January 5, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


Police: Protesters outside Sen. Hawley's home were peaceful (MICHAEL BALSAMO, 1/05/21, AP)

Protesters who gathered outside the Virginia home of Republican Sen. Josh Hawley Monday evening were peaceful and they left when police explained they were violating local picketing laws, police said Tuesday. The Missouri senator on Twitter accused the protesters of vandalism and threatening his family.

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


Norway Says More Than 50% of New Cars Are Electric (VOA News, January 05, 2021)

Norway's Road Traffic Information Council (Opplysningsradet for Veitrafikken) says electric vehicles accounted for 54.3 percent of new car sales in 2020, up from 42.4 percent a year earlier.

The group says the four best-selling models in the Nordic country were the Volkswagen/ Audi e-tron, the Tesla Model 3, the Volkswagen ID.3 and the Nissan Leaf -- all fully electric.

It'll never fly, Orville...
Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


George Washington, American (Richard Samuelson, 12/15/16, Law & Liberty)

In my "Age of Washington" class the other day, I stumbled over the start of his Last Will and Testament.  I regard the will as a partly public and partly private document--the last of his great "farewells," including his farewell to the Virginia Regiment in 1759, his last Circular to the States in 1783, and, of course, his Presidential Farewell Address of 1796.
It states "I George Washington of Mount Vernon--a citizen of the United States, and lately President of the same, do make, ordain and declare this Instrument."[1]   Why begin that way?  It occurred to me that it may have had a public purpose in addition to a private one.  "I don't think that was typical," I said to the class.  "I wonder what Jefferson said."  Next thing I know, I was on the computer, googling "Thomas Jefferson's last will and testament," and up comes the link. Sure enough, Mr. Jefferson (as we Wahoo's call him), began his will, "I Thomas Jefferson of Monticello in Albemarle, being of sound mind and in my ordinary state of health, make my last will and testament in manner and form as follows." Fascinating.

Both begin with the names of their residences, but Washington turns immediately to his status as a citizen of the United States.  Jefferson says nothing about his status as a citizen of the United States or, for that matter, of Virginia.  Instead he merely lists his county of residence, perhaps simply because that was where his will would go through probate.

A few further reflections.  Washington prefaced his Will with the same words with which the Mayflower Compact began, "In the name of God, Amen."  For God, and then for country.   In his will, Jefferson turns immediately to bequests, "I give to my grandson Francis Eppes, son of my dear deceased daughter Mary Eppes, in fee simple, all that part of my lands at Poplar Forest lying West of the following lines, . . ."   Washington is different.  He begins with his legal obligations, "Imprimus. All my debts, of which there are but few, and none of magnitude, are to be punctually and speedily paid."   (Another interesting contrast with Jefferson, who begins with a bequest--and ironic given how much greater Jefferson's debts were.)  Washington then turns to his marital obligation, "To my dearly beloved wife Martha Washington I give and bequeath the use, profit and benefit of my whole Estate, real and personal, for the term of her natural life."

And then comes his moral obligation as our founding father:  "Upon the decease of my wife, it is my Will & desire that all the Slaves which I hold in my own right, shall receive their freedom."  Why not emancipate his slaves right away?  That would be insuperably difficult. It would be:

To emancipate them during her life, would, tho' earnestly wished by me, be attended with such insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by Marriages with the dower Negroes, as to excite the most painful sensations, if not disagreeable consequences from the latter, while both descriptions are in the occupancy of the same Proprietor; it not being in my power, under the tenure by which the Dower Negroes are held, to manumit them.

The majority of slaves under Washington's control were, in fact, held in trust for Martha's descendants.  Washington had no legal right to free them.  To free those he could free and leave the others in slavery, during Martha's lifetime, at least, was unworkable.  Note that Washington insists that to free them all, and to do so right away is "earnestly wished" by him.

If we regard the Will as a teaching document, a final farewell from a founding father, the first sentence and the criticism of slavery are of a piece.  America was founded upon the principles of 1776.  According to the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God," slavery is a wrong ("in the name of God, Amen.")  As a "citizen of the United States," and, we should add, its founding father, Washington had a special responsibility to work to make the practices of the United States come to be in line with the nation's principles.

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


What do magpies want?: I am left feeling unnerved by the sudden presence of a bird wreathed in superstition and legend at my kitchen window.  (HELEN MACDONALD, 12/10/20, New Statesman)

We're in second lockdown as I write. The sky outside is rain-wet steel and my garden is littered with fallen leaves I can't quite be bothered to rake. I've fallen far behind with correspondence, and this morning I was trying to catch up with unanswered emails when I glanced up from my laptop on the kitchen table and saw a magpie hoiking itself about my lawn: skittish, suspicious and glamorous all at once, an unlikely combination of Arthur Daley and couture catwalk model. I watched it through the French windows for a while before turning my eyes back to the screen. Then I jumped. The magpie was attempting to get into my kitchen, hopping up and flapping frantically, claws scratching at the pane. Soon it stopped, stood on tiptoes, craned its neck and tilted its head to stare at the kitchen floor before trying to enter the house again.

