April 3, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


Racists Are Threatening to Take Over Paganism: The growing presence of racists in American Pagan communities threatens to tear the faith apart. (Sarah Lyons, Apr 2 2018, Vice)

There's a war going on in the American Pagan community. On one side are racists who see gods like Odin and Thor as an embodiment of the supremacy whites have over the rest of the planet. On the other are the practitioners who believe these gods transcend racial lines and belong to everyone. Recently, the contention between these two groups has reached a tipping point as anti-racist Pagans try to claim the narrative around their faith before it is overtaken by alt-right racists. 

Although the leaders of Nazi Germany were obsessed with Paganism and the occult, it has largely been associated with multiculturalism here in the United States. 

Where are they supposed to go?  It's not like you can be a faithful Christian and hate the other.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM



[W]hat if the source of this polarization has little do with where people actually fall on the issues, or what people actually believe in? What if people are simply polarized by political labels like "liberal" and "conservative" and what they imagine their opponents to be like more than they are by disagreements over issues like taxes, abortion, and immigration?

That news wouldn't surprise anybody who's spent time battling it out in a news outlet's comment section, and it's the firm conclusion of new research by Lilliana Mason, a professor at the University of Maryland.

Her paper, "Ideologues Without Issues: the Polarizing Consequences of Ideological Identities," published in late March by Public Opinion Quarterly, uses 2016 data from Survey Sampling International and American National Election Studies to study how and why Americans are politically polarized.

She used measures that identify both where people stand on issues and how they identify their political clan. For issues, she took six major ones from the survey: "immigration, the Affordable Care Act, abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control, and the relative importance of reducing the deficit or unemployment." Additionally, she used their measurements of social identity on a range from liberal to conservative.

She then sought to correlate these answers with questions where respondents answered whether they would prefer to live next door to, marry, be friends with, or spend social time with someone who differs from them politically.

She found that the political identity people adopt was far more predictive of their preferences for social interaction.

For instance, "moving from the least identified to the most identified with an ideological label increases preference for marrying inside the ideological group by 30 percentage points." In other words, if you are a committed liberal, you're much more likely to want to live next to other committed liberals. But if you just disagree strongly with them about a specific issue like abortion, not so much.

She writes, "The effect of issue-based ideology is less than half the size of identity-based ideology in each element of social distance. ... These are sizable and significant effects, robust to controls for issue-based ideology, and they demonstrate that Americans are dividing themselves socially on the basis of whether they call themselves liberal or conservative, independent of their actual policy differences."

"There's been a debate within political science for a long time about whether or not the American public is polarized," Mason said in an interview with The Intercept. "I'm sort of making this argument that as you have multiple social identities that line up together, people hate their out groups more regardless of their policy positions."

She noted, for instance, that Americans who identify most strongly as conservative, whether they hold more left-leaning or right-leaning positions on major issues, dislike liberals more than people who more weakly identify as conservatives but may hold very right-leaning issue positions.

It's a function of feeling, not thought, so it's as inexplicable to the rest of us as the enmity of Alabama and Auburn fans.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Arab population statistics renew charged debate on Israel's future (Mamoon Alabbasi, 4/03/18, Middle East Online)

Population figures released by Israeli and Palestinian officials indicate that the number of Arabs living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is rising and will equal that of Jews within 20 years.

The numbers renewed debate on the nature of the Israeli state: Jewish or democratic, depending on whether Israel keeps control of the Palestinian territories or allows the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

Israeli demographics expert Sergio Della-Pergola said the number of Jews in Israel and the Palestinian territories was 6.9 million, compared to 6.5 million Arabs in the same areas.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


The protesters of 1968 changed the world - but not in the way they hoped: In some ways, the revolutionaries of 1968 helped capitalism flourish. (JOHN GRAY, 4/02/18, New Statesman)

In some ways the 68ers helped capitalism overcome its cultural contradictions. "If it was to survive," Vinen observes, "capitalism needed to produce consumers as much as producers." The hedonistic lifestyle of the late Sixties produced consumers in large numbers. 

Actually, it was capitalism, not culture.  Consumption is a function of disposable wealth.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:46 AM


How to Serve a Deranged Tyrant, Stoically (Ryan Holiday, April 2, 2018, NY Times)

[C]onsider the case of Seneca, a man whose political life mirrors much of the chaos of the Trump administration. In A.D. 49, the well-known writer and Stoic philosopher was recalled from exile to tutor the successor of the emperor Claudius, a promising teenager named Nero. Like many people today, Seneca entered public service with ideals mitigated by a pragmatic understanding of the reality of the politics of his time.

