July 9, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 PM


When Will Electric Cars Go Mainstream? It May Be Sooner Than You Think (BRAD PLUMERJULY 8, 2017, NY TIMES)

 A new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research group, suggests that the price of plug-in cars is falling much faster than expected, spurred by cheaper batteries and aggressive policies promoting zero-emission vehicles in China and Europe.

Between 2025 and 2030, the group predicts, plug-in vehicles will become cost competitive with traditional petroleum-powered cars, even without subsidies and even before taking fuel savings into account. Once that happens, mass adoption should quickly follow.

"Our forecast doesn't hinge on countries adopting stringent new fuel standards or climate policies," said Colin McKerracher, the head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "It's an economic analysis, looking at what happens when the upfront cost of electric vehicles reaches parity. That's when the real shift occurs."

Posted by orrinj at 9:37 PM


California Leads U.S. Economy, Away From Trump : Whatever the president says, this state does the opposite. It's working. (matthew Winkler, May 10, 2017, bLOOMBERG vIEW)

California is the chief reason America is the only developed economy to achieve record GDP growth since the financial crisis of 2008 and ensuing global recession, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Much of the U.S. growth can be traced to California laws promoting clean energy, government accountability and protections for undocumented people. Governor Jerry Brown, now in his fourth term, considers immigrants a major reason for the state's success: "39 percent of us are Latino and the majority are from Mexico," he said in a March 2 interview in his Sacramento office.

In the stock and bond markets, where investors show no allegiance to political parties, California has outperformed the rest of the U.S. the past five years, especially since the Nov. 9 election, when Trump became the fifth person to win the Electoral College and lose the popular vote. California's creditworthiness keeps getting better, measured by the declining premium global investors must pay to ensure against depreciation of the state's debt obligations. That premium has diminished more than for any other state since 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. California, whose voters favored Hillary Clinton two to one, outperformed Treasury bonds since the November election. Texas, which is the second-largest state in population and which supported Trump, became cheaper compared to Treasuries and California in the market for state and local debt since the November election. Investors see security in the state with more protections for immigrants and more regulations.

California's borrowing cost is 0.15 percentage points lower than the average for states and municipalities and has declined to just 0.24 percentage points more than the U.S. pays on its debt, down from 1.97 percentage points in 2013.

At the same time, bonds sold by California's municipalities produced a total return of 2.3 percent since November,  outperforming the benchmark for the U.S., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The growing popularity of bonds sold by California issuers is a consequence of the state's more rigorous regulation of the market, specifically legislation signed by Brown last year, creating greater transparency and accountability for issuers of California debt.

No state or country has created as many laws discouraging fossil fuels and carbon while promoting clean energy. That convergence of policy and voter preference is paying off in the stock market.

Posted by orrinj at 9:32 PM


Trump backtracks on U.S.-Russia cyber unit, says it cannot happen (rEUTERS, 7/09/17)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday backtracked on his push for a cyber security unit with Russia, tweeting that he did not think it could happen, only hours after promoting it following his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 PM


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The Racial and Religious Paranoia of Trump's Warsaw Speech (PETER BEINART,  JUL 6, 2017, The Atlantic)

In his speech in Poland on Thursday, Donald Trump referred 10 times to "the West" and five times to "our civilization." His white nationalist supporters will understand exactly what he means. It's important that other Americans do, too.

The West is not a geographic term. Poland is further east than Morocco. France is further east than Haiti. Australia is further east than Egypt. Yet Poland, France, and Australia are all considered part of "The West." Morocco, Haiti, and Egypt are not.

The West is not an ideological or economic term either. India is the world's largest democracy. Japan is among its most economically advanced nations. No one considers them part of the West.

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white. Where there is ambiguity about a country's "Westernness," it's because there is ambiguity about, or tension between, these two characteristics. Is Latin America Western? Maybe. Most of its people are Christian, but by U.S. standards, they're not clearly white. Are Albania and Bosnia Western? Maybe. By American standards, their people are white. But they are also mostly Muslim.  

