November 7, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM

BORDERLINE?:

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus: Texas and the Republican Party are "moving in opposite directions" (ALEX SAMUELS NOV. 7, 2018, Taxes Tribune)

Republicans in the Texas House were dealt a big blow Tuesday night, losing 12 seats to Democrats and two in the Texas Senate.

Joe Straus, the Republican who has presided over the House for nearly a decade, said that's because win-at-all-cost politics may be effective at the state level, but "it creates carnage down-ballot in a changing state where a Republican Party and the state of Texas are moving in opposite directions."

The "small issues" that were popular among Republican primary voters didn't resonate in November, he said.

"Something had to give sooner or later," Straus said Wednesday morning.

In a wide-ranging conversation in his Capitol office with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith for the pilot episode of the Tribune's new podcast, Point of Order, Straus launched jabs at two fellow Republicans: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and President Donald Trump. Straus, who is leaving the House in January, declined to weigh in on who should succeed him as the leader of the lower chamber.

He lamented that the Texas House and Senate were unable to find common ground on divisive political issues. Patrick, who presides over the Senate, should "listen more and talk less," Straus said.

Tuesday's election results might have been a direct reprimand of policies pushed by the Trump administration, he said. The Democratic pick-ups in the House Tuesday marked the biggest shift in the lower chamber since the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans picked up more than 20 House seats. Straus decried Trump rallies that he said showcased "borderline racism."

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM

GOOD ON RACISM, BAD ON OBSTRUCTION?:

Blasted by Trump over Russia probe, Sessions fired as attorney general (Sarah N. Lynch, 11/07/18, Reuters) 

In a step that could have implications for the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump replaced Sessions with Matthew Whitaker, who will be acting attorney general. He had been Sessions' chief of staff.

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate immediately called on Whitaker to recuse himself from the Mueller probe.

"Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.

In an opinion piece for CNN that appeared on Aug. 6, 2017, while he was a commentator for the network, Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney, said Mueller would be crossing a line if he investigated the Trump family's finances.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM

THAT WAS EASY:

Ozone: The Earth's protective shield is repairing (BBC, 6 November 2018)

The ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet light, looks to be successfully healing after gaping holes were discovered in the 1980s.

The Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

A new United Nations report says it's an example of what global agreements can achieve.

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM

ALL IN YOUR HEAD:

What if the Placebo Effect Isn't a Trick? (Gary Greenberg, Nov. 7, 2018, NY Times Magazine)

When Ted Kaptchuk was asked to give the opening keynote address at the conference in Leiden, he contemplated committing the gravest heresy imaginable: kicking off the inaugural gathering of the Society for Interdisciplinary Placebo Studies by declaring that there was no such thing as the placebo effect. When he broached this provocation in conversation with me not long before the conference, it became clear that his point harked directly back to Franklin: that the topic he and his colleagues studied was created by the scientific establishment, and only in order to exclude it -- which means that they are always playing on hostile terrain. Science is "designed to get rid of the husks and find the kernels," he told me. Much can be lost in the threshing -- in particular, Kaptchuk sometimes worries, the rituals embedded in the doctor-patient encounter that he thinks are fundamental to the placebo effect, and that he believes embody an aspect of medicine that has disappeared as scientists and doctors pursue the course laid by Franklin's commission. "Medical care is a moral act," he says, in which a suffering person puts his or her fate in the hands of a trusted healer.

"I don't love science," Kaptchuk told me. "I want to know what heals people." Science may not be the only way to understand illness and healing, but it is the established way. "That's where the power is," Kaptchuk says. That instinct is why he left his position as director of a pain clinic in 1990 to join Harvard -- and it's why he was delighted when, in 2010, he was contacted by Kathryn Hall, a molecular biologist. Here was someone with an interest in his topic who was also an expert in molecules, and who might serve as an emissary to help usher the placebo into the medical establishment.

Hall's own journey into placebo studies began 15 years before her meeting with Kaptchuk, when she developed a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Wearing a wrist brace didn't help, and neither did over-the-counter drugs or the codeine her doctor prescribed. When a friend suggested she visit an acupuncturist, Hall balked at the idea of such an unscientific approach. But faced with the alternative, surgery, she decided to make an appointment. "I was there for maybe 10 minutes," she recalls, "when she stuck a needle here" -- Hall points to a spot on her forearm -- "and this awful pain just shot through my arm." But then the pain receded and her symptoms disappeared, as if they had been carried away on the tide. She received a few more treatments, during which the acupuncturist taught her how to manipulate a spot near her elbow if the pain recurred. Hall needed the fix from time to time, but the problem mostly just went away.

