July 30, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Inflation - Who Wins? (Roger Opie, April 1983, History Today)

But what are 'costs'? They are largely either wages and salaries, i.e. the great bulk of money incomes, or material costs, which do respond in relatively free markets to changes in demand. But wages and salaries are bargained, and are easier to raise than reduce. The main 'moral' force behind bargains is to sustain real incomes. Hence we generate a wage-cost-price-wage spiral, which works only upwards.

This 'structuralist' explanation sees inflation as the result of bargaining among three powerful groups in society managers who want profits, workers who want wages and salaries, and government which wants tax revenue from each. Structuralists see the stock of money as merely permissive, and changes in it in short periods as irrelevant.

We can't automate fast enough.  But, in the meantime, we can import millions of willing workers. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Beauty, Self-Transcendence, and Participation in the Cosmos (JAMES MATTHEW WILSON AND MARGARITA MOONEY SUAREZ, 6/19/22, Public Discourse)

This article is adapted from Chapter 4 of Margarita Mooney Suarez's new book, The Wounds of Beauty: Seven Dialogues on Art and Education (Cluny Media, 2022).

In this discussion, Mooney Suarez and Wilson reflect on the nature of beauty, particularly the idea that beauty offers a path to self-transcendence by helping us to see our participation in reality and thereby leading us to participate in a truth that's greater than ourselves. [...]

Mooney Suarez: One stereotype about beauty is that it is only for the elite. But as Hans Urs von Balthasar said, a world without beauty is a world without love. And without love, we don't have hope.

Wilson: One of the glories of Plato's dialogue, the Phaedrus, is its suggestion that an encounter with beauty is supposed to remind us of our vision of the splendor of truth, the form and splendor, the vision of the forms in the eternal place of being. One way to think about what it means to encounter or perceive beauty is that what seems initially unfamiliar can, in fact, become deeply familiar.

Plato says that our souls have fallen into the body and are straining to grow wings, to go back up to the place of being, where the soul's vision saw Beauty itself which is all the splendor of truth. But I think that we recognize that an encounter with form, with the way in which being discloses itself as having a form to give itself away, to be known, to be desired, and to be perceived, is an experience of the world as an intelligible mystery. Every culture has known and cherished this encounter with mystery; ours is aberrant because it tries to reduce mystery to something less than itself.

Beauty tells us this cannot finally be done. The mystery of being in its fullness, so strange and difficult, is also something that is somehow familiar to us. We think, "I've seen you around someplace before," and feel a magnetic attraction to what is at once so ancient and so new.

As we encounter a truth, we place that truth into a broader sense of the cosmos as an orderly reality. Then, we also sense that when we encounter some particular thing, we can enter through its contemplation into a contemplation of that broader order. To perceive the whole order of things, from top to bottom, from the particular to the universal, is what the ancients called wisdom. Beauty, you might say, is the objective correlative proper to reality itself that corresponds to the subjective virtue of wisdom.

The role of the arts in particular, whether visual or literary or otherwise, is to communicate the fact that things are good in themselves. By drawing attention to the formedness of the thing, the artist leads the eye of the mind through this particular formed thing into a deeper encounter with mystery--which is a deeper encounter with the fact that there's something rather than nothing, that things simply are, that things are formed and that they are intelligible and desirable, and yet they're always a part of something bigger and greater than themselves. They don't exist merely in themselves but always in relation to other things, and to the cosmos. Beauty is what we see; wisdom is what we obtain when we see it fully.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Nancy Pelosi's long history of opposing Beijing (Melissa Zhu, 7/30/22, BBC News)

Two years after protestors were crushed by Communist Party forces in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the then-California representative visited the capital city.

Slipping away from her official escorts along with two other members of Congress, she went to the city square without the permission of her Chinese hosts.

There, they unfurled a small, black banner. "To those who died for democracy in China," the hand-painted banner read.

The police closed in quickly, roughing up reporters who were covering the event and chasing the lawmakers out of the square.

China's Foreign Ministry later denounced the incident as a "premeditated farce".

Some have criticised Ms Pelosi's actions during the 1991 visit. Former CNN Beijing bureau chief Mike Chinoy wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy that she was the reason he got arrested at the scene.

Mr Chinoy said he was not aware of what Ms Pelosi planned to do at the square, and was detained for several hours as the police were unable to target a visiting foreign dignitary.

"It was my first experience with Pelosi's penchant for high-profile gestures designed to poke China's communist rulers in the eye - regardless of the consequences," he wrote.

Ms Pelosi, who also helped lead a resolution condemning China's actions in 1989, has continued to speak out about the "massacre" of demonstrators over the years.

Most recently, she issued a statement to mark the 33rd anniversary of the protests this year, calling the demonstrations "one of the greatest acts of political courage" and slamming the Communist Party's "oppressive regime".

At a meeting with then-Chinese Vice-President Hu Jintao in 2002, Ms Pelosi tried to pass him four letters expressing concern over the detention and imprisonment of activists in China and Tibet, and calling for their release.

Mr Hu refused to accept the letters.

Seven years later, Ms Pelosi reportedly hand-delivered another letter to Mr Hu - by then President of China - calling for the release of political prisoners including prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Liu was named the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize but was not allowed to travel to Norway to accept the award. He died of cancer in 2017 while still under Chinese custody.

Olympic manoeuvres
Ms Pelosi has opposed China's bids to host the Olympics Games as far back as 1993 on the basis of its alleged human rights abuses.

She was one of the lawmakers that unsuccessfully urged then-US President George W Bush to boycott China's Summer Olympics opening ceremony in 2008.

This year, the Speaker of the House again led calls for a "diplomatic boycott" of Beijing's 2022 Winter Olympics over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China.

"For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing - while you're sitting there in your seat - really begs the question, what moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights any place in the world?" she said.

That's an awfully precious bit from Mr. Chinoy.  Would he have not covered the event? 

July 29, 2022

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Johnson County sheriff claimed he got 200 tips of election fraud. A records request yielded only one (Steve Vockrodt, 7/28/22, KCUR)

Hayden, who is serving his second term as sheriff, referred to his own election victory in 2020.

"In fact, you're looking at a guy -- I got 260,000 votes and I got more than both presidential candidates and I'm way downballot," Hayden said. "And that bothers me."

Hayden didn't tell the crowd that he ran unopposed in 2020, unlike the presidential candidates.

Few outside the sheriff's office appear to know what Hayden and his department are investigating.

"Our office has received voter questions about the administrative process and concerns about fraud in Johnson County," Whitney Tempel, a spokesman for the Kansas Secretary of State's Office, said in an email. "Every inquiry our office receives is reviewed and investigated. Thus far, no evidence of fraud has been found."

The Johnson County Sheriff's Office was asked again this week if it could describe the nature of the tips it has received about alleged election fraud or whether any of more than 200 tips it said it has received could be substantiated. Through a spokesperson, the sheriff's office declined to answer.

The Midwest Newsroom filed a Kansas Open Records Act request for copies of the first page of any Kansas Standard Offense Report taken by the Johnson County Sheriff's Office regarding alleged election-related crimes since 2020.

Law enforcement in Kansas fills out such offense reports to document reports of crimes. The first page of Kansas Standard Offense Reports, which contain basic information such as the date an incident took place, its location, the nature of an alleged offense and its victim or witnesses, is a public record. Subsequent pages, which list suspects and a description of how the alleged crime was committed, is not a public record.

In response, a records supervisor in the sheriff's office provided one report and said a review turned up no other reports since 2020.

The lone report, dated July 20, lists the Johnson County Election Office as the location of an alleged violation of a Kansas law that makes it illegal to attempt to change, alter or destroy any vote cast by paper ballot or electronic machine.

Reached by phone, a 71-year-old Olathe woman listed as the victim of the alleged violation said she and her husband were casting an early vote on July 19. She declined to provide specifics about the incident.

"I don't know what happened, if it was just an accident," she said before declining to discuss the matter further.

The accusation is the frraud.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


"We make good money for a great service:" Big batteries boost Neoen profits and outlook (Giles Parkinson 29 July 2022, Renew Economy)

The first half year of operations from Australia's biggest battery storage facility and the volatile electricity markets have combined to propel French developer Neoen to bigger first half profits, and a strong outlook.

The Victoria Big Battery, which at 300MW/450MWh overtook the Hornsdale Power Reserve (also owned by Neoen) as the biggest in Australia, began operations late last year, and while much of its capacity is reserved for contracted network services during the summer, it also revelled in the market volatility over the last three months.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Jan. 6 committee tees up 20 witness transcripts for DOJ (KYLE CHENEY, 07/28/2022, Politico)

The Jan. 6 select committee is preparing to produce 20 witness interview transcripts to the Justice Department amid prosecutors' increasingly public investigation of efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.

"The Select committee intends to share 20 transcripts," a committee spokesperson said in a late-Thursday update on the panel's engagement with the Justice Department.

Because they hate America, the Right can't understand why Republicans would trade their House seats to defend the Republic.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Paper Batteries Balance Energy Efficiency with Sustainability (Jason P. Dinh, Jul 28, 2022, Discover)
The United Nations estimates that people discard 50 million tons of electronics each year. The "tsunami of e-waste," according to the World Health Organization director-general, leaches toxic chemicals like lead and mercury, which can degrade environments and harm humans. For example, people living near e-waste facilities suffer from thyroid disfunction, cancer and miscarriage.

In the U.S. alone, people discard three billion batteries each year. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends recycling them at designated facilities because they leak toxic chemicals. But for many, it's just simpler to throw them in the trash. In a new study, researchers invented a biodegradable, single-use battery built with non-toxic paper and ink. If it's scalable, the battery could provide a safe disposable alternative for low-powered electronics.

The scientists embedded a one square centimeter strip of paper with salt. On one side, they printed zinc ink to create the negative end of the battery, and on the other end, they printed graphite ink to create the positive end. The researchers connected a device -- in this case, a small alarm clock -- through wires attached to the strip using a water-repellent wax. They dropped water onto the strip and dissolved the salt to turn it on. This starts chemical reactions that release electrons from the zinc. The briny fluid carries electrons towards the graphite through the wires. This stream of electricity, called a current, powers the product.

Unlike typical batteries, the paper ones are built with environmentally friendly materials. Paper and zinc are biodegradable, and graphite is nontoxic. What's more, most batteries use highly corrosive acids to carry electrons, whereas this one uses just water.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Stamp-size ultrasound patch could be a diagnostic game-changer (Hiawatha Bray, July 28, 2022, Boston Globe)

Ultrasound systems, first developed in the early 1940s, beam high-frequency sound waves into a body. The sound that bounces back is converted into video images of a patient's organs and bones. Such scans are routinely used to monitor pregnancies, and to examine organs, bones, and blood vessels. Unlike X-rays or CT scans, ultrasound systems don't use hazardous radiation, and unlike MRI scans, they don't require massive magnets and a lot of electric power. They are also relatively small and portable.

Still, the machines require a skilled technician to manually aim the ultrasound probe at the correct part of the patient's body. Also, the technician must apply a gel to the area being monitored, to ensure the sound travels properly through the body. This gel must be reapplied before each ultrasound scan. Robots are sometimes used to hold the ultrasound probe in place for extended periods, but it's a costly and uncomfortable process.

The new MIT system would allow a doctor or technician to attach a patch directly over the area to be scanned. The patch is plugged into a device that captures the ultrasound signal, converts it to a viewable image and records it for future reference.

Just as intensive care doctors routinely use inexpensive sensors to detect a person's heart rate or blood oxygen level, the ultrasound patch could make it just as easy for them to call up live ultrasound images of a patient's vital organs. "That imaging can be long term, let's say over a full day, and continuous," said Zhao.

July 28, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


DeSantis touted action against undocumented migrants. Most arrests were legal residents (ANA CEBALLOS, 7/28/22,  HERALD/TIMES)

 Inside a packed room at the Escambia County Sheriff's Office in June, Gov. Ron DeSantis talked about the many ways his administration is trying to "keep illegals out of the state of Florida" in response to President Joe Biden's immigration policies. 

He highlighted a state-led law enforcement operation, which took place June 7-9 in four counties in Northwest Florida. When talking about outcomes, the governor's message was unmistakable: The state was doing its part to combat undocumented immigration because it had arrested several "illegal aliens." "They were able to recover these illegal aliens and enough fentanyl to kill off 2,000 people in the state of Florida," DeSantis said at the press conference in Pensacola. 

What DeSantis did not mention is that the vast majority of the 22 arrests were not related to immigration but rather tied to men and women who live in the country legally. 

DeSantis also implied that undocumented migrants had been arrested on drug-related crimes, when none were, according to arrest records provided by the Florida Highway Patrol and two of the four sheriff's offices that participated in the state's effort.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


First-of-its-kind solar tower brews jet fuel from water and CO2 (Prachi Patel, July 28, 2022, Anthropocene)

Using sunlight, along with carbon dioxide and water vapor captured from air, a new solar tower can produce kerosene suitable for fueling airplanes. The system, details of which have been published in the journal Joule, is the first to be successfully demonstrated in the field at a large scale.

Aviation is responsible for around five percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. While other modes of transportation are on their way to electrification, electric airplanes are still many years away. In the near term, the industry plans to reduce carbon emissions using sustainable aviation fuels that are made today from waste fats and oils. Several research teams are developing ways to make them from paper industry waste and food scraps.

But some want to make carbon-neutral aviation fuel from captured carbon dioxide emissions. This involves turning carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide using heat, and then mixing it with hydrogen to make liquid fuels. The green hydrogen is typically produced by splitting water using electricity.

Aldo Steinfeld and his colleagues at ETH Zurich have devised a more sustainable way to do this using only solar energy. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


DeepMind has predicted the structure of almost every protein known to science: And it's giving the data away for free, which could spur new scientific discoveries. (Melissa Heikkilä, July 28, 2022, MIT Technology Review)

Last year, DeepMind released the source code of AlphaFold and made the structures of 1 million proteins, including nearly every protein in the human body, available in its AlphaFold Protein Structure Database. The database was built together with the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, an international public research institute that already hosts a large database of protein information.

The latest data release gives the database a massive boost. The update includes structures for "plants, bacteria, animals, and many, many other organisms, opening up huge opportunities for AlphaFold to have impact on important issues such as sustainability, fuel, food insecurity, and neglected diseases," Demis Hassabis, DeepMind's founder and CEO, told reporters on a call this week. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


How a Universal Basic Income Helped Kenyans Fight COVID (TAVNEET SURI & NIDHI PAREKH, 7/28/22, Project Syndicate)

In 2017, a team of researchers - Abhijit Banerjee, Michael Faye, Alan Krueger, Paul Niehaus, and one of us (Suri) - in collaboration with Innovations for Poverty Action and GiveDirectly, began a randomized evaluation in Kenya to test the effect of a digitally transferred UBI. The team focused on two low-income counties, Siaya and Bomet, and evaluated three distinct UBI designs: a large lump sum, equivalent to approximately $500 (the "lump-sum arm"); a payment of $0.75 per day for two years, equivalent to about $500 (the "short-term arm"); and a payment of $0.75 per day for 12 years (the "long-term arm"). Payments were made to each adult over the age of 18 in the assigned villages.

When the pandemic hit Kenya in 2020, the team quickly realized that they needed to understand whether this UBI was helping people weather the crisis. So, with funding from J-PAL Africa's Digital Identification and Finance Initiative, they conducted phone surveys of the households participating in the program. By this point, the lump-sum and short-term arms were complete; the long-term arm was ongoing.

The team found that the UBI improved households' food security and physical and mental health, relative to the comparison group of households that did not receive the transfer. UBI recipients also reduced their social interactions, possibly because of the pandemic and perhaps because they did not need to rely on friends and relatives as much during the hungry season (though this is speculative at best). This may have lessened the burden on local public-health systems as UBI recipients were less likely to fall ill.

Hunger was widespread in the two counties the team studied. But whereas 68% of people in the comparison group reported experiencing hunger in the past 30 days, UBI recipients were 5-11 percentage points less likely to do so. This effect was significantly larger for people in the long-term arm, who expected to continue receiving transfers.

UBI recipients were also 4-6 percentage points less likely to report that a household member had been sick during the past 30 days, as compared to 44% in the comparison group. And while 29% of people in the comparison group had recently sought medical attention at a hospital, UBI beneficiaries were 3-5 percentage points less likely to do so, because they were less likely to be sick.

The solution to poverty is wealth. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


'Four months of work in three weeks': How North Carolina landed VinFast, the company building a $4 billion Chatham County automotive plant (Matt Talhelm, 7/18/22, WRAL)

Vietnamese automaker VinFast expects to start moving dirt this month in Chatham County to build a $4 billion factory.

The automaker is promising to build fully-electric SUVs at a megasite in Chatham County, creating 7,500 jobs in five years.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Alleged Zeldin assailant to be kept in custody as judge reviews records, health information (MAX JAEGER and ANNA GRONEWOLD, 07/28/2022, Politico)

Payson is considering opposing arguments about whether Jakubonis's demonstration -- jumping on stage while brandishing a pointy, cat-shaped self-defense keychain at Zeldin -- was an isolated incident or if it signals a larger danger to the community from a troubled individual who should be further kept in custody. [...]

Slawinski says Jakubonis lives in an apartment behind the VFW where Zeldin was speaking, and he showed up not knowing who Zeldin was. Jakubonis had been drinking, and he believed Zeldin was insulting veterans, so he got on stage and tried to take the microphone from Zeldin, telling the Congress member "you're done" talking, according to Slawinski.

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3-Minute Civics: Reflecting on the election of 1800 and John Adams' precedent (Jeff Frenkiewich, JULY 28, 2022, NH Bulletin)

As told by David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the second president: "Adams, who could have applied influence behind the scenes, refused to say or do anything. Firm in his belief in the separation of powers, he saw it as a question for the legislature in which he, as President, had no business and he would stay far from it." 

Adams could have set himself as a major actor in the political drama that was unfolding in Congress during the early months of 1801 - Jefferson had even asked him to intervene in Congress' deadlock. He could have rejected the election results outright, as many states still had some very undemocratic methods for choosing their electors. But instead, he chose to conclude his unfinished business as president, including his controversial appointment of several federal judges, and he made plans for his retirement back in Quincy, Massachusetts. For the first time in American history, a sitting president peacefully handed power to an opposing political party he knew would move the country in a different direction, and he went home.  

Adams didn't even have interest in engaging in legal affairs from his Old House at Peace field. When former partner William Tudor asked Adams to reunite in a law practice, Adams replied, "I must be farmer John of Stoneyfield and nothing more (I hope nothing less) for the rest of my life." By design, Adams left the spotlight to Jefferson, Burr, and Hamilton; he knew it was time to move on. 

McCullough tells how Adams, as hurt as he was by his political defeat and all the personal attacks that had been launched against him by his one-time friend and fellow revolutionary, even hosted Jefferson at the executive mansion for dinner or tea on several occasions after Adams learned of his defeat.  

