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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Religion Loses When It Allies Itself With a Political Party

 Tocqueville wrote (p. 297 of the Lawrence-Mayer ed.): 
As long as religion relies only upon the sentiments which are the consolation of every affliction, it can draw the heart of mankind to itself. When it is mingled with the bitter passions of this world, it is sometimes constrained to defend allies who are such from interest rather than from love; and it has to repulse as adversaries men who still love religion, although they are fighting against religion's allies. Hence religion cannot share the material strength of the rulers without being burdened with some of the animosity roused against them.
 Pete Wehner at NYT:
Just the other day I received a note from a friend of mine, a pastor, who told me he no longer uses the label “evangelical” to describe himself, even though he meets every element of its historical definition, “because the term is now so stained as to ruin my ability to be what evangelicalism was supposed to be.”

Another pastor who is a lifelong friend told me, “Evangelical is no longer a word we can use.” The reason, he explained, is that it’s become not a religious identification so much as a political one. A third person, who heads a Christian organization, told me the term evangelical “is now a tribal rather than a creedal description.” In October, the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship, a campus ministry for more than 80 years, changed its name to the Princeton Christian Fellowship. “We’re interested in being people who are defined by our faith and by our faith commitments and not by any sort of political agenda,” according to Bill Boyce, who has led the campus group for decades.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Manafort Learns that It Pays to Know About Microsoft Word

Mike Allen at Axios:
Bob Mueller used the "Track Changes" function in Microsoft Word for Mac to make new accusations against Paul Manafort in a court filing yesterday — a new sign of the special counsel's creative, unsparing approach:
Key quote from the 41-page filing: "Manafort's conduct ... raises serious concerns about his trustworthiness that warrant denial of the motion to release Manafort from home confinement."
  • The backstory, via AP: Prosecutors for the special counsel argued that the former Trump campaign chairman is attempting "to mount a public relations campaign to defend himself while under house arrest."
  • Mueller discovered Manafort "was heavily involved in the drafting of an opinion piece about his involvement in Ukrainian politics. ... Mueller's office had accused Manafort of ghostwriting the op-ed with a colleague who they said had ties to Russian intelligence."
  • The response: "Manafort's attorneys had argued that Manafort had only edited the piece after receiving it from a former Ukrainian public official whom he knew through his consulting work in Ukraine. They also said Manafort hadn't violated the judge's order and was exercising his free speech rights to defend himself."
  • But now — with the filing of page after page of "Track Changes" notations from a document that was "Last saved by paul manafort" — "prosecutors revealed that they knew nearly every detail of that editing process."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fearful Youth

From the Institute of Politics at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government:
By nearly a 4:1 margin (54% to 14%), young Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, compared to the right direction. When asked whether they are more hopeful or fearful about America’s future, 67% expressed fear, while 31% expressed hope. Over four in five Democrats (82%) voiced fear compared to 17% expressing hope; in contrast, 58% of Republicans expressed hope while 39% expressed fear.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

From Earthjustice:
Hours after President Donald Trump issued a proclamation taking an axe to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, conservation organizations filed a lawsuit attacking the order as an abuse of the president’s power. Earthjustice is representing eight organizations in a suit charging that the president violated the 1906 Antiquities Act by stripping monument protections from this national treasure: The Wilderness Society, the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Natural Resources Defense Council are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit and represented by in-house counsel.
“President Trump has perpetrated a terrible violation of America’s public lands and heritage by going after this dinosaur treasure trove,” said Heidi McIntosh, Managing Attorney in Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountains office. “While past presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect unique lands and cultural sites in America, Trump is instead mangling the law, opening this national monument to coal mining instead of protecting its s cientific, historic, and wild heritage. We will not let this stand. We will use the power of the law to stop Trump’s illegal actions.”
The Grand Staircase-Escalante contains dinosaur fossils found nowhere else in the world. Since its designation, 21 new dinosaur species have been unearthed by scientists in the monument, leading some to call these lands a “Dinosaur Shangri-la,” and a “geologic wonderland.” Grand Staircase holds one of the richest collections of fossils from the Late Cretaceous Period, which gives scientists and the public alike an unparalleled window into the dinosaurs that lived in these lands 10 million years ago. In mid-October, scientists airlifted one of the most complete tyrannosaur skeletons ever found out of Grand Staircase. These fossils are largely found in the Kaiparowits Plateau, where the coal industry has long coveted access for coal mining that would wreak havoc on this dinosaur treasure trove that belongs to the American people.

