September 10, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The Best Fall Foliage Train Trips to Take This Year (MAYA KACHROO-LEVINE SEPTEMBER 06, 2018, travel & leisure)

Mt. Washington Cog Railway

This three-hour experience brings visitors to the summit of Mt. Washington, where visitors can see five states, Canada, and the Atlantic Ocean. The entire experience consists of an hour ride up the mountain, an hour to take in the views from the top, and an hour back down. The multi-colored train of the Mt. Washington Cog Railway feels rustic and quintessentially New England, and the route, which runs through November, lights up in the fall. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


The Imperialistic Sohrab Ahmari: His almost-integralism might be silly but it has something crucial in common with his foreign policy views. (MATT PURPLE, September 10, 2019, TAC)

For months now, we've been told that so-called fusionist conservatism--the synthesis of traditional Christianity and individual liberty--is dead. In its place is arising something more muscular, more direct, unafraid to harness the power of government to achieve good ends. At the furthest reaches of this new school are those like Sohrab Ahmari, who recommend a bracing dose of Catholic morality delivered unabashedly by the state. The goal is no longer to defend the boundaries of the public square but, as Ahmari puts it, to "fight the culture war with the aim of defeating the enemy and enjoying the spoils in the form of a public square reordered to the common good and ultimately the Highest Good."

He couldn't even win a debate. Last week, at the Catholic University of America, Ahmari sat down with National Review scribe David French, a fusionist conservative, and was thoroughly trounced. He was unable to defend his most basic positions; matters of constitutional law stumped him. Asked by French what he would actually do to make America more moral, he recommended hauling the "head of the Modern Library Association," which doesn't exist, before a committee of Senators Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton, which also doesn't exist. The row between these two began when Ahmari accused French of being insufficiently outraged over drag queen reading hours at local libraries. Yet by the end of Ahmari's performance, even the most ardent social conservative had to be hoping a gay pride float would crash through the debate room wall. [...]

The contention at the heart of Ahmarism is that the government ought to impose a putatively Catholic conception of the common good unchecked by notions of individual liberty and so-called "proceduralism" (which the rest of the planet calls "the rule of law").

The enemies of Ahmarism, then, are libertarianism with its emphasis on personal freedom, classical liberalism with its rules of governance, and progressivism with its debauched social ethic. These things the Ahmarists roll up into a ball and term "liberalism," which they then inveigh against in columns that at first were interesting but now sound heavily mad-libbed. As with all ideologues, they refuse to recognize distinctions--between ordered political liberty and unlimited license, for example. As with all fanatics, they blame the enemy for all that's gone wrong and credit him for nothing that's gone right. (This is not, I should point out here, a critique of Patrick Deneen, whose Why Liberalism Failed is more a warning of what's to come than a theocratic alternative. A conversation between Deneen and French would have been genuinely interesting.)

Ahmari's politics is the sort held primarily by adolescents. It divides the world into easy categories, one strong (Ahmarists), another compromising (liberals), and a third evil (leftists)--and is there really such a difference between those last two at the end of the day? It's the speech at the end of Team America rinsed in holy water. But let's take it seriously for a moment.


Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM

54-40, FIGHT:

CNN Poll: 6 in 10 say Trump does not deserve a second term (Jennifer Agiesta, 9/10/19, CNN)

The 60% who say the President does not deserve to be reelected is similar to the 63% who felt that way in November 2017. [...]

The President's approval rating remains about where it was in mid-August, with 39% approving of the job he's doing and 55% disapproving. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Facebook is free, but should it count toward GDP anyway?: How much are free online goods worth to people, anyway? Researcher attempt to find an answer. (PETER DIZIKES, 08 September, 2019, Big Think)

For several decades, gross domestic product (GDP), a sum of the value of purchased goods, has been a ubiquitous yardstick of economic activity.

More recently, some observers have suggested that GDP falls short because it doesn't include the value of free online goods such as social media, search engines, maps, videos, and more.

A new study by MIT researchers puts a dollar value on all those free digital goods people use, and builds the case that online activity can and should become part of GDP some day.

For instance, Facebook is worth about $40 to $50 per month for U.S. consumers, according to a series of surveys the researchers conducted. In Europe, digital maps on phones are valued at 59 euros (currently about $67) per month. And the free messaging tool WhatsApp, used most widely outside the U.S., is worth a whopping 536 euros ($611) per month, the survey indicates.

"The magnitude of the numbers was really striking," says Avinash Collis, a doctoral candidate in information technologies at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who helped develop the new study.

Or, as the scholars write in a new paper summarizing the results, "digital goods have created large gains in well-being that are not reflected in conventional measures of GDP and productivity."

