Plus, what the heck is up with those fireworks?
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Today’s read: 12 minutes.
The DACA ruling from Thursday, a dive into the insane fireworks phenomenon, some very important numbers and Tangle’s new partner.
This weekend, I finally got to go through the Tangle poll and read everyone’s feedback and marketing ideas from a couple of weeks ago. I wrote back to everyone who left some feedback and their email address, and I appreciate all of your insights, criticisms and encouragement. If you ever want to reach me, simply reply to this email.
- COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.S., but the deaths are going down. Experts believe this is the result of predominantly younger Americans spreading the virus amongst themselves. They’re concerned that once those Americans start interacting with older relatives, the death rates will spike again.
- President Trump’s Tulsa rally did not go as planned on Friday. Six members of the campaign’s advance team tested positive for COVID-19 before the event, outdoor speeches were canceled, and the upper bowl of the arena was unusually empty. The lower than usual turnout is being blamed on everything from protesters and COVID-19 to a group of activist teenagers who allegedly requested hundreds of thousands of tickets to the rally without any intention of attending.
- Attorney General William Barr fired New York federal prosecutor Geoffrey S. Berman on Friday night. Berman oversees the Southern District of New York Office that sent Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen to prison and is investigating Trump’s current lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Berman initially refused to step down before his deputy was appointed in his place. The left says the firing is a clear sign Trump is trying to insulate his allies from prosecution. The WSJ editorial board dismissed that as melodrama, saying it was a mix of “self-indulgence” by Berman and a bungled execution by the Trump administration.
- President Trump faced backlash for comments during his Tulsa rally that he asked officials to slow down testing because it was making the United States look bad. Some of Trump’s staffers dismissed the comments as a typical, sarcastic riff that is commonplace at the Trump rallies. Others said they were frustrated by the president’s words, which undermine their effort to calm the country about COVID-19’s spread.
- A fight is brewing in Arizona, where the Governor recently allowed local governments to mandate face coverings as the state sees COVID-19 cases rising rapidly. Officials in Arizona were reluctant to mandate the face coverings, which experts say reduce the spread of the virus. But Republican Gov. Doug Ducey finally reversed course after 1,000 medical professionals signed a letter urging him to take action.
What D.C. is talking about.
DACA. On Thursday, the Supreme Court handed down another historic ruling, upholding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects some 649,000 undocumented immigrants, brought here as children, from deportation. DACA was being challenged in court by the Trump administration. Typically, Tangle wouldn’t cover a news item that’s a few days old — but this is an important ruling that wasn’t covered last week because of its timing, so we’re making space for it today.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision, written by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, saying the administration had not provided proper legal justification for ending the program. President Trump was “stunned” by the ruling, according to The Washington Post, as were conservatives across the country.
In Roberts’ opinion, he did not rule on the legality of DACA or whether it was sound policy. Instead, he ruled on whether the Department of Homeland Security, which tried to rescind the policy, “complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.” In the majority’s view, it didn’t. Nor did it consider the impact rescinding the program would have on the DACA recipients, Roberts wrote.
“The consequences of the rescission, [advocates] emphasize, would ‘radiate outward’ to DACA recipients’ families, including their 200,000 U.S.-citizen children, to the schools where DACA recipients study and teach, and to the employers who have invested time and money in training them,” Roberts said. “In addition, excluding DACA recipients from the lawful labor force may, they tell us, result in the loss of $215 billion in economic activity and an associated $60 billion in federal tax revenue over the next ten years.”
For now, it means DACA will stay in place, further protecting the so-called “dreamers” from deportation.
What the right is saying.
The right opposes the ruling almost wholesale. Not because they want DACA recipients deported, necessarily, but because they believe DACA was an illegal federal overreach that needs to be checked by the courts. Only one justice — Sotomayor — actually argued that what Trump was doing was illegal. The majority simply focused on the Administrative Procedure Act, which says the Trump administration must justify its reasoning for rescinding the policy… as if wanting to obey the law wasn’t reason enough for cutting it down.