Although just a few generations earlier, the Stoics had been ardent defenders of the republican ideals (Cato, Seneca's hero, famously disemboweled himself rather than live under Julius Caesar), by Seneca's time most of these objections had become futile. As Emily Wilson, a translator and biographer of Seneca, writes: "Cicero hoped that he really could bring down Caesar and Mark Antony. Seneca, by contrast, had no hope that he could achieve anything by direct opposition to any of the emperors under whom he lived. His best hope was to moderate some of Nero's worst tendencies and to maximize his own sense of autonomy."

We can imagine, too, that he saw the inexperienced Nero as an opportunity to advance his own interests and influence. Only time would reveal that fusing his fate to Nero was a Faustian bargain.

Though Nero had good qualities, he was obsessed with fame and had an endless need for validation. He was also unstable and paranoid, and began to eliminate his rivals -- including murdering his own mother. Was Seneca personally involved in these decisions? We don't know. But he helped legitimize the regime with his presence, and profited from it as well, becoming one of Rome's richest men through his 13 years of service.

Seneca was torn. To the Stoics, contributing to public affairs was a critical duty of the philosopher. Could Seneca decline to serve because he disagreed with the emperor? Could he leave a deranged Nero unsupervised? In time, Seneca would also come to the conclusion that when "the state is so rotten as to be past helping, if evil has entire dominion over it, the wise man will not labor in vain or waste his strength in unprofitable efforts."

Posted by orrinj at 4:23 AM


Trump Reportedly Suggested White House Visit to Putin During Congratulatory Call Last Month (ELLIOT HANNON, APRIL 02, 2018, Slate)

During a phone call last month congratulating Vladimir Putin on his reelection, President Trump went so far as to float the idea the Russian president visit the White House for talks. That piece of information about Trump's March 20th call that was made over the strenuous objections of his advisers had not previously been reported before a Russian official disclosed it to reporters in Moscow. "When our presidents spoke on the phone, it was Trump who proposed holding the first meeting in Washington, in the White House," Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 AM


Israel nixes UN migrant deal after protests (Deutsche-Welle, 4/03/18)

The country founded as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution and conflict has faced the moral dilemma of dealing with the migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, whom it says entered the country irregularly.

The issue has pitted right-wing nationalists, who argue that the presence of Christian and Muslim immigrants are a threat to the country's identity as a Jewish state, against progressives and Holocaust survivors who say Israel's history means it ought to take in refugees fleeing conflict and starvation.

Netanyahu, for his part, has referred to the asylum seekers as "illegal infiltrators."

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 AM


The president attacked my reputation. It's time to set the record straight. (Jill McCabe, April 2, 2018, Washington Post)

I started to become more interested, thinking, "Here's a way I can really try to help people on a bigger scale than what I do every day." While I was considering the possibility, Andrew and I went to Richmond to meet with various politicians, including then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The subject of Hillary Clinton never came up -- the story about her emails had not even broken when I was first approached by Northam. All the governor asked of me was that I support Medicaid expansion.

Still, in thinking about running, one of my first concerns was Andrew and his job at the FBI, where he was the assistant director in charge of the Washington field office. I said to Andrew, "If you think this is going to be a problem for you professionally, even if it's allowed, I won't do it."

He consulted with the ethics experts at the FBI and committed to follow their advice. We tried to go even beyond what the rules required -- Andrew kept himself separate from my campaign. When the kids and I went door-knocking, he did not participate; he wouldn't even drive us. He could have attended one of my fundraisers but never did. One day he put on a campaign T-shirt so we could take a family picture and share it with my proud parents. You may have seen it -- it seems to have taken on a weird life of its own -- but that was it, just a family picture at a swim meet.

Meanwhile, my campaign received funding from the state Democratic Party and the governor's PAC -- on par with what other candidates in competitive races on both sides of the aisle received. All those contributions were publicly reported. And of course, again, Clinton's emails never came up -- if they had, I would have found that alarming, immediately reported it and likely pulled out of the campaign. I know enough from being married to Andrew for 20 years to know what is right and what is wrong.

I lost my race in November 2015. It was disappointing, and particularly hard for me because I have always been the kind of person who gives everything her all. But I felt good about my effort and enjoyed returning to normal life.

Almost a year later, everything changed. A reporter called my cellphone on a Sunday in October 2016, asking questions about contributions to my campaign and whether there had been any influence on Andrew's decisions at the FBI.

This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it makes no sense. Andrew's involvement in the Clinton investigation came not only after the contributions were made to my campaign but also after the race was over. Since that news report, there have been thousands more, repeating the false allegation that there was some connection between my campaign and my husband's role at the FBI.

