December 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


Xcel sees financial payoff in push for wind-power development (LEE SCHAFER, 11/30/19, Star-Tribune)

On the last Friday before Thanksgiving, Xcel Energy filed a document with Minnesota's Public Utilities Commission called a Renewable Energy Standard Rider. In two read-throughs, a reasonably informed layperson would have only an even-money shot at understanding it.

The gist, though, is that Minneapolis-based Xcel asked regulators to approve bringing more than $100 million of wind-energy projects into the calculations of regulated electricity rates. And the news is that the new power will be cheaper.

"People tend to focus on what goes up and not what goes down," said Chris Clark, president of the Xcel's Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota region. "That wind coming into service is actually displacing other generation sources, so we are actually saving customers money with the wind we're bringing on to the system."

An unconscious focus on only what increases in price doesn't really explain the intensity of arguments over electric energy, which can seem more like the Wars of Religion than a discussion of costs. Yet the case the industry makes -- renewables are cheap enough, and getting cheaper -- is getting clearer in the latest numbers.

"The pricing that we are seeing on this build-out that we are doing -- and we are doing one of the largest build-outs in the nation of wind -- is substantially undercutting the price of our coal units," Clark said. "We had thought it would be mixing it up with them, but it is actually undercutting the coal units."

The cost to generate electricity from the new wind projects falls in the range of $15 per megawatt hour to $25, Clark said. The same electricity from a coal-fired generating station costs between $25 and $35 per megawatt hour.

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Why Labour lost - and how it can recover from an epic defeat (GEORGE EATON, 12/15/19, New Statesman)

At a Momentum activist training session I attended on 21 November, members were invited to "start shouting out the things that you're worried about coming up". The answers were swift: "Anti-Semitism, tactical voting for the Lib Dems in Tory areas, magic money tree, IRA, racism, position on Brexit, going backwards to the 1970s, high taxes. Momentum, people hate, people don't like Momentum. Immigration, Corbyn not being a leader, economic impact of a four-day week."

As I noted at the time, "successful political movements identify their vulnerabilities and work ruthlessly to neutralise them. But that Momentum activists can readily name so many perhaps augurs less well." 

Lynton Crosby, the former Conservative campaign manager, is fond of remarking that "you can't fatten a pig on market day". Political strength must be honed long in advance of an election, not during it. Labour entered the campaign with far too many weaknesses to ever have any hope of supplanting the Conservatives. 

Foremost among these was Jeremy Corbyn's unpopularity - the worst ratings of any opposition leader in polling history (a net rating of -60 in an Ipsos MORI survey). In an increasingly presidential system, leaders matter. A post-election Opinium survey found that 43 per cent of those who did not vote Labour cited its leadership, compared to 17 per cent for its stance on Brexit and 12 per cent for its economic policies. 

Corbyn's unpopularity had many facets: he was never trusted to manage national security (his response to the Salisbury poisoning did particular damage) or the economy, and even polled behind Johnson on public services. He presided over a permanently divided party, many of whose MPs never regarded him as fit to be prime minister, the scandal of anti-Semitism wounded his claim to moral authority, and his equivocation on Brexit undermined his promise of "straight-talking, honest politics".

Labour was vulnerable to exactly the extent it has abandoned the Thatcher/Blair Third Way.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


The Problem of Nationalism (Kim R. Holmes, Ph.D., 12/13/19, Heritage)

I think I understand why some people will be attracted to the concept of nationalism. President Trump used the term nationalism. National conservatives think that President Trump has tapped into a new populism for conservatism, and they want to take advantage of it. They think that traditional fusionist conservatism and the American exceptionalism idea are not strong enough. These ideas are not muscular enough. They want something stronger to stand up to the universal claims of globalism and progressivism that they believe are anti-American. They also want something stronger to push back on open borders and limitless immigration.

I understand that. I understand very well the desire to have a muscular reaction to the overreach of international governance and globalism, and I have no trouble at all arguing that an international system based on nation-states and national sovereignty is vastly superior, especially for the United States, to one that is run by a global governing body that is democratically remote from the people.

So what's the problem then? Why can't we just all agree that nationalism defined in this way is what we American conservatives have been and believed all along--that it's just a new, more fashionable bottle for a very old wine? Well, because the new bottle changes the way that the wine will be viewed. Why do we need a new bottle at all? It would be like putting a perfectly good California cabernet in a bottle labeled from Germany or France or Russia or China. 

The problem lies in that little suffix, "ism." [...]

That brings me to the idea of American exceptionalism, which is, I believe, the answer to the question of America's national identity and what it should be. 

It's a beautiful concept that captures both the reality and the ambiguity of the American experience. It's based on a universal creed. It is grounded in America's founding principles: natural law, liberty, limited government, individual rights, the checks and balances of government, popular sovereignty not the sovereignty of the folkish nation-state, the civilizing role of religion in civil society and not an established religion associated with one class or one creed, and the crucial role of civil society and civil institutions in grounding and mediating our democracy and our freedom.. 

