced exile, interim President Boniface Alexandre requested the first deployment of a Multinational Interim Force. Composed of Canadian, French, U.S. and Chilean soldiers, this force would be the seed of the future United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Both the request and the occupation itself contravened Haiti's 1987 Constitution; only the National Assembly has the power to make these decisions, but it was circumvented by Alexandre.

The UN's Arguments: 'Stabilization' and 'Humanitarian Interventionism'

Since the creation of MINUSTAH, a series of euphemisms have emerged to justify the occupation, such as 'suspension of sovereignty,' 'humanitarian interventionism,' and 'pacification.' In practice, pacification implied an exercise of selective political repression, the perpetration of various sexual crimes, and the propagation of a cholera epidemic from a MINUSTAH base that claimed 10,000 lives and infected more than 800,000 people. This was belatedly acknowledged by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who also apologized for the UN's response to the cholera outbreak.

The creation of MINUSTAH took place in the context of the international agenda being shaped by the rhetoric of 'security' and 'terrorism.' Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the decline of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Security Council developed an increasingly discretionary character and the powers of the UN General Assembly were reduced. In turn, Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which refers to the peaceful settlement of disputes, was increasingly displaced by Chapter VII, which provides for the imposition of so-called "peace enforcement" and the deployment of the UN's Blue Helmets, as the peacekeepers are known.

On the other hand, a new international legal paradigm began to impose itself: that of "humanitarian interventionism" and the "responsibility to protect," also known as R2P. As Leyla Carrillo Ramírez, a Cuban jurist and specialist in international relations, writes in her book Metáforas de la Intervención, these are forms of "coercive foreign intervention." These, Ramírez says, contradict the principles of sovereignty and self-determination of nations, even when they are protected by the real or alleged violation of the human rights of local populations.

Brazil: The 'Principle of Non-Indifference' and Geopolitical Aspirations

In 2004, Brazil took charge of the military command of MINUSTAH, in addition to being the country that provided the largest military contingent: 1,670 soldiers at the beginning of the mission.

The guiding principle of Brazilian diplomacy was that of 'non-indifference,' a sort of local variation of R2P. This edge of the South American giant's foreign policy was accompanied by its willingness to influence international policy in line with its character as an emerging country, a dynamic member of BRICS and a sub-regional power.

Brazil led the policy of population control in working-class neighborhoods such as Bel Air and Cité Soleil in Haiti. In Cité Soleil, an armed intervention took place in 2007 that killed at least 27 civilians and left 30 wounded, according to the testimonies of the inhabitants and the complaint filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH). However, according to a special dossier of the Igarapé Institute and the Brazilian Peace Operations Joint Training Center, the official self-evaluation would be extremely laudable, qualifying the Brazilian performance in Haiti as a "military epic."

The other reason for Brazilian participation had to do with the direct negotiations established between the Brazilian, French and U.S. governments. According to Ricardo Seitenfus, former special representative of the Organization of American States in Haiti, former U.S. President George W. Bush had promised the Brazilian government a permanent seat on the UN Security Council in exchange for taking over MINUSTAH.

Argentina and the Relegitimization of the Armed Forces

As in the entire Southern Cone, the Argentine Armed Forces were involved in state terrorism and the coordinated repression of Operation Condor in the mid-1970s. But only in Argentina would the military reach such a level of discredit, brought about by factors such as the defeat in the Malvinas War and the emergence of a powerful human rights movement.

Argentina's participation in the UN missions was due to an attempt to re-function and re-legitimize the forces in a democratic context, according to Argentina's Presence in Haiti, a book by authors affiliated with the National University of Quilmes and Argentina's Ministry of Defense. In fact, a working document of the Frente de Todos, a coalition of political parties in Argentina, presented in October 2019 referred, in its section on foreign policy, to the need to strengthen Argentina's presence in peace missions, and referred to the country's experience of participating in MINUSTAH.

