June 30, 2022

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Former Trump Admin Official Alyssa Farah Stuns CNN's New Day With Revelation About Cassidy Hutchinson (Ken MeyerJun 30th, 2022, Mediate)

"A couple months ago, I put her in touch with Congresswoman Cheney," Farah said. "She got a new lawyer and that's how this testimony came about."

John Berman asked Farah to elaborate, and she replied that Hutchinson was one of several former White House staffers who at first had a lawyer assigned to her from "Trump World." Farah added that Hutchinson's original legal representative was "someone who had been in the White House counsel's office," and "still aligned with Trump World" when she gave her first interviews to the committee.

"She did her interview, she complied with the committee, but she shared with me 'There is more I want to share that was not asked in those settings. How do we do this?'" Farah said. "In that process, she got a new attorney of her own. Congresswoman Cheney had a sense of what questions needed to be asked that weren't previously. So that's how this shocking testimony that people didn't realize before kind of came about, and it didn't come up in her earlier interview, some of those facts."

Panelist Kasie Hunt was the first to react, telling Farah "This sheds a lot of interesting new light on a lot of things." CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said the description reminded him of mafia cases where "the boss, the family pays for the attorneys for everyone on the indictment, or as many people as they can."

Berman interjected to point out "there are very junior people who can't often afford their lawyers too, so you have various committees or political committees that will provide counsel -- not necessarily something that's nefarious." Honig acknowledged that point, even as he retorted that "the number one flag for us as prosecutors this person may be ready to flip, they change out lawyers and go get a lawyer on their own."

Farah said, "I wouldn't be shocked if more witnesses end up coming forward after their testimony because they realize they can fill in more gaps" with everything they've learned from each other throughout the committee's investigation. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


GOP megadonors turn on Trump after Jan. 6 hearings, set sights on DeSantis, Pence and other 2024 hopefuls (Brian Schwartz, 6/30/22, CNBC)

Support from some of the Republican Party's biggest donors for a 2024 White House run by former President Donald Trump is dwindling, especially after damaging new details of his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, were revealed at a hearing Tuesday by the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Republican financiers and their advisors have been privately meeting since the committee started to release the initial findings of its probe in a series of public hearings earlier this month, according to interviews with top GOP fundraisers who have helped the party raise millions of dollars. Most of the people asked not to be named because they didn't want to provoke retribution from Trump or his allies.

The people have been discussing the November midterms and who they're going to support in 2024. One name that doesn't often get brought up as a potential presidential candidate is Trump, these people explained.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


Cassidy Hutchinson Is a Heroine: May her courage be as contagious as most Republicans' cowardice. (MONA CHAREN  JUNE 30, 2022, The Bulwark)

Consider what Brad Raffensperger, Rusty Bowers, Shaye Moss, Ruby Freeman, and too many others to list have been subjected to. Rusty Bowers became a virtual prisoner in his home as his daughter lay dying.

In the weeks that followed, Bowers's neighborhood in Mesa, a suburb east of Phoenix, was practically occupied at times by caravans of Trump supporters. They screamed at Bowers through bullhorns, filmed his home and led parades to ridicule him that featured a civilian military-style truck. At one point, a man showed up with a gun and was threatening Bowers's neighbor.

Among the last things Bowers' daughter saw in this life was Trump crowds accusing her father of pedophilia--because he would not betray his oath by lying. Brad Raffensperger's family received specific threats like "You and your family will be killed very slowly."

Ruby Freeman used to delight in wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with her nickname, "Lady Ruby," but she doesn't dare to wear it now.

I won't even introduce myself by my name anymore. I get nervous when I bump into someone I know in the grocery store who says my name. I'm worried about who is listening. I get nervous when I have to give my name for food orders. I'm always concerned of who is around me. I've lost my name, and I've lost my reputation. I've lost my sense of security.

"Do you know what it's like to be targeted by the president of the United States?" Freeman asked. Those words must have been reverberating in Hutchinson's ears as she contemplated her own path.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


The Corporations Paying for Abortion Travel Are Doing the Right Thing (SHANNON PALUS, JUNE 28, 2022, Slate)

There is a clear incentive for them to provide this benefit. Companies are probably worried about their ability to attract talent in states where abortion is, or may become, illegal. They may consider announcing this benefit to be good marketing to workers and consumers appalled by the court's ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. There's also the fact that paying for an abortion airfare, like the corporate benefit of egg freezing before it, is cheaper than paying for maternity leave.

Just sterilize them when you hire them. 
Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Former prosecutors say blockbuster January 6 testimony increases Trump's criminal exposure (Katelyn Polantz and Marshall Cohen, 6/30/22, CNN)

Ty Cobb, who represented Trump in the White House during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, said this situation is much different than with Mueller. At the time of the Mueller investigation, Cobb believed Trump shouldn't be charged with any crime -- and the President wasn't.

Nor did Cobb believe Mueller's investigation was warranted. Now, that is not the case.

"Here there are many damning facts," said Cobb, who pointed to Hutchinson's testimony that Trump knew his supporters were armed on January 6, riled them up, then appeared to concur with them chanting to hang the vice president as worthy of prosecutors' attention.

If that "isn't insurrection, I don't know what is," he said Wednesday.

Poor Cheeto Jesus, stop paying your enablers and they turn honest. 
Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Insubstantial Due Process: Justice Thomas's Dobbs concurrence argues that the Court should abandon its substantive-due-process jurisprudence. (FRANK DEVITO, 6/30/22, American Conservative)

For decades, the Court has been using the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to declare fundamental rights that are not explicitly written in the Constitution. The relevant clause requires that no state shall"deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Looking at the history of due-process rights, Justice Thomas points out that due process means simply that a certain process is due to citizens before their rights to life, liberty, or property can be taken away. For example, if the government intends to deprive a criminal of life or liberty, or intends to confiscate a person's property under a certain law, the person is constitutionally entitled to due process. This usually means reasonable notice of the government's intention, and a fair hearing on the merits of the government's claim. The Courts have turned "due process" into something far beyond the process that a person is due.

Why does this matter? First of all, proponents of originalist legal theory want to interpret the text correctly, period. The goal is not simply to get "the right outcome," but to make sure judges are doing their work properly and interpreting the law before them according to its meaning. By accepting the substantive-due-process framework created through many decades of precedent, the majority opinion in Dobbs is accepting an incorrect reading of the Fourteenth Amendment. As a matter of principle, judges should not do that. One can argue that precedent has its place and that it is not expedient to unwind a long-established and well-used precedent. But if one is committed to the idea that judges must be restrained to interpret the law as written without weighing the potential practical effects of their judgments, then Justice Thomas is correct and the concept of substantive due process should be eliminated from American law.

Besides the fact that it lacks a basis in the Constitution, Justice Thomas points to three reasons substantive due process is "particularly dangerous." First, the doctrine exalts judges above the democratically elected branches of government by allowing judges to use the Due Process Clause to divine new rights rather than for the limited task of ensuring the people are given due process (notice and a fair hearing). Abortion is only one of many "rights" the Supreme Court has found hidden within the Due Process Clause. Second, the creation of new fundamental rights complicates and distorts other areas of constitutional law. For example, once a new fundamental right is found for one class of persons, the Court must determine under the Equal Protection Clause if other classes of persons are entitled to the right. Third, the creation of rights not found explicitly in the Constitution is dangerous ground with a tradition of frightful results. Justice Thomas explains that in the Dred Scott case, "the Court invoked a species of substantive due process to announce that Congress was powerless to emancipate slaves brought into the federal territories." 

If a law is arrived at in participatory fashion following established processes and applies universally, the Court ought bow out of the matter. 

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A more muscular NATO emerges as West confronts Russia and China (Steven Erlanger and Michael D. Shear, 6/30/22,  New York Times)

Faced with a newly aggressive Russia, NATO leaders on Wednesday outlined a muscular new vision that names Moscow as the military alliance's primary adversary but also, for the first time, declares China to be a strategic "challenge."

It was a fundamental shift for an alliance that was born in the Cold War but came to view a post-Soviet Russia as a potential ally, and did not focus on China at all.

But that was before Feb. 24, when Russian forces poured across the border into Ukraine, and Chinese leaders pointedly did not join in the global condemnation that followed.

Not owning the American president has been awfully costly. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


France's unspoken, unfinished civil war (James Noyes, July 2022, The Critic)

France is a sombre tribe held together by its own mysterious internal logic, utterly impenetrable to the outsider and often opaque even to the French themselves. This logic moves in slow, seasonal cycles: during the long summer months, a period of quiet and apparent contentment descends on the baked cities and brimming countryside, followed by sudden, shocking acts of collective violence in winter. The farmers strike, setting fire to piles of rubber tyres on main roads. The gilets jaunes turn up in Paris and start to pull up the paving stones. They are beaten back by the police. In the banlieues, kids set cars alight. Then suddenly it is over, and spring comes around again.

Elections in France and the regular ritual of giving performative votes for the far right are a political continuation of this cycle. Most people believe that Le Pen will never be president, just as they know that the gilets jaunes will never succeed in storming Macron's palace and turning it into the new Bastille. But within the French internal logic, this impossibility does not matter. The symbolism of the outburst is sufficient -- and necessary -- for the quiet summer months to happen. 

The violence is, to use René Girard's words, a respite, a short moment of intense transgression that brings the tribe together around its own unfathomable purpose. For peace to be possible, a sacrifice must be made. The French Republic is made a scapegoat for the survival of France.

This is the mystery at the heart of the French paradox: it is a country that is both revolutionary and deeply conservative at the same time, both ungovernable and technocratic, a country where the Republic never really took hold and therefore has had to sustain itself in the symbolism of administrative order. It is a country of equality but not integration.

Having denied the soul, modern France has had nothing else but Identity to fall back on.  It is a racial state.  That's why the Right everywhere is so French. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


A potential legal bombshell in the Jan. 6 hearing that you might have missed (Tal Kopan, 6/29/22, Boston  Globe)

While many witnesses have cooperated fully, Cheney noted that not everyone had, pointing to outreach from Trump associates as a pattern of "significant concern."

Declining to name who received the messages or sent them, Cheney mentioned the account of one witness who received multiple phone calls from "people" about that person's upcoming testimony.

"What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I'm on the team, I'm doing the right thing, I'm protecting who I need to protect, you know, I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World," the witness told the committee, according to a transcript displayed on screen and read aloud during the hearing. "And they have reminded me a couple of times that Trump does read transcripts and just to keep that in mind as I proceeded through my depositions and interviews with the committee."

In another example, Cheney said that another witness described a particular phone call.

"[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow," that second witness said the caller relayed. "He wants me to let you know that he's thinking about you. He knows you're loyal and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition."

Cheney did not say what the committee, which does not have prosecutorial powers, intends to do with the information. "I think most Americans know that attempting to influence witnesses to testify untruthfully presents very serious concerns," she said. "We will be discussing these issues as a committee and carefully considering our next steps."

But veteran prosecutors say witness intimidation is a serious crime punishable with jail time, and it can often be much easier to prove than a sprawling conspiracy or a novel line of attack in a criminal prosecution over the insurrection itself. That could be attractive to the Justice Department, which has launched a probe into the scheme to submit fake electors to overturn the 2020 election results.

"Sometimes defendants or subjects do you a big favor by doing something like lying to you or interfering with a witness because it may be that you never would have been able to put the whole thing together, but boy here's a gift-wrapped present with a bow," said Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney in Michigan under President Barack Obama who is now a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. "It could be a very tidy little charge if they can prove who sent that message."

June 29, 2022

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Cassidy Hutchinson's Testimony against Trump Is Devastating (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, June 28, 2022, National Review)

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, provided compelling testimony Tuesday that former president Donald Trump is singularly culpable for the Capitol riot.

The testimony in a session of the House January 6 committee -- a session abruptly called, reportedly due to concerns about Ms. Hutchinson's safety -- was devastating because it was directly about the former president.

Can John Solomon be far behind? 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


No miracle tech needed: How to switch to renewables now and lower costs doing it (MARK Z. JACOBSON,  06/28/22, The Hill)

By electrifying all energy sectors; producing electricity from clean, renewable sources; creating heat, cold, and hydrogen from such electricity; storing electricity, heat, cold and the hydrogen; expanding transmission; and shifting the time of some electricity use, we can create safe, cheap and reliable energy everywhere.

The biggest reason for the cost reduction is that a clean, renewable energy system uses much less energy than does a combustion-based energy system. In fact, worldwide the energy that people actually use goes down by over 56 percent with an all-electric system powered by clean, renewable sources. The reduction is for five reasons: the efficiency of electric vehicles over combustion vehicles, the efficiency of electric heat pumps for air and water heating over combustion heaters, the efficiency of electrified industry, eliminating energy needed to obtain fossil fuels, as well as some efficiency improvements beyond what is expected.

On top of that, a new system also reduces the cost per unit energy by another 12 percent on average, resulting in a 63 percent lower annual energy cost worldwide. Adding onto that health and climate cost savings gives a 92 percent reduction in social costs, which are energy plus health plus climate costs, relative to the current system. [...]

We found that the overall upfront cost to replace all energy in the 145 countries, which emit 99.7 percent of world carbon dioxide, is about $62 trillion. However, due to the $11 trillion annual energy cost savings, the payback time for the new system is less than six years.

The new system may also create over 28 million more long-term, full-time jobs than lost worldwide and require only about 0.53 percent of the world's land for new energy, with most of this area being empty space between wind turbines on land that can be used for multiple purposes. Thus, we found that the new system may require less energy, cost less and creates more jobs than the current system.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


EU approves end of combustion engine sales by 2035 (AFP, June 29, 2022)

The European Union approved a plan to end the sale of vehicles with combustion engines by 2035 in Europe, the 27-member bloc announced early Wednesday, in a bid to reduce CO2 emissions to zero.

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Range extenders: solar panels provide more juice to EVs (AFP, June 29, 2022)

Startups and major carmakers are starting to incorporate solar panels on their electric vehicles, an addition that extends the range of the cars even if perpetual motion remains a dream.

As it rolls under the blistering sun of northern Spain, the Lightyear 0 generates enough electricity every day to drive 70 kilometers (43 miles) thanks to the five square metres of solar panels integrated into hood and roof.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In blow to Putin, Turkey will not bar Sweden and Finland from NATO (Steven Erlanger, Valerie Hopkins, Anton Troianovski and Michael D. Shear, June 28, 2022, Boston Globe)

NATO's top official said Tuesday that Turkey had dropped its objections to the membership of Sweden and Finland, two historically nonaligned nations that, alarmed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have asked to join the military alliance.

Turkey's reversal is a blow to President Vladimir Putin, who in justifying the invasion of his neighbor bitterly protested previous expansions of NATO -- and Ukraine's efforts to join the alliance -- as a threat to his country's security.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case for Prosecuting Donald Trump Just Got Much Stronger (David French, 6/29/22, French Press)

I confess that I've been skeptical that the January 6 committee would produce evidence that Donald Trump was directly criminally responsible for the attack on the Capitol. Certainly he was morally and politically responsible. There's no credible argument that a mob would have stormed the Capitol if he had the basic decency to concede a race he clearly lost. 

At the same time, it's legally quite difficult to hold a politician responsible for the violence of his followers. The First Amendment is broadly protective even of political speech that outright advocates violence. There is (rightly) a very high constitutional barrier to criminally prosecuting any person for allegedly inciting violence. After all, the primary responsibility for a riot rests with the rioters--in the absence of direct command authority (like a general commands his troops), nobody can make a person riot. 

Before today, I've been open to the possibility that Donald Trump's speech and conduct on and before January 6 criminally incited the mob. I was open, but unconvinced. I spoke to a number of leading First Amendment experts, and they were even less open than me. Yes, Trump urged the mob to "fight like hell" and march on the Capitol, but he also said they should "peacefully and patriotically" make their voices heard. That caveat was likely enough to spare him from prosecution.

That was yesterday's analysis. Today's is different. Because of a courageous woman named Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Mark Meadows. 

Earlier this afternoon she gave the most extraordinary congressional testimony I've ever seen. She testified that the president was so committed to walking to the Capitol with his own supporters that he allegedly tried to grab the wheel of his Secret Service vehicle. She painted the picture of a president utterly out of control, a man so committed to preserving his own power that he approved of the riot and believed that Mike Pence deserved to face mob justice. 

But the most legally significant testimony came in a few key sentences:

Hutchinson claims she overheard Trump say about the crowd, "You know, I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Take the effing mags away."

As Jake Tapper noted, the "mags" refer to magnetometers deployed to keep armed individuals away from the president. 

June 28, 2022

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First on CNN: Trump documentary filmmaker expected to cooperate with Fulton County prosecutor investigating former President (Jim Acosta, June 28, 2022, CNN)

Donald Trump documentary filmmaker Alex Holder has been contacted by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office about his potential cooperation with the grand jury investigating the pressure the former President put on Georgia officials to overturn that state's 2020 election results, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN.

Fulton County prosecutor Fani Willis issued a subpoena for Holder's cooperation as well as the filmmaker's raw footage, including interviews with Trump, the source said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Cassidy Hutchinson just changed everything (Zack Beauchamp, Jun 28, 2022, Vox)

To understand how Hutchinson changed what we knew about the Capitol attack, it's helpful to focus on four key moments in her testimony.

1) In a January 2, 2021, conversation, Trump ally Rudy Giuliani told Hutchinson that "we are going to the Capitol, it's going to be great, the president is going to be there." When she asked Meadows about what Giuliani said, her boss warned that "things might get real, real bad on January 6." In the following days, the White House received repeated warnings from intelligence agencies that the rally might turn violent; neither Trump nor Meadows did anything.

This not only indicates that the White House had warning of a very serious risk of violence at the rally, but raises the question of whether the violence was actually planned -- that is, what specifically "real, real bad" referred to.

2) On the morning of the attack, when Trump was informed that people in the crowd for his speech had weapons, Hutchinson heard the president say, "I don't care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me."

This is the strongest evidence we've had that the president had direct and advance warning on the day of the attack that his crowd was prepared for violence, and that he then proceeded to instruct these people to march on the Capitol, indifferent at best that those weapons might be used there. "They're not here to hurt me" could be read a couple of ways: It could simply be downplaying any threat to Trump's person, but it could also suggest he believed that they were there to hurt someone else.

3) After his speech, Trump had planned to personally travel to the Capitol with the rioters. Hutchinson was informed by another White House aide that Secret Service agents attempted to take the car back to the White House instead, citing ongoing violence. In response, Trump reportedly tried to physically seize control of the wheel from a Secret Service agent in a failed attempt to drive to the Capitol.

This is the one key detail that Hutchinson herself did not witness, so we can't be as confident that it happened as described. Nevertheless, the story -- together with other evidence, including National Security Council chat logs released by the committee -- provides new and strong reasons to believe that the president was set on leading the Capitol mob, even after it turned violent.

4) When the president returned to the White House, he met with Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone and discussed the rioters chanting "hang Mike Pence" in the halls of the Capitol. Hutchinson heard Meadows say, "You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong."

Hutchinson is not the first committee source to describe Trump as approving the idea of Pence's execution. But hearing more confirmation, together with testimony that he believed that the crowd assaulting police officers and ransacking the Capitol was doing nothing wrong, paints an even clearer picture of a president who not only condoned the violence, but actively approved of it.

Put together, and assuming the details are true, we now have good reason to believe that the violence of the day was not accidental but intentional: that Trump wanted a violent mob to attack the Capitol on his behalf, to use force to disrupt Congress's certification of the election results and thus give him a chance at illegally holding onto the presidency.

It appears, in short, to be a kind of attempted regime change: a coup that we would have no problem describing as such in any other country but our own.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Trump's fury on display at Jan. 6 hearing. Key takeaways from explosive day of testimony from former White House aide (Brian Schwartz, 6/28/22, CNBC)

In scathing testimony before the House committee investigating the attacks on Capitol Hill, a former aide to then-President Donald Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, portrayed Trump as an enraged commander in chief in the weeks surrounding the riot.

A furious Trump lunged at his own Secret Service agent, threw plates and refused to help his vice president as throngs of angry rioters chanted "hang Mike Pence," Meadows' former aide Cassidy Hutchinson told lawmakers in more than two hours of testimony Tuesday recalling what she heard and saw in the days and weeks surrounding the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

How the Jan. 6 panel's star witness drew a roadmap for Trump's culpability (KYLE CHENEY and NICHOLAS WU, 06/28/2022, Politico)

"I was disgusted," Hutchinson said of Trump's behavior on Jan. 6, particularly after he tweeted an attack on Mike Pence as the then-vice president was fleeing rioters who'd called for his execution. "It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie." [...]

Among her recollections, part of a succession of shocking details from inside the White House:

Trump was informed that members of the crowd during the "Stop the Steal" rally by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, carried weapons. He asked the Secret Service to dismantle metal detectors to let them into the Ellipse so his audience looked larger. Those rallygoers would later march to the Capitol and mount a violent siege aimed at disrupting Congress' certification of Trump's loss.

Trump lunged at the steering wheel of his presidential vehicle after he was informed that the Secret Service would not permit him to travel to the Capitol following his speech at that Ellipse rally.

Trump told aides that he agreed with those who had stormed the Capitol and thought they were right to call for Pence's hanging.

Meadows and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani sought pardons from the then-president for their actions related to challenging the election.

Hutchinson shared her sworn narrative as federal prosecutors appear to be closing in on several of Trump's top lieutenants in his effort to stay in power. FBI agents last week seized the cell phone of attorney John Eastman, who devised a Jan. 6 strategy to pressure Pence to overturn the election; they also searched the Lorton, Va., residence of Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official whom Trump nearly appointed acting attorney general to aid his election subversion push.

Perhaps as notable as Hutchinson's testimony was the absence of much substantive pushback from Republicans to her account of worry at the White House about a president determined to get to the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Universal Blues (Michael Spicher, 6/28/22, Splice Today)

I was 14 or 15 when I got my first harmonica. Two albums informed my nascent understanding of the blues. Harp Attack! featured four great harmonica players: Carey Bell, Junior Wells, James Cotton, and Billy Branch. The other album, a compilation, was The Slide Guitar: Bottles, Knives, and Steel. On this one, I first heard Bukka White, Blind Willie Johnson, Robert Johnson, and Son House. This last performer's song "Pearline" haunted me, and still does. Son House's slide guitar playing felt both loose and tight, chaotic and ordered. Growing up in a predominantly white suburb, the only other person interested in the blues was also white. As a kid who was made fun of and didn't quite fit in, nothing seemed strange to me about finding solace in the blues. I was an outsider among my peers.

As I got older and was confronted with whether white people could really play the blues, I felt defensive at first and then questioned my own motivations and interest in the music. As a harmonica player, I wondered whether I was overstepping a cultural boundary. But I love playing harmonica.

In light of this background, I was excited to read Adam Gussow's most recent book, Whose Blues? Facing Up to Race and the Future of the Music. Like myself, Gussow's a white blues harmonica player, but considerably better-known. He formed half of the blues duo, Satan and Adam. The other half comprised Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee. Together they played on the streets of Harlem for about five years, and then toured around the U.S. and the world.

Gussow continues to play music solo or with his band The Blues Doctors, and he's also a professor at the University of Mississippi. As professor and musician, he wrote this book to explore two divergent approaches to blues music that he refers to as black bluesism and blues universalism. To summarize these contrary takes, Gussow matches each with a slogan. Black bluesism asserts this sentiment: "The blues are black music." And blues universalism can be summarized this way: "No black. No white. Just the blues." Gussow, with fluid dexterity, weaves through these two positions to show a more complex picture of blues history, despite each of these extremities having a piece of the truth.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jan. 6 panel abruptly sets Tuesday hearing on 'recently obtained evidence' (Luke Broadwater and Maggie Haberman, 6/28/22,  New York Times)

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol on Monday abruptly scheduled a hearing for Tuesday afternoon to hear what the panel called "recently obtained evidence" and take witness testimony.

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Thomas and Alito Are Appropriating Racial Justice to Push a Radical Agenda (MELISSA MURRAY, 6/28/22, MoJo)

Nestled among Justice Samuel Alito's arguments laying waste to nearly 50 years of abortion precedent lurked an unassuming footnote documenting a narrative advanced in amicus briefs submitted to the high court. These "friend of the court" briefs, Justice Alito explained, "present[ed] arguments about the motives" of those favoring "liberal access to abortion," namely "that some such supporters have been motivated by a desire to suppress the size of the African American population."

According to Alito, claiming abortion is a tool of racial genocide is not beyond the pale.  "[I]t is beyond dispute that Roe has had that demographic effect." After all, he noted "[a] highly disproportionate percentage of aborted fetuses are black." As further support for the view that abortion has functioned as a tool of eugenics, Alito cited Justice Clarence Thomas's separate opinion in 2019's Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, a challenge to an Indiana law that prohibited abortion where undertaken for reasons of race or sex selection or because of the diagnosis of a fetal anomaly. The Court declined to review the law, deferring the question of the constitutionality of such "reason bans" to another day. While Justice Thomas agreed with the decision to decline review, he nonetheless wrote separately to emphasize that the day was coming when the Court would have "to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana's," which, in his view, merely reflected a "compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics."  

As evidence of the "eugenic potential" of abortion and reproductive rights, Justice Thomas noted that "[t]he foundations for legalizing abortion in America were laid during the early 20th-century birth-control movement," which "developed alongside the American eugenics movement." Indeed, reproductive rights advocates like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and the modern birth control movement, and Alan Guttmacher, who served as the President of Planned Parenthood in the 1960s, worked hand in glove with the eugenics movement, endorsing contraception and abortion as effective methods for "controlling the population and improving its quality." 

There's a reason Blue states are flying poor women in for free abortions.
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Most Americans are moderates (Milan Singh, 6/28/22, Slow Boring)

It is worth noting that "moderate" doesn't necessarily mean holding centrist opinions down the board. In fact, it's more often the case that moderates hold a mix of left- and right-wing ideas -- such as someone who opposes gun control but supports raising the minimum wage.

And voters often hold inconsistent views. For example, polling indicates that a strong majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. But majorities also favor banning abortion after the first trimester, which wasn't allowed under Roe.

Hilarious listening to the Left demand that Democrats "codify Roe," which less than 20% of Americans support the actual meaning of.  Put it in writing and Republicans will drape it around their opponents' necks. 

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"What is a Woman?" is a flawed attempt at a necessary conversation (Grayson Slover, Jun 22, 2022, FAIR)

What is a Woman? is a film that you don't necessarily have to watch to understand its significance. People who articulate even the most careful and well-intentioned criticism of the dominant narrative on gender today reliably face a tsunami of attempted character assassination and career destruction. Senate candidates have been banned from Twitter, academics have been fired, world-famous authors have received death threats. Indeed, this topic is so fraught that even a Supreme Court nominee felt the need to avoid it. Gender just is not worth expressing an opinion on for most people who wish to remain in the good graces of polite society, which explains why critics have largely ignored the film despite its popularity. What is a Woman? gives voice to a widely-held perspective that our popular culture has effectively marginalized--that by itself makes the film a positive contribution.

The highlight of What is a Woman? is Walsh's skill in coaxing his interview subjects into incriminating themselves. He speaks to a gender studies professor, a therapist, a pediatrician, and "the nation's pre-eminent sex-change surgeon," none of whom are able to define womanhood without relying on abstruse academic jargon or circular reasoning. When Walsh gently tries to get them to respond to their detractors, several of them dismiss the very notion that such detractors exist. None seem to have even a passing familiarity with the counterarguments to ideas like the fluidity of gender and sex or practices like gender-affirming healthcare. Meanwhile, Walsh is able to get clear answers from the elderly owner of a Star Wars paraphernalia store, pastoral tribesmen in Tanzania, and, at the very end of the movie, his wife, who informs him that a woman is simply "an adult human female."*

The movie's titular question also relates to its secondary theme: a defense of objective truth. Such a defense is laudable; the idea that objective truth exists and is discoverable is central to the Enlightenment values from which all liberal democracies are derived. It is also clearly necessary, as evidenced by most of Walsh's subjects who insist that the idea of a non-relativistic truth is unfounded and, according to the gender studies professor, "deeply transphobic." 

However, Walsh goes further than defending objective truth as a real concept. Throughout the film, his conservative policy preferences are smuggled in with the facts about gender and transgender healthcare. This alloys a film that could have achieved Walsh's stated goal of transcending the "conservative bubble" of his typical audience and potentially swayed public opinion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hydrogen-powered trains to be used in Germany's capital region (Anmar Frangoul, 6/28/22, CNBC)

Siemens Mobility is to build several hydrogen-powered trains for a network in the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region of Germany, in the latest example of how hydrogen-based technology is being used in rail transport. [...]

Siemens Mobility, which is a separately managed company of industrial giant Siemens, said the trains would provide "completely CO2 emission-free mobility" and have a top speed of 160 kilometers per hour (around 99 mph).

The firm has previously said the Mireo Plus H's range comes in at between 600 and 1,000 kilometers. "By switching from diesel to hydrogen, Heidekrautbahn will reduce its annual CO2 emissions by around three million kilos and save 1.1 million liters of diesel," the company said Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Do we need a new theory of evolution? (Stephen Buranyi, 28 Jun 2022, The Guardian)

Strange as it sounds, scientists still do not know the answers to some of the most basic questions about how life on Earth evolved. Take eyes, for instance. Where do they come from, exactly? The usual explanation of how we got these stupendously complex organs rests upon the theory of natural selection.

You may recall the gist from school biology lessons. If a creature with poor eyesight happens to produce offspring with slightly better eyesight, thanks to random mutations, then that tiny bit more vision gives them more chance of survival. The longer they survive, the more chance they have to reproduce and pass on the genes that equipped them with slightly better eyesight. Some of their offspring might, in turn, have better eyesight than their parents, making it likelier that they, too, will reproduce. And so on. Generation by generation, over unfathomably long periods of time, tiny advantages add up. Eventually, after a few hundred million years, you have creatures who can see as well as humans, or cats, or owls.