We as Americans believe these principles are right and true for all peoples and not just for us. That was the way that Washington and Jefferson understood them, and it was certainly the way that Lincoln understood them. That's what makes them universal. In other words, the American creed grounds us in universal principles.

But what, you may ask, makes us so exceptional then? If it's universal, what makes us exceptional? It is, in fact, the creed. 

We believe that Americans are different because our creed is both universal and exceptional at the same time. We are exceptional in the unique way we apply our universal principles. It doesn't necessarily mean that we are better than other peoples, though I think probably most Americans do believe that they are. It's not really about bragging rights. Rather, it's a statement of historical fact that there is something truly different and unique about the United States, which becomes lost when talking in terms of nationalism.

A nationalist cannot say this, because there is nothing universal about nationalism except that all nationalisms are, well, different and particularistic. Nationalism is devoid of a common idea or principle of government except that a people or a nation-state can be almost anything. It can be fascist, it can be authoritarian, it can be totalitarian, or it can be democratic.

Some of the new nationalists doubt explicitly the importance of the American creed. They argue that the creed is not as important as we thought it was to our national identity.  Let's just think about that for a minute. 

What does it mean to say that the creed really isn't all that important? If the creed doesn't matter, what is so special about America? 

Is it our language? Well, no. We share that with Britain, and now much of the world.

Is it our ethnicity? Well, that doesn't work either because there's no such thing as a common American ethnicity. 

Is it a specific religion? We are indeed a religious country, but no, we have freedom of religion, not one specific religion. 

Is it our beautiful rivers and mountains?  No. We've got some beautiful rivers and mountains, but so do other countries. 

Is it our culture? Yes, I suppose so, but how do you understand American culture without the American creed and the founding principles?

Lincoln called America the world's "last best hope," because it was a place where all people can and should be free. Before Lincoln, Jefferson called it an empire of liberty. 

Immigrants came here and became true Americans by living the American creed and the American dream. You can become a French citizen, but for most Frenchmen, if you are foreign, that is not the same thing as being French. It's different here. You can be a real American by adopting our creed and our way of life.

After World War II, the American way and our devotion to democracy became a beacon of freedom for the whole world. That was the foundation of our claim to world leadership in the Cold War, and it is no different today. If we become a nation just like any other nation, then frankly I would not expect any other nation to grant us any special trust or support.

Another benefit of American exceptionalism is that it is self-correcting. When we fail to live up to our ideals as we did with slavery before the Civil War, we can appeal as Lincoln did to our "better nature" to correct our flaws. That is where the central importance of the creed comes in. Applying the principles of the Declaration of Independence correctly has allowed us to redeem ourselves and our history when we have gone astray. 

There is no American identity without the American creed. However, the nationalists are correct about one thing, in suggesting that the American identity is more than just about a set of ideas. These ideas are lived in our culture--that is true. It is also true, as Lincoln said about his famous "mystic chords of memory," that our common experience and our common history form a unique story. It is a story that embodies the very real lives and relationships of people and a shared cultural experience in a shared space and time in history that we call the United States.

On his terrific Remnant podcast, Jonah Goldberg has often admitted his dissatisfaction with his interviews of Yoram Hazony and Patrick Dineen, and his failure to confront them sufficiently about the implication of their ideas.  Things went even worse with Rich Lowry--perhaps understandably given their relationship--who made a series of necessarily nonsensical arguments about American Nationalism.  [The need not to call it Nastionalism being the first tell.] Hilariously, he tried making a case that a nation is marked by a common language but that it was an inevitable function of nationhood that America spread to the Pacific.  Obviously, this involved incorporating such Spanish-speaking territory as Florida, California, Arizona, etc;; French-speaking Louisiana; all the Indian territories; etc.  But, oddly, stopped at arbitrary borders with Canada and Mexico.  And the less said about his attempt to differentiate Succession from the Revolution, the better.   But the fact that the Right keeps arguing in favor of Nationalism even as they deny its nature when confronted suggests a profound level of disingenuousness

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


New Poll Shows Sen. Graham 'Extremely Vulnerable' To Challenger Harrison (Dan Desai Martin, December 15, 2019, National Memo)

According to a Change Research/Post and Courier poll, Graham holds a 47 percent to 45 percent lead over Harrison, with 9 percent of voters still undecided.

"Senator Lindsey Graham's favorability is exceptionally low among Independent voters and in hypothetical general election match-ups," the poll notes. "He looks extremely vulnerable against Democratic contender Jaime Harrison."

Only 38 percent of South Carolina voters have a favorable view of Graham, with 53 percent viewing him unfavorably. His numbers are even lower among Independents, with a mere 28 percent viewing him favorably and 60 percent with unfavorable views.