Argentina's Presence in Haiti highlights the enormous deficits in the training of the troops sent to Haiti. These include the incompatibility between military training and the assumption of police tasks, the complete lack of knowledge about local reality and culture, and the practical absence of training with a gender perspective. This is particularly relevant in the case of troops who served where there were high levels of social vulnerability and who later committed numerous sexual crimes according to numerous investigations and reports. Haitian sociologist Sabine Lamour said in an interview that feminist and women's organizations have observed many cases of sexual abuse in locations such as Bombardopolis, Port-Salut, Gonaïves and Port-au-Prince, despite the fact that both the national government and foreign embassies showed no interest in tracking down the cases.

One year after the end of the last mission in Haiti, the Latin American nations—with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela, who abstained from participating—have yet to make a complete and joint assessment of the 15 years of occupation of the country. Nor have they offered a satisfactory response or policies of reparation to the victims of this extensive and costly unilateral war.

Lautaro Rivara is a sociologist, researcher and poet. As a trained journalist, he participated as an activist in different spaces of communications work, covering tasks of editing, writing, radio broadcasts, and photography. During his two years in the Jean-Jacques Dessalines Brigade in Haiti he was responsible for communications and carried out political education with Haitian people's movements in this area. He writes regularly in people's media projects of Argentina and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean including Nodal, ALAI, Telesur, Resumen Latinoamericano, Pressenza, la RedH, Notas, Haití Liberte, Alcarajo, and more.

Why I'm on a hunger strike to stop Donald Trump

by Ted Glick

I am on a 30-day, water-only hunger strike until Election Day to defeat Donald Trump. My mission is not so much to convince conservatives they should have a change of heart (though that would be great), but to convince progressives who may still harbor some hesitations about going all out for Biden. They don't just need to vote for him, they need to work for him.

I'm trying to dramatize that the possibility of a Trump reelection poses an existential threat to democracy, public health, the climate, and everything progressives hold dear.

So if you're in the left wing of the Democratic party, if you supported Sanders or Warren, if you embrace the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and even if you weren't happy when Biden emerged as the nominee and found him too moderate, it's time for you to put yourself on the line to get him and Harris elected.

Likewise, if you're an independent voter like me who finds some of Biden's positions problematic, it's time to get clear that Trump is such a threat to the country, it's appropriate and necessary to overcome your hesitation and throw your support behind Biden.

Donald Trump has been a disaster for the climate, democracy, the rule of law, people of color, women, low-income people, truth, civility, and human decency. His response to the indictments of 13 far-right, Trump-supporting extremists for plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been to repeatedly criticize Whitmer, and not the extremists. In fact, he's clearly appealing to extremists to disrupt this election. While trailing in the polls, Trump refuses to say he'll accept a peaceful transition of power if he loses, continues to undermine mail-in voting, and repeats his call for his supporters to descend on polling places on November 3.

I'm motivated by all these things, but especially by the climate emergency. I'm a lifelong progressive activist, and ran as the Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate from New Jersey in 2002. Since 2003 the primary focus of my work has been the climate crisis. Seventeen years ago, it felt like I and other climate activists were the proverbial voices crying in the wilderness. Today, a majority of Americans agree with us. They support climate action, including transitioning rapidly from fossil fuels to renewable energy and battery storage.

Trump and his supporters are a minority, bent on hijacking the widespread call for climate action. The only solution for that is to remove Trump from the White House. To dramatize the life-and-death stakes, I began a month-long, water-only Fast to Defeat Trump on October 3 and won't end it until November 3.

I started thinking about doing this over the Christmas/New Year holidays. I was working for the Bernie Sanders campaign and the climate movement, and observing the unfolding of the Presidential race. After the Democratic and Republican conventions, I decided I needed to make a life-on-the-line statement about the importance of defeating Trump.

I don't encourage anyone to try this at home, especially in the pandemic. It takes knowledge and experience to fast relatively safely, and I have plenty of both. I have done three previous water-only fasts of 25 days or longer: once for 40 days in the summer of 1972 for an end to the war in Vietnam, once for 42 days in the fall of 1992 in opposition to the planned government celebrations of Columbus' quincentennial, and once for 25 days in 2007 to demand action on the climate emergency.

