January 22, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


Biden Gave Trump's Union Busters a Taste of Their Own Medicine (MARK JOSEPH STERN, JAN 22, 2021, Slate)

Twenty-three minutes after assuming the presidency, Joe Biden demanded the resignation of Peter Robb, the notoriously anti-union general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board appointed by Donald Trump. Robb refused to resign, so Biden fired him. Alice Stock, another anti-union Trump appointee, then assumed the role of acting general counsel--and Biden demanded her resignation the next day. Stock also refused to resign, so Biden fired her, too.

Both Robb and Stock, who relentlessly undermined unions' ability to organize and bargain, are now complaining that Biden fired them without just cause. Stock went so far as to suggest that Robb's firing was illegal. She is wrong. Robb and Stock were at-will employees of the executive. Like the countless American workers whom they prevented from unionizing, they had no guarantee against termination without just cause. Biden did not violate any laws. He simply gave the nation's chief union busters a taste of their own medicine.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


Hydrogen is going to take 25% of all oil demand by 2050, Bank of America analyst says (Anmar Frangoul, 1/22/21, CNBC)

Israel listed several factors which would affect oil and gas going forward, including cheaper renewable energy, regulation and the electrification of cars.

"We believe that hydrogen is going to take 25% of all oil demand by 2050," he went on to state, adding that oil was "facing headwinds left and right. Yes, we'll still need it, yes, it's still going to be around, but the market share of oil is going to plummet."

As noted by the U.S. Department of Energy, hydrogen "is an energy carrier, not an energy source," meaning it's a secondary energy source like electricity. The DOE adds that hydrogen "can deliver or store a tremendous amount of energy" and "can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity, or power and heat."

Hating environmentalists won't save fossil fuels.

January 21, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 PM


Covid-19 Has Nearly Wiped Out the Flu--How Do We Keep It From Coming Back? (Miho Inada,  Jan. 21, 2021, WSJ)

It is a small bright spot amid Covid-19, although the number of people saved from a flu death pales next to the number dying from the new pandemic. It also presents questions that doctors around the globe will likely be wrestling with for years: If flu can be nearly wiped out this season, why not every season? [...]

"In a normal year, there are 50 to 100 flu patients every day around this time of the year," said Sho Naito, who runs five clinics in the Tokyo metropolitan area. "But we recently have only two to three a week" at each site, he said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Our Jacobin Moment: The best historical analogy for the GOP's ongoing radicalization doesn't come from the 20th century--or even the 19th. It comes from late 18th-century France. (Sean C. Goodlett, 1/21/21, Arc Digital)

Any number of revolutionary uprisings -- or journées-- bear a similarity to what we've just gone through. On September 5, 1793, for instance, thousands of Parisians, goaded by the journalist Jacques-René Hébert and enraged by sharp rises in grain prices, stormed the Republic's legislative chambers.

Inside the halls of the Convention, they made demands to turn the revolutionary army against grain hoarders in the countryside and "unpatriotic" enemies throughout the nation.
Ominously, the mob pressed the assembled deputies to "make terror the order of the day."

The most radicalized deputies responded with enthusiasm, while their more moderate colleagues cowered in fear. In the proceedings that followed, extremist deputies were appointed to the infamous Committee of Public Safety, a quasi-executive body. Maximilien Robespierre had joined in late July. Now, in September, with the addition of men like Jacques Nicolas Billaud-Varenne and Jean Marie Collot d'Herbois, the Committee would become, in the formulation of R. R. Palmer, a dictatorship of "Twelve Who Ruled."

The principal beneficiaries and, soon enough, the victims of this journée were the Jacobins, self-described "friends of the constitution" and erstwhile moderates.
Jacobinism was not merely an ideology, nor was the Jacobin Club simply a proto-political party. In the short-lived First Republic, Jacobinism was a process, with a logic driven by the necessity of ever-increasing radicalism.

Earlier in the spring of 1793, the mob had been the blunt instrument of Jacobin deputies. After repeated instigations by Jean Paul Marat and others, enraged Parisians had overthrown the defenses of the city. Two days later, on June 2, tens of thousands surrounded the Convention and demanded the expulsion of the Jacobins' political rivals, the so-called Girondins. The charge, when boiled down, was treason. Twenty-two deputies were arrested.

