Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m having difficulty getting started today. I’ve been dealing with a stomach virus since the weekend. I’m nauseated, have no energy, and feel weak an wobbly on my feet. I spoke to a doctor’s assistant at my health clinic who told me the stomach viruses going around now can last up to two weeks. She just told me to call back if I get any respiratory symptoms. Anyway, I’m not enjoying reading the news these days. I’ll just share some stories that caught my depleted interest this morning.

How about a little archaeology to start out?

The Times of Israel: Huge Kingdom of Judah government complex found near US Embassy in Jerusalem.

One of the largest collections of royal Kingdom of Judah seal impressions has been uncovered at a massive First Temple-period public tax collection and storage complex being excavated near the new United States Embassy in Jerusalem. The main Iron Age structure is exceptional in terms of both its size and architectural style, said Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Neri Sapir, who co-directed the excavation.

Uncovered only three kilometers (1.8 mile) outside the Old City, the compound is believed by Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologists to have served as an administrative center during the reigns of Judean kings Hezekiah and Menashe (8th century to the middle of the 7th century BCE).

Clay figurines of women and animals found at the Arnona, Jerusalem excavation site. (Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Over 120 jar handles stamped 2,700 years ago with ancient Hebrew script seal impressions were discovered at the site, clearly indicating the location’s use as a storage and tax center, according to an IAA press release Wednesday. Prevalent among the stamped inscriptions is “LMLK,” “LamMeLeKh,” or “Belonging to the King,” a way of marking that the foodstuffs stored in the jars had been tithed to the Judean ruler.

This trove of LMLK seal impressions adds to the over 2,000 similar seals previously discovered at excavations and allows archaeologists to rethink the administrative and tax collection systems of the Kingdom of Judah.

“This is one of the most significant discoveries from the period of the Kings in Jerusalem made in recent years. At the site we excavated, there are signs that governmental activity managed and distributed food supplies not only for shortage but administered agricultural surplus amassing commodities and wealth,” said IAA excavation co-directors Sapir and Nathan Ben-Ari in a press release Wednesday.

There’s much more fascinating information at the link.

Back in the 21st Century, American democracy is still threatened by a moron who thinks he’s brilliant and aspires to be dictator for life.

The Washington Post: Trump keeps boasting about passing a cognitive test — but it doesn’t mean what he thinks it does.

During a private campaign meeting in the Cabinet Room in early June, Trump brought up the test unprompted. In an extended riff, he talked about how well he had done — boasting that he’d been able to remember five different words, in order — and suggested challenging Biden to take the assessment, saying he was certain the former vice president would not fare as well.

Since then, the president has been speaking about the test publicly, telling Fox News’s Sean Hannity in a July 9 phone interview that he’d “aced it,” and again on Sunday, when he told the network’s Chris Wallace that he doubts Biden could answer all of the questions. On Wednesday evening, in another Fox News interview, Trump couldn’t resist revisiting what he said was the hardest part of the test — repeating the five words, in order.

Trump said he was first asked to repeat a set of words — “person,” “woman,” “man,” “camera,” “TV,” he said, offering a hypothetical example — and then, later in the assessment after some time had elapsed, he was again asked whether he remembered those same words, in order.

“And they say… ‘Go back to that question, and repeat them. Can you do it?’ ” Trump said, mimicking the doctors administering the exam. “And you go, ‘Person, woman, man, camera, TV.’ They say, ‘That’s amazing. How did you do that?’ I do it because I have, like, a good memory, because I’m cognitively there.”

 

But, as those of us with normal cognitive abilities know, the “test” Trump “aced” is routinely given to people who are suspected of having brain damage, dementia, or other cognitive deficits. It’s not a test of intelligence, as Trump seems to think. Back to the WaPo story:

Experts say the president’s fixation on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — or MoCA, as it is sometimes called — is particularly puzzling because the test is normally administered only if someone is concerned that they or their loved ones may be experiencing dementia or other cognitive decline. Getting a perfect score — as Trump has repeatedly claimed he did — merely signifies that the test-taker probably does not have a cognitive impairment as measured by the exam.

“It’s not meant to measure IQ or intellectual skill in anyway,” said Ziad Nasreddine, the neurologist who created the test. “If someone performs well, what it means is they can be ruled out for cognitive impairment that comes with diseases like Alzheimer’s, stroke or multiple sclerosis. That’s it.”

Nasreddine continued: “The reason most people take the test is they or others start noticing mental decline. They forgot where they parked the car, can’t remember what groceries to buy by the time they get to the store. They keep forgetting to take their medication.”

Yesterday Federal agents in Portland, Oregon tear-gassed the city’s mayor.

The New York Times: Federal Officers Hit Portland Mayor With Tear Gas.