But I do encourage everyone to support the Democratic ticket. There's only one way to get Trump out, and that's to replace him with Biden. Once that is accomplished, the rising progressive movement can move forward with its campaigns for a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, police demilitarization and restructuring and more. But first, we need to do this.

I also hope that my action will motivate young people who are turned off by electoral politics, especially by the unedifying spectacle they're getting treated to this year. I urge them to register now and vote because getting Trump out is our best hope for making the fundamental transformation their generation needs and has a right to demand from its leaders.

And I hope I will help motivate people to do more than just vote. We need to work concertedly from now until November 3 to help generate a historic voter turnout, especially in the battleground states. There is nothing more important to do in the weeks ahead than to go all in to get Trump out.

Ted Glick is a nationally known progressive and climate justice activist who has led and participated in hundreds of actions. He served as the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network, and was National Campaign Coordinator of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. His latest book is Burglar for Peace: Lessons Learned in the Catholic Left's Resistance to the Vietnam War.

How Indian Prime Minister Modi Is helping imperialists dominate the country's agriculture

by Prabhat Patnaik

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

The two bills rushed through India's parliament on September 20 were objectionable in every conceivable sense. The very fact that they were being rammed through the Rajya Sabha, without being put to vote despite demands for a division, was grossly anti-democratic. The fact that the Center made unilateral and fundamental changes in agricultural marketing arrangements that fall within the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution was a blow against federalism. To resurrect the pre-independence arrangement under which the peasantry was exposed to the capitalist market without any support of the state, and which crushed it during the Great Depression of the 1930s, was a betrayal of the promise of independence. To pit millions of small peasants against the might of a handful of private buyers, as the bills propose to do, is to open them up to monopsonistic exploitation, meaning exploitation by a single or a few buyers.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, of course, has been claiming that the state is not leaving peasants at the mercy of the monopsonists and that the government-guaranteed minimum support price (MSP) regime will continue. But the bills contain nothing on this; and the government refuses to incorporate into law, which testifies to its bad faith, the right of the peasantry to get a minimum support price in accordance with the Swaminathan Commission recommendation that puts the MSP at Cost C2 plus 50 percent. The peasants in short are being thrown, as under colonialism, to the mercies of a market where price fluctuations have a notoriously high amplitude; and they are rightly putting up a fight against their descent into debt and destitution.

In this entire debate, however, an important dimension has been missed. The debate has been entirely about the condition of the peasantry. But one must also take into account the question of food security, which immediately brings imperialism into the picture.

Imperialism has long been attempting to push countries like India to become food-import-dependent and to divert their land area currently devoted to food grains toward other crops that imperialist countries cannot grow, as these can be grown only in tropical and semitropical regions. This, however, would mean that the tropical and semitropical countries would have to abandon food security.

Food security in a country like India requires self-sufficiency in food production. Food imports are no substitute for domestic food production for several reasons. First, whenever a country the size of India approaches the world market for food grain imports the world prices shoot up, making imports exorbitantly priced. Secondly, quite apart from the fact that the country may not have sufficient foreign exchange to pay for such import, there is also the additional fact that the people may not have enough purchasing power to buy food imported at such exorbitant prices. Third, since food surpluses exist with the imperialist countries, even buying food at such exorbitant prices requires the blessings of imperialism. In fact, denying food to a country at a crucial juncture is a powerful lever in the hands of imperialism to browbeat countries to kowtow to its demands.

All this is not an abstract matter. India was a food grain importer under the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act of 1954 or the PL-480 from the latter half of the 1950s. When there were two disastrous harvests in 1965-66 and 1966-67, and Bihar in particular faced famine conditions, India was forced to become a virtual supplicant before the United States for food imports. It became a case literally of carrying food from ships to kitchens. That is when former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi asked Jagjivan Ram, the then food minister, to expedite the drive toward food self-sufficiency, and the Green Revolution was ushered in. The country is still far from being self-sufficient in the sense of growing enough to provide everyone adequate food. But at least it is no longer import-dependent; on the contrary, so drastic is the squeeze on purchasing power in the hands of the people that it has been making regular and substantial exports every year despite India's people being among the hungriest in the world.