Once deprived of more moderate or even just temporizing voices, the Convention hurtled toward the extremism of September.
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Throughout the First Republic, the process of radicalization was fostered by the 18th-century equivalent of our partisan media ecosystems.

The Jacobins were initially loath to sponsor their own newspaper. Instead, they offered support to journalists like Choderlos de Laclos and allowed non-affiliated papers such as the Courrier extraordinaire to report from within the Club.

But in June, 1793, following the expulsion of the Girondins, the Jacobins created the short-lived Journal de la Montagne, an official mouthpiece that exposed the fractious nature of Jacobinism.
More extreme revolutionary papers, meanwhile, enflamed the populace.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1793, Marat's L'Ami du peuple had decried Girondin policies while pressing fantastical conspiracies. In September, Hébert was the leader of an army of sans culottes, because his Père Duchêne spewed bloodthirsty bile. By the fall, Père Duchêne and its imitators were among the most vociferous proponents of violent purges and terrorism.

Journalists like Marat and Hébert spoke to and for "the people," and they created an atmosphere of fear inside the Convention. In the mix, deputies found themselves preening before a vast public that they could barely control.

It is eerie to see the parallels with today, a time in which any number of elected Republicans stoke the rage of voters, often by advancing baseless conspiracies that then get repeated in partisan media and reposted endlessly in the echo chambers of social media.

In the weeks before January 6, for instance, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz emerged as the leaders of a dozen U.S. Senators -- a latter-day "twelve who would rule" -- by spreading the fiction that president-elect Joe Biden's victory was the product of fraud. This despite the certification of the election results as valid, free, and fair in all 50 states.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


NY AG is closing in on Trump -- and his tax lawyers just quit: report (Bob Brigham, January 21, 2021, Raw Story)

"The law firm that handled the tax affairs of Donald Trump and his company during his presidency said it would stop representing him and his business," The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. "The firm, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, is currently wrangling with the New York attorney general's office over documents related to its work for the former president's business, the Trump Organization. Led by Democratic Attorney General Letitia James, the office is conducting a civil-fraud probe into Mr. Trump's financial dealings."

"Morgan Lewis joins other firms that have distanced themselves from Mr. Trump in recent days. After the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Seyfarth Shaw LLP said it had notified the Trump Organization it would no longer represent the company," the newspaper reported.

Posted by orrinj at 11:27 AM


What Cheaper Solar Power Means for Low-Income Families: Thanks to these price and growth trends, an increasing number of state and local governments, utilities and businesses want to help lower-income customers go solar. They believe solar will cut energy bills, reduce money spent on bill payment programs, avoid pollution and create green jobs ( Galen Barbose Eric O'Shaughnessy Ryan Wiser, 1/21/21, National Interest)

In our study we evaluated five policies and business models to see which ones helped low- and moderate-income households go solar:

Financial incentives targeted at low- and moderate-income households, usually rebates or other incentives to reduce upfront costs.

Leasing rooftop solar systems, which reduces upfront costs.

Property Assessed Clean Energy financing, or PACE, which allows customers to finance energy improvements through their property tax payments. Currently, residential PACE is available only in California, Florida and Missouri.

Financial incentives such as rebates offered to customers of any income level.

"Solarize" campaigns, in which customers band together in a group purchase to get a good price.

The study includes data on more than 1 million residential rooftop photovoltaic systems installed on single-family homes in 18 states from 2010 to 2018. We compared modeled household-level income estimates for solar adopters with area median household incomes from U.S. Census data.

We found that three of the interventions - targeted incentives, leasing and PACE - effectively increased adoption equity. These approaches are boosting sales to low-income customers in existing markets and helping solar companies move into new markets, such as low-income areas where solar sales have been weak or absent.

Posted by orrinj at 11:25 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


It's time to fully embrace telehealth--for the COVID-19 crisis and beyond (CRAIG SETTLES, 1/21/21, Fast Company)

Interestingly enough, COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders have led to a serious reduction in Emergency Room bed use, with a 42% reduction in ER visits last April compared to 2020. The CDC considers this a double-edged sword. It's good that there are less non-critical emergency visits, but bad if people who really need the ER are avoiding it because of fear of the virus.