"I couldn't believe it," she told me. "Two years of gross drugs, and then just one treatment." All these years later, she's still wonder-struck. "What was that?" she asks. "Rub the spot, and the pain just goes away?"

Hall was working for a drug company at the time, but she soon left to get a master's degree in visual arts, after which she started a documentary-production company. She was telling her carpal-tunnel story to a friend one day and recounted how the acupuncturist had climbed up on the table with her. ("I was like, 'Oh, my God, what is this woman doing?' " she told me. "It was very dramatic.") She'd never been able to understand how the treatment worked, and this memory led her to wonder out loud if maybe the drama itself had something to do with the outcome.

Her friend suggested she might find some answers in Ted Kaptchuk's work. She picked up his book about Chinese medicine, "The Web that Has No Weaver," in which he mentioned the possibility that placebo effects figure strongly in acupuncture, and then she read a study he had conducted that put that question to the test.

Kaptchuk had divided people with irritable bowel syndrome into three groups. In one, acupuncturists went through all the motions of treatment, but used a device that only appeared to insert a needle. Subjects in a second group also got sham acupuncture, but delivered with more elaborate doctor-patient interaction than the first group received. A third group was given no treatment at all. At the end of the trial, both treatment groups improved more than the no-treatment group, and the "high interaction" group did best of all.

Kaptchuk, who before joining Harvard had been an acupuncturist in private practice, wasn't particularly disturbed by the finding that his own profession worked even when needles were not actually inserted; he'd never thought that placebo treatments were fake medicine. He was more interested in how the strength of the treatment varied with the quality and quantity of interaction between the healer and the patient -- the drama, in other words. Hall reached out to him shortly after she read the paper.

The findings of the I.B.S. study were in keeping with a hypothesis Kaptchuk had formed over the years: that the placebo effect is a biological response to an act of caring; that somehow the encounter itself calls forth healing and that the more intense and focused it is, the more healing it evokes. He elaborated on this idea in a comparative study of conventional medicine, acupuncture and Navajo "chantway rituals," in which healers lead storytelling ceremonies for the sick. He argued that all three approaches unfold in a space set aside for the purpose and proceed as if according to a script, with prescribed roles for every participant. Each modality, in other words, is its own kind of ritual, and Kaptchuk suggested that the ritual itself is part of what makes the procedure effective, as if the combined experiences of the healer and the patient, reinforced by the special-but-familiar surroundings, evoke a healing response that operates independently of the treatment's specifics. "Rituals trigger specific neurobiological pathways that specifically modulate bodily sensations, symptoms and emotions," he wrote. "It seems that if the mind can be persuaded, the body can sometimes act accordingly." He ended that paper with a call for further scientific study of the nexus between ritual and healing.

When Hall contacted him, she seemed like a perfect addition to the team he was assembling to do just that. He even had an idea of exactly how she could help. In the course of conducting the study, Kaptchuk had taken DNA samples from subjects in hopes of finding some molecular pattern among the responses. This was an investigation tailor-made to Hall's expertise, and she agreed to take it on. Of course, the genome is vast, and it was hard to know where to begin -- until, she says, she and Kaptchuk attended a talk in which a colleague presented evidence that an enzyme called COMT affected people's response to pain and painkillers. Levels of that enzyme, Hall already knew, were also correlated with Parkinson's disease, depression and schizophrenia, and in clinical trials people with those conditions had shown a strong placebo response. When they heard that COMT was also correlated with pain response -- another area with significant placebo effects -- Hall recalls, "Ted and I looked at each other and were like: 'That's it! That's it!' "

It is not possible to assay levels of COMT directly in a living brain, but there is a snippet of the genome called rs4680 that governs the production of the enzyme, and that varies from one person to another: One variant predicts low levels of COMT, while another predicts high levels. When Hall analyzed the I.B.S. patients' DNA, she found a distinct trend. Those with the high-COMT variant had the weakest placebo responses, and those with the opposite variant had the strongest. These effects were compounded by the amount of interaction each patient got: For instance, low-COMT, high-interaction patients fared best of all, but the low-COMT subjects who were placed in the no-treatment group did worse than the other genotypes in that group. They were, in other words, more sensitive to the impact of the relationship with the healer.

