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.