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Judith Butler Overestimates the Power of Hateful Speech

By Conor Friedersdorf

Judith Butler worries that UC Berkeley risks dire consequences if it fails to put more limits on the sorts of speech and free expression that it allows on campus.

In remarks to a campus forum, “Perspectives on Freedom of Expression on Campus,” she argued against “free speech absolutists.” For instance, she believes incitements to violence should not be protected by the First Amendment. Of course, that view reflects longstanding law and is shared by the Federalist Society, the ACLU, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the vast majority of Americans, including most staunch free-speech advocates. Support for repealing all laws against incitement is almost nil, as is the constituency for literal free-speech “absolutism.”

More controversial were her suggestions that the Constitutions’s equal-protection clause is sometimes at odds with protected speech, and that Title IX and UC Berkeley’s Principles of Community should sometimes trump the First Amendment. As she put it:

If the commitment to free speech provisions under the First Amendment takes precedence over Title IX, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Berkeley Principles of Community, then I suppose we are being asked to understand that we will, in the name of freedom of speech, willingly allow our environment to be suffused with hatred, threats, and violence, that we will see the values we teach and to which we adhere destroyed by our commitment to free speech or, rather, to a very specific – possibly overbroad – interpretation of what constitutes expressive activity protected by that constitutional principle.

That passage is striking for its non-sequitur. For decades, the First Amendment has taken precedence over federal statutes like Title IX and campus codes of conduct. Yet public universities have not been suffused with hatred, threats, and violence as a result; and there is no reason to expect UC Berkeley to meet that …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



A Clash Between Two Visions of the Republican Party in Alabama

By McKay Coppins

For all the national attention that’s been paid to the grisly particulars of Alabama’s special election over the past few weeks—the lurid details of the sexual-abuse accusations against Roy Moore; the performative shrieks of “Fake News!” from the candidate and his defenders—the true political consequences of the race will likely reach well beyond a single Senate race in 2017.

In fact, many Republicans in Washington believe the voters who are heading to the polls on Tuesday could end up playing a pivotal role in the fight for the soul of the GOP.

Republican leaders have been keeping an especially wary eye on Alabama ever since former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon announced his intention to recruit primary challengers for (virtually) every Republican senator up for reelection in 2018.

“There’s a time and season for everything,” Bannon said in a speech at the Values Voters Summit in October, “and right now it’s a season of war against the GOP establishment.”

Under normal circumstances, Republicans might have dismissed this bit of posturing as little more than made-for-cable bravado. But Bannon’s success in aiding Moore, a right-wing ex-judge with a long history of incendiary stunts and retrograde views, to the Republican nomination had unnerved party leaders. The alarm only grew when Moore—facing credible allegations of sexual abuse and assault—defiantly refused to exit the race, and pledged to fight on without the support of the institutional GOP. Eventually, Moore won back the endorsements of President Trump and the Republican National Committee, even as the rest of the party establishment—most notably the National Republican Senate Committee—continued to maintain its distance.

Now, Republicans in Washington say the outcome of the Alabama race will set the stage for the coming clash between the Republican Party and the Bannonite insurrectionists.

“The stakes are high for both sides,” said Ryan Williams, a Republican consultant …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



‘It’s the Grandparents Stealing From the Grandchildren’

By Eric B. Schnurer

One day in 1984, Kurt Vonnegut called.

I was ditching my law school classes to work on the presidential campaign of Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate against Ronald Reagan, when one of those formerly-ubiquitous pink telephone messages was delivered to me saying that Vonnegut had called, asking to speak to one of Mondale’s speechwriters.

All sorts of people called to talk to the speechwriters with all sorts of whacky suggestions; this certainly had to be the most interesting. I stared at the 212 phone number on the pink slip, picked up a phone, and dialed.

A voice, so gravelly and deep that it seemed to lie at the outer edge of the human auditory range, rasped, “Hello.” I introduced myself. There was a short pause, as if Vonnegut were fixing his gaze on me from the other end of the line, then he spoke.

“It’s the grandparents stealing from the grandchildren.”

I waited for elaboration. After a long pause, however, he simply repeated, “It’s the grandparents stealing from the grandchildren. Got it?”

I assured him I did, and he hung up.

Of course, I knew immediately what he meant. America had become a great nation because it had always kept its eyes on the future. That changed with the election of Ronald Reagan—when the Baby Boom generation, enthusiastic Reagan backers, became the largest cohort in the electorate and began to rise in the political and economic worlds. The Boomers’ sense of entitlement was beginning to manifest itself in the long battle over what are known as “entitlements”—especially the original and largest, Social Security and Medicare—and what they say about our attitudes toward future generations.

That question is now playing out in the tension between perhaps the longest-held desire of traditional conservatives—if not to end completely at least to eviscerate entitlements—and the completely contrary views of Donald Trump …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Will Roy Moore Win the Alabama Senate Race?

By Clare Foran

In Tuesday’s Alabama Senate race, no one knows who will come out on top—and that’s unusual in a reliably conservative state.

Thanks to a strange set of circumstances, the special election to fill the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions has become a competitive race. Republican Roy Moore had been viewed as a strong favorite, but that changed when multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers.

The allegations, which Moore denies, have shaken up the race and given Democrat Doug Jones a shot at winning, though Moore maintains a slight edge in polling averages. Pundits and pollsters now deem the Alabama special election “impossible to predict.”

Special elections that take place in a year when midterms aren’t held are difficult to poll under any circumstances. It’s hard for pollsters to predict exactly who will show up to vote when they can’t turn to past turnout data in comparable election cycles. The controversy that has engulfed the Alabama senate election as a result of the allegations against Moore adds even more volatility to the race.

“This race has almost every factor that makes polling tricky,” said Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster and co-host of “The Pollsters” podcast. “We don’t know what the electorate is going to be, and you have people trying different methodologies to try to figure out out. Some may prove to be better than others.”

In the final days of the race, the polls have been all over the place. A Fox News poll reported that Jones had a ten-point lead among likely Alabama voters, while an Emerson College poll showed Moore with a nine-point lead over Jones. Fox News polled voters via both landlines and cell phones, while Emerson College’s poll relied on landlines and an online panel. Individuals …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Wisconsin’s Welfare Overhaul Is Almost Complete

By Vann R. Newkirk II

If Scott Walker has his way, poor people in Wisconsin will have to undergo drug testing, one way or another.

Last week, the Republican governor forged ahead with a plan to require testing for some recipients of the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly referred to as food stamps. That measure would come on top of another proposal to test Wisconsin’s Medicaid enrollees, which is pending federal approval, as well as a law already on the books requiring drug screening and testing for non-custodial parents receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. If both of Walker’s proposals pass federal scrutiny, it’ll mean all three of the major welfare programs in the state will have drug-testing components.

The move to add drug testing to SNAP is another gambit in Walker’s ongoing effort to overhaul welfare, which has included a host of reforms over the past three years. The change would affect recipients who participate in its Employment and Training Program. Through ETP, able-bodied, childless adults already have to meet work requirements in order to qualify for food stamps. Under the proposed regulation, those who test positive would be required to undergo treatment—on the state’s dime, if they can’t afford it—or face losing their benefits. The Walker administration has also sought to add work requirements and a time limit on benefits to Wisconsin’s Medicaid program, and it wants to extend the SNAP work requirements to parents.

It’s far from certain whether the latest reforms from Walker will pass federal muster. Under former President Barack Obama’s administration, Walker’s requests to implement drug testing in SNAP were denied or held up by the Department of Agriculture under the rationale that they constituted an additional eligibility barrier that Wisconsin wasn’t entitled to impose. While the state disagreed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Another Failed ISIS Attack

By Graeme Wood

The alleged bomber of the New York subway was inspired by the 2016 ISIS attack on the Berlin Christmas market, in which a Tunisian man drove a truck into a crowd and killed 12 people, according to a New York Times report. Akayed Ullah of Brooklyn saw Christmas posters in the underground corridor connecting the Port Authority Bus Terminal to the Times Square subway lines, and these set him off (or rather, inspired him to set himself off, with a pipe-bomb velcroed to his torso). The bomb—which used a broken Christmas-tree bulb as a detonator—killed no one, and footage of the aftermath suggests that its main effect was to char his midsection.

It would be foolish, I think, to make too much of the interreligious aspects of ISIS’s target selection. ISIS hates Christians less than it hates most non-ISIS Muslims, and the things it hates about Christmas are hardly the the aspects of the holiday that find expression in advertisements in the Port Authority, which are more likely to be selling Rockettes tickets than to be stressing the corporeality of a triune God. Yes, ISIS hates Christmas. But they hate everything else Americans do, too.

Once again, what deserves note is the incompetence of the attack. ISIS has issued simple instructions for mass murder, and most of those who have heeded its call have been too stupid to follow even the idiot-proof terror tactics it suggested. These are people who, if they bought a shelf from IKEA, would somehow sever both thumbs in the process of failing to assemble it. Most ISIS overseas attackers are like this. The small minority of competent ones account for nearly all the total deaths.