The discovery of this genetic correlation to placebo response set Hall off on a continuing effort to identify the biochemical ensemble she calls the placebome -- the term reflecting her belief that it will one day take its place among the other important "-omes" of medical science, from the genome to the microbiome. The rs4680 gene snippet is one of a group that governs the production of COMT, and COMT is one of a number of enzymes that determine levels of catecholamines, a group of brain chemicals that includes dopamine and epinephrine. (Low COMT tends to mean higher levels of dopamine, and vice versa.) Hall points out that the catecholamines are associated with stress, as well as with reward and good feeling, which bolsters the possibility that the placebome plays an important role in illness and health, especially in the chronic, stress-related conditions that are most susceptible to placebo effects.

Her findings take their place among other results from neuroscientists that strengthen the placebo's claim to a place at the medical table, in particular studies using f.M.R.I. machines that have found consistent patterns of brain activation in placebo responders. "For years, we thought of the placebo effect as the work of imagination," Hall says. "Now through imaging you can literally see the brain lighting up when you give someone a sugar pill."

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM

NO ONE SPEAKS IT:

Scrabble's World Champion Masters the Tiles in 2 Languages (Mike Ives, Oct. 29, 2018, NY Times)

Even for a decorated Scrabble whiz, Mr. Richards, who is from New Zealand and lives in Malaysia, has a way with words.

Mr. Richards, 51, was the world Scrabble champion in 2007, 2011 and 2013. He also won the French edition of the championship in 2015 and again this year -- apparently without actually speaking that language. (He is said to have memorized the French Scrabble dictionary.)

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM

DAS VEDANYA:

Good Riddance to Dana Rohrabacher, 'Putin's Man in Congress' (Vladislav Davidzon, November 7, 2018, The Tablet)

The folklore surrounding Rohrabacher's pro-Russian activity is rife with the quirky and bizarre. There was the time that he took part in a delegation of Republican congressmen on a fact-finding mission to the Russian FSB building (the FSB replaced the KGB as Russia's internal security service) led by the action movie star Steven Segal. (The portly Segal who has maintained a jet black ponytail into his late sixties even as the rest of him has gone to seed, is now a Russian citizen and has announced his candidacy for the governorship of a far Eastern province). And who could forget the time Rohrabacher bragged about having arm wrestling competitions with President Putin? Of course, there were other escapades that were only whispered about  Russia connoisseurs.

Ironically, Rohrabacher began his political life as a pro-Ukrainian firebrand. In his youth, Rohrabacher had a sideline as a Bob-Dylan-esque folk singer known to take out his guitar and serenade Ukrainian American journalists and official Soviet-Ukrainian delegations with his own ballads about the Ukrainian anarchist Nestor Makhno.

Among those who knew Rohrabacher in his younger years, like members of the Ukrainian-American diaspora active in Republican politics during the 1980s and colleagues in the Reagan administration, the Congressman's transformation from ardent cold warrior to equally ardent pro-Kremlin apologist has been a subject of bemusement for many years.

Rohrabacher's activities have become better known to the general public in recent years as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign cast its gaze on the Congressman's activities. In particular, a meeting between Rohrabacher and President Trump's national security adviser Mike Flynn (an equally avid supporter of close relations with Russia) had come under the microscope.

A year ago the New York Times reported that Rohrabacher was seen as a possible Russian asset worthy of being bequeathed an FBI code name. The Times also pointed out that:

"the F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump's short-lived national security adviser."

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM

CAN'T BEAT SOMETHIN' WITH NOTHIN':

Red-State Voters Expanded Medicaid (JORDAN WEISSMANN, NOV 07, 2018, Slate)

Along with Utah, blood-red Idaho and Nebraska also embraced Medicaid expansion. Between the three, more than 300,000 lower income Americans could become eligible for coverage under the program.

The GOP decision to abandon the field after the UR passed their healthcare plan has made National Health all but inevitable.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 AM

KNOWING YOUR ALLIES:

Despite Everything, Turkey and the U.S. Are Getting Closer (Eli Lake, November 5, 2018, Bloomberg)

It was only three months ago that President Donald Trump was boasting about sanctions designed to cripple Turkey's economy. On Monday, Turkey became one of eight countries to receive an exemption from sanctions designed to cripple Iran's economy.

