The violent style in American politics

Violence is no stranger to American life. Its gun culture results in violence on almost a routine basis, so much so that we have become numb to the regular recurrence of mass shootings by people armed with highly powerful weapons. It takes a really high death toll to make the national news these days. We have also seen periods of severe political violence in the past involving groups like the KKK and when the government put down labor movements with great force. Recently during the Trump presidency we have seen a rise in violent political rhetoric that has again occasionally spilled over into physical violence.

In an article in the November 16, 2020 issue of The New Yorker, Evan Osnos examines the style of conflict in American politics that oscillates between persuasion and force. He says that political scientist Richard Hofstadter, towards the end of his life in 1970, became absorbed about the intersection of politics and force in the US and argued that the political violence in the US tends to take a different form than in most other countries.
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TV Review: The Queen’s Gambit (No spoilers)

This seven-part miniseries on Netflix about a female chess prodigy Beth Harmon in the 1960s taking that male world by storm has been much talked about and has apparently spurred a lot of interest in chess, with increased sales of chess sets and more young women becoming interested in playing a game that is still highly dominated by men.

I watched the series and my reaction is mixed. I thought I would enjoy it a lot more than I did. The story of a young girl overcoming tremendous odds to become a success is the kind of underdog story that appeals to me. In addition, in my adolescence and up to the first couple of years in college I played the game seriously, and was even the captain of my high school chess team. But even though I could appreciate the name-dropping of the great chess players and the openings and the defenses, the series somehow failed to grip me. It started very slow, so much so that I stopped watching the first episode halfway through but came back to it to give it another chance. It picked up the pace later but towards the end I was watching it just to see how it ends.
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Curioser and curiouser

Marcus Ranum has alerted me to the fact that the Utah monolith has disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.

The tall, shiny, metal structure, now famously known as a “monolith” was discovered in Utah last week, and had prompted multiple theories about how it had come to be there ranging from TV show set leftover, to art work, to aliens.

But now, almost as mysteriously as it appeared, it has been removed by what local officials called “an unknown party”.

“[We] did not remove the structure which is considered private property,” A Bureau of Land Management spokesperson said in a statement. “The structure has received international and national attention and we received reports that a person or group removed it on the evening of 27 Nov”.

“All that was left in its place was a message written in the dirt that said ‘bye bitch’ with a fresh pee stain right next to it,” Marino posted to instagram. “Someone had just stolen the statue, and we were the first to arrive at the scene”.

Marino said they saw a pickup truck with a large object in its bed driving in the opposite direction shortly before they got there. A Reddit user also found the structure, which many believed to be abstract art, had been formerly removed.

The object’s origins remain unknown but Bret Hutchings, the helicopter pilot who discovered it, estimated it to be between 10ft and 12ft high (about three metres).

Here’s video of what was left behind. (You can silence the annoying music.)

The structure was not buried as deep into the ground as was thought. We were told that this was pretty remote and rugged terrain. Placing the monolith there surreptitiously would not have been easy. Getting it secretly out again after all the publicity is pretty amazing.

Only aliens could have done it.


I came across a quote that seemed to me to capture a great deal of truth about how race politics is conducted in the US. It is by president Lyndon B. Johnson who was widely recognized as a shrewd and cynical politician who knew how to work the system to his advantage and get his agenda through.

Johnson’s stances on race were complicated. As the above article says, he started as a flat-out racist but later, he used the insights gained from being one to persuade similar politicians to pass the Civil Rights Act.
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What, you think your god will protect you from getting covid-19?

Reports have emerged of a wedding held in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community of New York City where thousands of people were crammed together indoors and tried to keep this violation of safety protocols secret from the authorities.

New York City officials on Monday announced that they would fine the organizers of a Hasidic Jewish wedding that was attended by thousands of people earlier this month, calling it reckless and accusing organizers of concealing it from authorities.

The New York Times reported that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said that those who planned the wedding took active steps to ensure that the thousands of participants would not reveal news of the wedding to city authorities.
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There is no fool like a rich fool

Many people have jumped on the Trump election fraud bandwagon to persuade people that they have a shot at overturning the election results in the courts provided people contribute enough money to finance the lawsuits. Some very wealthy people have taken the pitch and only later realized that they had got suckered.

Fred Eshelman, a North Carolina-based money manager and True the Vote donor, is suing True the Vote for $2.5 million for failing to show evidence of voter fraud this election year and not keeping him up-to-date on its efforts.

Newsweek’s Darragh Roche reports that Eshelman, who founded the company Eshelman Ventures LLC, “now wants his money back because True the Vote did not provide him with information about their progress and he believes they can’t achieve what they claimed.”

True the Vote called its efforts to challenge the 2020 election results Validate the Vote, promising lawsuits in seven battleground states and claiming that it would use “sophisticated data modeling and statistical analysis to identify potential illegal or fraudulent balloting.” Eshelman donated $2 million to True the Vote on November 5 and another $500,000 the following week. But now, Eshelman wants his $2.5 million back and is saying that when he asked for updates, he was “met with vague responses, platitudes and empty promises.”

Don’t these rich people do any research before shelling out such big bucks? If Eshelman had done some basic investigation, he would have realized that he was throwing his money down the drain because this group is really focused on voter-suppression.

Are vaccination certificates in our future?

Australia’s national airline Qantas has announced that once the covid-19 vaccines become readily available they will require proof of vaccination to fly on international flights. It is expected that other airlines will follow suit.

The airline’s CEO Alan Joyce said in an interview with CNN affiliate Nine News on Monday that the move would be a “necessity” when coronavirus vaccines are readily available.

Joyce said the airline was looking at changing its terms and conditions to “ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft.”

Whether a vaccine requirement for travel becomes the international standard is at this stage far from certain. There are also questions about whether governments would mandate such a move — and the legalities of doing so — before allowing international travelers into their countries.
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We have made contact!

Internet sleuths quickly set about trying to find the actual location in remote Utah of the monolith that was reported a couple of days ago by a helicopter crew that was surveying the area to count bighorn sheep. The crew did not reveal the GPS coordinates for the site, fearing that people would trek in the difficult terrain and get lost and even die. But that did not deter people from the thrill of the chase. And now, within 48 hours of that report, people have found it and gone to the site.
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Trump’s increasingly pro-forma complaints of election fraud

It looks like Trump has decided to slowly begin the process of conceding that he has lost the election and will be leaving the White House. In a peevish exchange with reporters, he said that he will leave if the Electoral College announces that Biden has got the most votes, though he insisted that such an ascertainment would be a mistake because the election was a fraud. Of course, it dos not matter in the least that he is saying he will leave because he will have to go whether he agrees to or not.

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