Even Justice Roberts wrote that “all parties agree” the Department of Homeland Security can rescind the DACA program. Instead, the dispute became about whether it dotted its i’s and crossed its t’s in shutting DACA down.
“You might think that repealing an illegal policy should be a no-brainer, and Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented on the basis that the government should not be required to continue breaking the law,” Dan McClaughlin wrote. “But what the Court did, by scrapping DACA repeal after almost four years of obstruction in the courts, is to give DACA the benefit of status quo bias: The illegal policy is not asked to justify itself, while the repeal is struck down in its entirety even when a portion of it was incontestably justified.”
The Wall Street Editorial board struck a similar note, noting that Obama never followed the APA when he wrote the DACA bill — and that DACA was never tested in court.
“Sometimes getting to the right policy via the wrong process does more harm than good,” it wrote. “We support legalization for these 700,000 or so immigrants, as a matter of fairness and as contributors to American life. But this is an issue for Congress. The Court’s ruling on administrative-law grounds reads like a desired policy outcome in search of justifying legal logic, and it is likely to do long-term harm to the Constitution’s separation of powers and maybe to immigration reform.”
What the left is saying.
The left is thrilled about the ruling and believes the Trump administration fumbled its argument and paid the ultimate price. The Department of Homeland Security’s lawyers only had one sentence explaining why it was terminating DACA (“Taking into consideration the Supreme Court’s and the Fifth Circuit’s rulings in the ongoing litigation, and the September 4, 2017 letter from the Attorney General, it is clear that the June 15, 2012 DACA program should be terminated”), which Roberts rightly said was so inadequate it made the decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
In The Week, Damon Linker agreed. He argued that the Supreme Court’s decision was the right one, given the justification from the Trump administration, and that Roberts indicated he very well may sign off on rescinding DACA if the administration re-works its reasoning and re-tries ending the program in court.
“How the federal government acts matters almost as much as, and sometimes more than, what it does,” Linker wrote. “Laws, rules, and norms need to be followed. Decisions need to be explained and justified in ways that make sense. They can't be arbitrary, capricious, or motivated by outright animus. And justifications can't be fabricated after the fact in order to conceal the true motives of government officials.”
Put another way, the administration essentially argued that DACA was a law without proper statutory authority and that, therefore, it was unenforceable. Trump’s lawyers argued that previous rulings striking down Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) proved this, but failed to address the major differences between DAPA and DACA.
Garrett Epps wrote in The Atlantic that “the Trump administration managed today to wrest defeat from the jaws of victory” with incompetence that started with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“There were, and are, respectable arguments to be made” that DACA is illegal, Epps wrote. “But the fact is, Sessions didn’t bother to make them. And when Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke followed up with an order winding down DACA, she didn’t either.”
Like most Americans, I’m happy about the practical outcome here. A supermajority of Americans (including a majority of Trump supporters) believe Dreamers should be granted permanent legal status. 62% of Americans believe immigrants strengthen the U.S. There are some 27,000 DACA recipients currently employed in the health care sector fighting off COVID-19, and the 650,000 DACA recipients impacted by this decision have some 200,000 children born and raised in the U.S. between them. The program has been hugely successful in almost every measurable way.
From a moral perspective, rescinding DACA and deporting those recipients — or their children — is abhorrent. The Obama administration asked DACA recipients to take a leap of faith, come out from the shadows, hand over their personal information and become — in a sense — legal, accepted members of society. That ask came with the promise that America would welcome them, a promise Obama mostly fulfilled, and that the Trump administration is trying to undo.