Granted, in the interim, a few things happened. To start, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month finally allowed the American pastor Andrew Brunson to leave his jail cell and return home. His imprisonment had been a major irritant with Trump, who believed Erdogan had backed out of an earlier deal to free him. Brunson's release came when Erdogan had some leverage because of Saudi Arabia's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Turkish consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan's government has been dripping out details of that Saudi crime for a month, but has yet to release an audio recording of the crime itself.

Add to this Erdogan's decision to tone down his anti-American rhetoric. He used to be "defiant and outspoken" about the Iran sanctions, says Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament and scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. No longer. The Turks have not stopped buying Iranian oil altogether, but they are buying less of it.

Quicktake: How the U.S. Can Force the World to Squeeze Iran's Oil

The U.S. line on Turkey has also softened -- beyond granting Turkey an exemption from the Iranian oil sanctions. The U.S. Treasury lifted sanctions related to the detention of Brunson last week on two senior Turkish officials.

The entirety of the WoT consists of the alliance between the Anglosphere (minus Israel), the Shi'a, Kurds and Islamist political parties to promote democracy and oppose the Salafi/Wahabbi and secular dictators.  That the alliance makes everyone uncomfortable on the psychological plane makes it no less real on the ground.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 AM

WAY TO SQUANDER A BOOM:

Democrats Can Thank Trump for Their Midterms Boost: Republicans suffer the consequences of backing one of the most unpopular presidents of the polling era.  (Jonathan Bernstein, November 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

So why did the Republicans have a bad night? The basic story is pretty simple: This is what happens to a party when it controls the White House and the president is unpopular. In fact, most of what was resolved on Tuesday was probably a consequence not of the fall campaign, but of Trump's record-shattering bad year in 2017, at least in terms of approval ratings. A large group of Republicans decided to retire last year; that's when Democrats recruited many of their top potential candidates to run; and that's when Republicans failed to find good candidates in several states where they might have been competitive. 

Trump's standing recovered a bit in 2018, but as of Tuesday he was the least popular president through 656 days in the polling era. The slight uptick in his approval ratings wasn't going to be enough to help the party recover from 2017, and it's possible he cost Republicans a little more. 

And unlike George W. Bush in 2006 or Barack Obama in 2010, when poor policy outcomes (Iraq in Bush's case, a slow recovery for the economy for Obama) turned people against them, Trump's failure to date has mainly been strikingly personal. Granted, the two big Republican policy initiatives in Congress, the attempted repeal of Obamacare and the tax cut, didn't help. But Trump failed to contribute any popular policy ideas -- and certainly wasn't effective at pushing for any ideas that might have been popular, such as an infrastructure bill. 

The bottom line is that despite a solid economy and without any high-casualty war, Trump spent 2017 at around 38 percent approval, and 2018 at around 42 percent. And he has spent his entire presidency, after a brief honeymoon, solidly over 50 percent disapproval, with a large portion of that strongly disapproving. 

Given the state of the economy and the decade of growth, it took a superhuman effort to lose so the suburbs, but he was just the ubermensch to do it. Consider a really simple thought experiment: suppose that, upon being sworn in, Donald had taken a vow of silence and turned over the running of the Executive to a competent chief of staff. What would last night's results have looked like if it were being contested on only the economic boom that he inherited from the UR and the Federalist Society judiciary picks, with no policies of his own nor statements from him thrown into the mix?  


Posted by orrinj at 4:18 AM

THEY SUPPORT HIS WORST IDEAS BUT OPPOSE THE ACTUALLY EVIL ONES:

Three Cheers for the Return of Divided Government (Eric Boehm, Nov. 7, 2018, reason)

As election results go, that's about the best possible outcome. Not only that, but it's an outcome that allows, for one night at least, the faintest hope that the crazy train of American politics over the past two years may be slowing to a more sensible pace.


Conservatives now wonder if transactional Trump might leave them in the cold (Robert Costa, November 6 , 2018, Washington Post)

Trump, meanwhile, could ignore budget hawks and the federal deficit and rally behind a more than $1 trillion infrastructure bill next year.