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Netanyahu petrified by possible Trump-Rouhani meeting (Ben Caspit September 10, 2019, Al Monitor)

Netanyahu is in the midst of a perfect storm. All his nightmares are converging: His toughest, most fateful election campaign has entered its final leg. The confrontation between Israel and Iran over the Iranian entrenchment in Syria is escalating even as the US administration's commitment to Netanyahu's anti-Iranian campaign appears to be weakening. Netanyahu is fighting on these fronts at the same time, against great odds.

The timing of Netanyahu's news conference was hardly coincidental. Two hours earlier, his drive to place hidden cameras at Israeli polling stations collapsed when a Knesset committee sank his proposed legislation on the issue. Then a news conference was convened in Vienna by IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta, who had just returned from Tehran. Netanyahu set himself two goals: To create an Iran-centric, security-focused agenda ahead of the Sept. 17 vote and fight what he regards as the IAEA's conciliatory attitude toward Iran. However, Netanyahu received a crushing blow two hours after his news conference from the least likely direction: his closest ally President Donald Trump, the gift that never stops giving.

"It could happen," the president told reporters in response to a question about whether he would be willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. "No problem with me."

Previous suggestions that Trump would lose interest in pressuring Iran, as was the case with North Korea, are quickly materializing...

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


On Fox, Michelle Malkin Pushes Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory (Courtney Hagle, September 9, 2019, MediaMatters

On September 9, a Fox & Friends guest pushed the same anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that motivated the Tree of Life shooter to kill 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

On Monday morning, the Fox & Friends co-hosts welcomed right-wing writer Michelle Malkin, who argued that "global financiers" are "colluding to undermine American sovereignty" by "sabotaging our will when it comes to enforcing strictly immigration law." Malkin posited that tax-exempt, nonprofit charities funded by the likes of Democratic donor George Soros, along with institutions like the United Nations, are funneling "hard-earned, tax-paying American citizens' money to fund these illegal alien groups." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Bolton's departure shows failure of U.S. 'maximum pressure' against Iran: Rouhani adviser (Reuters, 9/10/19) 

An adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump's firing of his national security adviser John Bolton pointed to the failure of Washington's "maximum pressure strategy" against Iran.

"The marginalization and subsequent elimination of Bolton is not an accident but a decisive sign of the failure of the U.S. maximum pressure strategy in the face of the constructive resistance of Iran," Hesameddin Ashena tweeted.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


U.S. President Trump could meet with Iran's Rouhani at U.N. with no preconditions: Pompeo (Reuters) 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations meeting, with "no preconditions."

...why wouldn't Iran impose conditions?

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Univision News poll: Democrats surge in Texas, no longer a safe state for Trump in 2020 (SERGIO GARCÍA-RÍOS, ANA ELENA AZPURUA, JOSÉ FERNANDO LÓPEZ, AMAYA VERDE y JAVIER FIGUEROA 10 SEP 2019, Univision)

Days away from the third Democratic debate in Houston and over a year from the 2020 presidential election, an exclusive poll by Univision News found that 40% of registered voters in the state say they will vote for the Democrat who prevails in the party's primary, while 33% say they will support president Trump. If undecided voters leaning one way or the other are included, the advantage would be 47% to 42% in favor of the Democrats.

The Latino vote could be decisive. A large majority of Hispanics (69%) surveyed in the state said they intend to vote for the Democratic candidate, compared with 19% who plan to support Trump (also including undecided voters who are leaning one way or another).

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


Trump approval drops by 6 points, majority say recession likely: POLL (GARY LANGER, Sep 10, 2019, ABC News)

Trump fell from a career-high 44% approval in July to 38% now, a point off his career average, with 56% disapproving. His average rating since taking office remains the lowest on record for any modern president at a comparable point in his term, and he is the first never to have achieved majority approval.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Trump fires Iran hawk John Bolton as national security adviser (Times of Israel/AP, 9/10/19)

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that he had fired National Security Adviser John Bolton, seen as the architect of the White House's hard-line policy toward Iran, citing strong disagreements on a number of policy issues.

Bolton's exit comes as Trump moves closer to direct talks with Iran after pulling out of the nuclear deal, and likely signals a shift in the administration's strategy toward a softer line with Tehran.

Beards trump mustache.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Most Americans support mental health screenings, background checks to combat gun violence: poll (JUSTINE COLEMAN, 09/10/19, The Hill)

A majority of respondents in a new poll said they would support several initiatives to reduce gun violence following a month of mass shootings.

The NPR/Marist poll released Tuesday found the most popular proposal among members of both political parties is an increase in funding for mental health screenings and treatment, which was supported by 89 percent of respondents. 

Majorities also supported background checks, a red flag law allowing people to petition against others from gun ownership and gun licenses. 

Gun owners aligned with the majority of respondents, with the majority supporting all of these proposed plans.

Most respondents -- 57 percent -- also agreed that Congress should not pass legislation to allow teachers to carry guns, according to the poll. 

