September 25, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 PM


Federal judge removes acting Bureau of Land Management director after finding he has served unlawfully for 424 days (Kyle Feldscher and Andy Rose, 9/25/20, CNN)

"Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting BLM Director," Morris wrote in his opinion. "His ascent to Acting BLM Director did not follow any of the permissible paths set forth by the U.S. Constitution or the (Federal Vacancies Reform Act). Pendley has not been nominated by the President and has not been confirmed by the Senate to serve as BLM Director."

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 10:09 PM


Bill Barr has 'brought shame' on the Justice Department, says US prosecutor (Charles Davis, 9/25/20, bUSINESS iNSIDER)

Attorney General Bill Barr "has brought shame" on the US Department of Justice, a current federal prosecutor wrote in a highly unusual public call-out, decrying "the unprecedented politicization of the officer of the attorney general."

"The attorney general acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump," James D. Herbert, assistant US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, wrote in a September 24 letter published by The Boston Globe. "This is a dangerous abuse of power."

Posted by orrinj at 10:05 PM


The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid's Tale, explained (Constance Grady, Sep 25, 2020, Vox)

To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid's Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court will occur -- and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid's Tale carries in American popular culture.

Two coincidences led to the idea that there is a People of Praise-Handmaid's Tale connection. The first coincidence is that the People of Praise once had a religious rank called "handmaid." As reported by the New York Times in 2017, People of Praise members are all accountable to a personal adviser. Those advisers offer guidance on major life decisions, including, per the Times, "whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children." And these advisers used to be called "heads" when they were men and "handmaids" when they were women. They have since been renamed "leaders."

The second coincidence is that when Margaret Atwood explained her Handmaid's Tale inspirations to the New York Times in 1987, she described one of them as "a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect, which calls the women handmaids." Atwood did not at the time name the sect, so when her quote resurfaced in 2020, it was very easy for some readers to think, Well, People of Praise is a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect that calls the women handmaids, so there you go. Accordingly, on September 21, Newsweek reported that People of Praise was one of Atwood's inspirations for The Handmaid's Tale.

Asked about her inspiration for The Handmaid's Tale by Politico as the controversy heated up, Atwood said she wasn't sure which group she was talking about in 1987. Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can't currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she's on the record as going through her Handmaid's Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she's always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


QAnon an old form of anti-Semitism in a new package, say experts (BEN SALES, 20 September 2020, JTA)

Scott Wiener, a California state senator, has been barraged with anti-Semitic attacks online, including one falsely accusing him of promoting "Jewish pedophilia."

A Republican congressional candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, appeared to accuse George Soros and the Rothschild family of being involved in a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. On Twitter, she has repeatedly called Soros, a Jewish billionaire, of being an "enemy of the people."

On September 11, a Facebook group's post claimed that an Israeli company knew about the 2001 terrorists attacks in advance.

These smears have at least one thing in common: They come from followers of QAnon, the vast -- and patently false -- theory that Democrats across the country are running a secret cabal to abduct and abuse children, harvest their blood and defeat Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


The 9 discarded ballots were tossed because Republicans won their lawsuit requiring them to not be counted: report (David Badash, 9/25/20, Raw Story)

"Because these ballots were returned in envelopes similar to absentee ballot requests, elections officials opened them," The Washington Post reports. "If the ballots weren't then enclosed in another envelope which shielded the actual vote being cast, they may have been considered 'naked ballots,' a term used to describe mail ballots returned without the voter's intent being protected.

The Trump campaign and the Pennsylvania GOP in a lawsuit argued that "naked ballots" should not be counted. They won that lawsuit. These nine ballots appear to be "naked ballots," and that appears to be the reason they were thrown out.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


'Why Bother?': Pelosi Suggests Biden Skip Presidential Debates (BRITTANY BERNSTEIN, September 25, 2020. National Review)

"Not that I don't think he'll be excellent," she continued. "I just think that the president has no fidelity to fact or truth and, actually in his comments the last few days, no fidelity to the Constitution of the United States."

Incumbent presidents almost always lose the first debate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


100 online courses from Coursera are $0 now through December 31 -- here's a list of all the classes open for free enrollment (Mara Leighton, 9/25/20, Business Insider)

Online-learning site Coursera is offering 100 classes for free from now through December 31, 2020, to support access to online education for those who are social distancing in an effort to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus. 