Steve Bannon, who along with Stephen Miller has shaped much of Trump's civilizational thinking, has been explicit about this. In a 2014 speech, he celebrated "the long history of the Judeo-Christian West struggle against Islam" and "our forefathers" who "bequeathed to use the great institution that is the church of the West."

During the Cold War, when the contest between Soviet and American power divided Europe along geographic lines, American presidents sometimes contrasted the democratic "West" with the communist "East." But when the Cold War ended, they largely stopped associating America with "the West." Every president from George H.W. Bush to Barack Obama emphasized the portability of America's political and economic principles. The whole point was that democracy and capitalism were not uniquely "Western." They were not the property of any particular religion or race but the universal aspiration of humankind.

To grasp how different that rhetoric was from Trump's, look at how the last Republican President, George W. Bush, spoke when he visited Poland. In his first presidential visit, in 2001, Bush never referred to "the West." He did tell Poles that "We share a civilization." But in the next sentence he insisted that "Its values are universal." Because they are, he declared, "our trans-Atlantic community must have priorities beyond the consolidation of European peace. We must bring peace and health to Africa. ... We must work toward a world that trades in freedom ... a world of cooperation to enhance prosperity, protect the environment, and lift the quality of life for all."

In 2003, Bush returned, and in his main speech didn't use the terms "West" or "civilization" at all. After celebrating Poland's achievements, he said America and Europe "must help men and women around the world to build lives of purpose and dignity" so they don't turn to terrorism. He boasted that America was increasing its funding to fight global poverty and AIDS because "we add to our security by helping to spread freedom and alleviate suffering." And he said "America and Europe must work closely to develop and apply new technologies that will improve our air and water quality, and protect the health of the world's people."

Bush's vision echoed Francis Fukuyama's. America and Europe may have been further along the road to prosperity, liberty, capitalism, and peace than other parts of the world, but all countries could follow their path. And the more each did, the more America and Europe would benefit. In deeply Catholic Poland, Bush sprinkled his speeches with religious references, but they were about Christianity as a universal creed, a moral imperative that knew no civilizational bounds. By contrast, when Trump warned Poles about forces "from the south or the east, that threaten ... to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition," he was talking not about Christianity but about Christendom: a particular religious civilization that must protect itself from outsiders.

Perhaps Mr. Beinart should have been more precise here.  While it is true that Donald and Bannon and company define the West racially, there is no need for the rest of us to cede the definition to such people.  

As the Long War--the Cold War included--demonstrated much of the West did not always share the values of the Anglosphere.  While we reached the End of History--with its requirements of democracy, protestantism and market capitalism-- by 1776, much of continental Europe took another two centuries to accept the inevitable.  But the End is not just accessible to--indeed the destiny of--Europe but of people everywhere.  Prime examples like India and Japan are, of course, Western, having both had the advantage of being Anglo-American colonies.  Indeed, the point Fukuyama and W were making is that everyone can become Western and that there are, in truth, no viable alternatives.  

To the extent that Mr. Beinart accepts Donald's definition of the West he is making a threshold error. To the extent he meant to implicate that definition, demonstrate that it is Donald's and that it is racist, he is correct.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Trump's son met Russian lawyer after promise of information on Clinton: NY Times (Reuters, 7/09/17)

President Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing three advisers to the White House.

...as not to seek a quid pro quo for reversing America's sanctions policy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Saudi Arabia exports extremism to many countries - including Germany, study says : A British study has found that Saudi Arabia plays a key role in the radicalization of Muslims. The Wahhabi influence, fueled by oil money, can be seen in Germany as well, says researcher Susanne Schröter. (Deutsche-welle, 7/09/17)

DW: After the bloody terror attacks in Great Britain, there are an increasing number of studies being conducted on the cause of radicalization. Britain's Henry Jackson Society, a think tank, has published a report on foreign funding for extremist branches of Islam in Great Britain. Saudi Arabia has been clearly named as one of the greatest supporters. In the past 50 years, Riyadh has invested at least 76 billion euros ($86 billion) in Wahhabi extremism, the ideological basis of extremist and jihadist movements throughout the world. Are you surprised about these findings?