In a Jan. 16, 1811, letter to Benjamin Rush, Jefferson recalls how Adams, after hearing of his impending defeat, came to Jefferson: "Well, I understand that you are to beat me in this contest, and I will only say that I will be as faithful a subject as any you will have." There is no evidence to suggest that Adams ever deviated from Jefferson's account.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Do American 'National Conservatives' Condone Orbán's White Nationalism?: The Hungarian prime minister's unqualified praise for a racist screed and criticisms of "race-mixing" amount to a mask-off moment. (CATHY YOUNG,  JULY 28, 2022, The Bulwark)

In context, Dreher insists, Orbán isn't talking about race-mixing at all but "using the term 'race' as a symbol of religion and culture"--in other words, as a euphemism for "Muslims," which is apparently not bigoted at all. (Yes, you can discuss problems of acculturation and integration in immigrant communities, particularly following large influxes of migrants from war-torn countries, without promoting hate. No, talking about "Islamic invasion" or "Islamic occupation" as Dreher does--using more belligerent language than Orbán himself did in his speech--is not the way to go about it.)

In fact, even if "he's only talking about Muslims" were a viable excuse for the prime minister's words, it would be patently inaccurate in this case. While Orbán did mention "Islamic civilization's . . . incursion," he explicitly defined the "post-Western" part of Europe as "a world where European and non-European peoples live together" (emphasis mine), which he believes amounts to loss of nationhood. And while he predicted that Hungary would eventually have to take Christian refugees from those de-Westernized and deracinated Western countries, there is no indication that he would be willing to extend such a welcome to Christian refugees from the Middle East or Africa. Finally, Twitter users with knowledge of Hungarian language and culture have pointed out that the word for "race" used by Orbán has a long history of being used with a strong antisemitic connotation--something that was clearly not lost on Hegedüs, who is Jewish and a child of Holocaust survivors.

Ironically, in the course of his Orbán-apologist contortionism, Dreher drew attention to a passage from the prime minister's speech that other media coverage has missed: the fulsome praise for The Camp of the Saints, the 1973 anti-immigrant bible by French author, reactionary Catholic, and monarchist Jean Raspail (who died two years ago at the age of 94). It is, Orbán gushed, "outstanding . . . I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the spiritual developments underlying the West's inability to defend itself."

Raspail's novel--the full text of which can be easily found online--is highly popular with the American and European far right. Erstwhile Trump adviser Steve Bannon is a fan. So is Steve King, the former congressman from Iowa who managed to become a pariah even in the Trumpified Republican party by wondering aloud why such terms as "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" should be considered offensive. So is Stephen Miller, the immigration policy chief in the Trump White House.

Dreher doesn't exactly love The Camp of the Saints. He read it back in 2015 in response to refugee crisis in Europe, and reported that it is "a bad book, both aesthetically and morally," but nonetheless one with "something valuable to say to us"--namely, that "the sentimental liberal humanitarianism" of the West's elites and their longing for "redemption for the West's sins" will bring about the death of Western civilization by stripping it of the will to defend itself against the invading hordes from the Third World. (A similar take on Raspail's novel--yes, it's "deeply unpleasant," and it's easy to see why it was almost universally dismissed as a "racist tract," but it's also uncannily "prophetic"--can be found in Douglas Murray's 2017 book The Strange Death of Europe.)

In 2022, Dreher is reiterating the same theme: Yes, The Camp of the Saints is a bad and racist book--but it's sort of got a point. 

As long as you hate Muslims these guys are in your camp. 

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Former Covington Catholic Student Nick Sandmann Loses Defamation Lawsuits Against CBS, ABC, NYT, and Others (AARON KELLER, Jul 27th, 2022, Law & Crime)

Bertelsman noted that "the only evidence filed in the record consists of: (1) Sandmann's deposition; (2) a declaration under oath by Phillips; (3) seven declarations under oath by persons in attendance at the incident; and (4) a collection of video recordings taken at the National Mall that day."

"Although lengthy, Sandmann's deposition contains relatively little testimony pertinent to the issues at hand," Bertelsman opined.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


Is the ice beginning to thaw between US and Taliban? (Adam Weinstein, 7/27/22, Responsible Statecraft)

[A]n aid-dependent Afghanistan is not sustainable indefinitely and therefore steps must be taken to normalize the economy. On several occasions U.S. special representative for Afghanistan Thomas West has expressed an ultimate desire to return Afghanistan's frozen foreign exchange reserves to the country's central bank and rejected rumors that the funds would be used for aid. The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has also issued seven general licenses which act as exemptions to U.S. sanctions on the Taliban. However, the chilling effect of these sanctions remains. The Taliban have also failed to take basic actions that would reassure the international community such as providing clear policies against terrorist financing and money laundering or removing sanctioned individuals from leadership positions at the central bank.

It is also necessary to understand that Afghanistan's economy would remain in dire straits even if sanctions were lifted tomorrow and the frozen foreign exchange reserves returned in full. This is because Afghanistan is a landlocked country with a majority rural population in which dried fruit, coal, and rugs make up the majority of exports. An artificial economy ballooned for two decades as a result of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan which fostered war-related industries such as bulk fuel transport and led to a parallel aid economy. Afghanistan's future growth is likely to remain slow at best as it now faces the constraints of its geography, infrastructure, and Taliban governance. 

Security also remains a significant concern for the United States and region. ISKP -- an offshoot of the Islamic State --continues to target Afghanistan's minorities, particularly the Hazara community. It also carries out targeted attacks on Taliban checkpoints. 

July 27, 2022

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Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson cooperating with DOJ probe (Evan Perez and Paul LeBlanc, 7/27/22, CNN)

The agency has already brought two top aides to Pence in front of a federal grand jury, a move that signals its probe has reached inside former President Donald Trump's White House and that investigators are looking at conduct directly related to Trump and his closest allies' efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Hutchinson has cooperated extensively with the House select committee's investigation into the attack on the US Capitol, having sat for four closed-door depositions. She revealed how Trump and his inner circle were warned about the potential for violence on January 6, and how Trump wanted to join the throngs of his supporters at the Capitol.

Her testimony bolstered the narrative that the committee has been driving toward: That Trump incited and supported the insurrection as part of a desperate power grab to steal a second term, and that many of his top advisers thought his schemes were illegal.

The Justice Department has also reached out to other Trump White House officials regarding the Capitol attack, said Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former White House communications director during the Trump administration.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


New York Cop Bought Rifle for Neo-Nazi 'Rapekreig' Marine Who Planned Synagogue Attack: Feds (Mack Lamoureux, July 27, 2022, Vice News)

A former Marine accused of being in a neo-Nazi group called "Rapekrieg" planned to attack a synagogue and had a New York police officer purchase an assault rifle for him, federal prosecutors allege.   [...]

Rapekreig members who spoke to authorities said Belanger, during his time with the Marines, wrote the group's manifesto. The court document contained several excerpts of the Rapekrieg manifesto. The rambly racist screed described rape as "an extremely effective tool against our many foes." The court documents states that the group endorses "the rape of white women to increase the production of white children in furtherance of Raprekrieg's goal of creating a white ethno-state through accelerationist means." Another section talks about the necessity of killing Jewish children and urges members to prepare themselves to do this. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Senior Adviser To Orban Quits Over Hungarian PM's 'Openly Racist' Speech (RFE, 7/27/22)

A senior adviser to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has resigned, saying comments the nationalist leader made at a recent rally were "openly racist."

The controversial prime minister touched off a wave of criticism after a July 23 speech, delivered in neighboring Romania, in which he defended his vision of an "unmixed Hungarian race" as he criticized mixing with "non-Europeans."

Zsuzsa Hegedus, a sociologist and longtime friend of Orban, said in a letter she could no longer tolerate being associated with someone who had taken "such a shameful position."

No one hates just Mexicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why a Vermont City's Decision to Go 100% Green Is Paying Off (RTBC Staff, July 27, 2022, Reasons to be Cheerful)

Burlington, the biggest city in Vermont, has been running on 100 percent renewable energy since 2014. But it's what has happened since then that's really exciting.

Burlington Electric, the city's utility company, recently got an unexpected surprise: an increase in its credit rating, giving it more financial power and flexibility. Why the boost? Creditors anticipate that as CO2 regulations proliferate, and dirty energy (like coal, which Burlington used to run on) offers diminishing returns, cities' reliance on fossil fuels will increasingly become a financial liability. Switching to renewable sources, on the other hand, is seen by creditors like Burlington's as a more resilient fiscal strategy. It's the kind of emerging dynamic that could push more cities to follow the Vermont city's lead -- if not for the climate, then out of concern for their own bottom lines.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Kind of wild/creative': emails shed light on Trump fake electors plan (Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater, 7/26/22,  New York Times)

In emails reviewed by The New York Times and authenticated by people who had worked with the Trump campaign at the time, one lawyer involved in the detailed discussions repeatedly used the word "fake" to refer to the so-called electors, who were intended to provide Vice President Mike Pence and Trump's allies in Congress a rationale for derailing the congressional process of certifying the outcome. And lawyers working on the proposal made it clear they knew that the pro-Trump electors they were putting forward might not hold up to legal scrutiny.

"We would just be sending in 'fake' electoral votes to Pence so that 'someone' in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the 'fake' votes should be counted," Jack Wilenchik, a Phoenix-based lawyer who helped organize the pro-Trump electors in Arizona, wrote in a Dec. 8, 2020, email to Boris Epshteyn, a strategic adviser for the Trump campaign.

In a follow-up email, Wilenchik wrote that "'alternative' votes is probably a better term than 'fake' votes," adding a smiley face emoji.

The emails provide new details of how a wing of the Trump campaign worked with outside lawyers and advisers to organize the elector plan and pursue a range of other options, often with little thought to their practicality. One email showed that many of Trump's top advisers were informed of problems naming Trump electors in Michigan -- a state he had lost -- because pandemic rules had closed the state Capitol building where the so-called electors had to gather.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats' Failures So Far on Tax Policy Spur Frustration in Party (Richard Rubin, July 26, 2022, WSJ)

However, despite holding the White House and narrowly controlling the House and Senate for nearly two years, Democrats are likely to walk into the midterm elections having barely budged tax policy in their direction. They implemented temporary tax breaks in their pandemic response law and might yet extend some other provisions later this year.

The big ideas meant to take on inequality and raise money for the party's climate and family-support agenda went nowhere--even though many tax increases are popular in polls and budget rules would let Democrats implement them without a single Republican vote.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DOJ investigating Trump in Jan. 6 investigation: Report (Cami Mondeaux,  July 26, 2022, Washington Examiner)

The Department of Justice is investigating former President Donald Trump as part of its larger criminal inquiry into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to a new report.

Prosecutors have begun asking witnesses, including top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence, about conversations they had with Trump, his lawyers, and others in his inner circle, sources told the Washington Post. 

Over hours of interviews, witnesses have been asked questions about meetings Trump held in December 2020 and January 2021 to consider actions aimed at overturning the election, as well as the former president's pressure campaign on Pence to assist with that effort on Jan. 6, 2021.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Enphase sees strong solar growth in Europe as natural gas prices soar (Pippa Stevens, 7/27/22, CNBC)

This growth opportunity comes as Europe scrambles to rejigger its energy system in a bid to move away from Russian fuel.

On Tuesday the bloc agreed to voluntarily reduce gas consumption by 15%. The region has also pledged to ramp up its renewable energy infrastructure.

But in the meantime, fuel prices are surging. On Tuesday Dutch TTF natural gas futures jumped 19.8% to 211.70 euros per megawatt hour, the highest level since March.

That price is equivalent to about $63 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), according to Argus Media, which is how U.S. natural gas is priced.

To put the move in perspective, U.S. natural gas futures touched $9.75 per MMBtu on Tuesday, which was the highest level since 2008, but significantly below European prices.

Kothandaraman expects revenue from Europe to grow another 40% during the current quarter.

"We are aggressively expanding the team. We expect this momentum to continue," he said on the company's earnings call.

Enphase is also seeing demand growth from the U.S., where utility bills are rising. Increasingly frequent grid outages are also prompting consumers to seek energy independence.

Thanks, Vlad!

July 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Rise in U.S. Firearm Homicides Disproportionately Affecting South-Central and Midwest States (Rosanna Smart, July 14, 2022, Rand)

After a long period of decline, the rate of homicides in the United States began increasing in 2014. That rise has been driven entirely by a rise in firearm homicides, which diverged from the trend in nonfirearm homicide in the late 2000s and starkly separated from it in 2014.

Firearm homicides reached a rate of 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019. In that year, firearms use accounted for three of every four homicides--the highest ratio since systematic data on homicide mechanisms became available. The ratio has grown even larger since the end of the study period.

It's just about guns.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Growing number in GOP back Pelosi on possible Taiwan trip (SEUNG MIN KIM and MATTHEW LEE, 7/26/22, AP) 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reported plans to travel to Taiwan have upended Washington's political divide, with a rift emerging with President Joe Biden over the visit to the self-governing island while prominent Republicans offer encouragement to a political opponent they normally scorn.

Pelosi's supporters include a conservative Republican senator, at least two former Trump administration officials and the last speaker of the House to make the trip to Taiwan, also a Republican. They are urging Biden to back the trip even as China threatens a forceful response if she goes.

And she's not headed there to praise Xi's Uighur concentration camps and suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats boost right-wing challenger to GOP Trump foe (Lachlan Markay, 7/25/22, Axios)

National Democrats are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost a far-right, Trump-endorsed conspiracy theorist in one of the most closely watched House races in the country -- further endangering one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump.

Once you decide on Identitarianism it's just a choice of flavors. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Analysis Ranks New Hampshire's Public Schools in Top 10 (Damien Fisher, 7/25/22, NH Journal)

New Hampshire public schools rank among the top 10 in the nation, according to the data analysts at Wallethub.

Using metrics like academic performance, safety, class size, funding, and instructor credentials, the analysis ranked the Granite State as having the nation's seventh-best school system.

Among New England states, known for high-performing schools, the Granite State ranked third, behind Massachusetts (1) and Connecticut (2). Vermont came in at 11, Maine at 12, and Rhode Island at 16. 

New Hampshire tied for fourth when it came to having the highest median ACT scores, the standardized test that gauges English, mathematics, reading, and scientific reasoning skills and is used for many college admissions. New Hampshire also ranked fourth in best reading scores and third for student-teacher ratio.

July 25, 2022

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Harris plots her next, more aggressive, volley in the abortion fights (EUGENE DANIELS, 07/25/2022, The  Guardian)

Vice President Kamala Harris and her team plan to hit the campaign and fundraising circuit in an aggressive bid to elevate Democratic state legislators and governors on the abortion rights frontlines.

Selective abortion in India could lead to 6.8m fewer girls being born by 2030 (Amrit Dhillon,  21 Aug 2020, tHE gUARDIAN)

An estimated 6.8 million fewer female births will be recorded across India by 2030 because of the persistent use of selective abortions, researchers estimate.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


'Baked Alaska' pleads guilty to US Capitol riot charge (Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz, 7/25/22, CNN)

Anthime Gionet livestreamed himself breaching the Capitol in a nearly 30-minute video that showed him encouraging others in the mob to enter the building and saying, "We ain't leaving this b*tch," according to his latest plea agreement filed Friday.

Prosecutors have said in court filings that his livestream helped identify other rioters and led to multiple arrests in the massive investigation.

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Mike Pence's ex-chief of staff testifies to grand jury investigating January 6 (Hugo Lowellin, 25 Jul 2022, The Guardian)

[S]hort's grand jury appearance marks the first known time that a top Trump White House official with inside knowledge about Trump's actions leading up to the Capitol attack and what took place in the West Wing in the following days has cooperated with the justice department.

When Short testified in a transcribed interview with the select committee earlier this year, he told congressional investigators about how Trump tried to enlist Pence in order to have him stop Biden's certification as part of a wider effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

Endorsing killing his friend may have been a bad call for Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Medicating Complexity: That antidepressants may have little or no effectiveness should not surprise us. (Theodore Dalrymple, July 25, 2022. City Journal)

Presently, a new kind of antidepressant came along, the SSRI, with a seemingly more benign side-effect profile than the older antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, which was dangerous in the overdoses that the depressed, or so-called depressed, were inclined to take. And the SSRIs came with a pleasingly simple hypothesis to explain their efficacy, insofar as they had any. A real bonanza! Before long, a sixth of the adult population of several large countries were taking them. A pill for every ill became a social, if not strictly a medical, reality. The sum total of human misery is difficult to measure, but it is not obvious that it has declined with the advent of these drugs.

The theory proved popular with the public, which could now account for its discontent by reference to chemical imbalance in the brain, though much of that public would be hard put to distinguish potassium permanganate from copper sulphate. It gave people license to talk about themselves without revealing anything. I have overhead many conversations in buses, trains, and elsewhere about the chemical imbalance in one of the interlocutor's brains. It is not me; it is my neurotransmitters. And insofar as the SSRIs, like so many medicines, exert a powerful placebo effect in addition to a true therapeutic effect, the theory seemed in many cases to be vindicated.

The whole question of human misery is fearsomely complex. But what else should we expect? We thirst for simplification as a voyager in the desert thirsts for water.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Why scrapping the corporation tax rise is a no-brainer (Dr Tyler Goodspeed, 7/25/22, CapX)

Generally speaking, the more you tax something, the less of it you get. The Government's plans to raise Corporation Tax and end relief on new plant and machinery will result in less business investment - and steep costs for households.

By my estimations, Treasury's current plans to raise the corporate income tax rate to 25% and end a temporary 130% 'super-deduction' for new investment in qualifying plant and machinery would lower UK investment by nearly 8%, and reduce the size of the UK economy by more than 2%, compared to making the current rules permanent.

Perhaps more importantly, because the economic costs of corporate taxation are ultimately borne both by shareholders and workers, raising the rate to 25% would permanently lower average household wages by £2,500. This calculation is based on extensive analysis of the relationship between corporate taxes and wages, and primarily reflects the fact that a smaller UK productive capital stock would mean less plant and equipment per worker, and therefore lower productivity and lower wages. In addition, a higher domestic corporate tax rate raises the value of firms' outside options in lower-tax, lower-cost jurisdictions, which would degrade workers' bargaining power.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nuclear Fusion Energy Reactor Breakthrough Set To Help Stabilize Plasma (ED BROWNE, 7/25/22, Newsweek)

Scientists at a U.S. government plasma lab have discovered a missing component in nuclear fusion equations that could speed up development of a working reactor.

Specifically, the discovery could improve the design of the donut-shaped fusion reactors known as tokamaks.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US conservatives embrace controversial far-right Hungarian PM seen as authoritarian (NICHOLAS RICCARDI and JUSTIN SPIKE, 7/25/22, Times of Israel)

Orban's appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he'll be joined by former US president Donald Trump and right-wing icons such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, is the most dramatic indication yet of how a leader criticized for pushing anti-democratic principles has become a hero to segments of the Republican Party.

