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. 
Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


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)". 

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


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.