Africa by contrast was cajoled by imperialism into abandoning domestic food grain production and shifting areas toward export crops. The consequences in terms of recurring famines in Africa in the recent period are too well-known to need repetition.

After 1966-67, an elaborate arrangement in terms of MSP, procurement prices, issue prices, procurement operations carried out in the mandis (agricultural markets), a public distribution system, and food subsidies has been devised that seeks to ensure that the interests of the producers and the consumers are reconciled and the country grows enough food to obviate any need for imports. This mechanism is fundamentally antithetical to neoliberalism; not surprisingly it has been getting whittled at the margin, through for instance the distinction introduced in the mid-1990s between the above poverty line (APL) and below poverty line (BPL) populations, with only the latter being eligible for subsidized food grains. Even so, it has prevented the country's becoming a mendicant for food in the world economy.

Imperialism has made strenuous efforts to dismantle this arrangement, the most obvious being the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization negotiations during which the United States has been arguing that India's procurement operations at a preannounced price are against the principles of free trade and should be wound up. No government in India until now was so timid or so gullible as to cave in to this imperialist pressure, because of which the Doha Round has been stalled. Now, alas, India has for the first time a government that is either too scared or too ignorant to stand up to imperialism on this issue. In the name of "modernizing agricultural markets" "21st-century technology" and the like, India is going back to the colonial days when per capita food grain output was declining even as land was being diverted toward export crops. It is in reality pushing the imperialist agenda.

True, the immediate beneficiaries of the new agricultural marketing policy will be business tycoons like the Ambanis and the Adanis, but they will be entering into contract farming arrangements not so much for food grains as for fruits, vegetables, flowers, and a range of other crops that they will not only sell in the domestic market but also process for exports. An essential corollary of contract farming by private monopsonists is a shift of acreage from food grains to non-food grains, exactly as had happened in the colonial period when a host of export crops like opium and indigo had come up in lieu of food grains in the Bengal Presidency. And the exploitation of peasants by indigo merchants, famously captured in Dinabandhu Mitra's 19th-century play "Nil Darpan," is exactly what the peasantry today is apprehensive about and wishes to avoid.

What has been striking about the agricultural arrangement till now is that while looking after (however inadequately) the interests of the peasants, it has prevented the large-scale diversion of land use toward non-food grains and export crops. The dismantling of that arrangement will not only hurt the peasantry but also lead to a diversion of area from food grains to non-food grains and export crops, thereby undermining the country's food security.

The matter indeed is simple. Since land is a scarce resource, land use must be socially controlled. It cannot be dictated by considerations of private profitability. True, since land is in the possession of the peasants, they have to be looked after even while land use is being socially controlled. They must, in short, get a remunerative price even as land use is being socially controlled. This is what the existing arrangement tried to achieve, which the present government wants to destroy; whatever failings it had, it needed to be rectified within the ambit of that arrangement itself. Destroying that arrangement without even being aware of the need to have social control over land use is precisely the kind of folly that one associates with India's current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Imperialism would like such destruction; and the BJP government is happily obliging.

The only region in the entire non-socialist third world that has shown an acute awareness of the need to have social control over land use, since land is a scarce resource, is Kerala, which has enacted a legislation against the diversion of paddy land for other purposes. That legislation showed perspicacity; the BJP government's agriculture bills show just the opposite.

Prabhat Patnaik is an Indian political economist and political commentator.

Trump getting COVID is the quintessential October Surprise for science denial

by Steve Horn

This piece first appeared at The Real News Network.

Back in 2012, climate science denial created an "October Surprise" moment for the presidential election and a turning point against the presidential prospects of Republican candidate Mitt Romney. In 2020 science denial is again a game changer, this time for Republican President Donald Trump, who has continued to downplay COVID-19's seriousness, even after he was hospitalized for the disease which has killed more than 210,000 Americans.

