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The stone wall that marks a property line is the focus of Robert Frost’s famous 1914 poem, “Mending Wall.” The stones divide the narrator’s land from that of a man who insists, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Questioning its purpose, Frost wrote, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense.”
Whatever the value of a fence, almost everyone breaches it at one point or another. Who hasn’t turned into the wrong driveway by mistake … or had a ball roll into a neighbor’s yard? The commonplace nature of those experiences helps explain why people reacted so strongly when “four young people, in three different states, (were) shot by strangers – all reportedly because they had the bad luck to approach the wrong house or the wrong car,” wrote Jill Filipovic.
It speaks to an America that is seemingly on a hair-trigger, with people barely concealing the fear or rage that can be unleashed without any provocation.
In Kansas City, Andrew Lester, an 84-year-old White homeowner shot Ralph Yarl, a Black teenager who rang his doorbell.
“I am reminded that neighborhoods across America that are mostly white, mostly rich, and mostly cut off from people who look like Yarl were designed to be that way. Lenders back in the day used rules that protected these types of neighborhoods through redlining and, assisted by, racial terrorism,” wrote Danté Stewart.
“In America, the neighborhood has always been a racial battleground. It has a long history in which a Black person in the wrong place (and in some sense what is a wrong place for any human to exist?), could hear monkey sounds, see paint sprayed on their homes reading ‘Get Out!’, have rocks thrown at them, have their homes devalued and could ultimately be shot or killed for the simple fact that they are Black and alive and here.”
“What haunts me is this: we live in a country where you can be Black and run, be Black and drive, be Black and walk, be Black and breathe, be Black and make a mistake – and end up being Black and shot.”
Both Stewart and Filipovic noted how the omnipresence of guns – there are more than 400 million in a nation of 334 million people – ratchets up the danger. “Because the US allows nearly anyone to arm themselves, we as a society create and enable a situation in which average, often untrained citizens are handed the ability to swiftly end others’ lives,” Filipovic wrote.
“Beef,” the widely praised Netflix series, begins with an epic road rage encounter that offers a satiric window into the seething anxiety of its lead characters. But it is also becoming known for the controversy around its casting of artist and actor David Choe.
As Jeff Yang noted, “Back in 2014, Choe had publicly announced on a podcast he cohosted with porn star Asa Akira that he’d once coerced a Black masseuse into a nonconsensual sexual act. ‘You raped,’ Akira clarified. Choe pushed back on that description, but later in the episode referred to himself as a ‘successful rapist.’” Choe has since insisted that the anecdote was fiction and has retracted his comments.
“As a culture, America has long been fascinated by volatile, self-destructive artists, transforming them from human beings who chronically harm themselves and those around them into icons of free expression, unfettered inspiration and social liberation,” wrote Yang. “We tend to valorize the stars whose catastrophic implosion fuels our pop culture, because from our position of safety on the other side of a page, headset or screen, they let us feel danger and risk without consequences — or at least, without consequences for us.”
Fox News settles
After months of unflattering revelations about the internal workings of Fox News and the spotlight it gave to false claims about the 2020 presidential election, reporters assembled in Delaware for a defamation trial that would have dramatized in detail the lies that were told about Dominion Voting Systems. At the last minute, Fox agreed to pay the voting machine company a $787.5 million settlement.
“It would be too much to say Fox won,” wrote David Zurawik. “The discovery process of the trial documented the ethical and moral bankruptcy at the core of Fox like no reporting done by me or any other media analyst over the years.”
“But Fox definitely dodged a bullet — and it would not be too much to say journalism and democracy lost…”
“That courtroom could have become a crucible not just for the public humiliation of Fox, but a national understanding to some extent of how we have arrived at this terrible American moment with democracy drowning in a sea of disinformation and lies.”
Former President Donald Trump’s “premeditated and endlessly repeated falsehoods about the ‘rigged’ 2020 election, including a bizarre international conspiracy theory about Dominion voting machines, were so laughably untrue and yet still so effective that millions of Americans still believe Joe Biden is not the legitimate President,” wrote Susan Glasser in the New Yorker.
While Fox had to pay out more than three quarters of a billion dollars and faces a suit from another voting machine company, Glasser noted, it didn’t have to air an apology for its promotion of the election lie. And, “with Trump as the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, Fox has resumed coverage of him which often veers into the free-advertisement category. And Trump does not just repeat his lies about 2020; they are the foundation of his revenge-fuelled comeback campaign.”
