May 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:54 PM


The Great American Baking Boom shakes the Upper Valley (ALEX HANSON, 5/01/20, Valley News)

For many, the order to stay home has engendered a quest for one of home's great comforts, a loaf of bread, a pie or a batch of cookies, still warm from the oven and spreading their perfume beyond the kitchen. These are boom times for baking.

Historically, King Arthur Flour, the Norwich-based center of its own doughy galaxy, has seen increases in baking when people are at home, said Bill Tine, King Arthur's vice president for marketing. Even during previous recessions, baking has surged as a pastime.

But what's happening now is "at this scale, without precedent," Tine said. March sales of King Arthur all-purpose flour were 285% higher than March 2019. Store shelves have often been as bare of flour as of toilet paper, though only about a quarter of sales has been attributed to stockpiling, Tine said.

While some stores struggle to keep flour in stock, Tine stressed that there is no shortage of flour. Any delays have more to do with packaging capacity, he said. The same is true for yeast, which also has been selling out, even at King Arthur's store and website.

King Arthur has managed its increase in sales while retooling. The company added shifts and changed its workstations to accommodate social distancing requirements. It moved some shipments from rail to truck freight, which is more flexible. And it expanded the capacity of its recently redeveloped website to handle more orders.

In addition, the closure of the company's baking schools in Norwich and near Seattle meant it moved baking instructors into social media roles and to help with calls to the company's baker's hotline. King Arthur is posting videos to social media and seeing huge volumes of calls and written inquiries.

"If you're just starting to get into sourdough baking, you have a lot of questions," Tine said.

Indeed, bread, and sourdough in particular, are leading the baking boom. Because it relies on a well-tended starter, rather than commercial yeast, for fermentation, sourdough is something many bakers want to try, but don't feel they have the time. It's also a more self-sustaining way to make bread.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


IRS mistakenly sends stimulus checks to foreign workers (IAN KULLGREN, 05/01/2020, Politico)

Thousands of foreign workers, many living overseas, are receiving stimulus checks designated for U.S. residents due to an unforeseen glitch that funneled taxpayer dollars to other countries, according to tax consultants and the recipients themselves.

College-age workers who spent time in the U.S. in the last two years -- some of whom returned home long before the coronavirus pandemic -- have been surprised to find $1,200 checks deposited into their bank accounts. And with no clear guidance on how to return it, they're holding onto the money or racing to spend it before the Internal Revenue Service realizes the mistake.

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


THE "IF IT SAVES JUST ONE LIFE" FALLACY (Antony Davies & James R. Harrigan, 4/29/20, ISI)

In January 2013, President Barack Obama said, "If there's even one thing we can do to reduce this [gun] violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try." A month later he tweeted, "If we save even one life from gun violence, it's worth it." His Vice President, Joe Biden, backed up Obama, saying, "As the President said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they're worth taking."

Politicians use such lines because they stir emotions. An argument intended to manipulate can stand on emotion. But an argument intended to persuade must stand on fact and reason. And politicians typically argue from emotion when facts and reason don't cooperate.

When we turn our attention to deaths by a range of causes, the emptiness of the "if it saves just one life" argument becomes very clear very quickly. Consider the "senseless violence" that occurs on American roads every year. We should do whatever we can if it saves just one life, no?

Let's see.

In late July 2012, a pickup truck packed with twenty-three people veered off a Texas highway and crashed into two trees.

Nine people were injured in the crash, but they were the lucky ones. The other fourteen occupants of the truck were killed. In the aftermath, bodies lay everywhere. Among the dead were two children. Alcohol was not involved, and there was no evidence of another vehicle at the scene. The weather at the time of the crash was dry and clear.

So why was the call for legislation not swift and immediate after such a terrible event? Because people knew that these sorts of things happen from time to time, and there is little, if anything, that legislation can do to change that.

But that's not exactly true, is it? We could address automotive deaths at any time if we were truly committed to doing so. One piece of legislation could virtually guarantee that no one would ever die on American roads again. All we would have to do is to reduce the speed limit on every road in the country to five miles per hour. That would save more than just one life.