Telehealth kiosks might be the answer to this concern. Often low-income African Americans, other people of color, and immigrants use the ER as primary care. Kiosks can reduce ER overcrowding, provide emergency and general care, and save healthcare facilities money. Patients can go to a kiosk that enables two-way communication and feedback from healthcare professionals who can visually examine patients.

Counties and cities are placing modified kiosks in homeless shelters and food banks. It's not just about putting hardware in the right places, though:  "This strategy requires patient education and engagement to improve health literacy, plus staff training on the kiosk technology to address certain health issues and conditions," says Caplan.

"Food banks are an ideal spot to address the needs of the most vulnerable among us whether telehealth is delivering mental health or physical health," adds Emily Fisher, a telehealth doctoral candidate.  "The kiosk could be its own 'health system.' Different providers can be available during certain hours the kiosk is in use. The health records can be kept in a digital or cloud-based platform. Patients could view their medical records online. Our group uses a palm scanner to create an image that links to the medical record of the patient. Patients don't need to remember numbers, carry paperwork, or access identification procedures."

The bottom line is, that the right kiosk can save a lot of time and hassle for people who otherwise would go to an ER or an urgent-care facility. In 2019, USA Today reported that the average cost of an ER visit was $1,389 in 2017.  Saving money by deploying kiosks is a given, particularly for public hospitals.

There is no salutary economic trend that Covid has not accelerated.


Other changes are more directly related to the immediate ways daily life has been shaken up by the safety protocols the pandemic has necessitated. "The biggest change we've seen come into play is this split between customers who are coming into the store and the customers who are just there for a pickup," Price says, adding that the trend has led to a bifurcation of stores. "We're starting to see stores where there's an in-store shopping experience entry, where people walk in through the entry, there's produce, there's the frozen stuff, it's all the usual, and then there's this other side where you enter and it's more about getting in and out," he says. Many stores already had two separate entrances, so this change has been relatively easy to make.

Stores are also using their ample parking lots to create loading areas where customers can pick up orders placed online without having to go into the store at all. This approach, Price notes, has some downsides, as workers are left to weave through rows of cars to find the correct recipient. A more orderly system is the fast-food-style drive-through, which Price says is beginning to be implemented at some Safeway locations and could be a permanent feature. "That will almost certainly over time start to change the way site organization and site entry works."

The safety protocols of the pandemic will likely also lead to bigger changes inside stores, according to Price. For example, the days of the salad bar are over. Food and health safety concerns are leading to the elimination of the kind of self-serve and hot-food bars that were once a customer-centric feature of many grocery stores. Price says this may lead more stores to shift these types of food services to the back of the house and use the former self-serve space for prepackaged meals and snacks. And with the rise of grocery delivery services, some stores are even designating specific staging areas where their grocery pickers can prepare customer orders.

Health concerns may also end up affecting a part of the grocery shopping experience that's been in the midst of its own evolution: the checkout line. In recent years some stores have shifted from the old model of several lines leading to several checkout counters to a centralized approach where there's one single line, and maybe an express line, and customers all wait for the next available checker. But this may be a short-lived experiment.

"It creates a backup that snakes through the store, creates obstruction, creates customer conflict, and creates congestion challenges with these six-foot distancing rules that are currently in place," Price says. With the pandemic's duration far from certain, the added spatial requirements could make the snaking-line approach a thing of the past. And, with emerging "no-checkout" technology being developed by Amazon, the front of the grocery store may be seeing an even more dramatic transformation in the near future.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


'The nuke we survived': American Muslims breathe sigh of relief as Biden reverses travel ban (Aysha Khan, 1/21/21, RNS)

Over the last four years, more than 41,000 visa requests have been denied due to the ban. The policy also prevented life-saving surgeries for individuals from banned countries, while also limiting America's own health care workforce amid a pandemic.

Still, the rollback marks "an unprecedented victory for Muslims and allies, who flocked to airports to protest this ban and never stopped fighting and organizing to bring it to an end," said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. 

The order also instructs the State Department to restart visa processing for these countries and calls for a review of the Trump administration's "extreme vetting" practices and a plan to "restore fairness and remedy the harms caused by the ban."