This is the basic story of evolution, as recounted in countless textbooks and pop-science bestsellers. The problem, according to a growing number of scientists, is that it is absurdly crude and misleading.

For one thing, it starts midway through the story, taking for granted the existence of light-sensitive cells, lenses and irises, without explaining where they came from in the first place. Nor does it adequately explain how such delicate and easily disrupted components meshed together to form a single organ. And it isn't just eyes that the traditional theory struggles with. "The first eye, the first wing, the first placenta. How they emerge. Explaining these is the foundational motivation of evolutionary biology," says Armin Moczek, a biologist at the University of Indiana. "And yet, we still do not have a good answer. This classic idea of gradual change, one happy accident at a time, has so far fallen flat."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bigger and better wind turbines to overcome climate caused wind droughts (Michael Mazengarb 28 June 2022, Renew Economy)

A global shift to bigger, taller and better designed wind turbines could lead to a significant boost in overall efficiency, overcoming predicted declines in wind availability caused by climate change, new research suggests.

The research findings, published in the journal Nature Energy, suggest the shift towards larger wind turbines will lead to significant improvements in wind power capacity factors and overall gains in turbine efficiency - of as much as 25 per cent over the next decade.

June 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


Eastman says phone seized by federal agents as Jan. 6-related law enforcement activity escalates (KYLE CHENEY, 06/27/2022, Politico)

John Eastman, the attorney who developed Donald Trump's last-ditch strategy to seize a second term, said in court Monday that he had his phone seized by federal agents last week.

Filmmaker subpoenaed by Jan 6 committee says Eric Trump thought inciting violence was 'fair game' (Andrew Feinberg, 6/27/22, Independent)

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Holder said Trump family members -- and Eric Trump in particular -- were unbothered by the idea that the often violent rhetoric they and their patriarch espoused after his loss to now-president Joe Biden would inspire his supporters to act out.

"When I asked Eric about the potential danger of sort of rhetoric and the sort of the belligerence, he felt that it was ... fair game in that it ... was sort of the equivalent on the other side of the political discourse, or he felt that it was the right thing to do ... because the election was stolen," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Antisemitic soldier pleads guilty to terrorism (ASHLEY HERMALIN, JUNE 26, 2022, Jerusalem Post)

US Army Private Ethan Melzer (Also known as Etil Reggard,) in conjunction with the Order of the Nine Angles terrorist group, planned an attack on his unit during a scheduled deployment to Turkey. He pled guilty to it on Friday. 

FBI New York Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as police forces and other military departments intercepted the attack.

Melzer had been a member of the terrorist organization since 2017 or earlier, according to the US Department of Justice. While stationed in Italy in 2019, he consumed the media propaganda from the Order of the Nine Angles and other extremist organizations, such as ISIS.

Order of the Nine Angles is a terrorist organization known for its Neo-Nazi and white supremacist views. The organization has publicly admired Adolf Hitler and Usama Bin Laden and holds satanic beliefs. Members are ordered to infiltrate governmental bodies to access secure information, gain training, and identify individuals to recruit for the purpose of committing further violence. Melzer enlisted for these reasons.

Yeah, but Hunter's laptop...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


More than 1 million voters switch to GOP in warning for Dems (STEVE PEOPLES and AARON KESSLER, 6/27/22,  The Associated Press)

A political shift is beginning to take hold across the U.S. as tens of thousands of suburban swing voters who helped fuel the Democratic Party's gains in recent years are becoming Republicans.

More than 1 million voters across 43 states have switched to the Republican Party over the last year, according to voter registration data analyzed by The Associated Press. The previously unreported number reflects a phenomenon that is playing out in virtually every region of the country -- Democratic and Republican states along with cities and small towns -- in the period since President Joe Biden replaced former President Donald Trump.

But nowhere is the shift more pronounced -- and dangerous for Democrats -- than in the suburbs, where well-educated swing voters who turned against Trump's Republican Party in recent years appear to be swinging back. Over the last year, far more people are switching to the GOP across suburban counties from Denver to Atlanta and Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Republicans also gained ground in counties around medium-size cities such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Raleigh, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; and Des Moines, Iowa.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Ur-Alternative: Quantum Mechanics As A Theory Of Everything (Jochen Szangolies, 6/27/22, 3 Quarks)

At the close of the 20th century, the logical end-point of physics seemed clear: unify all physical phenomena under the umbrella of a single, unique 'Theory of Everything' (ToE). Indeed, many were convinced that this goal was well within reach: in his 1980 inaugural lecture Is the end in sight for theoretical physics?, Stephen Hawking, the physicist perhaps most closely associated with the quest for the ToE in the public eye, speculated that this journey might be completed before the turn of the millennium.

More than twenty years after, a ToE has not manifested--and moreover, seems in some ways more distant than ever. Confidence in the erstwhile 'only game in town', string/M-theory, has been waning in the face of floundering attempts to make contact with the real world. Without much hope of guidance from experiment, some have even been questioning whether the theory is 'proper science' at all--or, conversely, whether it requires a reworking of scientific methodology towards a 'post-empirical' framework from the ground up. But in the wake of string theory's troubles, no other contender has risen up to take center stage. [...]

But Whence X?

The X-theory is a theory of a particular kind: it takes initially disparate phenomena--general relativity and the standard model of particle physics--and unifies them in a more fundamental setting, namely, the behavior of the X-entities. This style of theorizing has a long pedigree in Western science and philosophy. The pre-Socratic philosopher Thales of Miletus, who lived around 600 BCE, proposed that ultimately, everything is water. Water's mutability is, after all, readily observable: it transforms to ice and steam, back and forth. Why not into other forms?

Later, in the 5th century BCE, Leucippus and his pupil Democritus developed the theory of atomism--that every phenomenon ultimately can be reduced to the motion of certain most fundamental entities--atoms--in the void. In honor of the centrality of this idea to much of what followed, in science and philosophy alike, I will thus call this style of theorizing 'atomistic': a theory is atomistic when it seeks to unify phenomena by reducing them to the behavior of entities at a more fundamental level. Note, however, that I take 'atomistic' in a broad sense, here: the unification of electric and magnetic phenomena in the behavior of the electromagnetic field, for instance, is atomistic in this sense.

Thus, complex, disparate phenomena are unified by reduction to the (often simpler or 'more elegant') behavior of more fundamental entities. The periodic table finds its explanation in the structure of atoms. The 'particle zoo' containing more than one hundred hadrons is reduced to different bound states of six quarks. Thus goes the standard 'success story' of physics. With the X-entities, we are at the final rung: the dynamics of space and time, leptons and quarks, gluons, photons, W- and Z-bosons, and the Higgs field--all find a natural explanation in X-theory.

But of course, a glaring question remains open: just as we could've asked Thales 'whence water?', as we could've asked the string theorists 'whence strings?', for any atomistic X-theory, we will always finally ask: but whence X? Or, as the question was formulated by Hawking in A Brief History of Time: "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"

There seem to be two options. Either, there is some further justification, some theory that accounts for X, for the fire bringing it to life. Then, X-theory wasn't the ultimate theory after all--but whatever replaces it, if it does so in atomistic style, will be subject to the same question. Or, there is no such justification--Xs and their behavior are just a brute fact about the universe.

But in the latter case, what have we really learned? What does X-theory provide us with beyond a single, perhaps more convenient, framework to describe the phenomena of physics? 

X is whatever we decide it is for the time being. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Dobbs and Democratic Legitimacy (Carson Holloway, 12/21/21, Law & Liberty)

The key virtue of a Supreme Court ruling is not its democratic legitimacy but its constitutional legitimacy. The Court's job is not faithfully to represent the public will--we have other institutions to do that--but to faithfully interpret the meaning of the Constitution. One of our first and greatest constitutionalists--Alexander Hamilton--teaches this lesson in Federalist 78. There Hamilton notes that the very purpose of the judiciary's independence is to ensure that the judges are free from "too great a disposition to consult popularity." If an American court is to do its work properly," Hamilton suggests, then "nothing would be consulted but the Constitution and the laws." 

But since the left has brought it up, it is worthwhile to offer a more complete account of this question of democratic legitimacy and the constitutional right to abortion. If democratic legitimacy is a principle--and not just a polemical weapon wielded by the left in a selective and self-serving way--then we would have to consider not only the democratic legitimacy of a potential reversal of Roe but also the democratic legitimacy (if any) of the constitutional right to abortion itself. Such an inquiry reveals that the existing constitutional right to abortion lacks democratic legitimacy--in its origins, in its development, and at the present time.

The constitutional right to abortion--or the alleged constitutional right to abortion--originated in the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. In its opinion, the Court announced a new constitutional right, found neither in the text of the Constitution nor in the Court's own previous jurisprudence, and tried to justify it with arguments that even many abortion proponents have conceded are very flimsy. Roe was, in the apt expression of dissenting Justice Byron White, a "raw exercise of judicial power."

In 1973, the American people had not been consulted, either directly or indirectly, about the Court's project of creating a new constitutional right to abortion. The decision was made by seven justices--Harry Blackmun, Warren Burger, William O. Douglas, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall, and Lewis Powell. The justices had been appointed to the Supreme Court over a relatively long period of time by presidents of both national political parties. Some of those presidents had won big majorities of the popular vote--such as Franklin Roosevelt (who appointed Douglas), Lyndon Johnson (who appointed Marshall), and Dwight Eisenhower (who appointed Brennan and Stewart). Three of the justices--Burger, Blackmun, and Powell--had been appointed by a president, Richard Nixon, who in his first term had won only about 43% of the vote, due to the third-party candidacy of George Wallace.

From the standpoint of a concern with democratic legitimacy, however, the key point is this: the potential creation of a constitutional right to abortion by the Supreme Court was certainly no part of the political campaigns of any of these presidents. None of them ran for office promising to nominate justices who would create new constitutional rights, much less a specific right to abortion. Such an appeal would hardly have been helpful to a candidate's electoral prospects in 1968, 1964, 1956, 1952--let alone 1936, when Roosevelt was elected to the term during which he elevated Douglas to the Court. Similarly, the idea that it would be part of the mission of any of these justices to devise a new right to abortion through a novel interpretation of the Constitution was not entertained in their confirmation hearings. It was therefore no part of the record on which Senators, acting as representatives of their constituents, could have deliberated in deciding whether to confirm these justices. In its origins, then, the constitutional right of abortion has no democratic legitimacy. It was simply thrust on the United States by seven Supreme Court justices.

June 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


There Is a Major Rift Dividing the White Working Class -- And Democrats Are Clueless (Lisa R. Pruitt, 6/24/22, Politico)

Ever since J.D. Vance became the Republican Senate nominee in Ohio, journalists and pundits have been preoccupied with how Vance's politics have shifted since the 2016 publication of his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. The book brought Vance fame and a platform that he used, among other things, to criticize Donald Trump. Since then, Vance's positions on polarizing issues like immigration have lurched to the right and he sought -- and won -- Trump's endorsement. Vance now also dabbles in conspiracy theories and has taken on a belligerent, Trump-like tone.

What the pundit class isn't talking about, however, is an important consistency between 2016 author Vance and 2022 politician Vance. In his memoir, Vance pitted two groups of low-status whites against each other--those who work versus those who don't. In academic circles, these two groups are sometimes labeled the "settled" working class versus the "hard living." A broad and fuzzy line divides these two groups, but generally speaking, settled folks work consistently while the hard living do not. The latter are thus more likely to fall into destructive habits like substance abuse that lead to further destabilization and, importantly, to reliance on government benefits.

Vance has not renounced that divisive message. He no doubt hopes to garner the support of the slightly more upmarket of the two factions--which, probably not coincidentally, is also the group more likely to go to the polls. While elite progressives tend to see the white working class as monolithic, Vance's competitiveness in the Ohio Senate race can be explained in no small part by his ability to politically exploit this cleavage.

As a scholar studying working-class and rural whites, I have written about this subtle but consequential divide. I have also lived it. I grew up working-class white, and I watched my truck driver father and teacher's aide mother struggle mightily to stay on the "settled" side of the ledger. They worked to pay the bills, yes, but also because work set them apart from those in their community who were willing to accept public benefits. Work represented the moral high ground. Work was their religion.

We lived in an all-white corner of the Arkansas Ozarks, so my parents weren't fretting about the Black folks Ronald Reagan would later denigrate with the "welfare queen" stereotype. They were talking about their lazy neighbors. They called these folks "white trash," the worst slur they knew.

Though Vance described this divide in Hillbilly Elegy, readers unfamiliar with the white working class may not have picked up on it. Vance's beloved grandparents, Mamaw and Papaw, represented hard work. Papaw had a steady job at the Armco steel mill--one good enough to draw him and hundreds like him out of the Appalachian Kentucky hills to Middletown, Ohio. Indeed, it was such a good job that Mamaw could stay home and take care of the kids. Though they were crass and unconventional by polite, mainstream standards, Papaw and Mamaw's work ethic positioned them in the settled working class.

From that perch, Vance's grandparents harshly judged neighbors who didn't work. They even judged their daughter, Vance's mother, Bev. Though she'd trained for a good job, as a nurse, Bev's drug use and frequent churn of male partners led to the instability associated with the "hard living." Indeed, at one point Vance uses that very term to refer to his mother: "Mom's behavior grew increasingly erratic," Vance writes. "She was more roommate than parent, and of the three of us -- Mom, [my sister], and me -- Mom was the roommate most prone to hard living" as she partied and stayed out 'til the wee hours of the morning.

Given the childhood trauma associated with his mother's behavior, it's perhaps not surprising that Vance came to emulate his grandparents' judgmental stance toward the hard living. This is illustrated by his condemnation of shirking co-workers at a warehouse job and those who used food stamps (SNAP) to pay for the groceries he bagged as a teenager. (It seems that Vance also inherited his family's pugilistic tendencies, which have come in handy with his conversion to Trumpism; words like "scumbag" and "idiot," which readers of Hillbilly Elegy can easily imagine coming out of Mamaw's mouth, have become staples of Vance's campaign vocabulary). [...]

Like Vance, settled white workers tend to see themselves living a version of the American dream grounded primarily -- if not entirely -- in their own agency. They believe they can survive, even thrive, if they just work hard enough. And some of them are doing just that. Because they lean into the grit of the individual, they tend to downplay structural obstacles to their quest to make a living, e.g., poor schools and even crummy job markets, just as they downplay structural benefits. They also discount "white privilege" because giving skin color credit for what they have achieved devalues the significance of their work. This mindset is also the reason that when Obama said in 2012, "if you've got a business, you didn't build that," the remark landed so badly among the settled working class. They're not accustomed to sharing credit for what they have -- perhaps especially when they don't have much.

Vance and my parents are mere anecdotes, yes, but scholars have documented the phenomenon they represent. Kathryn Edin of Princeton University, Jennifer Sherman of Washington State University and Monica Prasad of Northwestern University have studied folks like them in both urban and rural locales. What "settled" and "hard living" express as cultural phenomena, Edin and colleagues express quantitatively as the second-lowest income quintile dissociating from the bottom quintile -- the very place from whence many had climbed. Edin described that disassociation as a "virulent social distancing" -- "suddenly, you're a worker and anyone who is not a worker is a bad person."

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


'Things Will Be Fine' GOP insiders doubt overturning Roe v. Wade will haunt them in the midterms. (Ben Jacobs, 6/25/22, New York)

A D.C.-based operative noted that "in the immediate few weeks, there will be a lot of outrage as the dust settles, but this is a state-by-state, district-by-district issue." The operative added that while the Dobbs decision might cause Democratic voters to turn out more heavily in deep-blue areas, there is doubt within GOP circles that this will cause a surge in Democratic voters in Texas or Florida. "People don't notice abortion on a daily basis," the operative argued. "They notice how much bacon costs for their kids and how much gas costs to fill up their car."

There was some sense that the Court's ruling was "a double-edged sword," as one social conservative activist acknowledged. "It could help Democrats by reinvigorating them and pumping them up to get angry and turn out in the midterms, that could happen." But there was also the belief that there are only limited gains to be had in the midterms. As the national operative explained it, "the problem that Democrats have here is that people who really care about abortion and are single-issue pro-choice voters are already all voting Democratic. If you dive into the polling, they are already squeezing every bit of juice out of young college-educated women, who are the group of people most motivated by this."

And some of the Republicans thought it could actually be a net plus for the GOP in the fall. This was not because of the impact of the issue per se, but a sense that Democrats would turn it into a self-inflicted wound. "Democrats are going to overplay their hand," one well-connected Republican predicted. "They overplay every hand they get." The insider thought, for instance, that "there's going to be violence and [Democrats are] not going to denounce the violence." Another red-state operative put it more bluntly: The sight of "a bunch of pink-haired women lighting fires in the streets" was not going to motivate moderate pro-choice women to vote for Democrats.

A senior Capitol Hill staffer made a similar point: "The left has lost the plot so much, it will neutralize what will be a vote-moving issue. The traditional left argument is about protecting women, but now they can't even say what a woman is." As the red-state operative wondered, the question is also whether abortion becomes a separate issue from the current cultural wars or if it just becomes "part and parcel with drag-queen story time and teaching kids hypersexual content in schools" and the other social issues currently animating the right.

Further, the well-connected Republican thought the heated rhetoric being used on the left would leave voters skeptical. "What it's going to do is crystallize dishonesty and lack of integrity of the Democratic Party," they claimed. "We are in a situation where Democrats are doing their best Chicken Little impression and most people are going to find out their lives don't change at all. AOC is the one being shown all over the news, saying 'women's rights being taken away, next they're going to come after gay marriage and come after birth control.' They're not, nobody cares about that, and voters are going to see the sky isn't falling." Or as the D.C.-based operative reasoned, "The country has survived a majority of our years without Roe v. Wade. Things will be fine. We'll figure it out."

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


The Dobbs Dissent Is Sadly Clarifying (JASON RICHWINE, June 26, 2022 , National Review)

[T]he dissent's bottom line is clear: "Roe and Casey were correct." This is a bit surprising, since the reasoning in Roe has a poor reputation even among some progressives, including the late Justice Ginsburg. I expected the dissenters to focus mainly on the importance of following precedent, perhaps with their own justifications for the right to an abortion mixed in. In attempting to directly defend Roe, however, they re-affirm for me not only how indefensible that particular decision was, but also how imperious the whole "living Constitution" project continues to be.

The dissenters first say that Roe "struck a balance" between women's autonomy and the protection of fetal life. Leave aside that this "balance" allowed abortions in almost all cases in which women desired them. The more important question is why there should be any balance imposed by judges at all. The alleged virtue of Roe's "balance" is question-begging -- it pre-supposes a Constitutional right to abortion when that is the whole issue under debate.

As for where that right comes from, the dissent acknowledges that the ratifiers in 1868 did not understand the Fourteenth Amendment to confer any right to abortion. But that's okay, the dissent says, because there are "new societal understandings" that have developed since then, and the ratifiers would have wanted the judiciary to recognize new rights based on these new understandings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia is days away from a historic debt default as a $100 million payment comes due with Moscow cut off from the global financial system (Phil Rosen Jun 24, 2022, Business Insider)

By Sunday night -- the last day of a 30-day grace period -- Russia must pay roughly $100 million to bondholders, or else it will fall into default. 

While its government has said it had attempted to pay investors, wartime sanctions have stymied Moscow's attempts to fulfill those payments and access vital market infrastructure. 

Last month, the US Treasury had let a key sanctions exemption expire. Ending the carve-out meant US investors would no longer be allowed to receive payments from Russia.  

There's a reason Vlad invested so much in Donald's campaign. 

June 24, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Breeders of Violence: a review of Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism by Daniel Byman (Gabriel Schoenfeld, 24 Jun 2022, American Purpose)

Some of the violence we are witnessing as of late, such as the gunman who killed nineteen children in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, is inexplicable evil. And some of the violence we are witnessing, such as the gunman who killed ten people in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, is all too explicable: the consequence of White supremacist hatred. Captured alive, the eighteen-year-old Buffalo shooter had placed a lengthy manifesto on the internet championing the Great Replacement theory, the White nationalist conspiracy theory according to which power-seeking elites are plotting to replace the White majority population with Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, and Blacks, thereby destroying the American way of life.

Formerly confined to the fringes, the Great Replacement theory has lately broken into the mainstream. It is pushed on FOX News television by Tucker Carlson--the Father Coughlin of our day--spreading xenophobia and scarcely veiled racism to a massive audience. Donald Trump's incendiary rhetoric about immigration from Mexico--"They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people"--is also echoed in the Buffalo shooter's manifesto, which blasts immigration as an "invasion on a level never seen before in history." The tragedy that has befallen Buffalo must be understood in the context of ideas already put widely into circulation. Even if only a minuscule percentage of the population is a hair-trigger away from committing violent acts, to spread such hatred on highly visible public platforms when deadly weapons are so readily available is to incite bloodshed.

Unfortunately, as Daniel Byman makes plain in his new book, Spreading Hate: The Global Rise of White Supremacist Terrorism (2022), the problem has been with us for some time. Over the past decades, the United States and the world have witnessed a series of spectacularly bloody attacks perpetrated under the banner of racial hatred.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


The Democrats' Progressive Organization Problem: They're an Albatross Around the Party's Neck (Ruy Teixeira, 6/24/22, The Liberal Patriot)

There are three key aspects to this rot:

1. Internal Dysfunction. The new generation of activists coming into these organizations tends to see internal hierarchies as reflecting their radical critique of society as a whole as a system that oppresses all "marginalized" groups: black, Hispanic, anybody nonwhite, female, gay, trans, indigenous, colonized, etc. Therefore, these internal hierarchies are by definition unjust and must be struggled against with little regard to what function these hierarchies might actually serve.

Needless to say, this plays havoc with an organization's ability to run a merit- and efficiency-based internal system, since so many "diversity" boxes have to be checked to do practically anything. And the need to placate staff demands and smooth over the endless conflicts this produces leads to a stunning misallocation of time and internal resources. The resulting inefficiencies can virtually paralyze an organization. Said one former executive director of a progressive organization quoted by Grim: "My last nine months, I was spending 90 to 95 percent of my time on internal strife". Said another current executive director: "I'm now at a point where the first thing I wonder about a job applicant is, 'How likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?"

2. Mission Creep. If society is an intersectional nightmare of different vectors of oppression, mirrored in the internal hierarchies of one's organization, what sense does it make to concentrate on whatever narrow issue or set of issues that organization was originally set up to deal with? For activist staff in these organizations, it makes no sense. All these oppressions and problems are interlinked; to attack one it is necessary to attack them all. This is how you get, on the cusp of the Supreme Court abrogating Roe v. Wade, the main abortion rights organization, NARAL insisting:

If your feminism doesn't include trans women and girls, it's not feminism. If your feminism doesn't understand how anti-trans policies disproportionately impact BIPOC folks, particularly Black trans women and girls, it's not feminism. [...]

3. Maximalist Positions and Rhetoric. Twinned to the bundling together of all progressive positions, there is also a tendency to make demands in any given area more radical. Activist staff who are primarily concerned with pushing radical reforms into the policy conversation (moving the "Overton Window") advocate for these positions and frequently, as with the adoption of unrelated progressive positions, institutional leadership will go along with staff to prove their progressive bona fides and head off internal rebellion.

Thus abortion rights organizations are unwilling to consider any limits on abortion availability. Immigrant advocacy organizations don't want to talk about border security or any limits on immigration. Climate groups want a Green New Deal and insist on an immediate transition away from fossil fuels, despite the obvious impracticality of such a path. Criminal justice reform groups want maximum decriminalization and decarceration without consideration for public safety and social order. You name the area and the tendency of groups ostensibly focused on the area has been to make positions and rhetoric more absolute and less compromising with political/policy reality. The result is an inability to formulate effective political strategy and achieve lasting reform.

It would be bad enough if the damage here was limited to the progressive organizations themselves. Good and important work has been done by them in the past and now these organizations are much less capable of doing such work.

But the damage goes far beyond that. The Democratic party has long benefited from the ability of these groups to mobilize support around specific and attainable goals. That role has now been compromised, if not turned into its opposite, and undermined Democrats' ability to govern effectively.

Even more fundamentally, the evolution of these groups is contributing to the Democrats' inability to form a stable electoral majority. The Democrats may no longer be helped much by these groups' activities but they are bound ever more tightly to them due to the groups' ideological evolution. With their totalizing embrace of progressive positions and cultural obsessions, they are unmistakably partisan groups of the Democratic party left, not big tent issue advocates as they once sought to style themselves. That means Democrats are inevitably and closely associated with these groups' public-facing activities and rhetoric--and given the state of these groups today that's a very bad thing for the Democrats.

The Left is the Right.
Posted by orrinj at 3:09 PM


RNC coordinated fake electors at Trump's 'direct request': Ronna McDaniel (Ryan King, June 21, 2022, Washington Examiner)

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel confirmed that former President Donald Trump was involved in lawyer John Eastman's fake elector scheme.

During a brief excerpt from her deposition played during the Jan. 6 committee hearing Tuesday, McDaniel explained that Trump called her and put her in touch with Eastman, who then engaged with the RNC about the scheme over the following months.

"He turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of these legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states. I think more, just helping them reach out and assemble them," she said. "My understanding is the campaign did take the lead, and we just were helping them in that -- in that role."

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


The Republicans Who Wanted Pardons for Their Trump Coup Actions (AMANDA CARPENTER  JUNE 24, 2022, The Bulwark)

In the last half hour of its hearing yesterday, the Jan. 6th Committee revealed the names of six members of Congress who sought or expressed interest in presidential pardons for their participation in various plots to overturn the election. They were: Scott Perry, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Andy Biggs, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Mo Brooks.

At least those are the six pardon-seekers the committee knows of, based on interviews with former Trump administration officials.

Mo Brooks actually went further, recommending a few days after Jan. 6th that Trump grant "all purpose" pardons to all 147 congressional Republicans who objected to certifying Joe Biden's election on January 6 and for the 126 Republicans who signed an amicus brief supporting the Texas lawsuit that sought to cancel votes, outright, in the swing states Trump lost. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


The Bonkers Story of How Trump Tried to Corrupt the DOJ to Steal the Election. (David Corn, 6/24/22, MoJo)

The attempted subversion took place in December 2020, after then-Attorney General Bill Barr, up to that point a Trump sycophant, resigned in disgust when his boss refused to accept the election results. Trump then tried to pressure Jeff Rosen, the acting AG, to declare the election fraudulent.

According to notes taken by Richard Donoghue, Rosen's deputy, Trump at one point told Rosen to "just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen." This referred to Reps. Jim Jordan, Scott Perry, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and others who were colluding with the White House to stop the certification of Biden's win. When Rosen refused, Trump threatened to replace him with Clark, a DOJ subordinate who eagerly wanted the department to claim there was evidence of widespread election fraud so states could replace Biden electors with Trump electors.

As the Judiciary Committee pointed out, the White House's communications with DOJ in this matter violated the post-Watergate restrictions governing interactions between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the department. In fact, Trump's skullduggery wins the contest for most outlandish attempt to politicize the Justice Department. (It takes some doing to one-up Nixon in that regard.)

On Thursday, Rosen and Donoghue provided dramatic testimony chronicling their conversations and meetings with Trump, who was constantly haranguing them and was upset that the Justice Department wouldn't confirm the debunked allegations and batty conspiracy theories he and his allies were hawking. The officials repeatedly informed Trump that the department had investigated the claims and found them inaccurate and that they had no business meddling in the election. It was like telling a mob boss he couldn't get his way. Trump would not accept that.

A key point of the hearing focused on Clark pressing Rosen and Donoghue to send a letter to Georgia and other states stating that the election was tarred by fraud, and thus state lawmakers should select new slates of electors--presumably Trump supporters. Rosen and Donoghue each believed forwarding this letter would be disastrous for the department and the nation, and told Trump as much. But neither he nor Clark would relent. 

The testimony demonstrated just how desperate and crazy Trump and his crew had become, and the extent of their schemes to to prevent the legitimate transfer of power. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows even encouraged Rosen and Donoghue to investigate the ludicrous conspiracy theory that hackers (apparently connected to the CIA and MI6) had used an Italian satellite to switch Trump votes to Biden. The DOJ declined, but the White House managed to have acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller instruct the defense attaché in Rome to look into this bunk. 

The Clark story is especially nutty. An environmental lawyer who was the acting head of the DOJ's civil division, he had no experience whatsoever in criminal investigations, let alone election fraud. Yet Rep. Perry (R-Penn.) had introduced him to Trump, who immediately latched on to Clark as a toady who would corrupt the department to help him stay in power.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM



Medea, the mythical daughter of King Aeetes of Colchis and niece of the famous enchantress Circe (see Books 10 and 12 of Homer's Odyssey), having been rejected by her unfaithful husband Jason, conjures up horrible (horridae, Med. 16) creatures of the underworld to bring death to Creusa, Princess of Corinth and Jason's new bride, as well as her father - spirits of the dead, goddesses of revenge, poisonous and choking snakes. Furthermore, she curses Jason to a peaceless existence as an eternally wandering spirit. In doing so, Medea refers to the traditional dichotomy of the moral worlds of good and evil, metaphorically described as realms of light and darkness.

But our contemporary notions of horror differ from the horror that Seneca wants to provoke.[2] Modern readers and audiences can enjoy fictional horror because they are aware that these characters and situations are safely fictional: this generates an ambivalent mixture of horror, suspense and pleasure in the spectator. In antiquity, however, belief in magical powers and mythical creatures was quite widespread. The fact that Seneca deliberately triggers the fear of his audience is also demonstrated by his decision not to report acts of violence. Instead, he depicts them on stage, contrary to ancient custom. Medea, who kills both of her (and Jason's) sons in an ultimate act of revenge, does so before the spectator's eyes.

