February 1, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


Virginia governor apologizes for racist 1984 yearbook photo (Reuters, 2/01/19) 

"I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now," Northam said in the statement.

  "This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians' faith in that commitment."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Planning for Detention: How 2 States Help Immigrant Children Stay Out of Foster Care: The parents of at least a quarter of a million kids are at risk of deportation. In case that happens, lawmakers are adding protections -- with bipartisan support -- for the children left behind. (MATTIE QUINN, JANUARY 31, 2019, Governing)
Since Donald Trump became president, immigration arrests have quadrupled, placing hundreds of thousands of immigrants at risk of deportation and separating tens of thousands of children from their parents. On an average day, there are 44,000 immigrants being held in federal custody, which Vox reports is an all-time high up from the pre-Trump record of 34,000.

As of November, 14,000 immigrant kids were in government custody without their parents -- another record high. To keep more of these kids from falling into federal care or foster care, lawmakers in two states have expanded emergency guardianship laws. And despite the divisive nature of immigration policy, the legislation has attracted bipartisan support.

"Right now, there are so many unknowns for Dreamers, DACA recipients, people with TPS," says Carlo Sanchez, a son of El Salvadoran immigrants who co-sponsored the bill in Maryland. "We have a responsibility to talk about what happens when those people go away."

The legislation allows immigrants who fear they are at risk of deportation to assign a "standby guardian" for their children or dependents. If a parent is deported or arrested, their children can legally stay with that person. [...]

Sanchez says the potential Temporary Protected Status (TPS) rollbacks deepened deportation fears in his community of Prince George's County, which has a sizable El Salvadoran population. Depending on the outcome of a lawsuit, the Trump administration could end TPS for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan. TPS provides legal protections for immigrants from countries and regions suffering from political violence or natural disaster. More than a quarter of a million U.S. citizen children -- 273,000 -- have a parent whose TPS standing could be revoked in the next year.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


How Kamala Harris Won the Rollout Primary: And Kirsten Gillibrand lost it. (BILL SCHER January 31, 2019, Politico)

[B]ecause of early voting and changes to the still-unsettled primary calendar, candidates can't just camp out on the cheap in bucolic Iowa throughout 2019, shaking the most hands and hoping for a late break. Well before the first Iowa caucus-goer stands in a high school gymnasium corner, candidates will need enough coin to bankroll an ad campaign in megastates like California and Texas. A campaign that cannot get sufficient media attention is likely to dry up and close down before we even get to 2020.

That's why the presidential campaign rollout matters more than ever. Without a good first impression, candidates may fail to achieve liftoff.

So who's winning the 2020 rollout primary so far, and who is in danger? And what should the candidates who have yet to announce learn from the early jumpers? First, it helps to start with a big crowd. If you can't assemble a big crowd right away, then you better have a big idea. If you are getting criticized, whether it's from the left or the right, treat it as an opportunity to stand your ground, and show your strength.

The Champ: Kamala Harris

Harris didn't have just a great rollout day, but a great rollout week. She made her announcement to the viewers of ABC's "Good Morning America" on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and made clear the link to civil rights history was no coincidence.

The following Wednesday, after finishing an interview on MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," the host offered, "I think there's a good chance that you are going to win the nomination."

On Sunday, Harris assembled the biggest crowd of the January rollout season, an estimated 20,000 in her hometown of Oakland, California, for her first major address of the campaign. One day later, she gave a polished performance at a CNN televised town hall, goosing the network's ratings in that time slot by 75 percent. She even picked up some of the first congressional endorsements of the campaign, earning the backing of California Reps. Nanette Barragán, Ted Lieu and Katie Hill.

Beyond her poise at the lectern and on screen, she also deflected, for now, the first attacks on her progressive bona fides. While several other announced and probable candidates have begun their endeavors with mea culpas, Harris gave no quarter in the face of criticism that she was too punitive a prosecutor as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general. She insisted her approach to criminal justice was progressive, and painted her critics as a fringe element of "people who just believe that prosecutors shouldn't exist, and I don't think I'm ever going to satisfy them."

Nothing will put paid to the Donald aberration better than a match-up between two women of color.

Booker is running. I've watched him for 20 years. Here's what I've learned (Tom Moran, 2/01/19,  Star-Ledger)

He's a rich target in crazy times like this, because he's not a normal guy. He's a vegan and a Rhodes Scholar, and he never touches alcohol or tobacco. He meditates daily, and Tweets quotes from Jewish scholars and Buddhist priests. He once supported vouchers for private schools, and he attends prayer meetings with a Republican senator who thinks climate change is a hoax.

I like all that, myself. We'll see how it goes over with factory workers in Toledo.

But put that aside. The core criticism of Booker is that he is a showboat with a silver tongue, a man whose real talent is promoting himself, not getting stuff done.

That last part -- about not getting stuff done -- is wildly unfair. He may be famous for that silver tongue, but he carries an iron hammer to work.

In Newark, Booker beat the corrupt old guard and became the first mayor in 45 years to leave office without being indicted. He cut the city's workforce by 25 percent, a record of austerity unmatched in the state. He doubled the supply of affordable housing. He drove down crime sharply, at least until a cut in state aid forced police layoffs. He was a key figure in expanding charter schools that now educate one-third of city students, and are rated as among the best in the country by outside experts.