A month before Hurricane Sandy reached landfall first in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and then New York City, killing 37 people in New Jersey and 44 in New York, and causing $70 billion worth of damage, Romney downplayed the threat of the climate crisis.

"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans," said Romney, pausing to do a clearly scripted lip bite, as if to stop himself from laughing along with the audience. "And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."

On Oct. 31, just two days after the hurricane's landfall, the now-defunct group Forecast the Facts released an advertisement titled "Romney vs. Sandy." It got hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube, a huge haul for a climate video, and aired in key swing state TV markets.

Romney vs. Sandy

"Mitt Romney must hope we forgot that he mocked climate change at the Republican National Convention, to the raucous cheers and applause of the GOP delegates," Brad Johnson, then a campaign manager for the group Forecast the Facts and now a progressive political consultant based in Washington, DC, said at the time in a press release introducing the video. "We didn't forget. We're putting out this video to remind every voter struck by Sandy that Mitt Romney thinks the poisoning of our weather is a joke."

RL Miller, then an independent climate activist and today a member of the Democratic National Committee and executive director of the group Climate Hawks Vote, explains that Romney's rhetoric parallels Trump's downplaying of the novel coronavirus in recent days, weeks and months.

Johnson, who helped to create the 2012 ad and move it through the blogosphere, said he believes what links 2012 and 2020 together is that the Republican Party still has a stance antithetical to science. Miller added that this year, "the messaging writes itself" for Trump and COVID-19.

"I think the only problem is that too many are going to make the same point over and over and over again," she said. "Trump has said a lot of stupid things regarding COVID throughout the last six months and it's all now fair game."

Johnson added that while there is much to criticize about Biden when it comes to the climate crisis and his lack of support for single-payer healthcare during a pandemic, he is nevertheless, the head of a "party that, like, accepts that science is real and that government can help."

Romney on FEMA Government Spending

What magnified the Sandy moment all the more in 2012 was the fact that, up until that point, climate change was hardly discussed at all on the campaign trail by either candidate.

Obama was in the midst of expanding fracking, pipeline, and exports buildout throughout the United States and spreading fracking globally. Meanwhile, Romney's campaign had a press secretary who was a former fossil fuel industry public relations operative named Andrea Saul, with a public relations background in climate change denial. Saul said in 2011 that "CO2 is a naturally occurring gas. Humans emit it every time they exhale."

All of the presidential debates also were devoid of discussion on climate change, provoking a campaign by advocacy groups to end "climate silence." And then Sandy arrived, completely flipping the election season script.

Climate change went from outside of presidential discourse to the center of the race, just over a week before Election Day. This was epitomized by a Bloomberg Businesweek cover story published on Nov. 2, four days before the public went to the polls, with the iconic headline "It's Global Warming, Stupid."

Sandy compelled Obama to react in his role out in the field as a commander-in-chief first responder, even forging an alliance with Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who now has COVID-19, and helped prepare Trump prepare for his first debate against Biden. Christie is one of five people, out of 10 total, who came out of the debate preparation session with the virus.

In Obama's first comments on climate change during his entire 2012 campaign, Obama said in an Oct. 27 interview on MTV that "we're not moving as fast as we need to" on taking climate action.

"And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation," Obama continued. "And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney. I am surprised it didn't come up in one of the debates…I believe scientists who say we are putting too much carbon emissions into the atmosphere and it's heating the planet and it's going to have a severe effect."

In that way, COVID-19 has played out far differently in the 2020 election cycle. News about the pandemic now plays out on a minute-by-minute basis, an all-consuming reality which has upended society.

"This is kind of like the only news story. So it doesn't really require much, like additional messaging and things," Johnson said.

And yet, the messaging around Trump's COVID-19 denialism has proceeded and parallels the efforts Johnson and his colleagues made in 2012. Miller boiled the message down to a parallel to the Bloomberg cover story, saying it's "I mean, at this point, you just run the ads. What would be the equivalent? It's the virus science 101, stupid."

