2020
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Monitor Daily Podcast

June 19, 2020
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TODAY’S INTRO

Father’s Day, dad jokes, and embarrassing your kids

A rabbit, a priest, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them and says, “Is this a typo?” 

Get it? Usually this kind of joke starts off with a rabbi, but it’s a rabbit, so maybe it’s a mistake, and the bartender thinks that, but it isn’t! Come on, it’s funny. 

It’s also a dad joke, the kind of groaner that families all across the United States will be subjected to on Father’s Day Sunday.

This particular example comes from the “Bad Dad Jokes” sign in front of Tom and Ann Schruben’s home in Maryland.

Tom Schruben posts a new bad dad joke every day. He started the practice as a way to brighten moods during the coronavirus shutdown. It’s become a popular destination for locals out for a walk and a chuckle.

Badness is the point of dad jokes, of course. As Mr. Schruben pointed out recently in The Washington Post, fathers are expected to embarrass their children.

Years ago, reading “Tintin” to my own boys, I would adopt voices for the characters, like I was Jim Dale reading Harry Potter audiobooks.

But I’m not Jim Dale. The boys would clap their hands over their ears and shriek, “No voices, Dad! No voices!”

As for bad jokes, I’ve written about them before, about their power to distract and nurture us, for a moment.

And bad jokes can be serious. You can laugh and nod knowingly at the same time.

Here’s another Schruben favorite: What’s the biggest room in the world? Room for improvement.

For Father’s Day, the Schrubens are running a bad dad joke contest, with entries costing $5, and proceeds going to Martha’s Table, a D.C.-based nonprofit that supports children and families. The winner gets posted on the sign – and the right to embarrass their kids for months to come.

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A deeper look

‘It’s way past time to try something new’: The push to defund police

Every police brutality case comes with calls for reform: better training, more civilian review boards, greater diversity on the beat. Now comes the defund movement, which is more basic. It looks at the very role of police in society.

Peter
Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune/AP
A demonstrator walks up and down the police line in front of fired Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin’s home in Oakdale, Minnesota, May 27, 2020. Calls to defund the police have resonated across the U.S. since Mr. Chauvin killed George Floyd on Memorial Day.

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“Defund the police,” if an imprecise slogan, has provided a North Star for a grassroots movement unlike any to convulse the country in almost half a century. The phrase broadly refers to a desire among advocates to reimagine public safety strategies using racial equity as a guiding principle. And it seeks to redirect funding from police to crisis responders and social services tailored to community needs.

Among those drawing attention to police budgets is Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the Minneapolis NAACP chapter. The $193 million allocated for Minneapolis’ 850-member force this year accounts for 36% of the city’s general fund.

“Our city leaders have seen the inequities in Minneapolis. But it took the death of George Floyd for them to show any political will,” she says.

For James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, the George Floyd case illuminates the need to reinvent policing after decades of incremental reforms and halting progress.

“We have to be big and bold,” he says. “We have to do something different if we’re going to transform communities that have been harmed by police and the wider culture for so long.”

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‘It’s way past time to try something new’: The push to defund police

The outrage that detonated in Minnesota’s largest city after police killed George Floyd had a fuse five years long.

In 2015, a white Minneapolis police officer fatally shot an unarmed man named Jamar Clark, provoking protests that drew hundreds of people. Activists with Black Lives Matter and other groups camped out in front of a police precinct for more than two weeks before officers evicted them and tore down their tents.

“His death was an awakening for a lot of us,” says Mike Griffin, a senior organizer with Community Change Action, a national advocacy group. He recalled activists with bullhorns beckoning to passersby to join the cause. Others toted clipboards to sign people up for action alerts. “We were learning as we went, getting an understanding of how to bring people into the movement.”

The death of Mr. Clark, who was Black, elevated long-running tensions between people of color and the city’s mostly white police department. Organizers pushed for abolishing the force, and in 2016, their demands grew louder – and demonstrations grew larger – after an officer in a St. Paul suburb shot and killed Philando Castile.

Four years later, when video emerged of Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck as his life drained out of him on Memorial Day, activists required neither bullhorns nor action alerts to rally the masses. People poured into the streets as thousands of new voices amplified the call to dismantle the department.

“We’re done talking about reform,” Mr. Griffin says. “We want to transform the police state into a caring state that understands communities of color.”

The rising chorus to defund the police has resonated across the country since Mr. Floyd’s death even as much remains unclear about the crusade’s intent and about the proposals percolating in Minneapolis and other cities.

Adam Bettcher/Reuters/File
Protesters march during a rally in Minneapolis, March 30, 2016, after prosecutors announced that two police officers involved in the shooting death of Jamar Clark would not be charged. Mr. Clark’s death in 2015 elevated long-running tensions between people of color and the city’s mostly white police department.

“Defund the police,” if an imprecise slogan, has provided a North Star for a grassroots movement unlike any to convulse the country in almost half a century. The phrase broadly refers to a desire among advocates to reimagine public safety strategies using racial equity as a guiding principle, and seeking to redirect funding from police to crisis responders and social services tailored to community needs.

The clamor to abolish the police – a concept that triggers confusion and questions, scorn and skepticism – has inflamed a conversation about policing and people of color that has roared upward from the streets to city hall, from statehouses to Congress. The campaign has spurred officials in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, and elsewhere to weigh cutting police budgets and investing more in health, education, housing, and employment programs. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms vowed similar action following the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks by a white officer less three weeks after Mr. Floyd gasped “I can’t breathe” in his final moments.

The upheaval arrives nearly 30 years after the beating of Black motorist Rodney King by white Los Angeles cops, whose subsequent acquittals on charges of excessive force ignited days of rioting in the city. The case’s notoriety intensified scrutiny of police as cities formed civilian review boards to investigate use of force complaints and the Department of Justice began to impose oversight on police departments with patterns of abuse.

A bystander’s video of the beating laid bare the reality of police violence for a national audience, and in the intervening decades, law enforcement has enacted a litany of reforms to remedy the problem. A partial list includes community policing, de-escalation and implicit bias training, body cameras, diversity hiring, and requirements for cops to live in the cities they patrol.

The efforts have failed to curb overall rates of excessive force, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, with people of color among those facing the greatest risk.

Eric Miller/Reuters
A couple look at a memorial at the site of the arrest of George Floyd, who died while in police custody, in Minneapolis, June 14, 2020.

Minneapolis officials intend to explore more dramatic changes. The City Council unanimously passed a resolution June 12 to initiate a yearlong process to “create a transformative new model for cultivating safety,” days after a veto-proof majority of the council pledged to replace the Police Department.

The arrest rate of Black residents in the city runs almost nine times above that of white residents for low-level offenses, and officers are seven times more likely to use force against Black people. Police detained Mr. Floyd after receiving a complaint that he had attempted to pass a fake $20 bill at a corner market. Outside the store, Mr. Chauvin pinned his neck to the pavement for nearly nine minutes as two other officers held him down and another stood watch. The department fired the four cops, who await trial on criminal charges.