Showboat? The man likes a camera, granted. But there's a lot more to him than that.

In the Senate, Booker had cringe-worthy moment on national TV in September during the confirmation hearings from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he threatened to break ethics rules by releasing confidential records on Kavanaugh's attitudes towards racial profiling. "This is about the closest I'll probably ever have in my life to an 'I am Spartacus' moment," he said.

Ouch. It was self-aggrandizing, and it turned out the documents had been released several hours earlier by the committee itself. "That was a little over the top," says Rutgers professor Ross Baker, one of the nation's leading experts on the U.S. Senate.

But, again, look at the larger record. Booker was a leading negotiator of the most important bipartisan effort since President Trump was elected, the criminal justice reform signed in December that shortened sentences and reformed prison practices. It was a chief goal of Booker's since his election in 2013, and he nailed it.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Hydrogen trains are coming - can they get rid of diesel for good? (Brian Scott-Quinn, 1/31/19, Cap-X)

Hydrogen trains have already replaced more polluting diesel engines on a line in Germany, and some train companies think the vehicles could be running in Britain as early as 2022. Introducing them would still require substantial investment and wouldn't be without challenges. But they could be an important step towards reducing the carbon footprint of railways.

Only around a third of the UK rail network has been electrified, with little extra track converted in the last few years. Without continuing to electrify the network, the government is faced with the dilemma of how to eliminate diesel trains that produce carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants.

The current strategy is to purchase bimodal trains that can switch to using diesel when they reach parts of the track without electricity. But this is fudging the issue of dealing with climate change and air pollution and still leaves the UK well behind most other European networks.

The hydrogen gas would need to be compressed into tanks that would usually be stored on the train's roof. But adding a regenerative braking system to charge an additional small battery would reduce the amount of hydrogen needed to power the train.If electrifying the rest of the network is deemed too expensive, one potential alternative is to generate electricity on board the train. One way to do this is to use fuel cells that combine hydrogen gas with oxygen from the air to produce electricity and water. Hydrogen can carry more energy than the same weight of batteries, meaning fuel cell systems could be lighter. They also take less time to refuel than batteries take to recharge and don't have the same high environmental costs from manufacturing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


The Bolivarian God That Failed (Clifton Ross, 2/01/19, Quillette)

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted--at first gradually, but then definitively--into the camp of my former "enemies," persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I'd published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated "new" ideas for which I'd previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer's quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance--that principle is contempt prior to investigation."

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold's book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I'd previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I'd visited Cuba twice--in 1994 and again in 2010--and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I'd seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn't--and doesn't--work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding--and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I've seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek's writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The "synoptic delusion"--the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy--Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to "correct" these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for "saboteurs" and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion--compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism--is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, "with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless." Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people's hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy's many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism's foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


A Hillbilly and a Survivalist Show the Way Out of Trump Country (Timothy Egan, Feb. 1, 2019, NY Times)

Vance's ragged Middletown, Ohio, went for Trump two to one. And Franklin County, Idaho, where Westover grew up, gave Hillary Clinton just 7 percent of its vote. Trump got 10 times as much. The people we meet in both places are poor, white, undereducated, violent and evangelical in the extreme.

But as much as these folks were all-in for the oft-bankrupt developer, Trump's presidency has been a kick in the teeth for them. A con man in business turned out to be an even greater con man in office. The policies he has promoted -- taking health care from the poor, trying to slash aid for people unable to afford college, gutting regulations that save lives in mills and scrapyards -- have made life more hazardous in Trump-won ZIP codes.

Beyond that, the surprise takeaway from these books is that we have the tools at hand to ensure that demography is not destiny in Forgotten America. One common thread of both memoirs is distrust of institutions. And yet it was institutions -- the military in Vance's case, college in Westover's life -- that saved them.

That, and a handful of people who showed them enough love and an escape route from places where "family dysfunction" is too kind a euphemism.

Their cultures are toxic and intransigent. As Vance writes, "poverty is in the family tradition," as is "learned helplessness." In other words, the hillbillies of his book have no one but themselves to blame for being hillbillies. Many of his neighbors are painted as lazy dependents of opioids and government handouts. There's plenty of fighting, fornicating and fact-denying.

He is scornful of government help programs. "I am a conservative," he writes in a new afterword, "one who doubts that the 1960s approach to welfare has made it easier for our country's poor children to achieve their dreams."

But it was a government hand up -- the great meritocracy of the Marine Corps and federal aid to get through college -- that sent Vance on his way. To his credit, he has recently helped raise more than $150 million in venture capital to encourage new businesses in overlooked communities.

Tara Westover's story is more harrowing. It's not just the dark cave of ignorance in which she was raised. She says she was beaten senseless by her brother, in a family that enabled domestic abuse. Her father believed that doctors were "minions of Satan," and public school was a plot of the Illuminati.

College was her lifeline. Between battering from her brother and serious injuries at the old man's junkyard, she taught herself enough to get into Brigham Young University. There she first heard about the Holocaust and bipolar disorder, among many revelations.

While much of Trumpism is morally repellant, one part that's simply hilarious is the notion that business offers salvation to these folks.  It represents a misapprehension of the value of labor that we usually associate with Marxism.