Susanne Schröter: The findings do not surprise me at all. It has long been known that Saudi Arabia has been exporting Wahhabist ideology - largely similar to the ideology of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS). Propaganda material and organizational expertise are being sent along with money. People are being hired to build mosques, educational institutions, cultural centers and similar organizations, so that Wahhabist theology can reach the public - with great success.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


GOP and Dems Alike Stunned by Trump's Plan to Act with Putin on 'Cyber' (Rob Garver, July 9, 2017, Fiscal Times)

In a rare moment of bipartisan unity on Sunday, Republicans and Democrats came together in mutual astonishment after President Trump, in part of an early-morning storm of tweets, said that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed joining forces to battle "election hacking & many other negative things."

From normalizing Bill Clinton to normalizing Donald Trump (Jeff Jacoby, 7/09/17, The Boston Globe)

Fifteen months later, is anyone still waiting for the 45th president of the United States to stop acting like a rowdy shock jock? Trump couldn't metamorphose into a thoughtful and levelheaded statesman even if he wanted to. His words are so often obnoxious and juvenile because that is his nature: He is vulgar, boastful, combative, and mean-spirited. He thrives on picking fights, he shows little respect for truth or Constitutional norms, and he relishes the pandemonium his invective triggers.

After Trump's crude Twitter attacks on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked whether such insults aren't beneath the dignity of the presidency. Her response: Trump is a "fighter" and cannot be expected to be "attacked day after day, minute by minute, and sit back." Translation: Acting presidential is for losers.

Like all presidents, of course, Trump will be judged in part by his policy achievements, some of which may be first-rate. But his coarseness has already dragged the presidency to a sickening new low -- and we aren't even one-eighth of the way through the four-year term he was elected to.

For months, many of Trump's opponents have warned against allowing the president's thuggishness to be "normalized." Alas, that isn't an option. Americans "normalized" Trump by sending him to the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 PM


Here is the Chief Rabbinate's 'blacklist' of American rabbis (BEN SALES, July 9, 2017, JTA)

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has a list of some 160 rabbis it does not trust to confirm the Jewish identities of immigrants.

To get married in Israel, immigrants must prove they are Jewish to the Chief Rabbinate, often via a letter by a congregational rabbi attesting to the immigrant's Jewish identity. This list comprises rabbis whose letters were rejected during 2016. Rabbis from 24 different countries appear on the list, which includes several prominent American Orthodox leaders.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


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It's starting to look ugly for the Republican healthcare bill (Bob Bryan , 7/09/17, Business Insider)

The most apparent troubles for the Republican conference came in the form of public reaction to their healthcare bill, which a survey this week showed had 17% support from US voters.

In a variety of public events and forums over the week-long recess, GOP lawmakers got an earful from constituents among the 83%. Even members who opposed the initial version of the healthcare legislation faced pressure.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine received from praise from constituents for her strong stance against the BCRA, but some implored her to remain steadfast in her opposition during a July 4 parade in Eastport, Maine.

Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas also faced pressure to maintain his stance against the legislation during a town hall on Thursday. Typically a safe bet to stick behind the GOP leadership, Moran repeatedly expressed his misgivings over the BCRA.

"The Affordable Care Act creates significant difficulties that still need major attention," Moran told reporters after the town hall. "But I think at this point, it's time to figure out how ... to get rid of the bad things and improve on the things that need to be improved."

Moran was one of only a handful of Republicans to hold events open to the public, including BCRA skeptics Bill Cassidy (who favors a more moderate approach) and Ted Cruz (who wants a stronger repeal). Cruz is pushing for an amendment to be added to the bill favored by conservatives, which would make it easier for states to opt out of certain Obamacare regulations.