All of the crazy leftwing things the Right wants to run against are extremely popular.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Commerce Chief Threatened Firings at NOAA After Trump's Dorian Tweets, Sources Say (Christopher Flavelle, Lisa Friedman and Peter Baker, Sept. 9, 2019, NY Times)

Craig N. McLean, NOAA's acting chief scientist, sent an email to staff members Monday notifying the agency that he was looking into "potential violations" in the agency's decision to ultimately back Mr. Trump's statements rather than those of its own scientists. He called the agency's action "a danger to public health and safety."

Also on Monday, the National Weather Service director, Louis W. Uccellini, prompted a standing ovation at a weather industry conference in Huntsville, Ala., when he praised the work of the Birmingham office, asked them to stand and said staff members had acted "with one thing in mind, public safety" when they contradicted Mr. Trump's claim that Alabama was at risk.

Only in Donald's America can being a weatherman require speaking truth to power....
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Virginia couples challenge laws requiring them to declare their race (Dhruti Shah, 9/09/19, BBC News)

In the US state of Virginia, couples must declare their racial background from a long list of options including "Aryan", "Moor" and "Zoroastrian" before getting married. A lawsuit is aiming to put a stop to this.

The suit, filed by lawyer Victor M Glasberg on behalf of three couples, describes the statute as "unconstitutional" and "reflective of a racist past".

Mr Glasberg has also written to Democratic Governor Ralph Northam, urging him to "do what must be done to get on the right side of history".

One of the couples involved - Brandyn Churchill, 27, and Sophie Rogers, 23, of Lexington, Virginia - is hoping to have won the case by the time they get married next month.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Is Tulsi Gabbard Paying This Obscure Consultant Big Bucks? : Kris Robinson grew up in the same controversial religious sect as Gabbard. Now, he's one of the top-paid vendors on her 2020 presidential campaign. (Nick Grube, 9/09/19, Honolulu Civil Beat)

While turnover and dysfunction have been hallmarks of Gabbard's congressional career and, now, her presidential campaign, Robinson has been a near constant in her political orbit.

Like her, he has ties to an obscure religious sect called the Science of Identity Foundation that's based in Kailua and run by a reclusive guru whose devotees have displayed political ambitions. [...]

The Robinsons and the Stewarts all have ties to the Kailua-based Science of Identity Foundation, a controversial religious sect that was founded by Chris Butler, someone Gabbard has described as her "guru dev," or spiritual master.

Their names have appeared on a number of online forums tracking the organization. Former members interviewed by Civil Beat also confirmed the Robinsons' and Stewarts' affiliations with Butler and his religion.

The Science of Identity Foundation is an offshoot of Hare Krishna that was started in Hawaii by the surf-obsessed Butler in the 1970s, and has since spread to other parts of the U.S. as well as countries such as New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines.

Butler and his followers had clear political aspirations in Hawaii, launching their own party called the Independents for Godly Government that in 1976 fielded a slate of more than a dozen candidates for federal, state and local office.

Much has been written about Gabbard's upbringing in the religious sect and speculation continues about how much Butler and the organization are influencing or involved in her presidential campaign.

Gabbard's parents, Mike Gabbard, a Hawaii state senator, and his wife, Carol, a former school board member, were both Butler devotees. The congresswoman even spent a couple childhood years at a school in the Philippines that was run by Butler's followers.

Kris Robinson also attended one of these schools, according to Ian Koviak, a Portland, Oregon, resident whose mother was a devotee of Butler and his religion.

Koviak says he was a classmate of Robinson's at the Science of Identity Foundation's all-boys school in the Philippines, where his mother sent him while she went on a mission to Poland.

Like others who have distanced themselves from Butler and his religion -- which they call "a cult" -- Koviak has been outspoken about his experiences within the Science of Identity Foundation and at the school, participating in online forums at the Cult Education Institute website and posting to social media.

Tulsi Gabbard's Inner Circle
Robinson isn't the only person with ties to the Science of Identity Foundation who has been affiliated with Gabbard in recent years, since she's been in Congress or even during her run for president.

The congresswoman surrounds herself with people who are linked to Butler and his followers, from her chief of staff, Kainoa Penaroza, to some of her closest campaign advisors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Rocket-Fuel Additive Could Be the Next Great Power Breakthrough (PATRICK TUCKER, SEPTEMBER 9, 2019, Defense One)

Enter aluminum hydride -- also AIH3 or Alane -- a combination of three hydrogen atoms and one aluminum atom originally developed in the 1970s as a potential additive to rocket fuel. Looking a lot like baby powder, it's much easier to transport and use than compressed gaseous or liquid hydrogen. The energy density is also far greater. Kristopher Lichter, CEO of San Francisco-based Ardica Technologies, which makes fuel cells that run on Alane, describes it as "four times as energy dense as gaseous hydrogen...but [with] none of the problems handling." It doesn't require special tanker trucks or pipelines. Instead, the powder goes into a cartridge, which when heated in a fuel cell, releases gaseous hydrogen for use in generating electricity.

