January 2, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Brazil markets soar as new government vows to shrink state (Anthony Boadle, 1/02/19, Reuters)

Brazil's real currency strengthened 2.4 percent and the Sao Paulo Bovespa stock index rose 3.6 percent as investors cheered pledges by Economy Minister Paulo Guedes - a former investment banker - to reduce taxes and overhaul Brazil's costly social security system.

"If we have solid pension reform, we will get 10 years of growth," said Guedes, who heads a team of orthodox economists already being likened to the 'Chicago boys' who radically overhauled Chile's economy in the 1970s and 1980s.

Guedes said he planned to cut Brazil's tax burden to 20 percent of gross domestic product from 36 percent, free the credit market from overcrowding by state banks, and reduce protectionism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Conservatism & the politics of prudence: On Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk & the conservative ethos.  (Daniel J. Mahoney, January 2019, New Criterion)

Kirk made two additional contributions to Burke studies, both of some significance. Kirk stressed that Burke was among the first to see the limits, all the limits, of social contract theorizing. Choice and consent play some legitimate role in politics (guided by humane and prudent judgment), but they should never obscure obligatory duties that are not a "matter of choice." Parents, citizens, neighbors, and children all have "burdensome duties" (as Burke puts it in An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs) that they are obliged to carry out with grace and a sense of responsibility. Likewise, Kirk noted, Burke believed that every member of a political community was "obliged to obey the laws and sustain the state." Choice plays an important role in politics (and marriage), but it cannot be the basis of every aspect of life. Duty is as fundamental as consent. Kirk stresses the multiple ways in which Burke's conservative liberalism was decidedly un-Lockean: while defending the rights of property, Burke never believed that civil society arose from a pre-political "state of nature." Men and women are not truly born "free and independent," and the only true social contract is "between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born." That is the great primeval contract that Burke so eloquently invokes in the Reflections on the Revolution in France. In the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns, he sides with the classics and the Christians against full-blown modern "individualism."

Kirk is surely right that such a "conservative" basis of the social tie would unnerve classical Whigs from John Locke in the seventeenth century to Thomas Babington Macaulay in the nineteenth. Unlike Burke, they were blind, or at least inattentive, to what I have called, in a book of that name, "the conservative foundations of the liberal order." This is especially true of John Locke. In his most "reactionary" moments (I do not mean this formulation as a criticism), Kirk hopes for the restoration of a "society guided by veneration and prescription." That is too much to hope for societies profoundly transformed by the individualist premises at the heart of Lockean liberalism. There is seemingly no going back to the world of prejudice, prescription, and presumption, all understood in the elevated Burkean meaning of those terms. Burke and Kirk are right: the "spirit of religion" and the "spirit of the gentleman" were in large part responsible for the greatness of Western civilization. As Harvey Mansfield has compellingly argued, modern bureaucrats, technicians, and ideologues are no substitute for the noblesse oblige and the humane and prudent judgment of the gentleman at his very best. But the moral capital represented by religion and the gentleman is fast eroding and cannot become the explicit foundation of Western societies, at least in a world consumed by the "acids of modernity," to borrow a phrase from Walter Lippmann. Yet Lockean premises remain woefully inadequate for understanding the sources of the Western spirit and the true grounds of moral and political obligation.

John Locke and Conservatism: Indispensable or Antithetical? (Gregory Collins, Imaginative Conservative)

The first conservative lesson we can extract from Locke's moral philosophy is the importance of order as revealed by natural law. Locke's popularity in Britain and America derived largely from his commentary on natural rights, but an overlooked element of his commentary in the Second Treatise is the function natural law plays in ordering human action. Locke's state of nature preserves individual freedom, but it is not a "state of license," as he writes. [i]The proper exercise of individuals' perfect freedom stays "within the bounds by the law of nature"[ii] to "order their actions,"[iii] and which "obliges every one."[iv] "[T]he law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as other," he contends.[v]Individuals possess rights, but those rights come with responsibilities and duties. And even though conservatives rightly criticize Locke for failing to identify original sin in his conception of the state of nature, Locke is acutely aware of the human temptation to sin through licentious action severed from moral obligation. This awareness is evident by virtue of the fact that he asserts the primacy of natural law and moral limits in the Second Treatise's very first paragraph describing the state of nature.

No, Locke's moral philosophy is not reminiscent of Plato's transcendent moral order. No, the purpose of identifying Locke's acknowledgment of natural law is not to transmogrify him into an English Thomas Aquinas. And no, the command of natural law is not an end in and of itself in traditional conservatism. The purpose of considering Locke's moral philosophy, rather, is to demonstrate his understanding of the moral futility of unrestrained freedom; to show his principled desire for ordered liberty; and to challenge the claim from some conservatives that Locke promoted hedonistic individualism liberated from ethical constraints. One more interrelated point on this conservative critique: if conservative critics charge that Locke's appeals to natural law and Richard Hooker in the Second Treatise were polemical instruments intended merely to attract the ears of contemporary religious readers--rather than as genuine insights into morality--then one could claim with just as much textual evidence in Reflections on the Revolution of France that Edmund Burke's overtures to natural law were included simply to placate potential criticism that his Reflections dipped into a quicksand of moral relativism.