"He's able to move a bit because he is set with the conservatives for the next 10 years because he picked Pence and put two justices on the court," said John Brabender, a Republican consultant who works with Vice President Pence's team.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday on PBS's "NewsHour" that infrastructure "has always been nonpartisan. Hopefully we can work together to advance that agenda." Pelosi, however, could face leadership challenges of her own in the coming weeks amid Democratic unrest.

"Can we get along? Maybe," Trump said last month on "Fox & Friends," when asked about how he would handle a Democratic-controlled House.

Trump could also work with Democrats to lower the cost of prescription drugs. That is a prospect that Pelosi acknowledged to PBS, saying it's possible "if the president is serious."

A year ago, Trump worked with Democrats on a spending agreement that alarmed conservatives -- and reminded them that the former real estate investor and ex-Democrat could abandon their cause.

"The deal is a warning to Republicans -- primarily to the party establishment, which has fought Trump at every turn, but also to conservative Republicans, who have long worried about Trump shifting leftwards," Breitbart editor Joel B. Pollak wrote at the time on the hard-line conservative website.

Another ominous prospect for GOP leaders is Trump raging at his party and using them as a target as much as the Democrats, should he lash out over coming struggles and stalled items on his to-do list.



Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM

WE WERE PROMISED HACKERY!:

Nancy Pelosi draws criticism for promising bipartisanship when Dems win (Filipa Ioannou, November 6, 2018, SF Gate)

"We will have accountability and strive for bipartisanship" she said in D.C. Tuesday night, echoing comments she'd made earlier in the day. "We must try."

"We have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong," she added. "We have all had enough with division."

She also called for unity in the name of the vision of the Founding Fathers, as she had earlier in the day.

On Twitter, many on the left responded with anger, frustration and expletives, calling for Dems to take off the gloves and stop gesturing at civility.





Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM

THE BLESSING OF DIVIDED GOVERNMENT:

Trump faces restraints after Democrats seize U.S. House (John Whitesides, 11/07/18, Reuters)

[T]he Democrats will now head House committees that can investigate the president's tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and possible links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.

The Democrats also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

"Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it's about restoring the Constitution's checks and balances to the Trump administration," Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, told supporters at victory party. 

With the exception of a couple of the worst Trumpbots hanging on--King & DeSantis, for instance--those were pretty optimal results.



MORE:
Rust Belt Defeats Are a 2020 Warning for Trump (Sahil Kapur, November 7, 2018, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump got a warning sign on Tuesday from the Midwestern and Rust Belt states that handed him the presidency, as voters delivered big victories to Democrats and offered a road map for the crowd of candidates lining up to challenge him in 2020.

Democrats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan swept the races for Senate and governor, and picked up valuable House seats, defeating Trump-backed Republicans at all levels.

Notorious Vote Thief and Incompetent Gubernatorial Candidate Kris Kobach Loses in Kansas (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 06, 2018, Slate)

On Tuesday night, Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach lost the governor's race to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach built his career on voter suppression, whipping up nativist fervor by claiming that a large number of noncitizens are casting ballots. (They aren't.) He led Donald Trump's failed voter-fraud commission, then eked out a victory in the Republican gubernatorial primary against current GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer. But even in deep-red Kansas, voters appear to have rebelled against his brand of paranoid, xenophobic conservatism.

Although Kobach built up a national profile as a formidable politician, he is, in fact, deeply incompetent. He spent years promoting Crosscheck, a program that ostensibly detected double voting but actually had an error rate of 99.5 percent. He pushed a law that compelled Kansans to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, then defended it himself at trial--at which point it became clear that he doesn't understand basic rules of civil procedure. A federal judge repeatedly reprimanded him during the hearings, then ruled against him and held him in contempt of court.

As Kobach struggled to defend his signature law, he led Trump's voter-fraud commission right off a cliff.