At first it seems surprising that Seneca would want to arouse strong painful passions in audience members. According to Stoic doctrine, passions are false value judgements that consider indifferent things to be good or evil as well as relevant for happiness. But for Seneca and the Stoics, only virtue is good, and only vice is evil.

The dominant passion in the tragedy, whose dating is controversial, is Medea's anger. Intent on seriously hurting her unfaithful husband Jason, she poisons his bride, the princess Creusa, and sets fire to the palace in Colchis, which also kills King Creon. In the climax of her revenge, she kills the two sons she has with Jason and flees the scene in a dragon chariot.

Medea's anger, as depicted by Seneca, is based on the false judgement that Jason's infidelity is an evil that affects her happiness. It is Medea's disappointed love, along with her resulting anger, that results in the excessive violence in the tragedy, from the murder of Creon and Creusa to the double filicide. This is precisely what Seneca wants to draw our attention to, and he does this paradoxically by making us afraid of passions with the help of numerous horror motifs. In Stoicism, however, all passions are expressions of false value judgements, including fear.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Armchair science (Dan Falkis, 6/23/22, Aeon)

There are - allegedly - occasions when we come to understand something about the world via a peculiar kind of experiment that takes place only in the mind. Thought experiments, as they're known, are an exercise of pure imagination. We think about some particular arrangement of things in the world, and then work out what the consequences would be. In doing so, we seem to learn something about the laws of nature.

Thought experiments have played a crucial role in the history of physics. Galileo was the first great master of the thought experiment; Albert Einstein was another. In one of his most celebrated thought experiments, Galileo shows that heavy objects and small objects must fall at the same rate. On another occasion - building on the ship's mast argument - he deduces the equivalence of reference frames moving at a constant speed with respect to one another (what we now call Galilean relativity), a cornerstone of classical physics.

Einstein, too, was adept at performing such imaginative feats in his head. As a young man, he imagined what it would be like to run alongside a beam of light, and it led him to special relativity. Later, he imagined a falling man, and realised that in freefall one doesn't feel one's own weight; from this insight, he concluded that acceleration was indistinguishable from the tug of gravity. This second breakthrough became known as the 'principle of equivalence', and led Einstein to his greatest triumph, the general theory of relativity.

What these examples have in common is that knowledge seems to arise from within the mind, rather than from some external source. They require no laboratory, no grant proposal, no actual doing of ... anything. When we perform a thought experiment, we learn, it would seem, by pure introspection. 'Seem' is perhaps the key word. Whether thought experiments actually do present a challenge to empiricism is hotly contested.

The universe is homocentric. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


The Energy Crisis Is a National-Security Opportunity (MORGAN BAZILIAN and EMILY HOLLAND, JUNE 23, 2022, Defense One)

The administration should also frame other climate-action steps as national-security needs, from getting tougher on industrial methane leaks to subsidizing the development of carbon-capture technology, promoting nuclear power, and incentivizing conservation and energy efficiency. As the U.S. economy teeters on the brink of recession, the administration should also consider clean-energy tax incentives that speed the transition and help consumers save on energy costs.

The administration, which has made partnerships and allies central to its foreign policy agenda, can also explain how clean energy contributes to those goals. Promoting energy efficiency, boosting energy-system resilience, and fast-tracking the Transatlantic Technology Alliance to improve collaboration on innovation and deployment of related technology will help EU members move away from Russian energy imports. 

The effort to turn climate action into a top government priority has long suffered from diffuse or mixed messages, in the United States and elsewhere. The current energy shock--in oil, gas, and electricity all at the same time--offers a chance to focus the U.S. and the world on a clear narrative: energy security is national security.

A major speech announcing that we are going to tax the externalities to speed our liberation from the evil regimes that produce oil and produce unlimited green energy from domestic sources would at least give his presidency some focus.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


PD James's detection of the deepest mysteries (Ralph Wood, Jun 24, 2022, MercatorNet)

Like Eliot, James is concerned to offer a moral critique of society. Abortion, euthanasia, nuclear power, environmental disaster, terrorism, racism -- all the vexing issues of our time simmer beneath the surface of her murder mysteries. James confesses (presumably against certain psychologists and sociologists) that there are human evils -- she names wife abuse, child battering, and drunkenness -- that cannot be cured. To think that we could draw up legislation or design nostrums against such evils would be akin, she says, to having Parliament pass an act abolishing original sin.

This is not to say that James makes the ingrained human proclivity for evil-doing serve as an excuse for social complacency. Evils that cannot be cured may and should be alleviated. The Murder Room (2003) for example, features the struggling Dupayne Museum, founded by the wealthy and eccentric Max Dupayne.

It is housed in a Victorian mansion, and it is controlled by his three children, Marcus, Caroline, and Neville. Marcus and Caroline are determined to keep it open at all costs, while the psychiatrist Neville wants to close the unprofitable venture. He believes that Great Britain, a nation already obsessed with its past, pays far too little heed to its present concerns, especially the elderly and the mentally ill. He would turn the museum into a social service agency.

At the same time, Lady James, having been made a life peer and created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991, is unyielding in her suspicion of the human capacity "to be good without God," as our humanist friends claim. Her twenty novels give fictional life to St. Augustine's estimation of evil as the ruin of God's good creation by disordered desire: by a perverted love of the wrong persons, or the wrong things, or to the wrong extent. James quotes Adam Dalgliesh, her own master sleuth, on the unwitting Augustinian wisdom that an older detective sergeant once taught him:

"All motives can be explained under the letter L: lust, lucre, loathing and love. They'll tell you that the most dangerous is loathing but don't you believe it, boy: the most dangerous is love."

A complex admixture of good and evil lies at the moral and religious heart of James's fiction. She depicts villains who are not entirely criminal and victims who are not wholly innocent. Most of her murderers kill for honourable reasons -- usually to avenge some previous injustice. Like the rest of us, they commit evil in the name of good. They thus leave us with a troubling sense of our complicity in the hidden crimes of our own lives.

Murder, James contends, is the unique crime. It "carries an atavistic weight of repugnance, fascination and fear." We are at once repelled and attracted to depictions of this supreme offense because the line dividing good and evil does not separate the noble from the savage, the blameless from the guilty. It bisects every human heart.

"Few people opening their door to two grave-faced detectives with a request that they should accompany them to the police station," she remarked, "would do so without a qualm of unease, however certain they may be of their complete innocence."

The appeal of detective fiction, James argues, is especially strong in an age of almost total disorder -- in "times of unrest, anxiety and uncertainty, when society can be faced with problems which no money, political theories or good intentions seem able to solve or alleviate."

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


Car Bomb Kills Russia-Installed Official in Occupied Ukraine (Moscow Times, 6/24/22)

A Russian-appointed official in southern Ukraine's occupied city of Kherson was killed in an apparent car bomb attack, local authorities reported Friday.

Kherson's so-called "military-civilian" administration told the state-run TASS news agency that one person died in a car explosion in a residential neighborhood in the early morning.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 AM


Trumpublicans have turned on Republicans (Renée Graham June 21, 2022, Boston Globe)

When even Facebook finally objects, you know the MAGA madness has gone way too far.

A political ad from Eric Greitens, the disgraced former Missouri governor, now a Republican Senate candidate in that state, was yanked Monday from the social media site by its parent company Meta for "violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement."

More than the usual arsenal of GOP lies and nonsense, there's an actual arsenal in the campaign spot. Heavily armed men in full military gear use a battering ram and toss flash grenades into an empty house. Holding a shotgun, Greitens says, "Today, we're going RINO hunting." Then he encourages viewers to "Join the MAGA crew, get a RINO hunting license."

RINO stands for "Republicans in Name Only." That term was once applied to Republicans who didn't always toe the party line. Now any GOP member who engages even the slightest brush with reality is met with derision, primary challenges, and warnings of violence from hard-core Trumpublicans.

Greitens's incendiary ad dropped days after Texas Republican convention delegates turned on two of its own conservative stalwarts. Senator John Cornyn was loudly booed because he's leading 10 Republicans negotiating with Democrats on a very modest gun reform bill after massacres last month at a Buffalo supermarket and a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

Then Representative Dan Crenshaw and some staff members were jostled and heckled by the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremists. They called Crenshaw, a Navy Seal who lost an eye during an explosion while serving in Afghanistan, "eyepatch McCain," an insult Tucker Carlson debuted on his nightly Fox News hate hour last month. In a video, a man in a "45″ hat shouts that Crenshaw is a "traitor" who "needs to be hung for treason."

Once considered a GOP rising star, Crenshaw has been roasted by some in his party for debunking Donald Trump's lies about widespread voter fraud in an election he soundly lost.

The Trumpists are right to hate everything the GOP stands for.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM


Jan. 6 committee shows Trump pushed Justice Department to pursue false election fraud claims (ERIC TUCKER, 6/23/22, The Associated Press)

Donald Trump hounded the Justice Department to pursue his false election fraud claims, striving in vain to enlist top law enforcement officials in his desperate bid to stay in power and hosting a dramatic Oval Office showdown in which he weighed replacing the agency's leader with a more compliant lower-level official, according to testimony Thursday to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

Three Trump-era Justice Department officials recounted a relentless pressure campaign from the president, including day after day of directives to chase unsupported allegations that the election won by Democrat Joe Biden had been stolen. The officials described the constant contact as a stark breach of protocol for a department that cherishes its independence from the White House but said they swatted away each demand because there was zero evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The president, he said, had this "arsenal of allegations. I went through them piece by piece to say, no, they were not true."

Another witness, Jeffrey Rosen, who was acting attorney general, said he was called by Trump or met with him basically every day from the time he ascended to the post in late December 2020 through early January 2021, with the common theme being "dissatisfaction about what the Justice Department had done to investigate election fraud."

It all added up to a "brazen attempt" to use the Justice Department for his own political gain, said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and co-chairman of the Jan. 6 committee.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


New Biden rules would bar discrimination against transgender students (Erica L. Green, 6/24/22,  New York Times)

 The Biden administration on Thursday proposed new rules governing how schools must respond to sex discrimination, rolling back major parts of a Trump administration policy that narrowed the scope of campus sexual misconduct investigations and cementing the rights of transgender students into law.

The proposal would overhaul an expansive rule finalized under former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, which for the first time codified how colleges and K-12 schools investigate sexual assault on campus. The proposal would also address discrimination under Title IX, the federal law signed 50 years ago Thursday that prohibits the exclusion from or denial of educational benefits on the basis of sex in federally funded programs.

June 23, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


The Coming Contradiction on Judicial Activism (JIM GERAGHTY, June 23, 2022, National Review)

Many progressives seem psychologically incapable of recognizing that the way gun-control advocates feel about today's decision and the Heller decision is exactly the way pro-lifers feel about Roe v. Wade. It's not merely that they oppose the decision; it's that they believe the Supreme Court stepped into a role it was never meant to have, overruling the duly elected legislature based upon a hotly contested interpretation of the Constitution.

The text is a tough taskmistress. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


"It's our new cash crop": A land rush for renewable energy is transforming the Eastern Plains (Mark Jaffe, Jun 19, 2022, Colorado Sun)

Colorado's Eastern Plains -- from Yuma County cornfields to Prowers County feedlots and the wheat and sorghum fields in Kiowa County -- are set to undergo their biggest transformation in more than a century as clean electricity is added to the crops they produce.

There is already a flurry of activity as wind and solar developers -- more than a dozen have turned up in Yuma and Kiowa counties -- are locking up acreage for prospective projects in leases with ranchers and farmers.

"We've had windmills around here for a long time. These are just bigger," said Jan Kochis, 73, whose family runs a farm and cattle operation in Elbert County, and already has wind turbines on her land, generating royalties. [...]

The spur for all this activity is Xcel Energy's recently approved $1.7 billion Power Pathway transmission project -- which will belt eastern Colorado with 560 miles of high-tension transmission lines -- an electric highway to Front Range cities and suburbs for new wind and solar installations.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Sonny Rollins | Broken Record (Broken Record Podcast, 6/21/22)

Today we're continuing our celebration of Black Music Month with the incredible jazz legend, Sonny Rollins. Rollins is an American tenor saxophonist and composer who is widely regarded as one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. Sadly, now at 91 years-old, Rollins no longer plays as a result of pulmonary fibrosis. Fortunately for us though, he's able to look back over an eight-decade career that started at the beginnings of Bebop, and included playing with the Rolling Stones, and performing on stages all over the world.

On today's episode, Justin Richmond talks to Sonny Rollins about one of his first big gigs in 1949 playing alongside other jazz icons like Bud Powell and Fats Navarro. He also explains why he no longer actively listens to music, and for the first time ever, Rollins talks about how Charlie "Bird" Parker is the reason he kicked drugs.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 AM


Monkeypox vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic ready to meet demand (AFP, June 23, 2022)

As the lone laboratory manufacturing a licensed vaccine against monkeypox, Danish company Bavarian Nordic has seen its order book fill up as the usually rare disease spreads around the world.

"The approval we got in 2019, when we only sold maybe a few hundred doses, all of a sudden became very, very relevant for international health," the company's vice president Rolf Sass Sorensen says with a smile at the biotech company's headquarters in Copenhagen's harbour.

Bavarian Nordic was caught by surprise by the disease's sudden spread earlier this year to dozens of countries outside West and Central Africa where it had previously been generally confined.

But Sorensen says he is confident the company can meet global demand even though it only has one production facility.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 AM


Restoring The Founders' Vision Of Religion (FRANK DEVITO, 6/23/22, American Conservative)

The original public meaning of the Establishment Clause is modest and limited: It prevents Congress from making a law respecting an establishment of religion. This means both that Congress is unable to establish a church at the national level and that it cannot interfere with individual states' decisions to establish a religion (or not). 

There are two important takeaways often forgotten in modern discussion of the Establishment Clause. First, the Establishment Clause was uncontroversial at the time of the First Amendment's ratification because it only applied to Congress and not the states. The states were extremely diverse in their establishments of religion. Some states avoided having an established church; others did not. Maryland directly aided the Church of England, while New England states favored the Congregational denomination. Massachusetts kept the Congregational Church as its established state church until 1833. The Founders would have been quite perplexed that in 21st-century Maine, the state government would claim giving tax dollars to sectarian schools violated the Establishment Clause, when the Founders thought it quite consistent to have both an Establishment Clause and established state churches. 

Second, we need to acknowledge the vast distinction between favoring one denomination at the expense of others, and favoring non-religion over religion. These are very different. For the sake of argument, let's accept both that the Establishment Clause now applies to the states as well as Congress, and that the "spirit" of the Establishment Clause is not merely to prevent a state-established church, but to prohibit a state from favoring one denomination over others (the logic of both of these points is disputable and problematic, especially the application of the Establishment Clause to the states). Granting both of these points, there is still no reason that governments cannot subsidize religious education, encourage prayer and religious reading in schools, allow religious symbols in public places, etc. There is nothing in the text or history of the First Amendment, or the traditional practice of the states, that would lead us to believe it is unconstitutional to have Judeo-Christian prayers, readings, symbols, and customs as part of our public institutions. Far from trying to keep religion away from American public life, the Founders thought religion was necessary in our public life. John Adams proclaimed that "[o]ur Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 AM


I-Team sources: FBI seizes Nevada GOP chairman's phone as part of fake elector investigation (David Charns, Jun 22, 2022, KLAS)

FBI agents served a search warrant Wednesday on Nevada's top GOP official, sources told the 8 News Now I-Team's George Knapp.

Agents seized the cell phone of state Republican chairman Michael McDonald, reportedly as part of an investigation into the fake elector scheme initiated at the end of the 2020 presidential election.

A second search warrant was issued for state party secretary James DeGraffenreid, who also signed the document, but FBI agents could not locate him Wednesday, sources told Knapp.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 AM


January 6 panel to focus on Trump's relentless pressure on justice department (Hugo Lowell,  22 Jun 2022, The Guardian)

Among the points the select committee is expected to cover include how Trump pursued a relentless campaign against the leadership of the justice department to more aggressively investigate debunked claims of fraud, and threatened to fire them when they refused.

The foundation of that effort, extraordinary even by the standards of the Trump presidency, culminated in a 3 January 2021 meeting at the White House where Trump almost appointed a loyalist as acting attorney general until the leadership warned of en masse resignations.

At that contentious meeting, Trump was about to move ahead with a plot to replace the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, with Jeffrey Clark, a justice department official sympathetic to claims of election fraud.

The former president only relented when he was told by Rosen that the justice department leadership would resign - and the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, said he and his deputy, Pat Philbin, would also quit if Trump followed through.

Trump's proposed plan amounted to a "murder-suicide pact", Cipollone is understood to have said, according to a participant at the meeting who testified to the Senate judiciary committee that issued an interim report last year.

The select committee is also expected to examine the fraught weeks leading up to that moment, and the growing fear inside the justice department that Trump might drag them in to overturn the election results.

Perry introduced Clark to Trump, the interim report found. The panel is expected to shed new light on that at the hearing led by Congressman Adam Kinzinger, as well as how Perry sought a presidential pardon days after 6 January.

The hearing is expected to be the select committee's final one in June - there will be at least two more hearings next month but probably not before 12 July when the House returns from recess - and will probably build on the interim report.

In doing so, the select committee is likely to relive other key moments: a 27 December 2020 call in which Trump pressured Rosen and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, to declare the election corrupt; Trump's push to get Clark to get Rosen to open investigations into fraud.

Rosen and Donoghue will testify at the hearing, as will Steven Engel, the then assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, the select committee has said. Clark invoked his fifth amendment protection against self-incrimination in a closed-door deposition.

"Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me" and congressional allies including the Republican congressman Scott Perry, Trump said on the call, according to notes taken by Rosen.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 AM


Startup Says Amazing New Battery Lets EVs Drive 400 Miles, Recharge in 15 Minutes (VICTOR TANGERMANN, 6/23/22, Futurism)

A Silicon Valley-based battery tech startup called QuantumScape claims to have created a solid-state EV battery that can allow an electric vehicle to cover 400 miles and then recharge from 10 to 80 percent in just 15 minutes, Popular Mechanics reports, in a significant potential step forward compared to current charging technologie.

The company says the technology will be deployed in mainstream automobiles --PopMech's reporting namechecked Audi and Volkswagen -- as soon as 2024, bringing EV charging substantially closer to the convenience of filling up a gas tank. [...]

Proponents argue that solid-state batteries are safer and more stable than their lithium-ion counterparts, as they are less prone to catching on fire. They also can cram more energy into the same amount of space -- on paper at least -- while also allowing drivers to recharge their vehicles faster.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 AM


Justice Department expands Jan. 6 probe with fresh subpoenas (Spencer S. Hsu, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, 6/23/22, Washington Post)

The Justice Department's investigation of the Jan. 6 attack ratcheted up Wednesday as federal agents dropped subpoenas on people in at least two states, in what appeared to be a widening probe of how political activists supporting former president Donald Trump tried to use invalid electors to thwart Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory.

Agents conducted court authorized law enforcement activity Wednesday morning at two locations, FBI officials confirmed to The Washington Post. One was the home of Brad Carver, a Georgia lawyer who allegedly signed a document claiming to be a Trump elector. The other was the Virginia home of Thomas Lane, who worked on the Trump campaign's efforts in Arizona and New Mexico. The FBI officials did not identify the people associated with those addresses, but public records list each of the locations as the home addresses of the men.

June 22, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Carson v. Makin: Another Win for Education Freedom (Colleen Hroncich and Solomon Chen, 6/22/22, Cato)

"If our neighbors have the freedom to choose a private school and receive tuition from our town, why are we denied this same benefit just because we desire a religious education for our daughter?" This simple question, asked by Maine parents Alan and Judy Gillis, is at the heart of today's Supreme Court ruling in Carson v. Makin.

Fortunately for the Gillis family, and families throughout Maine, a majority of the Court agreed. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that "Maine's 'nonsectarian' requirement for its otherwise generally available tuition assistance payments violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."

Carson v. Makin is centered on Maine's tuition assistance program, one of the oldest school choice programs in the nation. Created in 1873, the program funds students from a town without a public school to attend a school of their parents' choice--whether private or public, in‐​state, or out‐​of‐​state. For more than a century, parents could direct these funds towards religious schools. In 1980, Maine Attorney General Richard S. Cohen released an opinion that said funding a child to attend a school with a "pervasively religious atmosphere" would be unconstitutional. In response, the legislature changed the law to prohibit families from using the tuition assistance at religious schools.

In today's ruling, as it did previously in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court flatly rejected the respondent's claims that allowing religious schools to receive the tuition funds violates the first amendment. Written by Chief Justice Roberts, today's opinion states, "As noted, a neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause." 

Neutrality/universality simply isn't that hard a concept to grasp. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Elections officials, workers rebuffed Trump's pressure, then faced violent threats, Jan. 6 hearing shows (FARNOUSH AMIRI and LISA MASCARO, 6/22/22,  The Associated Press)

"A handful of election officials in several key states stood between Donald Trump and the upending of American democracy," Chairman Bennie Thompson said, praising them as heroes and the "backbone of our democracy."

The hearing was punctuated throughout with accounts of the personal attacks faced by state and local officials.

Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers said he was subjected to a public smear campaign, including relentless bull-horn protests at his home and a pistol-wielding man taunting his family and neighbors.

Officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states told similar stories of having their cellphone numbers and home addresses spread publicly after they refused Trump's demands.

At one gripping moment, two Georgia election workers, a mother and daughter, testified that they lived in fear of saying their names aloud after Trump wrongly accused them of voter fraud.

"There were a lot of threats wishing death upon me," said Wandrea ArShaye "Shaye" Moss, a former state election worker.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Drone Strikes Major Southern Russian Oil Refinery - Reports (Moscow Times, Jun. 22nd, 2022)

One of southern Russia's largest oil refineries was struck by an apparent drone attack Wednesday, setting off a massive fire, authorities and media reported.

Footage published to social media showed a drone flying toward the Novoshakhtinsk refinery in the Rostov region five kilometers from the Ukrainian border before one of its facilities caught on fire.

"Employees noticed a Ukrainian drone. It crashed into the plant's structures, after which there was an explosion and fire," the state-run TASS news agency quoted an unnamed regional official as saying.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amazon announces its first fully autonomous mobile warehouse robot (Mitchell Clark  Jun 21, 2022, The Verge)

Amazon has announced its "first fully autonomous mobile robot," meant to move large carts throughout its warehouses. The robot is called Proteus, and Amazon says it can safely navigate around human employees, unlike some of its past robots that it kept separated in a caged area.

Amazon says Proteus robots have "advanced safety, perception, and navigation technology," and a (strangely silent) video shows the robots shining a green light in front of themselves as they move around. When a human steps into the beam, the robot stops moving, then resumes after the person moves away.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oz drops Trump branding in general election shift (Andrew Solender, 6/22/22, Axios)

Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, is quietly shifting his campaign messaging away from former President Trump as he transitions into what's likely to be one of the most hotly contested Senate elections of the midterms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rebuked again: Trump's picks for House seats in Georgia go bust (Greg Bluestein, 6/22/22, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia Republican voters rebuked Donald Trump for the second time in a month Tuesday by rejecting his picks for a pair of open U.S. House seats, another blow to the former president after his attempt to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp and other incumbents collapsed. [...]

And Trump's attempts to unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Insurance Commissioner John King and Attorney General Chris Carr were rebuffed by Republican voters who gave each of the incumbents convincing victories.

When you can't even get the Confederates to back your insurrection...

June 21, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


What Is Juneteenth to All Americans? (Tarnell Brown, June 19, 2022, AIER)

During the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era, in the wake of the Thirteenth Amendment, African-Americans were allowed to vote, own property, seek office, use public accommodations, and otherwise enjoy the privileges of fully enfranchised citizens. Unless one was an indigenous native, (and, to a large degree, a woman) this was the closest the nation had gotten to honoring the proposition that all men are created equal. Yet, when Reconstruction ended, many individual states, especially in the South, became fearful of political and economic gains made by former slaves and their kin, and passed restrictive laws such as the Jim Crow statutes that reduced Blacks to second-class citizens at best. Once again, the promise of equality to all was broken, and that is why Juneteenth matters.

It is not necessary to give here a full history of the African-American experience between June 19, 1865 and the present. Most of us know it, or enough of it to understand many of the things that still divide us. Recently, I had the privilege of reviewing an excellent book by Rachel Ferguson and Marcus Witcher, Black Liberation Through the Marketplace. One of the points they made is that the history of Blacks in America is so vastly different from that of the majority, that it is nearly impossible to fit us within the nation's political culture. I agree with that assessment, and yet we are all Americans. I have relatives still alive who tell stories of living under the glare of segregation. And while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 put an end to de jure segregation in the United States, de facto segregation remained. 

For instance, public schools were not integrated in my birth state of Florida until 1970. I was born a scant five years later. I have cousins a decade or so older who remember the first time they entered a classroom with new classmates who did not look like them. This is why Juneteenth matters. It is taken as given among classical liberal thinkers that while we may differ in talent, ability and motivation, all of us are born inherently possessed of certain natural rights which should be protected in equal measure for all. Of course I agree with this, but historically, America has not. It was only in 1967 that Loving v. Virginia afforded the right for couples of mixed races to marry without government interference. The very right to love whom one wished to was proscribed until only 55 years ago, which is eight years longer than I have been alive. This is why Juneteenth matters.

Even now, African-Americans are roughly seven times more likely to be approached by police on suspicion of crime, six times more likely to be arrested, and seven times more likely to be convicted. Some may wish to quibble bias at this, and there are certainly arguments to be had over the role of personal choice vs public policy, but that is for another time and place. What is relevant here is that the cost of this is not borne by the African-American community, as the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation estimates that the carceral state imposes an aggregate burden on taxpayers of over $1 trillion per year. Once again, this is why Juneteenth matters, and not just to me and my fellow African-Americans.

America is a promise, one that has yet to be met. As July 4 commemorates the initiation of that promise, Juneteenth commemorates the work yet to be done, reminding us all that there are still miles to go before we sleep. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM



"If a State cannot offer subsidies to its citizens without being required to fund religious exercise, any State that values its historic antiestablishment interests more than this Court does will have to curtail the support it offers to its citizens." 

The State may not discriminate on the basis of religion when it provides money.  And it is precisely universality that guards against Establishment.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:12 PM


Supreme Court rules Maine violated Constitution by excluding religious schools in aid program (Oriana Gonzalez, 6/21/22, Axios)

In the court's opinion, Roberts called attention to a 2020 case where the court ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that give scholarships to students attending private schools.

"'A State need not subsidize private education,' we concluded, '[b]ut once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,'" Roberts wrote, quoting from the 2020 opinion on the case, Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue.

So long as any and every religious school can participate there is--by definition--no Establishment. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


France's top court blocks wearing of 'burkini' in Grenoble swimming pools (The Local, 21 June 2022)

Tuesday's court decision - which concerned only the burkini and not the topless ruling or the rules on men's swim shorts -  was "a victory for the law against separatism, for secularism and beyond that, for the whole republic," Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on Twitter, referring to a law introduced last year to counter Islamist radicalism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel's government collapses, setting up 5th election in 3 years (Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner, 6/21/22,  New York Times)

The final straw was the government's inability last week to muster enough votes to extend a two-tier legal system in the West Bank, which has differentiated between Israeli settlers and Palestinians since Israel occupied the territory in 1967.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Donald Trump plotted fake electors scheme, January 6 panel set to show (Hugo Lowell,  20 Jun 2022, The Guardiuan)

If the 2020 election cycle had been like any other when the electoral college convened on 14 December 2020 and Democratic electors attested to Biden's victory over Trump, that would have marked the end of any post-election period conflict.

But that year, after the authorized Democratic electors met at statehouses to formally name Biden as president, in seven battleground states, illegitimate Republican electors arrived too, saying they had come to instead name Trump as president.

The Trump electors were turned away. However, they nonetheless proceeded to sign fake election certificates that declared they were the "duly elected and qualified" electors certifying Trump as the winner of the presidential election in their state.

The fake electors scheme was conceived in an effort to create "dueling" slates of electors that Pence could use to pretend the election was in doubt and refuse to formalize Biden's win at the congressional certification on 6 January.

And, the select committee will show, the fake election certificates were in part manufactured by the Trump White House, and that the entire fake electors scheme was coordinated by Trump and his top advisers, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows.

"We will show evidence of the president's involvement in this scheme," congressman Adam Schiff, the select committee member leading the hearing alongside the panel's chairman, Bennie Thompson, and vice-chair, Liz Cheney, said on CNN on Sunday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kean goes deep green with budget that links climate action with future prosperity (Michael Mazengarb 21 June 2022, Renew Economy)

Kean handed down his first state government budget on Tuesday, and again provided a stark contrast between the Liberal state government and the federal Coalition, showing it understands how cutting emissions and supporting low emissions industries can deliver economic windfalls.

The centrepiece of the NSW's budget commitments for the energy sector is the previously announced $1.2 billion in funding to accelerate the construction of new transmission infrastructure to support the creation of the State's Renewable Energy Zones.

"We are on track to reduce our emissions by 50 per cent by 2030, on 2005 levels, and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050," Kean said.

"These commitments are not just about avoiding more record bushfires, droughts and floods, but also about underwriting our prosperity as our trading partners go to the green goods of the future."

In a world where labor and energy costs are headed to zero, it's impossible to overstate deflationary pressures.

June 20, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


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Kinzinger says 'there is violence in the future' after receiving mailed threat to 'execute' him, his wife, and 5-month-old baby (Katie Balevic, 6/20/22, Business Insider)

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger warned of "violence in the future" after he said he received a mailed threat against him and his family. 

