October 6, 2019

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Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


2nd whistleblower comes forward after speaking with IG: Attorney (JAMES GORDON MEEK and ANNE FLAHERTY, Oct 6, 2019, ABC News)

A transcript released by the White House of Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy showed Trump asking a "favor" of the foreign leader and pushing him to launch an investigation into the Biden family. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukraine energy company while his father Vice President Biden led policy on Ukraine during the Obama administration, leading some to question whether there was a conflict of interest or impropriety.

"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son," Trump told Zelenskiy at one point, offering the assistance of his attorney general. He later adds "a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great."

Text messages later obtained by Congress showed top U.S. diplomats dangling the possibility of a summit of the two leaders in Washington on the condition that Ukraine agrees to announce an investigation. The Ukraine government never did. The text messages were provided in congressional testimony last week by one of the diplomats, Kurt Volker, who has since resigned.

It is illegal for anyone to receive something of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election, according to the Federal Election Commission. While it is not immediately clear whether Trump or other U.S. officials broke the law in its handling of Ukraine, that might not matter. The Constitution allows for Congress to decide what constitutes an impeachable offense.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


The differences between UK and US governments: a brief guide (History Extra, October 1, 2019)

At the heart of the American constitutional founding is an irony: although they railed against the overbearing executive power of the British monarch, they ended up creating an executive presidency with far more power than the king or queen of England was ever to have again. The US Constitution most closely resembles the British constitution of the early 17th century before parliament started asserting its sovereignty - a process that has continued right up to the Supreme Court's decision on proroguing.

Had George offered America its own parliament, the world would be a better place today.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Sec. Rick Perry Explains 'Expansive Relationship' With Ukraine: 'God as My Witness Not Once Was Biden Mentioned' (Jennifer Wishon , 10/04/19, CBN)

"I never heard, and I talked to the president about this," he told CBN News. "I had a conversation with - a phone call - with Rudy Guiliani about it. I've talked to the previous ambassador. I've talked to the current ambassador. I've talked to Kurt Volker, Gordan Sondland, the EU ambassador- every name that you've seen out in the media and not once, not once as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name - not the former vice president, not his son ever mentioned. Corruption was talked about in the country but it was always a relatively vague term of, you know, the oligarchs and this and that and what have you."

Perry said he "got very comfortable" that President Volodymyr Zelensky's and his team were committed to cleaning up corruption in their country and helping the county move forward economically.

"Our interest was always and still is trying to help Ukraine become as independent as it can be from an energy standpoint. They've been held hostage by Russians, by Russian gas. The Russians literally have cut the gas off to Ukraine. They have attacked their utilities with cyberattacks," he noted.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Channelling the Malthusian Roots of Climate Extremism (Michael Shellenberger, 10/04/19, Quillette)

The most doctrinaire and apocalyptic forms of modern "environmentalism" are simply a repackaging of the ideas of Thomas Malthus, the 19th-century British economist who thought that there were too many poor people out there--particularly poor Irish people--and that the ethical thing to do was let them die. "Instead of recommending cleanliness to the poor, we should encourage contrary habits," he wrote, "and court the return of the plague."

Unlike Swift, Malthus was no satirist. He was making a utilitarian argument: If we let the poor reproduce they would just end up creating more suffering in the future. (Indeed, the British government and media used Malthus' ideas to justify the policies that led to mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1849.) The LaRouchian protestor who spoke at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's thursday event channeled Malthus' horrifying logic faithfully. And in a more polite form, environmentalists channel it themselves when they urge that poor countries shoot themselves in the foot economically so that the world might be a greener place.

After World War II, prominent American progressives drew on Malthus' ideas to oppose development aid and nuclear energy, and promote coerced sterilization. Cheap energy, prominent scientists feared, would lead to overpopulation, deplete scarce resources, and destroy the environment. Humankind "would not rest content until the earth is covered completely, and to a considerable depth, with a writhing mass of human beings, much as a dead cow is covered with a pulsating mass of maggots," the chemist Harrison Brown wrote in his 1954 book, The Challenge of Man's Future.