The lethality of drivers is one of the major reason we'll displace them with automation as quickly as possible, but we've already adopted licensing, speed limits, seat belts, airbags, crash tests, child safety seats, etc. to try and save those lives at the margin. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM



All stars emit varying amounts of light over time--and the sun is no exception. Such changes in starlight can help us understand how habitable any planets around other stars are--a very active star may bombard its planets with harmful radiation. Now a new study, published in Science, shows that the sun is significantly less active than other, similar stars.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


Human Fallibility and the Case for Robot Baseball Umpires (Keith Law, 5/01/20, Wired)

In a paper published in 2016, Daniel Chen, Tobias Moskowitz, and Kelly Shue report their findings in a study of all pitches tracked by Major League Baseball's Pitch f/x system, which tracked every pitch thrown in every game and recorded data like pitch location, vertical or horizontal movement, and release point, from 2008 to 2012. They looked at consecutive pitches that were "called" by the umpire--that is, not hit into play, hit foul, swung at and missed, or otherwise not adjudicated by the umpire--and found 900,000 such pairs. They also categorized all called pitches as obvious (that the pitch's status as a ball or strike was clear) or ambiguous (pitches on or near the edges of the strike zone). They report that 99 percent of "obvious" pitches were called correctly, while only 60 percent of "ambiguous" pitches were.

They began with the specific question of whether an umpire was more likely to call pitch 2 a ball if they had called pitch 1 a strike--that is, whether the call on the previous pitch biased their call on the next one. They found a small but significant effect on all pitches, where umpires were 0.9 percent more likely to call pitch 2 a ball if they'd called the previous pitch a strike, and the effect rose to 1.3 percent if the previous two pitches were called strikes. The effect was more blatant when the next pitch was "ambiguous," with biasing effects 10 to 15 times larger than those on "obvious" pitches.

The authors categorize this as a manifestation of the "gambler's fallacy," the errant belief that random or even semi-random outcomes will always even out in a finite sample. For example, gamblers may claim that a roulette wheel that has come up black five times in a row is more likely to come up red on the next spin because the wheel is "due"--which, by the way, you'll hear quite often about hitters who are having a cold streak at the plate, and which is equally absurd. They also cite the possibility of self-imposed quotas, where umpires might feel that they have to call a certain number or percentage of strikes in each game.

Anchoring effect, a different cognitive bias, provides us with a simpler explanation. Some previous piece of information independent of the next decision still affects that next decision by changing the mind's estimate of the probabilities of certain outcomes. The umpire's call on the previous pitch should have no impact on their call on the next pitch, or on their probability of getting the call right on the next pitch, but it does because the umpire's mind does not treat these two events as independent, even though the umpire may not be aware of this biasing. It could be a matter of an internal quota: "I called that last pitch a strike, so I should try to even things out." It could be a subconscious expectation:

"The last pitch was a strike, and the pitcher isn't that likely to throw two strikes in a row, so this pitch is more likely to be a ball." Whatever the cause is, the simplest explanation is that the umpire's mind is anchored on that last called pitch, and therefore the umpire's internal calibration is thrown off for the next pitch. That means they're less likely to get the next call right--and that's another point in favor of giving the job of calling balls and strikes to machines, not humans.

The anchoring effect was first proposed by Tversky and Kahneman back in 1974, in a landmark paper modestly titled "Judgment Under Uncertainty." The section title "Adjustment and Anchoring" begins with a statement that sounds obvious but contains multitudes: "In many situations, people make estimates by starting from an initial value that is adjusted to yield the final answer."

Posted by orrinj at 9:37 AM


Capitalism at Dusk: Hegel and the irrationality of modern economy (Robert Pippin, 4/15/20, The Point)