Kinzinger made the comments Sunday on "This Week" on ABC News while discussing his work on the committee investigating January 6, 2021. His position as one of only two Republicans on the committee has subjected him to threats, he said.

"This threat that came in, it was mailed to my house. We got it a couple of days ago, and it threatens to execute me, as well as my wife and 5-month-old child.

The Trump brand.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


German industry supports government gas reduction plan (Deutsche-Welle, 6/20/22)

Economy Minister Robert Habeck also proposed putting a cap on domestic heating and setting up a gas auction model this summer to incentivize the saving of gas by industry.

Under the scheme, industrial customers who can do without gas will reduce their consumption in exchange for financial compensation.

Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Germany's main business lobby group, told DPA news agency "every kilowatt-hour counts."

"We need to reduce the consumption of gas as much as possible," he said.

Karl Haeusgen, president of the German mechanical engineering association (VDMA), said the association supports Habeck's plan to reduce gas consumption in industry with auctions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Crypto is melting down. Here's who's hurt (Michael Hiltzik, June 16, 2022, LA Times)

Meanwhile, crypto's financial infrastructure has been coming apart at the seams. The most recent development to rattle the field was a June 12 announcement by Celsius, a crypto lender that operated like an unregulated bank, that it was "pausing all withdrawals, Swap, and transfers between accounts" of its 1.7 million customers.

The decision appeared to be the product of rapid withdrawals of deposits at the company along with the crypto price crashes.

But it underscored persistent questions about the firm's business model, in which it offered annualized interest yields as high as 20% on crypto deposits -- traditional banks were paying around 0.5% on deposits and even junk bonds were paying around 7.5%.

Other crypto assets that depicted themselves as havens of reliability have turned out to have figurative feet of clay. Consider "stablecoins," which are purportedly tied to hard assets such as the U.S. dollar or short-term commercial paper.

The claim behind tether, a key stablecoin that has been lubricating crypto trading generally, is that each tether, priced at $1, is backed by $1 in cold cash. But since the sponsoring firm is unregulated and has never released an audit based on generally accepted accounting principles, no one really knows.

A bigger problem with stablecoins is that some aren't actually backed by hard assets but are "algorithmic," meaning that their values are supposedly kept stable by computer-driven buying and selling.

The crash of one such coin, terra, helped provoke a selloff in bitcoin in May. As the British systems engineer David Gerard observed, terra's ostensibly stable assets were "chained boxes of worthless trash," so its value plummeted from $1 to a current quote (though no one is buying) of six thousandths of a cent.

Fraud and other varieties of criminality are so rampant in the crypto space -- including its even less savory offspring, such as NFTs (nonfungible tokens) -- that a whole lexicon of scams has sprung up. These include "rug pulls," in which a promotion team suddenly abandons a project and escapes with the already-invested money.

More traditional investor abuses are also common. Crypto deposits have been stolen by hackers by the millions. The network supporting the online NFT-related game "Axie Infinity" reported that hackers had stolen crypto assets worth as much as $625 million.

State and federal regulators are also investigating crypto promoters for allegedly selling illegal securities, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly investigating evidence of insider trading at crypto exchanges.

Manifestations of the crypto meltdown are rife. They include layoffs at leading trading firms, and the withdrawal of job offers made by Coinbase, a big crypto exchange, to recruits from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other Wall Street firms that were made during headier days.

The fortunes of seven top crypto billionaires, including Bankman-Fried and the Winklevoss twins of "The Social Network" fame, shrank from $145 billion at bitcoin's peak in November to $31.4 billion as of June 13, according to Bloomberg's billionaires index.

What may be making the meltdown worse than the bear market afflicting stockholders is that crypto doesn't have any value in the real world.

With the possible exception of stablecoins, it's not backed by gold, corporate profits or any other realizable asset. It doesn't throw off earnings, nor is its value protected by governments; indeed, the virtue of crypto assets, according to their promoters, is that they're independent of government activity.

Many of the assets' claimed virtues aren't virtues at all: It's said that transactions are irreversible and don't require an intermediary such as a bank, but that's become a problem for owners who think they've been scammed or robbed and are left with no recourse.

Promoters have been trying to articulate a use for crypto since bitcoin began trading in 2009, but have never made a case.

Instead, it's dependent on what is known as the "greater fool" theory: Crypto assets are worth whatever you can persuade another fool to pay you for them. When the supply of fools washes out -- or confidence wanes that they're out there at all -- the market is vulnerable to a crash.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel excludes Arab communities from solar energy project (MEMO, June 20, 2022)

The Israeli authorities have excluded Arab communities in the country from a pilot solar energy project that will serve as a model for its solar energy industry, Haaretz revealed on Sunday. This could have the effect of excluding Arab Israelis from having access to solar energy "for years," said the newspaper, due to a change in the conditions imposed by Israel's Land Authority on the project that makes it accessible only in Jewish communities.

"The discriminatory criterion in the voltaic energy project is a climatic injustice," Haaretz reported Joseph Abramovich, a solar energy pioneer in Israel and Africa, as saying. Abramovich is a promoter of Project Wadi Attir, a Bedouin solar energy initiative in the Negev Desert. Bids have been invited "only for land owned by Jews," he noted.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kinzinger: Trump's actions surrounding January 6 amount to 'seditious conspiracy' (Ramon Antonio Vargas, 19 Jun 2022, The Guardian)

"I certainly think the president is guilty of knowing what he did, seditious conspiracy, being involved in ... pressuring the [justice department], vice-president [Mike Pence], et cetera," Kinzinger said. "Obviously, you know, we're not a criminal charges committee, so I want to be careful in specifically using that language, but I think what we're presenting before the American people certainly would rise to a level of criminal involvement by a president."

Kinzinger also said that Trump's actions, as portrayed by the committee, show he "definitely" failed to maintain his oath to uphold the US constitution.

"The oath has to matter here," Kinzinger said. "Your personal demand to stand for the constitution has to matter."

Just three days earlier, the third of six scheduled hearings by the committee examining the Capitol attack saw a former attorney to Pence recount how Trump unsuccessfully helped pressure Pence into unlawfully blocking the congressional certification of Biden's win on the day of the riots.

One of the prongs of that plan involved sending fake pro-Trump electors from states that Biden to substitute electors pledged to Biden, which the justice department has been investigating for months now. Another prong, broadly, centered on Trump's relentless but baseless claims that electoral fraudsters had stolen the race from him, even as his attorney general, William Barr, dismissed that argument as complete "bullshit".

Kinzinger said the only logical outcome to claims of a rigged presidential election was the mob of hundreds storming the Capitol - shortly after Trump urged his supports to "fight like hell" - in the attack to which a bipartisan Senate report connected seven deaths.

June 19, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 3:13 PM


6 in 10 Americans say Trump should be charged for Jan. 6 riot: POLL (Meredith Deliso, June 19, 2022, ABC News)

With the first full week of hearings for the House select committee's investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol now complete, nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the incident, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll finds.

Six in 10 Americans also believe the committee is conducting a fair and impartial investigation, according to the poll.

June 18, 2022

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GOP, Trump Political Operation Paid Millions To January 6 Organizers (Chibueze Godwin, June 18 | 2022, National Memo)

Political operations tied to former President Trump and the Republican Party paid millions to the organizers of the January 6, 2021, rally that preceded the now-infamous assault on the Capitol to thwart the certification of Joe Biden's victory, according to Open Secrets.

A non-partisan and non-profit group tracking money in U.S. politics, Open Secrets found that Trump's political operation and other GOP committees have paid over $12.6 million to the January 6 rally's organizers since the start of the 2020 election cycle.

The "full extent" of the aforementioned payments remains a mystery, said Open Secrets, because the Trump campaign and a horde of GOP groups funneled payments through American Made Media Consultants LLC, a vendor created by the Trump campaign to "act as a clearinghouse for its spending."

The Trump campaign has routed over $771 million through the vendor thus far, and the details of these transactions -- including recipients' identities and how much they received -- remain hidden.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


How Houston Moved 25,000 People From the Streets Into Homes of Their Own (Michael Kimmelman, June 14, 2022, The New York Times)

During the last decade, Houston, the nation's fourth most populous city, has moved more than 25,000 homeless people directly into apartments and houses. The overwhelming majority of them have remained housed after two years. The number of people deemed homeless in the Houston region has been cut by 63 percent since 2011, according to the latest numbers from local officials. Even judging by the more modest metrics registered in a 2020 federal report, Houston did more than twice as well as the rest of the country at reducing homelessness over the previous decade. Ten years ago, homeless veterans, one of the categories that the federal government tracks, waited 720 days and had to navigate 76 bureaucratic steps to get from the street into permanent housing with support from social service counselors. Today, a streamlined process means the wait for housing is 32 days.

Houston has gotten this far by teaming with county agencies and persuading scores of local service providers, corporations and charitable nonprofits -- organizations that often bicker and compete with one another -- to row in unison. Together, they've gone all in on "housing first," a practice, supported by decades of research, that moves the most vulnerable people straight from the streets into apartments, not into shelters, and without first requiring them to wean themselves off drugs or complete a 12-step program or find God or a job.

There are addiction recovery and religious conversion programs that succeed in getting people off the street. But housing first involves a different logic: When you're drowning, it doesn't help if your rescuer insists you learn to swim before returning you to shore. You can address your issues once you're on land. Or not. Either way, you join the wider population of people battling demons behind closed doors.

"Before I leave office, I want Houston to be the first big city to end chronic homelessness," Sylvester Turner told me. In late January, Mr. Turner, who is serving his final term as mayor, joined Harris County leaders in unveiling a $100 million plan that would use a mix of federal, state, county and city funds to cut the local homeless count in half again by 2025.

Mr. Turner chose his words with care, and it's important to parse his phrasing. "Chronic homelessness" is a term of art. It refers to those people, like many in the Houston encampment, who have been living on the streets for more than a year or who have been homeless repeatedly, and who have a mental or physical disability. Nationwide, most of those who experience homelessness do not fall into that narrow category. They are homeless for six weeks or fewer; 40 percent have a job. For them, homelessness is an agonizing but temporary condition that they manage to resolve, maybe by doubling up with relatives or friends.

There are at the same time many thousands of mothers and children, as well as couch-surfing teenagers and young adults who are ill-housed and at risk. These people are also poor and desperate. Finding a place to sleep may be a daily struggle for them. They might be one broken transmission or emergency room visit away from the streets. They're in the pipeline to homelessness. But they are not homeless according to the bureaucratic definition. They are not sleeping on a sidewalk or in their cars or in shelters. Houston can offer these people a hand, but Mr. Turner is not promising to end the precariousness of their lives.

"We are not here to solve poverty. We aren't here to fix the affordable housing problem" is how Ms. Rausch puts it, adding, "Think of the homeless system in America as an emergency room for a triaged slice of poverty. What Houston has achieved is to get itself far enough along in addressing the challenge that we can hope to begin to think about the pipeline to homelessness."

The Abolitionist: Bush's homelessness czar has some new ideas. Will liberals listen? (Douglas McGray, JUNE 2004, The Atlantic)

With his dark tailored suits and his silver banker's coif, Philip Mangano looks like a liberal Democrat's idea of a conservative Republican's idea of an advocate for the poor--which, as the Bush Administration's homelessness czar, he happens to be. It is difficult to imagine Mangano fasting on the Capitol steps in a ratty Army-surplus jacket, as the late activist for the homeless Mitch Snyder once did, much less winning over the bleeding hearts in the nonprofit world by promising to apply the President's governing philosophy to their cause. But the latter is precisely what he does. "Any investment we make will be research-and-data-driven, performance-based, and results-oriented," I heard him declare on a cold March morning in New York City, to a gathering of social workers and housing advocates. It is something he has said again and again.

Mangano's message is as pure an example as can be found in government of "compassionate conservatism," which argues that traditionally liberal social concerns can be advanced through such conservative principles as responsibility and accountability. Though this was the centerpiece of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign, the "compassion agenda" heralded in the President's inaugural address seemed to dissolve in the face of partisanship, underfunding, and an all-consuming foreign policy. What was once a unifying theme is now likely to be invoked by his rival as evidence of Bush's hollowness. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds?" John Kerry recently asked an audience in Jackson, Mississippi, quoting from the Book of James. Mangano is nevertheless making a compelling case for compassionate conservatism in an unlikely field.

Widespread street homelessness is a relatively recent problem, at least in the modern era. It began to appear in the late 1970s, when the economy tanked, affordable housing began to disappear, and state hospitals, prodded by patients'-rights activists, released hundreds of thousands of the mentally ill into communities unprepared to receive them. Temporary shelters sprang up in church basements and neighborhood centers to address what was expected to be a short-term crisis. But the problem of homelessness persisted, and improvised measures became entrenched. After years of government neglect the Clinton Administration finally responded by tripling funding for programs to help the homeless and encouraging local organizations to offer a wide range of services, from counseling to health care. But, incredibly, the numbers of the homeless only increased. Today a patchwork of federal, state, city, and private money supports more than 40,000 programs--some cheap, others expensive; some staggeringly successful, others struggling; each with its own agenda; and few accountable for the work they perform. "We're trying to disrupt this ad hoc approach," Mangano says. "We're saying it needs to be strategic."

Homelessness is one of the few corners of public policy in which traditional liberal ideas have gone largely unchallenged. But Mangano believes that many professional activists, though well intentioned, have given up on ending homelessness. They have accepted the problem as intractable and fallen back on social work and handouts as a way to make broken lives more bearable. In doing so, he says, they have allowed "a certain amount of institutionalism" to take root. The Bush Administration proposes to solve the problem by beginning with the hardest cases: the 10 percent who are severe addicts or mentally ill, and consume half of all resources devoted to homeless shelters. Mangano believes that by moving these chronic cases into "supportive housing"--a private room or apartment where they would receive support services and psychotropic medications--the government could actually save money, and free up tens of thousands of shelter beds. The Bush Administration, spotting an opportunity to increase the return on its investment, is seeking to end chronic homelessness within ten years. Not only is this possible, Mangano insists, but it is common sense.

Mangano's forthright presence has divided a close-knit community. Perhaps not surprisingly, supportive-housing advocates and those who work with addicts and the mentally ill tend to be enthusiastic about his ideas. Outreach workers and emergency-shelter managers are divided. "There are people threatened ideologically and financially by this sort of change," explains Dennis Culhane, a professor of social-welfare policy at the University of Pennsylvania. "Absent new resources, shifting resources to permanent housing will take resources away from shelters." [...]

Mangano believes that the breakthrough in the battle to abolish homelessness occurred only in the past five years, after Dennis Culhane determined that about one percent of the nation's urban population was homeless each year--more than anyone expected. Culhane studied this group and discovered that most were homeless for less than two months, but a hard-core minority--about 10 percent--stayed in shelters about two years, on average. "The emergency-shelter system," Culhane explained, "designed as a safety net, was serving as an expensive form of permanent housing." He measured just how much the chronic cases cost by tracking 10,000 mentally ill homeless people in New York, 5,000 of whom were placed in supportive housing and 5,000 of whom remained in shelters or on the street. It turned out that the first group cost the city no more, and probably less, than the second. A wave of similar studies reinforced his findings.

Mangano arrived in Washington, in 2002, well liked by both Republicans and Democrats. But skeptics wondered whether he could defend anti-homelessness programs from spending cuts, much less persuade a preoccupied conservative Administration and dozens of Democratic mayors to work together on an issue that doesn't register as a priority for voters. Through relentless travel and lobbying he has produced encouraging results.

On that March morning Atlanta's mayor, Shirley Franklin, an outspoken supporter of Mangano's, and Angela Aliota, a civil-rights lawyer in charge of San Francisco's chronic-homelessness plan, had traveled to New York to meet with city officials who were preparing to release their plan to battle homelessness, and to visit two programs that Mangano was eager to replicate elsewhere. We piled into a white cargo van and headed to East Harlem, where Pathways to Housing manages close to 500 apartments for the mentally ill. Its founder and executive director, Sam Tsemberis, is a man after Mangano's heart. When we arrived, he distributed copies of a new study in the American Journal of Public Health that tracks Pathways's performance. "Every program can bring forward people whose lives they saved," he explained. But that doesn't make them all equal. "If we didn't have scientific data, it would become a debate." Tsemberis has ministered to the so-called "treatment-resistant" for decades, and pioneered his "housing first" model after being struck by how many clients distrusted social workers and simply wanted a place to live. Offer them the apartment first, he believes, and you don't need to spend years, and service dollars, winning their trust. His success rates are high, his costs relatively low. "You can see why that resonated with the compassionate-conservative types," Culhane says. "It's exactly the kind of thing they've claimed they're looking for: sensible policy interventions that do right for the people and for the taxpayer."

As the solution to poverty is wealth, so too is the solution to homelessness homes. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


New Mexico county certifies election results, bowing to court order (Annie Gowen, Jun. 17th, 2022, Washington Post)

Commissioners in New Mexico's Otero County voted 2 to 1 Friday to comply with a state Supreme Court order and certify primary-election results, reversing an earlier rejection of vote totals over unfounded claims that voting machines were insecure.

In an afternoon meeting, Republican County Commissioners Vickie Marquardt and Gerald Matherly voted to certify the results from the state's June 7 primary over the objections of the third commissioner, Couy Griffin.

Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump, spoke by phone from Washington, where he had been sentenced earlier Friday to 14 days in jail on one count of entering a restricted area during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


With Juneteenth, some hope in a time of racial strife: A joyous celebration of freedom -- and a path to a reckoning. (The Editorial Board, June 18, 2022, Boston Globe)

In her slim, affecting volume "On Juneteenth," published last year, historian Annette Gordon-Reed remembered "red soda water," barbecues, and parades in her stretch of East Texas. Gordon-Reed acknowledged feeling a "twinge of possessiveness" when people outside the state started celebrating the holiday. But she came to realize that Texas' history was the nation's. That her celebration was America's.

Whether the country will truly embrace that celebration is yet to be seen. But the Senate vote to make Juneteenth a federal holiday was unanimous, and opposition in the House of Representatives was scant.

Some substantial slice of white America recoils at any mention of critical race theory or The New York Times's "1619 Project." But perhaps an homage to the quintessential American value -- freedom -- could yield a deeper understanding for the bondage that preceded it.

The country, no doubt, could use a deeper understanding. Surveys show Americans know far too little about the history of slavery. And the country doesn't have an especially nuanced view of its lingering effects -- a deep-seated racism and, for too many Black families, a punishing intergenerational poverty.

But the public is more open to the possibility of lingering effects than might be imagined. A Pew Research Center survey from 2019 found that 63 percent of Americans believe the legacy of slavery affects the position of Black people in America today.

Reparations remain a tough sell. But surveys show that millennials and members of Gen Z have significantly more liberal views on race and government intervention in societal problems than their parents and grandparents. A more tolerant and diverse country with a better feel for its history could bend toward justice with a broader understanding for our history and what is required to address it.

A federal holiday alone can't be expected to do the work of social transformation, of course. But it can send a signal.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Zelenskiy Hails EU's 'Historic' Backing Of Ukraine's Membership Bid As A Boost For Democracy (RFE, 6/18/22)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed Brussels' support for his embattled country's European Union bid as a "historic" achievement.

The European Commission recommended Ukraine and Moldova be granted European Union candidate status, a move that marks the start of what will likely be a long journey toward full EU integration.

The recommendation, announced by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on June 17, will be discussed by leaders of the 27-nation bloc during a summit next week in Brussels. Launching accession talks requires unanimous approval from all member countries.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Liz Cheney Is Winning the January 6 Committee (ANDREW C. MCCARTHY, June 18, 2022, National Review)

I'm about ready to pronounce Liz Cheney the victor in the January 6 committee hearings.

No, I'm not saying that she has resurrected her House reelection campaign, or that "virulently anti-Trump" is a viable brand in the GOP. I am also not suggesting the January 6 committee is about to be converted formally into what it has de facto been all along: the third impeachment of Donald Trump, necessitated by the Democrats' derelictions in the second impeachment -- in which, rather than conducting the thorough investigation now underway and then competently pleading articles of impeachment that matched the sundry executive abuses, they rushed to politicize the impeachment in an effort to tar all Trump supporters as white supremacists, and all Republicans and conservatives who didn't swallow whole their Insurrection!™ storyline as aiders and abettors of domestic terrorism.

Congresswoman Cheney has been very effective in relating the committee's blistering case against the former president.

June 17, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


US Capitol rioter who carried weapon loaded with hollow-point bullets pleads guilty (Holmes Lybrand and Avery Lotz, June 17, 2022, CNN)

A January 6, 2021, rioter pleaded guilty Friday to carrying a loaded firearm on US Capitol grounds and assaulting police officers with one of their own batons during the insurrection.

Mark Mazza, who told federal investigators he regretted not seeing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the riot and that they would "be here for another reason" if he had, faces a maximum of 20 years for assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon.

They sure do hate women. 
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Catalonia recognises Israel committing 'crime of apartheid' against Palestinians (The New Arab, 17 June, 2022)

Catalonia's regional parliament on Thursday formally recognised that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people. 

Lawmakers in the autonomous Spanish region passed a resolution accusing Israel of overseeing a system that is "contrary to international law and is equivalent to the crime of apartheid as defined in the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court, Article 7.2 (h)". 

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New England states leading way in recovery (Alan Wooten, 6/17/22, The Center Square)

No states have had unemployment claims recover quicker than the New England pair of New Hampshire and Vermont.

That's the finding of a study by WalletHub, a personal finance website approaching a decade in business. The company says "6 million Americans" are "unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in total."

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


The opera that wouldn't die: After a century of political suppression and critical sniffiness, Erich Korngold's one-time smash hit Die tote Stadt is back (Richard Bratby, 18 June 2022, The Spectator)

When Erich Wolfgang Korngold completed his third opera, Die tote Stadt, in August 1920, he'd barely turned 23. Yet such was his reputation that what followed was practically a Europe-wide bidding war for rights to the première. The young composer had his pick of companies and conductors (the Vienna State Opera tried and failed). In the end - almost unprecedentedly - Die tote Stadt was launched on the same night in two cities simultaneously. Audiences in Hamburg and Cologne both erupted into applause, but Korngold, who could be in only one place, had chosen Hamburg - where he was so dazed by the response that Richard Strauss, who was present in the audience, had to remind him to go up and take his bow.

With Die tote Stadt, big moments always seem to come in twos. The opera's story revolves around a double: the plot starts from the moment when a grieving young widower, Paul, encounters a woman who precisely resembles his dead wife, Marie. He finds a mirror of his pain in Bruges, the 'dead city' of the opera's title - not today's tourist honeypot, but the decaying port of the late 19th century, a bell-haunted ghost-city of empty streets and shimmering canals (think Don't Look Now). [...]

So the stars seem to be aligning for Die tote Stadt, though a puritanical few will probably continue to ask if it's really worth all this effort for an opera that's still occasionally dismissed as kitsch. The sheer spectacle - physical and sonic - of this one-time blockbuster can feel overwhelming. But in the end, that bejewelled sound is not what you take away from Die tote Stadt. Fundamentally, it's a tale of longing, loss and profound grief, expressed - by some miraculous paradox of art - through the surging, rapturous colours that came as naturally as breathing to a 22-year-old genius who sensed that he was writing his masterpiece. At the end of it, you've had every auditory faculty comprehensively ravished, and yet what lingers is an aching sadness. 'I think most of us have experienced a split-up from a past partner, and found it very difficult to leave them behind,' says Auty. 'There's an idea in the opera that someone who dies, dies twice. They die in reality; and then they start dying in your memory.'

How a comfortably off Viennese wunderkind like Korngold - even one who'd just lived through the first world war and the death of old Europe - had access to emotions that he could never possibly have experienced at first hand is still hard to explain in rational terms. But those emotions are certainly present in Die tote Stadt. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


'What is a woman?': the trans film that makes for harrowing viewing: Matt Walsh's documentary poses a simple question which baffles our politicians (Debbie Hayton, 17 June 2022, The Spectator)

What is a woman? A question like this might seem like a strange premise for a 90-minute documentary. But we live in unusual times when primary school children can answer a question our leading politicians struggle to get to grips with. Matt Walsh's film shows that ordinary people are often baffled too. His interviewees responded with confusion, obfuscation and prevarication when asked to define the word 'woman'. A professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at the University of Tennessee was stunned into silence by the slightly harder task: 'Can you define the word woman without using the word woman?'.

Walsh's wife at least knew the correct answer. 'An adult human female', she replied - as she worked in the kitchen - adding, 'who needs help opening this (jar)?' [...]

Disappointingly, Walsh didn't consult the British and Irish writers and speakers who know more than most about what it means to be a woman, or indeed what it means to be a man. 'A blindspot,' according to Spiked's Jo Bartosch. Helen Joyce's Trans and Kathleen Stock's Material Girls are superb commentaries. Those two authors - distinguished in journalism and academia respectively - are walking antidotes to the gobbledegook, but neither were featured. And how could any commentary on transgender nonsense fail to cite Julie Bindel who was ploughing this furrow when Walsh was still at school?

That niggle aside, Walsh's film is a must watch. The naivety of the gender identity brigade is breathtaking. 'When someone tells you who they are, you should believe them,' the gender studies prof told us before claiming that a woman is a person who identifies as a woman. His reasoning may have been circular but his body language spoke volumes as he squirmed in his chair; he had been poleaxed by a simple question and he knew it. I wonder how much his students pay to attend his classes?

Democratic Congressman Mark Takano was similarly uncomfortable when Walsh asked him how he might respond to women who don't want to see penises in their spaces: 

'I think a person who wants to use a woman's bathroom who identifies as transgender really does think of themselves as female.' 

His logic crumbled as he waffled about respecting 'their (transwomen's) basic right to live'. I wonder what his female electorate in California made of that?

But if this first half of the documentary was excruciating, the second was terrifying. Walsh moved onto the impact of gender identity ideology on children and adolescents, some of whom have been persuaded they need hormones and surgery to ward off the risk of suicide.

Transman Scott Nugent didn't fudge and responded with brutal honesty, 'I am a biological woman that medically transitioned to appear like a male (but) I will never be a man.' Nugent spoke passionately about the complications of surgery; 'six inches of hair on the inside of my urethra for seventeen months'. But Nugent's main concern was youngsters. 'We are butchering a generation of children because nobody is willing to talk about anything,' Nugent warned.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Black personal finance influencers are making financial freedom a focus this Juneteenth (Frank Holland, 6/17/22, CNBC)

Social influencers focused on financial education for the Black community are emphasizing a message of financial freedom this Juneteenth as the nation commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

"I definitely feel the Juneteenth remembrance should have a level of economic understanding as a part of it," Rashad Bilal of the Earn Your Leisure podcast told CNBC. "But I think the problem with holidays is that no matter what it is Christmas, Easter, New Year's, everything is just made as a celebration, and you lose the meaning of it."

Bilal, a former financial advisor, added: "The importance of freedom both economically and social on Juneteenth is something that people should keep in mind every single day."

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


A huge offshore wind farm is jumping on a growing industry trend -- recyclable turbine blades (Anmar Frangoul, 6/17/22, CNBC)

In a statement Thursday, Swedish energy firm Vattenfall said some of the wind turbines at the 1.5 gigawatt Hollandse Kust Zuid facility would use Siemens Gamesa's RecycableBlades. These blades, Vattenfall said, use "a resin type that dissolves in a low-temperature, mildly acidic solution."

That, it explained, enables the resin to be separated from other components within the blade -- carbon fiber, wood, fiberglass, metal and plastic -- "without significantly impacting their properties." The components can then be recycled and used again.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Is It the End or Awakening of Philosophical Fusionism? (Donald Devine, June 12th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

[P]ractical action for the fusionist philosophy requires synthesizing both freedom and beliefs. Meyer is universally acknowledged as the intellectual who crafted fusionism as an explicit doctrine. He was a serous thinker with a master's degree from Oxford, but he was also clear that he was greatly influenced by the great modern philosopher and Nobel Laurate F.A. Hayek, who had provided the epistemological (if not transcendent) basis for the fusionist synthesis.

As early as 1945, Hayek had distinguished between monistic rationalists of the "French and Continental" type, such as René Descartes and Voltaire, and pluralists like Locke, Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Tocqueville as providing very different bases for understanding reality.

In his 1964 essay "Kinds of Rationalism," Hayek more comprehensively described the differ­ence between a "constructivist rationalism" that starts unambiguously from single monist essences and deduces all conclusions from them; and a "critical rationalism" that employs multiple reasoning methods--rationalism, empiricism, intuition, and traditional common sense. The philosopher of science Karl Popper, in "Towards a Rational Theory of Tradition," even gave tradition the preeminent place in the process of understanding, identifying it as the first reality we can comprehend, from which all else is reasoned.

Hayek characterized "constructivist rationalism" as the assumption that the methods of pure reason and physical science can answer all social questions through abstraction, and "critical rationalism" as that which takes better account of complexity and unpredictability in the physical and social worlds through synthesizing different elements. As Hayek explained, critical rationalism "is a view of mind and society which provides an appropriate place for the role which tradi­tion and custom play" in the development of science and societies. It "makes us see much to which those brought up on the crude forms of rationalism are often blind."

Constructionist rationalism particularly fails in relying upon analogies to physical science that vastly underestimates human complexity, pointing to the complexity of a single human brain, in which the number of interneuronic connec­tions in a few minutes might exceed the number of atoms in the solar system. Hayek was especially skeptical of the notion that rationalizing experts in central governments relying on inefficient bureau­cracies, imperfect understanding of the facts, and inherently limited scientific methods could somehow perfect human nature--calling this presumption a modern "superstition" that would mystify future generations.