Orban has curbed immigration and stymied those who envision a more middle-of-the-road European democracy for their country. He's done so by seizing control of Hungary's judiciary and media, leading many international analysts to label him as the face of a new wave of authoritarianism. He also is accused of enabling widespread corruption and nepotism, using state resources to enrich a tight circle of political allies.

When the Right tells you who they are, believe them. 

Viktor Orbán sparks outrage with attack on 'race mixing' in Europe (Shaun Walker in Budapest and Flora Garamvolgyi,  24 Jul 2022, The Guardian)

"We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race ... and we do not want to become a mixed race," said Orbán on Saturday. He added that countries where European and non-Europeans mingle were "no longer nations".

To his credit, he nailed the meaning of Nationalism.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo is turning African deserts into forests (Nicola Heath, 23 Jul 2022, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Two years into his land restoration project in Niger, Mr Rinaudo had yet to see any success. Expensive tree planting programs failed time after time.

"I was feeling very discouraged because I knew full well that most people weren't interested at all," he says. "In fact, they actually called me the crazy white farmer."

He could see their point. "Here they were, often short of food, very, very poor, and here's this crazy white guy coming in and telling them they should be planting trees on their precious farmland."

On the desolate road, Mr Rinaudo, a devout Christian, said a prayer and soon after, noticed "a useless looking bush" nearby. He walked over to take a closer look.

"In that instant, everything changed," he says. "I realised, no, it's not a bush, it's not an agricultural weed - it's a tree, and it's been cut down."

Nigerien farmers typically slashed the small shoots that grew from tree stumps, but Mr Rinaudo realised in that moment these "suckers" offered the answer he was looking for.

"Everything that we needed was literally at our feet," he says. "I realised then I didn't need to plant trees, we weren't fighting the Sahara Desert, I didn't need a multi-million budget - we just needed to work with nature instead of fighting it and destroying it."

Mr Rinaudo is at pains to point out that growing trees from stumps - what he called farmer managed natural regeneration (FMNR) - is not new.

It's a centuries-old method of cultivation practised around the world.

The key to FMNR's success is its simplicity. Mr Rinaudo quotes permaculture founder Bill Mollison, who said "though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."

"I love that," Mr Rinaudo says, who has become known as the "forest maker" for his work re-greening degraded land around the world.

July 24, 2022

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Josh Hawley's UnAmerican Nationalism  (Aaron Ross Powell, Jul 23, 2022, The UnPopulist)

The infamous image of Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri raising his fist in solidarity with the Trumpist mob assembled outside the Capitol on the fateful Jan. 6 morning found its ideal-- and inevitable--bookend at Thursday's concluding House Select Committee hearing. The Committee revealed footage of the senator skedaddling away from that same mob as it stormed the building.

Hawley was the first senator to announce that he'd challenge then President-elect Joe Biden's victory. And hours after running away from the mob he'd incited, and with the dust barely settled from a siege that had left five dead, Hawley did just that: He voted against certification, giving credence to the unwarranted concerns of a stolen election that catalyzed the insurrection.

Something deeper than ambition and opportunism propelled Hawley's participation in the attempt to overthrow a duly elected president. Hawley rejects liberalism--not as in the liberal left, as the word is too often used to describe-- but the principles of individual freedom and autonomy that are at the core of the American experiment. And it's not because he's a shallow reality TV host or a politician. He's thought deeply about liberty--and he doesn't like it.

Hawley's politics are driven by a social and political philosophy that has come to be known as national conservatism. But unlike recent converts, Hawley developed his ideas long before that term was coined, and long before he joined the Senate in 2019. [...]

His aversion to "more immigration, more movement of capital, more trade" is only partly driven by his belief that protectionism would help American manufacturing and working class jobs--although it would do no such thing; the opposite, in fact. But the bigger reason for his protectionist turn is to stop cosmopolitanism, to close the country to "foreign" people and ideas that, in Hawley's philosophy, drive us away from an authentic way of living. In short, his economic policies are driven not so much by concerns for the material wealth of Americans, but instead their cultural health--as defined by him.

It's no wonder then that Hawley embraced Trumpism and the primarily white cultural anxieties that motivates it. Hawley sees our dynamic, multiracial cities not just as enemies of the rural, God-fearing way of life, but as claxons warning of America's cultural and intellectual decline. 

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July 23, 2022

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Fist pumper to fleeing coward: Jan. 6 video shows Missouri who Josh Hawley really is (THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD, JULY 23, 2022)

Josh Hawley is a laughingstock. During Thursday night's televised hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Elaine Luria showed video of Missouri's junior senator that will surely follow him the rest of his life. In the clip, Hawley sprints across a hallway as he and his fellow senators are evacuated after insurrectionists had breached the Capitol building. When it played on the screen, the audience in the room with the committee erupted in laughter. [...]

 A signature Hawley issue is masculinity -- as in, how little of it American men seem to have these days. It's a frequent topic in his speeches and on his podcast, where "the left-wing attack on manhood" is a dire threat to our society. Regnery Publishing is set to release his book "Manhood: The Masculine Virtues America Needs" next year. Twitter didn't see much virile bravado as he ran from the mob.

The perfect avatar for the Trumpist incels.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Pittsburgh Jewish, Black leaders call out Doug Mastriano for ties to Gab social platform (Ryan Deto, July 21, 2022, Pittsburgh Tribune)

A group of prominent Jewish and Black Pittsburgh leaders on Thursday condemned Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano for his ties to the right-wing social media platform Gab.

Gab is a site accessed by the accused Tree of Life shooter Robert Bowers, who used the platform to share conspiracy theories targeting Jewish people and wrote "Screw the optics, I'm going in" shortly before the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2018.

WESA revealed recently that the Mastriano campaign paid $5,000 to Gab for consultation services. The Huffington Post then reported that new accounts on Gab automatically follow Mastriano's account.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


The Coming Green Hydrogen Revolution (JEAN BADERSCHNEIDER, 6/22/22, Project Syndicate)

The answer is by switching to green hydrogen, which can be produced from all forms of renewable energy, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. Green hydrogen is a zero-emissions fuel; when produced through electrolysis, the only "emission" is water. It is a practical and implementable solution that, by democratizing energy, decarbonizing heavy industry, and creating jobs globally, would help revolutionize the way we power our planet.

A rapid acceleration of the green-energy transition can also fundamentally alter the geopolitical landscape, since countries will no longer be powerful simply because of the fossil fuels they produce. In 2021, Russia provided 34% of Germany's crude oil and 53% of the hard coal used by German power generators and steelmakers. Russian-piped natural gas was Germany's largest source of gas imports in December 2021, accounting for 32% of supply. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his horrific, unjust war in Ukraine in February, fossil-fuel exports to Europe have been earning Russia roughly $1 billion a day.

But since the start of the invasion in February, European Union countries in particular have moved quickly to reduce their energy dependence on Russia, recently agreeing to ban all seaborne imports of Russian oil. These new sanctions against Putin's war machine could cut the amount of oil the EU buys from Russia by 90% this year. The United States has declared a complete ban on Russian oil, gas, and coal imports, while the United Kingdom is phasing out imports of Russian oil by the end of 2022.

These policies have sent fuel prices soaring. But sharply higher prices have also highlighted the opportunity to drive down energy costs by investing in renewables and the production of green hydrogen.

New research suggests that green hydrogen will be competitive with fossil fuels over the next decade.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Are We all Kahanists Now?: a review of Meir Kahane: The Public Life and Political Thought of an American Jewish Radical by Shaul Magid (Sara Yael Hirschhorn, Summer 2022, Jewish Review of Books)

Magid clearly understands how much Kahane, who was certainly a man of the right, was himself influenced by the left of his own day. He shows how he borrowed from Black militants, the violent leftist underground, and even the left-leaning New Jews and Radical Zionists:

Kahane was no less American in his activism than Abbie Hoffman, and the JDL no less American than the Yippies or SDS. All were protest movements out to undo the establishment by testing the elasticity of the American liberal system, even as both transgressed the norms of that system in order to make their voices known.

This is no less true of Kahane's activism in Israel, as other scholars, who are not always acknowledged in Magid's footnotes, have already pointed out (my own book City on a Hilltop: American Jews and the Israeli Settler Movement made this argument).

In Israel, Magid tells us, "The trajectory of Kahane's career moved from being a social critic of, and activist against, liberalism and what it produced in America, to a religious ideologue and apocalyptic thinker." Magid does a thorough job of elucidating Kahane's peculiarly ultranationalist, xenophobic, and violent ideology and delineating its dangers, though he also exaggerates the extent of his influence within the national-religious camp in his lifetime. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kahane was widely rejected and reviled by native Israeli Gush Emunim elites, who felt that his style of activism undermined their attempts to legitimize the settler movement. But today he does indeed have extremist disciples, including his grandson Meir Ettinger, who leads a group of radical settlers who reject secular authority and have had a more substantial impact on the Israeli far right.

The Right is the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Is Magnus Carlsen following Bobby Fischer's fatal example? (Raymond Keene, 7/23/22, The Article)

While awaiting delivery of Timman's new magnum opus for a detailed review, I shall content myself this week with drawing together various strands and thoughts about Bobby Fischer, which have been scattered in previous columns for TheArticle . I shall also take this opportunity to comment on the sensational news that Magnus Carlsen (above) this week announced that he will not defend his world title against the renewed challenge from the winner of the FIDÉ qualifying tournament, Ian Nepomniachtchi. Magnus thus joins that brief list of champions, official and unofficial, who failed to face up to subsequent challengers.    

The 19th century American meteor, Paul Morphy, has been described as the pride and sorrow of chess. Having demolished the world's best, Morphy simply renounced the game at which he excelled and ignored the rise of his natural challenger -- the one year older Wilhelm Steinitz.  

Passing swiftly over the case of Alexander Alekhine, who missed a challenge by dying in 1946, while in possession of the title, the meteor description applies equally to the 11th World Champion, Bobby Fischer (9 March 1943 - 17 January 2008). The story of the brash, unschooled teenager from Brooklyn, who toppled the might of the Soviet chess system before his 30th birthday, epitomised the self-reliant, frontier ideals of modern America and provided the inspiration for the Tim Rice/Abba musical "Chess".

July 22, 2022

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Colorado Man Pleads Guilty to Casting Missing Wife's Ballot for Trump (Neil Vigdor, July 22, 2022, NY Times)

The husband of a Colorado woman who has been missing for more than two years pleaded guilty on Thursday to casting her mail-in ballot for Donald J. Trump during the 2020 election, telling F.B.I. agents, "I figured all these other guys are cheating."

The man, Barry Morphew, 54, was given a sentence of one year of supervised probation but avoided jail time after pleading guilty to one count of forgery, a felony, in district court in Chaffee County, according to court records.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Bannon Guilty On Both Counts In Contempt Of Congress Trial (National Memo, July 22 | 2022)

After a week-long trial that featured only two witnesses, Bannon was convicted under a criminal statute designed to enforce compliance with congressional subpoenas. During the weeks leading up to the trial, Bannon had bristled with blustering threats to "go medieval" on prosecutors and even President Joe Biden. But US Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, rejected his excuses and arguments. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Trump PACs paid $2 million this year to law firms representing January 6 witnesses (Fredreka Schouten, Marshall Cohen, Devan Cole, Hannah Rabinowitz and Zachary Cohen, 7/22/22, CNN)

The moves by Trump's political organization to open his substantial post-presidency war chest to witnesses involved in the January 6 probe have raised questions about the former President's ability to influence testimony as the panel delves into his conduct.

CNN has previously reported that Trump's team also has been involved in discussions about a legal defense fund, created by the nonprofit arm of the American Conservative Union, to support aides targeted by the House panel. ACU chairman Matt Schlapp said he has worked with the former President's aides to determine which individuals subpoenaed by the select committee should receive help from the fund.

"We talked about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the former President raised," California Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a Democrat who sits on the committee, told CNN recently. "Some of that money is being used to pay for lawyers for witnesses. And it's not clear that that arrangement is one that is without coercion potential for some of those witnesses."

Some January 6 committee members have singled out the legal representation of Hutchinson, a former White House aide who changed lawyers in early June. After the switch, Hutchinson ramped up her cooperation with the panel and delivered bombshell testimony about the former President's conduct on January 6 at an in-person hearing.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee, called Hutchinson "an important example of one who decided to get a new lawyer and then to come back and to testify."

"If there are witnesses out there who believe that their lawyer is working cross-purposes with their obligation to tell the truth, they should work to rectify it," the Maryland Democrat told CNN's Jake Tapper.

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Volkswagen-backed Northvolt to develop wood-based batteries for EVs (Anmar Frangoul, 7/22/22, CNBC)

Northvolt will partner with Stora Enso to develop batteries that incorporate components produced using wood sourced from forests in the Nordic region.

A joint development agreement between the firms will see them work together on the production of a battery containing an anode made from something called lignin-based hard carbon. An anode is a crucial part of a battery, alongside the cathode and electrolyte.

In a statement Friday, electric vehicle battery maker Northvolt and Stora Enso -- which specializes in packaging and paper products, among other things -- described lignin as a "plant-derived polymer found in the cell walls of dry-land plants." According to the companies, trees are made up of 20% to 30% lignin, which functions as a binder.

"The aim is to develop the world's first industrialized battery featuring [an] anode sourced entirely from European raw materials," the companies said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 AM


Monkeypox primarily transmitted through sexual activity, says new study (Deutsche-Welle, 7/22/22)

New research published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that 95% percent of monkeypox cases have been transmitted through sexual activity. 

The research was led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London. It looked at 528 confirmed infections in 16 countries between April 27 and June 24, 2022. 

According to the study, 98% of infected people were gay or bisexual men, and 41% had HIV. The median age was 38.

July 21, 2022

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Two witnesses back key aspects of Cassidy Hutchinson's account of a heated confrontation between Donald Trump and the Secret Service on Jan. 6.  (Politico, 7/21/22)

Two new witnesses at the Jan. 6 committee hearing confirmed key details of former Trump aide Cassidy Hutchinson's account of a heated confrontation between former President Donald Trump and the Secret Service in a limo shortly before the attack on the Capitol began.

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Ukraine Is Winning: And Putin's evident desperation will only hurt him more. (SHAY KHATIRI  JULY 21, 2022, The Bulwark)

Case in point: British intelligence believes that Russia has lost over 50,000 men, more than a quarter of its original invading force, and the Russian military (or, more precisely, its mercenaries, the Wagner Group) is reportedly enlisting prisoners for reinforcement. This is not an original gambit, which is why the Russian high command should know that it will backfire.

Nazi Germany experimented with penal units starting in 1941. At the time, the war was not looking bad for Germany from the outside, but this desperate move suggested internal problems. Indeed, it was an early indicator of the momentum the Allies were going to gain within months. Second, one thing felons have in common is a disregard for rules, authority, and discipline--a cardinal military vice. One's intuition might suggest that prisoners are free and expendable soldiers. But they became an additional burden, a net negative, for the Wehrmacht. Instead of fighting to earn their freedom, they disobeyed orders and tried to flee. Instead of focusing on employing their forces against the enemy, the units' commanders had their hands full trying to prevent mass desertion (often unsuccessfully). The Dirty Dozen is a great movie, but, in the real world, odds are that a unit of felons will fail because you get many more Archer Maggots than Joseph Wladislaws.

Russia will likely face similar problems--and their commanders are less skilled than the Germans' were. So far, the Wagner Group has consisted of expendable losers, but effective ones nonetheless. With the new additions, the group will remain just as expendable but less effective, which doesn't bode well for the life expectancy of their soldiers.

Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM


How the Upwardly Mobile Feel About Wealth: A new study suggests that people who become affluent have less sympathy for the poor than the born rich do (Susan Pinker, July 14, 2022, WSJ)

The research team, which included psychology professors Paul Piff at U.C. Irvine and Azim Shariff at the University of British Columbia, began with two studies designed to assess Americans' attitudes to the rich. Six hundred randomly selected adults were asked to rate two groups: the "born rich," who had inherited their wealth, and the "became rich," who had earned it. Which group would be more likely to attribute poverty to external circumstances, for example, or feel empathy toward the poor?

The results showed that people considered the "became rich" more likable and also expected them to be more supportive of the less fortunate. A second set of studies, however, found that these attitudes aren't in line with reality. This time the research group recruited 1,000 people whose earnings were in America's top quintile, or more than $142,500 a year. The researchers then sorted this sample into two camps, the "born rich" and the "became rich," by parsing their financial histories on a questionnaire.

Both groups were then asked to rate themselves on statements like "I demand the best because I'm worth it," "I sometimes feel guilty about how much money I have compared to others," and "In the U.S., it is difficult to improve one's socioeconomic conditions." In tabulating their answers, the researchers discovered that people who inherited their wealth were more likely to sympathize with those living in poverty and also more likely to support policies that would give the poor a leg up.

It's the reverse of what one might expect. "People assume that those who had to climb the ladder better understand the struggle and therefore will be more sympathetic to the poor. Maybe they do understand, but the conclusion they come to is that it's actually less of a struggle and thus less sympathy is in order," said Prof. Shariff.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Why Joe Biden failed: In just 18 months, his ambitious agenda has been demolished - along with his popularity. Where did the president go wrong? (Adam Tooze, 7/21/22, New Statesman)

If Biden's plan was to stabilise US democracy with progressive politics - an updated New Deal for the 21st century - the conclusion now is that his presidency has failed. [...]

Both the GOP and the Democrats consist of coalitions of several distinct caucuses. These caucuses reflect an electorate as fragmented as that of any other modern society - no different from Germany, with its six-party system, or the shifting coalitions of French or Italian politics.

As in the UK, the US's first-past-the-post majoritarian system fails to represent this complexity. It forces the two big parties to contain divergent sectional, ideological and regional interests. Without formal coalition agreements between these groups, legislation becomes a daily fight for votes.

The left wing of the Democratic Party carried energy and ideas into the administration. Embracing Biden's high-spending agenda, the president's new progressive allies celebrated a decisive break with the neoliberal corset of the Obama and Clinton presidencies.

Like the Trumpists, they were celebrating a break with America. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


The dreadful Forde report completely misses the point about Labour antisemitism (Stephen Pollard, 7/20/22, CapX)

[A]ll that the Forde report really demonstrates is the danger of the knee-jerk response to any controversy of 'let's get a QC to investigate'. Because not only does Mr Forde wholly misunderstand the fundamentals of the issue, by doing so he turns what he surely intended was a serious, technical report into what can only be read as a political whitewash.

Yes, he found that there was terrible behaviour by the Corbynites over antisemitism (although he was not, remember, actually asked to investigate this):

'Sadly some still deny the existence and seriousness of the problem, or the need to take action to combat it, as the party has now begun to do,' he wrote, adding that amid continuing 'evidence of denialism about antisemitism amongst some on the left . . . we have seen no evidence that claims of antisemitism were fabricated by complainants or improperly pursued by the complaints team...there is nothing in the Leaked Report (or elsewhere in the evidence we have seen) to support the conclusion that the problem of antisemitism in the Party was overstated.'