It would be delicious if he sold out to Donald only to be ushered out of Washington with him.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Why Do Trump's Defenders Deny What He So Clearly Did? (Jacob Sullum December 15, 2019, RCP)

During Monday's impeachment hearing, Republican lawyer Stephen Castor denied that Donald Trump had asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender to oppose Trump in next year's election. "I don't think the record supports that," Castor said.

That jaw-dropping moment starkly illustrated the lengths to which Republicans have gone in rebutting the charge that Trump abused his powers for personal gain. The president's defenders have repeatedly contested well-established facts in a way that makes fair-minded nonpartisans despair of having an impeachment debate based on a shared understanding of reality.

According to the White House's own transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asked Zelenskiy to look into the claim that Biden pressed the Ukrainian government to replace Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin with the aim of thwarting an investigation of Burisma, an energy company that employed Biden's son Hunter as a board member. "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution," Trump said, adding that "it sounds horrible to me."

...they'll never get another racist in the White House. Why wouldn't they defend the indefensible?

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Gollum and the Spirit of Christmas (Joseph Pearce, December 14th, 2019, Imaginative Christmas)

Like Scrooge, Gollum is possessed by his possessions. In Gollum's case, having been possessed by his possession of the Ring, he is possessed by his desire for its re-possession after the Ring is taken from him. Like Scrooge, he is a slave to the darkness of sin to which he is addicted. "A slave," writes the philosopher, Thomas S. Martin, "is a person who cannot restrain himself before the appetites of the body and the excessive desire for external possessions." Such a person can either be held in scorn and contempt, or he can be pitied. What, therefore, is to be done with Gollum? More to the point, what is to be done with all those gollumized souls who have enslaved themselves narcissistically and pridefully to themselves? What is to be done with those who are so addicted to their own self-empowerment, that they no longer have the power to give themselves to others in the love that will set them free? Are they to be scorned or are they to be pitied? Do we loathe them or do we love them? The hobbits in The Lord of the Rings learn to pity Gollum and to show him mercy. They know "the agony of Gollum's shrivelled mind and body, enslaved to that Ring, unable to find peace or relief ever in life again." They know his affliction and they pity him for it, showing him mercy. In doing so, they love the miserable sinner, even as they loathe his miserable sin. This is the spirit of giving ourselves to others which is the spirit of Christmas. May we all be blessed with it this Christmas.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Greta Thunberg apologises for 'put leaders against the wall' comment (BBC, 12/15/19)

After some initial concern over her use of the phrase - which usually means to execute people by firing squad, against a wall - she tweeted a clarification.

"Yesterday I said we must hold our leaders accountable and unfortunately said 'put them against the wall'," she wrote.

"That's Swenglish: 'att ställa någon mot väggen' (to put someone against the wall) means to hold someone accountable."

She continued: "Of course I apologise if anyone misunderstood this. I cannot enough express the fact that I - as well as the entire school strike movement - are against any possible form of violence. It goes without saying but I say it anyway."

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Thrift stores and resale shops like Listen's are booming in the Upper Valley (JOHN LIPPMAN, 12/14/19, Valley News)

Since opening 14 months ago, Listen's thrift store in the former Bridgman's Furniture building has been ringing up sales of clothing, housewares, furniture, jewelry, appliances, books, home decor, trinkets and tchotchkes to thousands of customers, some who travel from more than an hour away to cruise the racks and shelves looking for bargains or that rare treasure.

"I love this store. You don't always find what you want, but you can get lucky," said Edith Labonte, of Cabot, Vt., one day last week as she wheeled a cart out of the store with two white plastic bags of items she had just purchased.

Labonte proudly pointed to her purchases in the cart, including a standing sun lamp she bought for $3.75 and a lace ribbon Christmas bow flecked with a gold design that cost "only $1.25," she noted, showing off the price tag.

"Are you kidding me?" she exclaimed.

While retail businesses are suffering due to the shift to online shopping -- numerous storefronts remain vacant along the Route 12A commercial corridor in West Lebanon years after their tenants have left, and downtown Hanover has seen numerous longtime shops close -- the "resale" industry is flourishing. From cast-off clothes to used furniture and appliances, consumers are embracing the thrift economy.

As market analysts predict that the industry will continue to grow, when it comes to thrift stores, the Upper Valley might be the Rodeo Drive of resale outlets.

Crowned by Listen's $2 million, 32,000-square-foot thrift store that opened last year in Lebanon, the nonprofit also operates two satellite thrift stores in White River Junction -- one for furniture and the other for apparel and other goods -- and one in Canaan.

Other thrift stores -- to name only a sampling -- include a Salvation Army location in West Lebanon; The Good Buy Stores operated by Southeastern Vermont Community Action in Hartford and Springfield, Vt., known as SEVCA; Cover Home Repair in White River Junction; Turning Point's Changes Thrift Store in Claremont (closed until February while it undergoes renovation); the Bridgewater Mill thrift store; and the Gifford Medical Center Auxiliary Thrift Shop in Randolph.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Trump tells story of Jewish friend 4 times, but changes the name on each telling (Times of Israel, 12/15/19)

US President Donald Trump has been telling the same story in speeches to different pro-Israel audiences in the past few months, but has each time changed a critical detail: the name of the character appearing in it.