Order is inextricably linked with limits, and limits signify the core of conservatism. Not only do limits on individual action occupy a role in Locke's moral philosophy, but limits on institutional action exert even a larger role in preserving ordered liberty in Locke's political philosophy. Indeed, students of Western political thought are familiar with his lucid descriptions of political institutions--such as the rule of law, popular sovereignty, and separation of powers--that emerge as the clearest political expressions of limited and self-restrained government. And so, in reading Locke's Second Treatise, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that limits are the essence of the Lockean conception of government. Government's legitimacy is limited by the consent of the governed. 

Jonah Goldberg has done podcasts with both Yoram Hazony and Patrick Deneen recently and noted their out-sized hostility to John Locke.  One would merely note his entirely orthodox statement of republican liberty, inherited from our Roman republican past and handed on to the American republican future. It is conservative by its nature:

THE natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only the law of nature for his rule. The liberty of man, in society, is to be under no other legislative power, but that established, by consent, in the common-wealth; nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact, according to the trust put in it. Freedom then is not what Sir Robert Filmer tells us, Observations, A. 55. a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws: but freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man: as freedom of nature is, to be under no other restraint but the law of nature.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


James Francies: Cleared for Takeoff (John Murph, 1/02/19, Jazz Times)

James Francies appeared humbled and startled to see a full house for his gig at New York's Jazz Standard. It was a chilly Friday evening in early November, and it was pouring outside. "Wow. I'm glad y'all came out in all of this rain," he said, after introducing members of his band. "If I didn't have to be here, I would be at home watching Law and Order or something."

The audience had reason to brave the elements. Not only is the 23-year-old Francies one of the most talked-about pianists in jazz today, but the concert was celebrating the release of his auspicious Blue Note debut, Flight. Hailing from Houston and having attended the city's High School for the Performing and Visual Arts--alma mater to such jazz luminaries as Jason Moran and Robert Glasper--Francies has quickly risen to the high ranks of his generation. He's already played with Pat Metheny, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Stefon Harris, as well as hip-hop royalty like the Roots, Common, and Nas. [...]

The concert continued with rapturous renditions of Francies' tugging, waltz-like "Sway" and the rhythmically intrepid "Reciprocal." In between those two, Francies delivered a picturesque synth-piano interlude that sounded as if it could have been lifted from Sun Ra's songbook.

Hekselman had only played with Francies a few times prior to the Jazz Standard engagement and, as he described after the first set, "I had to spend a lot of time trying to understand his rhythmic world, specifically with all the odd meters. But it was a nice challenge because there is substance to his music. He also has a rich harmonic world that comes out of gospel music and a lot of modern jazz. I definitely plan on looking back at some of those charts to better understand how the harmonies connect with one another. His music has a lot of pretty movements inside."

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


California divided: Will the Trump era fuel the Jefferson separatist movement's efforts to split off into a new, 51st state? (Stephen Magagnini , 11.29.18, Chico News & Review)

Almost anywhere you drive through Northern California, you'll see green and gold signs, flags and banners heralding the arrival of the state of Jefferson, a separatist movement that nearly succeeded in 1941 and, more recently, has grown significantly in the era of Trump.

The signs feature "The Great Seal of the State of Jefferson," a gold pan emblazoned with two X's--Jeffersonians have long believed they've been double-crossed by big-city politicians in Sacramento who take their money but ignore their concerns.

Over the last two years, the signs have popped up on billboards, front yards and haystacks, sometimes next to Confederate flags and anti-immigrant slogans.

They also can be seen at county fairs and frequent rallies featuring supporters, some in camouflage fatigues, outside the Federal Building in Sacramento, where the secessionists have taken their fight all the way the U.S. Supreme Court.

Jeffersonians argue that, since Southern California has 111 elected state reps (74 Assembly members and 37 senators) and Northern California above the San Francisco Bay Area only nine (six in the Assembly, three in the Senate), the courts have "a legal, moral and constitutional" obligation to fix this imbalance by adding more state legislators, especially in far-flung rural counties.

"Taxation without representation," the rallying cry of the American Revolution, now resonates with tens of thousands of Jeffersonians in 23 counties from Stanislaus to the Oregon border--nearly all of which voted for Trump. The "double cross" dates back to 1941, when residents of five counties, sick of paying taxes and not getting needed roads in return, joined forces with rural Northern Californians to secede and then formed their own border patrol.