For James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, the case illuminates the need to reinvent policing after decades of incremental reforms and halting progress.

“We have to be big and bold,” he says. “We have to do something different if we’re going to transform communities that have been harmed by police and the wider culture for so long.”

“The time is now”

Some 500 people filled a plaza near Minneapolis City Hall on a recent afternoon to protest police violence and racial inequality. They heard from family members of victims of police shootings, who spoke of lasting anguish and fury, and from activists, who urged the crowd to stay indignant and engaged in the months ahead.

Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the local NAACP chapter, elicited the loudest cheers. Pointing at the soaring, rose-granite building across the street, she shouted, “We’re tired of those people at City Hall making six-figure salaries and not doing a thing to change anything!”

Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune/AP
Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights attorney and former president of the local NAACP chapter, speaks outside the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota, June 12, 2020. Ms. Levy Armstrong took part in an 18-day occupation outside a police precinct after the officer-involved shooting death of Jamar Clark in 2015.

Ms. Levy Armstrong took part in the 18-day occupation outside the police precinct after Mr. Clark’s death in 2015. The experience deepened her devotion to public safety reform. Talking after the City Hall rally, she criticized what she considers a lack of urgency from the City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey, who absorbed withering derision at another protest when he refused to commit to abolishing the police.

“Our city leaders have seen the inequities in Minneapolis. But it took the death of George Floyd for them to show any political will,” she says, echoing other prominent local activists, who have skewered a council regarded as among the country’s most progressive. The words on her T-shirt – “The Time Is Now!” – mirrored her convictions. “Their actions at this point feel like too little, too late.”

Ms. Levy Armstrong and other organizers draw attention to the city’s police budget as they press for increased resources for social services. The $193 million allocated for the 850-member force this year accounts for 36% of the city’s general fund and amounts to twice the combined budget for more than a dozen community programs, including affordable housing, race equity, and violence prevention.

Advocates want to reduce dependence on a public safety system focused on armed officers. MPD150, a grassroots coalition that favors abolishing the department, describes the effort as “a gradual process” that funnels “resources, funding, and responsibility away from police and toward community-based models of safety, support, and prevention.”

The approach could involve diverting noncriminal emergency calls to first responders, ranging from social workers, drug counselors, and youth advisers to paramedics, victim advocates, and homeless assistance providers. The strategy would free cops from acting as a Swiss Army knife, easing the expectation to shoulder what a former Dallas police chief once labeled  “every societal failure” by removing them from situations that fall outside their core training.

“There are so many calls where the person responding shouldn’t have a gun,” says Mr. Densley, co-founder of The Violence Project, a research think tank. The idea to “unbundle” policing – to allow officers to shed some of their duties – has begun to gain notice as an alternative to or explanation of “defund the police.” “Asking cops to hold so many roles is almost impossible. So creating a degree of specificity could actually help them.”

A plan announced by San Francisco officials for unarmed crisis responders to start handling mental health and other noncriminal emergencies mirrors a long-standing program in Eugene, Oregon. A version of that model debuted last year in Austin, Texas, where 911 dispatchers ask callers if they need police, fire, or mental health services. Police departments in Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and several other cities pair officers with mental health workers on crisis calls.

Craig Lassig/AP/File
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak (left) speaks at a news conference in the city, Sept. 27, 2012. During a 12-year tenure as mayor that ended in 2014, Mr. Rybak sought to improve the city’s police culture and strengthen the department’s ties with the community. He has offered candid mea culpas for falling short.

“It’s way past time to try something new,” Mr. Griffin says. “Cops are getting de-escalation training, implicit bias training, bodycams – it hasn’t worked.” The white officer who shot and killed Mr. Brooks in Atlanta attended a de-escalation course earlier this year, and nationwide, police are three times more likely to kill Black people than white people. “Cops are responding to every single problem – homeless people, domestic situations, mental health crises – and too often they’re responding with force,” Mr. Griffin says. “And too many people of color are dying.”

“Rightful rage”

R.T. Rybak watched with grief and guilt as Minneapolis burned in the aftermath of Mr. Floyd’s death. The former three-term mayor sought to improve the city’s police culture and strengthen the department’s ties with the community during his 12-year reign that ended in 2014. He has offered candid mea culpas for falling short.

“I did what I could to move the ball a little farther down the field, but it wasn’t enough,” says Mr. Rybak, now the chief executive officer and president of the Minneapolis Foundation. “And I felt crushed that after what we tried to do, a man was killed by a cop in uniform.”

The protests exposed the divide between the department and the community. Mr. Rybak faults the militarized mindset of cops in the post-9/11 era – exemplified by the harsh treatment of peaceful marchers – and the police union’s resistance to change. In one policy skirmish, after Mayor Frey banned “warrior-style” training for police last year, Bob Kroll, the union’s powerful and controversial president, continued to make the course available to officers.

In a letter to members, Mr. Kroll, who has refrained from public comment on Mr. Floyd, vowed to fight for the jobs of the four officers fired in connection with his death and likened protesters to a “terrorist movement.”

Former Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau rebuked him on Twitter, branding the union chief a “disgrace to the badge” and calling for him to resign. Ms. Harteau clashed with Mr. Kroll during her five-year tenure, and she contends that the union’s shielding of violent cops and the lack of disciplinary action taken against them has corroded the department’s image.

Elaine Thompson/AP
Police officers look on as protesters fill the street in front of Seattle City Hall, June 3, 2020. The King County Labor Council, the largest labor group in the Seattle area, voted June 17 to expel the city’s police union, saying the guild representing officers failed to address racism within its ranks.

The city agency that investigates police misconduct has received more than 2,600 complaints against officers since 2012. A dozen resulted in discipline. Mr. Chauvin escaped penalty in 16 of the 17 complaints he faced during 19 years on the force; the other yielded two letters of reprimand.

Ms. Harteau invited U.S. Justice Department officials to review the police force in 2014 as she attempted to bolster its internal oversight, and defying the union’s objections, she launched the department’s implicit bias training and bodycam programs. She resigned in 2017 after a Black officer fatally shot a white Australian American woman.

The city’s first female police chief, Ms. Harteau views the rousing, rancorous debate on law enforcement as long overdue. She emphasizes the need for cops to reconnect with the community, and she agrees with departments dispatching social workers and mental health counselors on crisis calls in limited circumstances.

But the killing of Mr. Floyd has reaffirmed her view that slashing the police budget will inflict more harm by siphoning away resources for recruiting, training, and accountability initiatives. “Most police departments are already grossly underfunded,” she says, “and defunding will only further impede police reform.”