The free courses span many categories, including mental health and well-being, career development, cloud technology, language learning, and understanding public health and global emergencies. They vary in aspirations as well, from developing new skills for a promotion or career switch to academic to personal or family practical planning. They're also catered to a variety of demographics, from high school and college students to adults. Most hail from universities, like Yale, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, but a handful are offered by companies such as Google and Amazon.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Trump camp hopes normalization pacts translate to Jewish support at polls (ELANA SCHOR and JACK JENKINS, 9/25/20, AP)

Jewish American voters have leaned Democratic for decades, but Republicans are hoping the recent steps toward normalized relations between Gulf states and Israel -- which US President Donald Trump vigorously touted earlier this month -- bolster his appeal to Jewish voters.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Catholic and evangelical voters fleeing Trump due to his lack of 'basic kindness': NBC (Tom Boggioni, 9/25/20, Raw Story)

Now that Christian voters have watched him in action for nearly four years, Pagitt claims his "organization has found in an extensive survey of religious voters in five swing states that Trump's unkindness is correlated with significant defections from the president."

"Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have seen an 11 percentage point aggregated shift in support among evangelical and Catholic voters toward Joe Biden and away from Trump compared to 2016, according to our online poll," he wrote, saying his numbers are mirrored by a recent Fox News Poll. Pointing out that his poll, "surveyed a representative sample of evangelicals and Catholics across gender, race and age within each state," Pagitt explained how his poll was conducted by comparing perceptions of both candidates when it comes to the seven virtues: kindness, generosity, humility, chastity, modesty, diligence and patience.

"Across all the virtues measured -- on average, 50 percent of respondents rated Biden as more virtuous than Trump, and 39 percent rated Trump as more virtuous than Biden, with the largest gaps emerging around the virtues of humility and modesty (28 points and 22 points in Biden's favor, respectively)," ex explained. "Across the seven sins -- lust, sloth, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy and pride -- on average, 51 percent of respondents rated Trump as more sinful than Biden, and 37 percent rated Biden as more sinful than Trump, with the largest gaps emerging around the sins of pride and anger (29 points and 26 points in Biden's favor, respectively)."

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Democrats to Propose Bill Limiting Supreme Court Justice Terms to 18 Years (MAIREAD MCARDLE, September 25, 2020, National Review)

House Democrats are planning to introduce a bill next week that would limit the terms of Supreme Court justices to 18 years instead of their current lifetime tenure, just as President Trump prepares to announce a nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat.

The bill, the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act, was spearheaded by lead sponsor Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, who is expected to introduce the bill next week, along with cosponsors Representatives Joe Kennedy III and Don Beyer.

"It would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric," Khanna said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


The Political Philosopher Who Predicted Our Age of Hypocrisy (JOSHUA KEATING, SEPT 25, 2020, Slate)

The near-constant accusations of hypocrisy may be a warning sign that something is deeply rotten in U.S. politics. The political theorist Judith Shklar warned 40 years ago about the dangers of a "pattern of ideological politics in which charges of hypocrisy are exchanged with unbroken regularity." She described a form of politics in which rather than arguing over principle, political factions instead tried to prove that their opponents didn't actually believe their own principles. Her message is well worth remembering today.

Born in 1928 in Latvia, her family fled to Canada when she was a child--escaping both the Nazis and the Soviets. She later moved to the U.S. to study, and became a leading political theorist at Harvard. While less remembered than fellow liberal giants of political theory of her era like Isaiah Berlin and John Rawls, her vision of a "liberalism of fear"--in which preventing cruelty, and the fear it creates, by both public and private actors, is the primary goal of liberal politics, has been garnering some renewed attention lately.

In her 1982 book, Ordinary Vices, she makes the case that cruelty is the primary sin of politics, but also devotes a series of essays to several competing political "vices," including hypocrisy.

Shklar doesn't defend hypocrisy, exactly, but sees it as inevitable. The supposed egalitarianism of our society, she writes, "does not arise from sincerity. It is based on the pretense that we must speak to each other as if social standings were a matter of indifference." She continues: "Our manners are just as artificial as those seen at Versailles in Moliere's day, but they are infinitely more democratic."

In her view, democratic debate itself requires us to be a bit hypocritical. It's less important that we have genuine respect for people with whom we fundamentally disagree than that we act as if we do, and conduct ourselves as if those views are worth of respect.

To Shklar, accusing an opponent of hypocrisy in the course of a political debate is a form of "psychic warfare" meant to "collapse his self-image."

"And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables"

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Hydrogen-powered passenger plane completes maiden flight in 'world first' (Anmar Frangoul, 9/25/20, CNBC)

The next step of the HyFlyer project will see ZeroAvia work toward carrying out a flight of between 250 and 300 nautical miles from the Orkney Islands, an archipelago located in waters off the north coast of mainland Scotland. The plane on this flight will use hydrogen-fuel cells. It's hoped this trip will happen before the end of 2020.