Hayek considered both rationalist constructivism and empirical historicism too narrow alone but all information as possibly useful. He does not even totally reject revelation, concluding that "paradoxical as it might appear, it is probably true that a successful free society will always in a large measure be a tradition-bound society." His The Fatal Conceit found simple constructivist utilitarianism "insuf­ficient." Even if Western society's beliefs are only symbolically true, he argued, those like himself who were "not prepared to accept the anthropomorphic conception of a personal divinity ought to admit that the premature loss of what we regard as nonfactual beliefs would have deprived mankind of a powerful support in the long development of the extended order we now enjoy, and that even now loss of these beliefs, whether true or false, creates great difficulties."

Hayek identifies the narrower constructivist rationalists as Plato, Descartes, Hobbes, Bentham, Marx, Keynes, Rousseau, Hegel, and the positivists. His own critical rationalists included Aristotle, Cicero, St. Thomas, Locke, Montesquieu, Hume, Adam Smith, and Popper, who all give tradition a broad role in social life. Both Locke and Jefferson explicitly relied upon a Creator in their Declaration and Second Treatise to justify human freedom. In his The Reasonableness of Christianity, Locke even emphasized that the ancient philosophers attempted to base their ideals on rationalism alone; but their teachings of truth had little effect. "The philosophers showed the beauty of virtue" but they "left her unendowed," so that "few were willing to espouse her" until an empirical "immortal weight of glory" that was the Incarnation made it real to many peoples.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


To tackle the cost of living crisis, let's help drivers switch to electric cars (NIck Fletcher, 6/12/22, CapX)

Expanding cheap, homegrown clean energy can reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels. But for motorists to benefit from this more affordable, secure energy supply, we need to help more people switch to electric vehicles by scaling up the market and getting the infrastructure right.

While electric vehicles currently have a higher upfront cost, they're free from soaring fuel costs. Instead of forking out £100 on a single tank of fuel, electric car drivers spend £15 on average for a full charge. That works out as 5p per mile, compared to between 15p and 25p for a petrol or diesel vehicle. That's a big saving for any household.

In the short term, the Government's decision to cut fuel duty by 5 pence per litre, saving the average driver £100, will ease some of the pressure. But, as with household energy costs, ministers cannot dictate the price of petrol or diesel. In the long term, the best thing we can do to help drivers is to accelerate the electric vehicle revolution so they benefit from cheaper running costs.

That means addressing the obstacles that put people off switching to an electric vehicle. Whether it's the price, range anxiety, or charging points - they are not insurmountable problems, and car firms have already made significant progress.

The sticker price for buying electric cars is coming down, and they are expected to be no more expensive than a petrol or diesel vehicle by the late 2020s. Most importantly, the second-hand market is picking up momentum, with sales jumping by 119% to a record 40,000 last year.

One thing we can do to support the second-hand market is guaranteeing the life of an electric vehicle battery. In the USA, California introduced new rules introducing such a guarantee. If the UK market doesn't step up to win over customers, the Government should consider following California's example. It will give people confidence to buy an electric car on the second-hand market, growing the market and lowering costs.

Importantly, we should also make the zero emission vehicle mandate as ambitious as possible - without putting UK car manufacturers at a disadvantage. This market solution asks car manufacturers to sell a certain proportion of electric vehicles. If they beat the target, they gain credits which they can sell to other car firms that are behind in selling electric vehicles. Front-loading this mechanism by setting bold, achievable targets now will greatly expand the market, incentivising carmakers to cut prices further.

This would also encourage car manufacturers to innovate at an even faster pace, solving a range of concerns. With every new model, the technology is improving fast. The average range for an electric vehicle is 200-250 miles, but technological improvements mean that next-generation batteries could easily keep going for 500-600 miles.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Utopias: Does living in a perfect society mean you must give up your freedom? (Tim Brinkhof, 6/13/22, Big Think)

"What can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with strange qualities?" Fyodor Dostoevsky asks in his 1864 novella Notes from Underground. "Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, so that nothing but bubbles of bliss can be seen on the surface; give him economic prosperity, such that he should have nothing else to do but sleep, eat cakes and busy himself with the continuation of his species."

"Even then," Dostoevsky continues, "out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. It is just his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he will desire to retain, simply in order to prove to himself--as though that were so necessary--that men still are men and not the keys of a piano."

When Dostoevsky wrote these lines, Russian writers were obsessed with the idea of utopias. They wrote stories and treatises in which they envisioned how the increasingly dysfunctional czarist empire could be replaced by a society devoid of suffering or conflict. Their vision for the future sparked the imaginations of numerous individuals, from armchair philosophers to armed socialist revolutionaries eager to turn such speculative fiction into a political reality.

Dostoevsky, however, was not impressed. As explained by the quote above, the author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov believed that utopias were, by definition, incompatible with human nature, which gravitates toward freedom. People, he argued, would rather be free in an imperfect world than unfree in a perfect one. Since the line between utopias and dictatorships is unclear, the writer also believed that the planning one would inevitably result in the creation of the other.

Liberty does not give us utopia but it does provide an ideal balance between freedom and security by limiting both. 
Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


"A useful time-capsule of Georgian life": Samuel Johnson and his remarkable dictionary: Samuel Johnson's 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language made a huge contribution to the English language. More than 250 years on, it has become a useful time-capsule of 18th-century life. (Henry Hitchings, June 6, 2022, History Extra)

The word commerce is one that crops us repeatedly: the dictionary testifies to the march of Georgian commercialism. London's commercial fashions, for instance, are the province of Joseph Addison, Johnson's favourite diarist of urban pretentiousness. Addison is hot on modish contemporary slang (fiddlefaddle, wiseacre, incog as a short form of incognito) and on modish phenomena (the chop-house, the sofa, the practice of eating snails). It is to the quotable essayist that Johnson owes his entries for whitewash, "a kind of make-up used by women who wished to make their skin look fair", and for modesty-piece, a word Addison coined to describe the lace which concealed the more exciting parts of women's breasts.

Johnson records plenty of other fashions and innovations: the toyshop, mezzotints, spa towns, the tobacconist (where once the word had signified a tobacco addict, it now denoted a vendor), the newspaper advertisement, the shoeblack, the mania for tulips, and the cosmetic beauty-spot. In an oblique comment on the contemporary rage for vases - such a boon to that other famous native of Staffordshire, Josiah Wedgwood - he defines vase as "generally a vessel rather for show than use".

He also notes the phenomenon of the umbrella, a "skreen [sic] used in hot countries to keep off the sun, and in others to bear off the rain". Umbrellas were not exactly new (Defoe had equipped Robinson Crusoe with an umbrella made of goatskin in 1719), but they were rarely used as a form of protection against British rain until the late 18th century. The philanthropist Jonas Hanway was supposedly the first Londoner to carry one for such purposes, in the early 1750s, and was mocked for doing so.

As it happened, Hanway was one of the many eminent figures with whom Johnson tangled. Hanway liked to warn of the dangers of drinking tea, claiming it was "pernicious to health, obstructing industry and impoverishing the nation". To Johnson this seemed risibly wrong-headed; he was pleased to pronounce himself a "hardened and shameless tea-drinker".

Yet although it was the fashion for tea-drinking that mainly drove demand for another fruit of the colonies, sugar (which Johnson defines as "the native salt of the sugar-cane, obtained by the expression and evaporation of its juice") it was coffee that proved the more remarkable phenomenon of the age. Johnson gives a clue to this when he defines coffeehouse as "a house of entertainment where coffee is sold, and the guests are supplied with newspapers". It was this relationship between coffee and entertainment that made it such a potent force.

Coffee was first imported to Europe from Yemen in the early part of the 17th century. The first English coffee house opened in 1652; by the middle of the following century there were several thousand in London. Coffee houses were meeting places, where customers - predominantly male - could convene to discuss politics and current affairs. By the time of the dictionary they were not so much gentlemanly snuggeries as commercial exchanges, often doubling up as libraries or theatres. They were centres, too, of political opposition, and, as they were open to all ranks and religions, they allowed a rare freedom of information and expression. Sceptics like Hanway may have been troubled most of all, then, by the capacity of tea and coffee to act as social lubricants.

Changes in 18th-century leisure threatened the traditional structures of class and faith. For instance, the rising popularity of sports like football and cricket cut across social divides, and reflected the increasing commercialisation of leisure. Matches were money-making spectacles, calculated to attract a paying audience, many of whom would also gamble on the outcome. In defining sport as "diversion of the field, as of fowling, hunting, fishing" Johnson chooses to omit the newer, codified sports, but they are noticed elsewhere in the dictionary. From his definition of cricket - "a sport, at which the contenders drive a ball with sticks in opposition to each other" - we can infer that he never saw it played. Yet it was worth including; the crowds at matches were by the 1750s numbering thousands rather than hundreds.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


EU backs Ukraine's membership bid as war brings huge shift (Robin Emmott and Max Hunder, 6/17/22, Reuters)

The European Union gave its blessing on Friday to Ukraine to become an official candidate to join the bloc, along with its neighbour Moldova, an historic eastward shift in Europe's outlook brought about by Russia's invasion.

Ukraine applied to join the EU just four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. Four days later, so did Moldova and Georgia - two other ex-Soviet states contending with separatist regions occupied by Russian troops.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 AM


A former judge's devastating verdict on Donald Trump's scheming against American democracy (Scot Lehigh, June 16, 2022, Boston Globe)

It may be the most important declaration to date in the US House of Representatives' hearings on Jan. 6 -- and it's not a revelation about scheming or skulduggery but rather a solemn plea to all Americans by a revered former judge.

"No American ought to turn away from January 6, 2021, until all of America comes to grips with what befell our country that day, and we decide what we want for our democracy from this day forward," former federal appeals court judge J. Michael Luttig declared in a written statement to the House select committee investigating Jan. 6. [...]

As Luttig said in his written statement, part of which he repeated in oral testimony on Thursday: "It is breathtaking that these arguments even were conceived, let alone entertained by the President of the United States at that perilous moment in history. Had the Vice President of the United States obeyed the President of the United States, America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis."

We also learned from Greg Jacob, the vice president's former legal counsel, that even John Eastman, the bizarre right-wing lawyer who hatched the plot to have Pence reject the Electoral College results, realized that action wouldn't survive US Supreme Court scrutiny if constitutionally reviewed by the court. But according to former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann, Eastman was willing to see violence in the streets if that's what it took to keep Trump in power.

Trump unleashed mob after VP rejected election plot: probe (AFP, June 16, 2022)

A desperate Trump had turned to Pence for help after dozens of legal challenges against the election were dismissed in courts across the land.

The defeated president used rally speeches and Twitter to exert intense pressure on his deputy to abuse his position as president of the Senate and reject the election results.

Members of Trump's family were in the Oval Office on January 6 when Trump had a "heated" phone call with Pence, according to first daughter Ivanka Trump's deposition, aired at the hearing.

She said Trump took "a different tone" than she'd heard him use before.

Nicholas Luna, a former assistant to Trump, recalled in his own deposition: "I remember hearing the word 'wimp.'"

During his "Stop the Steal" rally later that day, Trump referenced Pence numerous times as he told his supporters to march on the Capitol and "fight like hell."

Trump's original speech didn't mention Pence but he ad-libbed to berate his vice president in a move Democratic committee member Pete Aguilar said helped incite the insurrection and the threats against Pence.

But Pence resisted, releasing a letter to Congress saying the vice president had no "unilateral authority" to overturn election counts.

Aguilar said an informant from the neofascist Proud Boys told the FBI the group would have killed Pence given the opportunity.

The California congressman said the mob storming the Capitol came within 40 feet (12 meters) of Pence and to "make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger."

Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows told him about the violence erupting at the Capitol but the president tweeted anyway that Pence did not have the "courage" to overturn the election, aides told investigators in videotaped depositions.

Immediately after the tweet, the crowds at the Capitol surged forward, the committee said.

The mob threatened to hang Pence for failing to cooperate as they stormed the Capitol, even erecting a gallows in front of the building.

"What the former president was willing to sacrifice -- potentially the vice president -- in order to stay in power is pretty jarring," Aguilar said.

June 16, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 PM


After Thursday's Hearing John Eastman Really Should Get a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer (JEREMY STAHL, JUNE 16, 2022, Slate)

During the third in a set of summer hearings held by the House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on Thursday, committee members closely scrutinized former President Donald Trump's numerous attempts to coerce Vice President Mike Pence into unilaterally declaring they had won the 2020 election.

The main upshot of the day was not only that "team normal" knew the plan had no constitutional, legal, or historical basis, but also that the main architects of the Jan. 6 plot--specifically Trump attorneys John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani-- knew that their plan would be rejected by any sane judge. Eastman, Giuliani, and Trump pushed the plan anyway, leading to a rioting mob invading the Capitol and the disruption of the electoral count. Pence narrowly escaped potential harm when rioters came within 40 feet of confronting him as he moved to a secure location, the committee revealed on Thursday. On top of these revelations, we also learned that Eastman sought to shield himself from potential criminal liability following the insurrection and his failed attempts at stopping the peaceful transition of power.

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Why Did Staunchly Democratic Counties Go for Trump?: Researchers Jon Shields and Stephanie Muravchik recount their fascinating findings (Aaron Ross Powell, 6/16/22, Reactionary Minds)

Jon: Yes, sure. One of the things that really struck us, Aaron, is that in these communities, politics is much more Trumpian in all kinds of ways. It was Trumpian before Trump, right? The local public officials reminded us of Trump in various ways. They were thin-skinned. They were brazen. They were tough. They were macho. They were the local daddies of their communities.

They were there to take care of their flock--that is to say, they weren't particularly ideological; rather, it was a sort of friends-and-neighbors politics. They were going to do particular favors or provide for particular constituents. It echoed back to a sort of machine politics, which has deep roots in the Democratic Party. Politics in these places weren't very ideological really. They were much more boss-centered. They were really about providing for and taking care of local constituents. Political leaders were expected to do favors for their constituents. We saw all of this in all kinds of ways. Maybe Steph wants to jump in and give some examples, give some flavor and feel for some of these characters.

Stephanie: In all three of the places in this town in Rhode Island, in this city in Iowa, in this county in Eastern Kentucky, there had been a strong-boss politics--perhaps most strong in Kentucky. These little rural counties are often dominated by these people called judges. They're not judicial figures. They're county executives essentially. There was a man in the county that I was looking at who had held office almost continually for about 30 years.

When I arrived there during the Trump administration, he had been out of office due to the fact that he had been brought up on federal charges in a votes-for-gravel scheme. This was after about some 30 years in office. The county had fallen on hard times. The main way that he was able to show his friendship to voters was by providing loads of gravel to them at county expense. A lot of these people live on little far-flung farms in this rural district. They need to have little roads that connect their farmsteads to the main public arteries.

The roads need to be constantly refreshed with gravel, and he was dumping loads of gravel in the months leading up to an election. The Feds came after him, and he pled. He had to deal with them basically so he would be free, but he pledged never again to run for office. The county's political imagination had been very much shaped by this man's long reign. He remained a very popular--although controversial--figure in the county when I was there.

Jon: There were echoes of this, too, in another town we studied, which is Johnston, Rhode Island. On the surface, you might think it would be a place with a radically different politics than Appalachia, right? It's in New England. It's a suburb of Providence, but in many ways, actually, the politics was really similar. It's a very Italian-American community, and they still practice old-style machine politics.

The mayor there is Joe Polisena. He rules with an iron fist. Again, he's like everyone's daddy, right? People go to Joe. They need something done. They need a favor. Sometimes they ask for things he can't deliver. When we asked Joe about this, he said, "Yes, sometimes they'll come in, my constituents, and they'll ask for something off the wall." Joe would have to tell them, "Gee, I can't do that. That's illegal, but I can do something else."

Likewise, people in that community feel like if they don't support the machine, if they don't support Joe Polisena and other Democratic candidates, they'll be basically shut out. They won't be able to get any goods from the city, because they'll be punished by the mayor, who can be very vindictive. Again, very different, seemingly, kinds of communities. They're regionally different. One's rural, one's suburban, et cetera, but a very different style of politics. It's a kind of politics that used to dominate the Democratic Party.

We forget about it in college towns and big urban cities because we've cleaned up this kind of politics, right? We want a politics that's more policy-oriented--politics without nepotism, without wheeling and dealing in this sort of favoritism--but it's a kind of politics that survived in a lot of these Democratic communities. It survived in those places because there are fewer college-educated, good-government types who wanted to clean up this kind of politics and get rid of it. That's one way in which the politics of these places was distinctive, but they also had a particular political culture, and we could talk about that if you like, Aaron.

Aaron: Just briefly before we turn to that: I'm curious, do the people in those towns view this as a kind of politics that needs to be cleaned up but just can't for various reasons, or do they think this is the right way to do politics, even if it sometimes is a little messy and looks corrupt?

Stephanie: Yes, I think there's definitely a view among some voters--and they're all men; these men are all somewhat controversial and have their detractors--who don't like how personalized the politics are. I spoke to one. Mayor Polisena in Johnston, Rhode Island, is very widely popular. He gets very high margins in elections, and lots of people had lots of good things to say about him, but he did have his detractors.

I was trying to talk to one of them, and he was quite anxious about talking to me and said, "Well, you know how things are in this town." Then he paused a beat, and then he said: "Well, you're not from here. Maybe you don't." There was this sense that there were critics, and they would often say: "This is too personalized. There's too much retribution for disloyalty. This is America. We should be able to express alternate opinions and not be personally penalized by the powers that be in our locality for this."

One colorful example from Elliott County was an executive who was no longer in office because of this federal deal and had one very outspoken opponent in the community. When they would be paving roads, like county roads, the new asphalt would stop at this man's property line and then start up again at the next property line. Only in front of his farm would there be no paving. That kind of stuff rubbed some people the wrong way for sure.

Jon: I would just echo that. I think it was somewhat mixed, but I think there was also a sort of sense in these places that this is just how one does politics. These are the main models of politics. It wasn't clear to many, I think, what the alternative to this might look like. In many ways, it's a sort of model that grows up out of their own community. It's the kind of politics that grows out of a traditional family in some ways. It's the sense that, "Well, there's a patriarch who's the head of the household but also the head of the community." They should provide and take care of their community. In exchange, they should get the loyalty of their constituents and their supporters.

There's also a sense that their loyalty is the main way that they pay back their benefactors, those who have supported them. Even if they have some misgivings or grumblings, or they think the mayor can be a little too iron-fisted or whatever, there's also a sense that they should be loyal to that person because they owe them something.

Aaron: Given all of that, and given the personal and transactional nature of the politics and the politics as extended family, as you describe it, the initial motivation of this book and the ethnographies that you conducted was that there was something new about Trump or Trumpism, or Trump as a candidate. It attracted what had been historically very, very exclusively blue communities. These were Democratic strongholds.

Given all of this, within this context, what does it mean for them to have been Democrat? You said this wasn't really about policy per se, so were they meaningfully Democratic in the way that we would think about it, from the perspective of looking broadly in American politics? Democrats represent a set of policy preferences and a certain coalition. Do they even fit within that? Or was it more just that this was a label, but they could have had a different one slapped on, and it wouldn't have been meaningfully distinct?

Stephanie: Yes, I think one thing that became very clear was that because of the relationships with these party elites in their local community, what the party meant, meant relationships with these local party leaders. What they understood "Democrat" to mean had been very much reflected or filtered through these local party leaders. A lot of their, I would say, social-cultural ideas were quite conservative.

Some of them made a point of saying, "I'm a Democrat and I'm a conservative." For example, we met a woman in Rhode Island who was from a deeply political family herself and had been a low local-level political leader--so not someone who was out of touch or disengaged at all. She talked about the revelation that Democrats were pro-choice. For her, this was a shock.

She had to wake up to this fact because she herself and her family were fierce Democrats. She had been told since she was a child that if the Republicans get into power, we'll all starve. It was that kind of rhetoric we've heard from a lot of people. But she was also from this deeply Catholic, church-going, mass-going family. She said she would go to mass and see her elected local leaders also taking communion.

It never crossed her mind that these people would not be pro-life. On a lot of the social-cultural issues in Elliott County, which was very rural, one big issue had to do, of course, with guns and the Second Amendment. All the Democrats were very pro-Second Amendment in Elliott County. They didn't feel a sense of cognitive dissonance because their understanding was so local.

Jon: And as Stephanie suggested, too, in some ways, they do have a sense that Republicans are the party of the rich. That resonates with what a lot of Democrats might say about the Republican Party and have said for a long time, but it's a very class-bound, New Deal, Democratic sense of the parties. Indeed, in some of the restaurants in these towns, it's not uncommon to find pictures of JFK or FDR.

They had a sense that those were the patron saints of the party. They did have a sense that they were part of something larger than their own local, particular community. It's like the culture wars were this thing that was blowing beyond their own local lives, and they didn't have a sense of where the parties landed on guns or abortion or those kinds of questions. That surprised us. That was interesting.

In lots of ways, of course, these people, on a lot of these issues, they're kind of conservative. They're pretty pro-Second Amendment. They're fairly pro-life. Although on economic questions, they're more moderate or even left-leaning. Ottumwa, Iowa, for example: It's a place with a meat-packing plant. There's a strong tradition of unionism there.

Basically, it's as if you froze the Democratic Party in the North in 1960 and took a peek at it; that's more what these places are like. It almost felt like going back in time a little bit. We got to peer at the old Democratic Party, as it used to be. We were reminded that it didn't all change overnight--that there are still these vestiges of this old party that have endured partly because they're isolated and they have this strong localism. The local leads buffer them from some of the big changes that are happening at the national level.

Indeed if you talk to local people, one of the major things they're trying to do is create their own brand, because they know that there's a big ideological divide between them and the national party. They want to keep the Democratic Party as localized as they can. Trump has made that a lot harder for them in all kinds of ways, because a lot of these folks are starting to become more aware of the national party and the ways in which it's different from their local party.

Localism versus Cosmopolitanism

Aaron: One of the broad theses of your book is that Trump appealed to these communities in part because the very things that those of us in our coastal, rootless, cosmopolitan enclaves were often dramatically, viscerally turned off by about him were the very things that felt the most familiar about him to the voters in these communities. As just discussed, he looked like the politicians that they're used to. What we saw as wild corruption and nepotism and so on was just business as usual--that's of course how politicians operate.

I want to move to another one that you discuss, which is honor cultures, because Trump for many of us was this famously belligerent but thin-skinned bully who couldn't back down. Constantly, anytime anyone said anything, he needed to come back at them, even if he looked ridiculous doing it. It seemed very off-putting to all of us. As you point out, this is like a quintessential "honor culture." 

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Israeli startup on track for 'recharging roads' project at Italy's Bergamo Airport (SUE SURKES , 6/16/22, Times of Israel)

Israeli company Electreon, whose technology is integrated into roads that recharge the batteries of electric vehicles as they travel on them, is on track to design a lane for shuttles and service vehicles at Bergamo Airport northwest of Milan, Italy, the company said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Florida is the only state to skip pre-ordering Covid-19 vaccines for kids (AREK SARKISSIAN, 06/15/2022, Politico)

Florida is the only state in the nation that has not placed an order with the federal government for doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for young children, saying the distribution process is "convoluted."

Moloch must be appeased. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


June 15, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Confederate flag-toting man, son convicted in Capitol riot (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 06/15/2022)

A federal judge on Wednesday convicted a Confederate flag-toting man and his son of charges that they stormed the U.S. Capitol together to obstruct Congress from certifying President Joe Biden's 2020 electoral victory.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden delivered the verdict from the bench after hearing two days of testimony without a jury for the trial of Delaware residents Kevin Seefried and his adult son, Hunter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Cause of America's Gun-Death Epidemic? It's GunsWhen comparing state to state, and nation to nation, more firearms usually means more firearms-related deaths (Michael Shermer, 15 Jun 2022, Quillette)

In a comprehensive 2011 study reported in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, researchers compared the United States to 25 other high-income countries in regard to homicide, suicide, and unintentional gun deaths among five- to 14-year-old children. The results were reported as a series of ratios, expressing the US rate as a multiple of the average for 25 other high-income countries.

For non-gun-related homicides, the ratio was 1.7 to one, indicating that per-capita homicide deaths among US five- to 14-year-old children were found to run about 70 percent higher than the average for other wealthy nations. But for gun-related homicides, the ratio was an astonishing 13.2 to one.

The pattern was similar for suicide. In the case of non-gun-related suicides, the ratio was found to be 1.3 to one, indicating that per-capita suicide deaths among US five- to 14-year-old children were found to run about 30 percent higher than the average for other comparable nations. Where the suicides are gun-related, on the other hand, the ratio is 7.8 to one. And in the category of unintentional gun deaths, the ratio was found to be 10.3 to one.

In other words, for rates of non-gun-related homicides and suicides, there's a significant but not startling difference between the United States and other Western nations. But the ratio shifts dramatically, almost by a full order of magnitude, once someone picks up a gun. And the reason isn't complicated: Guns are far less forgiving than other methods of attempted homicide and suicide. When a couple of drunken guys get into fisticuffs at a bar, it mostly results in bruised bodies and egos, but add a gun into the mix and someone is likely going to the morgue while the other is headed to prison.

When people attempt suicide, they don't always want to kill themselves. According to my friend and colleague Dr. Ralph Lewis, a psychiatrist who treats people in crisis, many say, "I don't know what came over me. I don't know what I was thinking." An overdose of medications or a botched attempt at slit wrists may grant someone a second chance at life. With guns, that is much less likely.

As well, consider the fact that, homicide excepted, crime rates in the United States are comparable to those in other Western countries that have few guns‚ including rates for car theft, burglary, robbery, sexual assault, aggravated assault, and adolescent fighting. It's US homicide rates that are a category of their own--because of guns.

If it isn't clear by now that the primary cause of gun violence is guns, and that curbing their availability and capacity can attenuate the resulting carnage (though such measures cannot eliminate it entirely), let me offer a few additional observations, starting with the popular meme among gun-rights activists that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

This slogan simply isn't true. Gun-control legislation does not mean outlawing guns any more than the licensing and regulation of automobiles means that only outlaws will have cars. The 1934 National Firearms Act, regulating the manufacture and sale of machine guns (and backed by the National Rifle Association at time), did not result in only outlaws having machine guns. Where is today's George "Machine Gun" Kelly? He's not around, because machine guns are regulated and restricted. This is the kind of rational gun control that even today's more militant NRA can (or at least should) get behind.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind and solar power are 'bailing out' Texas amid record heat and energy demand (Ella Nilsen, June 14, 2022, CNN)

Texans are cranking on the air conditioning this week amid an unusually early heat wave, setting new records for electricity demand in the state, which surpassed 75 gigawatts on Sunday and smashed the 2019 record. Texas grid operator ERCOT projects it could approach that peak again on Tuesday.

But unlike previous extreme weather events in Texas which led to deadly blackouts, the grid is holding up remarkably well this week. Several experts told CNN that it's owed in large part to strong performances from wind and solar, which generated 27 gigawatts of electricity during Sunday's peak demand -- close to 40% of the total needed.

Pity the poor petrophiles. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The strange afterlife of New Atheism (Sebastian Milbank, 15 June, 2022, The Critic)

What do the terms "biological reality" and "objective truth" conjure for you? Or how about "freedom of speech", and complaints about "orthodoxy" suppressing "scientific inquiry"? In current political debates you're likely to think of the never-ending trans controversies, or rightwingers complaining about the lack of free speech in workplaces and university campuses. 

In other words they're now "conservative" coded terms, and if you hear someone using them you can make educated guesses about the rest of their beliefs. But not very long ago this sort of language was deployed not by the right, but the left, in arguments about climate change, and the reality of Darwinian evolution. In the early 2000s being progressive meant being pro-science, pro-objectivity and pro-materialism. 

The great battles, we were told, were between moderate, rational liberals who just wanted to agree on objectively observable facts -- we knew how old the earth was, and it wasn't created 8000 years ago; we knew the climate was changing, and that humans were causing it. It was wild-eyed religious conservatives who put ideology before observable reality. But insisting too hard on the importance of genetics today gets you drummed out of academic institutions by the left, not the right. 

It was never about anything more than liberating white men from morality. 

June 14, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Raskin blames "semantic confusion" for divide over Jan. 6 criminal referrals (Alayna Treene, 6/14/22, Axios)

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a member of the House Jan. 6 committee and a constitutional law expert, said Tuesday there's been "semantic confusion from the beginning" about the panel's authority to issue criminal referrals.

Why it matters: The committee has already laid out its view in court filings that former President Trump engaged in a "criminal conspiracy" to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden's election victory.

But Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) surprised reporters on Monday when he declared the committee wouldn't send criminal referrals to the Justice Department, saying it's "not our job."
Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and other members later clarified that the committee "has not issued a conclusion regarding potential criminal referrals," and Raskin himself said the decision likely wouldn't be made until the panel's final report comes out later this year.

Driving the news: "I, speaking as one member, have no doubt that there are" federal crimes that will feature in the final report, Raskin told Axios and others on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

"I'm not trying to be coy here," Raskin said. "If there's evidence of crimes that we think is relevant to our investigation, we will put it out there. But there's not a separate process for making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice."

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THE TIGHTENING NOOSE (profanity alert):

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Border officers circulate coin memorializing treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio (MICHAEL WILNER AND JACQUELINE CHARLES, JUNE 14, 2022, Miami Herald)

 An unofficial challenge coin memorializing the treatment of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, last summer, is circulating among border patrol officers. A controversial moment captured last fall on the U.S. southern border of an officer on horseback in Del Rio, Texas, has been memorialized on "a challenge coin" that is circulating among border patrol officers.[...]