If you have a handful of Alane, you're effectively holding much more energy than you would have in a compressed gas tank (see chart below).  But, says Lichter, "The difference is much bigger than that. It's much more stark because Alane is so lightweight that when I put it into a cartridge, you can't tell whether that cartridge is empty or full of Alane because the Alane itself is so ridiculously light, that all you're feeling is the aluminum cartridge itself that it contains it."

Ardica is teaming up with the U.S. Army to develop portable power for soldiers. They have a 20-watt wearable soldier power system that's been field-tested in Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiments. "Assuming things go according to plan, that effort is going into production soon," said Lichter.

They are also working on a 300-watt generator, with prototypes expected in six months.

The Army is also looking to use in future vehicles, and is offering funding via phase-II Small Business Innovation Research grants.

"We're looking to scale up what they are doing with that soldier-portable stuff up to a ground vehicle requirement. So its increasing the scale of their cartridge by over 15 times," said Kevin Centeck, head of fuel cell technologies for the Army's Ground Vehicles Systems Center, or GVSC. "That will enable us to put enough energy onboard a vehicle without using bulky distribution tanks...There's excitement in that in that we can transport it much easier. We can fit more energy onboard a vehicle."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When Islam Is Not a Religion in America: Muslim lawyer who helped Hobby Lobby and Hosanna-Tabor win at the Supreme Court details the difficulties Muslims face in securing the freedoms that US Christians demand. (INTERVIEW BY JAYSON CASPER| SEPTEMBER 9, 2019, Christianity Today)

At stake is the protection of religious liberty, writes lawyer Asma T. Uddin in When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America's Fight for Religious Freedom. Her new book details recent legal cases involving Muslims, arguing that restrictions on one faith community affect the freedom of all. [....]

CT: American evangelicals are often concerned that Christians have their religious liberty threatened around the world, often in Muslim-majority nations. The focus of your book is Muslim religious liberty, threatened in the United States. What sorts of challenges do Muslims face in America?

Uddin: I think it's important to point out that the book doesn't just look at attacks on Muslims. The book looks broadly at the attack on religious freedom, seen through the prism of attacks on Muslims. I discuss violence against churches, synagogues, and Sikh temples.

But in terms of threats to Muslim religious freedom specifically, I look at the nationwide anti-mosque controversy, which started in earnest after the so-called "Ground Zero mosque" fiasco. From there, it spread to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which was the first community to be affected while attempting to build a mosque. That's where the claim was made that Islam is not a religion.

To this day, there are ongoing struggles to build mosques. It's not just litigation, but also arson and fire bombing. There is even a question about Muslim cemeteries, to the point where American Muslims are unable to bury their dead. That's the challenge we're facing to our human dignity.

I also look at the so-called anti-Sharia laws that now have been proposed in 43 states: 217 bills as of 2017. The movement continues in full force accompanied by "marches against Sharia" (religious laws based on Islam), where we see people taking to the streets. And not that long ago, there was a murderous attack in public transportation of two men who came to the defense of two women in headscarves.

Popular agitation against Muslims is on the rise in America. But what is the legal threat these anti-Sharia laws pose to religious liberty for Muslim citizens?

Anti-Sharia laws are described as ways of stopping this really dangerous thing called "Sharia" from taking over the US. But in fact, where they really come into play is in restricting the right to religious arbitration--the same type of arbitration that conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews make use of. It's very limited; only permitted in certain areas of the law. It's not applied to criminal law, and it is very carefully constrained by the US legal framework. Arbitration decisions are not enforceable without review by a secular civil court.

Can you give a practical example of what such arbitration implies?

It involves the terms of divorce, alimony, and the enforceability of a prenuptial agreement. It deals with business transactions involving nations whose laws might or might not refer to Sharia.

The interesting thing about Sharia law is the way it reminds me of the 19th century when American society was ripe with anti-Catholic sentiment. Numerous provisions were instituted into state constitutions that limited public funding for parochial schools, driven by a presumed threat of Catholics controlling or influencing public education. Many of those amendments are still on the books--and impact all religious schools, not just Catholic schools.

Similarly, anti-Sharia laws are described in reference to Muslims, but if they're allowed to stand, [the laws] will impact people across the religious spectrum.

How have you seen evangelical Christians contribute to either the popular clamoring against Muslims or the legal issues that would threaten Muslim religious freedom?

The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding came out with a poll that shows the varying degrees of Islamophobia among different religious groups. Evangelicals scored at the highest level. Another poll found that evangelicals are the least interested in overcoming the divide with Muslims.

The most eye-opening and disappointing revelation of the Donald disaster is that Evangelicals turned out not to be very Christian.