September 11, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 PM


Prosecutor resigns from Trump law enforcement commission, calls it 'intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda' (Christina Carrega,  September 11, 2020, CNN)

One of the four leading prosecutors chosen to be on President Donald Trump's law enforcement commission resigned last week after expressing "serious" concerns that the intention of the commission was not to bridge the gap between communities of color and law enforcement.

Ramsey County, Minnesota, District Attorney John Choi submitted his letter of resignation on September 3 to Attorney General William Barr after his concerns about the work of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice had not been not addressed since May.

Choi, a Democrat, said in his resignation letter that "it is now patently obvious ... that this process had no intention of engaging in a thoughtful and open analysis, but was intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past, furthering failed tough-on-crime policies that led to our current mass incarceration crisis and fueling divisions between our communities and our police officers."

Posted by orrinj at 9:41 PM


The Moral Project of Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" (Gordon Arnold, June 26th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Nietzsche believes that the promotion of human greatness demands a new moral system that favors unique, particular perspectives instead of universalized dogmas.

Nietzsche suggests that the degeneration of Western morality began with the writings of Plato. He was responsible for moral dogmatism, "the worst, most durable, and most dangerous of all errors."[2] In his "invention of the pure spirit and the good as such," Plato created transcendent standards of morality and ultimately denied that personal perspectives should influence moral decisions.[3] Nietzsche critiques not only Plato but many modern philosophers for engaging in similar dogmatism by striving to demonstrate the existence of absolute moral truth. Spinoza, for instance, claimed to develop a moral philosophy based upon permanent "mathematical forms," while Kant spoke of the "categorical imperative."[4] These pretensions for absolutes and objectivity, Nietzsche argues, are deceptive and opportunistic. These philosophers were merely taking their own unique personal preferences and attempting to impose them upon everyone else by "proving" their universality. Nietzsche suggests that moral philosophers are not actually the disinterested, rational, and objective calculators that they believe themselves to be. Though they claim to reach their opinions only after the "self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic," they actually had their minds made up long before they wrote anything down.[5] Under the guise of "absolute truth" philosophers from Plato to Kant have universalized their personal preferences as eternal moral dogmas when they are no such thing.

Nietzsche labors to destroy the philosophic search for absolute moral truth, not because he is disinterested in morality, but because he desires that moral decision-making would take into account unique individual circumstances.

It is this elevation of the self makes modernity so repulsive. Of course, Nietzsche warred against objective truth for the obvious reason: since we already know what good and evil are, what's left for a philosopher to do?

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Older voters love Joe Biden: Retirees are a powerful voting bloc. Many are looking for stability from the White House. (Ella Nilsen, Sep 11, 2020, Vox)

[P]olls demonstrate that Biden is showing surprising strength among older voters throughout the country. Multiple national and state polls have found Biden running ahead of Trump with those 65 and older by double digits, including in a recent Quinnipiac University poll of Florida.

"I think it is noteworthy because it's a segment of the electorate we haven't done well with in more than a couple of years," Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told Vox in a recent interview.

The last Democratic nominee to do so well with older voters was Al Gore, who narrowly won voters aged 50-64 and voters over 65 in 2000. Older voters are far more reliable than younger ones, so it matters if Democrats are gaining ground with the group. They were pivotal for Trump's 2016 election; he won seniors by 7 percentage points, and white seniors by even higher margins. A few months ago, Biden's campaign advisers told Vox that they considered even cutting into Trump's margins with seniors a victory.

"This is a group that was turning away from Trump even before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic has cemented them against Trump in a way," Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray told Vox. Murray added that while older voters of color have long been with Biden, "It's older white voters where we're seeing the swing." [...]

National and battleground state polls alike show Biden strong with the 65 and older set. Some surveys show women driving that trend: A recent CNN poll found Biden with a 20-point lead among women. If a similar lead among women holds until November, it could be the largest gender gap between two candidates in decades.