Jessica Kourkounis/Reuters
Camden County police Officers Alexander Baldwin and Natalie Perez patrol the streets of Camden, New Jersey, June 11, 2020. Eight years ago the department’s reputation was in free fall, but bold moves to recast the agency earned it praise from former President Barack Obama.

A recent Quinnipiac poll of registered voters showed that more than three-fourths of respondents approve of the police in their community and two-thirds support the protests against police violence. The findings suggest a preference for rehabbing rather than dismantling departments.

“There is rightful rage in the community and an understandable impatience for reform,” Mr. Rybak says. “But there should be an understanding that some of these things are going to take time.”

Several states and cities have responded to the nationwide protests with new policing policies that ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants, increase penalties for officer misconduct, and enhance transparency in disciplinary cases. Minneapolis officials negotiated an agreement with the state that bans chokeholds and fortifies a rule that officers must intervene when colleagues apply excessive force.

Mr. Densley deems the measures necessary. He also doubts whether such small-step reforms can mend the breach between police and people of color any more than the department’s recent participation in a federal program known as the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice.

“The police department has completely lost all public trust,” he says. “I don’t think you could ever wear the same uniform and badge and create trust in the community again.”

The bully pulpit

Public criticism and internal turmoil engulfed the police force of Camden, New Jersey, eight years ago. Mired in contract negotiations with the officers union, and with the department’s reputation in free-fall amid a spike in homicides and excessive force complaints, Scott Thomson, then the police chief, devised a plan to lay off the entire force.

Given the mayor’s blessing, he reassembled the department under the county’s aegis, requiring every officer to reapply. The move enabled him to reshape the agency’s culture. He weeded out disgruntled cops and reseeded the ranks with men and women he considered better suited to the role of guardian than warrior, who avoided turning to force as a first resort.

The department and its relationship with the community healed in the ensuing years. Officer morale climbed as homicides fell by two-thirds and excessive force complaints plunged by 95%. Former President Barack Obama praised the force as a “symbol of promise.”

“To pull that off you need an exceptional leader with a backbone of steel,” says Chuck Wexler, who leads the Police Executive Research Forum, a policy and training organization in Washington that teaches de-escalation tactics. He worked with Mr. Thomson and the revitalized Camden force, and he asserts that if the Minneapolis department chooses “the nuclear option” – dismantling the police force – Chief Medaria Arradondo possesses the qualities and the platform to guide the department through the fallout.

Jim Mone/AP
Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo, shown here addressing the media on June 10, 2020, is the first African American chief in the department’s history. He has earned respect from residents, activists, and city officials for his swift firing of Derek Chauvin and the other officers who detained George Floyd.

“He has the bully pulpit,” Mr. Wexler says. “He has a national audience to say, ‘We have to change the model.’”

Chief Arradondo, a Minneapolis native, joined four fellow Black officers in suing the department in 2007 for discrimination. The first African American chief in the agency’s history, he has earned respect from residents, activists, and city officials for his swift firing of the four officers who detained Mr. Floyd and for his public apology for their actions.

He has withdrawn the department from contract talks with the officers union, perhaps seeking to extricate the agency from the union’s influence as he attempts to enhance accountability and transparency. “What our city needs now more than ever,” he told reporters in announcing his decision, “is a pathway and a plan that provides hope, reassurance, and actionable measures of reform.”

In Minneapolis and many other cities, police union contracts prevent departments from including misconduct complaints in an officer’s personnel file unless the allegations result in discipline. At the same time, the federal doctrine of qualified immunity offers almost airtight protection from civil liability for officers accused of excessive force. The dual effect preserves a public safety model at once adversarial and opaque.

“It’s always hard to change police culture,” says Jesse Jannetta, a senior policy fellow with the Urban Institute in Washington. He spent time with the Minneapolis department as a researcher involved in the Justice Department’s national initiative for building community trust. “But it’s even harder if your people are doing things they’re not supposed to be doing and there are no consequences,” he says.

The Trump administration has curtailed consent decrees that established temporary federal oversight of troubled police departments in Baltimore, New Orleans, and other cities during the past quarter-century. The agreements enable the Justice Department to investigate complaints of unlawful behavior – excessive force, racism, corruption – and shepherd agencies toward solutions.

The Minneapolis force would appear ripe for assistance. Yet Ms. Levy Armstrong, who has voiced public support for Chief Arradondo, remains unconvinced that a healthy culture can take root within the besieged department. She blames city officials for failing to pursue deeper reforms before Mr. Floyd encountered Mr. Chauvin on Memorial Day.

“They think appointing a Black chief is enough,” she says. “That’s barely a start.”

Redefining the social contract

Black and white residents in Minneapolis live in parallel worlds, separated by vast disparities in income, housing, health, and education. In a city where whites make up 60% of the population, de facto segregation persists, the legacy of racial property covenants and later discriminatory housing policies.

The movement to defund the police is freighted with the city’s chronic inequality. Brett Grant, director of research and policy for Voices for Racial Justice, a Minneapolis nonprofit, explains that the campaign represents nothing less than a chance to redefine the social contract.

“We can’t just focus on the police if we’re talking about addressing systemic oppression and historical racism,” he says. “We have to talk about inequities across society. We need to connect the dots.”

The conversation has begun in earnest for what might be the first time in Minneapolis. The school district and the University of Minnesota, along with the parks department and a growing list of civic and cultural institutions, have severed ties with the police department. Meanwhile, at protests throughout the city, large numbers of white people show solidarity with the cause, giving Mr. Grant a sense of cautious optimism that springs from sorrow.

“It’s a tragedy that it takes a killing like this for people to feel like now there’s an awakening,” he says. “A lot of communities of color feel like our voices aren’t heard. White people and white communities are finally waking up.”

For his colleague Mónica Hurtado, a racial justice and health equity organizer, the moment feels electric with potential. She sees a city and a nation drawn toward an unexpected future, swept into a historical uprising for equality.

“It’s what we make of it. It’s an opportunity coming from a crisis when emotions are high,” she says. “It will take everybody working together. It will take hope.”

How rule of law saved DACA, for now

Court watchers have expressed concern about whether the Supreme Court would uphold its standard of judicial independence. In two rulings this week, the conservative-leaning court dealt blows to an administration that relied on it as an ally.

Peter
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after the court rejected the Trump Administration's effort to end legal protections for young immigrants, June 18, 2020, in Washington.

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This week brought two surprise decisions from the conservative-leaning Supreme Court that on closer inspection don’t look as surprising. The first ruling, on Monday, enshrined LGBTQ civil rights in the workplace. Thursday’s ruling said the Trump administration moved arbitrarily and capriciously when it shut down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program set up by President Barack Obama.

The decision yesterday didn’t touch the question of DACA’s legality, but it did strike a blow against the Trump administration, holding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had not followed proper procedure when winding down a program that let 650,000 people brought to the U.S. as children legally work and study.

