February 15, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Ireland Turned Around One of the Biggest COVID Spikes in the World (Luke O'Neill, 2/15/21, National Interest)

On December 24, nationwide restrictions were reimposed, and by January 6, Ireland was back into one of the most stringent lockdowns in Europe. The party was well and truly over. Schools and construction sites were closed, click-and-collect for non-essential retail was banned.

On January 26, the government extended the lockdown until March 5 at the earliest. Four days later, it was announced that Ireland had more cases in January than throughout all of 2020.

The total number of COVID-related deaths on December 3 was 2,080. It rose to 3,621 on February 5. This means that almost as many people have died of COVID-19 in the weeks since early December than in the entire time up to that point since the pandemic began. The price of Christmas.

The restrictions worked. On January 11, Ireland had a seven-day moving average of 6,363 cases. And from that peak, it has fallen steadily. On February 6, this had hit 1,035 cases - a decline that is among the fastest in the world. The lack of contact between people is the reason for this.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Pelosi announces plans for 9/11-style commission to examine Capitol riot (Joanna Walters, 15 Feb 2021, The Guardian)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Monday that the US Congress will establish an outside, independent commission to review the "facts and causes" related to the deadly 6 January insurrection at the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump in the waning days of his presidency.

Pelosi said in a letter to members of Congress that the commission would be modeled on a similar one convened after the 11 September 2001, terrorist attack on Washington and New York.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Pro-Life but Anti-Morality (Kimberly Ross, Feb. 15th, 2021, Arc Digital)

While I appreciate the party's longstanding commitment to protecting the unborn, too often they erroneously convey that this exhausts what it means to be a morally conscientious person -- as if being anti-abortion is all they need to achieve the mantle of The Party of Morality. They are dead wrong about this.

Instead of a starting point for decency, the party seems to use their pro-life messaging and status as a technique to get away with deeply immoral behavior, as a way to excuse and overlook other major ethical deficits. At times, the Republican Party has embodied the most jarring of contradictions: a fervency for protecting the unborn with a willful dismissal of the importance of character, charity, and morality itself.

This is what the last five years have shown us -- from the time Donald Trump outmaneuvered other, far more decent people for the Republican nomination in 2015-16, to the January 6, 2021 episode in which a mob stormed the Capitol building during the Electoral College vote certification and proceeded to trespass, destroy property, and threaten lawmakers who were just doing their sworn duty.

When then-candidate Donald Trump emerged on the scene in June 2015, both Democrats and Republicans alike, including and especially those in mainstream spaces, were certain he would not become the nominee for president. Some even encouraged him, certain that a Trump candidacy would spell certain doom for the Republican Party. Once he emerged from the crucible of the 2016 primaries, people on the right fell in line -- previously critical conservatives all of a sudden pledged to support him through thick and thin. A major reason why was abortion.

Most observers knew anywhere from one to three Supreme Court justices were in play across the next four to eight years. This had potentially dramatic ramifications for the pro-life cause. But this also began to give people wide psychological latitude to make peace with the least morally scrupulous presidential candidate in the history of American politics.

For these conservatives, what mattered was (a) Trump would likely nominate better federal judges than Hillary would on the issue of abortion and (b) Trump was very rhetorically aggressive against the Democrats. That's what mattered.

But how many moral issues can you spot there? I count only one: abortion. It seems as if, for many people, the fact that Trump could probably be counted on to be more anti-abortion than his opponent covered a multitude of his sins. Describe Mexicans as rapists? Not to worry, he'll protect the unborn. Viciously mock a disabled reporter? Here's the thing, he's going to nominate someone like Gorsuch. So don't let that stop you from showing enthusiasm for him.

Indeed, for these people, the question of abortion seemed to be exhaustive of morality itself.

...while Donald doesn't oppose abortion at all, the Trumpbots who do would certainly allow it for racial minorities only if they could.  

Posted by orrinj at 3:10 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


House Bill Calls for United States to Boycott Beijing Olympics (Adam Kredo - FEBRUARY 15, 2021, Free Beacon)

Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) introduced a measure on Monday that calls on the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics if they are not moved out of Beijing, China, citing the Communist government's human rights abuses and failure to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Waltz, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a war veteran, said the United States should boycott the games if they are held in China. The resolution calls on the U.S. Olympic Committee to propose a new site outside of China for the 2022 games. If that location is rejected, the "United States Olympic Committee and the Olympic Committees of other countries should withdraw from the 2022 Olympic Games," the resolution says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Does anybody practice what they preach?What Joss Whedon's downfall tells us about the application of morality (Ben Sixsmith, February 15, 2021, The Spectator)

For conservatives, and people who just hate Whedon's work, there is an element of schadenfreude in the unraveling of his reputation. Whedon, more than anyone, contributed to the popular conception of a 'male feminist' as someone who self-consciously defends women in public while mistreating them in private.