Cruz also faced fervent pushback at various meetings around Texas.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Despite Deep Policy Divides, Europe Trip Seen by Buoyant Trump as High Point (GLENN THRUSH, JULY 8, 2017, NY Times)

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, the only high-level American official allowed in the room with the president, had urged his boss to hit Mr. Putin hard on the issue -- but told an associate he was still stunned that Mr. Trump would begin the meeting, unceremoniously, by saying to the Russian leader, "I'm going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?"

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Should Tyler Cowen Believe in God? (Ross Douthat,  JULY 6, 2017, NY Times)

A little while ago the prolific and intellectually-promiscuous Tyler Cowen solicited the strongest arguments for the existence of God, and then with some prodding followed up with a post outlining some of his reasons for not being a believer. I can't match Cowen's distinctive mix of depth and pith, but I thought I'd take the liberty of responding to some of his reasons in a dialogic style, with my responses edited in between some of his thoughts. Nothing in here should be construed as an attempt to make the Best Argument for God, and the results are rather long and probably extremely self-indulgent, so consider yourself forewarned. But here goes.

Cowen: Not long ago I outlined what I considered to be the best argument for God, and how origin accounts inevitably seem strange to us; I also argued against some of the presumptive force behind scientific atheism. Yet still I do not believe, so why not?

I have a few reasons: We can distinguish between "strange and remain truly strange" possibilities for origins, and "strange and then somewhat anthropomorphized" origin stories. Most religions fall into the latter category, all the more so for Western religions. I see plenty of evidence that human beings anthropomorphize to an excessive degree, and also place too much weight on social information (just look at how worked up they get over social media), so I stick with the "strange and remain truly strange" options.  I don't see those as ruling out theism, but at the end of the day it is more descriptively apt to say I do not believe, rather than asserting belief ...

... The true nature of reality is so strange, I'm not sure "God" or "theism" is well-defined, at least as can be discussed by human beings.  That fact should not lead you to militant atheism (I also can't define subatomic particles), but still it pushes me toward an "I don't believe" attitude more than belief.  I find it hard to say I believe in something that I feel in principle I cannot define, nor can anyone else.

Me: Perhaps, but since you raise the strangeness of subatomic particles you might consider a third possibility for thinking about origins: Alongside "strange and remain truly strange" and "strange and then somewhat anthropomorphized," there might be a category that you could call "anthropomorphic/accessible on the surface and then somewhat stranger the deeper down you go."

This often seems to be the nature of physical reality as we experience and explore it. When we work on the surface of things, the everyday mechanics of physical cause and effect, we find a lot of clear-seeming laws and comprehensible principles of order. When we go down a level, to where the physical ladders (seem to) start, or up a level, to our own hard-to-fathom experiences of consciousness, we seem to brush up against paradox and mystery. So up to a point the universe yields to our fleshbound consciousness, our evolved-from-apes reasoning abilities, in genuinely extraordinary ways, enabling us to understand, predict, invent and master and explore. But then there are also depths and heights where our scientific efforts seem to trail off, fall short, or end up describing things that seem to us contradictory or impossible.

And by way of analogy it might be that there is a similar pattern in religion and theology. The anthropomorphizing tendency that makes you suspicious, the ascription of human attributes to God and the tendency of the divine to manifest itself in humanoid (if ambiguously so) forms, the role of angels and demons and djinn and demi-gods and saints and so forth in many religious traditions - all of this might just reflect a too-pat, too-anthopomorphic, and therefore made-up view of Who or What brought the world into being, Who or What sustains it. But alternatively -- and plausibly, I think -- it might represent the ways in which supernatural realities are made accessible to human perception, even as their ultimate nature remains beyond our capacities to fully grasp.