"There's gender gap galore, that feeds everything," renowned Iowa pollster Ann Selzer, who recently released a national general election poll with Grinnell College, told Vox.

In Selzer's national poll with Grinnell College, conducted August 26 to 30, Trump led Biden with men over 65 by 17 percentage points (56 to 39 percent). Biden had a six-point edge on Trump with women over 65, earning 49 percent of support compared with Trump's 43 percent.

...they are old white men, a self-solving problem.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Nora Dannehy, Connecticut prosecutor who was top aide to John Durham's Trump-Russia investigation, resigns amid concern about pressure from Attorney General William Barr (EDMUND H. MAHONY, SEP 11, 2020The Hartford Courant)

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned - at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said.

Dannehy, a highly regarded prosecutor who has worked with or for Durham for decades, informed colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's office in New Haven of her resignation from the Department of Justice by email Thursday evening. 

Court-Appointed Amicus Curiae in Michael Flynn Case Repeatedly Tears into DOJ for Catering to the Whims of the President (MATT NAHAM, Sep 11th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The court-appointed amicus began by counting the ways justice shouldn't happen in the United States before saying those no-no's were "exactly" what's happened in the Flynn case:

To describe the Government's Motion to Dismiss as irregular would be a study in understatement. In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty--twice, before two different judges--and whose guilt is obvious. And the Justice Department does not seek to dismiss criminal charges on grounds riddled with legal and factual error, then argue that the validity of those grounds cannot even be briefed to the Court that accepted the defendant's guilty plea. Nor does the Justice Department make a practice of attacking its own prior filings in a case, as well as judicial opinions ruling in its favor, all while asserting that the normal rules should be set aside for a defendant who is openly favored by the President.

Yet that is exactly what has unfolded here.

Gleeson then said that there is "clear evidence" that DOJ's motion to dismiss is a "corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system." These machinations, Gleeson contends, are not out of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's reach to stop because there is a "live" Article III case or controversy. Sullivan promptly jumpstarted the Flynn case after the D.C. Circuit denied the defendant's motion for an extraordinary writ of mandamus (i.e., an attempt to force Sullivan to dismiss the case). Oral arguments have been set for Sept. 29.

The DOJ, Gleeson asserted, fell "short" when arguing that precedent proved Rule 48(a)'s "with leave of court" clause amounts to a rubber stamp that requires dismissal--with no wiggle room for judicial discretion.

"But the Government falls short in its apparent effort to wring from Fokker a categorical rule that this Court has no authority to review the exercise of discretion that led to the instant Motion to Dismiss. Fokker did not silently 'eviscerate[]' Ammidown, which it cited with approval," Gleeson's brief went on. "Nor did it impliedly sideline text, history, and decades of cases. Neither its holding nor its reasoning created an atextual asymmetry in Rule 48(a) by holding that courts may deny opposed motions--but may not deny unopposed ones. Fokker indeed described protecting defendants as the 'principal object' of the rule (not the 'exclusive object'), but it also stated that 'clear evidence' may overcome 'the presumption of regularity" that prosecutors enjoy in wielding their charging power."

And the government isn't entitled to the presumption of regularity in this decidedly irregular case, according to Gleeson. The government can not be granted license to lie about its rationales for dismissal by sidelining the judge entirely, he argued:

Every purpose served by the reason-giving requirement of Rule 48(a) would be gutted if the Government were free to mislead the Court, or to proffer explanations that do not withstand even cursory consideration, or to declare that the Court is powerless to even inquire about any of the Government's asserted rationales.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Bahrain emerging as flashpoint in Middle East unrest (Raymond Barrett, 2/15/11, CS Monitor)

The Al Khalifah family belongs to the Sunni sect of Islam and trace their origins to the Arabian peninsula but are a minority in the country. A majority of the population is Shiite, with strong links to Iran.