Still, the left have similar archetypes: the priest or evangelical with an unwholesome private life, and the staunch defender of small government who somehow profits from the public purse. I am not just here to aim a kick at Whedon, then, or male feminists in general, but to talk about the difference between having 'good' opinions and being a good person.

It is tempting to assume that if someone advocates your values -- say, order, prudence and tradition if you are on the right, or equality and diversity if you are on the left -- they also put those values into practice in their lives. Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don't. It is also tempting to assume that if our favorite artists create characters we love and work that makes us feel ennobled they must be lovable and noble themselves. Perhaps they are. Perhaps they aren't.

The opinions we express in public, or the values we portray, need not cohere with our private behavior. Graham Greene's Catholic literature, for example, coexisted with prolific womanizing and voracious brothel-hopping. Elton John famously changed the lyrics of the bearded shopaholic John Lennon's 'Imagine' to, 'Imagine six apartments, it isn't hard to do, one is full of fur coats, another's full of shoes.'

In some cases, people defend values they do not practice with the dishonesty of a mountebank who sells a cure he knows is fraudulent. You hope such occurrences are rare. But if people can sell a phony cancer treatment they can sell a phony worldview.

Still, people can really believe something without acting upon it. Human beings are very talented rationalizers. We can excuse our own misbehavior to ourselves. We think, for example, that an immoral act is so ubiquitous -- from sexual impropriety to the wasting of resources -- that our individual behavior makes no difference.

We strain our mental sinews to convince ourselves that our actions are qualitatively different from those we condemn. You bully, I banter. You are dishonest, I spare people's feelings. You are a thief and I am taking what I deserve. More than this, though, I think we tell us ourselves that saying good things makes up for not doing good things -- as if our words, in all their minimal consequentiality, have the power of absolution.

There is no link between insight and virtue. A man's immoral behavior does not invalidate his work. Very bad people can have very good ideas and very good people can have very bad ideas. Very bad people can make very good art and very good people can make very bad art, as there is no necessary link between talent and righteousness. Benvenuto Cellini was a great sculptor in between killing and allegedly raping men. (I am not attempting to equate Whedon and Cellini here. Whedon is obviously not such an evil man, nor such a talented artist.)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Puerto Rico governor expects movement on statehood next month (Alexi McCammond, 2/15/21, Axios)

While the vote for statehood was a narrow one (52% support to 47% against), the governor told "Axios on HBO" it's the best way for Puerto Ricans to receive equal treatment as Americans citizens.

"We need a game changer in Puerto Rico. And one game changer would be that we get equal treatment in key federal programs," Pierluisi said, citing programs like Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which aren't available to those living in the U.S. territory.

People who live in Puerto Rico don't have representatives in Congress with full voting power, and they cannot vote for the U.S. president.

"Statehood is not a panacea," Pierluisi said. "Of course we have to do better. But there's no question that having two senators and four representatives in Congress batting for us when needed would make a difference."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden calls on Congress to 'enact commonsense gun law reforms' on third anniversary of Parkland shooting (Nikki Carvajal, Devan Cole and Ali Zaslav, 2/14/21, CNN)

President Joe Biden on Sunday called on Congress to institute "commonsense gun law reforms," including widespread firearm sales background checks and a ban on assault weapons -- highlighting an "epidemic of gun violence" in the US on the third anniversary of the deadly Parkland school shooting.

"Today, I am calling on Congress to enact commonsense gun law reforms, including requiring background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers who knowingly put weapons of war on our streets," Biden said in a statement.

"This administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call," the statement reads. "We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer."

Picking the low fruit--popular measures--is fine for a start.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Progressive And Conservatives Can Back Romney's Child Bill (Mona Charen, Feb. 14th, 2021, National Memo)

Part of the reason our kids are struggling is due to changes in family structure. Though the marriage norm has declined nearly everywhere, the U.S. holds the dubious distinction of leading the developed world in unstable adult relationships. Child Trends reports that the 2017 poverty rate for children in married couple families was 8.4%. For kids in single mother homes, the poverty rate was 40.7%.