Which is, in fact, something that many religious traditions take for granted (the Catholic Church, for instance, does not teach that angels are really splendid androgynes with wings), something that's part of the architecture of ordinary belief (most people who habitually visualize God as an old man with a white beard would not so define him if pressed), and a big part of what the adepts of religion, mystics and theologians, tend to stress in their attempts to describe and define the nature of God.

Note, too, that this stress on surface accessibility and deep mystery is not something invented by clever moderns trying to save the phenomenon of religion from its critics. It is present from ancient times in every major religious tradition, providing a substantial ground of overlap between them -- David Bentley Hart is good on this, in a book that offers a partial answer to the definitional issue you raise -- and in Western monotheism it shows up in such not-exactly-obscure places as the Ten Commandments (no graven images for a reason) and the doctrine of the Trinity. (You will not find something that better fits the bill of "strange and remains truly strange" than what the Fathers of the Church came up with to define the Godhead.) Or, for that matter, in the story of Jesus of Nazareth, who in the gospel narratives is quite literally an anthropomorphic God, and then after his resurrection becomes, not a simple superman but something stranger -- sometimes recognizable and sometimes not, physical but transcending the physical, ghostly and yet flesh -- whose attributes the gospel writers report on in a somewhat amazed style without attempting to circumscribe or technically define.

Again, anthropomorphism is the initial layer, the first mechanism of revelation.

The peculiar genius of philosophy in the Anglosphere is that it goes further than Mr. Cowen there and says that his "I don't believe" posture is just as ungrounded as an "I believe" one at least as far as Reason and "reality" are concerned. It is precisely because reality as we perceive it rationally is so strange that one can hold no belief about it that is justified by reason.

But where does that leave us?  

The insight of the Anglosphere is that this Rationalist dilemma just isn't terribly important, because Reason itself is only a function of faith.  By disproving its own assertion, that reality must yield its secrets to reason, Reason refutes itself.  Instead of being a dispassionate system for the analysis of the world around us, it is a tool that we afford ourselves by accepting its usefulness as a matter of faith.  Thereby, it paradoxically proves the supremacy of faith.

Thereby we arrive at the genuinely interesting question : if we ultimately can only arrange our view of Reality by reference to faith, then what faith should we choose.  The answer, it would seem obvious, is the one that we find most beautiful and compelling.  Without putting too fine a point on it, to choose the Materialist faith is a monstrous embrace of anti-human ugliness.  The idea that each of us is only physical matter, wholly dispensable and wholly unimportant has unsurprisingly led to all of the murderous isms that plagued continental Europe: atheism, communism, Nazism, etc.

The Anglosphere avoided all this because we maintained our insistence that Reason/Materialism was not compelling.  Thus, David Hume:

But what have I here said, that reflections very refin'd and metaphysical have little or no influence upon us? This opinion I can scarce forbear retracting, and condemning from my present feeling and experience. The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? Whose favour shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What beings surround me? and on whom have, I any influence, or who have any influence on me? I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, inviron'd with the deepest darkness, and utterly depriv'd of the use of every member and faculty.

Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hours' amusement, I wou'd return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strain'd, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.

Instead of Materialism then, we have always chosen the One Story: that Man was Created by God and given free will; that though we have continually used that freedom in ways that contravene His hopes for us, He has forgiven us and accepted that the ultimate blame lies with Him not us (as He proved prone to the same temptation on the Cross); that, therefore, each of us is a precious part of His Creation and that our endowments come from Him and can not be justifiably denied by fellow men; that we are commanded by Him to love one another.  

The beauty of this faith is sufficient unto itself.


Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM

MILEAGE MAY VARY (self-reference alert):

To Test Your Fake News Judgment, Play This Game (TENNESSEE WATSON, 7/03/17, Wyoming Public Radio)

Fake news has been on Maggie Farley's mind further back than 2016 when President Trump brought the term into the vernacular.

Farley, a veteran journalist, says we've had fake news forever and that "people have always been trying to manipulate information for their own ends," but she calls what we're seeing now "Fake news with a capital F." In other words, extreme in its ambition for financial gain or political power.