Magpies are wreathed in superstition and legend. In ancient Rome they were associated with fortune telling and magic; in Christian traditions they were reviled as the only bird that did not mourn the Crucifixion. Across most of Europe they're birds of bad luck, witchcraft and devilry, but in China they portend happiness and good fortune. They're bold, raucous, obvious and familiar creatures, loved and loathed in equal measure, and they still inspire superstitious behaviour. I've met people who doff their hats at magpies, anxiously count their numbers, speak rhymes at them out loud.

As I stared at the magpie battering itself against the glass I thought, suddenly, This means something. It's an omen. My conviction startled me. I'm not prone to magical thinking. I've always scoffed at the notion that birds entering houses is a harbinger of ill fortune, though it's a belief so widely held that the debunking website Snopes has found it necessary to host a page explaining it's merely a legend.

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


A salute to our oldest ally (James Jeffrey, 5 January, 2021, The Critic)

"Because maybe / You're gonna be the one that saves me / And after all / You're my wonderwall," the pink-haired Portuguese busker sang, channelling Oasis's 1995 Britpop classic in the city of Porto shortly after Christmas Day. British pop songs seemed to dominate the playlist as those of us listening at the café tables opposite nibbled on Portugal's fabled Pastel de Nata cream custard tarts, and masked Portuguese thronged the shopping thoroughfare of Rua Santa Catarina.

Never would I have thought that lyrics spun by the unruly Gallagher brothers could prove so moving and pertinent to our muddled times--"And all the roads we have to walk are winding / And all the lights that lead us there are blinding"--but neither had I expected to find myself taking refuge from the UK's cycle of lockdowns and quashing of civil liberties on the Iberian Peninsula while hiking an ever-lengthening Camino pilgrimage. Though perhaps it isn't such a surprise: Portugal is the UK's oldest ally, after all.

The Portuguese deserve more credit of a different nature to the purely financial kind

The friendship between the two countries goes back to 1147, when English crusaders helped King Alfonso I to capture Lisbon from the invading Muslims. And as the actor Sean Bean aptly demonstrated playing the fictional British soldier Richard Sharpe in the 1990s television series based on the Bernard Cornwell novels, the Anglo-Portuguese alliance came to the fore during the Napoleonic Wars. Portugal, isolated in a Europe usurped by Napoleon, continued to trade with Britain despite French restrictions; and after Portugal finally was invaded, British fighting power helped it regain its sovereignty.

Not to mention the dictatorship's help in WWII & the Cold War.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 AM


Qanon is the new Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A small group of people, in dark smokey rooms, control the banks, make war and plant Manchurian candidates. Sounds familiar (Michael Harvey, JAN 5, 2021, Times of Israel)

It is impossible not to notice the rising numbers of "believers" in the Qanon conspiracy theory which alleges "that a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against US president Donald Trump, who is fighting the cabal."  Several members of congress and high powered attorneys working for Donald Trump openly embrace the theory, most notably Lin Wood, who recently tweeted that "There are THOUSANDS of videos of pedophilia crimes committed by powerful people" and that videos were hidden by a hacking group called "Lizard Squad."

Now, while Lizard Squad is not a reference to the antisemitic slur of "lizard people," it did bring up an important note regarding the antisemitic foundation of the Qanon conspiracy.  It goes without saying that Qanon followers have dived deep into an old trope that the world is controlled by a small group of people, in dark smokey rooms.  They control the banks, they make and end war at will, they put Manchurian candidates on the political stage, etc.  This rings eerily similar to the ideas of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, from the early 20th century.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


The Forrest Gump of baseball? How Clyde Sukeforth played a pivotal role in baseball's biggest moments (Steve Wulf, 12/30/20, ESPN)

CLYDE SUKEFORTH IS SMILING. He's holding a Brooklyn Dodgers cap in one hand and pointing to the sky with the other.

He's one of the characters in the Norman Rockwell painting "Tough Call," although you can barely see him poking out behind the three umpires at home. The men in black are deciding whether to call off the game at Ebbets Field, and Sukeforth is representing optimism, while his counterpart, Pittsburgh manager Billy Meyer, is playing up the foreboding conditions. Painted by Rockwell for the April 23, 1949, cover of The Saturday Evening Post, this masterpiece of Americana now hangs in the art gallery of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

There's a certain magic to the painting, and also to the notion that Sukeforth is visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year. He's not in the Hall of Fame, per se, but he certainly belongs in Cooperstown.