President Joe Biden is finally expected to announce this week what he has made clear for months: he’s running for re-election in 2024.
Biden’s approval rating – currently in the low 40s – is a warning sign, wrote David Axelrod. The President “has a significant body of achievements on which to run. But continued concerns about the economy and his age and capacities – he would be a record-breaking 82 at the time of his second inauguration – have bogged him down.”
Even though fewer than half of Democrats tell pollsters they want Biden to run again, he needn’t worry about strong primary opposition. Neither Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who announced his candidacy last week, nor Marianne Williamson represents a serious threat, Axelrod noted.
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Biden benefits from the perception that the GOP could nominate Trump, whom he defeated in 2020. “The Democratic tribe will likely rally behind its aged but tested chief as their best bet to stop Trump again,” Axelrod observed.
“The calendar reads 2023,” wrote the Republican former lieutenant governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, “but it feels like 2016 all over again. The GOP faces another inflection point with the 45th president. He’s dominating the polls, headlines and national conversation. The indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office may have disappointed even reliable Trump critics but galvanized Republican voters…”
“Let’s not forget that Trump has a serious math problem in the suburbs. In 2016, he pulled an inside straight when a combined 80,000 people in three states gave him a chance, but then many of those voters abandoned him and his party for the next three election cycles.”
One of Trump’s potential Republican opponents, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been slipping in the polls and gaining unfavorable publicity as a result of his battle with Disney, in which he even talked of building a state prison next to Disney World. DeSantis’ legislative juggernaut, which many see as aimed at helping him win the loyalty of the GOP base away from Trump, isn’t having the desired effect.
As Raul A. Reyes wrote, the state legislature is gearing up to pass “the harshest crackdown on illegal immigration by a state in over a decade … The plan by Gov. DeSantis to punish undocumented people in his state is both divisive and destructive and goes against his state’s long tradition of being a haven for immigrants.”
A former GOP governor, Chris Christie, of New Jersey, is also weighing entering the presidential race. In a New Hampshire appearance, Christie labeled his former friend Trump “a failure in policy and a failure in character.” Julian Zelizer called Christie “only one of a handful of Republicans who is willing to speak out against the former president,” but added, “the strategy won’t work. Trump is the voice of the party, plain and simple. … Trumpism is the dominant ideological framework through which many, if not most, Republican voters see the world.”
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Running to danger
In the April 10 shooting at a Louisville, Kentucky, bank, the responding police officers included 26-year-old rookie cop Nickolas Wilt, who was shot in the head and remains in critical condition, noted retired officer Michael Fanone.
And ”at a school in Tennessee last month, officers responded to an active shooter who had taken the lives of teachers and their young students. They entered immediately with no regard for their own safety and shot and killed the assailant. This is the job.”
“We have felt the heartbreak of learning that Wilt was gravely injured in the line of duty while trying to save innocent lives…”
“As was the case in Louisville and Tennessee, men and women just like us are asked to set aside their own personal safety to maintain order in our ‘civilized society.’ I will never say that police are above reproach and that reforms are not needed in our criminal justice system, but I will say that the actions of these brave officers are the rule and not the exception.”
In an email to co-workers in September 2021, CNN senior UN correspondent Richard Roth wrote, “I need your help. Urgently. To save my life. Please help me.”
He was seeking a kidney donor. In less than an hour, Samira Jafari, CNN deputy managing editor for investigations, offered her help.
A year after their successful transplant, Jafari and Roth caught up for a conversation.
“Over the past year, my ‘kidney bestie’ and I have stayed in close touch – catching up on trips to Atlanta and New York, sending photos of pets and receiving surprise birthday treats,” Jafari wrote. “Me trying to decipher his badly autocorrected texts and him begrudgingly admitting me into his baseball predictions contest. One of the greatest joys of my life was attending his niece’s wedding last fall as his plus-one. He killed his toast.”
“Richard has gotten stronger and back to work, doing what he does best – reporting the news.”
“I try to make sure I don’t miss any of his emails.”