He would, however, have had to be wilfully blind not to reach that conclusion - as wilfully blind as those Corbynites who, to this day, insist on social media that #ItsAScam (the hashtag they use).

In other words, Forde concluded - as did the EHRC - that Labour had a deep-seated antisemitism problem which was not being properly dealt with and which many in the party simply denied.

Forde could, and should, have left this aspect of the problem at that. But no, he could not resist weighing in further - and in doing so revealing a near total lack of understanding of the issue.

In among his comments about the existence of anti-Jewish racism in the party, he writes: 'It was of course also true that some opponents of Jeremy Corbyn saw the issue of antisemitism as a means of attacking him. Thus, rather than confront the paramount need to deal with the profoundly serious issue of antisemitism in the party, both factions treated it as a factional weapon.'

According to his biography, Mr Forde 'has a practice which covers all aspects of Health Law'. I suggest that in future he sticks to that. Let's assume for the sake of argument that he is right that the anti-Corbynites used antisemitism as a stick with which to beat him. Isn't that wholly to their credit? What Mr Forde is saying is that they did not sit quietly on the sidelines saying nothing - they campaigned against the leader on the basis that he was presiding over a culture of racism, and as such was unfit to be leader (although the actual numbers who did fight against racism were pathetically small).

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Why Russian Soldiers Are Refusing To Fight In The War On Ukraine (Timofei Rozhanskiy, 7/20/22, Radio Free Europe)

Nearly five months into the largest war in Europe since World War II, a growing number of Russian soldiers like Kaminsky are refusing to fight, demanding to return home, or outright not going to Ukraine in the first place. Russian rights activists say hundreds, possibly thousands of troops are balking at orders to deploy, to keep fighting, or to remain on the battlefield without rotating out or home.

Of the 78 soldiers from Kaminsky's unit who have disobeyed orders, some have been ordered held in a makeshift brig for days, he said.

The refusenik troops add to Russian commanders' headaches as they struggle to replenish spent and exhausted units across the roughly 480-kilometer (300-mile) front line stretching from east of Kharkiv in the northeast down to Kherson in south-central Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Here's the speech Joe Biden should give on the climate 'emergency': It's time America and the world realize that we have a clean-energy problem, not a global warming problem (James Pethokoukis, 7/20/22, Faster! Please)

"It is not a new story, however. I was first elected to the United States Senate in 1972. That same year, an international think tank published The Limits to Growth, a report that claimed humanity was headed toward environmental catastrophe and economic collapse: Too many people were consuming too much of our planet. As the authors of the best-selling report wrote back then, "Taking no action to solve these problems is equivalent to taking strong action. Every day of continued exponential growth brings the world system closer to the ultimate limits of that growth. A decision to do nothing is a decision to increase the risk of collapse." And by the way, climate change back then wasn't even on the agenda.

"The world has not collapsed, you might have noticed. It's richer than it was 50 years ago. There are fewer people in extreme poverty, and fewer people suffering extreme hunger. And, more to the point, there is no evidence that we are running out of Earth through resource depletion. That said, climate change is definitely on the agenda. Taking no action to tackle this problem is, indeed, the 'equivalent of taking strong action' of the worst sort. That part the think tank got right.

"But economic growth, driven by the wonders of modern technological progress, isn't the problem here -- it's the solution. And that's because, fundamentally, we really don't have a climate 'emergency' or even a climate 'challenge.'

"What we have is a massive clean-energy problem, one that predates the recent energy shock caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And this problem has two aspects. First, as the Our World in Data organization puts it, 'The world lacks safe, low-carbon, and cheap large-scale energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Second, hundreds of millions of people lack access to sufficient energy entirely, with terrible consequences to themselves and the environment.'

"If a richer and more technologically capable world were to generate abundant, carbon-free energy, we could begin to tell ourselves a different story. This would be a story not just about a cooler climate, but about a more prosperous humanity with more opportunity-filled lives.

"Imagine a world with substantially less poverty, such that a country like Ethiopia became as rich as Denmark. Such a transformation would require a global economy at least five times as big as today, the folks at OWID say. Imagine a world where we could totally electrify the global economy, inexpensively desalinate seawater, power megamachines to pull carbon from the sky and reverse climate change, and do a whole host of things that our brilliant entrepreneurs and technologists haven't even thought of yet.

"All that's going to require a lot more low-carbon and carbon-free energy. And a lot more innovation. So here's what I'm proposing ..."

Well, regular Faster, Please! readers know the rest: a carbon tax that at least in part replaces the corporate income tax; revisiting 1970s-era environmental regulations that make it hard to build new clean energy sources and infrastructure; modernizing current regulations, especially those affecting the licensing of new nuclear fission technology and the permitting of geothermal sites; greater federal R&D for emerging energy technologies such as fusion and advanced geothermal, as well as climate engineering -- all of it part of a concerted effort to generate abundant clean energy ASAP. There is no other realistic path toward a more settled climate and greater global wealth.

There is no upside to electing a legislator as president, but at least a great legislator, like LBJ, has the experience required to help craft and steer legislation through Congress. Joe Biden, despite his decades in the Senate, was responsible for no significant laws.  Consider that his fellow senator from Delaware, who no one even remembers, was not only responsible for the Reagan tax cuts but has one of the most important financial innovations in American history named for him: the Roth IRA.

Joe's inexperience has been on full display as he has spent the past two years negotiating with one Democratic Senator instead of any Republicans.  A package like the one Mr. Pethokoukis describes here would be rather an easy sell. 

July 20, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


House passes same-sex marriage bill in retort to high court (LISA MASCARO, 7/20/22,  The Associated Press)

Alternate headline: Legislative branch resumes Constitutional duties after Judicial branch refuses to legislate in its stead.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


One Hundred Years Ago, 'Following the Science' Meant Supporting Eugenics (Joseph Loconte, Jul. 17th, 2022, National Review)

It is hard to overstate the degree to which eugenics captured the imagination of the medical and scientific communities in the early 20th century. Anthropologist Francis Galton, who coined the term -- from the Greek for "good birth" -- argued that scientific techniques for breeding healthier animals should be applied to human beings. Those considered to be "degenerates," "imbeciles," or "feebleminded" would be targeted. Anticipating public opposition, Galton told scientific gatherings that eugenics "must be introduced into the national conscience like a new religion." Premier scientific organizations, such as the American Museum of Natural History, and institutions such as Harvard and Princeton, preached the eugenics gospel: They held conferences, published papers, provided research funding, and advocated for sterilization laws.

To many thinkers in the West, the catastrophe of the First World War, in addition to the problems of poverty, crime, and social breakdown, suggested a sickness in the racial stock. Book titles help tell the story: Social Decay and Degeneration; The Need for Eugenic Reform; Racial Decay; Sterilization of the Unfit; and The Twilight of the White Races. The American Eugenics Society, founded in 1922 -- the same year Chesterton published Eugenics and Other Evils -- was supported by Nobel Prize-winning scientists whose stated objective was to sterilize a tenth of the U.S. population.

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The Supreme Court paved the way. Justice Holmes, a political progressive and eugenics advocate, wrote the 1927 Court opinion in Buck v. Bell, an 8-1 ruling upholding Virginia's sterilization laws. He summed up the court's philosophy thus: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." Within a decade, laws mandating sterilization of those considered a threat to the gene pool -- alcoholics, criminals, undesirable immigrants, African Americans -- were passed in 32 states. Eventually, at least 70,000 people were forcibly sterilized, from California to New York.

As a Christian philosopher, Chesterton acknowledged the historic problem of churches' enlisting the secular state to enforce religious doctrine. But he turned the issue around by accusing scientific elites of repeating the errors of the Inquisition:

The thing that really is trying to tyrannize through government is Science. The thing that really does use the secular arm is Science. And the creed that really is levying tithes and capturing schools, the creed that really is enforced by fine and imprisonment, the creed that is really proclaimed not in sermons but in statutes, and spread not by pilgrims but by policemen -- that creed is the great but disputed system of thought which began with Evolution and has ended in Eugenics.

Under the eugenics vision, society's most vulnerable would not find compassion and aid; they would find the surgeon's knife. As Chesterton quipped, there would be no sympathy for the character of Tiny Tim, the crippled boy of the Cratchit family in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. "The Eugenicist, for all I know, would regard the mere existence of Tiny Tim as a sufficient reason for massacring the whole family of Cratchit."

These facts are worth recalling in light of the debate set off by the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. Margaret Sanger trumpeted the eugenic features of birth control and found support from the nation's leading eugenicists. As she put it in a speech at the 1921 International Eugenics Congress in New York: "The most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the overfertility of the mentally and physically defective."

At the heart of the eugenics movement, Chesterton believed, was an utterly materialistic view of the human person: man as laboratory rat. "Materialism is really our established Church," he wrote, "for the Government will really help it to persecute its heretics."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


SolarDuck to build offshore floating solar pilot as potential partner for offshore wind (Joshua S Hi,ll 20 July 2022, Renew Economy)

German energy company RWE is to partner with Dutch-Norwegian company SolarDuck to build a 500kW pilot of an offshore floating solar farm that could be paired with offshore wind facilities [...]

"For countries with lower mean wind speeds but high solar irradiation, this opens up attractive opportunities," said Sven Utermöhlen, CEO of offshore wind at RWE Renewables.

July 19, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Trump's 'Fake Electors' in Georgia Are in Deep Trouble (Greg Walters, July 19, 2022, Vice News)

Among those named in the filing as targets is David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. 

The dramatic expansion of the known number of potential targets suggests that the most aggressive prosecutor in the U.S. pursuing leads related to Trump's activities in the 2020 election is moving even more aggressively than had been previously known. 

Team Trump's plan, as revealed in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, was this: Allies in seven key states would submit false certificates of Trump's victory, and when it came time for the electoral votes to be counted, former Vice President Mike Pence could either fail to recognize any electors from disputed states or delay certification of the election. (Ultimately, Pence didn't fall in line, and Trump maybe wanted to hang him.) 

Greatest parenthetical ever?
Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Google and Chevron invest in nuclear fusion startup that's raised $1.2 billion (Catherine Clifford, 7/19/22, CNBC)

Google and Chevron are part of a $250 million funding raise announced Tuesday for TAE Technologies, a nuclear fusion startup with an unconventional strategy that has now raised a total of $1.2 billion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia-Ukraine updates -- Moscow 'struggling to sustain combat power' (Deutsche-Welle, 7/19/22)

The UK Ministry of Defence said on Tuesday that Russia has struggled to sustain effective offensive combat power since the start of the invasion, adding that the problem was likely to become increasingly acute.

The ministry said Moscow was still "nominally" committing six separate armies to its Donbas offensive, but suggested that troop numbers had significantly decreased.

It also suggested that Ukranian counteratacks would give Moscow's military planners a headache, given Russia's immediate policy objective of seizing all of the Donetsk region.

"As well as dealing with severe under-manning, Russian planners face a dilemma between deploying reserves to the Donbas or defending against Ukrainian counterattacks in the southwestern Kherson sector," the ministry said.

July 18, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


Good News for Democrats: Even Republicans Are Tiring of Trump (Julianna Goldman, Jul. 18th, 2022, Bloomberg)

Democrats are worried that President Joe Biden is old, but the Jan. 6 hearings are showing that former president Donald Trump is stale.

And in a sea of negativity for Democrats, that's a potential bright spot ahead of November's midterm elections. Contrary to the popular opinion leading up to the first televised session last month of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot, it now appears that voters -- from the most progressive to the most MAGA, and independents in between -- are taking note of the damning revelations after seven public hearings.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM


New Hampshire law seeks to expand solar energy (Christian Wade, 7/18/22, The Center Square) 

New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has signed a new law allowing the state's consumers to tap into clean energy by joining community solar projects.

The law, approved by the state Legislature in the recently concluded session, will create a new program allowing low and moderate income households to participate in community solar projects. The changes will allow qualifying households to tie into solar energy programs and get credits for renewable energy usage without installing panels on their rooftops.

Under the new program, utilities will provide the state Department of Energy a list of customers who would qualify for low- and moderate-income community solar programs. The state will choose which households meet the criteria to enroll, and work with private developers to connect their projects to energy consumers who are willing to participate.

The initiative won praise from U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who posted a statement on social media on Monday that the new program "will help middle and lower-income residents save on electricity costs by matching them with community solar projects."

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


Cops Opened Fire Into a Crowd Because They Thought Someone Had a Gun (Mack Lamoureux, July 18, 2022, Vice News)

Police injured five people when they opened fire on a crowd in Denver's lively entertainment district after allegedly seeing a man attempt to grab a handgun from his waistband.  

The police shot into the crowd at 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning soon after showing up to deal with a group arguing in front of a bar. A witness then described to Denver 7 News seeing the cops "randomly shoot into a crowd of people."

"It was definitely a little traumatic to see that go down, to see police just randomly shooting into a crowd of people. It was just insane," he said. "I heard maybe six or seven shots. I look to my left and I saw a girl who was hit on the thigh and it hit an artery and she was gushing out blood."

"I can attest that there was no one else who shot a gun but Denver police," they added. "I saw them draw their guns. They didn't assess the situation."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Nothing can beat it:" The rise and rise of solar and battery storage (Giles Parkinson 18 July 2022, Renew Economy)

It is the story of Quinbrook's current energy focus: it has now unveiled a massive 2,000MWh battery project to be paired with big data centre load near Brisbane, and is building the 690MW Gemini solar project in Nevada, along with 380MW and four hours of storage, and has just landed a contract in the latest UK auction for 380MW of solar and storage in the south of England.

"There's nothing that can beat it," co-founder and managing partner David Scaysbrook tells RenewEconomy is the latest episode of the popular Energy Insiders podcast.

"It's just logical, because it's producing the cheapest renewable power during the day when industry needs it, and into the early evening.

"Our view is that the ... cost of power in the evening peak will be the most expensive power we will see in the future. And the time shifting of solar is one of the best solutions for that.

"So we need to become truly expert in this combo. And as we get better, longer duration energy storage options, paired with solar, it's going to keep getting better and better.

"And so that's strategically  ... where we wanted to put our eggs, if you like, in that basket. It doesn't mean we don't do other developments. We've got other synchronous condensers. We've got biomass, we've got wind. But we just wanted to really put a market down on solar and storage."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DeSantis' education message is winning in battleground states, teacher union poll finds (Marc Caputo and Jonathan Allen, 7/15/22, NBC News)

One poll question found that voters, by a 32 percentage-point margin, said they were more likely to vote for candidates who believe public schools should focus less on teaching race and more on core subjects. By 27 points, they said schools should be banned from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity to kids in kindergarten through third grade. By 28 points, they said transgender athletes should be banned from competing in girls' sports.

The same poll suggests DeSantis has been smart about where to draw the line. Most voters said they would be less likely to back candidates who want to prosecute teachers for instructing students on critical race theory and gender identity. The same goes for candidates who want books removed from school libraries...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The God Gap Helps Explain a 'Seismic Shift' in American PoliticsThe most important religious divide isn't between right and left, but between left and left (David French, 7/17/22, French Press)

Last week Axios's Josh Kraushaar described an ongoing "seismic shift" in the two parties' coalitions. As outlined in a New York Times/Siena College poll, "Democrats now have a bigger advantage with white college graduates than they do with nonwhite voters." The Democratic Party's losses with Hispanics are remarkable. Whereas Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, and Biden won 65 percent in 2020, now the Hispanic vote is "statistically tied."

Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that Hispanic voters will continue to migrate to the GOP. As Ruy Teixeira described this week on his Substack, comprehensive issue polling from Echelon Insights demonstrates that strong progressives have substantially different political and cultural views from Hispanics.

Hispanic voters are far more likely to believe that America is "the greatest country in the world," far less likely to support defunding the police, far less likely to believe "racism is built into our society," and far less likely to believe that transgender athletes should play on sports teams that match their current gender identity. In most cases, the polling gap is just immense. 

What accounts for such monumental differences in beliefs in values? As my colleague Jonah Goldberg often (and rightly) says, we should reject monocausal explanations for complex social phenomena, but here's a factor that simply isn't discussed enough. The Democratic Party has a huge "God gap," and that God gap is driving a wedge between its white and nonwhite voters. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is the Salton Sea hiding enough lithium to power America? (Teresa Carey, 7/17/22, Big Think)

The Salton Sea is a land-locked salt lake in the California desert. As odd as it sounds, the salty, superheated water reservoir below the surface promises to provide an abundance of geothermal energy. This renewable energy is produced when hot fluids are brought up from deep down, and the heat is converted to electricity.

"The potential is there for - again, back-of-the-envelope calculations - something like 50 to 100 years' worth of lithium production."

Currently, 11 commercial facilities are producing energy in the Salton Sea geothermal field. Once the fluid is cooled, it is typically returned to its origins deep underground. But many scientists hope to get an energy two-for-one -- by extracting lithium from it first. 

The deep-earth chemicals beneath the Salton Sea could contain enough lithium to cover all of America's domestic battery demands. 

We need to be sure to tax the externalities of EVs enough to force innovation. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Uvalde report: 376 officers but 'egregiously poor' decisions (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 07/17/2022)

Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed to a mass shooting at a Uvalde elementary school, but "egregiously poor decision-making" resulted in more than an hour of chaos before the gunman who took 21 lives was finally confronted and killed, according to a damning investigative report released Sunday.

July 17, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why They Still Support Trump (Peter Wehner, JULY 13, 2022, The Atlantic)

Trump supporters have spent much of the past half dozen years defending their man; their political and cultural identity has become fused with his. Some of them may have started out as lukewarm allies, but over time their support became less qualified and more enthusiastic. The unusual intensity of the Trump years increased their bond to him. He was the captain of Team Red. In their minds, loyalty demanded they stick with him, acting as his shield one day, his sword the next.

What began as a reluctant willingness to defend Trump soon became an ingrained habit. They ignored or excused his moral and legal transgressions; each time they did, the next excuse got a little easier. They could not bear to acknowledge to themselves, and certainly not to anyone else, that they were defending a seditious scoundrel. The cognitive dissonance was overwhelming; their self-conception would not allow them to admit they were complicit in a corrupt enterprise. This was particularly the case of those who insisted for decades prior to the Trump era that high moral character mattered in political leaders. And so they twisted themselves into knots, downplaying Trump's maliciousness, hyper-focusing on the sins of the left. They rather liked that Trump would bring a Glock to a political and cultural knife fight.

But something else, something even more powerful, was going on. Many Trump supporters grew to hate his critics even more than they came to love Trump. For them, Trump's detractors were not just wrong but wicked, obsessed with getting Trump, and hell-bent on destroying America. Former Republicans who turned against Trump--"Never Trumpers," as we became known--were particularly loathed. We were viewed as disloyal, even traitorous, having turned on Trump to win the praise of the liberal elite. For Trump supporters to admit that they were wrong about him--and especially to admit that Trump's critics had been right about him--would blow their circuits. If they ever do turn on Trump, they will admit it only to themselves and maybe a few close intimates. I've said before that asking Trump supporters to focus on his moral turpitude is like asking them to stare into the sun. They can do it for a split second, and then they have to look away. The Trump years have been all about looking away.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden's fist-bump with Saudi crown prince seen as undermining rights pledges (AFP, July 16, 2022)

It took less than 24 hours in Saudi Arabia for US President Joe Biden to tarnish an image he has long cultivated: that of a fierce defender of human rights.