The news on ZeroAvia's flight bookends a week in which European aerospace giant Airbus released details of three hydrogen-fueled concept planes, saying they could enter service by the year 2035.

The designs, named ZEROe, differ in size and style, but are all meant to be zero-emission, using hydrogen as their primary source of power.

One of the designs offers a radical vision of how airplanes could look in the years ahead. Carrying as many as 200 passengers, the "blended-wing body" concept would see wings "merge" with the aircraft's main body.

While the widespread adoption of hydrogen power in aircraft is still some way off, land-based forms of transport are already using the technology, albeit on a small scale. Hydrogen buses have been introduced to the U.K. capital of London, for example.

Elsewhere, European firm Alstom has developed the Coradia iLint, a train that harnesses fuel-cell technology to turn oxygen and hydrogen into electricity.

According to the company, it can reach speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour), is low-noise and "emits only steam and water."

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Feds air FBI agent's gripes about Flynn probe (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 09/25/2020, Politico)

A 13-page summary of an interview with Flynn case agent William Barnett, made public in a court filing by prosecutors just before midnight Thursday, also revealed that the veteran agent harbored deep doubts and skepticism about the merits of the investigation into Flynn's potential ties with Russia -- at least in its early stages -- and questioned the Mueller team's tactics in the broader probe of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

Though Barnett said he repeatedly expressed those doubts to colleagues and superiors -- and says he feared groupthink and a "get Trump" attitude was driving the investigation forward -- he continued to be included in the work of Mueller's attorneys during sensitive interviews.

He damns his own theory of the case.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


WHY WRITERS ARE ALWAYS IN PURSUIT OF THE MALTESE FALCON: Ninety years later, the draw of Hammett's mysterious bird statuette remains strong, especially for writers. (GORDON MCALPINE, 9/25/20, Crime Reads)

The Maltese Falcon may be thought of as a novel by Dashiell Hammett published in 1930 or as a trio of film adaptations produced between 1931 and 1941 (the middle of the three being a comedic mess renamed "Satan Met a Lady" and the last being the John Huston/Humphrey Bogart classic). Additionally, the Maltese Falcon may be thought of as the statuette itself--an objet d'art of legendary repute and incalculable financial value. Or the Maltese Falcon may be regarded in terms of the narrative purpose it serves in the story; that is, to use a term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock to stand for any object that entices characters and drives plot, a "MacGuffin." Unattainable, perhaps, but irresistible. A great part of the enduring appeal of the Maltese Falcon is the ineffable quality these varied references suggest. For this reason, I demur when it comes to grounding the Falcon with any one definition, volunteering instead only to share here what the Maltese Falcon has come to mean to me and what I suspect it may represent for many other authors as well, even if they have never given a single thought to the mythical black bird.

Some years ago, I came across a quote from Dashiell Hammett in a 1934 edition of the New York Evening Journal that changed the direction of my own writing. "All of my characters are real," Hammett said. "They are based directly on people I knew or came across."

The proper reading is that the author wished he had the moral courage of his hero, who grassed on the criminal.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Bring Civics Back to the Classroom (DOUG DUCEY, September 25, 2020, National Review)

Decades of neglected civics education have resulted in widespread ignorance of America's history and founding principles.

Margaret Thatcher once said, "European nations were made by history. The United States was made by philosophy. Unique among all nations, the United States knows precisely when and exactly why it was founded."

Today, that may be changing. Survey after survey shows that Americans have a dismally poor understanding of the founding principles underpinning our nation.

Only one in four Americans can name all three branches of government. Seventy percent don't know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

It gets worse. According to a jaw-dropping survey recently commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), nearly two-thirds of young adults don't know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly a quarter said they believed that the Holocaust was a myth, or it had been exaggerated, or they weren't sure.

What's more, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which regularly issues national report cards on such topics as civics, geography, and U.S. history, found that three-quarters of eighth-graders were unable to demonstrate a proficient understanding of democratic citizenship, government, or American constitutional democracy.

For elected officials, education leaders, parents, and concerned citizens everywhere, these statistics should be a call to action. Our democracy depends on an engaged and informed citizenry. We need a swift intervention -- which begins with the family and is solidified in the classroom.

Suburban mothers have, understandably, driven the trend towards making education mere job training, but with the declining likelihood that their kids will even be able to get jobs, it's an especially good time to return schools to emphasizing civics, as a healthy republic requires.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Fox News won a court case by 'persuasively' arguing that no 'reasonable viewer' takes Tucker Carlson seriously (Sonam Sheth, 9/25/20, Business Insider)

The judge agreed with Fox's premise, adding that the network "persuasively argues ... that given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statements he makes."