The unofficial coin, a token of memorabilia, embraces some of the most controversial elements of the scandal, where video footage appeared to show white border agents using their reins as whips against Black migrants.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Schiff says evidence of Trump being responsible for Jan. 6 attack is 'very powerful' (OLAFIMIHAN OSHIN, 06/12/22, The Hill)

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that the evidence of former President Trump being responsible for the Jan 6, 2021 attack at the U.S. Capitol is "very powerful."

"The evidence is very powerful that Donald Trump ... began telling this big lie even before the elections, that he was saying that any ballots counted after Election Day were going to be inherently suspect," Schiff told moderator Martha Raddatz on ABC's "This Week."

"That lie continued after the election and ultimately led to this mob assembling and attacking the Capitol," he added. 

Schiff also said that there is enough evidence that links Trump with white nationalist groups before the riot, adding that the connection will be a clear focus of their investigation. 

At least the Aryan Brotherhood will have his back. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


The untold story of Ginni Thomas' anti-cult activism -- after she was 'deprogrammed' (Allan Smith and Alex Seitz-Wald, 6/14/22, NBC News)

In the 1980s, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas had a moment of clarity: She realized she had fallen in with a group she considered "a cult" and sought to be "deprogrammed" from it, she said in decades-old remarks obtained by NBC News.

Thomas' involvement with Lifespring, an organization advertising training seminars purporting to help participants unlock almost superhuman potential, left her wondering what it was about herself that allowed her to be drawn in.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Everything We Know About the 31 Patriot Front Members Arrested in a U-Haul (Vice News, 6/14/22)

Unsurprisingly, all 31 of the men who were arrested are white and male, per the group's requirements. According to a booking memo, all men were aged between 20 and 40 (Patriot Front typically requires members to be under the age of 35). 

They hailed from a dozen different states: seven from Texas, six from Utah, and five from Washington. Just two are from Idaho, but neither are from Coeur d'Alene. 

They were booked on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to riot. Law enforcement recovered shields, shin guards, and a smoke grenade in the rented U-Haul truck. 

The arrests set off an online feeding frenzy among antifascist activists, who, since Saturday, have been trying to glean more information about the men behind the names and mugshots. 

An activist group in Spokane, Washington, identified brothers Mishael Buster and Josiah Buster, both arrested in Idaho. They are the sons of Matt Buster, who leads a congregation called the "Real Men's Ministry" and has ties to former Washington state rep. Matt Shea, who was accused by his colleagues of domestic terrorism. 

Activists in Portland, Oregon, identified another arrestee, Jared Boyce, as being formerly affiliated with a slightly more moderate far-right group Patriot Prayer, particularly in connection with the anti-lockdown movement in March 2020. 

Patriot Front formed in 2017 as a splinter faction of a neo-Nazi group Vanguard America, which came under heavy scrutiny after members were seen at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville marching alongside James Alex Fields, who later rammed his car into a crowd of protesters and killed one. 

Thomas Rousseau, 23, the former leader of Vanguard America's Texas chapter, created Patriot Front around some of the hard lessons that the far-right had learned from Charlottesville. Rousseau realized that openly embracing neo-Nazi iconography and rhetoric, as Vanguard America had done, was detrimental to the movement's broader goals of radicalizing more people to white nationalist ideology. Instead, Patriot Front cultivates a preppy Americana aesthetic, and relies on euphemism to express old racist tropes and ideas. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Yamina's Kahana says he'd expel all Arabs, but admits they're here to stay  (MICHAEL BACHNER, 6/14/22, Times of Israel)

"If there were a button you could press that would make all the Arabs disappear, that would send them on an express train to Switzerland -- may they live amazing lives there, I wish them all the best in the world -- I would press that button," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Consciousness Of Guilt' Among Pardon-Seeking House Republicans (Chibueze Godwin, June 14 | 2022, National Memo)

It was Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the vice-chair of the select committee, who disclosed during her opening statement that "multiple Republican congressmen sought presidential pardons for their roles in attempting to overturn the 2020 election."

That so many House Republicans sought pardons could be construed as an admission of guilt, an acknowledgment of their involvement in possibly illegal conduct, and a sign of "potentially perilous legal and political moments to come" for former President Trump and his congressional allies.

"Why would members do that if they felt that their involvement in this plot to overturn the election was somehow appropriate?" Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked on ABC's This Week, speaking of the pardon-seeking House Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jan. 6-related filing reveals US Marine was jailed for plot to shoot up synagogue (RON KAMPEAS, 6/14/22, JTA)

 A filing in a case stemming from the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol revealed that a US Marine in a relationship with one of the defendants served 19 months in custody for a plot to shoot up a synagogue.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ELEPHANT IN THE ZOOMMeltdowns Have Brought Progressive Advocacy Groups to a Standstill at a Critical Moment in World History (Ryan Grim, June 13 2022, The Intercept)

During the first week of June 2020, teams of workers and their managers came together across the country to share how they were responding to the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis and to chart out what -- if anything -- their own company or nonprofit could do to contribute toward the reckoning with racial injustice that was rapidly taking shape.

On June 2, one such huddle was organized by the Washington, D.C., office of the Guttmacher Institute, the abortion rights movement's premier research organization.

Heather Boonstra, vice president of public policy, began by asking how people were "finding equilibrium" -- one of the details we know because it was later shared by staff with Prism, an outlet that focuses on social justice advocacy.

She talked about the role systemic racism plays in society and the ways that Guttmacher's work could counter it. Staff suggestions, though, turned inward, Prism reported, "including loosening deadlines and implementing more proactive and explicit policies for leave without penalty." Staffers suggested additional racial equity trainings, noting that a previous facilitator had said that the last round had not included sufficient time "to cover everything." With no Black staff in the D.C. unit, it was suggested that "Guttmacher do something tangible for Black employees in other divisions."

Behind Boonstra's and the staff's responses to the killing was a fundamentally different understanding of the moment. For Boonstra and others of her generation, the focus should have been on the work of the nonprofit: What could Guttmacher, with an annual budget of nearly $30 million, do now to make the world a better place? For her staff, that question had to be answered at home first: What could they do to make Guttmacher a better place? Too often, they believed, managers exploited the moral commitment staff felt toward their mission, allowing workplace abuses to go unchecked.

The belief was widespread. In the eyes of group leaders dealing with similar moments, staff were ignoring the mission and focusing only on themselves, using a moment of public awakening to smuggle through standard grievances cloaked in the language of social justice. Often, as was the case at Guttmacher, they played into the very dynamics they were fighting against, directing their complaints at leaders of color. Guttmacher was run at the time, and still is today, by an Afro Latina woman, Dr. Herminia Palacio. "The most zealous ones at my organization when it comes to race are white," said one Black executive director at a different organization, asking for anonymity so as not to provoke a response from that staff.

These starkly divergent views would produce dramatic schisms throughout the progressive world in the coming year.

Snowflakes melt. 

June 13, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Awaiting the cure for high prices (Sam Ro, 6/13/22, TKer)

They often say that the cure for high prices is high prices.

The idea is that when the price for something goes up by too much, fewer people will be willing or able to pay for it. And so demand comes down, and in turn the price comes down.

But while inflation has indeed been running hot, the problem -- ironically -- is that consumers and businesses are in unusually strong financial positions. And while this may prevent any economic slowdown from becoming economic calamity, it's also a curse in that it has enabled consumers and businesses to pay the higher prices.

And so, we continue to get a lot of good news about the economy, which is unfortunately bad news for inflation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the GOP stokes white fear of Black gun violence (Juan Williams, Jun. 13th, 2022, The Hill)

The GOP, an 83 percent white party, has found the villain behind its own failure to seriously grapple with gun violence. 

The bad guys are Blacks and Latinos. 

Say what? Let's listen. 

It was "two black racists [who] killed eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge" in 2016, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said at a Senate hearing last week. 

Here's Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), also trying to dilute ties between gun violence and white supremacists, identifying a New York gunman who shot at people in a subway as a "Black supremacist." 

Here's Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), at the same hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He identified an Asian woman and a Black man as the villains who threw "a Molotov cocktail into a police vehicle during the antifa riots." 

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank picked up on those senators' comments in a column last week. And they're part of a larger pattern. 

From Arizona, here is GOP Senate candidate, Blake Masters. He said the real gun problem is coming from "people in Chicago, in St. Louis, shooting each other. Very often, you know, Black people, frankly." 

The core logic from these white, male, right-wing conservatives falls apart if the listener knows that mass shootings in the U.S. are overwhelmingly committed by white gunmen. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP governor says Trump is 'politically, morally responsible' for Jan. 6 (Brad Dress, Jun. 12th, 2022, The Hill)

"Trump is politically, morally responsible for much of what has happened, but in terms of criminal liability, I think the committee has a long way to go to establish that," the governor said of the House select panel investigating Jan. 6. [...]

The Arkansas governor said Jan. 6 was a "costly error" for democracy and called for the Republican Party to try and understand what happened that day and learn from it.

"Republicans need to do a lot of soul searching as to what is the right thing here and what is the right thing for our democracy in the future," Hutchinson said, "and not simply adhere to the basic instincts of some of our base."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


I rallied for the survival of Israel in 1967 but now I worry about its future: The occupation has tempered my confidence in Israel's survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. (Jonathan Jacoby, June 09, 2022, The Forward)

The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once warned that maintaining an occupation would lead to apartheid. In the early 1990s, I worked with Rabin to promote his vision of peace and security in my role as president of Israel Policy Forum. Rabin was a fierce warrior for Israel and the Jewish people. I don't believe he would have exploited antisemitism to counter critics of Israel, even the harshest among them. He would have challenged Israel's opponents on substance, having no patience for empty rhetoric.

Using accusations of antisemitism to stifle debate about Israel's policies is not only wrong but also short-sighted and dangerous. It diverts the debate away from the substance to whether something is -- or is not -- antisemitic. If we want to condemn opponents of Israeli policies for being antisemites, we should denounce Jordanian shopkeepers for displaying Mein Kampf in their windows and punish pro-Palestinian assaults on Jews in the U.S. as hate crimes.

Misguided accusations of antisemitism also distract from addressing actual instances of anti-Jewish bigotry. The security guard at the entrance to my synagogue is not there to protect congregants against those who want to boycott Israel. He is there to prevent another Pittsburgh, or Poway, or Colleyville. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in 2021 rose by 60% from the previous year, and when every perceived slight is labeled antisemitic, I believe it dilutes the very real and pressing need to better protect American Jews.

Weaponizing antisemitism also hurts Israel. Toxic environments leave no space for debate. Without an open debate about Israeli policy, the occupation will metastasize.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox Hosts Insist Their Anti-Semitic Attacks On Soros Aren't Anti-Semitic (Cydney Hargis, June 13 | 2022, National Memo)

Fox News has a well-established history of using thinly-veiled antisemitic attacks against Soros' political and philanthropic efforts, including an ominous warning just days ago that he is "seeking to take down America from within."

These lines of attack are derived from a centuries-old conspiracy theory that a cabal of Jews is controlling the government and the media for nefarious purposes. Most recently, it has become a favorite of white nationalists and was mentioned as an inspiration by several mass shooters. In 2018, Soros was one of several people who were targeted by a Trump supporter who mailed pipe bombs to individuals and organizations perceived to be opponents of the then-president

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Olaf Scholz gets lost in communication over war in Ukraine (HANS VON DER BURCHARD AND LAURENZ GEHRKE, June 13, 2022, Politico)

Sometimes, the issue is simply Scholz's enigmatic sentences -- the chancellor long ago earned the nickname "Scholzomat" for his mechanic, austere speaking style. 

Other times, he has been caught over-promising or changing his story. At various points, the chancellor has offered misleading claims about Germany's aid to Ukraine, given multiple accounts of why he hasn't visited Kyiv yet and shifted the timelines for important weapons deliveries. 

Most recently, Scholz raised eyebrows with the bold -- and untrue -- claim that "no one" had supplied Ukraine "on a similar scale as Germany does."

"You have to be careful that such communication doesn't come across as strange," said Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, chair of the German parliament's defense committee and a member of the Free Democrats (FDP), which governs in a coalition with Scholz's Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens. [...]

[T]he result has been that Scholz's government -- despite being a major donor for Ukraine, injecting vast sums into its own military and soon supplying Ukraine with state-of-the-art German howitzers -- is getting slammed at home and internationally. The opprobrium seems to have even had a spillover effect at the polls, with Scholz's SPD recently falling behind the Greens in a national poll for the first time in months. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


South Carolina GOP Candidate Vows To Execute McConnell And Graham For 'Treason' (Kyle Mantyla, June 13 | 2022, National Memo)

Mark Burns, an unabashed Christian nationalist MAGA pastor who is running for Congress in South Carolina, declared that if he is elected, he will reinstate the House Un-American Activities Committee so that the government can "start executing people" guilty of treason. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Head of US white supremacist group among those arrested near Idaho Pride parade (LINDSAY WHITEHURST and SAN METZ, 6/12/22, AP)

The 31 Patriot Front members were arrested with riot gear after a tipster reported seeing people loading up into a U-Haul like "a little army" at a hotel parking lot in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, police said.

Among those booked into jail on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to riot was Thomas Ryan Rousseau of Grapevine, Texas, who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the 23-year-old who founded the group after the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. No attorney was immediately listed for him and phone numbers associated with him went unanswered Sunday.

June 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Proud Boys' Latino connection, explained (Marcela García, June 10, 2022, Boston Globe)

Of course, the Proud Boys' links to white supremacy activism and violence has been well documented, even prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection. What has yet to be deeply examined is why far-right groups are attractive to Latinos like Tarrio. Why would a person from a marginalized, oppressed group identify with white supremacy ideology?

The go-to explanation is the "Hispanics are not a monolith" mantra, which, while accurate, also feels a tad superficial. Sure, my identity and political views as a Mexican American raised in Mexico but living in Boston for the past two decades are likely to be different from a second-generation Mexican American from McAllen, Texas, or a recently-arrived Venezuelan refugee in Miami. It's how some of the Proud Boys' appeal to Latinos in the Miami area has been explained: Cubans and Venezuelans' fear of communism and socialism made them turn to the Republican Party and, in some cases, drove them to become right-wing activists.

But to truly dig deep into the connection between white nationalism and Latinos, we must explore complex racial and ethnic dynamics within the Latinx community -- specifically, the insidious anti-Black bias.

Tanya Katerí Hernández, a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, is the author of the upcoming book "Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equality," in which she looks "at the ways Latinos espouse two things simultaneously," she said in an interview. "One, that [we] are not discriminatory, that we don't have racism, or at least not the way in which North Americans have racism. And that's because we are racially evolved and racially mixed. And so there is no white and there is no Black."

So the conventional thinking goes, "[Latinos] can't possibly harbor discrimination," she said. But "embedded within much of our language and much of our actions are a lot of anti-Black, prejudicial attitudes." Hernández's research touches on extremism and physical violence but also on the myriad ways Latinos are involved in acts of discrimination against Black people, such as in the real estate market or in the workplace.

While it may still be shocking for people to learn who the leader of the Proud Boys is -- a Latino who, as the Capitol attack unfolded, reportedly took credit for it, writing in an encrypted text, "Make no mistake. We did this" -- this isn't the first time that Latinos have been involved in a self-identified, self-professed white supremacist collective, according to Hernández. Other examples of Latinos linked to white nationalist groups: Juan Cadavid, originally from Colombia, took part in pro-Trump violent clashes in Southern California in 2017; Alex Michael Ramos, a Puerto Rican from Georgia who beat a Black man during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, also in 2017; and Nick Fuentes, the young white nationalist influencer of Mexican American descent.

What drives a non-white person to take part in violence against racial minorities? "What's the best way to distance yourself from feeling like you're part of an oppressed group? It's to align yourself with those who are part of the oppressors," said Hernández. Additionally, whiteness has been very elastic throughout history, she said. "People who today we think of as white people with Italian American or Irish American ancestry were, at the turn of last century, viewed as non-white. Whiteness sort of expanded to include them."

Once heard a Mexican on a work crew shamelessly respond to a Texan's racial hectoring with: "At least I'm not an "n-word."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US police arrest 31 men of white nationalist hate group for conspiracy to riot (Deutsche-Welle, 6/12/22)

The local resident who called the police told the dispatcher that it "looked like a little army was loading up into the vehicle" in the parking lot of a hotel, White said.

Coeur d'Alene police pulled the truck over about 10 minutes after the call. Police found riot gear, a smoke grenade, shin guards, and an "operation plan" from the van, all of which made their intentions to riot clear, White said.

"They came to riot downtown," White said. 

The men came from at least 11 states, including Texas, Colorado and Virginia. Only one man was from Idaho, White explained.

They're just "concerned parents."

June 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Pence-world's final takedown of Trump's Jan. 6 bid to remain in power revealed in his lawyer's memo (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN and KYLE CHENEY, 06/11/2022, Politico)

A day before a mob of Donald Trump supporters smashed their way into the Capitol to disrupt the transfer of presidential power, then-Vice President Mike Pence's top lawyer dashed off a fateful memo.

In the three-page document, attorney Greg Jacob concluded that if Pence were to embrace Trump's demand that he single-handedly block or delay the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, he would be breaking multiple provisions of the Electoral Count Act, the law that has governed the transfer of power since 1887.

Such a move, Jacob concluded, would assuredly fail in court. Or worse, he said, the courts would refuse to get involved and leave America in an unprecedented political crisis.

In that case, he said in the memo obtained by POLITICO and published for the first time, "the Vice President would likely find himself in an isolated standoff against both houses of Congress ... with no neutral arbiter available to break the impasse."

Jacob is scheduled to testify publicly Thursday to the Jan. 6 select committee about Pence's decision to resist Trump's pressure campaign. The panel declined to comment on Jacob's memo.

The memo informed Pence's ultimate decision to rebuff pressure from Trump to reverse the outcome of the election. Pence announced his decision the next day, when he traveled to the Capitol to preside over the Jan. 6 meeting of the House and Senate. His decision, in a letter that closely tracked Jacob's memo, inflamed a crowd of thousands of Trump supporters that the president had called to Washington to protest his defeat.

Within an hour of Pence's announcement, hundreds of members of that mob would bludgeon their way past police lines and into the Capitol itself, sending the vice president and members of Congress fleeing for safety. Some members of that mob chanted, "Hang Mike Pence."

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


The EU's Different Inflation Problem (Joseph Politano, 6/11/22, Apricitas Economics)

Switching gears back to aggregate demand, the Eurozone has ended up with the worst of both worlds in terms of growth and inflation. The US has stronger household balance sheets, rising incomes, and rapid real output growth coupled with inflation while the Eurozone has weaker wage and income growth coupled with equally high inflation. The wage data we have is, again, imperfectly comparable but still shows an important distinction--wages in the US are rising rapidly while wage growth has actually slowed down in the Eurozone.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Study Shows Widening Gap in Death Rates Between Democratic, Republican U.S. States (MARTIN M. BARILLAS, 6/10/22, Newsweek)

A new study claims that counties that voted for Democratic presidential candidates from 2000 to 2016 had lower death rates than residents of counties that voted for Republicans.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study shows that the difference in death rates between Democratic and Republican counties increased by a factor of more than six times from 2001 to 2019.

Bring in the replacements.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


After feds contact DeSantis' press secretary, she registers as foreign agent for former Soviet republic (Zac Anderson, 6/09/22, USA Today)

Last month, the DOJ sued casino mogul Steve Wynn in an attempt to compel him to register as a foreign agent. Wynn, who contributed $100,000 to DeSantis' campaign, is accused by DOJ of acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China and lobbying former President Donald Trump on the country's behalf.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Prosecutor who charged Michigan officer praised by his critics (JOHN FLESHER and ED WHITE, 6/10/22, The Associated Press)

 Black civil rights activists in April demanded that a Michigan prosecutor stand aside in the investigation of the police officer who killed Patrick Lyoya with a shot to the back of the head, claiming he was too cozy with local law enforcement.

Chris Becker's response: This is what I was elected to do.

Becker, a Republican, filed a second-degree murder charge Thursday against Grand Rapids Officer Christopher Schurr, whose fatal shot following a traffic stop on April 4 was recorded on a bystander's phone. The announcement was praised by critics who for weeks had said that Michigan's Democratic attorney general should take over.

"I was shocked, to be quite honest. I was absolutely shocked. I didn't expect that," said Cle Jackson, president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, who previously had said that an unbiased investigation by Becker's office was not possible.

"We're thankful for Chris having that fortitude to bring the charge that we feel comfortable with. Now we'll have to continue to fight in the courts," Jackson said.

June 10, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:21 PM


'Mike Pence Deserves It': Jan. 6 Panel Reveals Trump's Dark Desire (Jose Pagliery, Jun. 10, 2022, Daily Beast)

Less than 20 minutes into the hearing, ranking Republican on the panel--Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY)--revealed that, when then-President Donald Trump heard insurrectionists were calling to hang his vice president, Trump had an incredible reaction.

"Maybe our supporters have the right idea," Trump said, according to Cheney. "Mike Pence deserves it."

Donald's defense boils down to: "I'm not Robespierre, just Madame Defarge."

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Hard Wired: How evolutionary psychology ended up at the heart of the culture wars (Hari Kunzru, Yale Review)

According to evolutionary psychology, the brain is an information-processing system designed by natural selection in response to feedback from the environment. Individual behavioral adaptations are generated by specialized programs, or "modules," rather than emerging from some general-purpose, infinitely plastic architecture. So instead of the mind being a tabula rasa on which culture can write its many and varied scripts, culture is constrained and channeled by the process of natural selection that has created the evolved brain. And importantly, because evolution takes place over long time scales, the "Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness" for which the brain is supposedly optimized is an ancient one--namely, the savannah that exerted selection pressures on our ancestors.

This perspective is, among other things, a direct challenge to the idea, common in the social sciences, that culture occupies a realm separate from psychology and biology. In one of the landmark documents of evolutionary psychology, the 1992 essay "The Psychological Foundations of Culture," the psychologist Leda Cosmides and her anthropologist husband, John Tooby, briskly stated their opposition to this assumption. "Human minds, human behavior, human artifacts, and human culture are all biological phenomena," they insisted, "aspects of the phenotypes of humans."

A founding gesture of sociology, one of the things made it emerge as a coherent field at the end of the nineteenth century, was Émile Durkheim's characterization of "social facts" as a separate object of study from "those that form the subject matter of other sciences of nature." Cosmides and Tooby were claiming that "social facts" were not so distinct after all. If they were part of the human phenotype, an expression of genes interacting with the environment, then maybe they ought to be studied using of biology. The social sciences, they claimed, were suffering from "endemic failure," "malaise," and a "failure to thrive" brought on by their unwillingness to "locate their objects of study inside the larger network of scientific knowledge."

In the years after Cosmides and Tooby issued their challenge, evolutionary psychology has been on the frontlines of the American culture wars. Though its particular model of the evolved brain is contested by other research traditions, it might as well be the only game in town for consumers of popular media. Magazines and websites now feature a constant stream of headlines drawn from EvoPsych papers: a recent news search brought up stories about what men think of other men's beards, gay men's responsiveness to fertility cues, and whether men or women fall asleep faster after sex. Celebrity "pick-up artists" such as Destiny draw on what might be called "pop EvoPsych" to teach young men how to maximize dating success--in a video of one of his popular seminars, Destiny tells his students that "our attraction mechanism has been evolutionarily microcalibrated...by millions and millions of generations of both success stories and failure stories.... Your design is prepared for an ancient environment." And the EvoPsych approach to intimacy gets distilled into violent misogyny as it percolates through the "Manosphere," the internet milieu of men's rights activists, MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), and Incels, a subculture that has produced a number of mass murderers and is now widely recognized as a terrorist threat.

As its perspective has spread out into popular culture, pop EvoPsych has inflected highly charged debates about gender, race, violence, and social class. It has also permeated a receptive Silicon Valley culture that shares much of its intellectual DNA, particularly with regard to theories about information, feedback, and control. James Damore is far from the first young male engineer who has used EvoPsych to push back against the liberal ideology of diversity, to question postmodernist theories about the social construction of knowledge, or to provide a simple account of human nature that could help him steer a path through the unquantifiable complexities of the social world.

Evolutionary psychology's attack on social and cultural modes of explanation has obvious ramifications for left-wing political projects that derive their legitimacy from that tradition. Much of its popularity on the North American Right is because it provides ammunition in political gunfights that have little or nothing to do with theories about the evolution of the brain or the extent to which culture ought to be understood in terms of biology. When the psychologist and self-help writer Jordan Peterson talks about a "dominance hierarchy" that "however social or cultural it might appear, has been around for some half a billion years," he is making an appeal to evolution as an iron law, an absolute constraint on political and social possibility: opposing this dominance hierarchy, or trying to mitigate it, is going against nature. And this dream of a social order founded in nature has deep roots in the American political imagination.

Darwinism has never been anything more nor less than an attempt to justify oppression by white males (British Imperialism at its origins) as simply the natural scientific order. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Halving air pollution could yield up to 25% more food (Emma Bryce, June 10, 2022, Anthropocene)

Reining in air pollution--especially of one particular pollutant that's generated by burning fuel--would create cleaner air conditions that support thriving crops and boost agricultural yields in some countries by 25%, a new study finds.

These compelling estimates, from a new Science Advances study, builds on several other recent research papers involving many of the same scientists, which investigated the link between nitrogen oxides and declining crop yields in the US. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


 Inside Clean Energy: Solid-State Batteries for EVs Make a Leap Toward Mass Production (Dan Gearino, June 9, 2022, Inside Climate News)
At some point, the development of solid-state batteries--in which electrons flow through a solid material instead of a liquid or gel--is going to lead to electric vehicles that can go much farther on a charge and battery-storage systems that can hold more energy while taking up less space. We just don't know when that is going to be.

But in the last 10 days, two announcements offer reasons to think the answer is "sooner rather than later."

First, Solid Power, a Colorado-based company developing solid-state EV batteries for partners including Ford and BMW, said it has completed installation of a "pilot production line" that is capable of making about 300 battery cells per week. This signals that the technology is now moving from the lab to the factory.

Second, University of Houston researchers published a paper showing how they have developed a glasslike material that is highly effective as an electrolyte--the part of a battery that electrons pass through during cycles of charging and discharging--for use in a sodium-sulfur battery for energy storage. The research is notable because this is a solid-state battery, and because it shows the promise of sodium-sulfur batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries for long-duration energy storage.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


India's Modi Backs Away from Hindu Extremism (Philip Bowring, 6/10/22, Asia Sentinel)

India has been delivered a sharp, well-deserved shock, one which makes the very simple point that the nation cannot claim to be a major force in world affairs while being in thrall domestically to primitive and bigoted Hindu ideologists.

Modi himself may have seen that he cannot ride his Hindu bandwagon while at the same time being seen to be an increasingly important actor. The condemnation which greeted the anti-Muslim remarks of two leading BJP spokespersons came not just from Saudi Arabia and Gulf states known to be particularly prickly, Iran and Afghanistan, but also from Malaysia and Indonesia--the latter usually less sensitive in such matters.

That one of the persons making the offensive remarks was suspended from the BJP and another expelled while elsewhere a youth leader was arrested showed how alarmed Delhi was by the situation and the unanimity of Muslim response. The party suspended Nupur Sharma, one of its national spokespersons, for her anti-Islam remarks in a television debate end of May and expelled Naveen Kumar Jindal, who heads the party's media unit in Delhi for his inflammatory tweets about the Prophet.

In the short term, this response should calm relations but it is now clear that the Muslim neighbors have been alerted to the steady rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in India spurred by the activists of Modi's party and hitherto tolerated by the prime minister himself.

Pretty hilarious the way folks are perplexed by the way the American Right, Xi, India, Israel, etc. don't oppose Vlad. The through-line could hardly be clearer.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Jan. 6 committee blames Trump for insurrection, says it was an 'attempted coup' (LISA MASCARO, MARY CLARE JALONICK and FARNOUSH AMIRI, 6/10/22, The Associated Press)

The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol laid the blame firmly on Donald Trump Thursday night, saying the assault was hardly spontaneous but an "attempted coup" and a direct result of the defeated president's effort to overturn the 2020 election.

With a never-before-seen 12-minute video of extremist groups leading the deadly siege and startling testimony from Trump's most inner circle, the 1/6 committee provided gripping detail in contending that Trump's repeated lies about election fraud and his public effort to stop Joe Biden's victory led to the attack and imperiled American democracy

"Democracy remains in danger," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the panel, during the hearing, timed for prime time to reach as many Americans as possible.
"Jan. 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup, a brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after Jan. 6, to overthrow the government," Thompson said. "The violence was no accident."

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


At 82, Herbie Hancock is ever the adventurer (James Sullivan, June 8, 2022, Boston Globe)

Having credited his own musical mentors effusively over the years, Hancock has devoted much of his recent time to his own mentoring. He's the chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz at UCLA; in 2014 he served as the Charles Eliot Norton professor of poetry at Harvard University, delivering six lectures on the theme "The Ethics of Jazz."

The lectures covered the full range of Herbie, including rule-breaking, embracing new technologies (he's cut tracks on Fender Rhodes, the ARP Odyssey synthesizer, Moog, Mellotron, and keytar), and "The Wisdom of Miles Davis." One talk focused on Buddhism's role in creativity.

This year marks his 50th year as a Buddhist practitioner. He had a vision one unlikely night in 1972 in a Seattle nightclub, he explains, after he and his bandmates arrived with less than two hours of sleep under their belts. The night before, they'd taken advantage of several parties, and Hancock was feeling less than inspired.

So he called a tune that began not with him but bassist Buster Williams. What Williams played that night to kick off the concert was astonishing, Hancock says.

"There was something coming out of him that I'd never heard before. He woke all of us up somehow. We had an amazing set. Some people who came up to us afterward were crying."

Later, Hancock asked the double bass player what had given him the strength to summon the performance. It was his Buddhist practice, Williams replied. Hancock was skeptical.