That message is already playing out in real time by outside campaign groups, particularly the Lincoln Project, a coalition of 'Never Trump' Republicans aiming to oust Trump from the White House. Akin to the Romney ad showing him downplaying climate change while Hurricane Sandy ravaged New York and New Jersey, the Lincoln Project ads play clips of Trump downplaying the virus' potency alongside his own personal experience—surviving, for now, thanks to access to the best medicine and healthcare available—next to the reality of people dying from it due to his own mismanagement of the public health crisis.

It is too soon to say what impact Trump getting COVID-19 will ultimately have on the election, though polling in recent days both nationally and in key swing states looks very bad for Trump. Yet even the idea of a normal transition of power, if Trump loses, appears quaint in 2020.

That aside, Romney himself concluded that Sandy helped shift votes away from him and towards Obama. Other reporters agreed, such as The New Yorker's John Cassidy.

"Except for a few days after the Denver debate, his grip on the electoral college has never been seriously threatened. But if Sandy didn't cost Romney the election, it may well have cost him his last shot of winning," Cassidy wrote one day before Election Day in 2012. "At the very moment he needed to appeal to undecided voters and make up ground in places like Iowa and Ohio, the storm knocked him off out of the headlines and robbed his campaign of any momentum it may have had."

Still, however the dust clears in 2020, Miller pointed out one other key difference between COVID-19 coming to an end and combating climate change, which is how much more difficult the latter will be to solve than the former—no matter who wins on Election Day.

"And so Trump might talk to us about a vaccine for the virus and we can afford to be cynical about that," she said. "But we all know that there's no vaccine for climate change."

Our forgotten history: North America once featured thousands of pyramids

This week, we're joined by Alex Shephard, a staff writer at The New Republic, to talk about why the legacy media fell so hard for a demonstrably false conservative narrative about the Biden administration's policies creating a "crisis" at our southern border. Are they just trying to demonstrate to Trump's supporters that they're going to be tough on Biden, or is something else going on? And will crying "border crisis" work for conservatives this time?

Then we welcome Stephanie Langel, a research fellow at Duke University's Human Vaccine Institute, to give us the latest on vaccine production and distribution--including a PR disaster for Astra-Zeneca--and the new Covid-19 variants, and talk Joshua out of going to a bar after he's fully vaccinated. Important stuff.


  • Amanda Lo and the Vitamin String Quartet: "Kashmir" (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • Gramatik: "The Unfallen Kingdom"
  • Robyn Adele Anderson: "Gangsta's Paradise" (Coolio Cover)

Listen to our weekly podcast, "We've Got Issues," and subscribe on the following platforms. If you encounter issues with Apple Podcasts when using Chrome, copy this link and use Safari.

Here are 10 things Europe does way better than America

The term “American exceptionalism” is often tossed around by politicians. Neocons, far-right Christian fundamentalists and members of the Republican Party in particular seem to hate it when anyone dares to suggest that some aspects of European life are superior to how we do things. But facts are facts, and the reality is that in some respects, Europe is way ahead of the United States. From health care to civil liberties to sexual attitudes, one can make a strong case for “European exceptionalism.” That is not to say that Europe isn’t confronting some major challenges in 2014: neoliberal economic policies and brutal austerity measures are causing considerable misery in Greece, Spain and other countries. The unemployment rate in Spain, the fourth largest economy in the Eurozone, stands at a troubling 26%—although Germany, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland have lower unemployment rates than the U.S. (5.1% in Germany, 3.1.% in Switzerland, 4.6% in Iceland, 4.2% in Denmark). But problems and all, Europe continues to be one of the most desirable parts of the world. And the U.S.—a country that is in serious decline both economically and in terms of civil liberties—needs to take a close look at some of the things that European countries are doing right.