Hegel's most important book on these issues, Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821), is certainly a defense of the rationality of an interconnected web of modern institutions, including private property and wage labor. These institutions had either already appeared by the beginning decades of the nineteenth century--some in Germany, and many in England--or were, as he saw it, inexorably emerging. Two things, at least, are distinctive about his approach to thinking about them. First, by rationality, Hegel does not mean what any suitably informed ideal contractor would choose to commit to, either for strategic or ethical reasons. He has instead a substantive and not a formal theory of rationality. Human beings are essentially historically developing, socially dependent, self-aware, deliberative, free beings, and if they come to live in a way that, as he would put it, does not agree with this concept, then that way is irrational. This means for him, given the enormous significance of his claim about our social dependence, that a human being can only be what it is, a free being, by participating in social institutions, including an economic system. As he put it, a person can only be "fully" free as a citizen in the modern republican state. He did not merely mean that a state indifferent or hostile to the freedom of its citizens is unjust, or that one cannot act as the free agent one is in such an irrational state (although he certainly did want to make both claims), but rather that one is not yet a fully free agent in such an irrational situation. However much the capacity of freedom (as Hegel understands it) is a potentiality characteristic of every member of the human species, the state of being free is an achievement of a distinct sort. That achievement relies on the right sort of social bonds in the family, as fellow workers, and as citizens of a representative state. Absent that achievement, freedom is unrealized.

There's no such thing as individual liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Is this the end of Jair Bolsonaro?: Rather than control the public health crisis in Brazil, the president is focusing instead on fighting his own cabinet. (NICK BURNS, 5/01/20, New Statesman)

First came a series of clashes with his health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, over lockdown measures. After coronavirus was first detected in Brazil in late February, Mandetta implored Brazilians to follow World Health Organisation quarantine guidelines, while Bolsonaro dismissed the severity of the virus, appearing on national television on 24 March to attack state governors who took it upon themselves to institute lockdowns.

Mandetta drew comparisons to Anthony Fauci, Donald Trump's prominent public health adviser, infectious disease specialist and head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But unlike Fauci, Mandetta is a politician and if his support for stricter measures was a genuine attempt to slow contagion, he also seemed to be thinking of his own political career. His dismissal, which finally came in mid-April, could not have come as an unwelcome surprise, nor was he a key figure in the cabinet before the outbreak.

Much more serious for Bolsonaro was the loss of Sérgio Moro, his celebrity "super-minister" of justice. Moro was, and remains, a hero to conservative Brazilians for his hard-line approach in leading a series of corruption investigations in 2014 that brought down former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, of the left-wing Workers' Party. His appointment to Bolsonaro's cabinet was a key moment: it secured Bolsonaro's anti-corruption, anti-left-wing base, and also shored up establishment support for what had begun as a fringe candidacy.

But on 24 April, the justice minister quit in protest against Bolsonaro's decision to swap out the director of Brazil's federal police Maurício Valeixo with a loyalist, Alexandre Ramagem. Moro claimed that Bolsonaro wanted the change in order to halt investigations that might hurt his political allies and in order to protect his family from scandal: Bolsonaro's son Carlos is the subject of an ongoing federal police investigation into a criminal "fake news" dissemination scheme that has targeted members of the supreme court.

That same evening, Bolsonaro went on national television, standing in front a bewildered-looking line-up of cabinet members - including economy minister Paulo Guedes, the only one wearing a mask, and apparently shoeless - to rebut Moro's accusations and complain that his ex-minister's loyalty lay "with his ego, and not with Brazil".

The loss of his star minister in such a fashion has many wondering whether Bolsonaro's luck has finally run out.

Posted by orrinj at 9:14 AM


Congressional Democrats are governing from the minority (Ezra Klein, May 1, 2020, vox)

[T]his is an unusual bargaining dynamic: Democrats are acting as the governing party even though they're in the minority. They're fighting for the baseline policies that any normal administration, Republican or Democrat, would be begging for right now.

"From the very beginning, this administration made the decision that there was no legitimate role for the federal government to play in responding to this crisis," says Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). "It wasn't an accident they didn't request any money in the early days. They really believed, as they believe today, that this is a problem states and local governments should confront."

This is an inversion of the traditional relationship between the White House and the opposition party. Typically, in a crisis, the administration would be pushing to do more, do it faster, and the minority party would be deciding whether to block those efforts or attach their own ideological priorities onto them. That's because the administration knows it will be blamed for failure. But the Trump administration has refused responsibility for this crisis, and it has repeatedly wanted both less funding and less authority than congressional Democrats want to give it.

