Arguments from Tangle readers...

Plus, are Texas Republicans erasing MLK?
Isaac Saul Aug 11, 2021
️I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 9 minutes.

We’re running a reader feedback edition today. Plus, a question about the education bills being pushed in Texas.

An example of a Tangle sticker that you can buy in our merch store.

Correction.

Yesterday, I made the mistake of trying to write too technically about a very scientific story in my “Have a nice day section.” In the story, I discussed a new way researchers may be able to find colon cancer, saying “this new study found that six specific RNA proteins change in people’s cells when colon cancer is present.” A reader named Sam said “this terminology is not technically correct: For all intents and purposes, RNA is not protein, and only in very specific biological contexts do RNA molecules comprise proteins. The DDSMs the authors describe are actually small RNA molecules, acting on their own to perform biological functions.”

So, yeah. I guess that’s what happens when people who edit scientific manuscripts read your newsletter. And Sam wasn’t the only one (thank you, scientists reading my newsletters), so I guess we’ll have to count it.

This is the 41st Tangle correction in its 105-week existence and the first since July 21st. I track corrections and place them at the top of the newsletter in an effort to maximize my transparency with readers.


Quick hits.

  1. Senate Democrats pushed through a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, the blueprint for the national budget, with no Republican support. It would be the largest expansion of the social safety net since the 1960s. (Get the details)
  2. The Senate also passed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill by a 69-30 vote, with 19 Republicans joining every Democratic senator in voting for the bill. It now goes to the House for approval. (Read more here)
  3. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned yesterday after a damning report about his alleged sexual harassment of staffers. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will take over the position in two weeks, becoming the first female governor in New York state history. (The story)
  4. The Taliban could take over the Afghan capital in as little as 90 days, according to a new U.S. intelligence assessment. (Link for more)
  5. Prices rose by 5.4 percent in July compared to last year, continuing inflation trends. (Get the numbers)

Reader feedback.

Every now and then, I like to publish a newsletter made up exclusively of reader opinions. I do this for the same reason I share writing from about a half dozen different columnists every day: because I recognize it’s important to share the views and perspectives of people who aren’t me. Each time I put out a feedback newsletter, I get a bunch of fascinating and compelling responses from folks all over the country. And since we haven’t done it in a while, today I thought it’d be fun to go back and share some of the feedback I’ve gotten recently.


In response to the story about the eviction moratorium, a reader named Trae said he was “confused.”

If we were paying unemployment and underemployment benefits to anyone that applied often giving people more money per month than they were making while employed, why then would we also need to stop landlords from being able to collect their rent?” he wrote. “The moratorium was entirely unnecessary if people were a, getting money from their job they had, or b, were getting funds for unemployment. I own a grand total of two houses that I rent out. Luckily both tenants continued to pay, but if they hadn't I don't make enough income to pay for my place, and those of two other people. I should risk foreclosure because my tenant suddenly decided to stop paying rent regardless of whether or not they could afford it?…

The government's response is that we should ignore they've not be able to implement this program in all this time, but we should continue to do what exactly? Continue to sit on unallocated funds while more bureaucrats write even more rules and policies on this process? Fire all of these people and give the funds to the unemployment fund.

Dave from Seattle wrote in about this sentence I published: “Companies like Apple are currently lobbying against bills that would limit or eliminate forced labor, which many Uyghurs are being used for in these camps.”

As with every other topic, it's never black & white. If Apple / Nike / etc were actually lobbying against bills which limit / eliminate forced labor, I think they'd be burned at the stake of public opinion. I read what you wrote, and I finally did some minor research into the topic, which ended up in grey areas (in my mind).

Apple (for example) looks like it was pushing for some provisions to change. Compliance deadlines (I assume because supply chains are incredibly hard to modify), identification of forced labor by the US government (because leaving it up to private parties is rife with inconsistencies and problems), and a limitation on what details of their supply chains would be leaked to the public (vs congress).

As a business person, I can totally understand the interest in Apple in "fixing" the legislation. I would say that “of course” the humans at Apple are against forced labor. They just know that there's a difference between ideological ideas and well written laws.

A reader named Ren said she “couldn't help but laugh” at some of the reactions from the right to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s sexual harassment scandal.

It's all so disingenuous, public grandstanding for the sake of getting your name in the news. I 100% agree Cuomo should be removed, but on the same token Trump should be barred from running for any public office - there were TWENTY SIX women who came out with allegations against him and for all intents and purposes all we got was a shitty press conference with an aging porn star. Seeing Republicans attempting to take the high road now reeks of political posturing and nothing more and it sickens me - hopefully Dems do the right thing and remove him, but it won't happen without a fight (which is probably a good thing for Democrats in general - finally showing some backbone).