The mayor of Portland, Ted Wheeler, was left coughing and wincing in the middle of his own city Wednesday night after federal officers deployed tear gas into a crowd of protesters that Mr. Wheeler had joined outside the federal courthouse.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler visits protesters

Mr. Wheeler, who scrambled to put on goggles while denouncing what he called the “urban warfare” tactic of the federal agents, said he was outraged by the use of tear gas and that it was only making protesters more angry.

“I’m not going to lie — it stings; it’s hard to breathe,” Mr. Wheeler said. “And I can tell you with 100 percent honesty, I saw nothing which provoked this response.”

He called it an “egregious overreaction” on the part of the federal officers, and not a de-escalation strategy….

But the Democratic mayor, 57, has also long been the target of Portland protesters infuriated by the city police’s own use of tear gas, which was persistent until a federal judge ordered the city to use it only when there was a safety issue. As Mr. Wheeler went through the crowds on Wednesday, some threw objects in his direction, and others called for his resignation, chanting, “Tear Gas Teddy.”

After a large wave of tear gas sent Mr. Wheeler away from the scene, some protesters mocked him, asking how it felt. Mr. Wheeler said that joining the protesters at the front of the line was just one way he was going to try to rid the city of the federal tactical teams.“

A lot of these people hate my guts,” Mr. Wheeler said in an interview, looking around at the crowd. But he said they were unified in wanting federal officers gone.

Also at The New York Times, Gary Hart has an op-ed about presidential power: How Powerful Is the President?

We have recently come to learn of at least a hundred documents authorizing extraordinary presidential powers in the case of a national emergency, virtually dictatorial powers without congressional or judicial checks and balances. President Trump alluded to these authorities in March when he said, “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” No matter who occupies the office, the American people have a right to know what extraordinary powers presidents believe they have. It is time for a new select committee to study these powers and their potential for abuse, and advise Congress on the ways in which it might, at a minimum, establish stringent oversight.

Gary Hart

Secret powers began accumulating during the Eisenhower years and have grown by accretion ever since. The rationale originally was to permit a president to exercise necessary control in the case of nuclear war, an increasingly remote possibility since the Cold War’s endAn obscure provision in the Communications Act of 1934 empowers the president to suspend broadcast stations and other means of communication following a “proclamation by the President” of “national emergency.” Powers like these have been deployed sparingly: A few days after the Sept. 11 attacks, a proclamation declaring a national emergency, followed by an executive order days later, invoked some presidential powers, including the use of National Guard and U.S. military forces.

What little we know about these secret powers comes from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, but we believe they may include suspension of habeas corpus, surveillance, home intrusion, arrest without a judicial warrant, collective if not mass arrests and more; some could violate constitutional protections.

A number of us have urged immediate congressional investigations concerning what these powers are and why they have been kept secret. Public hearings should be held before the November elections, especially with rumors rife that the incumbent president might interfere with the election or refuse to accept the result if he felt in jeopardy of losing.

Please read the rest of this important piece at the NYT.

More stories to check out:

HuffPost: Russian Allies Helping Trump Win Reelection Have A Partner In Wisconsin Republican.

The Washington Post: Republicans scrap Trump’s demand for payroll tax cut as they cobble together draft coronavirus bill.

Politico Magazine: State Department Insiders Ask: What Is Susan Pompeo Really Up To?

Jacksonville.com: RNC plans in jeopardy as Jacksonville council president opposes city bill.

The New York Times: House Democrats Considered 10 Impeachment Articles Before Narrowing Their Case Against Trump.

Bloomberg City Lab: Philadelphia’s Top Prosecutor Is Prepared to Arrest Federal Agents.

The New York Times: Tracking the Real Coronavirus Death Toll in the United States.


16 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    I woke up in a country where a secret police force of the President tear gassed a mayor of a major city. I’m just so mad about this I do not even know what to do.

    Thanks for the archeology break! It always delights me!

  2. dakinikat says:

    Never thought I’d be relieved to see Tom Ridge of all people defended …

  3. bostonboomer says:

    The MoCA doesn’t use related words like the ones Trump used in the video. That would make them easier to recall.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    • lililam says:

      This makes me oddly happy! Not only has Cohen grown as a sympathetic character in my estimation, it is such a fine refutation of Barr’s disgustingness.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. Halbarbera says:

    Break that
    Bad News Habit
    Pull a rabbit
    Out of your ass
    That’s a much better habit

  9. “Acing” MoCA (Montreal Cognitive Assessment) is a requirement for retaining your driver’s license in Ontario once you reach your 80th birthday … and every 2 years thereafter. Interestingly, it is not touted as proof you’re qualified to hold despotic control over a major world power/economy.

  10. Pat Johnson says:

    Just a reminder that we are heading into the last 100 days before the election.

    Hang in there!!!

  11. jslat says:

    Actually Thursday Reads. Hope you feel better soon.