"It's the executive branch who normally takes control in a situation like this, and they haven't," says Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). "As a result, Democrats have stepped into the breach to minimize suffering. There are a lot of keyboard pundits who view this as a forfeiture of leverage, and I understand what they're saying. But we have to be very clear: They're talking about using suffering as leverage. That is what the Republicans do, not what we do."

Hating America, the Right would prefer the government fail to deal with crises effectively.  Fortunately, the Deep State won't let it fail.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Biden denies sexual assault allegation, calls for release of any records (Ali Vitali and Mike Memoli, 5/01/20, NBC)

"There is only one place a complaint of this kind could be -- the National Archives. The National Archives is where the records are kept at what was then called the Office of Fair Employment Practices. I am requesting that the Secretary of the Senate ask the Archives to identify any record of the complaint she alleges she filed and make available to the press any such document. If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there."

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Inside the Early Days of China's Coronavirus Coverup: The dawn of a pandemic--as seen through the news and social media posts that vanished from China's internet. (Shawn Yuan, 5/01/20, Wired)

Unable to contain her anger, Yue took a screenshot of Xiao's post and immediately posted it on her WeChat Moments. "Look what is happening in Wuhan!" she wrote. Then she finally drifted off.

The next morning, when she opened WeChat, a single message appeared: Her account had been suspended for having "spread malicious rumors" and she would not be able to unblock it. She knew at once that her late-night post had stepped on a censorship landmine.

What she couldn't have realized, though, was that she had posted her screenshot at what seems to have been a turning point in China's handling of the epidemic: Over the previous two weeks, the government had allowed what felt like an uncharacteristic degree of openness in the flow of information out of Wuhan. But now the state was embarking on a campaign of censorship and suppression that would be remarkable even by the standards of the Chinese Communist Party.

OVER THE PAST several weeks, as the number of new cases in China has tapered off and lockdowns have lifted, China has been positioning itself as a global leader in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It has vigorously promoted the narrative that its unprecedented quarantine measures bought time for the world--and that much of the world then botched and squandered that head start. Now, the story goes, China has again come to the rescue as it shares its expertise, experience, and equipment.

To be sure, China did eventually take extraordinary and painful steps to quell its domestic outbreak. But it has also taken extreme measures to curate the information that has emerged from ground zero of the pandemic.

Over the last month or so, China's openness with the rest of the world--or lack thereof--in the early days of the pandemic has become the subject of intense geopolitical debate. "The reality is that we could've been better off if China had been more forthcoming," Vice President Mike Pence told CNN in early April, when asked why the Trump administration had gotten off to such a late start in taking the virus seriously. The debate has become a strange and strained one, given that whatever China did or did not cover up, the US still squandered its chance to prepare for the inevitable even after Beijing's warnings had become loud and clear.

Moreover, it wasn't the rest of the world that Beijing was most intent on keeping in the dark. Nowhere has China been more aggressive in its war for control of the coronavirus narrative than it has been at home. A vivid and human picture of that information war emerges if you examine all the stories and posts that have been wiped off of the Chinese internet since the outbreak began--which is exactly what I've been trying to do for the past few months.

Seasoned journalists in China often say "Cover China as if you were covering Snapchat"--in other words, screenshot everything, under the assumption that any given story could be deleted soon. For the past two and half months, I've been trying to screenshot every news article, social media post, and blog post that seems relevant to the coronavirus. In total, I've collected nearly 100 censored online posts: 40 published by major news organizations, and close to 60 by ordinary social media users like Yue. In total, the number of Weibo posts censored and WeChat accounts suspended would be virtually uncountable. (Despite numerous attempts, Weibo and WeChat could not be reached for comment.)

Taken together, these deleted posts offer a submerged account of the early days of a global pandemic, and they indicate the contours of what Beijing didn't want Chinese people to hear or see. Two main kinds of content were targeted for deletion by censors: Journalistic investigations of how the epidemic first started and was kept under wraps in late 2019 and live accounts of the mayhem and suffering inside Wuhan in the early days of the city's lockdown, as its medical system buckled under the world's first hammerstrike of patients.