In the speeches -- most recently, twice on the same day -- Trump recalls a conversation he allegedly had with a Jewish friend about what his biggest accomplishment for Israel has been.
Each time, Trump says he had asked whether it was moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or recognizing the Jewish state's sovereignty in the Golan Heights. He is then answered that neither -- it was nixing the Iran nuclear deal.

The problem? Each time he tells the story, the person he is talking to in it changes, casting a certain doubt over the authenticity of the anecdote.

December 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


A Conservative Definition of Diversity Avi Woolf, 11/29/19, James G. Martin Center)

[The fact that Turning Point USA, one of the most popular conservative student groups, repeatedly gets caught in scandals involving support for white supremacy and open and covert bigotry toward their fellow citizens means that too many young conservatives hear conservative leaders rallying against the liberal conception of "diversity" and think they mean diversity as such.

It's more than odd or embarrassing that this is the case--it's tragic. Ever since the rise of modernity in the form of the French Revolution, conservative thinkers of all stripes and across the globe argued fiercely for the diversity and variety of human life against the pulverizing flattening of modernity and of progressive thinking.

Edmund Burke famously railed against the French destruction of its local traditions and regional identities in favor of mathematical départements. British conservatives fought for local variety in their country in the nineteenth century against the utilitarians seeking to flatten everything based on mathematical formulas. America's own conservative movement in the '50s arose against the crushing political conformity of that era. All throughout, conservatives everywhere celebrated or at least tolerated a degree of human variety as a bulwark against uniformity and as an expression of human wonder and growth.

One would think, then, that the now-dominant liberal idea of diversity, while not necessarily aligning with conservative views, would be a welcome sight and a matter of negotiation between the two sides rather than an all-out war.

We may not agree with the Millian approach arguing for constant disruptive social experiments or the Marxian obsession with power relations among groups one can see nowadays, but that is a matter of the practice and parameters, not the overall principle.

So why is this not the case? Why do conservatives not actively celebrate diversity and variety in a way that aligns with their own principles?

There is of course the sad and tragic reality that some on "our side" oppose diversity measures because they oppose diversity, period. This includes a belief that being "too open" to people around the world could result in America's losing its identity and Republican unease at other kinds of diversity in American life. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Russia and the Republicans: How Vladimir Putin got an American subsidiary (LUCIAN K. TRUSCOTT IV, DECEMBER 14, 2019, Salon)

The Russians wasted decades infiltrating the left attempting to gain purchase in American political life. There was the Communist Party USA, of course. Established in 1919, the CPUSA grew through the 1930s and boasted a membership of about 100,000 at the beginning of World War II. A hundred thousand! Whoop-de-doo! 

Then there were the spinoff lefty parties like the Socialist Workers Party, the Progressive Labor Party, the Workers World Party, the Socialist Labor Party, the Progressive Labor Party -- we could go on listing one splinter group after another with "socialist" or "labor" or "workers" in its title. They were tiny groups with memberships that were sometimes less than 100, and they would all deny being infiltrated by the Russkies, naturally. So would the "New Left" groups that came later, like SDS and The Weathermen. Nobody wanted to admit they were under Russian influence. Everything they were doing, from opposing the war in Vietnam to civil rights to fighting for free speech, was being done for completely pure reasons.

The Democratic Party would deny being under Russian influence as well, of course. But every American political party on the left was jointly infiltrated by Russian agents and the FBI or other American intelligence operations. There was a joke back in the '70s that without membership by Russian infiltrators and FBI agents, the Socialist Workers Party would have gone out of existence. I covered a meeting of the SWP in a loft on lower Broadway in the early '70s for the Village Voice. It looked to me like everyone there suspected everyone else of being either a COINTELPRO agent for the FBI or a KGB agent. You could have cut the paranoia with a butter knife.

I can't even begin to tell you how boring the Socialist Workers Party meeting was. The loft on lower Broadway was dusty, cluttered with back issues of The Militant and International Socialist Review. I asked someone if there was any beer, and he gave me a stern look and said they didn't allow drinking at their meetings.

Of course, we're talking about the Soviet Union back in those days. People on the American left, and even "liberals" to some extent, had an idealized vision of the Russian Revolution and the country it spawned. Some of this idealism was born out of the grim years of the Depression, when farmers were struggling to hold onto their land, factories were closing all over, and people were going hungry and homeless in the streets. Russia, with its Communist version of "a chicken in every pot" and a job for everyone (even if it was on a collective farm) must have looked pretty good compared to the deprivation all around.