The policy, the culmination of Trump's 2015 campaign call for a "total and complete shutdown" of Muslims' entry, initially banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. But amid legal challenges, the order went through several iterations before a narrower version was upheld by the Supreme Court. The court's 2018 ruling required that applicants apply for waivers in a process some lawmakers and immigration rights advocates later described as a "sham." 

Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-San Francisco Bay Area, said Biden's move would "correct the course" of disrupted lives.

"Tens of thousands of impacted individuals will now have the chance to be with their families during cherished and challenging times," she said. "While we know our work is far from over, today we celebrate the heroic efforts undertaken by so many over the last several years in our effort to repeal the Muslim and African Bans."

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Israel Democracy Institute uncovers shocking racism in 'apartheid state' (MEMO, January 18, 2021)

A report by the Israel Democracy Institute has uncovered shocking levels of racism among the country's Jewish citizens. Dubbed the Democracy Index, the think tank's 2020 report has been released after a leading human rights group branded Israel an apartheid state. The institute found that nearly half of the country's Jewish population support the idea of having ethnically separate communities.

The report, which has been published annually for the past 18 years and was presented to President Reuven Rivlin, found that only 54 per cent of Jews reject the idea that Arabs and Jews in Israel should live in separate communities in order to preserve their respective national identities. In contrast, 77 per cent of Arab Israeli citizens -- who make up 20 per cent of the total population -- are opposed to having racially segregated communities.

More entrenched racist attitudes were highlighted by the respondents' answer to a question about working in different communities. While 93 per cent of the country's Palestinian population said that they were willing to work in Jewish communities, only 41 per cent of Jews said that they were willing to do the reverse.

Similarly, two-thirds of Jewish respondents (67 per cent) said that they are willing to work under an Arab supervisor, while a huge majority of Palestinian respondents (92 per cent) are willing to work for a Jewish supervisor. "There is a segment of the Jewish public in Israel that is interested in integration with the Arab public, and another segment that seeks separation," the report concluded.

Racist attitudes were also expressed over political decision making. Three-quarters of Jewish Israelis believe that crucial decisions on matters of peace and security should entail a Jewish majority. This figure is more striking when broken down into political groups. As many as 87 per cent of the Israeli right, which has won every Israeli election since 2009, want the country's Jewish population to maintain its monopoly over such decisions.

On questions regarding social integration, a large majority (81 per cent) of Palestinian citizens of Israel and a small majority (57 per cent) of Jews believe that the non-Jewish citizens want to be an integral part of Israeli society.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


The Conservative Roots of Carbon Pricing (Spencer Banzhaf, Fall 2020, National Affairs)

Of course, nobody likes taxes. Taxpayers dislike them because they reduce income and revenues. Economists dislike them because they distort the economy: They make businesses less productive and give consumers less for their dollar.

Yet taxes are a necessary evil. Fortunately, the math behind them is simple: Taxing items or activities produces fewer of those items or activities. It is thus better to tax what we want less of, like pollution, than what we want more of, like income or sales. A tax on carbon of the scale suggested here would raise about $250 billion annually in revenue -- enough to not only substantially reduce the debt over time, but also lessen our reliance on other kinds of taxes.

Some on the political right may balk at such a suggestion. After all, isn't the carbon tax -- or indeed, any pollution tax -- an inherently progressive idea rooted in misguided beliefs that government bureaucrats and other "experts" can manage the economy better than the market can?

Actually, the opposite is true. Various proposals to tax or price pollution have, from their beginnings, been championed by conservatives and their libertarian allies, including such right-of-center folk heroes as William F. Buckley, Jr., and Milton Friedman. In their time, pollution-tax proponents could be found on both sides of the political aisle, but the early history of practical proposals can be traced almost exclusively through Republican administrations.

Indeed, a look at the historical conservative and libertarian champions of a pollution tax shows that they viewed such proposals through a right-of-center philosophical lens. That is, while analysts across the political spectrum have agreed that pollution taxation can be useful policy, conservatives and libertarians of the last century emphasized reasons for favoring such policies that differ from the ones those on the left embrace.

