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Nate Cohn of The New York Times attempts to reconcile the popularity of President Joe Biden’s policies with Biden’s “personal unpopularity.”

The disconnect between Mr. Biden’s popular policies and his personal unpopularity is a little hard to understand. After all, voters do care about the issues.

They’ve proved it by gradually sorting into ideologically divided parties over the past two decades. And it’s clear that presidents can be punished for advancing an unpopular agenda. Just ask Barack Obama about the period after the Affordable Care Act was passed.

But if voters often punish a president for pushing unpopular policies, they rarely seem to reward a president for enacting legislation. Instead, voters seem to reward presidents for presiding over peace and prosperity — in a word, normalcy.

Today, Mr. Biden is not seen as presiding over the long promised return to normalcy. Maybe that will change in the months ahead. But Mr. Biden’s policy agenda is not expected to do much to help his approval rating so long as Americans do not believe that agenda responds to the most immediate issues facing the country.

Gregg Gonsalves, writing for The Nation, wonders how much suffering the nation is willing to go through because of the COVID-19 pandemic, now in its second year.

After almost two years of living with Covid-19, many of us are ready to go back to our pre-pandemic normal. Of course, SARS-COV-2 doesn’t care about how it has thrown our lives into turmoil, sown the most terrible grief among hundreds of thousands of families in the United States, disrupted and destroyed lives forever. Nonetheless, over the next few weeks from Thanksgiving to the New Year, we will rush to greet friends and family after months of relative solitude have fed a deep longing for human contact. Those with resources may stop off at the local pharmacy to pick up a rapid test to provide them some comfort that they are not bearing SARS-COV-2 as well as holiday gifts as they descend on the homes of their loved ones, but most will go mask-less into these celebrations. In settings with everyone gathered vaccinated, perhaps boosted, the risk of infection and serious complications of Covid19 will be slight, but approximately a third of all Americans are still unvaccinated after all these months, making these joyous occasions far from safe for many.

Many are suggesting we will, at some point, enter an endemic phase of our Covid-19 era: where the infection rate stabilizes, even if we have occasional flare-ups now and then. But endemicity isn’t just an epidemiological phenomenon; it’s a set of private and public choices about how many deaths we can tolerate as our steady state and consider the public health emergency over and done with. Those choices—the number of deaths we can live with—matters in several ways.

Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker relates a story of logician Kurt Gödel’s “loophole” to the willingness of Donald Trump and his acolytes to defy the law and the Constitution.

Gödel’s loophole, as some have called it, remains a mystery. He never defined it, and no trace of his discovery seems to linger in his papers...What was it? Probably not a loophole by which a Vice-President can simply refuse to recognize a slate of electors, during the Electoral College vote tally, and substitute one of his own choosing, thereby keeping his boss in power. That, presumably, was a bridge too far even for a logician. Dartmouth’s Dan Rockmore suggests that it might conceivably involve the contradictions of gerrymandering, which is constitutional but democracy-defeating, or the minority-empowering Electoral College. Another Gödel biographer, Jim Holt, turns to Harvard Law School’s distinguished professor emeritus, Laurence Tribe, suggesting that what Gödel had in mind was Article V of the Constitution, “since it sets no limits on how the Constitution can be amended.” 


The logic of the law, which impresses most of us sufficiently to make drivers stop at red lights and pedestrians wait their turn—well, outside New York City, at least—in fact exists by mutual consent more than by vigilant enforcement. As Gödel’s great contemporary and opponent Ludwig Wittgenstein might have said: we don’t follow rules as much as we inhabit them. Without a social consensus of commitment to the law, no law matters. (That is why so many autocracies have admirable constitutions.)

As the events of recent weeks remind us, Donald Trump has taught his acolytes a shrewd amoral insight: that the machinery of enforcing the rules is far more meagre than its promoters would have you believe. After all, Trump first came to prominence, back in the nineteen-eighties, with an act of defiance: when he demolished the old Bonwit Teller store to build Trump Tower, he also jackhammered its decorative relief panels, which had been promised to the Metropolitan Museum, daring anyone to do something about it, which no one did. He similarly long ago realized that the courts, designed in principle to bring justice to the exploited, can be used just as effectively to impede and delay justice—that the very proceduralism courts honor and obey is also an ally of obstruction.

Renée Graham of The Boston Globe maintains that our refusal to take violence against women seriously is responsible for the Waukesha parade tragedy where six people were killed.

If Darrell Brooks Jr. had been behind bars, he wouldn’t have been behind the wheel allegedly driving an SUV that mowed down dozens at a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wis., killing six people.

Three weeks before the tragedy, Brooks was arrested for driving his SUV over a woman in a Milwaukee County gas station parking lot. The woman was hospitalized, and Brooks faced numerous charges, including three related to domestic abuse. Yet despite a lengthy criminal record, including violence against women, Brooks was released on $1,000 bail just nine days later.

Last Sunday, Brooks, fleeing from what police have called “a domestic disturbance,” allegedly plowed his vehicle into parade participants and onlookers. The dead range in age from 8 to 81. More than 60 people were injured. Several children were sent to intensive care.

These are the dire consequences for a nation that refuses to take violence against women seriously.

Kelsey Minor of The Grio reports that the opioid crisis is hitting communities of color hard.

The drug crisis is hitting communities of color especially hard. In St. Louis, deaths among Black people increased last year at three times the rate of Whites, skyrocketing more than 33% in a year.