Anne Frank’s protector
Anne Frank’s story of hiding from the Nazis is well known. Less often told is the story of Miep Gies, the extraordinary Dutch woman who agreed to help shelter Anne’s family, and is the subject of “A Small Light,” an upcoming series on Nat Geo and Disney+.
As Roy Schwartz wrote, Gies “risked her life to help eight people, four of whom she barely knew, stay safe and fed for 761 days. When the secret annex was eventually discovered and raided in 1944, Miep was spared arrest, but its inhabitants were sent to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Only Otto Frank survived.”
“It was Miep who found Anne’s diary and hid it from the Nazis, giving it to Otto when he returned after the war. ‘The Diary of a Young Girl,’ better known as ‘The Diary of Anne Frank,’ was published in 1947, becoming the most famous and widely read Holocaust memoir.”
Schwartz’ story came during a week of commemorations of the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Polish Jews against their Nazi oppressors.
CNN’s Dana Bash wrote, “My great-grandparents and aunt were all murdered in concentration camps. My grandparents escaped Nazi Europe — among the small group able to get into America. For years, not knowing what happened to her parents, my grandmother said the ‘Kaddish,’ the Jewish prayer honoring those who died, on the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, because she did not know when else to do so.”
The whistleblower question
Is the accused leaker of US intelligence documents a hero? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Fox News host Tucker Carlson seemed to imply as much when they referred to him as a whistleblower, noted Patrick Eddington.
“It is a distortion of the concept of whistleblower and truth-telling to describe what is alleged about (Jack) Teixeira’s actions that way…”
“There is no evidence to date that Teixeira had – or believed he had – evidence of actual US government personnel, civilian or military, violating any law, rule or regulation, or otherwise engaging in misconduct or mismanagement.”
Who pays for government?
Tuesday was Tax Day, and the US Treasury was keeping a close eye on the level of payments sent to the IRS, since that will help determine when the US hits its congressionally mandated debt ceiling. Republicans are demanding spending cuts in return for increasing the ceiling, while the Biden administration says there’s no room for negotiation on a matter as vital as honoring the promises the US has made to investors. (Here’s Patrick T. Brown’s take on the standoff).
Two wealthy Americans, Abigail Disney and Morris Pearl, cited Tax Day as “an annual reminder that the ultra-rich exist in an entirely separate world when it comes to taxes. For us, the loopholes are bigger and the rates are sometimes lower. Meanwhile, the rich keep getting richer, with the wealth of billionaires in particular growing by more than $1.5 trillion over the last few years.”
They argued that their own tax rates should go up, and that capital gains should be taxed at the same rate as salary income.
But are the wealthy getting a free ride? Scott Hodge, president emeritus of the Tax Foundation, cited IRS figures for 2020, showing that the top 1% of taxpayers “accounted for 42.3% of all income taxes paid, the highest percentage in modern history” while earning 22% of the nation’s adjusted gross income.
The tax system is “more progressive today than it has been since at least World War II.”
Hodge chalked it up to “the massive expansion of social programs delivered through the tax code over the past three decades. Some of the largest programs aimed at lower-income families and those with children are run through the IRS — the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Collectively, they deliver roughly $180 billion worth of benefits each year, much of which is refundable — meaning a family gets a tax refund check even if they don’t owe any taxes.”
India is on pace to surpass China as the world’s most populous country this year, wrote Frida Ghitis. “If India can meet the challenges it faces and develop its economy while embracing, improving and promoting its identity as the world’s biggest democracy, it could become a beacon for other nations. A nation whose success commands admiration; a country that becomes a force for good and garners massive benefits in return…”
“India has kept growing its often-rambunctious economy even as it has managed to tame its once-perilously high birthrate. China, meanwhile, has entered a demographic crisis that threatens its economic might.”
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Anthony Bass, a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays, complained that a flight attendant made his wife, who’s 22 weeks pregnant, clean up the popcorn strewn by their 2-year-old daughter. It sparked a debate on social media and rang a chord with parents.
CNN Opinion asked five parents for their take. One of them, Joyce M. Davis, spoke for many people when she observed, “if their kids make a mess, parents should make a good faith effort to clean it up. They should also let their kids know there are repercussions for bad behavior. And if the kids are old enough, they should have to clean up the mess themselves.”
“That said, I keep coming back to the issue of compassion for parents. You never know what a mom is dealing with and what may be causing unruly behavior in a child.”