"Before, the biggest concern was, 'Are people being confused by opinion; are people being tricked by spin?' " Now, Farley says, the stakes are much higher.

So one day she says an idea came to her: build a game to test users' ability to detect fake news from real.

Voilà, Factitious. Give it a shot. (And take it from us, it's not as easy as you might think!)

We don't bother much with the fake news sites (like Breitbart), so it took a round to get the tenor of the genre.  But once you do your score should improve pretty quickly in successive rounds.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


What Is Human Dignity? :We display our dignity by imposing our will on nature to create a world where we can live as dignified beings--or not as miserably self-conscious and utterly precarious accidents... (Peter Augustine Lawler, Imaginative Conservative)

As we remember our friend Peter Augustine Lawler (1951-2017), we are proud to publish this selection from his insightful book Modern and American Dignity (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2010). [...]

It was with such Greek reflections in mind that the Roman word dignitas took on a basically aristocratic connotation. Dignity is a worthiness or virtue that must be earned, and the dignified man is someone exceptional who attains distinction by his inner strength of character. Dignitas is a self-contained serenity, a kind of solid immobility that cannot be affected by worldly fortunes. For the Stoics, and especially for Cicero, dignity is democratic in the sense that it does not depend on social status; it is within reach of everyone from the slave (Epictetus) to the emperor (Marcus Aurelius). Dignity refers to the rational life possible for us all, but it is really characteristic only of the rare human being who is genuinely devoted to living according to reason.

Dignity, the contemporary Stoic novelist Tom Wolfe shows in A Man in Full, can shine through even in the life of a maximum-security prisoner who seems to have been deprived of every human good. Mr. Wolfe's novel shows both that the Stoic way of thinking is almost completely alien to American life today and that it still has powerful explanatory power. He shows us that our sociobiologists and neuroscientists have something to learn from what we might call Stoic science. The Council's book would have been more comprehensive had a genuine Stoic contributed a chapter, but no critic has yet registered that complaint. The early modern philosophers--following, in a certain way, St. Augustine's Christian critique of Stoic vanity--denied that human beings could ever achieve a rational, inward insulation from the effects of fortune. They contended instead that it is undignified to allow oneself be a plaything of fortune--of forces and people beyond your control.

There is nothing genuinely dignified in Stoic self-deception about our real bodily dependence. Human beings are stuck with being concerned, most of all, with keeping their fragile bodies alive. So there is something dignified in facing up to that truth and doing something about it--acting with freedom and intelligence to make yourself more secure. In Hobbes's view, your own life is infinitely valuable and irreplaceable to you, but it cannot seem that way to anyone else. Therefore, Hobbes reasons, your dignity is nothing more than your "public worth." And that is nothing more than the price your powers can bring: Your dignity is your productivity.

Others recognize your worth only insofar as they can use--and are willing to pay for--what you can do. We have every right to work to become as dignified as we can be, but we do not have an equal right to dignity. Hobbes is for equal rights, but equal dignity is impossible.

There is a lot to be said for ranking people--determining their excellence or importance--according to their productivity. Vain illusions which generate the idleness that comes with inward serenity are dispelled. There is, we learn, no invisible realm of freedom, no impregnable Stoic fortress, into which we can securely retreat. It is undeniable progress to stop ranking people according to their social class, gender, race, religion, and so forth. Productivity is the most visible and surest foundation for a meritocracy--which is why Americans today are having more trouble than ever finding a higher standard than productivity to determine their dignity. Even with the economic downturn, Americans are wealthier and freer than ever, but their dignity seems to depend more than ever on being useful and pleasing to others. They increasingly lack the inward self-confidence that comes with having a personal standard higher than "success." We might want to say that Americans are both more and less free than ever--and in a way that would earn a Stoic's cold contempt.