Akayed Ullah (his surname means “God,” so it seems blasphemous to call him by it, even on …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Lemon Aid

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

Officials said three people were injured after a man attempted to set off a pipe bomb in the New York City subway system. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called for President Trump to resign, citing the multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault against him. CNN accused Trump of online bullying after he tweeted that anchor Don Lemon is the “dumbest man on television.” The Pentagon will comply with a court order allowing transgender people to enlist in the military on January 1, despite Trump’s order barring them from serving. In a robo call, former President Barack Obama encouraged Alabamians to vote for Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the state’s special election on Tuesday.

Today on The Atlantic

  • ‘What Putin Really Wants’: In our January cover story, Julia Ioffe writes that Americans overestimate the Russian president’s cunning: “What makes Putin effective, what makes him dangerous, is not strategic brilliance but a tactical flexibility and adaptability—a willingness to experiment, to disrupt, and to take big risks.”

  • In Hiding?: As the Alabama special election approaches, Democratic candidate Doug Jones has held numerous campaign events and press conferences. Republican Roy Moore, on the other hand, has all but disappeared. (Rosie Gray)

  • ‘Who Broke the Economy?’: A new book argues that the rich and powerful are taking advantage of government regulations to benefit themselves—resulting in greater inequality. (Annie Lowrey)

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Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Lemon Aid” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



The Partisan, Nihilist Case Against Robert Mueller

By David A. Graham

If you’re not a regular consumer of pro-Trump media outlets, it could be easy to underestimate or overlook the recent onslaught of attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There are a couple reasons for that. One is that this discourse exists almost entirely within that media ecosystem (which is distinct from, though overlapping with, the broader world of conservative media). The other is that critics have been calling for Mueller’s dismissal and an end to his probe since it was announced. Nonetheless, the intensity of the recent spree is notable, as is the gradual shift from ostensibly politically neutral critiques to openly partisan ones.

“Mueller is corrupt. The senior FBI is corrupt. The system is corrupt,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News. The channel’s legal analyst Gregg Jarrett said Mueller was employing the FBI “just like the old KGB,” which Sean Hannity piously told viewers was “not hyperbole.” Using chilling language, Fox host Jeanine Pirro said, “There is a cleansing needed at the FBI and Department of Justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

Pirro is, not for the first time, moving way too fast. What all of these denunciations lack is any concrete instance of wrongdoing by a member of Mueller’s team, much less Mueller himself. They have seized on the case of FBI agent Peter Strzok, who apparently wrote some text messages critical of Trump to a girlfriend, but who, as I wrote last week, was immediately reassigned from Mueller’s team when Mueller learned of the texts, and about whom there is as yet no proof of wrongdoing. But the path from Mueller’s appointment to the current critiques bears close examination.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



How Russia Hacked America—And Why It Will Happen Again

By Caitlin Cadieux

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian hackers attacked the U.S. on two fronts: the psychological and the technical. Hackers used classic propaganda techniques to influence American voters, bought thousands of social media ads to propagate fake news, and broke into Democratic party email servers to steal information.

And it won’t be the last time. Russian-backed psychological cyber warfare will only get better, and its methods more sophisticated.

…read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Myth of Vladimir Putin the Puppet Master

By Julia Ioffe

I. The Hack

The large, sunny room at Volgograd State University smelled like its contents: 45 college students, all but one of them male, hunched over keyboards, whispering and quietly clacking away among empty cans of Juicy energy drink. “It looks like they’re just picking at their screens, but the battle is intense,” Victor Minin said as we sat watching them.

To hear more feature stories, This is Putin’s carefully cultivated image at home: the phlegmatic leader who hovers coolly above the fray as it churns on beneath him. But in the past year or so, the fray has given him reason to worry.

On a chilly afternoon this spring, I watched college students standing on the steps of a nondescript building off Volgograd’s central square, waiting to meet with Alexey Navalny. The opposition leader and anti-corruption crusader has captured the imagination of many young Russians, as well as that of Westerners who see him as a potential rival of, or even replacement for, Putin. Navalny has declared that he is running for president in the upcoming election.

Police had blocked off the street in front of the building, which housed Navalny’s local campaign office. They stood groggily watching as Cossacks, members of a southern Russian tribe who have historically acted as the state’s vigilante enforcers, strolled up and down the block, casually swinging their black-leather whips. Angry-looking young men in track pants and sneakers—the other fists-for-hire preferred by the Kremlin—paced around the students, eyeing them menacingly. Young women in vertiginous heels—plainclothes cops—milled around. Every few minutes, they took out identical camcorders tagged with numbered yellow stickers and filmed the students standing on the steps, zooming in on their faces.

Navalny had recently been attacked by progovernment thugs who splashed …read more

Via:: The Atlantic