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.