September 7, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 11:45 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


Thom Tillis' terrible, no good and totally predictable bad day (THE EDITORIAL BOARD, SEPTEMBER 05, 2019, charlotte Observer)

[Trump]  falsely gave credit to a Republican who didn't deserve it instead of a Democrat who did. Tillis could have been the big man here with a follow up tweet, something as simple as: "Thanks, Mr. President, for granting the governor's request for an emergency declaration. I'm glad the conversation you and I had will bring comfort to the people of North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Dorian." That would have allowed to Tillis to be the good guy for directing credit to the proper person while getting some cred for nudging the president to help North Carolina.

Instead, Tillis said nothing. By Wednesday morning, people had noticed. Twitter sizzled with disdain at the president's and senator's political cravenness. The Washington Post and others picked up the story. Instead of getting an easy political win, Tillis was left appearing both opportunistic and afraid to even gently correct Trump.

Then his day got worse. Late in the afternoon, news broke that $80 million worth of construction projects at North Carolina military bases were being cut to shift funds to building the president's wall on the Mexican border. The total includes $40 million for a new battalion complex and ambulatory care center at Camp Lejeune, as well as a planned elementary school to serve families at Fort Bragg. The $80 million in N.C. cuts were more than in any other state with a GOP senator facing reelection in 2020.

Trump's wall already was the source of one of the senator's weakest moments. As N.C. voters surely remember, Tillis announced in February that he would vote against the president's effort to circumvent Congress and pay for the wall by declaring a national emergency at the southern border. Three weeks later, he backed down and gave his blessing and vote to the president's overreach.

Now that decision will doubly haunt him.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


Nineteenth-Century Nihilists Foretold Our Era: Why the Age of Alternative Facts Might Have Unnerved Even Nietzsche (Robert Zaretsky September 6, 2019, Foreign Affairs)

To be sure, Dostoyevsky neither coined the term nor gave it currency. The word was loosely applied to semiclandestine student groups in mid-nineteenth-century Russia, at one another's throats over strategy but united in their determination to overthrow the repressive tsarist state. The publication of Ivan Turgenev's Fathers and Children in 1862 firmly entrenched the term in the popular imagination. The novel's charismatic protagonist, Evgeny Vasilich Bazarov, embodies a heroic conception of nihilism. When asked just who or what is a nihilist, Bazarov proudly replies: "We act on the basis of what we recognize as useful. . . . Nowadays the most useful thing of all is rejection--we reject." When his shocked interlocutor insists that the construction of a better world is also important, Bazarov cuts him short: "That's not for us to do. . . . First, the ground must be cleared."

Appalled by the terrorist activities of the young nihilists on whom Turgenev based Bazarov, Dostoyevsky transformed their political doctrine into something much larger and more dreadful. In his later novels, ranging from Crime and Punishment through The Devils to The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky suggested that the true specter haunting Europe was not communism but nihilism. It was an ism unlike any other insofar as it held that the carcass of the past was not worth preserving, the misery of the present demanded that one act, and the promise of the future permitted one to do whatever was necessary to bring it about. Whereas Turgenev's Bazarov made pronouncements, Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov made plans and acted upon them.

Dostoyevsky drew nihilism from the realms of politics and ethics into that of metaphysics. If everything we have thought is a tale told by an idiot, if everything we have done amounts to a hill of beans, we find ourselves unmoored not just from morality but from the possibility of meaning itself. Everything is permitted, as Ivan Karamazov declares, when you believe in nothing and hold nothing to be important. Whereas the political nihilism that hovers over the characters in Fathers and Children disavows political and social institutions, the metaphysical nihilism that hounds the actors in The Brothers Karamazov disavows existence itself. 

Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche offered prescriptions along with their descriptions of our common predicament.
In order to grasp the relevance of this claim for our own era, we need to glance at the work of the man whose reading of Dostoyevsky led to the definition of nihilism with which we still grapple. In 1887, Friedrich Nietzsche excitedly wrote to a friend about a discovery he had just made: "I knew nothing about Dostoyevsky until a few weeks ago. . . . The instinct of affinity (or what shall I call it?) spoke to me instantaneously--my joy was beyond bounds." As Nietzsche perceived, the Russian novelist had not just blasted political nihilism but also detonated the enlightened foundations, built with the mortar of reason and means of technology, into smithereens.

That same year, while still reading Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche posed the $64,000 question: "What does nihilism mean?" Nietzsche being Nietzsche, he already had the answer, one he emblazoned in italics: "That the highest values devaluate themselves." By "values," Nietzsche means nothing less than truth and reason. The acid of reason, by dissolving every belief we ever held, ultimately dissolves itself. It seems to abandon us in a cosmic dead end, leaving us with a dismal consolation prize--the paradoxical affirmation that "there is simply no true world." 

The Anglosphere is characterized by nothing so much as the ease with which we escaped the impasse.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


You will be eating replacement meats within 20 years. Here's why (Carsten Gerhardt, 7/20/19, WEF)

The conversion of grain (when used as livestock feed) in dry weight to meat with similar amounts of calories is around 15% across all meat types, as most of this energy is lost in keeping animals' body temperature constant, creating by-products and excreting waste. If by-products are considered as edible meat, the conversion rate rises to 23%. Meanwhile, novel vegan and cultured meat need significantly less material input and water to create the same amount of meat. Their conversion rates are 75% and 70% respectively.

The curve is nowhere near inverted enough.
Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Air Force crew made an odd stop on a routine trip: Trump's Scottish resort: Now the layover is part of a broader House inquiry into military spending at and around the Trump property. (NATASHA BERTRAND and BRYAN BENDER, 09/06/2019, Politico)

In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.

What wasn't routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump's Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay -- both en route to the Middle East and on the way back -- at the luxury waterside resort, according to several people familiar with the incident. But they have yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.

The inquiry is part of a broader, previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and around the Trump property in Scotland. According to a letter the panel sent to the Pentagon in June, the military has spent $11 million on fuel at the Prestwick Airport -- the closest airport to Trump Turnberry -- since October 2017, fuel that would be cheaper if purchased at a U.S. military base. The letter also cites a Guardian report that the airport provided cut-rate rooms and free rounds of golf at Turnberry for U.S. military members.

Taken together, the incidents raise the possibility that the military has helped keep Trump's Turnberry resort afloat -- the property lost $4.5 million in 2017, but revenue went up $3 million in 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM