June 2, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 PM


Harvard Law Journal Concludes Unborn Babies Have Constitutional Rights (CORTNEY O'BRIEN, JUN 2, 2017, Life News)

The Fourteenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1868, declares that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." A debate that has been raging in courtrooms for years is whether the "life" part includes unborn persons.

Harvard Law student Joshua Craddock did some constitutional soul searching to answer that question in a new report for the Harvard Law Journal, concluding that unborn babies do fall under the Fourteenth Amendment's protections.

One might look to dictionaries of legal and common usage, the context of the English common law tradition, and cases that attempted to construe the meaning of the text in a manner consistent with original meaning. Using this methodology, it is reasonable to construe the Fourteenth Amendment to include prenatal life. The structure of the argument is simple: The Fourteenth Amendment's use of the word "person" guarantees due process and equal protection to all members of the human species. The preborn are members of the human species from the moment of fertilization. Therefore, the Fourteenth Amendment protects the preborn. If one concedes the minor premise (that preborn humans are members of the human species), all that must be demonstrated is that the term "person," in its original public meaning at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment's adoption, applied to all members of the human species.

In addition to using language to prove his point, Craddock puts his conclusions in context, noting that at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was written, several states called the unborn person a "child" in their anti-abortion laws. Moreover, The Stream notes, in 1859, the American Medical Association mandated that the government must protect the "independent and actual existence of the child before birth."

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 PM


India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green (GEETA ANAND, JUNE 2, 2017, NY Times)

Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020.

India's plans were cited by American critics of the Paris climate accord as proof of the futility of advanced nations trying to limit their carbon output. But now, even as President Trump pulls the United States out of the pact, India has undergone an astonishing turnaround, driven in great part by a steep fall in the cost of solar power.

Experts now say that India not only has no need of any new coal-fired plants for at least a decade, given that existing plants are running below 60 percent of capacity, but that after that it could rely on renewable sources for all its additional power needs.

Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And this month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million.

The entire coal industry employs fewer people than Arby's (Christopher Ingraham March 31, 2017, Washington Post)

Another largely overlooked point about coal jobs is that there just aren't that many of them relative to other industries. There are various estimates of coal-sector employment, but according to the Census Bureau's County Business Patterns program, which allows for detailed comparisons with many other industries, the coal industry employed 76,572 people in 2014, the latest year for which data is available.

That number includes not just miners but also office workers, sales staff and all of the other individuals who work at coal-mining companies.

Although 76,000 might seem like a large number, consider that similar numbers of people are employed by, say, the bowling (69,088) and skiing (75,036) industries. Other dwindling industries, such as travel agencies (99,888 people), employ considerably more. Used-car dealerships provide 138,000 jobs. Theme parks provide nearly 144,000. Carwash employment tops 150,000.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas : How it is that we once again find ourselves rooting out sin, shunning heretics, and heralding the end times (JOSEPH BOTTUM, 12/01/14, Weekly Standard)

Every day she must search her conscience. Every day she must confront her flaws--discern the dark that dwells within her, seek the grace to turn toward the light. Oh, she is a moral person, she believes: good willed and determined to do good deeds, instructing us all about the heart's deep iniquity. But even she, Kim Radersma, a former schoolteacher now preaching our bondage to sin--even she still feels the fault inside her. Even she must struggle to be saved. And if someone like Kim Radersma has to fight the legacy of inner evil, think of all that you must do. Think how far you are from grace, when you do not even yet know that you are lost and blind.

In another age, Radersma might have been a revivalist out on the sawdust circuit, playing the old forthright hymns on a wheezy harmonium as the tent begins to fill. In a different time, she might have been a temperance lecturer, inveighing in her passion-raw voice against the evils of the Demon Rum. In days gone by, she might have been a missionary to heathen China, or an author of Bible Society tracts, or the Scripture-quoting scourge of civic indifference--railing to the city-council members that they are like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:16, neither hot nor cold, and God will spew them from his mouth.

But all such old American Christian might-have-beens are unreal in the present world, for someone like Kim Radersma. Mockable, for that matter, and many of her fellow activists today identify Christianity with the history of all that they oppose. She wouldn't know a theological doctrine or a biblical quotation if she ran into it headlong. And so Radersma now fights racism: the deep racism that lurks unnoticed in our thoughts and in our words and in our hearts.

The better to gird herself for the struggle, she gave up teaching high-school students to attend the Ph.D. program in Critical Whiteness Studies at Ontario's Brock University. But even such total immersion is not enough to wash away the stain of inherited sin. "I have to every day wake up and acknowledge that I am so deeply embedded with racist thoughts and notions and actions in my body," she testified to a teachers' conference on white privilege this spring. "I have to choose every day to do antiracist work and think in an antiracist way."

Radersma is hardly alone in feeling this way (except perhaps for the peculiar bit about racist actions in her body). Discussions of the kind of racial privilege that she hates have been much in the news. A Princeton undergraduate named Tal Fortgang, for example, received considerable notice for a student newspaper column in which he recounted the Holocaust suffering and hard work of his family, all to explain why he rejected Ivy League demands that he identify himself as racially and economically privileged. Television host Bill O'Reilly mocked a "Checking Your Privilege" orientation program at Harvard, claiming to be exempt from white privilege himself because he had to find jobs while he was young. And the response from any number of commentators was that Fortgang and O'Reilly just didn't get it. Just didn't grasp the insidious way the shared guilt of racism appears in the form of white privilege. Just didn't see their own sinfulness.