The life of any politician is dotted with campaign pledges that ultimately backfire, and for Biden that list now includes his 2019 vow to make the desert kingdom a "pariah" over its human rights record.

Similarly his solemn description, delivered last year on US Independence Day, of Washington's role on the global stage: "We stand as a beacon to the world."

It was difficult for many to reconcile those words with the single-most searing image from Biden's first visit to the Middle East as president: his fist-bump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The point of the trip was to greenlight denying self-determination to Muslims in Israel and the Arab world.

July 16, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM



The New York Times reported yesterday that at least nine coal-burning plants should become solar farms or battery storage facilities in the next three years in Illinois alone. Similar plans are set for seven more states in a similar time frame. The old plants are prime candidates because they're already part of the country's existing infrastructure, and they have substations that convert electricity into the kind of power US households consume.

"A silver lining of having had all of these dirty power plants is that now, we have fairly robust transmission lines in those places," Jack Darin, Illinois Sierra Club chapter director, told the Times. "That's a huge asset."

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


The Religious Freedom of Muslims and Christian Evangelicals Is Bound Together (Asma Uddin, 7/16/22, The UnPopulist)

In the Christian worldview, the political Left has waged an assault on conservative Christian beliefs and practices wherever those beliefs and practices pose obstacles for the full liberation of the LGBTQ community. The Christian shop owner who refuses to make a custom wedding cake or a floral wedding arrangement for a gay couple; the Christian school that fires a teacher when she enters a lesbian relationship; the Christian marital counselor who declines to counsel two men on their sexual relationship--all these refusals must apparently be made unlawful, Christians feel, if LGBTQ individuals are to fully realize their rights as the Left sees them. The ongoing legal, social and cultural attacks on Christians' traditional practices has left many Christians feeling under siege in America. 

As the Left wages this battle, it also advocates vociferously for the rights of American Muslims (alongside an array of other minorities). Muslims and the Left have become so politically intertwined that, in the words of Eboo Patel, Barack Obama's former faith adviser, Muslims are a "totem, ... a symbol that signals, above all, a tribal belonging." I elaborate on the phenomenon in The Politics of Vulnerability:   

Muslims--and especially liberal advocacy on behalf of Muslims--are traits of the liberal mega-identity and opposition to Muslims is a trait of the conservative mega-identity. Nothing captures this political football better than variations of Obama's "Hope" poster with a woman in a hijab. The poster is used to protest Trump and was, for example, ubiquitous in the January 2017 Women's March on Washington. More generally, liberals have championed the hijab for years and featured women who wear headscarves in numerous prominent outlets. The phenomenon might seem peculiar, since the hijab as a facet of a modest (or restrictive) dress code for women is not ordinarily something that liberals would champion. But Muslims and hijab are part of the Left's mega-identity, and the Right--which isn't normally associated with feminism--makes feminist arguments against the hijab. 

The collective dynamics end up in a triangle of sorts: The more the Left challenges Christians' traditional beliefs in marriage, the more fiercely Christians oppose everything the Left stands for. Correspondingly, the more advocacy for Muslims' rights becomes a "lefty" thing to do, the more conservative Christians oppose Muslims' rights.  

They're an A-frame, propping each other up.  Muslims are incidental. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:35 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Fly-fishing is dumb. Change my mind.: On the verge of quitting, the author enlists the help of Tom Rosenbauer, the most famous fly fisherman in the country, to see if he might actually catch a fish (Billy Baker,  July 15, 2022, Boston Globe)

NORTH SHORE -- It was just after dawn, and America's most famous fly fisherman (if we're not counting Brad Pitt) was standing behind my car, getting his rod ready, and half-listening to me prattle on about all the reasons I hated fly-fishing.

"Don't overthink it," Tom Rosenbauer tossed out to me, like that was an option. "What we do is really stupid, and if you think too much about it you'll quit fishing."

But I was not interested in quitting fishing. I quite like catching fish, which is something that actually happens from time to time when I'm using a conventional rod. No, I was thinking of quitting fly-fishing, the most insufferable kind of fishing, and certainly the least effective.

Last year, I tried, and tried, and tried to catch a striped bass with a fly rod. And I failed, and failed, and failed again. But here's the worst part: I felt handsome doing it.

Which is somehow Brad Pitt's fault. If he hadn't looked so darn handsome playing a fly fisherman in "A River Runs Through It," then I never would have gone to fly-fishing school, never would have bought all the absurdly expensive gear, never would have tried to learn the balletic -- and maddening -- mechanics of casting a fly rod.

But feeling handsome can only go so far, especially if you are not Brad Pitt.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Conservatism and Skepticism--Part 1: Making sense of Leo Strauss' multifarious influence on the American right (Damon Linker, Jul 11, 2022, Eye on the Right)

Strauss, in my view, was a profoundly skeptical thinker. But this skepticism is not synonymous with Nietzschean nihilism, though neither does it provide comfort for those seeking eternal moral verities to guide human action. Strauss' skepticism, inspired by Socrates, is a distinctive way of comporting oneself in the world--one that takes as its touchstone an ever-present awareness that thinking invariably begins, and usually remains deeply mired in, dogmatic, unexamined opinions about morality, politics, justice, God, and even being (or "the whole" of things). Skeptical philosophizing is a way of life devoted to liberating oneself from these dogmatic, unexamined opinions and replacing them with knowledge--knowledge of our ignorance.

Strauss' Socratic skepticism differs from many other styles of skepticism in not being primarily a consequence of the limitations of human reason or some other defect of the human mind--as if another, less imperfect mind could discover an underlying coherence or fuller knowledge that eludes us. On the contrary, as one scholar has written, Socratic skepticism is a response to "the character of the world" itself. Elusiveness, hiddenness, confounding riddles, the primacy of questions to answers and problems to solutions--all of this "is a property of being itself."

But then why did Strauss deploy a rhetoric of conservative moralism at all? A good part of if it flowed from his rather unexceptional view, which was so widespread until recent times that it could be called the consensus position among political theorists from Aristotle through Alexis de Tocqueville, that good and decent politics (especially in a republic) depends on a citizenry possessing moral virtue.

In Strauss's case, the emphasis on moral virtue is both complicated and intensified by his conviction that philosophical reflection is fundamentally skeptical, potentially eroding the traditional moral and religious views on which good and decent politics depends. Strauss thus ended up in the unusual position of simultaneously advocating skeptical philosophical inquiry and working to prop up the very moral and religious views that such inquiry typically corrodes and dissolves.

To champion moral virtue in a modern liberal democracy is to sound like a conservative. To champion it while also advocating a form of philosophy that undermines the foundations of moral virtue is to sound like a uniquely cynical form of conservative--one who deploys conservative rhetoric as a mere subterfuge or "noble lie" for popular consumption. This has become one of the most common accusations critics make against Strauss. But his position is actually more complicated than that--and more interesting.

Strauss's moralism isn't simply a deception. It serves a philosophically justifiable purpose in light of what he took to be the permanent relation of philosophy to pre-philosophical opinion on the one hand, and the distinctive obstacles to philosophical skepticism in the modern world on the other.

Strauss maintains that in the pre-modern world, philosophy emerged (both historically and continually with each person down through the centuries who ended up drawn to it as a way of life) as an imminent critique of received opinions about virtue, justice, nobility, honor, love, friendship, the divine, and a range of other moral, political, and religious views. The philosopher examines these opinions, notices contradictions within them, and ascends dialectically to truer, less dogmatic, more enigmatic positions, and finally to genuine knowledge of the elusive character of truth.

On Strauss' reading, Plato's allegory of the cave encapsulates in metaphorical terms this vision of philosophy's genesis and relation to pre-philosophical life and experience. In the allegory, people live their lives unknowingly chained to the floor of a cave, which represents the political community (tribe, city-state, nation-state, or empire), along with its foundational laws and abiding customs. Within this cave, the people are forced to gaze at shadow-images (received opinions about morality, politics, and the gods) that they ignorantly mistake for reality. Philosophers are those rare individuals who come to doubt these received (false or at least badly distorted) opinions and seek to replace them with knowledge. In doing so, they liberate themselves from their confinement in the cave and ultimately ascend to the outside world of real objects bathed in the light of the sun.

Every political community, for Strauss, is a cave. That includes ancient Athens, the 20th-century United States in which he eventually made his home, and even the ideal or utopian city-in-speech elaborated by Socrates and his conversation partners in Plato's Republic, which is ruled by a class of philosopher kings. That's because Strauss was convinced that false and distorted political, moral, and religious opinions of one kind or another are, everywhere and always, the "very element of human or social or political life."

Scholars regularly make such claims about traditional societies, but Strauss' insistence on applying it to modern liberal democracies placed him at odds with the self-interpretation that often prevails within them. And that tension points to what Strauss considered to be an important shift in the relation of philosophical skepticism and political practice since the time of the 18th-century Enlightenment--a shift that helps to explain why Strauss frequently deployed conservative rhetoric in his writing and teaching.

Across all of its national variations, the Enlightenment sought to spread philosophical and scientific knowledge throughout society for the sake of improving the human condition, materially, spiritually, and intellectually. In classical terms, it aimed to bring everyone (or at least as many people as possible) out of the cave. 

The English-Speaking World avoided the catastrophe of the Enlightenment because it realizes that the Enlightened are in the cave.  The question that confronts us is simply which shadow play we have faith in. We choose the most beautiful one.  Thus, morality. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Who is Tom Bombadil? In Search of the "One-Answer-To-Rule-Them-All" : a review of In the House of Tom Bombadil by C.R. Wiley (Jeremy Johnston, July 6, 2022, Front Porch Republic)

Wiley observes that a "mystery is not a problem; it is a hidden truth," one that isn't simply solved but rather experienced and discovered. We won't discover hidden truth through dissection or through scrutinizing facts under a microscope. That is akin to cutting "open a ball in search of bounce," as writer Roger Lancelyn Green once remarked about those who seek to scrutinize Tolkien's work. Destroying a ball in search of bounce is an apt description for the doomed-to-fail approach to understanding the meaning of the characters and events of Middle-earth. By dissecting Bombadil to see what makes him tick ultimately results in neutralizing the intended function of the subject in question. As the old adage goes, the "whole" is often greater than the sum of its parts. C.S. Lewis makes a similar observation about stars in his fifth Narnia book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Upon encountering a "retired star" in bodily form, one of the characters declares, "In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas." The star astutely replies, "Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of..."

Who is Tom Bombadil?

What Lewis and Tolkien (and Wiley) are encouraging us to do is to see things in a different way; for example, we need to see love not merely as chemical reactions, or beauty and truth not merely as social constructs, or goodness not merely a pragmatic means of survival. Wiley points out that pursuing knowledge by "cutting open of bouncing balls" is exactly what Saruman does in his relentless study of the dark arts and scrutinizing the evils of Sauron, a study that ultimately corrupts him. This is underscored by Gandalf, who chastises Saruman's behaviour by declaring that the man who "breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

Wiley reminds us that we mustn't lose sight of the forest because of the trees. The fact that some aspects of Tolkien's portrayal of Bombadil align with allusions to Christ cause some readers to conclude that he must be a pre-incarnate Christ breaking into Middle-earth. There is some compelling evidence to suggest this. For example, when Frodo first meets Bombadil, he marvels at the way he wields incredible authority over Middle-earth, and he wonders aloud who he could be. The answer Frodo receives is "He is," which is as cryptic as it is provocative. Such a response reminds us of God's self-declared name, "I Am That I Am" (Exodus 3:7-8, 13-14). C.R. Wiley leads his readers towards understanding the function of Bombadil within the larger story, not as an agent of the plot or a one-to-one stand-in for another person or character, but more as a reminder of deeper truths that will shape how readers approach the events and characters of the novel.

What we know about Bombadil is that he is a powerful and ancient being, older than Gandalf and older than the elves, and he has no interest in "trinkets" that are used to dominate others. Although he is aware of evil, he has no fear of it. Instead, he travels about his business bedecked with yellow boots, a blue coat, and a feathered cap. He wanders the woods singing silly songs of seemingly nonsense verse and he possesses an indomitable cheerfulness. In a story filled with perilous journeys, evil rings, and the terrors of trolls, orcs, and wraiths, it would seem that Bombadil's jolly demeanor is out of place. But, when the hobbits first encounter him in the Old Forest, his arrival is as welcome to the reader as it is to the hobbits. This is because Tom rescues Frodo and his companions from certain death - not once, but twice in the two chapters in which he appears. His appearance is unexpected yet timely; what could have been a tragic ending - the death of the hobbits and the failure of the quest - is not only avoided but happily and joyfully thwarted by Tom Bombadil. In other words, when the story is on the brink of a catastrophe, Tolkien suddenly introduces a "eucatastrophe"; that is, a sudden and good turn of events. Tolkien coined this neologism by combining the Greek prefix ευ- meaning "good" with καταστροφή, meaning "sudden turn."

In his essay, "On Fairy-stories," Tolkien describes this "good catastrophe" as

a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of dyscatastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

The "Joy beyond the walls of the world" that Tolkien describes here is the gospel of Christ, which Tolkien asserts "is the greatest and most complete eucatastrophe." It is no mere fantasy, for "this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to fulfillment of Creation." He goes on to say,

The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the 'inner consistency of reality'. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits.

Bridging Tolkien's idea of eucatastrophe in The Lord of the Rings with the gospel account is a key stepping stone to understanding the "who" and "why" of Tom Bombadil. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


From the Archives: The 1972 World Chess Championship in Iceland (Erik Pomrenke, July 12, 2022, Iceland Review)

Here, we revisit our original coverage of this historic match, written by Gísli Sigurðsson that thrust Iceland onto the world stage. 

"When the challenger failed to appear in the afternoon, a press conference was held. Dr. Max Euwe, President of the International Chess Federation, was very depressed. 'I have two alternatives', he said, 'One is to cancel this match here and now. The other is to postpone it for two days'. Dr. Euwe chose the second alternative, to a great extent out of sympathy for the Icelandic Chess Federation, which had been put to much expense and trouble. The atmosphere was dismal; people were convinced that the whole thing was off."

"But Fischer arrived at the eleventh hour, or maybe a little later. He hurried out of the plane into the car, rather like a hijacker expecting a hail of police bullets. The war of nerves was at its height, and Fischer seemed to be a bundle of nerves. He had come to fulfil an old promise -- to beat the Russians. Now they had the next move: No match unless Fischer makes a formal apology. Much to everyone's surprise this was soon forthcoming: 'Dear Boris. Please accept my heartfelt apologies for my indecent behaviour by not attending the inaugural ceremony.'"

"The air was full of tension in the hall on Tuesday, 11th July. The world champion appeared exactly on the minute and played his first move. The clock ran for seven minutes. Then at last Fischer stalked onto the stage. People relaxed. And immediately in this game the challenger's aggressiveness was revealed; people expected a very complicated position to develop with such chessmasters. But Fischer took all the pieces it was possible to take. However, in the 29th move he bit off more than he could chew. This was Fischer's most serious slip in the whole match. That move cost him the first game."

"The world champion maintained his dignity and sat down punctually to the second game. Time passed, and people became restless. The challenger did not appear. Then it became known that he did not intend to do so, and Fridrik Olafsson, Icelandic Grandmaster, tried to save the situation by talking to him in his hotel room, but he was not to be moved. People once more became pessimistic. The match appeared to have reached an impasse, and Fischer had even booked a flight back to America. The arbiters awarded a win to Boris Spassky in the second game."

"The difference in the behaviour of the contestants was obvious. Spassky brought to mind an Olympian champion athlete when he walked in; he sat perfectly straight in his seat, always calm, looking relaxed, and he considered the situation from a certain distance. Fischer, on the other hand, shambled onto the stage in great strides; his gait was uneven, and his clothes always seemed to be crumpled."

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


The (Protestant) American Revolution : On Gary Steward's Justifying Revolution (Thomas TacomaJuly 13, 2022, American Reformer)

Was the American Revolution a righteous patriotic war in which a Christian people threw off the shackles of tyranny to build a government based on the protection of rights, or was it a sinful rebellion against God's duly-appointed magistrates for which Christians should repent? The answer to this question is surprisingly contested among evangelical historians.

Fortunately, we have Gary Steward's new book, Justifying Revolution: The American Clergy's Argument for Political Resistance, 1750-1776, to help us think the question through with greater nuance and precision.

Throughout the book, Steward's major aim is to document that the American clergy's position in the 1770s was traditional, not novel - demonstrating constitutional and religious continuity with their forebears, not rupture. By carefully documenting the arguments of clergy in the Revolutionary period, then tracing the roots of their ideas back chronologically, Steward proves that the religious leaders of the Revolution were in fact true to the Bible as exposited by their Reformation fathers.

For example, one common claim is that Patriot pastors took their ideas from Jonathan Mayhew, a heterodox New England pastor who in 1750 preached fiercely against the doctrines of unlimited submission and passive obedience to tyrants. His (acknowledged) heterodoxy thus becomes the heterodoxy of all patriot pastors in the 1760s and 1770s. Steward disputes this. Further, many historians allege that Mayhew's conclusions were a result of applying Lockean presuppositions to the text of Romans 13 - presuppositions that created new space for Christian resistance to God's appointed magistrates.

Steward spends a great deal of time flipping this interpretation on its head. For starters, Steward points out that Mayhew's 1750 sermon had so closely followed British Bishop Benjamin Hoadly's earlier sermons that Mayhew was accused of plagiarism. Hoadly, in turn, was charged by contemporaries with simply imitating the arguments of the Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos and various 16th-century political theologians. These theologians, in their turn, had only promoted the same theological arguments made by the likes of John Knox, John Ponet, Martin Bucer, and other early reformers. From Knox to Mayhew, these theologians maintained essentially the same interpretation of Romans 13: a magistrate who betrays his trust through tyrannical action ceases to be a minister of God, and the people (or inferior magistrates) may rightfully defy him.

Steward also argues that Locke's theories of political resistance to tyranny in his Second Treatise of Government are deeply indebted to the Protestant theological tradition. Instead of interpreting the ideas of the Patriot clergy as a baptized Lockeanism, we ought to understand Locke as a secularized version of the traditional Reformed position (Steward quotes J.G.A. Pocock on this, who called Locke's Second Treatise "the classic text of radical Calvinist politics" [25]).

Additional evidence for this theological continuity was the 1779 publication of Defensive Arms Vindicated and the Lawfulness of the American War Made Manifest. Did it make novel, Lockean-inspired arguments for rebellion and warfare? To the contrary - this pamphlet was actually a reprinting of a Scottish defense of political resistance from 1687. The ability simply to reprint an argument 90 years later and have it fit the context demonstrates a remarkable continuity of American and earlier Reformed religious thought on politics.