The narrow ruling only prolongs their uncertainty, critics of the ruling say. The program could still be declared unlawful in the future, and while members of Congress have called for a legislative solution, legislators have said that before and not followed through.

For now, it stands as an unusually significant, narrow ruling about administrative law. But that itself is of great import for the Supreme Court and America in the Trump era.

“It’s a [win] for rule of law,” says Jonathan Masur, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

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How rule of law saved DACA, for now

The COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of Americans suddenly grappling with uncertainty. Uncertainty was nothing new for Maria Valencia.

She arrived in the U.S. at age 6, when her mom brought her to be with family. After losing her job at Best Buy this spring due to the pandemic, and not being able to volunteer as a nurse – the college student’s chosen career – any good news is welcome.

The U.S. Supreme Court, with its second major ruling in a matter of days, gave her more than that yesterday when it voted to block the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), a program that has allowed her to work and study in America despite being unauthorized, because she was brought here at a very young age.

“It’s definitely a relief,” she says. “If it was canceled I don’t know if I’d want to continue [college], because would I be able to get job?”

The 5-4 ruling also represents the second surprising decision this week from the majority conservative court – although, like the landmark LGBTQ rights ruling earlier this week, on closer examination it may not be that surprising.

The decision yesterday didn’t touch the long-debated question of DACA’s legality, but it did strike a blow against the Trump administration, holding that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had not followed the proper procedures when it decided to wind down the Obama-era program in 2017.

The narrow ruling only prolongs the uncertainty for the roughly 650,000 DACA recipients living in the country, critics say. The program could still be declared unlawful sometime in the future, and while members of Congress came out after the decision and called for a legislative solution, the legislators have said that before and not followed through.

For now, it stands as an unusually significant, narrow ruling about administrative law. But that itself is of great import for the Supreme Court and America in the Trump era.

“It’s saying [the government] didn’t follow the proper procedures to do so. It’s a [win] for rule of law,” says Jonathan Masur, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

“The court is grappling with the Trump administration’s efforts to skirt the law and not follow the standard rules of law,” he adds, “and the court is pushing back on that. Particularly [Chief Justice John] Roberts is pushing back on that.”

No “cutting corners”

In seeking to terminate DACA, the Trump administration made two critical errors, said Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, joined by the court’s four liberal justices.

The first error came when then-Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen chose to affirm and further explain the initial reasoning the DHS had given for rescinding DACA – reasoning that a federal district court had ruled inadequate.

Because she didn’t choose to issue new reasons for rescinding DACA, Chief Justice Roberts wrote in yesterday’s ruling, “she was limited to the agency’s original reasons,” and her further explanations “can be viewed only as impermissible post hoc rationalizations and thus are not properly before us.”

It’s a small, technical issue – “an idle and useless formality,” argued the Trump administration and, in a dissent, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Disregarding Ms. Nielsen’s memorandum sets a precedent in which it will be almost impossible for agencies to further explain decisions to courts, Justice Kavanaugh argued. “It would make little sense for a court to exclude official explanations by agency personnel … and then to turn around and remand for further explanation by those same agency personnel.”

But restricting these post hoc rationalizations serve important values, Chief Justice Roberts wrote. They ensure orderly review of agency decisions, promote agency accountability, and instill confidence that agency reasonings are genuine and not just language to win a lawsuit.

“Each of these values would be markedly undermined were we to allow DHS to rely on reasons offered” by Secretary Nielsen, the chief justice wrote.

“This is not the case for cutting corners to allow DHS to rely upon reasons absent from its original decision,” he added.

Particularly “when so much is at stake,” he continued, quoting a 1961 dissent from Justice Hugo Black, “the Government should turn square corners in dealing with the people.”

The narrow path

This ties into what the chief justice saw as the government’s second error. DHS is within its discretion to rescind DACA, but in doing so it has to consider, among other things, reliance interests – the degree to which people have come to rely on a law.

Ms. Valencia has spent most of her life in Houston, and her decisions to stay there to work, go to college, and pursue a career are the kinds of reliance interests, the kind of stakes, that the court’s majority opinion is discussing.

“DHS may determine, in the particular context before it, that other interests and policy concerns outweigh any reliance interests,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

“Making that difficult decision was the agency’s job, but the agency failed to do it,” he added. “That failure was arbitrary and capricious.”

The Trump administration’s efforts to wind down DACA thus violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

“The victory is huge for those with DACA, those who might request it for a first time in the future, and their families,” says Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, a professor at Penn State Law. “There’s a validation just to the integrity of the court, and the illegality of how DACA ended that is restorative I think to people, to the rule of law.”

It’s a narrow and technical ruling, the kind of ruling that the Supreme Court is supposed to favor over more sweeping decisions. And it echoes another contentious 5-4 ruling from the high court where Chief Justice Roberts voted in favor of the administration.

His opinion upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban in 2018 avoided bigger questions about the order’s constitutionality, focusing instead on a clause in federal immigration law that, he wrote, “exudes deference to the President.”

The two cases are “really different legal questions. [But in both] he chose to not accept an animus challenge, or a constitutional one, and instead look at reason,” says Professor Wadhia.

His opinion yesterday “was less surprising as a positive outcome [for DACA] that was also narrow, [with] a reliance on administrative law as opposed to trying to answer some of these bigger questions,” she adds.

Unlawful? Unconstitutional?

While Chief Justice Roberts largely ignored those questions, some of his colleagues were happy to call him out on them. And they may preview where the issue goes from here.

“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissent joined by Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch.

Accusing the majority of “timidity,” he added that the opinion “has given the green light for future political battles to be fought in this Court rather than where they rightfully belong – the political branches.” The court shouldn’t have reviewed the DHS decision to rescind DACA at all, he believes, because DACA was unlawful from the start. Going forward, he continued, all agencies “will be compelled to treat an invalid legislative rule as though it were legitimate.”

His dissent echoes many of the arguments made by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had first advised DHS to rescind DACA. For some legal scholars, however, those arguments ignore decades of history in which deferred action has, lawfully, been taken.

“There was no real analysis or understanding for the role of discretion in immigration,” in the dissent, says Professor Wadhia.

“No one else is talking about whether DACA is lawful. No court has found it to be unconstitutional. It was not the question that was before this court, and that was the air time we got from Justice Thomas,” she adds.

At the other end of the ideological spectrum, Justice Sonia Sotomayor – who joined almost all of the majority opinion – scolded the majority for dismissing the claim that the DHS acted with racial animus.

The majority countered that allowing such a challenge would mean “virtually any generally applicable immigration policy could be challenged on equal protection grounds.”

That approach echoes the approach the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Roberts in particular, has taken in cases like the travel ban and the decision to block the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Generally, the court “has decided to largely ignore the extracurricular things Mr. Trump says, and focus on the language of the policies themselves,” says Professor Masur.