Moscow used dissension in the American political ranks to gain a foothold in the left which they would pursue until the House Un-American Activities Committee, Richard Nixon, Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and the Red Scare drove the communist-linked left even further underground than it already was.  

I knew some people on the left back in the day. I had a friend in Brooklyn who was a labor organizer in textile factories in the Deep South for "the party." If he had enough to drink, he would admit to taking his orders from some guys with "connections," and he wasn't talking about mob connections. There was a guy I knew from drinking at the Lion's Head who had been a maritime union organizer who -- again, under the influence of a little too much to drink -- would admit to knowing a few people with connections "overseas." He had spent most of the 1950s dodging the FBI. I asked him one night if he really believed he was changing the world, or was he into it for the intrigue and the action. A smile crossed his face as he answered, "Ah, my boy, that's always been the great question, hasn't it?"

I remember wondering at the time why Moscow was even bothering with the splintered, weakened left of the '60s and '70s, and yet there they were, wasting their time in Broadway lofts and on factory floors in small towns in North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. It must have seemed to the KGB and Soviet leaders that they would find allies among those working for integration and voting rights during the Civil Rights movement, and they did. The Republican Party of that era would hardly have been a fertile hunting ground.

But it would turn out that they were sniffing around the wrong end of the political spectrum. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the new batch of Russian hardliners who replaced them would find their natural-born allies about 250 miles south in the Republican National Committee in Washington -- and eventually in the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM


Devin Nunes lives on a congressman's salary. How is he funding so many lawsuits? (KATE IRBY, DECEMBER 14, 2019, Fresno Bee)

[N]unes is either paying for the lawsuits out of his own pocket, promising to pay his lawyer a portion of any money they're awarded in court at a later date, or flouting House Ethics rules that would require him to publicly disclose who is funding the legal work.

Nunes, R-Tulare, has filed lawsuits against Twitter, anonymous social media users known as Devin Nunes' Cow and Devin Nunes' Mom, a Republican political strategist, media companies, journalists, progressive watchdog groups, a political research firm that worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign and a retired farmer in Nunes' own district.

All but one of those lawsuits -- the one filed in California by Nunes' campaign against retired farmer Paul Buxman, who accused Nunes of being a fake farmer -- is still active. Nunes filed most of the cases in Virginia.

All were filed by Virginia attorney Steven Biss, alleging the journalists, media companies and political operatives conspired to defame Nunes or undermine his ability to lead the House Intelligence Committee.

The only lawsuit with a public record indicating payment is the one against Buxman, which Nunes withdrew within weeks of filing it.

Nunes' third quarter campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission showed he paid a Fresno law firm representing him in that suit about $3,400.

Nunes campaign finance reports with the FEC do not have records of any payments that appear affiliated with Biss.

Nunes has also said he will "definitely" be filing a seventh lawsuit against AT&T, Verizon and House Democrats for releasing records of phone calls that showed Nunes communicated with allies of President Donald Trump who are now central figures in Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Democrats published the records in a report summarizing evidence they collected at impeachment hearings.

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Taking Sex Differences in Personality Seriously: New approaches are shedding light on the magnitude of sex differences in personality and the results are so strong and pervasive that they can no longer be ignored. (Scott Barry Kaufman, December 12, 2019, Scientific American)

Personality is multidimensional, which has implications for calculating sex differences in personality. Relatively small differences across multiple traits can add up to substantial differences when considered as a whole profile of traits. Take the human face, for example. If you were to just take a particular feature of the face-- such as mouth width, forehead height, or eye size-- you would have difficult differentiating between a male face and a female face. You simply can't tell a male eyeball from a female eyeball, for instance. However, a look at the combination of facial features produces two very distinct clusters of male vs. female faces. In fact, observers can correctly determine sex from pictures with greater than 95% accuracy [4]. Here's an interesting question: does the same apply to the domain of personality?

Interestingly, yes. You can calculate a metric called D which is a summary of how statistically separate two groups are from each other (i.e., how good of a line you can draw between groups from a statistical point of view). This metric allows you to take into account how all of the personality traits tend to be related to each other in the general population. For instance, people who are conscientious also tend to be more emotionally stable, so if you find someone who is very conscientious and also super neurotic, that person stands out more (has a more unusual personality profile) given the overall correlational structure. With more traits, things get even more interesting. You can have a combination of traits that are less expected, and thus more informative, because they go against the trends of the correlational structure [5].

There now exists four large-scale studies that use this multivariate methodology (see here, here, here, and here). All four studies are conducted cross-culturally and report on an analysis of narrow personality traits (which, as you may recall, is where most of the action is when it comes to sex differences). Critically, all four studies converge on the same basic finding: when looking at the overall gestalt of human personality, there is a truly striking difference between the typical male and female personality profiles.