Today, they reflect a growing sentiment that California should be carved into anywhere from two to six states in order to adequately govern its 40 million people and their conflicting political views on a broad range of issues, including immigration, gun control, water rights and environmental regulations.

Just this summer, a measure to ask Congress to split California into three states, backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper, qualified for the November ballot. It was eventually invalidated by the California Supreme Court, which questioned the measure's constitutionality.

The legal setback didn't discourage Jeffersonians.

Indeed, this unlikely assortment of survivalists and hippies, pot growers and hardline cops, real estate appraisers and loggers, fencing instructors and gun lovers, Latinos and anti-immigrants has joined forces, seemingly impervious to criticisms.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Mizzou Official: Tall Man Asking Short Woman Out Could Be Considered 'Sexual Harassment' (ABC 30 News, December 28th 2018)

 If a man asks a woman out on a date, and he is taller than her, can that be considered "sexual harassment"? According to a former University of Missouri vice chancellor, the answer is yes.

Court documents filed by a black male student (John Doe) at Mizzou quote testimony by the former official, but the university calls Doe's claims "inaccurate" and "out of context".

Doe was suspended from the University of Missouri for four years due to findings from a Title IX case is suing the school for racial and sexual discrimination. School officials ruled that Doe was guilty of sexual harassment because his size and gender gave him "power" over a female he pursued romantically.

Short men are indirectly aggressive toward taller men, study finds (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 02 January, 2019, Big Think)

A new study published in the journal Psychological Science uses economic games to examine the Napoleon complex, providing some of the first results on the importance of height in competition between men. [...]

The study suggests that shorter men are more likely to show indirect, rather than direct, aggression toward taller men in competitions for resources. For shorter men, the researchers wrote that these indirect strategies represent safer options than physical combat. Also, the results suggest that the Napoleon complex is most likely to manifest in situations where the shorter man has all the power, and the taller man can't retaliate.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Posted by orrinj at 3:59 AM


Bernie would be 83 after a term as president. Is that too old? (Jon Margolis, Jan 1 2019, VT Digger)

[F]or the first time, three people in their late 70s -- Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- are on the verge of mounting credible campaigns for president. If any of them gets elected next year, he will turn 80 before his first term ends. That may be too old.

No president has been 80. Most presidents have been in their 50s or 60s when they left office. George Washington was 65. Grant was 54. Teddy Roosevelt was 50, and Dwight Eisenhower, the oldest until Ronald Reagan, was 70. Barack Obama was 55.

Reagan left office a couple of weeks before his 78th birthday. Five years later, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He was then 83. That's how old Sanders will be when the next presidential term ends. Biden will be 82.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 AM


Tom Brady overestimated himself and lost $5 million (Anthony Barstow, January 1, 2019, NY Post)

As part of a series of team-friendly deals the three-time MVP has taken from the Patriots, Brady had $5 million in performance bonuses built into his contract for 2018, and he will receive exactly none of that money.

Brady was in line to receive $1 million for finishing in the top five in the league in each of passer rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown passes and passing yards, according to contract data from Spotrac.com. He failed to accomplish any of those.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


The president shapes the public character of the nation. Trump's character falls short. (Mitt Romney, January 1, 2019, Washington Post)

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow "our better angels." A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent's shortfall has been most glaring.

The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed. Trump's words and actions have caused dismay around the world. In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would "do the right thing in world affairs." One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent.

...if Mitt hadn't run as a Nativist in the 2012 primaries. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


James Watson Won't Stop Talking About Race (Amy Harmon, Jan. 1, 2019, NY Times)

It has been more than a decade since James D. Watson, a founder of modern genetics, landed in a kind of professional exile by suggesting that black people are intrinsically less intelligent than whites.

In 2007, Dr. Watson, who shared a 1962 Nobel Prize for describing the double-helix structure of DNA, told a British journalist that he was "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says, not really."

Moreover, he added, although he wished everyone were equal, "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true." [...]

[O]ffered the chance recently to recast a tarnished legacy, Dr. Watson has chosen to reaffirm it, this time on camera. In a new documentary, "American Masters: Decoding Watson,'' to be broadcast on P.B.S. on Wednesday night, he is asked whether his views about the relationship between race and intelligence have changed.

"No,'' Dr. Watson said. "Not at all. I would like for them to have changed, that there be new knowledge that says that your nurture is much more important than nature. But I haven't seen any knowledge. And there's a difference on the average between blacks and whites on I.Q. tests. I would say the difference is, it's genetic.''