...taxing carbon became anathema for ideologues of the Right once anyone outside their cult endorsed it, turning a victory into a defeat. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Rage Against Reason: What Seneca could teach us about our inflamed passions (John T. Scott and Robert Zaretsky, January 21, 2021, American Scholar)

The Roman philosopher and statesman Seneca grappled with the relationship between anger and justice in both his thought and his life. A native of a far-flung province (modern-day Córdoba), Lucius Annaeus Seneca gained renown in Rome as an orator as well as a teacher of Stoicism. His eloquence and intelligence not only carried him to the highest ranks of imperial government, but also caught the attention of the empress Agrippina, who was particularly impressed by his essay "On Anger."

Although Agrippina was probably seduced by the essay's style, the substance is what counts. It is one of Seneca's longest writings--and for good reason. More than any other passion, anger challenged the practice of Stoicism. A school of philosophy that viewed the passions as unnatural obstacles to right-thinking and right-acting, Stoicism provided precepts or exercises that helped purge the passions and permitted reason to rule. Other philosophers, notably Aristotle, had argued that the passions--including anger--were natural and, if properly ordered, were the partners of reason, anger the helpmate of justice. Seneca asked: Is anger natural? Could the passion be put into the service sovereign reason? Is it necessary to prevent and punish injustice?

For Seneca, the answer was no thrice over. Unnatural, irrational, vicious, odious, and insane were just some of the ways he characterized the passion. Anger was by far the most corrosive and corrupting of all our emotions. Whereas most passions have at least an element of quiet, anger is "entirely violent and exists in a rush of pain, raging in an almost inhuman desire for weapons, blood and punishment." Gladiatorial games, Rome's favorite spectator sport, drew Seneca's censure for exhibiting--and exciting--the bestial in us. We ought never to act from anger, he believed, much less indulge or cultivate it.

This was especially true when anger was joined to justice. Punishment must always be spurred and steered by cool reason. When ire is indulged, especially by those wielding great power, cruelty rather than righteousness is the result. Yet Seneca also warns that anger employed with the best of intentions is the path to madness because of our very desire to see justice done. "If you want the wise man to be as angry as the atrocity of men's crimes requires," he wrote, "he must not merely be angry, but must go mad with rage."

Here is where Stoicism steps in. "Anger is put to flight by teachings," Seneca wrote, "for it is a voluntary vice of the mind." If it is voluntary, it is a vice that can be mastered by reason. Indeed, master is a misleading verb. For the Stoic sage, the aim is less to control the passions than to eradicate them in order to achieve apatheia--the state of being without passions. In "On Anger," as elsewhere, Seneca offers exhortations and examples intended to inculcate in his reader a therapy of desire.

Seneca soon had the opportunity to practice what he preached when Agrippina tapped him to be the tutor to her son Nero. Following the suspicious death of his stepfather Claudius, the teenaged Nero claimed the imperial title. The novice ruler's maiden speech to the Senate, written by Seneca himself, promised to chart a new path from that of his predecessors. As in "On Anger," Caligula served in the speech as a cautionary example.

No doubt Seneca congratulated himself for being the grownup in the room as he became Nero's principal advisor. But the honeymoon was brief. Nero soon found his footing as emperor, but those feet were steeped in the blood he shed. Scores were evened, rivals exiled or assassinated, culminating in the emperor's order for the murder of his overbearing mother. (A grotesquely farcical affair, it involved a ship with a lead ceiling meant to collapse and crush the empress, who managed to swim safely to shore, only to be stabbed to death by assassins sent by her son to finish the job.)

As Nero spiraled downward, Seneca stayed on. Perhaps he told himself he could restrain the emperor's worst impulses; perhaps he told himself that if he resigned, others less able would make the situation worse; perhaps, though a Stoic, he was simply frightened. 

That's a defense that we haven't heard from the House GOP yet, that they're just following Seneca when they grovel to Donald's cult.
Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Have We Already Been Visited by Aliens?: An eminent astrophysicist argues that signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life have appeared in our skies. What's the evidence for his extraordinary claim? (Elizabeth Kolbert, January 18, 2021, The New Yorker)

In "Extraterrestrial," Loeb lays out his reasoning as follows. The only way to make sense of 'Oumuamua's strange acceleration, without resorting to some sort of undetectable outgassing, is to assume that the object was propelled by solar radiation--essentially, photons bouncing off its surface. And the only way the object could be propelled by solar radiation is if it were extremely thin--no thicker than a millimetre--with a very low density and a comparatively large surface area. Such an object would function as a sail--one powered by light, rather than by wind. The natural world doesn't produce sails; people do. Thus, Loeb writes, " 'Oumuamua must have been designed, built, and launched by an extraterrestrial intelligence."