But the Supreme Court’s job isn’t to judge what’s moral — it’s to judge the law. Yes, the administration fumbled their argument, and this is example number one million and thirty-seven of the Trump administration’s incompetence being self-defeating. In that sense, there was clearly a lawful ground for the Supreme Court to rule as it did — and I’m happy Roberts wrote the opinion he wrote, even if I ultimately agree with Justice Clarence Thomas, who said that the ruling “must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.”
I believe “the right” is still correct about the fundamental implications of this case. How is it possible that the federal government can create laws out of thin air without being checked by the courts, only for the next administration to have to go through the courts to challenge those laws? The Wall Street Journal editorial board put it clearly:
“The practical consequence of the ruling is that a President can create an unlawful policy without legislation from Congress, but a future President cannot lawfully undo it without first jumping through regulatory hoops that can take years. This is an invitation for executive mischief, especially by Presidents at the end of their terms. They’ll issue orders that will invite years of legal challenge if the next President reverses them.”
What does this mean if the Trump administration gets a second term, or if it decides to go for far-reaching executive policy initiatives between the election and Joe Biden’s inauguration? It doesn’t take much imagination to envision a scenario where Trump’s lawyers get their act together and draft a policy like DACA, but with a far more sinister objective, and then the next administration has to spend years traversing the courts to undo it. Frankly, it’s shocking there aren’t more liberals worried about that implication.
The Supreme Court’s legal minds were able to justify this decision on the law in either direction, as made clear by the split decision itself. But the moral righteousness of the outcome aside, the ruling only further discouraged Congress from fulfilling its responsibility to legislate. There’s plenty of blame in Republicans’ laps for that, too, given they refused to negotiate with Obama in good faith on immigration. But the court just signaled to future presidents that they can continue to legislate with executive impunity — and showed Congress it can continue to sit on its hands instead of drafting real laws.
Neither of those things is comforting, and in the long-term it may end up being far worse for DACA recipients. If Congress takes the signal and doesn’t create lasting immigration reform, and the Trump administration re-tries this case and wins, those Dreamers may end up being shipped out of the U.S. anyway. So even if I’m elated and relieved for the DACA recipients who will benefit from this ruling now, I’m deeply concerned — and agree with the right’s argument — that this could ultimately do more harm than good.
Tangle has its first-ever partner. I’m cross-promoting with Ground News, an app and website that uses data to rate the political lean of stories and news outlets. I’ll be featuring parts of Ground News’s “Blindspot Report” going forward, which tells readers about stories folks on the left and right miss each week because of their biased news diets. Ground News is also going to periodically point its users to Tangle if they want more fleshed out explanations of the left’s or right’s takes, and I know many of you already came here from Ground News (welcome!)
Last week, the left missed a story about how New York City’s contact tracers were not asking people if they attended George Floyd protests.
Last week, the right missed a story about how Donald Trump Jr. went on a Mongolian sheep hunting trip that cost taxpayers $75,000.
To check out Ground News, click here.
Your questions, answered.
Reminder: reader questions are one of my favorite parts of Tangle. If you have something you want to see in the newsletter, simply reply to this email and write in. I’ll try to get to it as soon as I can.
Q: I know it’s not specifically political, but my entire Twitter feed is nothing but people talking about the insane prevalence of fireworks in cities across the U.S. What is going on? Is this really a government conspiracy of some kind to sow discord or keep people awake? Any ideas why this is happening?
— Jimmy, Brooklyn, NY
Tangle: Everyone is talking about the fireworks.
I tweeted on Juneteenth about the fireworks, noting that it had already been a week straight of non-stop fireworks from dark until what seemed like 3 or 4 a.m. They’d woken me up several times over the course of the week in Brooklyn, and then Juneteenth sounded something like 4th of July — which made sense given the holiday’s extra significance this year.
But that’s about the only thing that made sense.
Last night, I got about three or four hours of restless sleep. It may sound ridiculous, but I legitimately had nightmares about being in a war zone for the entire night. I woke up a half dozen times to my bedroom filling with light, or explosions echoing through the apartment. Even my fiance, who managed to mostly sleep through it, jumped at the sound of the fireworks in her sleep. It felt neverending.