“The situation in St. Louis is dire and vital,” local Pastor Marsha Hawkins-Hourd told theGrio. She is part of a network of faith leaders and grassroots activists trying to overcome the distrust people have for the systems that typically address addiction but are infested with systemic racism.

“At the beginning of the opioid crisis it was primarily White Americans who were impacted by this but a growing number of Black Americans are dying at alarming rates,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of National Institute on Drug Abuse.

According to the CDC data, many of the deaths involve illicit fentanyl. Dealers have mixed fentanyl with other drugs and it’s believed that’s one reason that deaths from methamphetamines and cocaine are also rising. Researchers say that majority of the new cases have been in the western part of the country where cartels have gained a footing on smuggling drugs into the country.

Oliver Milman of TheGuardian reports that far-right groups are setting aside climate change denial but are embracing placing the blame on migration.

This wrapping of ecological disaster with fears of rampant immigration is a narrative that has flourished in far-right fringe movements in Europe and the US and is now spilling into the discourse of mainstream politics. Whatever his intent, Johnson was following a current of rightwing thought that has shifted from outright dismissal of climate change to using its impacts to fortify ideological, and often racist, battle lines. Representatives of this line of thought around the world are, in many cases, echoing eco-fascist ideas that themselves are rooted in an earlier age of blood-and-soil nationalism.

In the US, a lawsuit by the Republican attorney general of Arizona has demanded the building of a border wall to prevent migrants coming from Mexico as these people “directly result in the release of pollutants, carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere”. In Spain, Santiago Abascal, leader of the populist Vox party, has called for a “patriotic” restoration of a “green Spain, clean and prosperous”.

In the UK, the far-right British National party has claimed to be the “only true green party” in the country due to its focus on migration. And in Germany, the rightwing populist party Alternative for Germany has tweaked some of its earlier mockery of climate science with a platform that warns “harsh climatic conditions” in Africa and the Middle East will see a “gigantic mass migration towards European countries”, requiring toughened borders.

 Emily VanDerWerff writes for Vox on the changing definitions of “family.”

But what do we mean when we say that? Just what is a family anyway?

Here’s one possible answer: Your family is the people who raised you and the people you grew up with. Usually, you were born to them, but sometimes you were adopted by them at an early age. You can think of a dozen variations on this idea, but the core of it is always the same: the nuclear family unit.

This definition of a family has been provided to us by our culture, our storytelling, and our religious traditions for the past several centuries, and it is officially underwritten by government policy in most nations, including the United States. Just think of how many TV sitcom episodes have ended with some family patriarch reminding his children — and by proxy all of us in the audience — that family comes first, and your family will never let you down. The unshakable primacy of the family unit is one of the earliest tropes we learn.

But it’s an idea with profound limitations.

A 16-reporter team for Der Speigel reports that there already appears to be fractures in the new coalition government in Germany.

The political constellation that will soon be taking over power in Germany is unprecedented at the federal level in the country. If you ignore the fact that German conservatives are divided into two parties -- the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria -- this is the first real three-party alliance to lead the federal government since 1957. It will likely produce the first female foreign minister ever in postwar Germany. And the size of the challenges facing this government are also rather novel.

The climate crisis, a threat to the entire planet and humanity, must be slowed. Beyond that, this complacent, self-satisfied country must be dragged into the digital age, where others have long since become established.

"Dare More Progress": Such is the title of the coalition agreement chosen by the three parties. And that, too, is a quote from a Social Democrat, this time from Willy Brandt himself, whose message back in the 1960s was "dare more democracy” to finally rid the country of the fusty remnants of its infatuation with authority. Olaf Scholz of the SPD, Robert Habeck of the Greens and Christian Lindner of the FDP want to both put the brakes on global warming and rid the country of fax machines.

Both of those tasks seem vast.

The secrecy and unity outwardly displayed by the three parties as they negotiated their alliance was also new. Normally in Germany, backbiting, indiscretions and anecdotes about the weaknesses displayed by the other parties are traditionally part of coalition negotiations in the country. This time, though, very little leaked to the outside, and if it did, it tended to be in the form of gushing portrayals of how wonderfully everybody was getting along and how constructively they were working together. It all seemed a bit too good to be true. And at the press conference on Wednesday, the first hairline cracks became apparent.

Finally today, Bryan Lufkin writes for BBC News about the newly-minted cosmopolitanism of “y’all.”

In other regions of the US, ‘y’all’ has historically been far less common. Yet, in the past couple years, ‘y’all’ seems to have exploded in use, including and especially among people who live far outside the South, in places north of the Mason-Dixon Line in the US, like New York City, and even overseas.

Australian Twitter users, many of whom have started saying ‘y’all’, are being playfully chided for trying to masquerade as Americans. Forty-something CEOs in the US have traded ‘you guys’ for ‘y’all’ under the influence of their more progressive Gen Z colleagues. And LGBTQ+ advocacy groups encourage the ‘y’all means all’ mantra, arguing that the term is preferred because it includes people of all gender identities.

‘Y’all’ is fun and useful – but the way the term has gradually slipped into conversation in other English-speaking regions and countries tells us a lot about how and why certain bits of language catch on. The more widespread use of y’all also signals a shift towards more careful use of language to be more inclusive, including within the workplace.

Everyone have a great day!

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