Furthermore, the powers that be have consistently practiced a form of sectarian apartheid by not allowing Shiites to hold key government posts or serve in the police or military. In fact, the security forces are staffed by Sunnis from Syria, Pakistan, and Baluchistan who also get fast-tracked to Bahraini citizenship, much to the displeasure of the indigenous Shiite population.

Unlike oil-rich Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain doesn't have petrodollars to spend on the cradle-to-grave welfare systems that have kept a lid on reform movements in those countries.

Christopher Davidson, a specialist in Gulf Affairs at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, says the situation in Bahrain should be seen as a case of economic disenfranchisement magnified by underlying sectarian tensions.

"Post-oil Bahrain has unemployment and few opportunities for the young population," he says. "However, there is the added dimension of sectarian unrest, with the Shia majority population having historically been second-class citizens to the ruling Sunni elites."

there's basically an emerging axis of evil regimes that oppose democracy vs the Muslim democracies of the region.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Ex-judge says Trump "pressure campaigns" led to DOJ reversal in Flynn case (Orion Rummler, 9/11/20, AXIOS)

A retired judge appointed to review the Justice Department's motion to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn said on Friday that calling the agency's actions "irregular," which he did in June, "would be a study in understatement." [...]

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had asked John Gleeson to present arguments for why the Justice Department's request to drop the case should be denied.

What he's saying: "In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty -- twice, before two different judges -- and whose guilt is obvious," Gleeson wrote.

"There is clear evidence that this motion reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system," he added.

AG is the best job in the Biden cabinet. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


We studied what happens when guys add their cats to their dating app profiles (Lori Kogan & Shelly Volsche, 9/11/20, The Conversation)

In our study, we recruited 1,388 heterosexual American women from 18 to 24 years old to take a short anonymous online survey. In the survey, we presented them with photos of one of two young white men in their early 20s either posing alone or with a cat. To avoid biasing the women's responses, we randomly presented which photo they saw first. Each participant only rated one man, with and without a cat.

Each time the participants saw a photo, we asked them to rate the man pictured on several personality attributes, including his masculinity, femininity and dateability. We also asked the women if they defined themselves as a "cat person," "dog person," "neither" or "both."

Most of the women found the men holding cats to be less dateable. This result surprised us, since previous studies had shown that women found men with pets to have higher potential as partners. They also thought the men holding cats were less extroverted and more neurotic, agreeable and open. Importantly, they saw these men as less masculine, too.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


Democrats have huge edge in early voting with massive leads in number of ballots requested and leap among those who didn't vote in 2016 (GEOFF EARLE, 9/11/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

Democrats have begun running up a lopsided advantage in early voting as well as absentee ballot requests, in an election what has seen an unprecedented split on voting strategy and furious attacks by the president on mail-voting.

The advantage is pronounced in the battleground states that will decide the election, and that are attracting candidate visits and a TV air war.

The differential in absentee ballot requests has hit three-to-one in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, two states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 that Joe Biden is hoping to strip back.

The advantage in the Keystone state has extended to ballot requests by people who didn't vote in 2016. A total of 175,000 Democrats who skipped 2016 have asked for ballots, more than double the number of Republicans, Politico reported. 

BREAKING NEWS: Hillary not on the 2020 ballot. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


What Is Populism? The People V. the People (Pierre Lemieux, 9/11/20, Library of Economics and Liberty)

"Populism" has received many definitions and historical interpretations. Some analysts take it simply as a more active form or stretch of democracy, but this may underplay the existence of very different theories and practices of democracy. One analytically useful definition of populism was given by political scientist William Riker in his 1982 book Liberalism Against Democracy. He defines the essence of populism as a political ideal in which the will of the people ought to be public policy: "what the people, as a corporate entity, want ought to be social policy."

"The people" and "the will of the people" have long been invoked by populists of the right and populists of the left. Carlos de la Torre (University of Florida) summarizes the history of populism in Latin America (see his article of the Oxford Handbook of Populism, 2017):

I understand populism as a Manichaean discourse that divides politics and society as the struggle between two irreconcilable and antagonistic camps: the people and the oligarchy or the power block. Under populism a leader claims to embody the unitary will of the people in their struggle for liberation. [...]