Just how striking? Well, actually, really striking. In one recent study, Tim Kaiser, Marco Del Giudice, and Tom Booth analyzed personality data from 31,637 people across a number of English-speaking countries. The size of global sex differences was D = 2.10 (it was D = 2.06 for just the United States). To put this number in context, a D= 2.10 means a classification accuracy of 85%. In other words, their data suggests that the probability that a randomly picked individual will be correctly classified as male or female based on knowledge of their global personality profile is 85% (after correcting for the unreliability of the personality tests).

Consistent with prior research, the researchers found that the following traits are most exaggerated among females when considered separately from the rest of the gestalt: sensitivity, tender-mindedness, warmth, anxiety, appreciation of beauty, and openness to change. For males, the most exaggerated traits were emotional stability, assertiveness/dominance, dutifulness, conservatism, and conformity to social hierarchy and traditional structure.

This basic pattern of findings was replicated in another recent large-scale survey of narrow personality traits conducted on nearly a million people across 50 countries. Using different personality tests, and averaging across all countries, Tim Kaiser found a D = 2.16, which is very similar to the effect size found in the other study on English-speaking countries. While there was cross-cultural variation in the effect, there was a general trend for more developed, individualistic countries with higher food availability, less pathogen prevalence, and higher gender equality to show the largest sex differences in global personality [6].

In particular, Scandinavian countries consistently showed larger-than-average sex differences in global personality, together with the US, Canada, Australia, the UK, and other Northern and Eastern European Countries. The countries with the smallest sex differences in global personality included several Southeast Asian countries. To be sure, there wasn't a perfect correlation between more developed, gender-egalitarian countries and sex differences (e.g., Russia displayed the largest sex difference with D = 2.48). But even Pakistan-- the country with the smallest sex differences in global personality in the world according to this study-- had a D = 1.49. This means that even when you look around the world for the country with the smallest sex difference in global personality, the classification accuracy of that country is still 77%!

These numbers dovetail with a number of studies showing a similar level of classification looking at whole brain data. By applying a multivariate analysis of the whole brain, researchers are now able to classify whether a brain is male or female with 77%-93% accuracy (see here, here, here, here, and here). In fact, some recent studies using the most sophisticated techniques have consistently found greater than 90% accuracy rates looking at whole brain data (see here, here, and here). While this level of prediction is definitely not perfect-- and by no means do those findings justify individual stereotyping or discrimination-- that's really high accuracy as far science goes [7].

All of this data is really hard to ignore and dismiss out of hand.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Germany's Mesut Özil condemns Muslim silence over Uighurs (Deutsche-Welle, 12/14/19)

Former Germany international footballer Mesut Özil expressed support for Uighurs in Xinjiang, China, on Friday and criticized Muslim countries for their unwillingness to speak out on the poor treatment faced by the Uighur people, a Muslim minority group.

"Qurans are being burnt. Mosques are being shut down. Muslim schools are being banned. Religious scholars are being killed. Brothers are forcefully being sent to camps," the Arsenal player posted in Turkish on Twitter and Instagram.

"The Muslims are silent. Their voice is not heard," he wrote on a background of a blue field with a white crescent moon, the flag of what Uighur separatists call East Turkestan.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


Don't Let the First Amendment Forget DeRay Mckesson: An activist is on trial for being an activist, and the Supreme Court needs to protect anti-police protesters. (Garrett Epps, 12/13/19, The Atlantic)

In this decision, a conservative panel of the Fifth Circuit--without even hearing oral argument--mounted a frontal offensive on a venerable First Amendment precedent that has protected unpopular speakers for four decades. The panel's three judges (E. Grady Jolly from Mississippi, Jennifer Walker Elrod from Texas, and Don Willett from Texas) flatly defied that precedent and allowed a punitive lawsuit to proceed against DeRay Mckesson. Mckesson is one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, a speaker whose ideas are not merely unpopular among conservative, southern whites like the judges, but are seen to be truly "fraught with death," as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once described speech that, though abhorrent, deserves protection.

Mckesson's case goes back to July 5, 2016, when police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot and killed a street vendor named Alton Sterling under unclear circumstances (Sterling was carrying a gun, but witnesses denied police accounts that he had been aggressive; no charges were brought against the officers). On the night of July 9, Black Lives Matter activists, including Mckesson, took part in a protest outside the police headquarters and blocked the highway. Police responded in force, arresting about 70 people or more, including Mckesson. (This protest is where Reuters photographer Jonathan Bachman took the iconic photo, "Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge," depicting Pennsylvania nurse Ieshia Evans facing down a line of armored police.)  During the demonstration, someone threw a hard object that injured Officer Doe.

The arrested protesters sued city and county law enforcement for excessive force, and received a settlement totaling around $100,000 and an agreement that their arrest records would be expunged. Then Officer Doe (he received court permission to proceed under a false name) brought a suit against Mckesson and the entire Black Lives Matter movement, arguing that "Black Lives Matter leadership ratified all action taken during the protest. DeRay Mckesson ratified all action taken during the Baton Rouge protest." Mckesson "incited the violence," the suit alleged. But it offered no specific evidence--Mckesson's alleged "incitement" was, the suit said, telling The New York Times that "The police want protestors to be too afraid to protest."