I can only assume this experience was a minor inconvenience compared to what some people are going through in New York and other cities. On top of it just not being that important compared to everything else going on right now, I also don’t have the life circumstances other folks do. Unlike many people experiencing this, we don’t have a dog or a small child. I don’t have PTSD or live with the elderly. The fireworks went off only sparingly on our street or directly outside our house. And, while I wake up early to write this newsletter, neither of us is out of bed at an ungodly hour to commute to work right now.
The theories about these fireworks are endless. One Twitter thread, which went viral after a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist named Nicole Hannah-Jones shared it, said “My neighbors and I believe that this is part of a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities by government forces; an attack meant to disorient and destabilize the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”
The evidence for this claim was non-existent; instead, the person who wrote the thread explained why they thought this would be an effective tactic: sleep deprivation to “turn black and brown peoples” against each other, desensitization to the sound of fireworks so when “real artillery” is used we won’t know the difference, and a claim that there is “no way in the world” young black and brown people would have access to these kinds of fireworks.
“We think the government is providing these to neighborhood young people,” the Twitter user, named Robert Jones, Jr., said. “These young people are unaware of how they're being used against their own communities and think they're simply being allowed to have the kind of fun that is generally considered illegal.”
As some friends have expressed to me, this idea isn’t so unbelievable. There are plenty of historical accounts of the CIA or law enforcement being used against American citizens, especially during times of civil unrest. But there really is nothing more than superstition around the fireworks — there’s no evidence, at all, of this being anything other than a product of the economic and social moment we’re living in.
For one, the idea that it’s actually police or undercover agents lighting off the fireworks (as some have claimed) doesn’t pass the basic sniff test. The fireworks are endless — and if cops or suspicious characters were doing this, we’d have seen them by now. Photos and videos across the country show teenagers and adults who appear to be with their families or friends lighting off the explosives. Or, in the case of one viral video, a bunch of bored-looking members of the New York City Fire Department.
The other theory is that the fireworks are simply being supplied and dropped into these neighborhoods for cheap by government actors. Again, an enticing theory on its face — but one with no evidence. Some have claimed they saw “giant black SUVs” dealing the fireworks in the city, which is certainly believable. Fireworks dealers are a staple of New York City every summer, and I imagine if you were the kind of person transporting fireworks across state lines, an SUV would be a nice vehicle to do it in.
One Twitter user, Kelly Harrison, said she “saw some kids with fireworks and we asked where they copped them” and they said “someone just gave them to me.” Harrison concluded from this interaction that the conspiracy theories seem a “little less conspiracy-ish now.”
As someone who grew up with two older brothers and committed plenty of low-level crime as a teenager, let me just say that “someone just gave them to me” is exactly how I would explain pot, fireworks, lighters, knives, alcohol, or any other dumb stuff I got into when I was a kid. If I had asked a group of teenagers lighting off the fireworks on my block where they got them and they said “someone just gave them to me,” I would not think the CIA had infiltrated Brooklyn. I would think a teenager was covering for one of their buddies.
The New York Times, Gothamist and other news organizations here have reported on the fireworks from the ground. Nearly 2,000 fireworks complaints were lodged in New York in the first half of June, 80 times as many as this time last year. Citizens, members of city council, NYPD and NYFD have acknowledged many of the fireworks seemed to be “high grade” and “sophisticated,” certainly bigger and louder than typical fireworks being consumed by regular people. City officials have also pledged to clamp down on suppliers.
All this is to say: it’s not our imagination. The fireworks are here, and they are bigger, louder and more present than in years past. Which begs the question: What is actually happening?