Populists of the left and populists on the right invoke the same will of the people against each other. Populism is the people against the people.

Which brings us back to William Riker, who explained, on the basis of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem and social choice theory, that the "will of the people" simply does not exist. It does not exist because there is no "the people" to have a will like an individual has. The "will of the people" is a rhetorical device to exploit a large proportion of the individuals who are the only reality under "the people." The people's preferences cannot be aggregated into a sort of social superindividual without being either dictatorial or incoherent, which is the essence of Arrow's theorem. Those who pretend to represent the will of the people, from the French Revolution until 20th-century populist experiments, can only be authoritarian rulers, with or without the legal forms of democracy.

the autonomous man can be content that most elected leaders adequately represent the general will.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


As colleges opt for hybrid and online-only classes, parents and students look for a cheaper Plan B (Howard Gold, 9/11/20, mARKET wATCH)

That's prompted the people who pay the bills for this American rite of passage to reconsider whether a college education, especially in its current form, is worth the price. A recent poll taken by the financial services firm Edward Jones found that 36% of American adults are reconsidering their investments in higher education. Some 80% of those surveyed who are currently saving for college worry that students' education may suffer because of the lack of resources or social contact only in-person learning can provide.

Nearly a third of those surveyed said they were more likely to attend an online-only college rather than a traditional four-year college or university while one in five were contemplating getting a job or an internship and skipping college altogether.

In an interview, the firm's investment strategist, Nela Richardson, told me that these trends had been brewing for some time, as rising costs of education have eclipsed overall inflation and student debt topped $1.5 trillion.

"The cost of tuition has already been a thread in this narrative of, 'Is it worth it?'" she said. "Already there was a student debt overhang that was affecting people's perception of the value of education."

Then came the pandemic, which has "stripped away all the excess and we're left with the bare necessity," Richardson told me. "So, what is the bare necessity of education? What are you really paying for? If it can be delivered on an online model for the same price, what am I paying for?"

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Why Trump Supporters Can't Admit Who He Really Is (Peter Wehner, 9/04/20, The Atlantic)

To understand the corruption, chaos, and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now, it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies. [...]

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And "anything" turns out to be quite a lot.

In just the past two weeks, the president has praised supporters of the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon, which contends, as The Guardian recently summarized it, that "a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children." Trump touted a conspiracy theory that the national death toll from COVID-19 is about 9,000, a fraction of the official figure of nearly 185,000; promoted a program on the One America News Network accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Trump's downfall; encouraged his own supporters to commit voter fraud; and claimed Biden is controlled by "people that are in the dark shadows" who are wearing "dark uniforms."

Trump believes his own government is conspiring to delay a COVID-19 vaccine until after the election. He retweeted a message from the actor James Wood saying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo "should be in jail" and another from an account accusing the Portland, Oregon, mayor of "committing war crimes." The president is "inciting violence," in the words of Maryland's Republican Governor, Larry Hogan. Trump defended 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a supporter who is charged with first-degree homicide; and stated that if he loses the election in November it would be because it was "rigged." At the same time, the second-ranking House Republican, among other of the president's supporters, has shared several manipulated videos in an effort to damage Biden.

This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump's supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.

This phenomenon has no shortage of explanations, but perhaps the most convincing is the terror the president's backers feel. Time and again, I've had conversations with Trump supporters who believe the president is all that stands between them and cultural revolution. 

No one has ever explained the Trumpbots better than Eric Hoffer, Editor's Preface to the Time-Life Books edition of The True Believer:

[H]offer's hero is 'the autonomous man,' the content man at peace with himself, engaged in the present.  In Hoffer's book, this hero, nourished by free societies, is set off against 'the true believer,' who begins as a frustrated man driven by guilt, failure and self-disgust to bury his own identity in a cause oriented to some future goal.
Their goal is a white-only America--preferably male-only for many of them.