Ilhan Omar, the First Muslim Woman Elected to Congress, Led Her Speech With "As-Salam Alaikum." I'm Transported. (AYMANN ISMAIL, NOV 07, 2018, Slate)

When Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar stepped on stage tonight as one of the first Muslim women ever elected to Congress--the other, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, was also elected tonight--she led with "as-salam alaikum." Then: "alhamdulillah." I'm transported. This was not an acceptance speech I expected to hear. In a cycle recently dubbed "the most Islamophobic election ever," even basic Muslim salutations on a stage like this feel like a tangible achievement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM

FROM A dEMOCRAT PERSPECTIVE...:

The first five things the Democrats should do with their House majority (Ronald A. Klain, November 7, 2018, Washington Post)

First, a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 and restore Trump-repealed rules protecting overtime pay. Democrats should show their support for hard-working people who are doing everything right and still not earning enough to live on. During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to support a minimum-wage increase; on the eve of the 2018 election, his chief economic adviser proposed abolishing the law altogether. Democrats should find out where the president and the Trump-dominated Senate really stand.

Second, legislation to strengthen the Affordable Care Act, expand its coverage and patch up the gaps that the Trump administration has punched in it. Put aside the big debate over comprehensively changing the system for later; deliver on the core promise of most Democratic campaigns in 2018.

Third, a bill to restore the Voting Rights Act and reverse Republican voter-suppression efforts. The cause of democracy should not be carried by Democrats alone, but that is what it has come to. The greatest democracy in the world should not be the one where it is hardest to participate in the democratic process.

Fourth, a simple, non-porked-up infrastructure bill, with funding for bridges and roads, airports and mass transit, clean-energy projects and new schools. Avoid the complexity and exotica that -- while good policy -- ultimately made the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act bad politics. If it doesn't employ workers in hard hats, it isn't "infrastructure" for this purpose.

And finally, a clean bill, free of extraneous issues, that grants legal status to the immigrant children known as "dreamers." Trump has promised to sign such a bill; it's time to end the uncertainty of these young people, who have so much to contribute.

...much of that just holds Donald to his promises.  Given his politics, they are his natural allies.
Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM

PRISON BREAK:

DEFENDING THE OPEN SOCIETY: THE ALTERNATIVE TO IDEOLOGY (JERRY TAYLOR, OCTOBER 29, 2018, Niskanen Center)

When we launched the Niskanen Center in January 2015, we happily identified ourselves as libertarians. Sure, we were heterodox libertarians, but there are many schools of libertarianism beyond those promoted by Charles Koch's political operations. The school we identified with was a left-libertarianism concerned with social justice (a libertarian perspective that I've defended in debates with more orthodox libertarians here and here). That worldview lacked an institutional voice in 2015. Our ambition was to create a space for it and, in so doing, redefine what it meant to be libertarian in the 21st century.

I have abandoned that libertarian project, however, because I have come to abandon ideology. This essay is an invitation for you to do likewise -- to walk out of the "clean and well-lit prison of one idea." Ideology encourages dodgy reasoning due to what psychologists call "motivated cognition," which is the act of deciding what you want to believe and using your reasoning power, with all its might, to get you there. Worse, it encourages fanaticism, disregard for social outcomes, and invites irresolvable philosophical disputes. It also threatens social pluralism -- which is to say, it threatens freedom.

The better alternative is not moral relativism. The better alternative is moderation, a commodity that is rapidly disappearing in political life, with dangerous consequences for the American republic. [...]

Reason, as David Hume famously noted, is a slave of the passions, and libertarian passions point in one direction and one direction only: hostility to government. This passion is a powerful engine of motivated cognition, which invariably leads to weak policy analysis and dogmatism. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM

HAPPY DIWALI!:

You can't take the Diwali out of Indians--even when they're in America (Ananya Bhattacharya, November 6, 2018, Quartz)

Like food, fashion, and faith, Indians carry with them their beloved festivals wherever their livelihood takes them.

It's no different in the US where people of Indian origin have been living since the 1820s.

Over the years, a growing Indian immigrant population has been celebrating Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, going all out to replicate the massive festivities from their motherland.

The scale of celebrations has become such that popular US tourist spots like Disneyland in California and New York's Times Square get painted in vibrant Indian colours. Even the White House has been celebrating the festival for many years. After all, the 3.1 million Indian-Americans form one of the most successful immigrant communities in the US.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 AM

ALONG THE ANGLOSPHERE:

Why the US is allowing India to develop an Iranian port (Al-Monitor,  November 6, 2018)

Even as it seeks to cut off Iran from the world economy, the Donald Trump administration acknowledged today that it will allow India to continue developing the Iranian port of Chabahar, an alternative South Asian trade route to the congested Suez Canal.