President Trump’s executive order to revoke and replace Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument came on the heels of a review conducted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Over 2.7 million Americans roared their support for national monuments across the country, and public participation in the comment period was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping these public lands and waters protected just as they are.
...
Grand Staircase-Escalante has proven a tourism and economic boon for Southern Utah since its designation. Between 2001 and 2015, the population in the two counties bordering Grand Staircase grew by 13 percent, jobs increased 24 percent and real personal income grew 32 percent. Travel and tourism boomed in the region, offering 1,630 jobs around Grand Staircase. In the big picture, recreation from adventure-seekers, hikers, amateur geologists and families simply getting outdoors now funnels more than $12 billion into Utah’s economy.
RESOURCES FOR REPORTERS:
Read the legal document for our lawsuit filed with the United States District Court in Washington, D.C.
Photos and a video of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument available for download from the Bureau of Land Management.
Read this news release in Spanish.
Earthjustice materials: “Utah may be trading a dinosaur wonder for a coal mine” and “Trading fossils for fossil fuels at Grand Staircase-Escalante” video
Headwaters Economics: Summary of the local economic benefits of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and economic report “The Value of Public Lands”New York Times: “Utah’s ‘Grand Staircase’ Leads Back in Time to Dinosaur Shangri-La”
MORE ON THE ANTIQUITIES ACT:
When President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law in 1906, he established a legal framework for the protection of national treasures. The law gives presidents the power to designate monuments on federal lands and waters—an authority granted by Congress that has for more than a century protected landscapes of extraordinary cultural, scientific and ecological value.
The Antiquities Act has been used more than 150 times by presidents of both parties.
Every president since 1906—with the exception of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush—has used the Antiquities Act to protect iconic places. The law has also been used to protect cultural heritage sites—from Stonewall to Birmingham to Cesar Chavez’s family home—that tell the more complete story of our nation.


The Congressional Research Service has found that the Antiquities Act does not authorize the President to repeal national monument designations. Only Congress has that authority. Numerous legal scholars have reached the same conclusion.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Americans Don't Think Things Have Gotten Better

From Pew:
How far do people around the globe think they and others like them have come, compared with 50 years ago? Pew Research Center put that question to nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe this past spring.
At a country level, some of the most positive assessments of progress over the past 50 years are found in Vietnam (88% say life is better today), India (69%) and South Korea (68%) – all societies that have seen dramatic economic transformations since the late 1960s, not to mention the end of armed conflict in the case of Vietnam. A majority in Turkey (65% better) also share a sense of progress over the past five decades. In some of the more developed countries, publics also report that life is better today, including 65% in Japan and Germany, and 64% in the Netherlands and Sweden.
But not everyone is convinced that life today is an improvement over the past. Americans are split on this issue: 41% say life is worse while 37% say better. Meanwhile, half or more in countries ranging from Italy (50%) and Greece (53%) to Nigeria (54%) and Kenya (53%) to Venezuela (72%) and Mexico (68%) say life is worse today.
....
In more than half the countries polled, people with more education say that, for people like them, life is better than it was a half-century ago. The educational divide on whether life is better is greatest in Poland and Peru (both 19 percentage points). But it is also apparent in many European and Asian nations, as well as the U.S.








Tuesday, December 5, 2017

GOP Identification Dips

Jeffrey M. Jones at Gallup:
Forty-four percent of U.S. adults identify as Democrats or are independents who lean to the Democratic Party, while 37% are Republican identifiers or leaners. Democrats have maintained an edge of between five and nine percentage points on this measure of party affiliation throughout 2017, after holding a narrow advantage in late 2016.

The latest figures, from Gallup Daily tracking interviewing throughout November, are based on interviews with more than 14,000 U.S. adults.
Democrats' edge has expanded this year mainly because of a decline in Republican affiliation. A year ago, 44% of Americans identified as Democrats or leaned Democratic, the same percentage as now. However, Republican identification and leaning is five points lower than it was a year ago. More Americans now say they are nonleaning independents (14%) or do not have an opinion (5%) than did so in November 2016 (10% and 4%, respectively).

Monday, December 4, 2017

"You're Fake News!"

During the Trump presidency, the United States has witnessed unprecedented attacks on the press from the highest office in the land. It is essential to understand how these attacks have affected attitudes toward the press. This report presents results of a public opinion and behavioral study designed to gauge the public’s support for the media in these difficult times. Encouragingly, we find that the public supports the press, albeit weakly. However, this result masks dramatic polarization in media attitudes. Specifically, we show that Republicans and Trump supporters have far more negative attitudes toward the press than Democrats and Trump opponents, especially among respondents with high levels of political knowledge. Republicans and Trump supporters are also far more likely to endorse extreme claims about media fabrication, to describe journalists as an enemy of the people, and to support restrictions on press freedom. These differences in media attitudes are reflected in polarized information diets on our behavioral measures, though to a lesser extent than people’s self-reports of the outlets they read suggest. Finally, we show that exposure to anti-media messages, including an attack by Trump on “fake news,” have relatively limited effects on attitudes toward the press.