It's not hard to see how these censored posts contradicted the state's preferred narrative. Judging from these vanished accounts, the regime's coverup of the initial outbreak certainly did not help buy the world time, but instead apparently incubated what some have described as a humanitarian disaster in Wuhan and Hubei Province, which in turn may have set the stage for the global spread of the virus. And the state's apparent reluctance to show scenes of mass suffering and disorder cruelly starved Chinese citizens of vital information when it mattered most.

Open source everything that goes on there.
Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Exclusive: Trump pollster finds strong demand for expanded absentee voting (Alayna Treene, Margaret Talev, 5/01/20, Axios)

New survey research by one of President Trump's campaign pollsters shows broad support for more absentee voting and elections spending amid the pandemic -- and an openness to other vote-by-mail efforts that Trump has criticized. [...]

By the numbers: Three-fourths of the respondents said they favor states keeping polling locations open (so long as they meet health guidelines), but also giving all voters the option to vote absentee.

82% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 70% of Republicans supported that dual option -- and it was most popular with voters 65 and older.

64% also said yes when the pollsters asked whether respondents favor sending every voter an absentee ballot application. Nearly half of Republicans support this idea, though Democrats are nearly twice as likely to, with independents somewhere in the middle.

About three in four also favor pre-paid postage for absentee voting; counting absentee ballots postmarked by election day; establishing secure, monitored drop-box locations for absentee ballots; and letting voters ask for absentee ballots through a website.

Two-thirds want local election officials to notify voters if they forget to sign their absentee ballot envelope and to allow them to correct their mistake.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Working from home, even when the coronavirus crisis has passed (Deutsche-Welle, 5/01/20)

Industrial facilities and commercial buildings are in different stages of emerging from shutdown around the world. This is inevitable. But is it inevitable that we all, one day, return to our offices?

In 2018, a team including Kimberly Nicholas, a sustainability scientist at the University of Lund, surveyed studies of behaviors where emissions reductions could be measured -- such as meat consumption and household energy use -- and found that working from home reduced the most emissions of all interventions studied.

"Working from home as opposed to driving into work substantially reduces pollution. And that's both climate pollution -- greenhouse gases, and particle pollution," she told DW. "Greenhouse gases last thousands of years, essentially forever, in our atmosphere. In contrast, the particle pollution that affects our health most immediately and directly is shorter acting. We do see an immediate effect from less driving and less burning of less gasoline on air quality."

In other words: Any driving you eliminate adds up to a big difference.

We'll be at least somewhat desperate to "return to normal" once this is over, but we've had a wide range of proofs of concept that should drive the future in the following ways:

-Car-free cities

-Reducing business travel (especially air travel)

-Distance learning

-Working from home

-Increased use of robots/machines

-Universal basic income

-Online shopping

-Removal of licensing requirements

-Regional coalitions of states

-Home making

-Extending families

-Open-sourcing meetings, classes, lectures, performances, social events, games, etc.

Unimaginable good is coming of this awful situation.

Fitbit data shows we're sleeping better during the COVID-19 lockdown ( MARK SULLIVAN, 5/01/20, fast Company)

Americans don't typically sleep well. One large survey showed that people get a full, uninterrupted night of sleep on only about one out of four nights. During this anxious time, you might think the problem would get worse. But data from sleep-tracking apps and wearables suggests something different. Many people are actually getting more, better-quality sleep during our new stay-at-home lives.

At Fast Company's request, Fitbit pulled data from its wearable devices in use in six U.S. cities--San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, New York, and Phoenix--and compared how people have slept before and after we began sheltering in place. While Fitbit wearers don't represent the full U.S. population, the company did find a surprising trend among users: they're getting 17 minutes more sleep per night in April than they were in January. Thirty-six percent of those people are getting an additional 30 minutes of sleep or more now, as compared to life before lockdown.

Fitbit says the quality of the sleep has improved too. Using the company's scale from one to 100 that's based on sleep duration and restorative value, people's scores have improved by 1.8 points during the crisis. Fitbit users typically score between 72 and 83. Fitbit says the score increases are mainly due to the increased duration of sleep, but increases in REM sleep and Deep Sleep have also helped. The company's researchers add that people are going to bed an average of 16 minutes later than they did pre-coronavirus.


Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


A Cloud Gazer's Guide to Every Fluffy Thing in the Sky: Clouds are "a wilderness within everybody's grasp." (JESSICA LEIGH HESTER, APRIL 30, 2020, Atlas Obscura)

If you have been hunkered down at home for several weeks, you may miss the sight of crashing waves, the smell of a damp forest or spring flowers, the happy ache in your legs as you tromp up a steep trail, or the sound of voices drifting across picnic blankets in a crowded park. If you wear a mask when you venture out, you might even miss something as simple as the feeling of the wind on your cheeks. There are still ways to stay tethered to the natural world in the time of social distancing, but it's not quite the same as being out there.

But wherever you are, you can still look out the window and up at clouds. They're always up there, from Mongolia to Manhattan. The sky "is a wilderness within everybody's grasp," says Gavin Pretor-Pinney, founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. "It's the part of nature that comes to us." Here are a few ways to marvel at and identify the meteorological mainstays and what they mean--anytime, anywhere.

There are two main ways to approach cloud-watching, Pretor-Pinney says. One is "dreamy" and the other is "the more geeky way of doing it." He recommends trying both.

It's a free hobby that takes you out of yourself.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Liberty, or Liberties, or Leviathan?: a review of The Lives of the Constitution: Ten Exceptional Minds that Shaped America's Supreme Law by Joseph Tartakovsky. (Jeffrey J. Folks, 4/19/20, University Bookman)

Another thoughtful section is devoted to Justice Robert H. Jackson, whose opinions, Tartakovsky maintains, offered "two enduring lessons": first, "that no right is absolute and so we must always discriminate between justified and unjustified exercises of a 'right,'" and second, "that there is in fact no such thing as 'liberty,' but only liberties, ever jostling against one another." In Jackson, Tartakovsky finds a representative of pragmatism and "good sense," one who brought humility and humanity to the task of judging the law. The preeminent example of such a justice in our time is, of course, Antonin Scalia. Justice Scalia's "mission," as Tartakovsky sees it, "was to alert Americans that their Supreme Court, with 'almost Czarist arrogance,' is slowly usurping their democratic powers." Indeed, with his much-touted philosophy of constitutional originalism, Justice Scalia consistently opposed the expansion of judicial power, just as he opposed legislative and executive overreach.

Tartakovsky's analysis is, at many points, highly perceptive, and one will be richly rewarded in reading this intelligent and well-written book. Among the many suggestive ideas in Lives of the Constitution is Tartakovsky's conception of the evolving sense of our founding documents as the product of shifting popular opinion percolating up to legislators and justices. By its very nature, Tartakovsky's approach challenges the idea that America has succeeded in an exceptional manner due to the strength of a stable consensus ideology, and that such an ideology is encoded in the Declaration and Constitution in a manner designed to regulate popular opinion and not to be easily altered by it. Traditionalists might wish for more emphasis on those elements of the Constitution that have restrained, or were intended to restrain, rapid change in the idea of America.

Another provocative argument in this book is the repeated assertion that liberties granted to some inherently diminish the liberties of others. The author's discussion of free speech is a case in point. Certainly, the defense of pornography as "free speech," while granting rights to some, by its very nature detracts from the freedom of others who wish to live in communities free of pornographic "art," but this oft-cited example presents a false dichotomy: free speech, in its true sense, involves the far weightier matters of what does the Constitution, and our society, think free speech is for. No one's liberty is diminished when authentic free speech and other fundamental liberties are freely practiced. The only entity that is truly "harmed" is a government that demands endless concessions on the part of its people, including judges who develop constitutional theories at odds not only with the text but the settled practices and expectations around the text. Justice Scalia understood the fundamental and unqualifiable nature of human liberty. As Tartakovsky rightly points out, Scalia's appeal to "'the constraint of the text'" and "'the constraint of historical practice'" was meant to curtail what he saw as a dangerous assault on liberty by unelected courts and bureaucracies. Thoughtful persons know that the same liberties are granted to all in our democracy, and they are so because they are grounded in fundamental truths of human nature.

Actually, thoughtful persons know that something approaching the opposite is true.  Hamilton gave us a strong republic rather than a weak democracy precisely to secure liberty, instead of mere freedom, because the fundamental truth of human nature is the Fall..