“I was surprised by Chief Justice Roberts’ vote,” he adds. But at the same time, “Roberts seems to care about rule of law and procedural regularity.”

Precedented

Lessons from history

Violent racism: Can Floyd protests help break old cycle? (video)

It was an act of violence so visceral that when the public saw what had been done, the outrage came in a wave.

We’re referring, of course, to George Floyd dying under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer in May. The bystander video that captured his death has triggered some of the biggest racial justice protests in recent years.

But we could be talking about the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991, which was also caught on tape. The footage, coupled with the acquittal of the officers involved, led to rioting across LA in 1992. Or we could be citing the lynching of Emmett Till, a Chicago teenager who was brutally beaten to death in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman (an accusation that was eventually recanted). The photo of his disfigured face was one of the sparks that ignited the civil rights movement. 

In this episode of “Precedented,” we look at the cycles of racial violence, protest, and limited progress that marks 20th- and 21st-century America. What lessons should we be learning from this history? And what will it take to keep moving us forward? 

“If history has repeated itself and where we are is very familiar, then maybe ... a new direction is in order,” says Frederick W. Gooding, assistant professor of African American studies at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. “Not necessarily a revolution, but maybe revolutionary thought.” 

You can find other episodes of the series here. - Jessica Mendoza and Jingnan Peng/Staff

Behind deadly clash with India, a pattern of Chinese assertiveness

The world’s two most populous countries will have an outsize role in shaping the century – and how peaceful it is. After this week, a relatively small patch of remote mountains may have an outsize role in shaping their relationship. 

Peter

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Differences between Asia’s two giants, China and India, have mounted in recent years. For decades, disputes have popped up over their contested border. And under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Beijing’s growing economic and military presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean has added extra stress for New Delhi.

This week, a hand-to-hand battle between soldiers along the remote Himalayan border brought the area’s worst violence in half a century. Twenty Indian forces were killed, with China’s losses unknown.

Neither country has much to gain from inflaming the crisis. But both Mr. Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been eager to project a more muscular image – particularly Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, who has doubled down on promoting Chinese sovereignty, from Hong Kong to the South China Sea.

“I just don’t see how they walk back from this,” says Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. The effort by India and China to put relations on a more even keel “is now over,” Dr. Ayres says.

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Behind deadly clash with India, a pattern of Chinese assertiveness

Manish Swarup/AP
Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party sit in front of India Gate monument in New Delhi, June 17, 2020, holding candles as tributes to Indian soldiers killed during confrontation with Chinese soldiers in the Ladakh region. Twenty Indian troops were reportedly killed, in the first deadly confrontation on the disputed border since 1975.

India’s relationship with China entered a dangerous new juncture this week after troops facing off along the contested Sino-Indian border fought a vicious, hand-to-hand battle that left 20 Indian soldiers dead, the heaviest toll on the Himalayan frontier in half a century.

The border conflict intensifies mistrust between Asia’s two most populous nations at a time when both are eager to project a muscular image at home and abroad. The crisis will likely shatter the tenuous 2018 goodwill pact reached during an informal summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Asia experts say.

“I just don’t see how they walk back from this,” says Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. The effort by India and China to put relations on a more even keel “is now over,” Dr. Ayres says.

Differences have mounted between the two Asian giants in recent years over the disputed 2,170-mile-long boundary and China’s growing economic and military presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

Still, New Delhi and Beijing had sought common ground in areas such as climate change and commerce, with China emerging as one of India’s biggest trading partners, albeit with India running a large trade deficit. And while Mr. Xi, who wields more power than any Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, has emphasized a sweeping push to strengthen China’s sovereignty, much of that activity has focused on the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

But now, facing a domestic outcry over the combat casualties, and calls for a boycott of Chinese goods, India moved swiftly this week to terminate cooperation with China in economic arenas ranging from telecommunications to railways.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more steps on the economic side,” Dr. Ayres says. “India has long felt China has treated it unfairly, economically.”

“Salami slicing” by China?

The full extent of the fallout – military, political, and economic – from the June 15 melee in the rugged Galwan Valley remains uncertain, as do the exact details of the high-altitude skirmish. Troops reportedly fought using rocks and clubs, and the dead include an Indian Army colonel. Beijing, for its part, has publicly downplayed the incident and has not confirmed reports of casualties among Chinese forces.

Beijing’s foreign minister, Wang Yi blamed the Indian military for the incident, saying Indian forces crossed onto China’s side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), provoking and attacking Chinese troops. An editorial in the nationalistic Chinese newspaper Global Times stressed that “China won’t budge in terms of the border issue no matter how India messes it up.”

The LAC is not clearly defined, and India and China have different interpretations of where the border begins and ends.

But as satellite imagery offers clues as to what happened, there is agreement among defense experts that a key factor driving the clash was China’s stepped-up military presence and fortifications along the disputed frontier in recent weeks.

Planet Labs/AP
This satellite photo shows the Galwan Valley area in the Ladakh region near the Line of Actual Control between India and China June 16, 2020. A clash high in the Himalayas between the world’s two most populated countries, both nuclear-armed, broke out Monday.

“The best information we have is this was initiated on the ground by the PLA [China’s People’s Liberation Army], crossing beyond where they have crossed before,” says Arzan Tarapore, nonresident fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research. “In multiple locales where the incursions occurred, the Chinese at least set up tents, and in some reporting also were starting to erect bunkers,” he says.

China’s goal, he says, is to appear “uncompromising on its territorial sovereignty, and if that means pushing the boundary an extra few kilometers here and there, then that is part of the agenda.”

Moves on the western frontier conform to a pattern in recent months of Beijing accelerating a campaign to maximize its sovereignty, experts say – from Hong Kong and Taiwan to contested waters of the South China Sea. 

“China is militarily far more powerful [than India] and has the ability to push forward,” says Dr. Ayres. “People see this as an example, on the India-China front lines, of the kind of incremental ‘salami slicing’ tactics that China has used elsewhere, particularly in the South China Sea.”

China’s Communist Party leadership views pressing its territorial claims as central to its legitimacy and restoring the nation to its rightful standing in the world. Yet the costs of such assertiveness are significant, Asia experts say.  

New Delhi’s choices ahead

The latest border clash, by derailing a military de-escalation plan that was underway, heightens the risk of more fighting. It will likely see India advance its ongoing efforts to strengthen military infrastructure such as roads and an airfield on its side of the border in order to facilitate troop movements.

Although the Sino-Indian territorial dispute has been far less lethal – until now – thousands were killed during a border war in 1962, and the fact that both India and China are nuclear powers increases the stakes of any military conflict.

New Delhi could respond by further strengthening defense ties with the United States and other countries – such as Australia, Japan, Indonesia, and Vietnam – that are pushing back against China’s growing assertiveness.

India is also concerned about China’s growing economic influence over Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other countries surrounding India, partly as a result of Beijing’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure program.