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Two key numbers that make battery storage better bet than gas peakers (Giles Parkinson, 25 September 2020, Renew Economy)

In the US, even with cheap gas, most major utilities are deciding that battery storage is a better bet to meet peak demand problems that gas generators. In Australia, many utilities are leaning the same way, although not the federal government and its wholly owned Snowy Hydro.

If the gas plant proposed for Liddell is a peaking plant - and no one in Australia is seriously considering a "baseload" replacement due to the cost of gas - then it's likely to be rarely used. And when it is used, it will be very expensive.

That's where battery storage comes in as a battery option. AGL has recognised this and hailed the "dawn of the battery era", and is rapidly recalibrating its plans as it recognises the increasingly compelling case for big batteries.

This is driven not only by the anticipated fall in the cost of battery storage (Tesla pointed to a more than 50 per cent reduction over the next three years at its long awaited Battery Day), but also the development of markets that enable battery storage to be properly rewarded for the multitude of services that it can deliver.

September 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 PM


Trump's former Coast Guard chief endorses Biden, cites 'insurgency' on the Constitution (LARA SELIGMAN, 09/24/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump's former four-star head of the Coast Guard is speaking out on his decision to endorse Joe Biden, saying it's due to an "insurgency" on Americans' constitutional rights that has occurred on the commander in chief's watch.

Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who stepped down as commandant of the Coast Guard in June 2018, is one of almost 500 former national security leaders who signed an open letter released Thursday questioning Trump's fitness for command.

Posted by orrinj at 10:06 PM


Nearly Half of Suburban Voters Support Joe Biden, Poll Says (DANIEL VILLARREAL, 9/24/20, Newsweek)

Anew poll shows Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden leading Republican President Donald Trump among suburban voters by 46 percent to 39 percent, a margin of 7 points.

The finding is significant as suburban voters are traditionally considered as more conservative. In 2016, Trump won the country's overall suburban vote by five percentage points. The demographic was crucial to his victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

This new poll also contradicts Trump's own claim of support amongst suburban woman, as have two other recent polls.

If he can't even hit his 42% ceiling in the suburbs this gets super ugly.

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 PM


Steele dossier sub-source was suspected of spying for Russia, DOJ reveals (ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 09/24/2020, Politico)

The declassified footnote states that Steele's primary sub-source "was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 that assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian intelligence officers." It does not, however, say what the FBI ultimately concluded about the sub-source, who has been publicly identified in the New York Times and other outlets.

after years of arguing his sources must have been peripheral, the Right concedes their value.  This gang really can't shoot straight.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Attorney General Bill Barr loses effort to block Andrew McCabe from suing for retaliatory firing (Sarah K. Burris, 9/24/20, Raw Story)

In a lawsuit against the Justice Department, McCabe alleged that the firing was retaliation after improper political interference by President Donald Trump.

"It was Trump's unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him," the complaint alleges.

If it's a court case it must be a ruling against Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Trump's own FBI director shoots down his bogus conspiracy theories about mass voter fraud (ALEX HENDERSON, SEPTEMBER 24, 2020, AlterNet)

During his testimony, Wray told Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, "We take all election-related threats seriously, whether it's voter fraud, voter suppression -- whether it's in person, whether it's by mail. And our role is to investigate the threat actors. Now, we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:24 PM


South Korea Has COVID Under Control. Here's What Daily Life Looks Like Now (Katie Way, September 24, 2020, Vice News)

We spoke with Junhyup Kwon, a writer with VICE World News living in South Korea, about what life is like in a country where COVID-19 has been less of a challenge to control. 

VICE: Hi Junhyup! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Are you back in the VICE office? 

Junhyup Kwon: Hi Katie! I still work from home--everyone here in the VICE office still works from home. I currently live in Anyang, which is a satellite city of Seoul, South Korea. Some companies already lifted their work-from-home system, and some companies still let their employees work from home. Many of my friends or work from home. 

Before, it was not really common in Korea to work from home, because our work culture puts a lot of importance on the relationship between colleagues. I think that's the biggest challenge for a lot of people, because there is not a big difference from life now to normal life before the pandemic.

That's really interesting to hear. What kind of COVID-19 prevention measures are impacting daily life right now?

Now, the only thing is that we cannot travel abroad, but still, many people travel within the country and go on vacation. In the beginning, there was a stigma, but it has been already more than six months, because we experienced this from February. Right now, there are no big restrictions here--everything is open, we just wear masks and practice social distancing. 

It's not as hard as the SATs, Donald.

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