It wasn't a Revolution.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


It's the National Security, Stupid (Minna Ålander, July 7, 2022, Lawfare)

[M]ilitary defense is just the tip of the iceberg. The Finnish comprehensive security concept also encompasses the economy, infrastructure, security of supply, civil defense, and overall societal resilience. Everything in Finnish society is thought through from a security perspective. Every building above a certain size--including all apartment buildings and public facilities--are required to have civil shelters. In the capital city of Helsinki, a system of tunnels can provide shelter for up to 900,000 people, which is more than Helsinki's population. The construction blueprints of all strategically located bridges include a mechanism to attach explosives onto the bridge to disrupt the forward movement of an enemy in case of an attack. Finland also maintains emergency reserves of critical supplies. These include grain to last at least six months, medicine to last three to 10 months, and fuel for five months. The reserves have been expanded since Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The population is also recommended to have personal emergency reserves to last at least 72 hours.

Finnish comprehensive security is based on two main principles: preparedness and foresight. Preparedness measures include contingency planning, continuity management, advance preparations, training, and preparedness exercises to enable proaction instead of reaction. Foresight consists of monitoring changes and trends in the operational environment and reviewing possible scenarios, as well as assessing prior experience with crisis situations. Since 1961, the Finnish Defence Forces have been offering defense courses for people holding significant positions in multiple sectors such as business, politics, administration, civil society, and other relevant fields on both the local and national levels. The participants build an essential network of central security actors in times of crisis. Apart from these more high-level courses with selected participants that take place four times per year, national defense courses are also offered to ordinary citizens--specifically to women, who are exempt from conscription. The courses' popularity has surged since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Preparedness Pays Off

This foresight and focus on self-sufficiency has effectively neutralized Russia's threats. On May 14, Russia cut off electricity exports to Finland with only one day's notice. Finland used to import around 10 percent of its electricity from Russia, but Fingrid--Finland's electricity grid operator--began to limit its import volume from Russia in April in anticipation of potential disruptions. Finland has also invested in wind energy, and a new nuclear power plant has been in test use since March 2022 and will become fully operational in the winter. It is estimated that Finland will be electrically self-sufficient by 2023 and will likely be a net electricity exporter.

One week later, on May 21, Russia also stopped natural gas deliveries to Finland after Helsinki refused to consent to Moscow's rouble payment scheme. The impact remained limited. While some industries--such as the forest-based and chemical industries as well as bakeries--use gas for production, they had already started looking for alternative sources in summer 2021 when the Russian gas company Gazprom did not fill its reservoirs reliably. In 2020, Finland imported 67 percent of its natural gas from Russia, but gas made up only 6 percent of Finland's total energy use. In addition to three already existing liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, in May the Finnish company Gasgrid Finland Oy and U.S.-based Excelerate Energy Inc. signed a 10-year lease agreement for an LNG terminal ship, which secured Finland's security of supply in the coming winter.

Finland also moved fast to diversify its oil supply following the invasion of Ukraine. In 2020, 86 percent of Finland's oil imports came from Russia, which accounted for 21 percent of the country's total energy  usage. However, the Finnish company Neste reported that it had replaced 85 percent of Russian imports through the end of April with other non-Russian oil, such as North Sea oil, but will continue receiving crude oil from Russia in its refinery until July 2022. Neste had already been reducing imports of Russian oil gradually in 2021. Coal will also soon be phased out entirely, and Finland has enough of its own capacity to replace Russian wood imports. The downside is that this will inevitably lead to higher prices for Finns. But the consensus has so far remained strong in Finnish society that no price is too high when it comes to energy independence from Russia and solidarity with Ukraine. 

Finland has always prioritized energy self-sufficiency and kept a diverse energy source portfolio to avoid dependencies. The security policy implications of Russian energy have constantly been a factor in Finland's risk calculations. A government decision in 2014 to approve a contract between the Finnish Fennovoima and the Russian Rosatom for a new nuclear power plant was thus highly disputed and the Green Party even left the government over the issue. Fennovoima terminated the contract in May 2022, after it had been left pending final government approval since 2015.

Before Russia's attack on Ukraine, Finland had an export volume to Russia somewhat above the EU average at around 5 percent. But by April, the volume had already decreased by 70 percent. This decrease was largely due to voluntary withdrawals by Finnish companies from the Russian market starting in the first weeks of the invasion--even before Western sanctions came into effect. The pressure of public opinion to stop doing business with Russia has been very strong. And in early April, Prime Minister Sanna Marin encouraged Finnish companies to terminate any remaining business activities in the Russian market. Whatever little leverage Russia may have had over Finland, it is gone for good.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


Justice Is Never Enough (Richard Reinsch, 7/15/22, Law & Liberty)

Love has always been the uncontrollable element for Harry. The calm pursuer of accountability is weighed down under memories. He separated from his wife but retained a tremendous fondness for her. Maddie's entrance to the LAPD leads him back to his former wife's death, and then a call goes out that a female cop has been shot in his daughter's patrol district. Harry reaches out frantically to her, immeasurably relieved that she is unharmed.

Maddie is also sent as a liaison to the badly wounded officer's family to inform them of her critical injury. She tells her dad that she won't know what to say. "She's your fellow officer," Harry says, "The words will come." Dutiful Harry again surfaces.

Like father, like daughter, Maddie says to Harry, "I can't let it go." She is tireless in the pursuit of a serial rapist, resembling her father's obsessed police work in every previous season. "Got a feeling that I can't let it go" went the refrain of the theme song in the previous series, a line that nicely captured Harry's doggedness. Now we get as an opening a song that repeatedly says, "Times are changing." But the times also remain the same. And the changes don't seem for the better. Harry as PI strolls LA in a timeless Cherokee jeep. He pays his tech sleuth advisor, Mo (Stephen Bassi), in cash. Mo replies, "Cash is so last century." Harry rejoins, "So am I, brother."

There is a theme weaving through this season of creeping lawlessness. There may even be a Bosch-like nod to identity politics, but it is so wrapped in love, loss, and hope that I hesitate to name it as such. On the lawlessness bit, Honey Chandler, LA defense lawyer extraordinaire, was almost killed last season by a hit ordered by hedge funder Carl Rogers that killed a judge. He gets off this season because of insufficient evidence. Honey recovered physically, but not soulfully. She is hounded by thoughts of revenge, operating somewhere between gun range visits and late-night bourbons. She's very clear with her therapist that she wants Rogers to live in torment.

Honey is now teamed with Harry on a range of cases and investigations. On Carl Rogers's release, Harry tells Honey, "We do it my way this time." He has Carl in his sights. But Harry has always spurned Honey, referring to her as "Money" Chandler. The refined defense lawyer has handsomely profited from various civil rights regulations that afford huge payouts for defendants treated shabbily by the justice system. It's Maddie, a former employee of hers, who convinces Harry that Honey was probably right in most of those cases, but it's also true that she milked the system for all it was worth. Like Harry, Honey knows the limits of the system but unlike Harry, she evades them for her own purposes.

But she also experiences life's strictures this season. If Harry can't outrun love, then Honey learns there really isn't platonic revenge, and justice can only afford so much relief.

July 15, 2022

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Posted by orrinj at 11:46 AM


Gas price drop hits 30 straight days as oil prices continue collapse (Dani Romero, July 14, 2022, Yahoo!)

Record-high gas prices might be in the rearview mirror for drivers, as prices at the pump have now fallen 30 days in a row amid a drop in crude oil (CL=F).

International oil prices dipped below $100 on Thursday to levels last seen before Russia invaded Ukraine, with Brent crude (BZ=F) -- the international benchmark -- down about 5% trading under $100 a barrel, the lowest level since February. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) also dipped Thursday to above $93 after trading above $95 Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


'A real chilling effect': A Lefty Scholar is Dumping CAP -- For AEI (MICHAEL SCHAFFER, 07/15/2022, Politico)

Ruy Teixeira is one of Washington's most prominent left-leaning think-tank scholars, a fixture at the Center for American Progress since the liberal organization's founding in 2003. But as of August 1, he'll have a new professional home: The American Enterprise Institute, the longtime conservative redoubt that over the years has employed the likes of Newt Gingrich, Dinesh D'Souza, and Robert Bork.

Teixeira, whose role in the Beltway scrum often involved arguing against calls to move right on economic issues, insists his own policy views haven't changed -- but says the current cultural milieu of progressive organizations "sends me running screaming from the left."

"My perspective is, the single most important thing to focus on in the social system is the economic system," he tells me. "It's class." We're sitting in AEI's elegantly furnished library. Down the hall, there's a boisterous event celebrating the conservative intellectual Harvey Mansfield. William Kristol, clad in a suit, has just left the room. Teixeira's untucked shirt and sneakers aren't the only thing that seems out of place. "I'm just a social democrat, man. Trying to make the world a better place."

How Teixeira came to be talking about the essentiality of class politics while sitting a few feet from a stack of books by Lynne Cheney says a great deal about the state of the American left, where the 70-year-old researcher felt alienated -- and about the American right, where a once-dominant think tank that fell afoul of Trump die-hards has brought him aboard.

To hear Teixeira tell it, CAP, and the rest of Washington's institution-based left, stopped being a place where he could do the work he wanted. The reason, he says, is that the relentless focus on race, gender, and identity in historically liberal foundations and think tanks has made it hard to do work that looks at society through other prisms. It also makes people nervous about projects that could be accused of giving short shrift to anti-racism efforts.

The great American middle opposes the Identitarianism of the Trumpists/Progressives. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Teach Baptist history and Bible history to debunk Christian nationalism, historians say (EMILY COUSINS, JULY 13, 2022, Baptist News)

Without knowing this history, modern Baptists have been told a different story, especially about the meaning of religious liberty, a Baptist hallmark, Leonard explained. "Southern Baptists, and what we call independent Baptists, the Jerry Falwell crowd, have moved away from this sense of radical religious liberty based on the freedom of conscience toward Christian nationalism."

"Southern Baptists, and what we call independent Baptists, the Jerry Falwell crowd, have moved away from this sense of radical religious liberty based on the freedom of conscience toward Christian nationalism."

There are other voices telling a truer historical account of Baptists and religious liberty, including Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which "has made opposition to Christian nationalism the primary work they have to do right now, because that Christian nationalism is so strong," he reported.

Teaching history in a Baptist church is important because of Baptist autonomy and the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, he continued. "Rightly or wrongly, the great genius of the Baptists is that the people can be trusted to interpret Scripture or write correctly in the context of a believing community under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

Baptists were some of the earliest advocates for religious liberty, Leonard said. "Not simply for different Christians groups, but for the atheist and the heretic, meaning they said, 'God alone is judge of conscience, and neither an established church, an official church or a state can dictate to conscience in terms of forcing people to be baptized.'"

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Warnings for Today from the French Revolution: It's Bastille Day--an occasion to heed the echoes of 1789 in 2022. (CATHY YOUNG,  JULY 14, 2022, The Bulwark)

The dangers of normalizing political violence. France had no mechanism for either the peaceful transfer of power or the reform of power, so in retrospect some level of violence seems inevitable. But from the beginning, the Revolution was also marked by grisly brutality against perceived evildoers. The most dramatic example of this was the lynching of finance minister Joseph Foullon de Doué and his son-in-law, the intendant of Paris Louis Bertier de Sauvigny, on July 22, 1789; both men, named as culprits in paranoid rumors about a "famine plot" to starve the population of Paris, were hanged from lampposts and then beheaded, their severed heads carried on pikes through city streets. After some Assembly members voiced dismay at the killings, others rose to excuse them as a justifiable expression of popular anger; one, Antoine Barnave, rebuked his "tender-hearted" colleagues and suggested that the victims deserved little pity because the spilled blood was not "pure" but tainted by their offenses. Predictably, Barnave himself later joined the ranks of such "impure" victims.

When the Republic was established in September 1792 and the mass of (male) French citizens acquired the ability to change their government at the ballot box, the habit of political violence persisted. On May 31, 1793, a Paris mob invaded the hall of the national legislature--the Convention--and demanded the expulsion and arrest of the Girondin deputies. The mob, supported by Robespierre's radical Montagnard faction, prevailed. Long before the ascent of Napoleon, that was the end of France's first experiment in liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


"Eureka moment" as Australian researchers make hydrogen storage breakthrough (Sophie Vorrath 15 July 2022, Renew Economy)

Australian researchers have found a novel way to separate, store and transport huge amounts of gas safely that could wind up being the missing piece of the puzzle for renewable hydrogen.

Renewable hydrogen figures enormously in the net zero emissions plans of Australia - particularly in the hard to decarbonise sectors of industry and heavy transport. But storing and transporting large quantities of gases for practical application remains a major challenge.

A team from Deakin University's Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) in Melbourne says it has found a new mechanochemical way of separating and storing gases, which is safe, uses a tiny fraction of the energy compared to traditional methods and creates zero waste.

The team says the breakthrough, detailed in the journal Materials Today, is such a departure from accepted wisdom on gas separation and storage that it had to be repeated 20 to 30 times before it could be believed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


GOP fears Senate debacle (Josh Kraushaar & Andrew Solender, 7/15/22, Axios)

Top Republicans, once confident about winning control of the Senate in the midterms, fear they'll blow it after nominating several deeply flawed candidates in winnable states, according to conversations with GOP strategists, pollsters and other officials.

It's over 40 years ago, so folks can be forgiven not remembering the dross Reagan carried in with him in unwinnable Senate races in 1980.  In wave elections, the candidates barely matter.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM



THE SECRET SERVICE erased text messages from January 5 and January 6, 2021, according to a letter given to the January 6 committee and reviewed by The Intercept. The letter was originally sent by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to the House and Senate homeland security committees. Though the Secret Service maintains that the text messages were lost as a result of a "device-replacement program," the letter says the erasure took place shortly after oversight officials requested the agency's electronic communications. [...]

"I'm not getting in the car," Pence reportedly told the Secret Service detail on January 6. "If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off." Had Pence entered the vice presidential limo, he would have been taken to a secure location where he would have been unable to certify the presidential election results, plunging the U.S. into uncharted waters.

"People need to understand that if Pence had listened to the Secret Service and fled the Capitol, this could have turned out a whole lot worse," a congressional official not authorized to speak publicly told The Intercept. "It could've been a successful coup, not just an attempted one."

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the January 6 committee, called Pence's terse refusal -- "I'm not getting in the car" -- the "six most chilling words of this entire thing I've seen so far."

July 14, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


DC police officer in Trump Jan. 6 motorcade corroborates details of heated Secret Service exchange to committee (Jamie Gangel and Annie Grayer, July 14, 2022, CNN)

A Washington, DC, police officer has corroborated to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, details regarding a heated exchange former President Donald Trump had with his Secret Service detail when he was told he could not go to the US Capitol after his rally, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN. [...]

The description of the angry exchange between Trump and his Secret Service detail was a striking moment during the June testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Hutchinson said that she heard a secondhand account told to her by then-White House deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato that Trump was so enraged at his Secret Service detail for blocking him from going to the Capitol on the day of the insurrection that "he reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel" and "then used his free hand to lunge towards" his Secret Service lead agent Robert Engel. Hutchinson testified that Ornato told her the story in front of Engel and he did not dispute the account.

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Inception at 12: The truth behind Christopher Nolan movie's final scene, according to Michael Caine (Jacob Stolworthy, 7/14/22, Independent)

The debate surrounding Inception's ending has waged on ever since its release in 2010, with the mystery surrounding whether the final scene was real or whether it was taking place in the dream of the lead character, Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio).

The scene in question - in which he's granted access to the US after having his criminal history erased - sees him reunited with his children and father, played by Caine.

Audiences have wondered whether this scene was, in fact, a dream thanks to Nolan's final shot of the spinning top - Cobb's totem that spins indefinitely in a dream but topples in the real world - which cuts off before viewers have a chance to find out.

Nolan has continually maintained that the ending is "subjective" and that the only thing that matters is that Cobb doesn't care if he's dreaming or not. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


The Republican Who Wants To End The Trump Era -- Without Taking on Trump (JOHN F. HARRIS, 07/14/2022, Politico)

The people speculating about Youngkin's national future don't much care what he has done or not done for transportation infrastructure in Northern Virginia. They think the 55-year-old former investment banker may have found a formula to make the last six years just fade away--to return to the GOP leadership style we associate with names like Bush and Romney.

Trump is also a reflection of a broader phenomenon that makes it possible for Youngkin to be taken seriously. This is the concept of virality as a dominant factor in presidential politics. In a media-saturated environment, the thinking goes, a public figure has certain electric moments when she or he can arouse public curiosity and support. But those moments must be seized quickly or dissipate. By these lights, politics is not a mechanical process -- organization, endorsements, issue platforms -- but a chemical one in which personality and national mood interact in explosive ways. Nothing demonstrated the power of chemistry over mechanics like Trump's brutal demolition of Jeb Bush in the 2016 primaries. Now, Youngkin evidently wants to harness chemistry again to reverse the process.

Two different precedents, pointing different directions, are relevant to Youngkin's circumstances.

Obama is the patron saint for all those who don't believe in the old rules of waiting one's turn. He had only been in the Senate for two years when he announced what looked at first like a longshot candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. In his memoir, he recalled the advice given to him by Ted Kennedy: "You think you may not be ready, that you'll do it a more convenient time. But you don't choose the time. The time chooses you. Either you seize what may turn out to be the only chance you have, or you decide you're willing to live with the knowledge that the chance has passed you by."

But there is another case study closer to home for Youngkin. Doug Wilder, a Virginia governor I covered as a young reporter, drew national attention when in 1989 he became the nation's first Black elected governor. With a dazzling personality, 20 years in state politics and a historic achievement winning in the capital of the Confederacy, his credentials seemed more self-evidently plausible than Youngkin's for a presidential candidacy. Within a year or so of taking office, he was running. In an interview Wednesday, Wilder recalled the reaction of former supporters: "How dare you!" He said the loudest applause he ever got was when he later announced he was ending his candidacy to devote full time to Virginia.

Wilder said he thinks Youngkin "has gotten off to a good start" as governor, but that what he needs to do now is obvious. Answer every presidential inquiry by saying flatly that, "Every last ounce of my energy and time is going to the people of Virginia." National politics, Wilder said, might well be in Youngkin's future. But he said Youngkin should build a longer record, and heed advice Wilder learned early in a career of political horse-trading: "You have to put something on the table besides your elbows."

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


GOP candidate for Pa. governor Mastriano paid $5,000 to the website used by the Tree of Life shooter (Oliver Morrison, July 13, 2022, 90.5 WESA)

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, arrives for Gov. Wolf's budget address in Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 8, 2022. The Pennsylvania state senator, who was in regular communication with Donald Trump as the then-president sought to reverse his 2020 election loss and was outside the U.S. Capitol the afternoon of the Jan. 6 rioting, was subpoenaed Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 by the congressional committee looking into the insurrection.
Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano's campaign for governor in Pennsylvania paid $5,000 for "consulting services" to Gab, a social media platform that provides a home for conspiracy theories and antisemitic content.

