June 11, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Web of elite Russians met with NRA execs during 2016 campaign (PETER STONE AND GREG GORDON, June 11, 2018, McClatchy)
Several prominent Russians, some in President Vladimir Putin's inner circle or high in the Russian Orthodox Church, now have been identified as having contact with National Rifle Association officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign, according to photographs and an NRA source.

The contacts have emerged amid a deepening Justice Department investigation into whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to add financial firepower to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential bid.

Other influential Russians who met with NRA representatives during the campaign include Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month served as a deputy prime minister overseeing Russia's defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of one of Russia's largest philanthropies, the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation. The foundation was launched by an ultra-nationalist ally of Russian President Putin.

The Russians talked and dined with NRA representatives, mainly in Moscow, as U.S. presidential candidates vied for the White House. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


With smiles and a handshake, Trump and Kim could mask gulf on nuclear arms (Philip Rucker, Anne Gearan and John Hudson, June 11, 2018, Washington Post)

The working-level sessions, including those led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have foundered repeatedly over basic issues of what the summit should be about and an inability to close fundamental gaps in understanding over North Korean denuclearization.

The entire point was to be able to say that his nukes brought the US to heel.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Minogue on States, Institutions, and the Enemies of Liberty (DONALD DEVINE, 6/11/18, Law & Liberty)

The Greeks were the first to take the fact that it was difficult to intimidate free warriors to the conclusion that a warrior society must create a "negotiating group" of cooperation among equals. As late as Aristotle, government by public discussion among equals was the best. Paradoxically, each individual's freedom was limited by the self-discipline, negotiation, and reasoning required by cooperation that produced ancient Greece's great military and social successes. The same factors fashioned Rome and European martial feudalism.

Europe followed Greece into recognizing that "Freedom is only Freedom when it is given up" in commitments to group, work, and marriage, and in living under laws based upon a "morality of integrity" dependent upon warrior courage.  [...]

In his final piece, from 2013, entitled "The Self-Interested Society," Minogue concedes that he must go against his most basic teachings and become "perilously engaged in an abstract sociological sketch" to make sense of today's disorder. He begins by noting that the West first evolved the nation-state as "an association of individualists managing their own lives," as opposed to the governments in the rest of the world, which promised a "comprehensive system of justice" promoting social harmony. The Western model that he identifies with liberty was not so much based on self-preservation (this was common to Western and non-Western) but upon self-interest, which can only be understood as the historical event of moving from traditional to modern society, where "individuals must find some niche or enterprise within which to live," to become self-reliant rather than being component parts within a traditional, cosmologically integrated community.

Traditional nations based upon "legitimization in terms of a comprehensive system of justice" grew from a common culture, with clear functions for each in a hierarchy based upon one's contribution to the common good. Only in Europe and its colonies did a long history develop the concept of the individual into a "contractual order of social relationships" based upon self-interest, a development that became most obvious by the 17th century with the rise of words hyphenated with the word "self." This fostered a "process of moral calculation" that manifested itself even "more in our moral life than in the economy," which balanced such choices in "the interests of both the actor and those his acts will affect," creating the free way of life enjoyed by Westerners.

Minogue ends by warning that most supporters of this historical European liberty seem to assume a universal desire for making free moral decisions. The truth, though, is that "what most people seem to want is to know exactly where they stand and be secure in their understanding of the situation." Freely-decided rules and processes are risky; they will produce unexpected and sometimes unwelcome outcomes. It is this tension between the desire for security and the risks inherent in freedom that makes the latter "constantly vulnerable to those who try to seduce us with dreams of perfection." Centralized compassion for "abstract classes of vulnerability" rather than individual calculations leads to nations becoming unable to say no to chronic debt, which threatens their survival and erodes the virtues of the people.

"Societies are necessarily imperfect and making them perfect is not an option for creatures such as humans," writes Minogue. All that is possible is to "choose where imperfection may least harmfully find an outlet in our complicated societies" and to remember that freedom is what made the West so successful.

The genius of the ThirdWay/compassionate conservative is that it returns us to the universal class, instead of abstract ones.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


A Theory with No Strings Attached: Can Beautiful Physics Be Wrong? [Excerpt]: A physicist decries the trend of chasing after aesthetically pleasing theories that lack empirical evidence (Sabine Hossenfelder, June 11, 2018, Scientific American)

String theory is currently the most popular idea for a unified theory of the [fundamental physics] interactions. It posits that the universe and all its content is made of small vibrating strings that may be closed back on themselves or have loose ends, may stretch or curl up, may split or merge. And that explains everything: matter, space-time, and, yes, you too. At least that's the idea. String theory has to date no experimental evidence speaking for it. Historian Helge Kragh, also at the meeting, has compared it to vortex theory.

Richard Dawid, in his book, used string theory as an example for the use of "non-empirical theory assessment." By this he means that to select a good theory, its ability to describe observation isn't the only criterion. He claims that certain criteria that are not based on observations are also philosophically sound, and he concludes that the scientific method must be amended so that hypotheses can be evaluated on purely theoretical grounds. Richard's examples for this non-empirical evaluation--arguments commonly made by string theorists in favor of their theory--are (1) the absence of alternative explanations, (2) the use of mathematics that has worked before, and (3) the discovery of unexpected connections.

Richard isn't so much saying that these criteria should be used as simply pointing out that they are being used, and he provides a justification for them. The philosopher's support has been welcomed by string theorists. By others, less so.

In response to Richard's proposed change of the scientific method, cosmologists Joe Silk and George Ellis warned of "breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical" and, in a widely read comment published in Nature, expressed their fear that "theoretical physics risks becoming a no-man's-land between mathematics, physics and philosophy that does not truly meet the requirements of any."

I can top these fears. If we accept a new philosophy that promotes selecting theories based on something other than facts, why stop at physics? I envision a future in which climate scientists choose models according to criteria some philosopher dreamed up. The thought makes me sweat.

Dude, it's way too late to worry that science can't withstand the scientific method.

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 AM


Early decade big city growth continues to fall off, census shows (William H. Frey, May 29, 2018, Brookings)

Newly released census data for city population growth through 2017 show that what I and others previously heralded as the "decade of the city" may be less valid during the waning years of the 2010s. While most big cities are still gaining population, the rates of that gain are falling off for many of them as the nation's population shows signs of broad dispersal.

The new numbers for big cities--those with a population of over a quarter million--are telling. Among these 84 cities, 55 of them either grew at lower rates than the previous year or sustained population losses. This growth fall-off further exacerbates a pattern that was suggested last year. The average population growth of this group from 2016 to 2017 was 0.83 percent--down from well over 1 percent for earlier years of the decade and lower than the average annual growth rate among these cities for the 2000 to 2010 decade (see Figure 1). [...]

[T]he pervasiveness of declining big city growth, which began to become evident with last year's numbers, reflects a broader dispersal of the nation's population--from large metropolitan areas to smaller ones, from cities to suburbs, and from the Snow Belt to the Sun Belt. These patterns are apparent with domestic migration flows and regional population shifts. They reflect the easing up of constrains toward personal and job mobility as the economy continues to revive.

Still another indicator of this dispersion is the return of the suburban growth advantage over cities--now apparent for the second year in a row, after five years of a city growth advantage, for the combined populations of the nation's 53 largest metropolitan areas, each with populations exceeding one million (see Figure 3).

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 AM