This is the source of the fear of technology and the end of labor.  For millennia we have tried to convince people that dignity is intrinsic in work.  The inanity of the idea is obvious when we pause for a moment to consider slaves, serfs and the like.  Or, for the Abrahamist, if we just consider that labor was a punishment from God.

Of course, as technology began displacing jobs, we of the white collar world tried consoling ourselves that creative classes would be exempted, because uniquely irreplaceable, that only the "average" would be affected.  Our brain work must, surely, have a value and dignity that mere manual labor does not.  But now the machines are coming for us too and that boast turns out to be hollow.

We are thrust back upon the most terrifying of all thoughts for mortal man : our worth lies not in any economic transaction but in what type of people we are, in how we behave, particularly towards others.  

Meanwhile, it is hardly coincidental that the dignity of labor mummery was so well-suited to an individualistic capitalist economy while relocating dignity to our moral being is better-suited to a Third Way economy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


The Anti-Semitism Around Donald Trump (Jonah Shepp, 7/09/17, New York)

[H]e was unable to squeeze in a stop at the monument to the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, sending his daughter Ivanka to lay flowers there instead.

With that decision, Trump became the first U.S. president in nearly 30 years not pay his respects at the monument on his first state visit to Poland. Leaders of the Jewish community there expressed disappointment in his decision to skip it. [...]

In his Warsaw speech, Trump referred frequently to "the West" and to "our civilization," going so far as to state grandiosely: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive." This claim, Peiter Beinart observes at the Atlantic, "only makes sense as a statement of racial and religious paranoia":

The "south" and "east" only threaten the West's "survival" if you see non-white, non-Christian immigrants as invaders. They only threaten the West's "survival" if by "West" you mean white, Christian hegemony. ... So when Trump says being Western is the essence of America's identity, he's in part defining America in opposition to some of its own people. He's not speaking as the president of the entire United States. He's speaking as the head of a tribe.

What makes this language particularly notable in this context is that the crowd Poland's government bussed in to cheer Trump on may have an even more circumscribed view of who does and does not belong in the West. While the Law and Justice party is not overtly anti-Semitic, the same cannot be said for all of its supporters, and its perspective on history betrays a certain resentment of the prominence given to the Jewish experience in the Holocaust. Bolstered by the government's right-wing populism and xenophobia, anti-Semitism has come into vogue again in the home of Auschwitz and Sobibor in recent years, just as it has in other European countries.

Hungary's right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, for instance, may insist that his latest campaign of posters depicting George Soros as a sinister caricature of the laughing Jew is just about Soros, the individual -- but it's not convincing. Not incidentally, the Orban and Trump administrations are disturbingly friendly. Orban welcomed Trump's inauguration as "the end of multilateralism" and has praised his heavy-handed approach to controlling immigration, and Trump's Islamophobic counterterrorism advisor Sebastian Gorka was once an advisor to Orban.

Trump may be drawn to European nationalists like Orban by nothing more than their shared suspicion of Islam, but he is apparently blind to the anti-Semitism that tends to coexist with that variety of Islamophobia.

"Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


U.S. Faults Russia in Energy Firm Hackings (Ellen Nakashima, 7/08/17, The Washington Post)

Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-intrusions into the business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies in what appears to be an effort to assess their networks, according to U.S. government officials.

Yeah, but Vlad told Donald it wasn't him.
Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Corpses of Foreign ISIS Extremists Pile up in Mosul (Asharq Al-Awsat, 7/09/17)

Miles away from their homelands, the bodies of foreign ISIS terrorists have been piling up on the ruins of the Old City of Mosul.

These extremists, including dozens of Frenchmen, have displayed the fiercest resistance in their defense of their stronghold in the second largest Iraqi city, reported AFP.

More than three quarters of the remaining terrorists in Mosul are foreigners, according to Iraqi commanders who have reported a spike in suicide attacks as anti-ISIS forces close in on the Old City.

"They never surrender," said General Abdel Ghani al-Assadi, a commander in Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service.