After the 2016 election, I thought for a while that it was all over -- at least now that President-elect Trump won, he would stop coming after us. How naive that was. After then-FBI Director James B. Comey was fired, we knew that Andrew could be the next target of the president's wrath.

The big question is what Jeff Bezos's role was in covering up the Benghazi conspiracy...

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 AM


New Poll: New Hampshire Republicans Aren't Totally Sold On Trump 2020 (Henry J. Gomez, 4/02/18, BuzzFeed News)

American Research Group found Gov. John Kasich of Ohio trailing Trump in a two-way race, 42% to 48%, among likely Republican primary voters, with 9% undecided. 

Not that he's going to make it to 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 AM


Trump is wrong about Amazon on all counts (Rich Lowry, April 2, 2018, NY Post)

It's hard to think of a more pointlessly destructive act of presidential jawboning in our history. The online retailer is a jewel of our market economy that has delivered more choice and convenience at a lower cost.

The backdrop for Trump's animosity is that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which, like much of the major media, is unrelentingly hostile to the president. WaPo's bias is nothing new, nor should it be taken out on the underlying business of its owner. [...]

Trump has two specific complaints about Amazon. One is that it's ripping off the US Postal Service, costing the government billions. Perhaps a better deal can be extracted -- a recent study by Citigroup concluded as much -- but the postal service says its arrangement with Amazon is profitable.

The second is that Amazon doesn't pay sales taxes. This once was true, but Amazon now collects sales taxes in all states that levy them.

"I slept with that?"
Posted by orrinj at 3:41 AM


More Cabinet trouble for Trump? EPA chief lived in condo tied to lobbyist 'power couple' (JOHN SANTUCCI, MATTHEW MOSK STEPHANIE EBBS, Mar 29, 2018, ABC News)

For much of his first year in Washington, President Trump's EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt occupied prime real estate in a townhouse near the U.S. Capitol that is co-owned by the wife of a top energy lobbyist, property records from 2017 show.

Neither the EPA nor the lobbyist, J. Steven Hart, would say how much Pruitt paid to live at the prime Capitol Hill address, though Hart said he believed it to be the market rate. The price tag on Pruitt's rental arrangement is one key question when determining if it constitutes an improper gift, ethics experts told ABC News.

"I think it certainly creates a perception problem, especially if Mr. Hart is seeking to influence the agency," said Bryson Morgan, the former investigative counsel at the U.S. House of Representatives Office of Congressional Ethics. "That's why there is a gift rule."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 AM


The Demographic Trends That Should Worry Republicans (Charles E. Cook, Jr., March 30, 2018, Cook Report)

We are now undergoing a period of transition for both parties, but it is more immediately pressing for the GOP, the party with the levers of power on both the federal and state levels--a lot to lose. A recent Pew Research Center analysis of over 10,000 interviews with registered voters over the course of last year found that 37 percent identify as independents, 33 percent are Democrats, and 26 percent are Republicans.

Keep in mind that generally 90 percent or more of people who identify with a party usually vote that way, and among those who initially claim to be independent but concede they lean toward one party, the number is usually upwards of 80 percent. The proportion of true independents, with no partisan leanings, is in single digits. Shifting patterns in party identification combined with developments over the last year or so threaten to fundamentally change the chemistry of American politics.

The Pew report observed that ,"For decades, women have been more likely than men to identify as Democrats or lean Democratic. But today, a 56% majority of women identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, while 37% affiliate with or lean toward the GOP. The share of women identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic is up 4 percentage points since 2015 and is at one of its highest points since 1992." For Republicans, this lost ground among women has not been offset by a corresponding increase among men; the study found that 48 percent of men identify with the Republican Party or lean Republican, while 44 percent are Democrats or lean Democratic--all about the same as in 2014.

Then there is education. Those with just a high school diploma or less identify with or lean toward Republicans by 2 points, 47 to 45 percent, while those with some college but no degree tip toward Democrats by 2 points, 47 to 45 percent as well. But among those with a four-year college degree but no graduate school, Democrats have a 15-point lead, 54 to 39 percent. For those with postgraduate experience as well, the Democratic advantage expands to 32 points, 63 to 31 percent.

Among white voters with a high school diploma or less, the two parties were fairly evenly split until the beginning of this decade. Then the Republican share soared to a 23-point advantage, 58 to 35 percent. Republicans used to have a big lead among whites with just four-year college degrees, but the gap began narrowing during those Obama years and crossed last year: Democrats now have a 3-point edge, 49 to 46 percent. Among whites with postgraduate experience, Democrats began pulling away early in the last decade and now have a 22-point advantage.

One of the things that always worked in favor of the GOP was that women voted Republican once they married, but Donald and his politics are incompatible with that.