"Oh, you don't have to believe in it," Williams said. "Belief is something that grows from doing it and seeing that it works."

As Hancock testifies, Nichiren Buddhism "promotes looking at the world in different ways than most of us look at it," merging the external world with one's own individual being.

"You find out how to turn poison into medicine, sorrow into joy," he says. "Inside is outside."

Having always identified as a musician, one day while chanting, he thought about his wife.

"And I had an epiphany about who I am," he recalls. "To her, I'm her husband, not a musician. To my daughter, I'm her father. I'm a friend, I'm an American citizen, I'm an African-American, I'm a citizen of the world.

"The fact is that I'm a human being." Being a musician, he says, is what he does, not what he is.

June 9, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Deep Cut: Behind the Scenes with a Knife-Making GeniusNobody crafts knives quite like Quintin Middleton. Probably because his story is one of a kind. (STINSON CARTER, JUN 9, 2022, Gear Patrol)

I cruise slowly down the gravel road and park in the grass beside his new home, currently under construction. By the time I step outside, he's greeting me with an outstretched, work-gloved hand. We had met a week earlier at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, where he presided over a table draped in a white tablecloth, every square inch covered by his stunning chef's knives, paring knives, fillet knives, cleavers, and his newest creation: a crowdfunded folding chef's knife called the Ona.

There, he held court in a black leather jacket zipped to his neck and a different set of gloves to keep fingerprints off the blades, sharing the fruits of his labor with all manner of aspiring foodies. At his home, I saw the other side of the show table. A world of grinder belts, steel dust and hard work. I would come to learn that Middleton's ability to move in and out of different circles is one of the keys to his success.

"That's not just my cool swagger, that's a limp," he says as we make our way to his shop, referring to a physical disability resulting from nerve damage in his leg caused by a benign tumor that compressed his spinal cord. Parked in and around his shop are a golf cart, a three-wheeled motorcycle and a two-wheeled electric motorcycle that help him easily traverse his property. Everyone I have spoken to -- his friends and mentors -- confirms my impression of a man who rises to face this measure of adversity like he would any other. As an ordained minister and a "very spiritual person," his well of positive resolve runs deep.

The inside of Middleton's workshop is dark on this overcast day, with fluorescent lights hanging where they're needed most, like over the band saw he uses to cut the knife shapes out of sheets of stainless steel, or above the row of six grinders where he freehand-grinds his blades. Metal dust clings to everything, and on the wall hang hundreds of grinder belts, each with a different job to do.

Middleton makes both stainless steel and carbon steel knives, and each type begins in a different way. Stainless steel knives are cut out of small sheets of steel in a process called stock removal. Carbon steel blocks start off thicker and are heated in a forge and hammered out or kneaded into shape.

"A lot of people romanticize forging, and say that's the only way to make knives, but truthfully, everything is forged," he explains. That's because stainless steel has already been forged in the manufacturing process, whereas with carbon steel, you complete that step manually. "I learned how to do forging first, but after having all these issues with my body, forging is a little harder on my body and stock removal is easier for me," he says. Yet Middleton still makes knives both ways, and he makes a lot of them -- typically 30 a month.

Once the basic shape is outlined, Middleton uses belt grinders with varying grit levels to fine-tune the silhouette. Then it undergoes heat treatment. The first stage is high heat, around 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, for 15 minutes. Once rapidly cooled, the metal is extremely hard but also brittle. That's where tempering -- reheating the blade at 400 degrees over two hours -- comes in, lending much-needed resilience to the final product. One needs a deep understanding of how to use heat to manipulate the grain structure of the steel for the perfect balance of hardness and strength.

Next, Middleton grinds the bevel, or the cutting edge, of the knife. He etches a line down the middle of the steel as his grind-to point. "Everything for me is done by hand," he says, and this freehand grinding stage seems more art than science.

A chef's knife must be super thin for delicate tasks, unlike a hunting knife. Or as he puts it: "A chef's knife is a Ferrari, and a Bowie knife is a Hummer." When the blade is finished, he adds the handle material, using grinders to carve out his signature contoured "Coke bottle" handle shape, a tribute to the style of his mentor, Master Bladesmith Jason Knight.

When does he know a new knife makes the proverbial cut? "I have two rules," says Middleton. "It needs to perform well, and it needs to look sexy."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Utica Became a City Where Refugees Came to Rebuild (Susan Hartman, June 9, 2022, LitHub)

"The refugees helped stem the decline," Ms. Callahan said. "They have a great work ethic and are willing to take jobs that native folks don't want." The refugee center helps cushion the landing: It spends about $1,100-- federal and state money--on each refugee. Newcomers are given a furnished apartment, with the basics to get started.

Every refugee initially accesses public assistance--but is supposed to take the first viable job offered. "Refugees don't come here to be on public assistance," Ms. Callahan said. "That's not the dream."

Many currently work as dishwashers, groundskeepers, janitors, cooks, housekeepers, and card dealers at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Others are employed at Chobani, the yogurt factory in New Berlin, owned by Hamdi Ulukaya, a Turkish immigrant. Chobani estimates that approximately 30 percent of its manufacturing workforce in New Berlin are immigrants or refugees.

The Bosnians have been the most successful group.

Many arrived with educations and building skills. "All of us had everything," said Sefik Badnjevic, 62, a retired machinist, referring to the many middle-class lives uprooted by war. "We try to find here what we lost in Bosnia."

Mr. Badnjevic was offended when his new neighbors asked questions like: "Did you have stores in your country? Did you have a TV?"

He would show them a video of his home, which he shot before the war: "This is my apartment! This is my car!" he said.

The Bosnians quickly adapted, often working two jobs to get ahead. Then in the late 1990s, there was a stunning confluence of events: The fires, which had been raging for decades, abated. The city tore down almost 200 vacant structures; the National Guard helped clear away the debris.

And the Bosnians bought hundreds of run-down houses in East Utica. The stage was set for what amounted to a massive rebuilding project: Bosnian families--sometimes three generations--did the work themselves. They tore out and rebuilt kitchens; they put in extra bedrooms. They fixed up garages, built decks, and planted gardens.

Many chose two-family homes, living in one as they rebuilt the other.

They often rented the second to parents or siblings.

Every Saturday, for seven years, Mr. Zogby gave a ride home to a Bosnian woman who worked for his family as a housekeeper; in Bosnia, she had been a police officer. One Saturday, she told him she had moved, and directed him to her new home.

"It was only a few blocks from where I had grown up," Mr. Zogby said. It had been a photo studio, in a two-family house that had declined.

He pulled up to her new residence: She, her husband, and two tall sons had transformed it into a one-family home with white pillars.

"Outside was a massive American flag," he recalled. "I knew what she was saying: 'I turned this into my palace.' "

The Bosnians have now been in the city for two generations. They are doctors, nurses, physical therapists, contractors, police officers, firefighters, restaurateurs, bar owners, and restaurant managers. They work in Utica's banks and at City Hall.

Many have stayed in their renovated homes--rather than move to New Hartford, an affluent suburb--even as new, struggling refugees have settled in their neighborhoods.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why more European firms are choosing Vietnam over China (Deutsche-Welle, 6/09/22)

Vietnam was one of the few Asian countries that did not experience an economic contraction during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. This year,Vietnam's GDP is expected to grow by around 5.5%, according to the World Bank.

Vietnam's economic performance during and after the pandemic has captured the attention of some major European firms.

German automotive supplier Brose, which has 11 factories in China, is currently deciding between Thailand and Vietnam for a new production location.

In December, Denmark's Lego announced it will build a $1 billion (€935 million) factory near the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City, one of the largest European investment projects in Vietnam to date.

"It currently looks as if, in particular, medium-sized companies are increasingly striving to enter the Vietnam market or are putting their activities out of China on a broader basis," said Daniel Müller, manager at the German Asia-Pacific Business Association.

All China does is assemble parts of products we design--there's always a next location for that.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


EU lawmakers vote to ban sale of petrol cars, rejects 'weak' reforms to emissions trading (Deutsche-Welle, 6/09/22)

The world's third-largest polluter voted to outlaw the sale of CO2-emitting vehicles and rejected reforms to the EU's carbon market in Strasbourg on Wednesday as part of its biggest ever "Fit for 55" emissions reduction plan to try and prevent the dangerous impacts of climate change.

June 8, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


A Trump defense effort appears to falter, on the eve of Jan. 6 committee hearings (Steve Reilly, June 8, 2022, Grid)

An effort by Donald Trump's lawyer to publicly rebut the Jan. 6 committee appears to be sputtering, even as the former president presses allies on Capitol Hill to mount a vigorous defense on his behalf.

For more than a month, Florida-based Trump lawyer Peter Ticktin, a high school classmate of the ex-president's, has been circulating an open letter requesting videos that might portray the actions of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, in a positive light and cast doubt on the official version of events.

Addressed to "all Patriots," Ticktin's letter has been shared widely on far-right media outlets including the Gateway Pundit and other venues. It begins: "If you are reading this, you probably know that our election was stolen and that the whole January 6th 'Insurrection' was not what the Left want us to believe it was." He goes on to request footage supporting a version of events that has been widely debunked.

In an interview with Grid about the letter, Ticktin would not estimate the number of clips he has received, saying only that "more than a dozen videos" have been submitted so far.

By contrast, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has received more than 14,000 hours of security camera footage and over 140,000 documents.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When we don't have all the answers (Eleesa Jensen,  08 June 2022, Christianity Today)

Picture this: A man is sitting inside a refrigerator, and he is very cold. For now, there is enough food and drinks to sate him, but he knows he will run out and then he is not sure what to do. You open the door a little bit and there's an exchange like,

"What are you doing in there?"

"Not sure. I am very cold."

"You don't need to be, though. It's quite warm out here."

"That's very silly. How do I know I'll have food? And what will I do without the comforting order of these shelves? No, I'll stay here, thank you."

And maybe you're a little exasperated, bewildered. Maybe you just laugh at him and close the door.

But please understand the poor man's situation. He, like so many others, is trying to regulate things so they fit inside his head. Maybe because he is afraid of uncertainty, maybe he just won't consider anything he can't classify. It isn't like you wouldn't do the same if your world looked like his.

Maybe your world isn't fridge-sized, but it's probably pretty compressed. We humans like to think we are the most reliable measure of what can and cannot be. We draw the line at what we can explain.

The dirty secret is that we don't even understand the fridge.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The term "white privilege" backfires spectacularly and makes social change less likely (Christopher Quarles, 6/08/22, Big Think)

We recruited 924 U.S. residents from Amazon's Mechanical Turk for our experiment. Half of the research participants were given a social media post containing the following question: "Should colleges rename buildings that were named after people who actively supported racial inequality?"

The other half saw an identical question, except the term "racial inequality" was swapped with "white privilege." We randomly chose which half received each question.

This random assignment allowed us to show causality - and gave us confidence that the choice of language created the effects we saw.

We asked the participants to respond to their question, and also measured how likely they were to engage with the post in the first place. We then focused on the set of people who were likely to engage with that post online.

The term "white privilege" had two effects.

The first was to decrease the quality of conversation among both whites and non-whites. There were more comments that insulted people, attacked the question itself or simply made no sense.

The second effect was to make the set of responses less supportive of renaming the buildings - and more polarized.

The people who were asked about racial inequality were, on average, very supportive. Those who thought it was a good idea to rename college buildings outnumbered opponents more than 2-to-1.

ut the group that was asked about "white privilege" was strongly divided, with just as many opponents as supporters. This shift was caused completely by a change in some whites.

Use of "white privilege" caused 50% of whites who would have been supportive to become ambivalent or hostile. We don't know which half would have changed their minds. But, due to the experimental design, we can be confident they were there.

In addition, we found that many of the supportive whites just chose to avoid the conversation altogether. While they might have expressed their support for stopping racial inequality, they wouldn't join a conversation about white privilege.

June 7, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


Thoughts on the Michael Sussmann Verdict (Benjamin Wittes, June 1, 2022, Lawfare)

In the years since Donald Trump's election, the former president's supporters and opponents have often seemed to occupy entirely separate factual universes regarding both his conduct and the investigations of it. 

In the factual universe occupied by Trump's opponents, the former president serially engaged in the grossest of misbehavior, he was rightly subject to repeated investigations as a result, and he took aggressive and inappropriate actions to frustrate these investigations--leading to further investigative interactions.

Conversely, in the factual universe occupied by the former president's supporters, a conspiracy to defame and discredit Trump--led by the Hillary Clinton campaign and including the campaign's lawyers and investigators, the media and the FBI--developed during the 2016 campaign. The investigations of Trump during the campaign and subsequent to it were based not on any good faith belief, let alone any reality, that he or the people around him had done anything wrong. They were, rather, a "hoax"--a deliberate attempt to defraud the public.  

These two competing worldviews have long existed on parallel planes. They show up at the same congressional hearings and compete for airtime. Viewers can switch between them with a click of a remote control. But they almost never actually confront one another. 

Until, that is, the trial of a lawyer named Michael Sussmann, who was acquitted Monday morning by a federal jury in Washington DC. The Sussmann trial presented the closest thing we have seen to a simple showdown between these two worldviews. 

On the one side was Special Counsel John Durham, appointed by former Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate wrongdoing in the Russia investigation, peddling a semi-respectable version of the Trumpist theory of the case. 

On the other side was a lawyer facing a single charge of lying to the FBI, who argued at trial that he had tried to give the FBI a heads up about a weird new line of possible connection between Trump and Russia before it broke in the press. 

The trial, concerning this sole alleged false statement at a single brief meeting, took two whole weeks to present to the jury. 

It took that jury just six hours to reach a unanimous verdict of acquittal.   [...]

As the jury forewoman put it to NPR in the trial's wake, "I feel like we could have spent our time more wisely." 

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM

60-40 NATION:

The Center Lane is Wide Open (John Halpin, 6/07/22, Liberal Patriot)

According to fresh new polling from Global Progress and YouGov, conducted among more than 10,000 respondents in 9 leading democracies, an eye-catching 44 percent of Americans today place President Biden on either the very left-wing (30 percent) or somewhat left-wing (14 percent) side of the ideological scale. Only 12 percent of Americans place Biden directly in the center of the political spectrum, with another 14 percent placing him on the center-left.

Perceptions of former President Trump are even more extreme: nearly 4 in 10 Americans place Trump on the very right-wing side of the political scale and another 17 percent see him as somewhat right-wing. A mere 7 percent of Americans place Trump in the ideological center and another 8 percent on the center right.

Likewise, about one third of Americans overall view the Democratic Party as very left-wing and an equal percentage view the Republican Party as very right-wing. Only around 10 percent of Americans place either Democrats or Republicans in the center of the ideological spectrum, respectively.

In stark contrast to perceptions of their national leaders and the two parties, one quarter of Americans place themselves directly in the center of the ideological spectrum, with another 18 percent placing themselves either on the center-left or center-right in equal percentages. Only 1 in 10 Americans place themselves on either the far left or the far right, respectively. There's clearly a wide gulf between how Americans conceive of their own politics versus those represented by their national leaders and the two political parties.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Cash: Rays players not wearing LGBTQ logos won't divide team (AP, June 5, 2022)

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash addressed it after Sunday's game, saying he doesn't think it'll negatively impact the clubhouse because discussions among the players over past few weeks were constructive and emphasized the value of differing perspectives.

"First and foremost, I think the organization has done a really good thing to have Pride Night's supporting our gay community to come out and have a nice night at the ballpark," Cash said. "Impressed that our players have had those conversions and we want to support our players that choose to wear or choose not to wear to the best of our capabilities."

Reliever Jason Adam was among those who opted out, and said it was a "faith-based decision" for him.

"It's just what we believe the lifestyle he's (Jesus) encouraged us to live for our good, not to withhold," Adam told the Tampa Bay Times. "But we love these men and women, we care about them and we want them to feel safe and welcome here."


Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


In Reaganesque way, Ben Sasse takes on isolationists, American cynics, and Red Chinese (QUIN HILLYER, 6/07/22, Washington Examiner)

Eventually, Sasse segued into an exuberant re-enunciation of the "American idea" and a renunciation of the loud voices on both the political Left and Right who say our constitutional system neither works nor can work anymore.

"We should reject all such warped visions of this glorious inheritance we've received," said the Nebraska senator. "It's liars who tell us that our Constitution is obsolete, that principled pluralism can't possibly work anymore, that the very act of believing we can make it work again is quaint."

Alas, he said, "Think how long it's been since the American people have heard a big, optimistic, Reagan-like, aspirational message."

To his own Republican Party and conservative movement, Sasse offered a corrective: "American conservatives don't traffic in grievance. Our party must reject politicians who tell the American people that we're victims. We embrace leaders who tell the American people that we can write our own destiny. Americans have never wallowed in self-pity. The people who built this country and passed it on to us sought to make it better and more expansive and more inclusive. ... We in this country and in this party embrace leaders who understand that America makes legends, not victims."

Be easier to take him seriously had he voted to convict the cynical Isolationist Xi-supporter...either time he had the chance.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


California is about to experience a political earthquake. Here's why (Ronald Brownstein, June 7, 2022, CNN)

An earthquake is building in Tuesday's California elections that could rattle the political landscape from coast to coast.

In Los Angeles and San Francisco, two of the nation's most liberal large cities, voters are poised to send stinging messages of discontent over mounting public disorder, as measured in both upticks in certain kinds of crime and pervasive homelessness.

That dissatisfaction could translate into the recall of San Francisco's left-leaning district attorney, Chesa Boudin, likely by a resounding margin, and a strong showing in the Los Angeles mayoral primary by Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer and former Republican who has emerged as the leading alternative in the race to Democratic US Rep. Karen Bass, once considered the front-runner.

Linking both these contests -- as well as several Los Angeles City Council races and an ongoing effort to recall George Gascon, Los Angeles County's left-leaning district attorney -- is a widespread sense among voters in both cities that local government is failing at its most basic responsibility: to ensure public safety and order. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Antisemitic Conspiracy Theorists Believe About Vaccines (ELLEN WEXLER, 6/02/22, Moment)

In early January, the governor of Utah, the state Senate's minority whip, the owner of the Utah Jazz basketball team, and many of the region's prominent tech CEOs were all recipients of a mass email titled simply: "Genocide."

"I write this email knowing that many of you will think I'm crazy after reading it," the email began. "I believe there is a sadistic effort underway to euthanize the American people. It's obvious now. It's undeniable, yet no one is doing anything." 

It all comes back to vaccines, he explains. And what's more: "I believe the Jews are behind this." 

The rest of the email is riddled with misinformation and antisemitic tropes: that "the Jews" secretly created the COVID-19 vaccines to weaken immune systems. That they hope to kill billions of people this way. That American Hasidic Jews "instituted a law for their people that they are not to be vaccinated for any reason." The message, first reported by the local television station KSTU, stunned the Utah tech community. Equally stunning was who wrote it: Dave Bateman, cofounder of the Utah-based property management startup Entrata, which had just achieved a $1 billion valuation. The company's board of directors asked Bateman to step down, which he did--less than 24 hours after pressing "send."

From day one, COVID-19 vaccines have been a target of antisemitic conspiracy theories. But to understand them, it's important to start with conspiracy theories about the virus itself. As soon as the pandemic began, conspiracists were blaming it on the Jews. These early theories were usually some variation of the idea that Jews created the virus, or that they were trying to control it. In May 2020, a University of Oxford study found that nearly 20 percent of adults in England agreed to some extent with the statement that "Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

SUNUNU 2024:

REPORT: Granite State's Economy Fifth Best in Nation (Damien Fisher, 6/06/22, NH Journal)

New Hampshire has one of the strongest state economies in the country, with high rates of high-tech jobs, low unemployment, and a GDP growth rate that outperforms California, according to a new data analysis from WalletHub. 

The report, which looked at how each state's economy has fared since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic recession, ranks the Granite State as the fifth-best economy in America, behind Washington state, Utah, California, and Massachusetts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Greene Hires Pedo-Promoting Alt-Right Agitator Milo Yiannopoulos (David Badash, June 07 | 2022, National Memo)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has hired a far right-wing agitator and activist who appeared to support sexual "relationships" between boys as young as 13 and older men.

In 2016 Milo Yiannopoulos said, "I think in the gay world some of the most important, enriching, and incredibly life-affirming, important shaping relationships very often between younger boys and older men."

The MAGA brand.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Energy crisis reminds us why we need a rapid shift to renewables, says AEMO chief (Sophie Vorrath, 7 June 2022, Renew Economy)

The head of the Australian Energy Market Operator has stressed the continued, rapid build-out of large-scale renewable generation capacity must remains the nation's top priority, both to drive down energy costs and to get the grid to net-zero emissions.

Speaking at the Australian Energy Week conference in Melbourne on Tuesday, AEMO chief Daniel Westerman said "getting enough energy into the system" is top of the list of things he worries most about.

And the cheapest way to do that, he added, is to ramp up the rollout of large-scale solar and wind energy to the tune of a nine-fold increase - from 15GW today to 140GW by 2050 - which is what is being forecast in AEMO's latest Integrated System Plan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Steve Earle & the Dukes: Jerry Jeff (Bob Fish, 6/07/22, Spectrum Culture)

Earle makes it clear that Jerry Jeff Walker always was the man, "I wanted to be Jerry Jeff Walker more than anything else in the world at one point, long before I ever even met those guys. He's the glue to all of that for me." In fact, thanks to Walker he had his first experience with hitchhiking, "He was the first person I ever hitchhiked to go see," he recalls. "I went up to Austin on his birthday one year and I crashed his birthday party."

Eventually, while living in Nashville at the ripe old age of 19, he became Walker's driver. "He'd reached a point where he couldn't afford to get stopped in Nashville anymore. So, he'd come and get me to drive for him, which may or may not have been smart. But I didn't have as many dings on my license." What Earle learned could fill a book, or in this case, a CD.

His feel for the music of Walker is spot on, part of the credit going to The Dukes who have played with Earle for over a decade. Three of them are Texans and there's a connection to Walker's music just by being a part of that Texas culture. A song like "Getting' By" exists because Walker was able to capture the essential parts of what it means to be alive in that state of life. The Dukes play with a casual grace highlighting the musical landscape. The fiddle solo segues into the pedal steel perfectly with the kind of casual grace Walker always had.

While Walker was a great interpreter of other people's material (especially the songs of Guy Clark) Earle keeps the focus tightly on Walker as a writer.

June 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Proud Boys Leaders Were Just Charged With Sedition Against the United States (Tess Owens, June 6, 2022, Vice News)

On Monday, top brass of the far-right street-fighting gang were indicted on federal sedition conspiracy charges for their alleged roles in the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Former chairman Enrique Tarrio, Joe Biggs of Florida, Zach Rehl of Philadelphia, Seattle's "Sergeant-at-Arms" Ethan Nordean, and Dominic Pezzola of Rochester, New York, were indicted. 

The men were previously facing an array of other charges, including conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding. The sedition conspiracy indictment comes months after their former co-defendant, Charles Donohoe, leader of the North Carolina Proud Boys, took a plea deal with the government and agreed to testify against the others. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:55 AM


THE FUROR AND FALLOUT FROM FLAGS (Michael J. Koplow, 6/02/22, Israel Policy Forum)

[D]espite the similar functions that celebrating the flag serves on both sides, there is one big difference. Israel has a state and is operating from a position of power, and Palestinians do not have a state and are operating from a position of weakness. That structural imbalance should in theory make Israelis less sensitive to the symbolic aspects of Israeli and Palestinian nationalism, but it doesn't. The fact of Israel's existence and Israel's strength--not only relative to the Palestinians but in absolute terms--has not appreciably lessened Israelis' insecurities, and Palestinian flags are still treated in many instances as physical threats that somehow have the ability to snuff out Zionism or Israel's existence.

Cohen's bill to make it illegal to display a Palestinian flag in universities is a response to a rally that took place last week at Ben Gurion University and was organized after students were not allowed to hold one on Nakba Day. Students, who according to reports were mostly Arab Israeli but included some Israeli Jews as well, waved Palestinian flags and sang Palestinian songs and some held up peace signs. The response from Israeli politicians was overwhelmingly negative. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman called for Ben Gurion's state funding to be cut off, the mayor of Beersheva said that the rally crossed a red line, New Hope MK Sharon Haskell deemed any display of a Palestinian flag to be incitement, and the Likud issued a statement linking the appearance of Palestinian flags at this rally to the government's alleged inability to fight terrorism or preserve Zionism. Cohen's bill, despite being one introduced by the opposition, was granted a seal of approval by the government's Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which said that coalition MKs were free to vote their conscience rather than maintain the ordinary coalition discipline that would dictate voting against it, and Yamina, New Hope, and Yisrael Beiteinu all voted for it yesterday.

If all of this seems like an extreme overreaction to a national flag, that's because it is. If waving a flag threatens Israel's existence, then not only is Israel in far bigger trouble than anyone understands, but Zionism itself has failed. The success of Israel is not only in its establishment, but in the fact that it has become a military, economic, and cultural powerhouse. Protestors waving Palestinian flags and mourners displaying them at funerals does not threaten Israel's sovereignty or security in any tangible way, and to think otherwise betrays a deep and unwarranted sense of insecurity about Israel's durability and legitimacy. Palestinians are subject to Israeli control in ways large and small and don't have many outlets for expressing their nationalism or symbolically demonstrating their freedom; honing in on flags says far more about Israeli predilections than it does about Palestinian ones. The fact that Israel is now worried about Palestinian flags when twenty years ago Israel was worried about Palestinians with suicide vests is itself a demonstration of how much better Israel's position is, and how many inside of Israel are struggling with distinguishing between symbols of resistance that are actually violent threats and those that are not. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Facing a real test': Bennett warns Israel on brink of collapse (MEMO, June 5, 2022)

"Our unified sovereignty has disintegrated twice in ancient times due to internal conflicts. The first break-up took place 80 years after its foundation, whereas the second one came about 77 years later. We are now living in the third era, and are approaching the 80-year mark. We are all facing a real test, and wondering to whether we will be able to preserve Israel," Bennett stated in the communique sent on the first anniversary of the establishment of the coalition government.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Benefits of Marriage Shouldn't Only Be For Elites (W. Bradford Wilcox and Chris Bullivant, 6/06/22, IFS Studies)

In 1970, there was virtually no marriage divide in America. Whether rich or poor, middle class or working class, a clear majority of men and women were stably married. 

No more. A new report we published at the Social Capital Campaign spotlights a growing marriage divide that separates Americans by class and education. Of 18- to 55-year-olds, the share of those who are married from an upper-class background is 60 percent. However, this figure falls to 20% for the poor. (It is 40% for the working class.) Again, what is especially striking about this divide is that it was basically nonexistent in the 1970s.

Today, whether you consider marriage to be a cultural construct, an expression of romantic love, or a union divinely ordained, it's still the case that most men and women in America wish to marry--and marry well. However, working-class and poor Americans are struggling to make good on this dream, with only the most educated and affluent among us having a good shot at dreams for a strong and stable family life.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


ACT reaps dividend from 100 pct renewables as energy bills fall despite market chaos (Michael Mazengarb, 6 June 2022, Renew Economy)

Electricity users in the Australian Capital Territory will see average electricity costs fall by at least 1.25 per cent come 1 July, as the capital territory's extensive contracts for 100 per cent renewable electricity shield its consumers from the chaos rippling through Australia's energy markets.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russian General Reported Killed in Ukraine (Moscow Times, Jun. 6th, 2022)

Kutuzov had ordered his troops to storm a Donetsk region settlement Sunday and "was forced to lead the assault," Ivanov wrote on Facebook. [...]

Ukraine's General Staff claims at least 12 Russian generals killed.

At least 317 Russian officers have been killed in Ukraine, a third of whom are majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels, independent Russian media reported in April, citing publicly available data.

June 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Marriage and Reading as Elite Customs (Peter Lawler, May 28th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

Big Think essayist Pamela Haag very incisively described 15 purported human goods Americans used to share in common that are now becoming "elite customs." They're obviously not all equally good, and one or two, in my view, aren't good at all. Let me reflect on the two that seem to me most fundamental--marriage and books. [...]

Americans across the board used to be big on both getting married and marital fidelity. Not only that, it wasn't uncommon to marry outside of one's "social class." The rich kid in a small town went to the public school and met girls from all over town. And, he could generally marry the girl with whom he happened to fall in love. You would think that our sophisticates-influenced by feminism, the Sixties, and all that-would think and act as beings who've transcended, through their enlightenment, the confines of monogamy. Sometimes they actually do talk that way, but increasingly they aren't acting that way. Stable marriages with children are once again the norm, and divorce rates are in decline. Meanwhile, more ordinary Americans typically talk "traditional values," while they increasingly lack what it takes-both economically and culturally-to practice them. So broken families, single moms, and all that are increasingly the norm.

Not only that, it's easy to see the "powerful trend" of "assortative mating." Like are marrying like. Our cognitive elite is living both geographically and emotionally detached from more ordinary Americans. Its children are attending schools full of kids like themselves. Despite all our elite talk about "diversity," that assortative tendency persists from kindergarten to law school. Our schools across the board are more stratified by I.Q. and parental privilege.

It's very possible to exaggerate even powerful mating trends, but they can't be good for equality of opportunity for all our kids.


Americans of all incomes used to regularly go to libraries, and kids read plenty of books in public schools. Another great leveler in our cities, of course, was the fine inter-class education available to Catholic kids in the virtually free parochial schools. Now the habit of going to the libraries (where books can be borrowed for free) has almost disappeared. Wealthy and sophisticated kids have plenty of books at home. Their parents buy them in bookstores but especially online. Their parents also have the time and inclination to read to them. But that time disappears when families are broken or when both parents are stuck with tough jobs.  And as the bottom part of our middle class continues to get detached from institutional religion--from churches--reading the Bible and related books also withers away. (It's important to add when that detachment doesn't occur, neglected but important counter-trends develop, such as home schooling, which is typically very bookish.)