Gab is the website used by Robert Bowers, who is charged with killing 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill in 2018. Bowers routinely posted antisemitic content on Gab before the shooting, according to archives of the posts.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


New wind and solar saved $82bn in fossil fuel costs in 2021, but supply pressures loom (Michael Mazengarb 14 July 2022, Renew Economy)

Last year, the global cost of onshore wind energy fell by 15 per cent, offshore wind projects fell by 13 per cent, and the cost of solar PV dropped by 13 per cent, the IRENA report says.

IRENA says around two-thirds of renewable energy additions last year had lower costs than the globally cheapest coal-fired power stations, providing further evidence that wind and solar continue to beat fossil fuels on cost.

"Renewables are by far the cheapest form of power today," director general of IRENA, Francesco La Camera, said.

"2022 is a stark example of just how economically viable new renewable power generation has become."

"Renewable power frees economies from volatile fossil fuel prices and imports, curbs energy costs and enhances market resilience - even more so if today's energy crunch continues."

IRENA estimated that the more than 250GW of new renewable energy projects commissioned in 2021 helped avoid US$55 billion (A$82 billion) in additional fossil fuel energy costs as a result of the coal, gas and oil price spikes observed in 2022.

IRENA found that renewables were particularly competitive in European countries, where there was the largest gap in price between wind and solar technologies and those of fossil fuels.

Use gas taxes to keep up the pressure on fossil prices. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


First on CNN: Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff talking with January 6 committee, sources say (Ryan Nobles, Dana Bash, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen,  July 13, 2022, CNN)

Former President Donald Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff who was talking to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The support staffer was not someone who routinely communicated with the former President and was concerned about the contact, according to the sources, and informed their attorney.

The call was made after former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified publicly to the committee. The White House staffer was in a position to corroborate part of what Hutchinson had said under oath, according to the sources.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Bannon Admitted (On Tape) That Trump Planned To Steal 2020 Election (Mark Sumner, July 14 | 2022, National Memo)

Mother Jones has laid their hands on more than an hour of audio recordings between Bannon and supporters of exiled Chinese oligarch and Mar-a-Lago member Guo Wengui. The recording was made on the evening of Oct. 31, 2020, at a point when the polls showed President Joe Biden about to easily defeat Trump.

In that recording, Bannon lays everything--everything--out neatly for the group of mostly Chinese immigrants. After explaining the electoral process and how Trump had worked to ensure that Republicans would use mail-in ballots less than Democrats, Bannon rolled straight into how that could be turned into a means of stealing the election.

"What Trump's gonna do, is just declare victory," said Bannon. "Right? He's gonna declare victory. But that doesn't mean he's a winner. He's just gonna say he's a winner."

Counting mail-in ballots, said Bannon, put Democrats at "a natural disadvantage. And Trump's going to take advantage of it. That's our strategy. He's gonna declare himself a winner."

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


3rd arrest made in alleged Colorado election security breach (COLLEEN SLEVIN, 7/14/22, AP)

Sandra Brown, who worked for Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, turned herself in Monday in response to a warrant issued for her arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation and attempting to influence a public servant, said Lt. Henry Stoffel of the Mesa County Sheriff's Office. [...]

Peters, who has echoed former President Donald Trump's false theories about the 2020 election and become a hero to election conspiracy theorists, lost her bid to become the GOP candidate for Colorado secretary of state last month. She first came to national attention when she spoke last year at a conference hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the most prominent election deniers in the country.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


What you need to know about Statcast bat tracking (Mike Petriello, 7/04/22, MLB.com)

One hundred years ago, Babe Ruth was redefining how baseball was played, and understood. In 1920, Prof. A.L. Hodges, "the Well-Known Physicist," wrote Ruth had "a 44 Horse-Power Swing Which Shoots the Ball Skyward at Six Miles a Minute," a fascinating attempt at a proto-Statcast. The next year, a pair of Columbia scientists strapped the Great Bambino into all sorts of tubes and machines in an attempt to break down the ways in which his body moved and reacted, hoping to find how he managed all those swats the sultan was known for. (...)

4) How do you define bat speed?

You'd think this would be the easy part, right? It is not.

Remember when we said Chisholm's June 10 home run had a swing speed of 94.1 mph ("sort of")? That's because different parts of the bat move at different speeds; the end of the bat has a lot longer to go than the handle does, in the same amount of time. You could say the head of his bat was traveling at 113 mph, which it was. You could say the point of the bat that made impact was going 98.6 mph.

Or you could say that the "sweetspot," the part where players are almost always actually trying to make contact, was going 94.1 mph. That or something near it is generally the industry standard -- Blast Motion, one of the leading wearable solutions, uses 6 inches exactly, for example -- and it's a point that's easily understood for casual fans, so that's what we'll use here: 6 inches from the head.

It's almost like asking whether you should measure the velocity of a pitch out of the hand (as is done now) or at a set point (as has been done in the past) or at the time it gets to the plate. All are valid, and there are many choices, but for simplicity's sake, you might just have to pick one. The sweetspot, then, it is.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Why "Great Replacement" theorists tried to cancel teddy bears (Louis Anslow, 7/12/22, Big Think)

The Great Replacement theory -- which is really a conspiracy theory -- has made a comeback in recent times, forcing its way back into mainstream discourse. Once referred to as "white genocide" and before that as "race suicide," the concept -- born of the eugenics movement and fuelled by white supremacy -- posits the white race (whatever that even means) is being displaced due to low birth rates and interracial couples having kids. 

Why the concern? The underlying assumption, of course, is that there is something special about being white. Supremacists believe that the white race is superior to other races, and those who fall for the conspiracy theory believe that traditional culture and values are being erased.

Had the same conspiracy theorists been around in the first decade of the 1900s, they may well have been floating the great replacement theory in response to something as benign and unthreatening as teddy bears. A century ago, toy bears were accused of suppressing the maternal instincts in young girls -- which toy dolls supposedly helped develop -- and therefore would accelerate the "extinction" of "old stock" Americans.

Racist kookery is nothing new. 

July 13, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Brooklyn Center man indicted after allegedly staging arson (David Griswold, July 12, 2022, KARE)

A Brooklyn Center man has been indicted after he allegedly filed a false claim for an arson he reported to be politically motivated.

According to the Minnesota Department of Justice, Denis Molla is charged with two counts of wire fraud after he told law enforcement that someone had lit his camper on fire because it had a Trump 2020 flag displayed.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Christianity's Postliberal Critics (Jeet Heer, July 13, 2022, Commonweal)

In the past few years, several murderous racists have shown a strange interest in demarcating their complicated relationship with Christianity. Payton S. Gendron, who was arrested for shooting ten Black people at a Tops Friendly Markets store in Buffalo in May, raised the issue in his heavily plagiarized manifesto. In a "questions and answers" section, he takes up the question "Are you a Christian?" According to Gendron, "No, I do not ask God for salvation by faith, nor do I confess my sins to Him. I personally believe there is no afterlife. I do however believe in and practice many Christian values." It's the issue of "Christian values" that makes Gendron's affiliation with Christianity more complex. For the manifesto makes clear that Gendron's racism includes the belief that "Christian values" are a significant component of "White culture." He also accuses Jews of being demonic.

Gendron lists an array of other killers as his inspiration. They include Brenton Tarrant, who killed fifty-one Muslims in New Zealand in 2019, and Anders Breivik, who killed seventy-seven people, mostly teenagers, in Norway in 2011. Both men also defined themselves as unbelievers but cultural Christians, acting to defend the faith against secular and infidel (largely Islamic) foes. In his manifesto, Breivik told his followers that they "don't need to have a personal relationship with God or Jesus to fight for our Christian cultural heritage."

These three murderers are a new breed of crusaders: political Christians who kill on behalf of a faith whose tenets they don't believe in. They are the most extreme and violent manifestations of an upsurge in white Christian identitarian politics throughout the lands formerly known as Christendom. Their savagery shouldn't disguise the fact that they share a set of concerns with a broader radical Right that is worried about declining white fertility rates, mass immigration from the Global South, and the weakening hegemony of cultural Christianity in the West. Anxiety about demographic change is a staple of the rhetoric of politicians like Donald Trump and Viktor Orbán, and of pundits like Tucker Carlson and Ann Coulter. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


IS BEING WRONG SO BAD? (FRANCIS J. GAVIN, JULY 11, 2022, Texas National Security Review)

I have a confession to make: I have been wrong quite a lot lately. I believed Vladimir Putin was pursuing a coercive bluff and would not invade Ukraine. I did not think Xi Jinping's China would be so foolish as to crack down on Hong Kong. Donald Trump serving out his full four-year term shocked me as much as his election did. Uber struck me as an impractical fad that would never work out, and, in 2010, when a friend excitedly showed me an iPad he had purchased, I thought he had wasted his money. I also believed the Philadelphia Eagles' 2018 Super Bowl victory was the start of a decades-long football dynasty.

Maybe I am just especially bad at understanding how the world works, an interpretation my daughters might favor. I doubt, however, that this is the whole story. While I am humble enough to admit mistakes, I am immodest enough to think I am smart, thoughtful, and careful in my analyses. And there have been times when I have been right about important questions. I have long pushed back against two popular predictions that have surfaced regularly since I began my academic career: first, that the world is at a nuclear tipping point and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty regime is close to collapse, and second, that the dollar is about to lose its leading position as a reserve currency. The number of nuclear weapons states has stayed the same since I first heard this warning 30 years ago, and the dollar is strong and more central to the international economy than ever. While I am not sure what my batting average is, I confess I am more likely to highlight when I am right than linger on my misjudgments, be it in the classroom, casual conversation, or scholarly footnotes. [...]

My hunch is that, if rigorously examined, even the most impressive policy prognosticator gets many things wrong. This shouldn't surprise us. The social and political world are enormously complicated, context and circumstances are crucial yet ever-changing, and rarely does a new crisis or political event precisely resemble any that came before it. Our models and theories about the world are extremely sensitive to their underlying assumptions, which are more often posited than proven. Ex ante, decision-makers face radical uncertainty about an unknowable future. Most foreign policy problems are what former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called "51/49" challenges, meaning that it was virtually a coin flip as to how they would turn out. Kissinger knows of what he speaks, as Marino Auffant demonstrates in his article, "Oil for Atoms." The secretary of state's efforts to keep the Western alliance unified during the 1970s energy crisis revealed a number of difficult, cross-cutting issues for actors with divergent interests. In a similar vein, Kathleen M. Vogel and Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley highlight the extraordinary complexity and uncertainty surrounding big data and the threat of China hacking biomedical data. Nadiya Kostyuk and Erik Gartzke explain why the widely predicted cyber attacks that many feared Russia would launch against Ukraine have not materialized. Sahr Muhammedally and Dan Mahanty describe the moral and strategic dilemmas behind the effort to avoid civilian casualties during war.

In an ideal world, we would all acknowledge that this business is hard and confess our sins as loudly as our triumphs, less for an accounting or truth squad and more because it is useful to assess the assumptions about the world that go into our predictions (and it is good for our students to understand that we are imperfect, not omniscient). Epistemological modesty is an underrated virtue. And as a community, this would also cause us to be more skeptical of anyone who offers a simple, all-encompassing explanation for how the world works and never admits when they are wrong, a psychological profile more appropriate for cult leaders and authoritarian dictators than famous international relations professors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Minnesota Trump Supporter Staged BLM/Antifa Crime: Feds (William Bornhoft, 7/12/22, Patch)

Molla reported that his garage door was vandalized with spray-painted graffiti stating, "Biden 2020," "BLM," and an Antifa symbol, according to investigators. Molla also that his camper was targeted because it had a Trump 2020 flag displayed on it, authorities said.

In reality, Molla started his own property on fire and spray-painted the graffiti on his own garage, according to investigators.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"The West Wing Is UNHINGED": The January 6 committee reveals Trump's increasing desperation in the weeks leading to the assault on Congress. (DAN FRIEDMAN, 7/12/22, MoJo)

During a congressional hearing on Tuesday, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin and fellow members of the bipartisan House committee investigating January 6 homed in on Trump's actions in those pivotal days in mid December 2020. They depicted a president hell bent on doing whatever he could to stay in power. Trump didn't care about the reality of the election--he had extensive information indicating his fraud claims were false, according to further testimony shown on Tuesday, including from former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. Trump apparently was not bothered by the likelihood of violence; other recent testimony indicated that urged supporters to march on the Capitol on January 6 knowing they were armed. 

The hearing detailed the already infamous hours-long meeting on December 18 in which Flynn and Powell, along with Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne, got into Trump's office without an official appointment and pressed Trump to sign an executive order allowing the Defense Department to seize voting machines. The effort also included seeking get Powell appointed as a special counsel who would be empowered to look for voter fraud she'd spent the prior month falsely claiming to have found.

Notably, testimony on Tuesday indicated that Trump wanted to go with the proposals from Powell and Flynn, with him remarking that, unlike White House aides, they were offering "solutions." Playing clips of depositions from Powell and Rudy Giuliani, and from Cipollone, who gave the committee sworn testimony for the first time late last week, committee members outlined a raucous confrontation. Giuliani said in one clip that during the meeting he had called the White House lawyers "pussies." Powell said she thought Trump should have fired them on the spot. Cipollone and another White house lawyer, Eric Herschmann testified about trading insults and threats with Powell and Giuliani. 

"What they were proposing, I thought was nuts," Herschmann said of the schemes proposed by the Trump loyalists.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Logs show 10 House Republicans attended White House meeting on pressuring Pence (Andrew Solender, 7/12/22, Axios)

Driving the news: Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) said at a hearing on Tuesday that White House visitor logs reveal 10 members were physically in attendance:

Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas)
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.)
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.)
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio)
Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.)
Now-Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)

July 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


The GOP divide threatening Republicans in suburban New Hampshire (POLITICO, 07/12/2022)

Since 2008, Rockingham, a former Republican stronghold, has flipped repeatedly in presidential elections. In 2020, the county went for President Joe Biden by 2 percentage points.

But with Biden's approval rating in New Hampshire dipping into the high 30s, Republicans are eyeing the state's three up-for-grabs congressional seats -- two House and one Senate -- all held by Democrats. The 1st District, which includes most of Rockingham and is represented by Chris Pappas, is most likely to flip. In 2010 and 2014, the past two midterms under a Democratic president, Republicans won the seat.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Is the Smart Grid All Hot Air? (Austin Vernon, 7/06/22)

Improving Batteries and Falling Prices Allow Consumer Exit
Off-grid electricity has been possible for a long time. But it came at a cost. Generators are expensive to fuel and require a lot of maintenance. Lead-acid batteries have short lifetimes and poor performance.

Cheaper lithium-ion batteries and solar panels improve the value proposition. If the power company raises rates, demands an easement to run service, takes years to complete studies to start or increase service, or isn't committed to reliability, saying "No Thanks" becomes realistic.

We can already see the future in some places. Roughly one-third of Hawaiian and Australian homes have rooftop solar. In California, a distribution company wanted electric trucks, but its grid connection wasn't adequate to charge them. They hired a company to build and finance a solar/battery/generator microgrid without even bothering to contact the utility, knowing they would take years to do a grid study and that the upgrade charge would probably be outrageous.

Factors Driving Cost Decreases
Further cost declines in solar and batteries allow more customers to defect (fully or partially) from the grid.

Residential solar in the US is very expensive compared to places like Australia. Most of the cost difference comes from direct and indirect permitting costs plus higher marketing and sales expenses. Municipal governments make it hard to do installations effectively. Poorly designed incentives combine with long installation times to encourage byzantine financial structures that take a lot of effort to sell to homeowners.

Efforts like SolarAPP for automated permitting and more sales using simple loans or cash promise to decrease costs. Suppliers are trying to incorporate more components into a single package. The equipment will come in one piece instead of separate batteries, charge controllers, and inverters. The US should eventually match countries like Australia, where residential installations are ~30% more than utility-scale.

It seems likely that most houses will have solar panels within the next two decades. Whether they stay connected to the grid is less clear.

A House Can Be a Smart Grid
An off-grid home might need to double or triple the rated panel capacity than the norm to ensure reliability on cloudy days. The cost goes up but so does electricity production.

The extra energy can power electric cars and heat water. Cars get charged on sunny days, and hot water tanks can store water to reduce heating on cloudy days, improving the economics of the system. If batteries are expensive, most homeowners will only buy enough to get through the night and overbuild solar capacity. If costs fall dramatically, then batteries can carry more of the load.

Another effect is that the last 1% of reliability gets increasingly expensive. At some point, it is better to trickle charge the batteries a few times a year with a gasoline generator than add more solar panels. Utilities could still be in the game for these services. Serving an additional household has a low cost. The utility might not be able to compete on price for bulk electricity, but they could alter rate structures to help both parties. Utilities could charge a very high rate for customers with low per month kWh usage and implement demand charges instead of a fixed monthly line item on solar customers. "Off-Grid" users will trickle charge their batteries when their software projects a deficit. They will be willing to pay higher rates since meeting their tail reliability is expensive, and demand charges ensure they pay for the utility to maintain the infrastructure.

Electric heating may play some role but is a surprisingly complex topic. A drafty house with an air-source heat pump would be a disaster for a solar + storage home system. A well-insulated home with a ground-source heat pump might barely see a blip in its usage. An efficient house where the owners prefer colder nighttime temperatures might only need to run the heater during the day. Off-grid electric heating depends on a lot of factors.

Software to manage household battery charging, vehicle charging, and a hot water tank is straightforward. The hardware is falling rapidly in cost. Coordination problems mostly go away. The idea of leaving the grid dumb while making houses "smart" is underrated.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Potential To Use Icelandic Wind As Resource (Asha Edmondson, 7/12/22, Reykjavik Grapevine)

With the cost per megawatt of wind energy falling 56% in one decade, it may be time for Iceland to turn to wind energy as another green energy source, reports Frettablaðið. [...]

"According to basic research, conditions in Iceland seem particularly favorable and yield a high utilisation rate," says director of affairs at Samorka, Finnur Beck. "If the goal is to continue to produce electricity in the most efficient way for the Icelandic public and companies, it is not possible to ignore wind energy utilisation."

Energy companies across the country have a history of collaborating with municipalities and landowners on energy development projects and Finnur suggests continuing this trend provides a huge opportunity for potential wind energy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Trailblazing models show green windfall from Israel-Jordan-PA water, energy alliance (SUE SURKES, 7/12/22, Times of Israel)

By pooling their resources and linking up infrastructure, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority could save billions on water and energy while potentially reducing their carbon footprint and warding off feared shortages, according to groundbreaking scientific modeling being carried out at Oxford University.

Simulations show that making Jordan a regional hub for solar and wind energy could bring the kingdom 2.4 times more investment in renewable energy infrastructure, compared with a business-as-usual scenario in which each jurisdiction goes it alone, Dr. Aman Majid of the Oxford Martin School told a small gathering of academics in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


Ex-Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said Trump's 'civil war' rhetoric 'killed someone' on Jan. 6 (Kevin Breuninger, 7/12/22, CNBC)

"A sitting president asking for civil war," Parscale said in texts to Katrina Pierson, a former Trump campaign official who was reportedly involved in organizing Trump's pre-riot rally.