Both neighbors have much to gain from defusing the crisis, but with troops still facing off, and staunchly nationalist leadership from Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi, calmer relations could remain a distant prospect, experts say.

By stating that India also inflicted casualties on PLA forces, New Delhi may be trying to relieve popular pressure to retaliate. In a televised address Wednesday, Mr. Modi summed up his stance: “India wants peace, but when provoked, India is capable of giving a fitting reply, be it any kind of situation.”

Essay

Echoes of freedom: Commentary on Juneteenth and the power of legislation

For many Black Americans, this Juneteenth is particularly bittersweet. Columnist Ken Makin explores the significance of this commemoration of freedom as both a celebration and a call to action.

Peter
Alexander Hay Ritchie/Francis Bicknell Carpenter/Library of Congress/Reuters
An illustration depicting the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the cabinet of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, in an engraving by Alexander Hay Ritchie and based on a painting by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, circa 1866.

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Many Americans believe the Emancipation Proclamation “freed the slaves.” However, when Abraham Lincoln issued the document on Sept. 22, 1862, there were notable exceptions.

Texas fell under Lincoln’s 1863 declaration of freedom. The echoes of that declaration wouldn’t be heard until 2,000 federal troops occupied Galveston, Texas, on June 18, 1865. The next day, Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa and read “General Order No. 3,” proclaiming “all slaves are free.” June 19 is celebrated to this day as Juneteenth, a commemoration of the day that the last enslaved Black people in the United States were freed.

But, as we celebrate Juneteenth and other flashes of freedom as Black people, we cannot rest on our laurels. We wage a timeless war, with a timeline that goes from slavery to Reconstruction to the Jim Crow era to the war on drugs to the prison industrial complex to right now. It is a call to action that has been exclaimed and expressed from freedom fighters such as Muhammad Ali and Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

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Echoes of freedom: Commentary on Juneteenth and the power of legislation

It is ironic that, during this time of great social upheaval, people are paying more attention to Juneteenth, the commemoration of the June 19, 1865, freeing of enslaved Black people in Texas.

Juneteenth isn’t just a celebration of the pursuit of Black freedom and Black culture. It is also an indictment of law enforcement.

The Emancipation Proclamation was enacted on Jan. 1, 1863. Many Americans believe this document “freed the slaves.” However, when Abraham Lincoln issued the document on Sept. 22, 1862, there were a few exceptions:

Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued.

The proclamation also didn’t apply to Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, or Tennessee. Those states would not see a proclamation of “freedom” until Dec. 6, 1865, when the 13th Amendment was ratified.

As for Texas, it fell under Lincoln’s 1863 declaration of freedom. The echoes of that declaration wouldn’t be heard for nearly 30 months, until 2,000 federal troops occupied Galveston, Texas, on June 18, 1865. The next day, Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger stood on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa and read “General Order No. 3”:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

This is not an unfamiliar dynamic in regards to racial and social justice in America. The ideals surrounding laws, and the implementation of those same laws, don’t always happen at the same time. Even when laws are implemented and executed, Black people have still remained in harm’s way. As sure as there are efforts to enforce law, there are efforts to erase law altogether.

Observe the 13th Amendment, which ideally abolished slavery “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” That loophole exercises itself to this day in the prison industrial complex. Even the notion of “freedmen” and wage labor clashes with presumably abolished slavery. Just last month, striking sanitation workers in New Orleans were replaced with prison labor – in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those workers, who only made $10.25 an hour at the time of their protest, demanded a wage hike to $15 due to labor conditions and their status as “essential workers.” It’s worth mentioning that New Orleans was not one of the cities freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.

Enactment and enforcement should be mutual partners – yet we can look at voting rights, segregation in schools, and countless other challenges to racism, sexism, and classism that turn mutual partners into distant companions.

And yet, there is a cause for celebration.

Juneteenth is a celebration of Black power and progress against the current of constant struggle. On the following June 19, in 1866, Black people in Texas and throughout the country celebrated the occasion like many Americans treat the Fourth of July.

There were cookouts, dances, and rodeos. There were invocations and inspirational messages. Formerly enslaved people recalled the horrors they experienced only years ago. There was a particularly notable commemoration in 1872, when four formerly enslaved men bought four acres of parkland in Houston with $800 (more than $15,000 today when adjusted for inflation). The area was named Emancipation Park. Its history is as powerful as it is painful. From 1922 to 1940, it was Houston’s sole park for Black people, due to racial segregation.

A testimony about the holiday from Felix Haywood, a former slave, can be found in the book “Lone Star Pasts: Memory and History in Texas”:

The end of the war, it come jus’ like that – like you snap your fingers. ... Hallelujah broke out. ... Soldiers, all of a sudden, was everywhere – comin’ in bunches, crossin’, walkin’ and ridin’. Everyone was a-singin.’ We was all walkin’ on golden clouds. ... Everybody went wild. ... We was free. Just like that we was free.

The feeling Haywood describes is fantastic, fiery, and filling. It is also fleeting. 

Racial, social, environmental, and economic disparities block the path to true freedom for Black folks. The “American dream” is a cruel tease. It is a form of trolling.

President Donald Trump is planning his own Juneteenth celebration. He is hosting a campaign rally on June 20 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the Tulsa Race Massacre. The rally was initially planned for June 19, but “out of respect,” the date was changed.

Katrina Pierson, President Trump’s campaign adviser, expressed that “as part of the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.” That statement feels disingenuous. It conflates the Black Republican history of Reconstruction with the crass GOP politics of today. 

It is also a reminder that as much as we celebrate Juneteenth and other flashes of freedom as Black people, we cannot rest on our laurels. We wage a timeless war, with a timeline that goes from slavery to Reconstruction to the Jim Crow era to the war on drugs to the prison industrial complex to right now. It is a call to action that has been exclaimed and expressed from freedom fighters such as Muhammad Ali and Fannie Lou Hamer: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Ken Makin is a freelance writer and the host of the “Makin’ A Difference” podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @differencemakin.

Untangling the ocean trash glut, one “ghost net” at a time

When a problem seems insurmountable – like the millions of tons of plastic choking oceans – it’s easy to accept the status quo. It takes vision, tenacity, and ingenuity, which Mary Crowley has in spades, to fight back. 

Peter
Tony Avelar/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Mary Crowley, seen here during a 2010 voyage, is on a mission to rid the world's oceans of trash.

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Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic is washed from land into the sea. The United Nations has warned that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Marine mammals are routinely found dead, their bodies clogged with plastics. Microplastics – the result of deteriorating larger pieces or small manufactured beads – are now thoroughly infused in the marine food chain.

“Everyone in the world is gradually learning the amount of whales and dolphins and sea turtles and fish that get killed by ingesting plastic and by getting caught by plastic,” Mary Crowley says.