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Iran's Zarif: Trump administration 'relegated to the dustbin of history' (AFP and TOI, 1/21/21)

"Trump, [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo & Co. are relegated to the dustbin of history in disgrace," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet after US President Joe Biden was sworn in. [...]

Zarif also retweeted Soleimani's daughter Zeinab, who said that Trump had ordered the killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general "with the perverse hope that you will be seen as some sort of hero."

"But instead you are defeated, isolated & broken - viewed not as a hero, but one who lives in fear of foes. The irony," Soleimani wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


For Swiss preschoolers, democracy is child's play (NINA LARSON, 1/21/21, AFP)

Rather than playing house or building blocks, a few dozen Swiss preschoolers line up to cast their ballots in a vote that will shape lives in the make-believe village where they call the shots.

A "citizenship project" created by three private preschools in the western city of Lausanne aims to prepare children from a young age for participation in Switzerland's famed direct democracy featuring referendums on a wide range of issues every few months.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


China doubles new renewable capacity in 2020; still builds thermal plants (Muyu Xu and David Stanway, 1/21/21,  Reuters) 

China more than doubled its construction of new wind and solar power plants in 2020 from a year earlier, government data showed, reflecting Beijing's pledge to cut fossil fuel dependence and bring carbon emissions to a peak within a decade.

China, the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter, added 71.67 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity last year, the most ever and nearly triple 2019's levels, according to data released by the National Energy Administration (NEA) late Wednesday.

China's 2020 figure is ahead of the 60.4 GW of new wind capacity added globally in 2019, according to data from the Global Wind Energy Council.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Jen Psaki's first White House press briefing heralds return to normality (David Smith,  21 Jan 2021, The Guardian)

At the end of Sean Spicer's debut press briefing at the dawn of the Donald Trump presidency, a journalist remarked to me: "I feel like I'm back at school." I replied: "I feel like I'm back in Zimbabwe," alluding to my days as an Africa correspondent reporting on the autocratic Robert Mugabe.

Four years on, Jen Psaki delivered the first briefing of Joe Biden's administration from the same lectern in the same room. Spicer redux it was not.

Just compare their remarks about the press. "Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting," Spicer scowled in reference to Trump's inauguration, adding darkly: "We're going to hold the press accountable."

Psaki, by contrast, began the new era with a smile: "It's an honour to be here with all of you. When the president asked me to serve in this role, we talked about the importance of bringing truth and transparency back to the briefing room."

Later she added: "I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy."

The 42-year-old's maiden briefing on Wednesday was radical in its normality and startling in its civility. 

January 20, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Witless Ape Rides Helicopter: Goodbye to Donald J. Trump, the man who wanted to be Conrad Hilton but turned out to be Paris Hilton. (Kevin D. Williamson, January 20, 2021, National Review)

Well, that sucked.

Memo to MAGA and all its myriad fellow-travelers: Maybe Death of a Salesman as presented by Leni Riefenstahl just wasn't the show Americans were dying to tune into this season.

And, while we're at it, maybe turning your party over to Generalissimo Walter Mitty, his hideous scheming spawn, and the studio audience from Hee-Haw was not just absolutely aces as a political strategy.

Think on it, Cletus. I know this whole thing still sounds like your idea of a good time -- how's that working out for you?

Let me refresh your memory: On the day Donald Trump was sworn in as president, Republicans controlled not only the White House but both houses of Congress. They were in a historically strong position elsewhere as well, controlling both legislative chambers in 32 states. They pissed that away like they were midnight drunks karaoke-warbling that old Chumbawumba song: In 2021, they control approximately squat. The House is run by Nancy Pelosi. The Senate is run, as a practical matter, by Kamala Harris. And Joe Biden won the presidency, notwithstanding whatever the nut-cutlet guest-hosting for Dennis Prager this week has to say about it.