"Old Mosul will be their graveyard." 

16 years late, but not too late.
Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM

CUSTODIAL CREW (profanity alert):

Why the All Blacks are so great : What makes New Zealand's national rugby team the most dominant side in the history of sport? (XAN RICE, 7/07/17, New Statesman)

For New Zealanders, the magic is more in the hands than the feet, as demonstrated by flyhalf Beauden Barrett in the first Test against the Lions, when he scooped the ball up off the ground one-handed while being chased towards his own tryline.

And it is not only All Black backline players who are expected to have those skills. "When it comes to handling, backs everywhere [in all Test-playing nations] can do it well," Oliver said. "But with our forwards - that's where you see the big difference. You can never play with width unless all your players can catch and look up and pass."

They also need to be able to deal with pressure. The New Zealand public believes the All Blacks should win every game, which is why they seldom field a second-string team, even at the season's end in the autumn internationals in Europe. But at times, especially in World Cups, the weight of expectation has become too much.

"You either walk towards the pressure or fight it and play the victim, saying it's an impossible task to win all the time. Since 2004, we have walked towards that pressure, and used it as a positive thing," Oliver said.

That was the year Graham Henry took over as coach, and the start of a new era of dominance. Henry understood that he needed to step back and empower the players - an approach that his assistant Steve Hansen stuck with after taking over at the end of 2011. "It was all about removing the fear of a mistake: express yourself, trust your instincts and make a decision," Oliver said. "If you think it's on - go!" It's why Barrett attempted his audacious pick-up instead of diving on the ball, a safer option. He knew that if he messed up there would be no recrimination.

There was also a subtle change in the culture of the team. "What the All Blacks managed to do, especially since 2004, was to create a legacy, passing on the intergenerational lore. We talk about being 'custodians of the jersey'. You want to leave the jersey in a better place than where you found it," Oliver said.

Character matters. "There are two questions we ask when someone comes into the All Blacks squad. What are you prepared to sacrifice? And what are you going to give to the team?"

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Iowa woman who tried to vote for Trump twice pleads guilty to election misconduct (CBS News, 7/09/17)

A woman from Des Moines, Iowa, pleaded guilty to election misconduct for attempting to cast two separate ballots in the 2016 presidential election for then-Republican nominee Donald Trump. 

According to the Associated Press, Terri Lynn Rote, 57, entered her plea for the felony charge on June 27. Court documents state that lawyers affiliated with the case are recommending Rote face up to two years of probation with community service on the side. 

Rote told police why she tried to vote more than once. She was convinced her first vote for Mr. Trump would be manipulated and changed to a vote for then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. According to her statement to the police, Rote believed Mr. Trump's claims about widespread election rigging. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM



As the transportation sector represents 37% of California's emissions and 45% of Vermont's, advancing the uptake of zero-emissions vehicles - coupled with increased renewable energy deployment - is crucial to achieve the states' ambitious climate goals.

Other benefits of a cleaner transportation system include improved air quality and cost savings linked to reduced fuel imports, both of which are crucial for the two states: California tends to have a worse air quality than the national average, while 60% of Vermont's energy consumption is based on petroleum imports, mostly used for transportation. More specifically, Drive the Dream was designed to fill a policy gap in California and Vermont: the incentivization of workplace charging.

On a global scale, the 2 degrees Celsius scenario provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that 140 million electric vehicles will be needed on the roads by 2030 to keep global warming below the 2 degrees threshold.

According to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), electric cars could save 125 million tons of CO2 per year by 2030 and up to 1.5 billion tons per year by 2050.

A total of 777,497 EVs were sold globally last year (a 41% increase on 2015), pushing the number of EVs on the roads past the symbolic threshold of two million. The surge has been attributed to falling costs - the price of lithium-ion batteries, which account for about 40% of an EVs cost, has fallen by approximately two thirds since 2010 - and an increasing number of supporting policies have also played a key role.