So profound is the sin, in fact, that not even its proponents escape. The more they are aware of white privilege, the more they see it everywhere, even in themselves. "There is not space here to list all the ways in which white privilege plays out, but it is clear that I will carry this privilege with me until the day white supremacy is erased," admitted University of Texas professor Robert Jensen in an essay assigned to Wisconsin high-school students in 2013. At the Daily Beast website, columnist Sally Kohn added that "racial bias is baked" into American history. "It's just something we all learn to do." She did note the nearly universal condemnation that met explicitly racist comments from the likes of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and California billionaire Donald Sterling this year. But all that, she insisted, actually distracts from awareness of the real racism that dwells in every white American heart.

Some of this, of course, derives from the perception of actual economic and social effects still lingering in the long aftermath of racial slavery and segregation. But taken just as a concept, considered purely in its moral shape, white privilege is something we've seen before--for the idea is structurally identical to the Christian idea of original sin. Indeed, the relation involves more than just a logical parallel, the natural contours of any idea about shared guilt and inherited fault. Historically and genealogically (as Nietzsche taught us to phrase such things), there is a clear path that leads from original sin, in which the most advanced Americans once commonly believed, to the idea of white privilege that they now assume.

The problem is that they choose to feel guilty only about things that they/we can neither be blamed for nor change, instead of for their/our actual sins. It's fun to wallow in chattel slavery.  After all, the fact that we ended it generations ago means we don't have to actually do anything about it know.  By both dwelling on it and, obviously, not engaging in it, we get a cheap feeling of superiority.  On the other hand, Ms Radersma and her cohort could be a positive force against ongoing racism if they were active against abortion, which has killed more American blacks than were imported to America as slaves.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 PM



THE ROBOT IS building a tesseract. He motions at a glowing cube floating before him, and an identical cube emerges. He drags it to the left, but the two cubes stay connected, strung together by glowing lines radiating from their corners. The robot lowers its hands, and the cubes coalesce into a single shape--with 24 square faces, 16 vertices, and eight connected cubes existing in four dimensions. A tesseract.

This isn't a video game. It's a classroom. And the robot is Brian Greene, a physicist at Columbia University and bestselling author of several popular science books. His robot avatar teaches a semicircle of student robots, each wearing a shoulder badge of their home country's flag. The classroom is outer space: Greene and the arc of student-robots orbit Earth. After he shows the students the tesseract, Greene directs his class to try making four, five, even six dimension objects. This is a virtual reality course on string theory; the lesson happens to be about objects with more than three dimensions.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


Trump's So-Called Withdrawal from Paris: Far From Over (Harold Hongju Koh, Dena Adler, Joanna Dafoe, Peter Posada, Conor Dwyer Reynolds and Eugene Rusyn, June 2, 2017, jUSTlAW)

On Thursday, President Trump announced his intent that the United States "withdraw" from the Paris Agreement, the landmark climate change treaty that establishes national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. If the United States were actually to exit the Agreement, it would not only jeopardize humanity's best chance at preventing global climate disaster, but also disadvantage the United States' status in the international economic order. Thankfully, President Trump's rhetoric launched little meaningful legal action--for the simple reason that we're still a part of the Paris Agreement until after the next presidential election.

International law makes clear that U.S. presidents cannot simply delete signatures like the one on the Paris Agreement. The U.S. entered into the Paris Agreement under the full force of the law, and the global community can only recognize withdrawal under the terms specified in the agreement text. Article 28.1 of the Paris Agreement states a party cannot give notice of withdrawal to the U.N. Secretary General until "three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force." Since the Paris Agreement entered force on November 4, 2016--mere days before Trump's election--the earliest date that the U.S. could even give such legal notice would be November 4, 2019. That notification would then take a year to enter into effect, meaning that Trump cannot legally withdraw the U.S. from the Agreement until November 4, 2020, the day after the next U.S. presidential election.

In the meantime, it is not clear what legal meaning Trump's withdrawal announcement really has. [...]

Businesses have also seized the important opportunity to address climate change and support the Paris Agreement. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, pioneered by Bill Gates, will invest $1 billion in companies that provide affordable clean energy. Through the We Mean Business Coalition, 471 companies with over $8 trillion in market capitalization have undertaken more than 1000 climate action commitments. For this same reason, hundreds of major companies and investors, including DuPont, eBay, Nike, Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co., Hilton, Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Hewlett Packard have publicly urged President Trump to remain in the Paris Agreement. Even oil and gas companies--including Shell and Exxon Mobil--have endorsed remaining in the agreement. President Trump claims his job is to give America "a level playing field" and that the Paris Agreement would provide other countries with "an economic edge" over the United States, but business leaders have agreed that future economic prosperity is best advanced by remaining in the Paris Agreement.

These actions are real while Trump's Rose Garden speech yesterday has as much legal force as one of his tweets. 

The agreement will be obsolete by then.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Former Diplomats: Trump Team Sought to Lift Sanctions on Russia (KEN DILANIAN, 6/01/17, NBC News)

The Trump administration was gearing up to lift sanctions on Russia when the president took office, but career diplomats ginned up pressure in Congress to block the move, two senior former State Department officials told NBC News Thursday.

It's the latest evidence that President Trump moved to turn his favorable campaign rhetoric about Russia into concrete action when he took power.

Daniel Fried, who served as a senior diplomat until he retired in late February, said he became aware of the sanctions effort in the early weeks of Trump's presidency. [...]

So Fried and another former diplomat, Tom Malinowski, who was assistant secretary of state for human rights, began lobbying Congress to pass legislation codifying the sanctions, Malinowski told NBC News. A bill has been introduced in the Senate, but it has not passed.

The Trump team backed off, Malinowski said he believes, because officials came to see that lifting the sanctions would look terrible light of the drumbeat of revelations over potential Trump campaign coordination with the Russian election interference effort.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM