May 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Both conservatives and liberals want a green energy future, but for different reasons (Deidra Miniard, Joe Kantenbacher, Shahzeen Attari, 5/05/20, The Conversation)

When we asked participants to indicate the amount of each energy source they hoped the U.S. would use in 2050, the broad consensus favored a future in which the nation primarily relied on renewable energy and used much less fossil fuel. Conservatives, moderates and liberals shared this outlook.

Particular preferences for a lower-carbon future varied somewhat by political ideology, but on average all groups supported an energy mix in which at least 77% of overall energy use came from low-carbon energy sources, including renewable fuels and nuclear power. [...]

Recent research has shown that both Democrats and Republicans strongly support renewable energy development, but do so for different reasons. Democrats prioritize curbing climate change, while Republicans are more motivated by reducing energy costs. We see these motivations playing out in the real world, where conservative oil-producing states like Texas are experiencing huge booms in renewable energy generation, driven primarily by the improving economics of renewable energy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


"Political Connections and Cronyism": In Blistering Whistleblower Complaint, Rick Bright Blasts Team Trump's Pandemic Response (KATHERINE EBAN, MAY 5, 2020, Vanity Fair)

He was pressured to invest in drugs and vaccines that lacked scientific merit, because the people selling them had friends in the Trump administration, up to and including the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He was forced to transfer funds to acquire drugs for the Strategic National Stockpile, America's most important reserve of lifesaving medications, based not on health needs but on "political connections and cronyism." He was instructed to use his department's budget to purchase flu medications of questionable efficacy. And when the COVID-19 crisis erupted, he was pressured to approve a plan that would "flood" cities with unproven and untested doses of chloroquine drugs, from uninspected manufacturing plants in Asia. When his efforts to work through the system failed, he decided he had a "moral obligation to the American public" to ring the alarm about the plan, "which he believed constituted a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety." In retaliation, he was "smeared," with officials unfairly accusing him of dropping the ball on vaccine development and PPE preparation.

These are just some of the allegations contained in a blistering, 63-page complaint that Dr. Rick Bright, former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), filed today with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


54% of adults want to work remotely most of the time after the pandemic, according to a new study from IBM (Jessica Snouwaert, 5/05/20, BI)

Millions of workers have transitioned their job operations to work remotely in the wake of the coronavirus, and as these workers settle into their home-based routines, many are finding they want to continue working from home after the pandemic, as it lends itself to flexibility and productivity.

IBM polled more than 25,000 US adults during April to figure out how COVID-19 has altered their perspectives on a range of topics including working from home.

Of those surveyed, 75% said they would like to continue to work from home in at least a partial capacity, while 40% of respondents said they feel strongly that their employer should give employees the choice to opt-in to remote work.

Working from home is not only popular but other studies have shown that those who work from home full-time reported being happy in their job 22% more than their counterparts who spent no time working from home. 

Working remotely is also an attractive option because it can help employees save on housing. When workers don't have to report to an office, they have more flexibility to work from home in more rural or suburban settings.

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


MSU Poll: Bullock leads Daines in Senate contest (Mike Dennison, May 05, 2020, KTVH)

A new poll from Montana State University shows Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock leading Republican Sen. Steve Daines by seven percentage points in Montana's high-profile 2020 U.S. Senate contest. consoled yourselves with a few judges and all it cost was your soul, all three branches of government and this four year dumpster fire.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


One Damn Thing After Another (Jan-Werner Müller, 5/05/20, The Nation)

One potential misunderstanding involves our very notion of liberal democracy. Berman argues that this seemingly self-evident compound combines two concepts potentially in tension with each other. With its collective empowerment of citizens through elections, democracy is not the same as liberalism, which, she holds, is best understood as respect for the rule of law and minorities' rights as well as a commitment to treat all members of the polity as equals. 

That is the essence of republican liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On the Road to EmancipationThe making of the Radical Republicans. (Eric Foner, 5/05/20, The Nation)

LeeAnna Keith's new book, When It Was Grand, also returns to the mid-19th century, this time to consider the history of Radical Republicanism. In doing so, it adds to our understanding of how a rising tide of violence in the 1850s served as a harbinger of the Civil War, a conflict that culminated in the most radical act in American history: the uncompensated abolition of slavery. The author of The Colfax Massacre, a highly praised study of the bloodiest act of carnage against African Americans during Reconstruction, Keith makes an important contribution by placing Radicals at the center of these transformative events.

Contemporaries regularly referred to the Radical Republicans as a distinct group in the spectrum of Civil War-era politics. While by the 1850s most Northerners opposed the westward expansion of slavery, the Radicals went further, insisting that antislavery action should take precedence over all other political questions and vehemently opposing any talk of compromise with the South. When the Civil War began, they proclaimed that the Union would not emerge victorious without emancipating and arming the slaves. By the time it ended, they helped put equal civil and political rights for black Americans on the national agenda and then took the lead in enshrining them in laws and the Constitution during Reconstruction.

Scholarly assessments of the Radicals have changed over time, reflecting the evolution of historical interpretation of their era and the changing face of American politics and race relations. Repelled by the mass slaughter of World War I and invested in reconciliation between white Northerners and Southerners, many historians in the 1920s and '30s blamed the Radicals--sometimes called the Jacobins or Vindictives--for whipping up the sectional hostility that produced a "needless" conflict and for foisting black suffrage on the South during Reconstruction, supposedly leading to an orgy of corruption and misgovernment. To the followers of Charles Beard, who taught that political ideologies serve as masks for the interests of powerful economic groups, the Radicals were the shock troops of a new industrial order. In his influential 1941 book Lincoln and the Radicals, the historian T. Harry Williams wrote that "they loved the Negro less for himself than as an instrument with which they might fasten Republican political and economic control upon the South." In Williams's view, Abraham Lincoln was a well-meaning but ineffectual leader, outmaneuvered time and again by scheming Radicals.

By the middle of the 20th century, as the modern civil rights revolution swept across the country, historians began to upend this interpretation and take the Radicals' advocacy of abolition and racial equality at face value. The Radicals, they insisted, were idealists in the best 19th century reform tradition. In The Radical Republicans (1969), the first book-length study of the group, Hans L. Trefousse hailed them as "Lincoln's Vanguard for Racial Justice." In her more recent and authoritative history of abolitionism, The Slave's Cause, Manisha Sinha goes further. Abolitionists and Radicals Republicans were not simply adjuncts of the Great Emancipator, she argues; they were an independent force whose lofty ideals helped shape the era's history.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Renewable sources including solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal-based plants every single day in April, a new report says.

Analysis shared by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEFA), based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), said the finding marks a major "milestone" in an energy transition that is now underway.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The dark side of environmentalism (Sam Allen, May. 5th, 2020, spiked)

One of the most vocal prophets of ecological doom at this time was Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor and author of The Population Bomb (1968). He warned that between 1970 and 1990, billions would starve to death due to population growth exceeding levels of food production. Additionally, he argued that the earth's natural resources would be depleted, leading to an energy crisis and major world conflicts. Like Malthus, his predictions were apocalyptically bleak. And like Malthus he was completely, undeniably wrong.

The problem with the overpopulation thesis is not simply that it is wrong - it is that it has resulted in the proposal of sinister, draconian solutions. Ehrlich and others, for instance, recommended spiking food and water supplies with sterilising drugs; keeping blacklists of organisations and individuals who were seen to hinder population-control efforts; and gradually changing the culture to vilify couples with more than two children.

Ehrlich also said that governments should resort to 'compulsion' if people failed to change their procreative habits voluntarily. And what does such compulsion look like? Well, it looks a lot like communist China's one-child policy, complete with mandatory sterilisations and forced abortions. Even less authoritarian regimes imposed similarly brutal policies in the name of tackling overpopulation. The Indian government, for instance, carried out millions of often coerced sterilisations during the 1970s.

What's even more troubling about the deeply misanthropic worldview of a significant part of the green movement is its proximity to what is known as eco-fascism. That may sound like an oxymoron, given the misperception of environmentalism as left-wing, but there are indeed fanatical environmentalists within the far right, obsessed as it is with eugenics, racial purity and the alleged 'natural order'. Indeed, the manifestos of several recent mass shooters, who identified themselves as far-right white nationalists, have lamented the destruction of the environment and criticised the corporate plunder of the earth's resources.

The proximity of environmentalism to the far right is actually long-standing. Eugenics and scientific racism had a significant influence on the environmentalist movement in the early 20th century. Take Madison Grant. He was an American writer and lawyer, best known for The Passing of the Great Race, a work admired by Adolf Hitler. It detailed how the supposed supremacy of the Nordic people was being undermined by 'lesser' races. Grant was not just a white supremacist. He was also recognised as one of America's most prolific conservationists and he was the architect of the American National Park service. As Grant saw it, the preservation of the American natural landscape preserved a 'master race' of species of trees and animals. His ecological beliefs, therefore, grew out of his ideas on racial supremacy.

This dark past of environmentalism has largely been quietly ignored in modern times. But lately, with the rise of the loosely defined alt-right movement, the proximity of far-right views to certain environmentalist ones has become clear once again.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fauci: No scientific evidence the coronavirus was made in a Chinese lab (Victoria Jaggard,  MAY 4, 2020, National Geographic)

ANTHONY "TONY" FAUCI has become the scientific face of America's COVID-19 response, and he says the best evidence shows the virus behind the pandemic was not made in a lab in China.

Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shot down the discussion that has been raging among politicians and pundits, calling it "a circular argument" in a conversation Monday with National Geographic.

"If you look at the evolution of the virus in bats and what's out there now, [the scientific evidence] is very, very strongly leaning toward this could not have been artificially or deliberately manipulated ... Everything about the stepwise evolution over time strongly indicates that [this virus] evolved in nature and then jumped species," Fauci says. Based on the scientific evidence, he also doesn't entertain an alternate theory--that someone found the coronavirus in the wild, brought it to a lab, and then it accidentally escaped.

Intel shared among US allies indicates virus outbreak more likely came from market, not a Chinese lab (Alex Marquardt, Kylie Atwood and Zachary Cohen, 5/04/20, CNN)

Intelligence shared among Five Eyes nations indicates it is "highly unlikely" that the coronavirus outbreak was spread as a result of an accident in a laboratory but rather originated in a Chinese market, according to two Western officials who cited an intelligence assessment that appears to contradict claims by President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"We think it's highly unlikely it was an accident," a Western diplomatic official with knowledge of the intelligence said. "It is highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction." The countries in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing coalition are coalescing around this assessment, the official said, and a second official, from a Five Eyes country, concurred with it. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Did Gladiator really deserve the best picture Oscar? (Scott Tobias, 5 May 2020, The Guardian)

Twenty years later, perhaps it's time to take Gladiator back to its original framing, not as the spoiler to Steven Soderbergh's unlikely coronation as a Hollywood director - his Erin Brockovich and Traffic were best picture nominees, and he won best director for the latter - but as a classed-up underdog sports movie, like a middle-period Rocky sequel in sandals and tunics. The palace intrigue that follows the death of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius may give the film a certain amount of sophistication, as do the performances by Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix and Connie Nielsen, who all make excellent and multi-layered contributions. Yet this is essentially about an undersized warrior gutting his way to a title bout - all else seems like window-dressing by comparison.

The competitive arc of Gladiator is Rocky III leading into Rocky IV. It's about our hero first belting his way through a colorful array of opponents - barrel-chested goons, armor-plated archers on chariots, man-eating tigers emerging from the arena floor - before finally battling the villain on hostile turf and turning the home crowd to his favor, against the will of a brutal authoritarian government. Again, this is not a mark against the film, because it's mostly rousing on these terms, boosted by a Roman succession plot that plays one man's epic revenge quest to the highest of stakes. But the argument that the film is any deeper than the red-meat savagery it delivers doesn't hold up under scrutiny. It's a terrific summer movie, and one of the new century's least deserving best picture winners.

A classic illustration of our rule: not only is the notion of the best soldier in the most advanced army on Earth being the underdog silly in itself, but, the victory of republicanism over dictatorship is inevitable (if speeded up in the film).