Anti-humanist ideas came full bloom in Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich's 1969 Sierra Club book, The Population Bomb, which depicted poor people in India as animals "screaming...begging...defecating and urinating." Two decades later, the United Nations seemed to embrace elements of neo-Malthusianism in a report called Our Common Future. Rather than move to fossil fuels and nuclear, the UN experts opined, poor nations should instead use wood fuel more sustainably. And "wood-poor nations must organize their agricultural sectors to produce large amounts of wood and other plant fuels." (Ironically, the lead author of Our Common Future was Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, a nation which just a decade earlier had become fabulously wealthy thanks to its abundant oil and gas reserves.)

Malthusian hysteria has become embedded in all sorts of extremist sects. Indeed, two recent mass shooters--one in El Paso, Texas, and the other in Christchurch, NZ--echoed some version of the apocalyptic rhetoric of Malthusian environmentalists. Yet Malthusian environmentalists are preaching a debunked creed, for their prophet wrongly predicted that famines and resource scarcity would become common features of a densely populated world. Instead, technology has outpaced increases in population and consumption--so that today we face the prospect of reducing the total amount of natural resources (including land) required to sustain us.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Revisiting "The Return of the King" (Joseph Pearce, October 5th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Once again, and to my surprise, it was the extramural interpolations of Mr. Jackson and his co-writers which caught my attention and stole the show. The interwoven subplot of Aragorn's betrothal to Arwen was handled dexterously and decorously, centred on the question of whether Arwen would choose to depart for the Undying Lands with her elven kinsfolk, thereby leaving Aragorn, or whether she would choose "death," to use her father's words, by remaining in Middle-earth, in the realm of mere mortals, exiled forever from her kin but united with Aragorn in marriage until Aragorn's inevitable death parted them. This "will she or won't she" subplot added emotional depth to the story and heightened the viewer's awareness of Aragorn's loyalty and chastity, particularly in the manner in which he conquered his evident attraction to the infatuated Éowyn, remaining loyal to his love for Arwen in spite of his belief that she had chosen to depart for the Undying Lands.

The most powerful of these extramural moments was Arwen's vision of an older Aragorn playing joyously with their future son, a son who would never be given the gift of life should Arwen choose to leave Middle-earth with her kinsfolk. The moment when the unborn child looks directly at the mother who might choose to refuse to conceive him is one of the most striking pro-life images that I've ever seen on screen.

See also, the entire film Arrival.

TOLKIEN AND THE GIFT OF MORTALITY (Anna Mathie, November 2003, First Things)

A great essay from back when First Things was still Christian.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Border-Wall Climbing Competition to Take Place at Red River Gorge, October 11-12 (Rick Weber | October 4th, 2019, Rock and Ice)

Many in the climbing community were amused a couple weeks ago when our POTUS held a press conference at a section of his latest  border wall design--a series of parallel square steel posts with a 5-foot-high plate at the top. "This wall can't be climbed," he stated. Newsweek reported that the President boasted about how "the federal government tested the structure by having 20 skilled mountain climbers attempt to climb it," and no one could.

No one in our climbing community knows any of these 20 mountaineers. I doubt if they exist. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


The U.S. Government Keeps Too Many Secrets  (MIKE GIGLIO, OCTOBER 5, 2019, The Atlantic)

[W]hen so much information among the vast U.S. national-security apparatus is classified without good reason, it exacerbates a culture of secrecy that is vulnerable to abuse. There is little oversight, Goitein said, when it comes to determining whether a decision to classify something was the right one--while decisions not to classify something can lead to heavy penalties. Most cases of overclassification are the result of simple habit, convenience, or an overabundance of caution, but this helps to create a climate that enables the use of excessive secrecy to hide things that are politically problematic or to cover up wrongdoing. That's allegedly what happened with the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which put Trump on the path to an impeachment inquiry. "The system is set up to fail," Goitein told me. "It's based on skewed incentives and lax accountability, and that's why abuses like this become possible."