Strip it of its teleology and no one would believe in it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 AM


Rural Jobs: A Big Reason Midwest Should Love Clean Energy: From wind power maintenance to energy efficiency upgrades, clean energy job opportunities outnumber fossil fuel work in much of the rural Midwest. (Dan Gearino, DEC 7, 2018, inside Climate News)

In 2017, the latest data in the report, clean energy employed about 158,000 people in the rural Midwest, according to NRDC. While a larger number of clean energy jobs overall were in urban areas, the rural clean energy jobs stand out for making up a bigger percentage of the overall rural economy. 

Gary Easton has seen the growth in his rural southeastern Ohio business, Appalachian Renewable Power. The company, with six employees, installs rooftop solar systems, and most of its customers are in small towns or out in the woods or farms. This week, his clients include a flower shop in Barnesville, Ohio, population about 4,100, where his employees installed solar panels.

"There are years we're experiencing 100 percent growth," Easton said.

"I'm a rural business because this is where I want to live," he said. "This is the kind of place where I want to be."

Fossil fuel industries have faded as major employers in most of the rural Midwest, despite a history in some states closely tied to coal, oil and natural gas production, the report shows. Ten of the 12 states have more rural clean energy jobs than rural fossil fuel jobs. The exceptions are North Dakota, which has the Bakken oil field, and Kansas, where the numbers are close.

Meanwhile, renewable energy has been booming in the region as prices have fallen and wind power has become cheaper than both coal and natural gas in many areas.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


'Wow': NASA startles with invitation to sanctioned Russian (BEN SCHRECKINGER, 01/01/2019, Politico)

A Trump administration official's plan to host a sanctioned Russian nationalist in the U.S. in the coming months is raising alarms among Russia hawks in Washington.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine extended an October invitation for his counterpart, Dmitry Rogozin, to visit NASA headquarters in Houston in early 2019. U.S.-Russia space cooperation is nothing new. But Rogozin is no typical rocket-science technocrat. He is an ultranationalist politician with a record of stark racism and homophobia who is under American sanctions, which typically bar him from entering the U.S. over his 2014 role, as deputy prime minister, in Moscow's annexation of Crimea.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll: What do Democrats want in 2020? Someone new - and Biden  (Susan Page and Bill Theobald, 12/26/18, USA TODAY)

Asking voters their pick for president more than a year before the primaries begin typically doesn't tell you much beyond name recognition. Instead of asking about support, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll tested which candidates now seem intriguing to voters, and who turns them off, in an effort to get clues about the dynamic ahead. 

Landing at the top of the list of 11 options was "someone entirely new" - perhaps a prospect not on the political radar screen yet. Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed - 59 percent - said they would be "excited" about a candidate like that; only 11 percent said they'd prefer that a new face not run.  [...]

Voters were open to the idea of considering someone new to challenge Trump, who announced his campaign for re-election on the day he was inaugurated for his first term. Four newcomers to national politics scored net positive reactions to potential candidacies.

Thirty percent said they would be excited about O'Rourke, 46, running; just 13 percent said he shouldn't, a net positive of 17 percentage points. He also had room to grow: More than a third of those surveyed, 35 percent, said they had never heard of him. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kentucky Distillers Scientifically Emulate A Century-Old Bottle Of Bourbon (ASHLIE STEVENS, 1/01/19, Louisville Public Media)

[T]hat antique bottle of Old Taylor, which was originally released in 1917, inspired Eaves -- whose background is in chemical engineering -- to use new technology to examine the bourbon's past. [...]

Susan Reigler, a bourbon historian and biologist, explains that in order for a distillate to be considered bourbon, it must meet a few basic requirements: the spirit has to be grain based; the mash bill (mix of grains) has to be 51 percent corn; it must be aged in new, charred-oak barrels; and it must not be introduced to the barrel at higher than 125 proof.

"Because of this, certainly, the process that goes on in the still is basically the same -- the chemistry is the same," says Reigler, who is also the author of The Bourbon Tasting Notebook. "And the compounds in the spirit are something that can be assessed."

Which is exactly what Eaves did.

"We decided to use a good old-fashioned 'GC' -- gas chromatography," she says.

Chromatography is a process used by scientists to separate a mixture of chemicals, in liquid or gas form, into components by running it over the surface of another substance, typically a liquid or solid. A visual example often used in classrooms is pouring a water droplet onto an ink mark on a piece of paper. The ink -- which is a liquid mixture of several dyes -- will separate on the paper into distinct, colored streaks.

In the case of the Old Taylor bourbon, the liquid was separated into different chemical compounds.

"Then we looked at these chemical compounds and from there, we were able to figure out what grains he was using, [and found] a yeast strain that has a similar flavor profile," Eaves says. "So that's how we went about it and constructed our recipe based on it, loosely. We didn't really want to replicate what he was making exactly, but take those flavor cues from the past, and then model our recipe around that."