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Is Donald Trump a supporter of Israel? Sure -- he's also an anti-Semite (MATTHEW ROZSA, DECEMBER 14, 2019, Salon)

Trump has demonstrated on a number of occasions that he views groups of people in terms of generalities; when a person does this for some groups, the odds are better than not that they do so for all of them.

When it comes to Jews, Trump has a tendency to forget that being Jewish does not automatically mean that one identifies with Israel. In a speech to the Israeli American Council last Saturday, Trump said, "You have people that are Jewish people, that are great people -- they don't love Israel enough. You know that. You know that." In that same speech he commented that American Jews need to support Trump in order to prevent a wealth tax (presumably the one advocated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren), arguing, "You're going to be my biggest supporters because you'll be out of business in about 15 minutes" if such a tax is enacted.

These remarks were not an anomaly for Trump. In August he said, "Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty" because specific Democrats (such as Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota) have been critical of Israel. In 2015 he told the Republican Jewish Coalition that "you're not going to support me because I don't want your money" and remarked, "Is there anyone in this room who doesn't negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I've ever spoken." (Incidentally, this author was targeted by America's most notorious neo-Nazi, Andrew Anglin, after writing an article criticizing that speech.)

The president has not only been guilty of overt anti-Semitism. He has tended to define himself as a "nationalist" and his adversaries as "globalists," a term often used as an anti-Semitic dog whistle. Near the end of the 2016 campaign, Trump released an ad that denounced "those who control the levers of power in Washington" and "the global special interests" while showing pictures of philanthropist George Soros, then-Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jewish. The only non-Jew shown in the ad was the Hillary Clinton, with the clear insinuation that she was the puppet of a Jewish conspiracy.

Israel's current politics, which endorses taking over Palestine and treating non-Jews as second class citizens--even arguing that a government that included Arab parties would be illegitimate--is a natural for Nationalist approval.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Trump's Racist Ban on Anti-Semitism (IAN BURUMA, 12/13/19, Project Syndicate)

Trump just signed an executive order requiring that federal money be withheld from educational institutions that fail to combat anti-Semitism. Since Jews are identified in this order as a discriminated group on the grounds of ethnic, racial, or national characteristics, an attack on Israel would be anti-Semitic by definition. This is indeed the position of Jared Kushner, Trump's Jewish son-in-law, who believes that "anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism."

There are, of course, as many forms of anti-Semitism as there are interpretations of what it means to be Jewish. When Trump and his supporters rant in campaign rallies about shadowy cabals of international financiers who undermine the interests of "ordinary, decent people," some might interpret that as a common anti-Semitic trope, especially when an image of George Soros is brandished to underline this message. Trump even hinted at the possibility that the liberal Jewish human rights promoter and philanthropist was deliberately funding "caravans" of refugees and illegal aliens so that they could spread mayhem in the US. In Soros's native Hungary, attacks on him as a cosmopolitan enemy of the people are unmistakably anti-Semitic.

Conspiracy theories about sinister Jewish power have a long history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery published in 1903, popularized the notion that Jewish bankers and financiers were secretly pulling the strings to dominate the world. Henry Ford was one of the more prominent people who believed this nonsense.

The history of extreme anti-Zionism is not so long. In the first years of the Jewish state, Israel was popular among many leftists, because it was built on socialist ideas. Left-wing opinion in Europe and the United States began to turn against Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967, when Arab territories were occupied by Israeli troops. More and more, Israel came to be seen as a colonial power, or an apartheid state.

One may or may not agree with that view of Israel. But few would argue that occupation, as is usually the case when civilians are under the thumb of a foreign military power, has led to oppression. So, to be a strong advocate for Palestinian rights and a critic of Israeli policies, on college campuses or anywhere else, does not automatically make one an anti-Semite. 

December 13, 2019

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At White House Hanukkah party Trump hails pastor who says Jews going to hell (RON KAMPEAS, 12/13/19, JTA)

Robert Jeffress, a pastor who has said Jews and other non-Christians were destined for hell, was a guest at US President Donald Trump's Hanukkah party. [...]

"Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, not only do they lead people away from the true God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in hell," he said in 2009.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called out the Trump administration last year for inviting Jeffress to give the convocation at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM

INCEL-IN-CHIEF (deviance alert):

Trump Doesn't Think Much of Young Women (Zak Cheney-Rice, 12/13/19, New York)

Far from aberrant, Trump's impulse to diminish young girls in particular by characterizing their accomplishments as worthwhile primarily in terms of whether their outward appearance pleases him is part of a pattern. His misogyny is well documented: From his leering behavior at Miss America events to the myriad accusations of sexual assault he faces, not to mention his proud declaration that he grabs women by the genitals unprompted, loom as large over his presidency as they did his 2016 campaign. And despite his repeated denials of physical misconduct, Trump's rhetoric indicates an almost uniformly reductive view of women that privileges how they look above all else. His criticism of Thunberg's seriousness is scarcely different from men on the street imploring women passersby to smile for them. This outlook is no more apparent than in how he's spoken about his own daughters. In a 2006 interview on The View, he said he would "perhaps" date Ivanka Trump were she not related to him. In a 1994 interview with Robin Leach, he was asked which traits then 1-year-old Tiffany Trump inherited from her parents, himself and Marla Maples.

His response, via HuffPost:

"Well, I think she's got a lot of Marla, she's a really beautiful baby," said Trump, who sat next to Maples. "She's got Marla's legs. We don't know whether or not she's got this part yet, but time will tell," Trump added, while cupping his hands to his chest to indicate breasts.

On the subject of girls and what makes them notable, Trump has been fairly consistent throughout his adult life. A man who proudly anticipates his infant daughter's breast size while sitting next to her mother on national TV should surprise no one by criticizing a 16-year-old Time magazine cover star on the basis that she looks too glum. Perhaps less predictable is that casting pejoratives against children would become such a reliable line of attack for conservatives who lack substantive responses to the issues on whose behalf those children advocate. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Abbas urges Arab Israelis to vote for Knesset: They can have 'major influence' (ADAM RASGON, 12 December 2019, Times of Israel)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently asserted that Arab Israelis would become a "major influencer" in Israel's politics, if only they would turn out for national elections at similar levels as they do for municipal votes.

He also expressed criticism of Arab Israelis who he said shun the elections in Israel because they consider the Knesset to be a "Zionist council," and lashed out at members of the majority-Arab Joint List party for quarreling over what he described as "trivial matters."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Strange History of the Black Hebrew Israelites, as Group is Tied to Jersey City Murders (Mark Potok, Dec. 12, 2019, Daily Beast)

Perhaps the most bizarre thing about Black Hebrew Israelism is the way it mirrors, with only a change in color, the ideas of Christian Identity. Identity is an important white supremacist theology practiced in many Klan groups, along with other entities like the once-important Aryan Nations. Its hardline version describes Jews as the offspring of a literal sexual union between Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, always at work on behalf of their progenitor, Satan.

Black Hebrew Israelism is not the only strand of organized black anti-Semitism in America. The largest black hate group, the Nation of Islam, does not traffic in bible stories but it is heavily anti-Semitic, with its leaders offering a string of vicious comments about Jews along with falsely accusing them of being the primary purveyors of the transatlantic slave trade.

Bizarrely, the Jersey attack came the same day it was reported that President Trump was expected to sign an executive order that effectively treats Jews as a "nationality" rather than a religious group -- despite the undisputed fact that Jews are not a single ethnicity. The vast majority of Jews, for instance, accept that Ethiopian Jews, who are black, are in fact Jewish.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Another GOP state senator won't seek re-election (Times Union, Dec. 11, 2019)

For the fourth time in two weeks, a state Senate Republican incumbent has announced they won't seek re-election in 2020.

Wednesday morning's news came from Rochester-area Sen. Joe Robach, who has served in the chamber since 2003. [...]

Democrats won a significant majority in 2018, taking back control of the chamber for the first time since 2010. The GOP's prospects for recovery next year face the challenge of expected high voter turnout in a blue state during a presidential election year.

Since Thanksgiving, three other GOP senators have made the same announcement: George Amedore of Rotterdam, Betty Little from the North Country and Michael Ranzenhofer of western New York.

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Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bevin pardons a KY man convicted of beheading a woman and stuffing her in a barrel ( DANIEL DESROCHERS, 12/12/19, Lexington Herald-Leader)

It's not clear if Betty Carnes was killed by asphyxiation or by the eight blows to her head that Delmar Partin delivered with a metal pipe. The coroner couldn't tell which killed the mother of three first, but it was very clear that her head was then chopped off and placed on her lap in a 55-gallon barrel that was destined for a toxic waste site.

On Monday, departing Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned and commuted the sentence of Partin, who was convicted of killing her at the factory where they both worked in Barbourville in 1994.

In his order, Bevin said he pardoned Partin because potential DNA evidence had not been tested. [...]

The prosecutor on the case, Tom Handy, said he hasn't been this angry in a long time. He called the governor's pardon "mystifying." [...]

In the Partin case, Handy painted the picture of a grisly murder, one where no blood was found because Partin used a hook meant for hunting alligators to cut off the blood flow to Carnes' head.

Partin and Carnes worked together at the Tremco Plant in Barbourville and had been having an affair that she had recently ended.

"He hated her so much and he wanted to punish her with her looking at him before he cut her head off," Handy said. "The evil is unimaginable."

There's nothing more on-brand than Donald and his minions raging at women, or girls.

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