A sailor since childhood days spent in her grandfather’s wooden sailboat on Lake Michigan, Ms. Crowley has been working for more than a decade to clean up the world’s oceans. She started by urging fishermen to pick up floating plastic. Now she leads a million-dollar effort utilizing drones, satellites, floating GPS buoys, sophisticated oceanographic models, a corps of yachtsmen, and an oceangoing cargo ship to scout the oceans for debris. 

“As someone who loves the ocean and has had the pleasure and honor of spending lots of time in the ocean,” she says, “it’s my responsibility to not have the health of our ocean held hostage by plastic garbage.”

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Untangling the ocean trash glut, one “ghost net” at a time

Nothing pleases Mary Crowley more than to see a huge, dripping, bedraggled fishing net, ensnarled with plastic garbage, being lifted from the sea. 

That is progress, she says. 

Ms. Crowley, a sailor since childhood days spent in her grandfather’s wooden sailboat on Lake Michigan, has been working for more than a decade to clean up the world’s oceans. She started by urging fishermen to pick up floating plastic. Now her million-dollar effort employs drones, satellites, floating GPS buoys, sophisticated oceanographic models, a corps of yachtsmen, and an oceangoing cargo ship.

The Kwai, a 140-foot, two-masted cargo sailing vessel that normally shuttles supplies among Pacific islands, has been plucking nets and trash from the Pacific for the past six weeks. It is expected to return to Hawaii around June 23 with 100 tons of debris, the first of what Ms. Crowley hopes will be two such voyages this summer; she is hoping to dispatch the ship for a second voyage in July.

Much of that trash will be “ghost nets,” fishing nets abandoned or lost that float freely, ensnarling fish, marine life, trash, and passing vessels.

The Kwai’s crew of 11, sailors accustomed to unloading anything from cars to concrete on isolated islands, uses winches and sweat to hoist the heavy nets from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where swirling currents gather floating debris.

The term is misleading; the area is huge and the debris is spread out. But the Kwai is led to wayward nets in part by GPS buoys that yachtsmen and other sailors, volunteers for Ms. Crowley, have stopped mid-ocean to attach to trash.

“This work feels great,” Capt. Brad Ives replies mid-voyage from the Kwai by email. “When the weather is good and the nets are flowing, there is no better work for a fine old sailing ship. Crew spirits are high and we are cleaning our Mother Ocean.”

Researchers working with the project are experimenting with spotting large plastic debris from satellites – “We had quite a breakthrough,” Ms. Crowley says. She and colleagues are consulting a NASA-funded science team. They are working with researchers to further study currents using data from drifting sensors deployed, in part, by the Kwai.

And they are using more time-worn tactics to find trash. 

Courtesy of Ocean Voyages Institute
A boat is filled with ghost nets, fishing nets that have broken loose and now float freely, entangling wildlife.

“Everybody has their hunches,” Ms. Crowley says before flying from California to Hawaii to begin a two-week quarantine to greet the ship. “The captain talked to a boat that got entangled twice in one area. He thinks it will be good to look there.”

A labor of love for the sea 

Ms. Crowley began her project as a labor of love for the sea. She runs a yacht chartering business from Sausalito, California. But her clients consistently confirmed her own observations that the ocean seems increasingly cluttered with plastic debris.

“It’s really quite shocking what a terrible issue this has become globally,” she says.

Scientists have sought to quantify the problem and its effects on the ecosystem. Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic is washed from the lands and is threatening to choke the seas. The United Nations has warned that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Marine mammals are routinely found dead, their bodies clogged with plastics. Microplastics – the result of deteriorating larger pieces or small manufactured beads – are now thoroughly infused in the marine food chain.

“Everyone in the world is gradually learning the amount of whales and dolphins and sea turtles and fish that get killed by ingesting plastic and by getting caught by plastic,” Ms. Crowley says.

There are many creative ideas to clean the ocean, and Ms. Crowley supports them all. She formed Ocean Voyages Institute in 1979 to educate audiences about the sea. Over time she gathered a “think tank” of sailors, naval architects, marine engineers, and fishermen. “We decided that one of the most harmful things going on in the ocean is the huge proliferation of large plastics,” she says. “This includes derelict fishing gear, and boats and piers and car fenders.” 

When the Monitor first spoke with Ms. Crowley in 2010, she was recruiting independent fishermen to use their boats to haul garbage back to land. Since then, she has realized she needs bigger equipment. Last year, the nonprofit raised the funds to commission the Kwai for 25-day voyage. It returned with 42 tons of garbage, including several multiton nets.

This year, she is hoping to collect 100 tons on the first of two voyages for the Kwai, which left Hawaii May 4, accompanied by traditional chants and songs from crew members’ native cultures. After a stretch of weather that made the water choppy and debris hard to spot, the Kwai followed the GPS buoys into the garbage patch.

“There is debris practically every day inside the gyre,” Captain Ives writes from the ship. “The hunting is excellent now that visibility has improved.”

“The most difficult are always the big nets,” he reports by email. “These require divers in the water to get cargo slings around them and often several lifts to get them wrestled aboard. A large net can take several hours to wrestle aboard.”

Building a coalition to clean the ocean

Working with the Ocean Voyages Institute is a team of researchers. Nikolai Maximenko, a senior researcher at the University of Hawaii, heads the NASA-sponsored FloatEco project, and has used data from drifting sensors to create elaborate maps predicting the behavior of debris.

Dr. Maximenko accurately predicted the path of debris to both North America and Hawaii from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. He has helped plot how some of that debris becomes waylaid in the North Pacific Gyre.

Dr. Maximenko appreciates Ms. Crowley’s open-mindedness. “There are several approaches, and probably we need all of them,” he says.

Ms. Crowley welcomes scientific collaborators like Andrey Shcherbina, an oceanographer at the University of Washington in Seattle, who took advantage of the Kwai’s journey to deploy a special drift sensor in the middle of the garbage patch. “It was a perfect opportunity for us to hitch a ride to where the marine debris is,” he says of the ship’s project.

Ms. Crowley has recruited a cadre of volunteers with a gentle inexhaustibility.

“As someone who loves the ocean and has had the pleasure and honor of spending lots of time in the ocean,” she says, “it’s my responsibility to not have the health of our ocean held hostage by plastic garbage.”

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A damper on the India-China flare-up

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A prevalent theory for more than a century is that trade reduces military rivalry between countries. Shared prosperity dampens national pride or jealousy. The theory is now being tested again, oddly enough in the remote Himalayas. On June 15, soldiers from India and China engaged in hand-to-hand fighting over a disputed border. Both countries blamed the other for instigating their first deadly conflict in 45 years. Yet since the incident, both seem eager to prevent escalation. If peace prevails, there could be a renewed lesson about the benefits of cooperation in trade as well as the sharing of ideas and people. One war-making passion – revenge – would have been held in check.