For one thing, his father was once an actual cooper. More important, this humble, athletic, smart, thoughtful and resolute man from Lincoln County, Maine, changed the course of baseball history in many ways -- most of them good, one not so much if you were a Dodgers fan in 1951. Sukeforth was, in the words of the great writer Jimmy Breslin, the "third-base coach of history."

The proof of his reach in the game is in the sacred enclave adjacent to the Hall of Fame's gallery. That's where the plaques are, and Sukeforth would have been a wonderful guide for the folks strolling among them. He saw Babe Ruth pitch for the Red Sox in the 1918 World Series. He caught Eppa Rixey, Waite Hoyt and Dazzy Vance. He played with Edd Roush, Harry Heilmann, Hack Wilson, Al Lopez and Leo Durocher. He played for Casey Stengel and Max Carey and against Hall of Famers too numerous to mention. He was traded for one (Ernie Lombardi), replaced by another (Billy Herman) and took a job away from Rogers Hornsby.

Heck, he could have even corrected one of the plaques. It's the one that says Hack Wilson hit 56 homers for the Cubs in 1930. "Hack really hit 57," Sukeforth once recalled. "He hit one up in the Crosley Field seats so hard that it bounced right back. The umpires figured it must have hit the screen. I was in the Reds' bullpen and we didn't say a word." Or he could have pointed to the plaque for Dennis Eckersley and admitted he might have been wrong about him.

But there are three plaques in particular that speak for Sukeforth. If not for him, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente might never have been waved home to Cooperstown. And then there's Branch Rickey, who always wanted "Sukey" by his side.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


I Will Never Watch "Children of Men" the Same Way Again: How my feelings about this dystopian film changed after living through a dystopian time (ANNA NORTH, 1/05/21, Electric Lit)

I rewatched Children of Men the other day. I'm 37 years old now; I have a two-year-old son. We put him in a little mask when we take him to the park, so he doesn't give or get a deadly virus. My appetite for dystopia has never been lower--at night I want cooking shows, or dramas about the English landed gentry. Still, I was curious. I wanted to see how the end of the world hit me now.

Turns out I'd forgotten almost everything about this movie. Spoilers follow: the world's youngest person, age 18, dies at the very beginning. His baby pictures, splashed across TV screens within the TV, nearly destroyed me. Also, the main character has lost his only child, a little son, to a flu pandemic. Upon learning this I had to disengage and look up biographies of the actors on Wikipedia. Clive Owen, it turns out, is a fan of the soccer team Liverpool FC. Julianne Moore writes children's books.

As I acclimated, I could see glimpses of what I'd loved so much back in 2006--the intrigue of the plot, the code names, the way Theo makes contact with the underground through posters reading "Have you seen this dog?" I remembered the humor and ease with which Clare-Hope Ashitey plays the pregnant Kee, a light in the darkness.

And then there were things I'd never seen.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


How a Negative Income Tax Could Fight Poverty (Dakota Hensley January 4, 2021, Exponents)

Many of these programs are inefficient and keep people in perpetual poverty. We have about eighty programs that altogether cost $1 trillion. That's enough for every poor person to get $25,000 a year. However, poverty is still rampant with 10.5 percent of Americans mired in it (not counting those on social security) and that was before the coronavirus pandemic. Why?

Well, if you're on any anti-poverty programs like SSI, a job is sometimes not worth it. Many who get jobs lose benefits and the pay they earn amounts to less than simply not working. This is most prominent in SSI where one can lose benefits if one can get a job that makes a little over the income limit. A minimum wage job, for example, allows someone to save some cash for emergencies, but they would lose their benefits and it's hard to live on just $15,000 a year.

Social security is the same way. If one claims benefits and makes too much money, they lose those benefits. Often, the increase in income does not offset the decrease in benefits; from the worker's perspective, it's just not worth it. So, they're forced to surrender to the system and just not work. This creates terrible conditions for many of these programs, as they depend on friends and family members for other forms of support, which can often create coercive and abusive relationships. This is not a solution to poverty.

There is one solution to poverty, however, that doesn't suffer from these problems, and that is the negative income tax (NIT).

The NIT was proposed by the libertarian economist Milton Friedman. It is both a Left and Right idea, reducing poverty and promoting economic equality while cutting costs and rewarding work. In simple terms, it's the idea that you set a cap (say $25,000 a year) and anyone making less than that gets half the difference between the cap and their income level (assuming the tax rate is 50%). Those making above a certain amount pay a tax proportional to their income, while those between the guaranteed minimum income's cap and the income tax cap pay nothing and get nothing.