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Insomnia Map: it's hard to sleep at night when you didn't vote for the maniac in charge

There is nothing like the quiet of night to remind you of your every poor life choice and potential impending failure. As if that wasn’t enough to worry about, Americans just elected a president who signs executive orders without reading them and whose foreign policy is mostly just being unpredictable. That’s justifiably nerve-racking for a certain type of person—the kind who loses sleep over things like, say, nuclear war as a distraction from scandal. Maybe that explains why a new internet site that tracks insomnia sufferers by geographic location has a million points of light along the coasts, in the cities and towns that still can’t believe Donald Trump won this whole thing.

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Here are 10 ways white people are way more racist than they realize

If there’s anything our fraught national dialogue on race has taught us, it's that there are no racists in this country. (In fact, not only do multiple studies confirm that most white Americans generally believe racism is over — just 16 percent say there’s a lot of racial discrimination — it turns out that many actually believe white people experience more discrimination than black people.) It’s a silly idea, of course, but it’s easy to delude ourselves into thinking that inequality is a result of cultural failures, racial pathology and a convoluted narrative involving black-on-black crime, hoodies, rap music and people wearing their pants too low. To admit that racism is fundamental to who we are, that it imbues our thinking in ways we wouldn’t and couldn’t believe without the application of the scientific method, is infinitely harder. And yet, there's endless evidence to prove it.

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Here are 11 questions you should ask Libertarians to see if they're hypocrites

Libertarians have a problem. Their political philosophy all but died out in the mid- to late-20th century, but was revived by billionaires and corporations that found them politically useful. And yet libertarianism retains the qualities that led to its disappearance from the public stage, before its reanimation by people like the Koch brothers: It doesn’t make any sense.

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Here are the 20 weirdest religious beliefs

We find it easy to dismiss the fantastical beliefs of people in other times and places, but those that we’ve been exposed to since childhood seem not so far out. Virgin birth? Water turning into wine? A fig tree shriveling on the spot? Dead people getting up out of their graves and walking around?

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Swearing in your sleep might help protect you in your waking Life

If you talk in your sleep, you’re probably unwittingly working blue, as they say. Researchers find that most people who talk in their sleep tend to utter more curse words and negative phrases than while they’re awake. It turns out that sleep-swearing and the like may actually have real benefit. A new French study suggests all that salty talk could be nature’s way of helping us prepare for the trials and tribulations of waking life.

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Evangelical Christianity is facing a political crisis — it will need more than a makeover

Ok, evangelicals do have a brand problem—but they also have a major product problem.

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Religious Trauma Syndrome: How some organized religion leads to mental health problems

At age sixteen I began what would be a four year struggle with bulimia.  When the symptoms started, I turned in desperation to adults who knew more than I did about how to stop shameful behavior—my Bible study leader and a visiting youth minister.  “If you ask anything in faith, believing,” they said.  “It will be done.” I knew they were quoting the Word of God. We prayed together, and I went home confident that God had heard my prayers.  But my horrible compulsions didn’t go away. By the fall of my sophomore year in college, I was desperate and depressed enough that I made a suicide attempt. The problem wasn’t just the bulimia.  I was convinced by then that I was a complete spiritual failure. My college counseling department had offered to get me real help (which they later did). But to my mind, at that point, such help couldn’t fix the core problem: I was a failure in the eyes of God. It would be years before I understood that my inability to heal bulimia through the mechanisms offered by biblical Christianity was not a function of my own spiritual deficiency but deficiencies in Evangelical religion itself.

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Here is the psychological condition that best explains Trump's twisted worldview

Trump’s ghostwriter put these words in the president’s mouth: "Money was never a big motivation for me, except as a way to keep score. The real excitement is playing the game."

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Internet mocks Trump for ridiculous Christmas Eve boast that he is already building the wall

On Christmas Eve, with the government in the throes of a federal shutdown putting tens of thousands of workers in limbo, President Donald Trump boasted that he is already beginning work on the border wall:

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Former NATO commander: Allies are wondering if Trump was 'blackmailed' to pull out of Syria

One of last week’s biggest political bombshells came when President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing all U.S. troops from Syria because the terrorist group ISIS (Islamic State, Iraq and Syria) had been “defeated” in that war-ravaged Middle Eastern country. Trump’s decision inspired a variety of reactions, from vehement criticism from Sen. Lindsey Graham and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough to praise from Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. And Gen. Wesley Clark (a former NATO commander) has been among the critics, asserting on CNN that some U.S. allies in the Middle East are wondering if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan coerced Trump in some fashion.