Ed from New York responded to the article on funding the IRS and said “proponents have a blind-spot about opponents who respect the intention but feel it will prove costly and ineffective.”

Taxing “income” is difficult and always dependent upon the ethical orientation of the taxpayer. And while some of the largest global businesses seem to get away with murder, it’s not for lack of IRS resources in auditing their tax returns. Plenty of controversies wind up in courts with outcomes not based on any power differential. The same goes for global businesses headquartered in countries where concurrent (not retrospective or selective) government clearance of their tax returns is required. Smaller businesses, opaque private businesses (eg, hedge funds, real estate), nonprofits, and high net worth individuals are the greatest routine offenders. But they present hurdles both of efficiency and politics which additional funding is not likely to overcome.

Dillon from Texas objected to the idea that our infrastructure was “crumbling,” and worried about where the money might be spent.

Our infrastructure is far from crumbling. Does it have shortcomings? Obviously, it’s a bunch of man-made artifice dumped onto environs that immediately begin to decay, crack, rust, and compromise it. Is it an imminent danger or serious state of affairs that make us look has-been in relation to China? No… There are places our infrastructure stinks, places where it is great, and everything in between. My point is that it is natural for infrastructure to decay and be repaired, replaced, expanded, or scrapped over time. For a nation as large and complex as ours, our infrastructure is pretty fantastic even though I remember seeing documentaries in gradeschool a decade or so ago that made it seem like our infrastructure was "F" worthy and ready to collapse. No other country can really be readily compared with us directly because we are a very large continent-spanning country with population centres spread out fairly evenly (Missouri is the center of the US population, not Henan Province as in China), meaning the scale of infrastructure we have is unlike other places that are either small and denser (most of Europe) or vaster and heavily unpopulated (most of Russia, Canada, China).  

Still, despite the shortcomings of any comparison, my experience in Europe says our infrastructure is pretty on par with them: they have a better rail network, which makes sense given their smaller scale, but it is still easy to find the same decay there as here.  Need I relate my experience with the creaking, foot eating, prone to power-loss French subways from the 50s and 60s still in operation? And yet they manage to successfully move 4+ million people a day. We are far ahead of Russia, enough said. As for China, though Senator Portman makes the point that they spend x4 on infrastructure, this obscures the fact that this is 1) due to their rapid and centrally planned economic expansion the involves placing roads, trains, power infrastructure, etc where none had existed before and 2) that their whole infrastructure model is actually based on our system, because ours actually is the best large scale all-around highway system!

A reader named Todd wrote in to object to the idea that “The Squad” deserved credit for the new eviction moratorium.

The Squad's efforts would be commendable if they protested 2 weeks ago and were pressuring Congress to act. What they actually did was the equivalent of making a scene to get their butcher [to] bake them some bread… Maybe if The Squad was more concerned with results than social media likes they would have gotten this right. They are members of the U.S. Congress and have the ability to introduce legislation. Did they even try or just wait till it made national news so they could get a photo op?

Rosie from Houston said her issue with the UN’s climate report is that it’s “purely alarmist without providing any solutions.”

The problems we face are the how: how do we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions? There is no consensus on the answer to that question, and many of the answers are "in theory" only, as in the technology or method doesn't even currently exist. A report that predicts doomsday type scenarios unless drastic action is taken and then provides no guidance on what those drastic actions should be is completely worthless and pure propaganda meant only to elicit emotional responses, in my opinion.

A reader named Kevin objected to me describing “Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.”

It is disappointing that Tangle is not able to communicate the news in an accurate, unbiased and nonpartisan manner. The infrastructure bill was written by a bipartisan committee with much compromise on both sides. It is much different than the original proposal from the White House. Calling this Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Bill is inaccurate, disrespectful to the legislators and their staffs who wrote it and worked to pass it and seems to position Tangle as just another news organization in business to promote liberal (Democrat) biases.

Finally, a reader named Henry wrote in to share a very interesting opinion piece making the argument that the war in Afghanistan was actually a partial success. Here’s an excerpt:

As for the Afghans, they assuredly suffered in the war, but they suffered more under Taliban rule. Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution figures that the war may have cost 400,000 Afghan lives over the past 20 years, but he guesstimates that U.S. activities there saved a million or more lives, a significant net positive.

Consider: Infant mortality dropped by half during the U.S. operation. Life expectancy improved by six years. Electricity consumption, a key quality of life indicator, increased by a factor of 10. Years in school increased by at least three years for men and four for women. University graduates rose from under 31,000 to almost 200,000. (Those and other indicators are available at the Brookings Afghanistan index.)