During the call, according to a reconstructed transcript later released by the White House, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate discredited allegations surrounding Joe Biden and his elder son's work in Ukraine. This came as Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid. According to the whistle-blower complaint that brought the contents of the call to light, about a dozen U.S. officials were listening in on the phone conversation. (On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed reports that he was one of them.) But the call took place behind a wall of government secrecy. The notes and transcripts from it, as is common practice with calls between the president and foreign leaders, were classified. Then, according to the complaint, White House officials, allegedly wise to the troubling nature of Trump's remarks, moved the record of the call to a special computer system typically reserved for military and intelligence matters so sensitive that they require a code word, to prevent it from leaking.

Revealing the scandal required the whistle-blower--reportedly a member of the CIA who was detailed to the White House--to go through a bureaucratic process that was vulnerable to interference by the executive branch.

This series of events might suggest that the system worked: In the end, the details of the call became public. But it also underlines the risk of the same predisposition toward secrecy that leads to overclassification. U.S. officials are used to having their dealings walled off from scrutiny--and to making sure that classified information doesn't see the light of day.

The problem of overclassification--and of a fetishization of secrecy more generally--spans administrations. While Trump's rants against leakers are well known, the Obama administration oversaw a much quieter crackdown on them, prosecuting a record number.

Open source everything and subject it to normal market forces.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Israel's struggle over Jewish identity (The Week, October 6, 2019)

Israel's Jewish population is united in the belief that Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. Beyond that, though, there are deep divisions among secular Jews, the ultra-­Orthodox, and the religious Zionists, and the conflict shapes political arguments over Israel's future as a democracy. Israelis are about 60 percent secular or traditional; about 12 percent Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, adhering to strict observance and gender segregation; and perhaps 9 percent religious Zionist, believing that Jews have a divine mandate to rule all the lands of ancient Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza. The other roughly 20 percent of citizens are Israeli Arabs -- mostly Muslims with a small number of Druze and Christians. While religious Zionists have largely driven Israeli policy in the past decade by forcing expansion of West Bank settlements, it is the special status of the Haredim that currently dominates Israeli politics -- particularly the exemption from military service that the ultra-Orthodox have traditionally enjoyed.

What do the Haredim believe?

The Haredim maintain separate communities, following strict Jewish law and rejecting modern customs. Many do not support the existence of an Israeli state, but believe that Jews must wait for the Messiah to come and end their exile. Some Haredim refuse to vote, although most ultra-Orthodox men do accept the small government stipend they get for studying the Torah. 

Who is qualified to officiate a halakhic marriage? (Elli Fischer, OCT 6, 2019, Times of Israel)

At the tail end of an election season in which matters of religion and state featured prominently in the campaigns of several major parties, Israel's High Court of Justice convened to deliberate the marriage of Noam Oren and his wife, who wed under a ḥuppah and through the vehicle of kiddushin, "in accordance with the law of Moses and Israel" - albeit outside the auspices of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. They made this choice in view of the agunah problem, desiring to sign a prenuptial agreement and to make their kiddushin conditional; their intent was to foreclose any possibility that their marriage would leave the woman "chained" to an unwanted marriage and subject to the caprices of a recalcitrant husband.

The wedding was officiated by Rabbi Dr. Michael Avraham, and the Jerusalem Beth Din, headed by Rabbi Avraham Dov Levine (who, sadly, recently passed away), approved its validity. After the wedding, the couple turned to the Rabbinate to register as a married couple in the eyes of the state. However, the state rabbinical courts, which have jurisdiction over such matters, determined that there is an "uncertain kiddushin." In its own words: "This, on one hand, refrains from declaring the couple to be married, and on the other hand, imposes restrictions on the couple that are akin to those of a married couple."

The rabbinical court explained its ruling by saying that the officiating rabbi, a well-known and highly-esteemed Torah scholar, was not authorized by the Chief Rabbinate to conduct weddings, and he therefore cannot be considered as one who "knows the nature of writs of divorce and kiddushin" (Kiddushin 6a).