Best I can tell, the fireworks are a product of a perfect storm. First, a little common sense: teenagers and adults have been cooped up inside for three months — now they’re suddenly free to gather, barbeque, spend time with their friends and family a bit more readily. One of the injuries in the fireworks displays here in New York City was a 33-year-old who was lighting fireworks off inside his own apartment at 5 a.m., according to The New York Times. So it’s not just teenagers, and I’d like to think this kind of idiocy is, at least in part, the product of what we’ve all collectively been experiencing since March.
Secondly, fireworks suppliers are clearly pitching a number of deals across the country. We’ve seen this documented by folks who have come across their fliers and shared them publicly. The fireworks industry was absolutely crushed by the pandemic. Many fourth of July events are already canceled. Phantom Fireworks, one of the largest distributors in the U.S., said they were expecting “higher demand” from private buyers and were going to “get creative” to find a way to offload the extra supply they had, since municipalities weren’t going forward with organized July 4th displays.
So, the stage was set for this. Then imagine being one of the many fireworks dealers who operates in New York City every year. Now you’ve got your suppliers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, or wherever else selling some of their best stuff in three for one deals or at massively discounted prices — and all you have to do to sell them is drive into the city, where people are desperate for something to do, itching for some weekend or weeknight entertainment and have a little disposable income on hand.
That, plus the fact many of these cities are in the midst of massive protests against the police, and the police could be (not) responding in part by pulling back in neighborhoods where they are least-wanted. Gothamist and The New York Times both contacted local departments who seemed to not have the resources or desire to get involved in cracking down on the fireworks. And, in this climate, can you blame them? As some have noted, and The Times reported, the fireworks are “a celebration of hard-fought strides made during the demonstrations and a show of defiance toward the police.”
Of course, there are plenty of people reporting on this as we speak, and someone may uncover a vast conspiracy network of undercover fireworks dealers trying to incite intra-neighborhood drama and “desensitize” us for real artillery. But far more likely to me is that a bunch of suppliers who have watched fourth of July celebrations, sporting events and other summer holidays get canceled are now colluding with a bunch of city-dwellers looking for a way to blow off steam and spice up their nights.
What have you seen in your city? What have you heard? Let me know and I’ll share some thoughts and reactions from across the country. You can always send in tips, feedback or thoughts by simply replying to this email — it goes straight to my inbox.
A story that matters.
The expansion of federal aid during the coronavirus pandemic has prevented a massive rise in poverty and — perhaps — may even cause poverty to fall. Two new studies examining the impact of the federal aid seem to indicate incomes rose among needy Americans in April and that poverty may have fallen by as much as two percent. However, the studies carry two significant caveats: One, Americans have suffered hunger and other hardships because of delays in receiving the assistance, which is set to expire next month. Two, millions of undocumented immigrants who often have American children have not qualified for the help, and their situations were not part of the collective data. The New York Times has the story here.
- 62%. The percentage of Americans who support the George Floyd protests.
- 26%. The percentage of Trump supporters who support the George Floyd protests.
- 27%. The percentage of Trump supporters who have a favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement.
- 7%. The percentage of Trump supporters who support “defunding the police.”
- 38%. The percentage of Americans who support “defunding the police.”
- 47%. The percentage of Americans who support reducing police funding in order to redistribute it to social services for programs like housing and mental health.
- 83%. The percentage of Americans who think it should be illegal to fire someone based on their sexual orientation.
- 61%. The percentage of Americans who think DACA should remain in place as it is.
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A new study has uncovered an unexpected benefit of the COVID-19 lockdowns: 60% of fathers in Canada say they feel closer to their kids because of the quarantines. They have provided a chance for fathers to spend more time at home and more time parenting, which has turned up positive results in a new study from the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation. 40% of the men surveyed reported that quarantine had caused their relationships with their children to improve, and more than half of the men said that they were more aware of their importance in their children’s lives. “We’re finding a new revelation of their experience with their children,” Wayne Hartrick, president of CMHF, told CTV News. “Some of them talked about almost in terms of falling in love with their kids all over again.” Click.