Those are a lot of lives saved and improved. Even at their most monstrous, the Taliban cannot roll back all the gains of the past 20 years. In fact, back in power, they would find a different country than the one they left: one with a substantial Western-educated elite and a population that has known peace and progress.

Blindspot report.

Tangle has very few partners because we are very careful about who we work with. One of them is Ground News, an exceptional app and website that tracks the political bias in news reporting. I feature parts of Ground News’s “Blindspot Report” in Tangle because it reveals what you were likely to miss based on your political leanings and the news feed bubble you’ve created for yourself.

If you’re on the left, you probably missed the story about Nike’s CEO being pressed on not addressing Chinese human rights abuses.

If you’re on the right, you probably missed a story about the U.S. coming in last in a health care ranking of high-income countries.

Want to check out Ground News’s bias ratings, blindspot reports or other news sources? Click here.


Your questions, answered.

Q: What do you think about the Governor of Texas writing legislation saying that teachers cannot teach the Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Speech, no Native American History and nothing about Women's Sufferage and the Attorney General supporting this legislation.

— Margaret, Riviera Beach, Florida

Tangle: First, let’s clarify what’s going on here. The Governor of Texas (Greg Abbott) did not write legislation saying teachers cannot teach Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech or Native American history, etc.

Previously, Texas law made it mandatory for public school history teachers to adequately instruct their students on the history of white supremacy, the Klu Klux Klan, slavery, and the moral wrongs of those eras. As part of this larger conservative push in public education, Gov. Abbott helped push forward a bill called S.B. 3. This legislation was going to give schools the choice to shape their own history curriculums, but still kept certain mandates in place — like the necessity of teaching women’s suffrage, the “I have a dream” speech, the KKK, and slavery, since those are all essential American events.

But then the mandatory instruction of these topics was scrapped in S.B. 3. In other words, Abbott didn’t help ban them from being taught, but removed the requirement that they are.

In my opinion, there is no legitimate reason to remove these topics from the required content for schools in Texas. I think it’s absurd. And clearly, Abbott and Texas Republicans are just reveling in the culture war over critical race theory (which I’ve written about a couple of times). They made no argument about why these critical historical events suddenly should not be required teachings — and this is not about “removing critical race theory” from schools. It’s a way to score political points, and the real victims are the students who may not learn about certain unsavory yet crucial historical events that, until now, were required teachings for all Texan children.


A story that matters.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Census, the population of White people is expected to show a decline, while overall population growth will be driven by people of color. The new census data is expected to be released on Thursday, August 12, and experts believe it will show definitively that ethnic, racial and voting-age makeup of neighborhoods has shifted over the past decade. This data will then be used for states and legislatures to redraw political districts for the next 10 years. If the White decline is confirmed by the data, it will have come eight years earlier than previously predicted. “The United States is also expected to have passed two other milestones on its way to becoming a majority-minority society in a few decades: For the first time, the portion of White people could dip below 60 percent and the under-18 population is likely to be majority non-White.” The Washington Post has the story.


Numbers.

  • 2,852. The number of Tangle readers who took our survey in late July.
  • 54.7%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they’ve been reading “longer than 6 months” in the survey.
  • 44.4%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they’ve been reading the newsletter “the same” amount since November, 2020.
  • 23.8%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they’ve been reading the newsletter “less” since November, 2020.
  • 70.8%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they like receiving 4 to 5 newsletters a week.
  • 42.3%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they use podcasts or talk radio to get alternative sources of news, the highest of any medium.
  • 0.5%. The percentage of Tangle readers who are younger than 18, the lowest of any age group.
  • 43.6%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they “lean-left” politically, the highest of any group (centrist, lean-right, far-right, far-left and ‘other’ were the other options).
  • 49.5%. The percentage of Tangle readers who say they live in a suburban area.
  • 77.5% vs 22.5%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they were concerned vs optimistic about the state of the United States.
  • 6.8%. The percentage of Tangle readers who said they don’t live in the U.S.

Guess what?

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Have a nice day.

A nonprofit called Force Blue is giving military veterans a new mission. The organization is working with combat diving vets, and using their unique underwater skills to restore ocean health. Because so many veterans of combat diving struggle to transition back to civilian life or a desk job, this nonprofit helps unite military vets with the world of coral reef conservation in a way that benefits both. “We’re not a dive therapy program,” executive director Jim Ritterhoff said. “Our guys are already the best divers in the world. We’re a mission therapy program. We’re all about giving them back that sense [that] your skillset can still be utilized. We can take the training that you already have and the qualities that made you so successful in the military and now use those for the greater good for a cause larger than themselves.” (Good Good Good)

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Isaac Saul

I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Buck County, PA — one of the most politically divisive counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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