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Mother of jailed NSA contractor rips Manafort, Flynn and Cohen: Those 'responsible for threatening our election continue to get off easy'

Not since Richard Nixon in the 1970s has a U.S. president been surrounded by as many scandals as Donald J. Trump. And in a new article for the Intercept, Billie Winner-Davis—mother of imprisoned U.S. Air Force veteran Reality Leigh Winner—asserts that her daughter has been treated much more harshly than Michael Cohen, Rick Gates and other Trump associates who have admitted to serious federal crimes.

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Former Pentagon official: It's 'very telling' Trump didn't know his own anti-ISIS strategist

After President Donald Trump unexpected announced a strategy-free withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, Brett McGurk, a longtime national security official acting as the president's special envoy to the coalition against ISIS, resigned his post.

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House Democrats will debate curtailing 9/11 war powers in new Congress

On Monday, POLITICO reported that House Democrats plan to re-examine the sweeping mandate granted to the president by the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force:

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Here's how some people become just awful

It starts simply enough, people doing what any and all of us do. We’re cruising along and something gets in our way. So we sidestep it. If we can’t, we brush it aside. If we can’t, we shove it aside and continue cruising along.

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Here's why Trump is a great gift to America

Assuming he goes down in flames before he causes us to; assuming that what’s left of our democracy ends him before he ends what’s left of our democracy, Trump will have been the best thing that ever happened to America, indeed, among the best for our global survival imperative – figuring out how to spot and thwart the asshole impulse in human nature.

You can’t thwart what you can’t spot. Even with all our experience with the asshole impulse, we’re still lousy at spotting it.

Trump is the absolute best, the greatest, the most tremendous negative role model we could ask for. He is the e-z reader of sleazy leaders, the large print edition, the 1st grader’s Where’s Waldo or word finder puzzle for spotting assholes.

Sure we’ve had other asshole leaders before. But even the worst, the ones who killed the most people and lasted the longest could be mistaken for their ideology. Stalin could be mistaken for a Communist. Hitler for a Nationalist. Assholes wear camouflage. They dress up their tyranny in poser principles.

Trump is different. He’s generic. He has no ideology to distract us. He’s essence of asshole, authoritarian distillate. He’s pure, uncut, unalloyed, unadulterated by any tinge of cover-story ideology. Eau de asshole.

People the world over cry out for room to live their lives the way they want. Even the strictest fundamentalists want their freedom to demand a closed society. Everyone wants to have their way, and to the extent possible, we should let em. Live and let live. Freedom of speech, freedom of association, but of course, not unlimited freedom.

In a free society you don’t get to commandeer other people’s lives. You don’t get to tell people how to live but you still  need to spot and thwart the assholes or it doesn’t remain a free society.

If humanity is to survive, we therefore, need to know how to spot an asshole, an authoritarian who will end free society. It’s no good getting distracted by this or that asshole’s style or platform. We need to be able to spot assholes from any corner no matter how they’re camouflaged. We need to be able to recognize essence of asshole.

It’s hard.

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Robert Reich: The end is near for Trump

This morning I phoned my friend, the former Republican member of Congress.

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'He hates that letter': Trump is reportedly furious at Defense Sec. James Mattis' resignation - here's why

Defense Secretary James Mattis dropped a major bombshell into an already frantic Washington, D.C., this week by officially resigning in protest from the Trump administration.

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'He sees it all crumbling around him': MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace reveals why Trump's behavior has become so erratic and dangerous

Even in a White House that is often called undisciplined, chaotic, disorganized and frenzied, this week has been especially out of control for President Donald Trump.

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'They're going to absolutely crush him': Trump is reportedly panicking and 'losing it' as Democrats finally gain the upper hand

President Donald Trump is not used to presiding over a divided government, and it's clear he's not going to like it.

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