American kids, more than ever, are stratified into those who read--those who have regular access to books--and those who don't. I'm not talking here about basic literacy, but being open to the human good that is the enjoyment of literature. I could go on to explain that it's the capacity to enjoy and really see what's  going on when words are deployed well that's a virtually indispensable prerequisite for any position of leadership. But I want my main takeaway to be that reading is indispensable for beings with souls.

Our wealthy and sophisticated kids go to schools where books are still taken seriously (and sometimes very seriously), if only as the necessary path to become academically accomplished enough to be admitted to an elite college. Meanwhile, in ordinary or worse public schools-especially in our secondary schools-"real" books have been slowly disappearing. And the new Common Core Standards seem to be somewhat about taking out what books are left. Fiction is to be mostly replaced by informational nonfiction, and apparently even To Kill a Mockingbird may not have much of an educational future.

If anyone were serious about reinvigorating the public schools as the great American vehicle of equality of opportunity, there would be more attention to having kids read "real books"--great literature--than ever. Liberally educated teachers would lovingly read Mark Twain or even Harry Potter aloud to our little children to compensate for what they're not getting at home. And lots of classroom time would be given over to children reading to each other. Kids would really be held accountable for what and how well they've read in grade after grade. I'm not denying for a moment that we can find this kind of attention in some of our very non-elite schools, and sometimes in surprising places. But if we're going to having national standards, nothing should be more important.

The same compensatory bookishness should animate our nonselective colleges. But they, instead, follow the lead of the public schools and their educational experts by being about acquiring skills and competencies while bypassing the "content" found in this or that real book.

June 4, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


Inside Clean Energy: The US's New Record in Renewables, Explained in Three Charts (Dan Gearino, June 2, 2022, Inside Climate News)
To make a swift transition to a cleaner grid, the United States needs to set records for renewable electricity generation pretty much every single quarter. So far in 2022, the numbers are encouraging. 

From January to March, renewable energy power plants generated 242,956 gigawatt-hours, which was 23.5 percent of U.S. electricity generation, both records--an increase from 19.5 percent in the first quarter of 2021, and 20.8 percent in the full year. The growth was thanks in part to more than 80 new wind and solar plants that went online during the quarter. The figures are from the Energy Information Administration.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Examiner poll finds voters will recall Chesa Boudin despite strong support for reform (Gil Duran, Jun 3, 2022, SF Examiner)

A new Examiner poll of 541 likely voters conducted by Change Research from May 26-29 shows 56% in favor of recalling the DA, who has a disapproval rate of 62%. [...]

When asked whether they supported "Expanding mental health treatment and stopping the use of jail as a mental health facility," 85% of voters expressed support.

When asked whether they support sending low-level criminals to diversion programs instead of jail, 68% expressed support.

Even the much-vilified policy of eliminating cash bail -- a signature Boudin policy -- has support from 50% of voters, with only 31% expressing opposition.

In addition, 49% of likely voters said they supported "Focusing resources on serious and violent felonies and stopping the prosecution of misdemeanors."

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM



A heavy machinery maker in Japan called IHI Corp has successfully tested a prototype of a massive, airplane-sized turbine that can generate electricity from powerful deep sea ocean currents, Bloomberg reports, laying the groundwork for a promising new source of renewable energy that doesn't rely on sunny days or strong winds.

The company's latest prototype is called Kairyu and weighs in at 330 tons. Two counter-rotating turbine fans are connected by a massive fuselage, which allows the entire apparatus to float while anchored anchored to the sea floor, hovering between 100 and 160 feet below the surface.

There, it pulls energy from one of the world's strongest ocean currents, off the eastern coast of Japan, using it to spin its mighty turbines.

During demonstrations earlier this year, the company was able to generate around 100 kilowatts of stable power. During future tests, IHI Corp is hoping to generate two megawatts, with the hopes of kicking off commercial operations in the 2030s, Bloomberg reports.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


He was playing a song by The Lumineers on a public piano in Boston. Then a band member walked by and joined in. (Steve Annear, June 1, 2022, Boston Globe)

Sam Spencer was sitting at a sidewalk piano near Downtown Crossing Tuesday afternoon, playing a song by one of his favorite bands, The Lumineers, when two people started listening and recording.

As the crowd watched him tap away on the keys, performing the group's popular 2016 song "Ophelia," one of them stood next to him on the bench, bent over, and started playing along.

Not only did he play a portion of the song perfectly, he looked strangely familiar.

"I looked over at him and said to myself, 'This guy kind of looks like one of the guys from The Lumineers,'" said Spencer, 27.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


What drives mass shooters? Grievance, despair, and anger are more likely triggers than mental illness, experts say. (Deanna Pan, June 3, 2022, Boston Globe)

Clearly, no one who commits mass murder is mentally well or emotionally stable. But the assumption that mental illness begets or predicts heinous acts of violence is false, according to experts on school shootings and mass violence. Mass shooters' desire for death and destruction, experts have found, stems from a variety of circumstances and is rooted in entrenched grievance, despair, and anger, regardless of whether they experience symptoms of mental illness.

"No mass shooter is a mentally healthy person, but to blame mental illness as the cause of mass shootings fundamentally just isn't supported by case evidence and by scientific study," said Mark Follman, a journalist and author of the new book "Trigger Points: Inside the Mission to Stop Mass Shootings in America."

A decade ago, Follman (along with this reporter) created the first open-source database documenting US mass shootings. Far from having delusional thoughts or hallucinations, most mass shooters believe they are making reasoned and calculated choices based on real or perceived injustices in their lives, Follman and other experts contend. Their violent thinking is often validated in the dark corners of the Internet, where they are radicalized even further. Some study other perpetrators and try to emulate them.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Our greatest athlete is a 64-year-old moose antler hunter from Vermont: For decades, Will Staats has dominated the highly competitive, super secretive world of hunting for antlers shed by moose. (Billy Baker, June 1, 2022, Boston Globe)

UNDISCLOSED LOCATION -- Will Staats made me swear to keep the location of our moose antler hunt a secret. Then he made me swear again. By the third time, I was a tad annoyed, roughly the same tad of annoyance I had felt when the 64-year-old retiree asked me, several times over the phone from his home in northern Vermont, if I would be able to keep up with him on our hike. I am in my mid-40s, in mid-shape, and much closer to being fired than retired, thank you very much.

I was wrong. You probably saw that coming, but I assure you that you cannot believe just how very wrong I was. And that is because Will Staats is not just the premier moose shed hunter in New England; he is also the greatest athlete I have ever met.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Israel: Doubt over bill 'constituting apartheid' in West Bank throws government off (Huthifa Fayyad,: 2 June 2022, Middle East Eye)

The absence of a clear majority in the Israeli parliament has raised fears that a critical regulation governing West Bank settlers will not be extended, potentially placing them under military rule and causing Israel a legal nightmare. 

On Monday the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, postponed a vote on the extension of the emergency law, in place since 1967, after doubts rose over it attaining enough votes to pass.

The temporary regulation is renewed every few years to ensure that civilian Israeli law is applied to settlers living in West Bank settlements, as opposed to the military law governing Palestinians living adjacent to them. [...]

The regulation allowed hundreds of thousands of Israelis to live on land outside of its boundaries while enjoying full privileges of Israeli citizenship and residency.

Under this umbrella, Israeli settlers are tried in civilian courts, allowed to receive social and health benefits and run for public office, among other rights. 

All the while, the three million Palestinian population of the West Bank are subjected to military rule under which they are tried in military courts, denied full freedom of movement and restricted from accessing land and resources.

June 3, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 PM


Pressure builds for Durham to ditch Russia probe (JOSH GERSTEIN, 06/03/2022, Politico)

Even some supporters of Durham's probe said Sussmann's fast acquittal indicated that the long-time prosecutor misjudged the case.

"Everything just kind of fell apart," former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said in a podcast recorded near the end of the trial. "The further we get into the trial, the more I can't understand why Durham brought this case...I'm just really surprised especially with everything riding on his investigation and his final report that he would take a chance like this with a case like this....I just wonder if it was worth it."

That which never held together can not fall apart.

Posted by orrinj at 10:59 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


U.S. adds 390,000 jobs in May (Courtenay Brown, 6/03/22, Axios)

The U.S. economy added 390,000 jobs in May and the unemployment rate held at 3.6%, the government said on Friday. [...]

Demand for workers has outpaced supply, a phenomenon that's helped push up wages. That pressure has been easing: average hourly earnings rose 5.2% from a year earlier, down from 5.5% in April.

Inflation is a function of the wage ratchet--open the borders and fill the demand for workers.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Feminists must abandon their delusions about the sexual revolution: Men and women are not the same, and it is usually women who suffer when we pretend otherwise. (Louise Perry, 5/31/22, New Statesman)

Kathleen Stock (who wrote the foreword to my book), has written critically of the "dream of gender abolition" and its sometimes troubling consequences: "In a real-life approximation of an attempt at gender abolition - that is, during Mao's Cultural Revolution - there were still sex-associated norms for women. These norms dictated that women should behave more like men. As the slogan went: 'Times have changed. Whatever men comrades can do, women comrades can do too.' ... In practice this norm meant that women under Mao faced the double burden of heavy agricultural work duties in addition to domestic and child-rearing ones."

One consequence of this historical attempt at gender abolition was that pregnant and postpartum women were given the same work tasks and hours as their comrades, resulting in many cases of miscarriage and haemorrhaging. Men and women are not the same, and it is usually women who suffer when we pretend otherwise.

Sex-positive feminism is just one instantiation of a larger liberal movement intent on maximising individual freedom - which is a fine project, up to a point. But the push for ever greater freedom is now butting up against the limits of our biology, and thus a feminist movement that was once concerned only with securing liberty for women finds itself in a futile war with nature.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


Report: New Hampshire, Maine attract residents, gain nearly $1 billion each (Christian Wade, May 28, 2022, The Center Square)

Several Northeast states are among those gaining in population and wealth as residents flee higher tax states in search of greener pastures, according to a new report.

The analysis of IRS statistics by Wirepoints shows that in 2020, New Hampshire reaped more than $959 million after adding another 9,905 residents who migrated from other states.

Maine also fared well in the analysis, gaining 11,274 residents and more than $870 million in 2020, according to the group's analysis.

The report is based on the latest 2020 domestic migration data provided by the Internal Revenue Service, which tracks both migration and wealth, the group said.

"A growing population for the winners means an increasing tax base, economic growth and investment," the report's authors wrote. "For the biggest losers, it means more difficulties in paying down debts, higher taxes and fewer investments for the future."

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


Bureaucrats in the Dock: The Fifth Circuit's Jarkesy decision reflects the Supreme Court's renewed interest in challenging the administrative state.  (Peter J. Wallison, 5/31/22, Law & Liberty)

Chief Justice John Marshall, established the primacy of the Supreme Court, as Hamilton saw it, with the foundational 1803 decision Marbury v. Madison. There, he ruled not only that the Court could declare acts of Congress unconstitutional, but also that courts could interpret the laws. These two points, never subsequently challenged, reified Hamilton's assertion that judges were to be the "Guardians of the Constitution."

There was little change in the structure of the government, or the respective roles of the president and Congress, until the Progressive Era, from about 1880 to 1920, when Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt argued for major changes in the government's structure and role in the economy. During this period, the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Federal Reserve were established to address specific issues that had arisen as the US economy grew quickly. But aside from a few tariff cases, there was little need for the judiciary to interfere in the structure or operations of the government.

That changed with the Great Depression and the New Deal, when the Supreme Court--whose members included distinguished jurists such as Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo as well as Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes--ran head-on into the policies of FDR and the progressive Democratic Congress. This confrontation produced two instances--Panama Refining v. Ryan and Schechter Poultry v. United States--where the 1935 Court determined that acts of Congress were unconstitutional because they delegated too much legislative authority to administrative agencies in violation of the Constitution. 

These decisions and others caused President Franklin D. Roosevelt, after the huge Democratic Party victory in 1936, to propose a Court-packing plan. Although Court-packing itself failed, it changed the game. Every member of the 1935 Supreme Court resigned between 1936 and 1941, to be replaced by Roosevelt-appointed justices much less willing to take on the elected branches. 

From then on, the Court assumed a more accommodating posture, finding authority for the vast number of administrative agencies established in and after the New Deal. The Court's reticence in this respect probably reached its peak in 1984, with Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. There, a unanimous Court declared that "Sometimes the legislative delegation to an agency is implicit, rather than explicit. In such a case, a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation" by the agency. 

Here, with what became known as "Chevron deference," the Court was directing lower courts to accept the administrative agency's interpretation of its statutory authority--if reasonable--and opened the door to the vast expansion of the administrative state that we see today. In short order, Chevron became the most cited and interpreted case in administrative law, and administrative agencies reached their greatest level of authority, issuing more than 3000 rules and regulations every year after 1989. 

What might be called a constitutional awakening, or at least a renewal of the Supreme Court's interest in its role as guardian of the Constitution, may have begun in 2013, with City of Arlington v. FCC. There, in a challenge to Chevron deference, Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justices Kennedy and Alito) wrote that  "We do not leave it to the agency to decide when it is in charge." 

Significantly, in the same decision, the Chief Justice reiterated Hamilton's view in Federalist 78 that the judiciary has a special role as guardian of the Constitution: it "is the obligation of the judiciary not only to confine itself to its proper role, but to ensure that the other branches do so as well."

If folks want the Executive Branch to be the Legislative and Judiciary Branches too, a rewrite of the Constitution is required.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


The energy in nuclear waste could power the U.S. for 100 years, but the technology was never commercialized (Catherine Clifford, 6/02/22, CNBC)

In a light-water reactor, uranium-235 fuel powers a fission reaction, where the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller nuclei and releases energy. The energy heats water, creating steam which is used to power a generator and produce electricity.

The nuclear fission reaction leaves waste, which is radioactive and has to be maintained carefully. There are about 80,000 metric tonnes of used fuel from light-water nuclear reactors in the United States and the existing nuclear fleet produces approximately an additional 2,000 tons of used fuel each year, Gehin told CNBC.

But after a light-water reactor has run its reactor powered by uranium-235, there is still tremendous amount of energy potential still available in what is left.

"Fundamentally, in light-water reactors, out of the uranium we dig out of the ground, we use a half a percent of the energy that's in the uranium that's dug out of the ground," Gehin told CNBC in a phone interview. "You can get a large fraction of that energy if you were to recycle the fuel through fast reactors."

Fast reactors don't slow down the neutrons that are released in the fission reaction, and faster neutrons beget more efficient fission reactions, Gehin told CNBC.

"Fast neutron reactors can more effectively convert uranium-238, which is predominantly what's in spent fuel, to plutonium, so you can fission it," Gehin said.

The technology for fast nuclear reactors has exited for more than fifty years. A fast reactor plant called the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II), began construction in 1958 and operated from 1964 to 1994, until Congress shut down funding.

"We ran the EBR II reactor out at the site for 30 years, recovered uranium, put it back in the reactor," Gehin told CNBC. "It's been proven that it can be done. The trick would be going to commercial scale to ensure that it is done economically. It's very safe technology. All the basis for the technology has been proven."

While a fast reactor will reduce the amount of nuclear waste, it does not eliminate it entirely.

"There would still be waste that would have to be disposed, but the amount of long-lived waste can be significantly reduced," Gehin said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Upper Valley employers team up to fund workforce housing loans (JOHN LIPPMAN, 6/03/22, Valley News)

"Average rent has increased to over $1,500 in Grafton County, 25% higher than the affordability limit for a family of three in this area," Sarah Jackson, executive director of Vital Communities told the packed audience at the Hilton Garden Inn in Lebanon as she ticked off a list of grim housing statistics.

"Simply put, the region's workforce cannot afford the cost of housing in the Upper Valley," she said.

The eight employers who so far have signed up toward capitalizing the loan fund are Hanover Co-op, Hypertherm, King Arthur Baking Co., Dartmouth Health, Dartmouth College, Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and Mascoma Bank, said Deb Flannery, vice president of lending at Evernorth, which will manage the fund and work with developers.

After years of drip-drip levels of development, housing construction in the Upper Valley has picked up -- but much of what is being built remains out of reach for average workers.

More than 1,000 units are currently under construction, permitted or in the permit pipeline in Lebanon, Hartford, Hanover and Claremont, a study by Evernorth estimates. That's the good news.

The bad news? Only 70 of those units will be affordable to the 6,600 renters in Grafton and Windsor counties who are identified as "rent-burdened," Evernorth estimates.

Flannery said the fund aims to build apartments for people earning from $15 to $25 per hour with household incomes that can afford rents of $1,200 to $1,600 per month.

In comparison, the current average market rate for apartments in Grafton and Windsor counties is running from $1,500 to $2,200 per month, she noted.

"So you can see considerable savings there between what the market is producing versus what we're hoping to accomplish by using these employer dollars," Flannery said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Undoing Trump, EPA to empower states and tribes to oppose pipelines (Dino Grandoni, 6/03/22,  Washington Post)

The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday it would seek to return authority to states to oppose gas pipelines, coal terminals, and other projects that pose a threat to lakes, rivers, and streams -- reversing a major Trump administration rule.

For half a century, states under the Clean Water Act had broad authority to alter or even block many energy projects and other infrastructure that threatened to pollute or harm waterways within their borders. But in 2020, then-President Donald Trump issued a regulation reining in that power.

Now, the EPA is seeking to restore states' authority, potentially giving local officials, including Native American tribes, more ability to scrutinize proposals to build many highways, hydroelectric dams, shopping malls, housing developments, and even wineries and breweries.

June 2, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 PM


Imagine a US political party built around faster economic growth and technological progress (James Pethokoukis, 6/02/22, Faster, Please!)

As loyal readers and subscribers of Faster, Please know, I contend that neither major party in 2022 -- and neither America's current Left Wing nor Right Wing -- satisfactorily promotes and reflects what I call "Up Wing" policies and values. Up Wingers are all about economic and technological acceleration for solving big problems, effectively tackling new ones, and creating maximum opportunity for all. They accept the necessity of change, although sometimes that disruption is really uncomfortable. They demand public policy be judged by its potential impact on America's ability to discover, invent, and innovate.

Broadly, my flavor of Up Wing wonkery would dramatically boost science and infrastructure investment, expand international trade, increase immigration, reform or eliminate anti-progress, anti-entrepreneur regulations (often dating back to the country's 1970s eco-pessimist shift), promote housing density, link top federal pay to economic performance, and create a more pro-investment tax code -- among many, many other policy ideas. (There's a Moon and Mars colony in there somewhere, too.)

My kind of Up Wing America would be digging superdeep holes for unlimited geothermal energy, pushing hard on nuclear fusion, vacuuming carbon from the sky, extending the maximum human healthspan, and fully embracing the potential of a thriving orbital economy. At century's end, I want our kids and grandkids to look back at this current period as when we began the most creative and expansive period of human civilization, well on our way to mastering the Solar System.

Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


World map reveals wind and solar power winners (and losers) (Frank Jacobs, 6/02/22, Big Think)

In the past decade, America has experienced a remarkable surge in renewable energy generation. In 2015, the year the Paris Climate Agreement was signed, the country generated just 5.7% of its electricity from wind and solar. Last year, it was 13%. In March 2022, 18%. And last month, 20%. Driving that surge is a "wind boom" in the Great Plains and Midwestern states, with windmills going up in great numbers from Texas to the Dakotas.

Globally, wind and solar have been the fastest-growing forms of electricity generation every year since 2005. The share of global power produced by these renewables has more than doubled between 2015 and 2021, which was the first year they delivered 10% of electricity worldwide -- 10.3%, to be exact, up from 9.3% the previous year. Taken together, they are now the fourth largest global source of electricity, after coal, gas, and hydro.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


What is quantum mechanics trying to tell us? (Adam Frank, 6/02/22, Big Think)

So, what is going on here? How can a particle be in two places at the same time? This is also akin to asking whether particles have properties in and of themselves. Why should making a measurement change anything? And what exactly is a measurement? Do you need a person to make a measurement, or can you say that any interaction at all with the rest of the world is a measurement?

These kinds of questions have spawned a library's worth of so-called quantum interpretations. Some of them try to preserve the classical worldview by finding some way to minimize the role of measurement and preserve the reality of the quantum state. Here, "reality" means that the state describes the world by itself, without any reference to us. At the extreme end of these is the "Many Worlds Interpretation," which makes each possibility in the quantum state a parallel Universe that will be realized when a quantum event -- a measurement -- happens.

This kind of interpretation is, to me, a mistake. My reasons for saying this are simple.

When the inventors of quantum mechanics broke with classical physics in the first few decades of the 1900s, they were doing what creative physicists do best. They were finding new ways to predict the results of experiments by creatively building off the old physics while extending it in ways that embraced new behaviors seen in the laboratory. That took them in a direction where measurement began to play a central role in the description of physics as a whole. Again and again, quantum mechanics has shown that at the heart of its many weirdnesses is the role played by someone acting on the world to gain information. That to me is the central lesson quantum mechanics has been trying to teach us: That we are involved, in some way, in the description of the science we do.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Granite Staters Say They Want More Housing in Their Communities (Andrew Cline, 6/01/22, NH Journal)

By a 69%-29% margin, New Hampshire voters said "my community needs more affordable housing to be built." This represents a 9% increase from last year's survey.  [...]

By a 52-40% margin, New Hampshire voters support changing town and city zoning regulations to allow more housing to be built.

By a 70-21% margin, respondents endorse setting a "hard limit" on how long local planning and zoning boards can take to review permits to build housing.

By a 38-35% margin, Granite State voters endorse the concept of a bill that failed this session, which would have allowed property owners to build up to four housing units on any residentially zoned lot served by municipal water and sewer.

By a 61-37% margin, N.H. voters oppose the idea that multifamily housing should only be built in cities, not in suburbs and rural areas.

By a 53-42% margin, voters oppose the state "doing more to prevent housing development and keep the state the way it is." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind power meets and beats Denmark's total electricity demand - two days in a row (Joshua S Hill, 2 June 2022, Renew Economy)

Windy conditions in northern Europe have highlighted once again the growing value of wind energy, which provided more than 100% of Denmark's electricity consumption for two days in a row in May.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Shakespeare's Latin and Greek (Tom Moran, 5/26/22, Antigone)

There is a lot that we don't know about William Shakespeare, but there is one fact concerning him about which nearly everyone appears to be in full agreement. They agree with Shakespeare's great contemporary Ben Jonson in his poem about his fellow playwright included at the beginning of the 1623 First Folio that Shakespeare had "small Latin and less Greek":

For if I thought my judgment were of years
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe's mighty line.
And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honor thee I would not seek
For names, but call forth thund'ring Aeschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us...

It is one of the few statements about Shakespeare that is almost universally considered to be uncontroversial and accepted as fact. The editors of The Norton Shakespeare footnote the line, claiming that "The underrating of Shakespeare's Latin was likely influenced by Jonson's pride in his own impressive classical learning." Even Jonson's most recent biographer, Ian Donaldson, accepts the line at face value, claiming that Jonson was utilizing a rhetorical strategy that he had gleaned from the Roman rhetorician Quintilian: namely, that you should point out a person's shortcomings (such as Shakespeare's having "small Latin and less Greek") before building up his virtues.

There's only one problem with this assumption: not only is it not true, the exact opposite is true. Jonson's statement concerning Shakespeare's alleged ignorance of Greek and Latin might be the single most misunderstood and misinterpreted line of English poetry ever written: it means the opposite of what most people think it means. When we examine what Ben Jonson actually said, as opposed to what we think he said, we will realize that not only did Shakespeare know both Latin and Greek, and that Ben Jonson never said he didn't, but that Shakespeare's knowledge of Greek is evident in one of the most famous passages he ever wrote.

June 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


The Humiliation of John Durham: Hired by Bill Barr to investigate the Trump investigators, the prosecutor had little to show for his work even before his defeat in court yesterday. (DENNIS AFTERGUT, JUNE 1, 2022, The Bulwark)

The moment he let Barr recruit him, Durham, a former U.S. attorney in Connecticut, risked ruining his once-strong professional reputation. That reputation is now in tatters. Durham first knifed it in December 2019, when he joined Barr in an unprecedented attack on the department's own nonpartisan inspector general. The IG had just issued a 478-page report concluding that the Trump-Russia investigation began properly. Barr and Durham's actions were widely criticized as inappropriate. William Webster, the revered former Republican director of the FBI and CIA, lambasted Barr's conduct, saying it risked "inflicting enduring damage" on the FBI. Durham should have known better than to be used in that attack.

Then, in September 2020, Nora Dannehy, Durham's respected and loyal aide, resigned from his team. She expressed concern about, in the words of the Hartford Courant, "pressure from Barr . . . to produce results before the election."

Durham could have departed then, too, and saved himself further embarrassment. After all, the month before, Durham had obtained his one and only conviction, a guilty plea from then-FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith for lying to investigators in June 2017.

Still, a low-level FBI agent's lie, nearly a year after the Trump-Russia investigation began, did nothing to prove that the FBI had launched the investigation illegitimately.

Fast-forward to September 16, 2021, when Durham indicted Sussmann, days before the five-year statute of limitations ran out. As some commentators noted, the indictment reeked of non-prosecutorial goals: It seemed that Durham was trying to justify the public money he'd wasted boosting Trump's false narrative that it was the big, bad Clinton campaign behind the Trump-Russia investigation.

The supposed lie for which Durham indicted Sussmann occurred in mid-September 2016--again, after the Trump-Russia investigation started on July 31. Sussmann went to a friend in the FBI--the bureau's general counsel, James Baker--with a tip, allegedly saying that he was not offering the information "on behalf of any client."

The tip was that a secret communication channel appeared to exist between the Trump Organization and a server of Russia's Alfa Bank. (Whether such a back channel actually existed is in doubt, though it has never been definitively disproven.) In charging Sussmann under 18 U.S.C. §1001, Durham's team alleged that Sussmann lied to Baker--not about the substance of the tip but because Sussmann was working for the Clinton campaign.

He was. But as Sussmann's lawyer argued, "There is a difference between having a client, and doing something on their behalf."

Per Sussmann's defense, he approached the FBI purely at his own behest to help keep Baker and the FBI from being caught unawares when the story imminently appeared in the press.

It's tough to disprove a private motivation. To do so "beyond a reasonable doubt," you'd better have airtight evidence.

Durham didn't.

In fact, Baker, the prosecution's own witness, bolstered the defense. He testified that Sussmann helped him identify the reporter working on the Alfa Bank story so that the FBI could try to stop it. (Premature publicity jeopardizes investigations.)

Durham's own theory of the case alleges no crime, just as his star witness exonerated the defendant.  Sublime. 
Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Don't listen to the Jubilee grumblers - if anything, Britain needs more pomp and pageantry (Henry Hill, 5/31/22, CapX)

The United Kingdom doesn't have nearly enough pageantry. This might be hard to believe on the eve of a Royal Jubilee which will likely see an awful lot of pageantry indeed, but it is true nonetheless.

Yes, we can still put on a splendid show when we have the mind. The state opening of Parliament is a grand occasion, and the Trooping of the Colour always popular. But neither of those is really a national event, is it? The Platinum Jubilee, on the other hand, certainly will be - which means we're going to be subject to an awful lot of very tedious grumbling by people ostentatiously disapproving or uninterested. One need not look far on Twitter to find people describing the 'horror' of their neighbours preparing harmless street parties.

Slightly more serious commentators, such as George Monbiot, lift their hats to Her Majesty but attack the pomp and circumstance of the whole occasion. 'Pomp and pageantry are the enemies of reason', he thunders.

That's the point. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Physicists Rewrite the Fundamental Law That Leads to Disorder (Philip Ball, May 26, 2022, Quanta)

In all of physical law, there's arguably no principle more sacrosanct than the second law of thermodynamics -- the notion that entropy, a measure of disorder, will always stay the same or increase. "If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations -- then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations," wrote the British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington in his 1928 book The Nature of the Physical World. "If it is found to be contradicted by observation -- well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation." No violation of this law has ever been observed, nor is any expected.

But something about the second law troubles physicists. Some are not convinced that we understand it properly or that its foundations are firm. Although it's called a law, it's usually regarded as merely probabilistic: It stipulates that the outcome of any process will be the most probable one (which effectively means the outcome is inevitable given the numbers involved).

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Hansel Kicks Off NH-02 Campaign With Sununu Endorsement (Damien Fisher, 5/31/22, NH Journal)

Hansel's electoral success as a Republican in one of the Granite State's most liberal cities has surprised many and has marked him as a rising star in the party. State GOP insiders have been speculating for weeks that he might enter the race, particularly after Sununu favorite Jeff Cozzens dropped out in April.

Hansel said he's running on his record of fiscal responsibility in the face of growing economic uncertainty and crippling inflation that is hurting New Hampshire families.

"Inflation is really starting to erode our quality of life. I can't stand by while Granite State families continue to fall behind through no fault of their own," Hansel said. "Gas prices are surging, groceries are going up, our retirement savings are going down. Reckless federal spending has been bailing out big urban centers and it's been raising costs for the rest of us."

Hansel's team sees an opportunity to unseat Rep. Annie Kuster, D-Hopkinton, the five-term incumbent they say has been AWOL during much of the current economic crisis. The campaign feels it has a real opportunity to win, especially given the support from Sununu.

Hansel said New Hampshire families are dealing with Washington's inaction and economic malpractice.

"This winter, I can't even imagine, families are going to be sitting around their kitchen tables and they're gonna be opening the heating bills and figuring out how to get by," he said. "They are going to have to make heartbreaking decisions between investing in the future of their children and just heating their homes."