Clearly, a return to the two-parent norm (updated to include same-sex marriages) would be ideal. But that is a complicated cultural matter that governments have limited capacity to affect -- except, as the Romney Family Plan envisions, we can at least stop doing the things that penalize marriage. Our system of getting aid to children is convoluted. Because we Americans love to disguise spending as "tax policy," we offer a "child care tax credit" along with a child allowance included in the Earned Income Tax Credit. The poorest families receive TANF. The way the EITC is structured, an analysis for the Niskanen Center demonstrates, can cost couples between 15% and 25% of income if they marry. Also, the child care tax credit, which the Biden administration's proposal would expand, serves as a pass-through to increase prices for providers without helping the average family choose the kind of relative-provided or local child care arrangements that most families prefer. It also preferences paid day care over parental care.

The Romney proposal would sweep away TANF, the tax credits and the rest in favor of a simplified and more generous child allowance of $4,200 per year for children up to age 6, and $3,000 per year for children ages 6-17.

Conservatives worry about the disincentive to work inherent in traditional welfare programs, which reasonable. But part of the old "poverty trap" was not the child allowance per se but the implicit high marginal tax on earnings as parents reentered the workforce. Niskanen points to Canada's experience with a direct child allowance, finding that labor force participation actually increased after their child allowance was increased in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This Republican Prosecutor Stood Up For Black Lives Matter Protests. Haters Ran Him Out of Office. (Kate Briquelet, Feb. 14, 2021, Daily Beast)

When Arian Noma ran for prosecutor in a rural Washington county in 2018, he was a newcomer who vowed to stop the over-prosecution of crimes and seek bail only when necessary. Standing inside the wood-paneled Okanogan Grange, Noma gripped a microphone and told the crowd, "If you want to make change, I'm your candidate. If you want things to remain the same, I think you know who to vote for."

"As we continue to make regulations and over-regulate our citizens nationwide, over-criminalize everything ... before you know it, we all have badges of conviction," Noma said. "And if you don't have a family member or you yourself or a friend that's been through the system ... you have no idea how difficult it is to function and reintegrate into society."

The 44-year-old Republican wanted to create a reentry support group for people released from incarceration and had other grand ideas, too, which he said would ultimately save taxpayers money. "My office will not only work with law enforcement regarding cases, we will offer trainings, discussions, and other opportunities to cooperate to solve cases together," Noma, a former prosecutor in Maryland, told the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune before winning nearly 60 percent of the vote in Okanogan County. "Rapport and comradery are essential to forging relationships."

But halfway through his four-year term, Noma resigned. In a letter to voters, he cited a "woefully deficient" budget and case backlog as reasons for his departure. One of his deputies was forced to handle more than 200 criminal cases at a time, while another was grappling with 140 cases. Noma described his predicament as fighting "tanks and guns with bows and rocks."

The final straw, Noma continued, was a series of "racially motivated attacks."

Speaking publicly for the first time since his resignation, Noma--whose ancestry includes Black, Native American and Filipino heritage--told The Daily Beast that he believes the online harassment campaign had help from law enforcement and county colleagues, including people within his own office.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Separatists Grow Majority in Spain's Catalonia Despite Socialist Win (Associated Press, February 14, 2021)

The pro-union Socialist Party appeared set to claim a narrow win in regional elections in Catalonia late Sunday, but the bloc of parties supporting secession by Spain's northeastern corner were widening their control of the regional parliament.

With 95% of the votes counted, the three main parties pledging to carve out an independent Catalan state were likely to increase their number of seats in the regional parliament to 74. In 2017, those same parties won 70 seats of the 135-seat chamber, just two above the majority.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The 12 Best Cities for Remote WorkersBlazing fast internet? Low cost of living? High quality of life? These under-the-radar cities have it all. (JESSICA STILLMAN, 2/15/21, INC.)

Just about everyone can agree that freelancers and employees newly liberated from cramped, expensive coastal cities by widespread remote work are relocating in droves. What's less clear is where they're going. 

Buzzy cities such as Austin and Miami are monopolizing the media's attention (including reports from those who made the move to these hot spots and regretted it). But recent data actually paints a different picture. While high profile-cities are certainly welcoming new residents, the places that seem to be attracting the most coastal refugees are actually less glamorous metros like Cleveland and Hartford, Connecticut.  

This suggests there's a healthy appetite out there for lower cost, under-the-radar relocation options that offer affordable housing, lifestyle perks, and remote worker-friendly amenities. PC Mag wants to help you find these undersung remote work cities. 

Most expensive cities hardest hit.