Donald Trump is, in fact, the first president since Herbert Hoover to lead his party to losing the presidency, the House, and the Senate all in a single term. Along with being the first president to be impeached twice and the first game-show host elected to the office, that's Trump's claim to the history books. Well, that and 400,000 dead Americans and the failed coup d'état business.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


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Major Q Figure Urges Followers to Go Back to Their Real Lives ( Anna Merlan, January 20, 2021, Vice)

Amidst an already dispiriting Inauguration Day for Trump fans across the conspiracy-verse, another blow has quietly fallen: Ron Watkins, a former administrator of the sites 8chan and 8kun, appears to be bowing out of the Q business. In a message posted to Telegram, Watkins urged his followers to "respect the Constitution," writing, "Now we need to keep our chins up and go back to our lives as best we are able." 

8kun, a successor to 8chan, has been the main home for posts from "Q," the mysterious account claiming to have unique insight into the secret workings of the government and the Satanic cabals running it. Watkins and his father Jim, who owns 8kun, have been widely accused of being Q themselves--an accusation they have denied.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Joe Biden is ending Trump's travel ban (Nicole Narea, Jan 20, 2021, Vox)

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden is beginning the immense task of dismantling former President Donald Trump's nativist legacy on immigration, issuing an executive order to end Trump's controversial travel ban on noncitizens from 13 countries.

The policy, colloquially known as the "Muslim ban," first went into effect in January 2017 and became one of Trump's signature immigration policies. The ban has slowed or altogether halted legal immigration from certain countries that the former administration deemed to be security threats, keeping families apart and even stymieing refugee resettlement.

The travel ban was Trump's first major action on immigration policy, setting the tone for the chaotic four years that followed for immigrants while galvanizing public opposition.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


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George W. Bush called Clyburn the country's 'savior' for his role in helping Biden defeat Trump: report (Matthew Chapman, January 20, 2021, Raw Story)

On Wednesday, Associated Press reporter Meg Kinnard reported that former President George W. Bush privately told House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) that he is "the savior" because of his kingmaker role in the Democratic primary that cemented the nomination for President Joe Biden.

"You know, you're the savior, because if you had not nominated Joe Biden, we would not be having this transfer of power today," Bush reportedly told Clyburn, adding that Biden was "the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president."

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


Biden Changes U.S. Ambassador to Israel Twitter Name to Include West Bank and Gaza (Adam Kredo, JANUARY 20, 2021, Free Beacon)

The Biden administration on Wednesday changed the U.S. ambassador to Israel's Twitter account name to read, "the official Twitter account of the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza," walking back the Trump administration's pro-Israel policies.

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Donald Trump left a letter for Joe Biden (David McBrayer, January 20, 2021, Raw Story)

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The Evolutionary Origins of Friendship (Debra Lieberman,  January 20, 2021, Scientific American)

The evolution of friendships relied on the ability to recognize the unique benefits other people have on offer. Benefits can include the usual suspects of prestige, status and attractiveness, but there are myriad reasons why you might value another person: they are of the same political party, they like the same kinds of foods, they like to golf, surf or play chess, or they enjoy talking endlessly about Star Wars. Friendships tend to begin when one individual perceives value in another and performs a beneficent act: "You can borrow my phone if you need to make a call"; "Can I help you carry that?" These actions serve as a fishing line, cast out to see if the target individual might be in the market for a new friend. Signals of their gratitude are promising indicators of a bite; anger and annoyance are indicators of a lost lure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden Announces 'Immediate' End to Trump's Beloved Border Wall Project (Jamie Ross, Jan. 20, 2021, Daily Beast)

The list also says that Biden will immediately reverse three flagship Trump policies: His withdrawal from the World Health Organization, his "Muslim travel ban," and his exit from the Paris Climate Agreement. Biden will also revoke the permit Trump granted to the Keystone XL oil pipeline, according to the full list published by his team.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iran's Rouhani says "ball in U.S. court" over nuclear dispute (Parisa Hafezi, 1/20/21, Reuters)

"The ball is in the U.S. court now. If Washington returns to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact," Rouhani said in a televised cabinet meeting.

"Today, we expect the incoming U.S. administration to return to the rule of law and commit themselves, and if they can, in the next four years, to remove all the black spots of the previous four years," he said.

Tensions have grown between Tehran and Washington since 2018, when Trump quit the deal between Iran and six world powers that sought to limit Tehran's nuclear programme and to prevent it developing atomic weapons. Washington reimposed sanctions that have badly hit Iran's economy.

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