The rules of a principled international order need to be constantly reinforced and improved. That order helps guide nations on how to compete peacefully in order to avoid violent competition. India and China were able to contain their last border standoff in 2017. If they resolve their differences again in 2020, they might have learned to put the common good ahead of their separate anxieties.

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A damper on the India-China flare-up

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China's President Xi Jinping and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk during a visit to a temple near Chennai, India, in 2019.

A prevalent theory for more than a century is that trade reduces military rivalry between countries. Shared prosperity dampens national pride or jealousy. In the 20th century, the theory faltered after a few industrializing nations, such as Germany, used war to boost their access to markets and resources. The theory is now being tested again, oddly enough in the remote Himalayas.

On June 15 for four hours, soldiers from India and China engaged in hand-to-hand fighting over a disputed and desolate border. Both countries blamed the other for instigating their first deadly conflict in 45 years. Yet since the incident, both seem eager to prevent escalation. If peace prevails, there could be a renewed lesson about the benefits of cooperation in trade as well as the sharing of ideas and people. One war-making passion – revenge – would have been held in check.

India and China are the world’s two most populous nations. They also are neighbors that possess nuclear weapons. Yet perhaps their most important common trait right now is that they are eagerly trying to upgrade trade ties with other countries. China has its grand regional plan called the Belt and Road Initiative. India is pursuing bilateral trade pacts with Australia, the United Kingdom, and others. All that may be a damper on their flare-up along a mountainous border.

Even though China’s unelected Xi Jinping and India’s elected Narendra Modi are ardent nationalists, each feels pressure to end poverty. Their attempts to forge national identities along either religious or ethnic lines must bow to their people’s desire for economic interdependence and growth – and thus peace.

In addition, the global trading system set up after World War II comes with a big and often-used stick: economic sanctions on countries that engage in land grabs, such as Russia’s taking of Crimea in 2014.

Friction between nations arises when they perceive a scarcity – in material resources, access to markets, finances, warm-water ports for ships, and so on. But as scholar Steven Pinker proved in his book “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” conflicts have declined over centuries as nations chose peaceful trade as a way to quell fears of scarcity. “Zero-sum plunder gave way to positive-sum trade. People increasingly controlled their impulses and sought to cooperate with their neighbors,” he wrote. And in 2008, a study by Sorbonne University found that multilateral openness in trade deters global conflict.

The rules of a principled international order need to be constantly reinforced and improved. That order helps guide nations on how to compete peacefully in order to avoid violent competition. India and China were able to contain their last border standoff in 2017. If they resolve their differences again in 2020, they might have learned to put the common good ahead of their separate anxieties.

A Christian Science Perspective

About this feature

Each weekday, the Monitor includes one clearly labeled religious article offering spiritual insight on contemporary issues, including the news. The publication – in its various forms – is produced for anyone who cares about the progress of the human endeavor around the world and seeks news reported with compassion, intelligence, and an essentially constructive lens. For many, that caring has religious roots. For many, it does not. The Monitor has always embraced both audiences. The Monitor is owned by a church – The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston – whose founder was concerned with both the state of the world and the quality of available news.

Being there

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What does it mean to “be there” for others? A man’s soul-searching after what felt like an anticlimactic day as a dad brought some unexpected inspiration.

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Being there

Today's Christian Science Perspective audio edition

Earlier this year, my son learned how to ride his bike.

Now, for years I had anticipated that this would be one of those seminal dad moments: pushing my son along until he got up enough speed, offering calm and encouraging words telling him exactly how to do it ... like something out of a cheesy yet heartwarming movie.

Instead, my role ended up just being to run alongside him to give a quick catch if he tumbled. My wife was communicating much more clearly than I was, and our son basically already knew the theory of how to ride. Was I even needed?

I can’t say I was completely torn up about this, but this otherwise lovely event hadn’t really felt the way I’d imagined it would. Obviously, my son will not need me for everything in his life, and that’s perfectly right and natural. But the day had left me feeling a little lost about this whole dad role in general.

I’ve always found it so helpful to pray about any concerns I have, so later that evening, I just asked God point-blank, “What am I supposed to be doing for this kid?” Almost immediately, I felt embraced in a warm presence and felt this idea just soak into me: “You just need to be there.”

This was an answer totally divorced from accomplishments, comparisons, or anything else I’d been expecting. I realized it wasn’t even a personal thing; there are many people who don’t have their dad with them, or who aren’t parents themselves, but we can still all “be there” for others.

This reminded me of some biblical imagery from the prophet Isaiah: “Each [one of them] will be like a hiding place from the wind and a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in a dry land, like the shade of a huge rock in a parched and weary land [to those who turn to them]” (Isaiah 32:2, Amplified Bible).

What is it that enables moms, dads, siblings, friends, and co-workers to be there like this for each other? Everyone has different needs and situations, and sometimes we may just not feel equipped to effectively support others. Is there the possibility of one center, if you will, around which all people can orient themselves and be empowered to be there for others in ways that meet the need of the moment?

Yes. Throughout the ages, people have felt in varying degrees the divine presence with them, helping them. At the front and center is Christ Jesus, who through his life-example and healing ministry declared the presence of heaven right here and now. Jesus showed that God not only is here but is the creator of us all and cares for His spiritual offspring unfailingly.

This is a trustworthy foundation to build on. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the law and present applicability – the Science – of what Jesus taught, described the unifying, strengthening power of God like this: “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, – whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 340).

Keeping the nature of God, Spirit, infinite good, central in our hearts and aims brings the inspiration and guidance we need to know how to be there for others. Acknowledging the supremacy of God saves us from the egotism that may sometimes infect our desire to help and rescues us from feeling ill-equipped to actually be there for others.

As we consider the nature of God – described in the Bible as merciful, just, good, loving – and of ourselves as God’s children, literally the effect of God’s being, we are increasingly moved to express that nature, to truly live divine Love. Maybe it will be manifested in the little (or big!) moments of parenthood, just being there while a loved one succeeds (or simply tries their best), volunteering for a local group, or even praying with someone in search of healing. Whatever form it takes, living the Love that shelters like a rock in a desert and comforts like a stream in a dry land is exactly what we are made to do.

Viewfinder

Not a silk tie in sight

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
To celebrate Father’s Day this year, I looked back through my photo archives to find those tender paternal connections: a towering papa guiding his son at T-ball practice, a little girl earnestly pouring flour into a bowl under the adoring eyes of her dad, a tiny hand placed on top of a grown one. You never know when these sweet, candid moments will happen. They come and go in an instant – intimate gestures that speak volumes about love, family, and safety. It’s a gift when I have my camera in hand and can capture them to share. Click on the link below to see more images. – Melanie Stetson Freeman
( The illustrations in today’s Monitor Daily are by Jacob Turcotte. )

A look ahead

Come back Monday, when Taylor Luck will look at institutional racism in the Arab world.

More issues

2020
June
19
Friday

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