Screenshots of the texts were displayed during the select committee's latest public hearing Tuesday afternoon, which focused largely on the involvement of domestic violent extremist groups in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

"This week I feel guilty for helping him win," Parscale wrote.

Pierson replied: "You did what you felt was right at the time and therefore it was right."

Parscale responded, "Yeah. But a woman is dead," adding with apparent shock, "Yeah. If I was trump and knew my rhetoric killed someone."

Pierson told him, "It wasn't the rhetoric."

But Parscale shot back: "Katrina. Yes it was."

Trump Tried to Call a Jan. 6 Committee Witness and DOJ Has Been Notified (Cameron Joseph, July 12, 2022, Vice News)

Former President Donald Trump called a witness to the House Jan. 6 Select Committee, the committee's top Republican said Tuesday--a potentially illegal act that the committee has shared with the Justice Department. 

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney casually dropped the possible bombshell as the committee wrapped up its hearing.

"After our last hearing, President Trump tried to call a witness in one of our investigations. A witness you have not seen in these hearings. That person declined to answer or respond to President Trump's call and instead alerted their lawyer to the call," Cheney said.

Ex-Oath Keepers spokesperson: Jan. 6 could have been "spark that started ... Civil War" (Erin Doherty, 7/12/22, Axios)

Former Oath Keepers spokesperson Jason Van Tatenhove warned during Tuesday's Jan. 6 hearing that the violence of that day "could have been the spark that started a civil war."

Pat Cipollone offered strong praise of Mike Pence's actions on Jan. 6, 2021. (Politico, 7/12/22)

"I think the vice president did the right thing. I think he did the courageous thing. I have a great deal of respect for Vice President Pence. ... I think he did a great service for this country and I suggested to somebody that he should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his actions."

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


Half of G.O.P. Voters Ready to Leave Trump Behind, Poll Finds: Far from consolidating his support, the former president appears weakened in his party, especially with younger and college-educated Republicans. (Michael C. Bender, July 12, 2022, NY Times)

Mr. Trump's troubles inside his party leave him hamstrung in a matchup against an unusually vulnerable incumbent.

The Times/Siena poll suggested that the fears of many Republican elites about a Trump candidacy may be well-founded: He trailed President Biden, 44 percent to 41 percent, in a hypothetical rematch of the 2020 contest, despite plummeting support for Mr. Biden, with voters nationwide giving him a perilously low 33 percent job-approval rating.

A growing anyone-but-Trump vote inside the party contributed to Mr. Trump's deficit, with 16 percent of Republicans saying that if he were the nominee they would support Mr. Biden, would back a third-party candidate, wouldn't vote at all or remained unsure what they would do. That compared to 8 percent of Democrats who said they would similarly abandon Mr. Biden in a matchup with Mr. Trump.

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Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Man suspected of hate crime for allegedly threatening to kill U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Sara Jean Green , 7/11/22, Seattle Times)

A 48-year-old South Seattle man was arrested Saturday on suspicion of a hate crime for threatening to kill U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, according to King County prosecutors.

A judge on Monday ordered the man remain jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail but denied prosecutors' request for an anti-harassment order protecting Jayapal, said Casey McNerthney, a prosecutors spokesperson.

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


Could Trump Be Charged Like a Mob Boss in Georgia? Lawyers Think So. (Greg Walters, July 12, 2022, Vice News)

Georgia RICO is the junior cousin of the federal RICO statute, which was created in 1970 to bring down the mafia. In a nutshell, both laws prohibit anyone from using an organization to commit a series of crimes. 

In Georgia, the organization in question could be the Trump campaign, and the series of crimes could be as simple as a trail of lies told to Georgia officials about baseless fraud allegations, Pate said. 

"What she'd have to prove is that a given statement was false, that the person knew it was false when they said it, and that the lie was part of a coordinated attempt to secure something of value," Pate said. In this instance, that valuable item could be the presidency. 

"It's not a complicated case," Pate said. 

Willis' latest round of subpoenas suggests she's zeroing in on a series of questionable statements made by people in Trump's orbit, after the Republican nominee lost Georgia and its 16 electoral votes in a nail-biter. [...]

The crown jewel in Willis' collection of relevant facts remains the lengthy, recorded phone call that Trump had with Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, said Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor from the Eastern District of Virginia. 

"I think the most damning piece of evidence is still the phone call in which Trump asks to find a specific number of votes," Rossi said. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Raskin Brings Expertise on Right-Wing Extremism to Jan. 6 Inquiry (Luke Broadwater, Jul. 11th, 2022, The New York Times)

 When Representative Jamie Raskin enters a Capitol Hill hearing room on Tuesday to lay out what the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has uncovered about the role of domestic extremists in the riot, it will be his latest -- and potentially most important -- step in a five-year effort to crush a dangerous movement.

Long before the Jan. 6, 2021, assault, Mr. Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, had thrown himself into stamping out the rise of white nationalism and domestic extremism in America. He trained his focus on the issue after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., five years ago. Since then, he has held teach-ins, led a multipart House investigation that exposed the lackluster federal effort to confront the threat, released intelligence assessments indicating that white supremacists have infiltrated law enforcement and strategized about ways to crack down on paramilitary groups.

Now, with millions of Americans expected to tune in, Mr. Raskin -- along with Representative Stephanie Murphy, Democrat of Florida -- is set to take a leading role in a hearing that promises to dig deeply into how far-right groups helped to orchestrate and carry out the Jan. 6 assault at the Capitol -- and how they were brought together, incited and empowered by President Donald J. Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


PODCAST: Here's Why Biden Is Flailing (RUY TEIXEIRA ,  JULY 12, 2022, The Bulwark: Beg to Differ)

Mona Charen: Ruy, I'd like you to speculate on why it is that President Biden just seems so ineffective. His approval rating, at the moment, according to a recent Monmouth poll . . . was 36 percent approval, which is dismal, going into a midterm. And yet in the face of inflation and Dobbs and school shootings, and you know, many other issues . . . he leaves no footprints. Why do you think that is? I'll give you three possibilities and if it's none of those, please tell me. One is he is just too damn old. Second is he's a senator, not used to executive leadership and doesn't have the muscles for it. Or three, he just was never that great of a politician to begin with.

His greatest failing was not selecting a vp he could power over to. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Supply Chains in the SpotlightThere are more and more signs that supply chain pressures are easing. (Fisher Investments Editorial Staff, 07/08/2022)

Consider Exhibit 1. Since we featured the New York Fed's Global Supply Chain Pressure Index (GSCPI) last month, it has fallen further. The GSCPI mashes together various global shipping and transportation costs plus other supply chain indicators including delivery times, backlogs and inventory levels. June's reading was still elevated relative to the index's history, but it was noticeably down from December's peak. This doesn't mean disruptions won't flare again--see 2021 after 2020's spike--but absent further severe lockdowns (like China's) affecting global supply chains, companies appear to be working through bottlenecks.

That may not be exactly attention grabbing when far more colorful headlines abound, but this is what we find so interesting: When headlines ignore or dismiss good news, it is evidence of pervasive negative sentiment--what we call the "pessimism of disbelief"--which typically surrounds bear market troughs. Not that we are trying to pinpoint the low, as we think doing so is impossible, but we find the sentiment noteworthy all the same. It is what helps lay the groundwork for recovery as it makes positive surprise easier to attain.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Michael Oakeshott's Conservative Disposition (Elizabeth Corey, Jul. 11th, 2022, Public Discourse)

Overall, Oakeshott's reflections on politics and human conduct provide a rich source of inspiration for western liberalism. His vision of a flourishing human life--discovering and developing individual character in the midst of traditional practices--is more aptly understood as an adventure than a duty. But it is an adventure that is constantly under threat. On Human Conduct was a rebuke to those mid-century thinkers who were trying to explain away human action in dry behavioralist or scientific terms. In our day, it stands against identity politics, which explains away human freedom in the name of race, gender, and sexual orientation. Threats to freedom and individuality will always exist, and Oakeshott's work is permanently valuable in countering them. His work is also a delight to read--a true end in itself.

July 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Trump rally in North Carolina canceled as former president summoned to court (DANIELLE BATTAGLIA, JULY 11, 2022, Raleigh News & Observer)

Former President Donald Trump and a host of Republican personalities have canceled their scheduled appearances Friday in Greensboro. 

News of the cancellation comes as Axios reports Trump, his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, have been scheduled to testify under oath Friday in an investigation into Trump's finances.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Senator Graham ordered to testify in front of grand jury in Trump election probe (Kanishka Singh, 7/11/22, Reuters) 

A judge ordered U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham to testify in front of a special grand jury in Georgia investigating former President Donald Trump's alleged attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Judge shreds Bannon defenses ahead of contempt trial (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 07/11/2022, Politico)

After a two-and-a-half-hour hearing which Bannon elected not to attend, Nichols returned to the bench Monday afternoon to spend nearly an hour delivering oral rulings that left the defense case in tatters. Bannon's legal team appeared flummoxed by the result.

"What's the point in going to trial here if there are no defenses?" attorney David Schoen declared in court after Nichols wound up his rulings from the bench.

The judge's orders seem to ensure that a high-profile trial of one of Trump's closest allies in his effort to subvert the 2020 election will move forward at a rapid clip. The Justice Department has estimated it could put on the prosecution case in a single day. Bannon's team initially estimated it could take two weeks to air a defense, however, Nichols on Monday also cut off nearly every avenue of Bannon's proposed defenses, ruling them irrelevant to the alleged crime against him.

The judge picked apart Bannon's claim that his decision to stonewall the select committee in October was justified -- either due to his position as a former White House adviser to Trump or because of internal Justice Department memos describing limitations on congressional subpoenas.

Nichols said Bannon would not be permitted to argue that executive privilege excused his decision to completely defy the select committee subpoena. Nichols also rejected Bannon's effort to subpoena Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the Jan. 6 select committee.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


Rapid Electric Heat Transition Will Save Oregon $1.7 Billion, Report Finds (Nick Cunninghamon, Jul 11, 2022, DeSmog)

A June report from Synapse Energy Economics, commissioned by the Sierra Club, found that a rapid transition to electric heat pumps in Oregon would cut household energy bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide savings for the electricity system as a whole. Heat pumps, despite their name, offer both heating and air conditioning, and are widely seen as key to replacing oil and gas furnaces and helping decarbonize residential and commercial buildings.

Pollution from residential and commercial buildings in Oregon currently makes up roughly 35 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions - largely the result of burning gas for heating and cooking. The report compared two hypothetical scenarios in which 100 percent of appliances sold to Oregon homes and businesses were electric, perhaps due to a ban on new gas connections, for example, or a mandate for all-electric construction. The first scenario analyzed zero-emissions appliance sales beginning in 2030, and the other beginning in 2025. Both scenarios would be ambitious, but the study found that the faster route not only provided more climate benefits, but also saved more money. Switching to all-electric appliances by 2025 would result in $1.7 billion in system-wide savings by 2050, compared to $1.1 billion in the 2030 scenario.

For individual households, the story is similar. The average fully electric Portland household would save about $161 more per year on utility bills than a household that uses a mixture of electricity and gas. A household in Bend, Oregon would save an average of $192 in the all-electric scenario compared to a household that still uses some gas.

"We know that the transition away from fossil fuel appliances for heating has to happen to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change - but even if you look at this issue purely from an economic perspective, transitioning our homes off of polluting fuels like methane gas is still the right decision for Oregonians," said Dylan Plummer, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


House GOP marches into deeper blue terrain as Dem prospects fade (ALLY MUTNICK and SARAH FERRIS, 07/11/2022, Politico)

Rep. Kim Schrier called it an "honor" to welcome President Joe Biden to suburban Seattle for a health care speech in April. Then, nearly three months later, the Washington Democrat used a TV ad to boast about "taking on" the Biden administration over gas prices.

This kind of pivot in a House battleground -- which Biden won by 7 points just two years ago -- isn't an anomaly. Recent GOP polling in roughly a dozen swing districts offers a bleak portrait of how President Joe Biden's anemic approval ratings are threatening to doom battle-tested swing-seat incumbents -- and nudge once-safe districts into the middle of the danger zone. [...]

For example, Biden is down 15 points in a pro-Democrat group's polling of a now-open Oregon seat he won by 9 points in 2020; down 16 points in GOP polling of Rep. Annie Kuster's (D-N.H.), which he won by 9 points; and down 17 points in a recent Republican survey of Rep. Angie Craig's (D-Minn.) seat, which he carried by 7 points four years ago. All three surveys were conducted in June.

NH is particularly prone to nearly every seat changing in wave elections and John Sununu is at the top of the ticket.

July 10, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Integrated wind and solar still cheapest, and green hydrogen costs falling fast: CSIRO (Giles Parkinson 11 July 2022, Renew Economy)

Australia's main scientific body and the country's energy market operator have again underlined the fact that "integrated" wind and solar - including the cost of storage and transmission - is still by far the cheapest source of new electricity generation in Australia.

The 2022 version of CSIRO's annual GenCost report also points to a rapid fall in the cost of hydrogen electrolysers, which will increase hopes that Australian can use its abundant and cheap wind and solar energy to become a global hydrogen and renewable superpower.

The latest GenCost report is important because it emphasises the point that wind and solar, including the cost of storage and transmission, is still by far the cheapest form of generation, even up to a 90 per cent share of total generation.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


$26K solar car now has a factory -- and will roll out this year (Kristin Houser, 7/09/22, Big Think)

The vehicle is lightweight, with an aerodynamic body and just three wheels. Those design decisions alone make it incredibly energy efficient, minimizing the frequency at which drivers need to charge the EV.

Some Aptera owners could get away with never plugging in, depending on the weather and season, thanks to the solar panels covering the car. If the vehicle is parked in the sun, the panels can provide 40 miles of range per day -- enough to meet most people's daily driving needs.

A highly efficient solar car is no good if no one can afford to buy it, though, so Aptera plans to sell its lowest range model (250 miles) for just $25,900 -- and to ensure it can hit that price point, the startup is bringing its efficiency-first mindset into the factory.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump resigns from 'Truth Social' fearing federal probes: reports (The New Arab, 10 July, 2022)

Former US president Donald Trump stepped back from his position as director of "Truth Social" just weeks before authorities summoned company officials as part of a federal investigation, according to local US media.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas woman given traffic ticket says unborn child counts as second passenger (Gloria Oladipo,  9 Jul 2022, The Guardian)

A pregnant woman in Texas told police that her unborn child counted as an additional passenger after being cited for driving alone in a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, offering up a potentially clever defense for motorists navigating the legal landscape following the supreme court's striking down of nationwide abortion rights last month.


July 9, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


Oath Keeper members brought explosives to DC area around January 6 and had a 'death list,' prosecutors say (Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN)

The Justice Department has also secured at least seven cooperation agreements from members of the Oath Keepers, three of whom pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. A number of the cooperators are named in the new filing and had close contacts with the Oath Keepers heading to trial.

Among the new details in the government's allegations is a document with the words "DEATH LIST" that the government says it found in Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell's home through a search warrant in the weeks after January 6.

The handwritten list included the name of a Georgia 2020 election official and their family member who, according to the new court filing, were both targets of "unfounded conspiracy theories that they were involved in voter fraud." [...]

The government also alleges that at least three chapters of the Oath Keepers held training camps prior to January 6, 2021, focused on military tactics.

Members from Florida held a training session on "unconventional warfare," while the North Carolina chapter held a training session focused on setting up "hasty ambushes," prosecutors say. Jessica Watkins, a leader of the Ohio chapter, stated "recruits" should attend "military-style basic" training class to be "fighting fit" by Inauguration Day.

Prosecutors have previously said that the group set up a so-called quick reaction force, or QRF, outside of Washington, DC, stocked with firearms and a months' worth of food. But prosecutors now allege that at least one Oath Keeper transported explosives, including military ordinance grenades, to the QRF.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 AM


The age of the anti-natalists (Lionel Shriver, July 09, 2022, The Spectator World)

When the first deluge of documentaries about transgenderism hit our televisions starting in about 2012, one of the concerns conspicuously unaddressed was fertility. The parents on these shows who were eager to encourage their children to embrace whatever he/she/it felt they were never raised the issue of whether pumping their progeny full of hormones might just possibly impede the kids' capacity to reproduce. All that mattered was self-actualization. As this baffling social infatuation has accelerated, the fact that the majority of this experimental population will be unable to bear children has continued to be dismissed as by the by.

The rage for swapping sexes -- and we're only born in two sexes to conceive offspring -- is also estranging the anatomical signatures of sex from their purpose. Women don't grow breasts to form an alluring cleavage in low-cut dresses; mammary glands and nipples are meant for feeding infants. Biological men who take estrogen and get implants do not have female breasts; they have extrusions. On females, the vagina isn't a cul-de-sac; that passage leads somewhere. Its sole purpose is to facilitate the fertilization of eggs and to serve as an exit ramp for the next generation. Likewise, aside from its double duty as a fire hose, the penis is designed to inseminate females. That's what it's for. Making babies. No matter how skillfully plastic surgeons approximate the innies and outies of males and females, the exercise of sex "reassignment" bastardizes human biology. It trades reproductive functionality for fakery.

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Aquinas and the State: A new book examines St. Thomas's theory of the state, and the challenges it poses to the modern liberal order: review of The Christian Structure of Politics: On the De Regno of Thomas Aquinas, by William McCormick, S.J.  (John M. Vella, Jul 9, 2022, American Conservative)

McCormick's scholarly study of De Regno argues that Thomas intended to provide a pedagogical tool--not a treatise--for the "intellectual and moral edification" of a head of state. The text, he notes, is an example of the practical application of theology. The author of The Christian Structure of Politics, a Jesuit priest and political scientist at St. Louis University, contends that the writing of De Regno was a political act by Thomas intended to win favor from the Cypriot king on behalf of his Dominican religious order whose missions were expanding into the Levant. 

McCormick disputes the claim that Thomas wrote a book of political theology, since appeals to history far outnumber scriptural references to kingship. Scripture by no means uniformly praises monarchy, and Aristotle, upon whom Thomas relies heavily, recognized the legitimacy of alternative forms of government. The author singles out for praise Robert Kraynak, whose scholarship locates where Thomas approves of various regimes based on prudential considerations. In other words, all legitimate political systems have strengths and weaknesses. Why then does Thomas favor monarchy uncritically in De Regno? The author contends that he "wants to predispose the king to take the duties of his royal office seriously." By exalting the kingly office, says McCormick, Thomas is deepening the king's obligations to justice. "[H]is elevation of monarchy is a rhetorical strategy, not a philosophical blindspot."

Because politics is a natural activity, the king is not a minister of the church though he is a minster of God (Rom 13:1) and therefore subject to God. According to Thomas, just kings are minsters of God when they serve the common good. He follows Aristotle by elevating the nobility of politics beyond anything St. Augustine said in The City of God, in which the government is described as nothing more than a band of robbers. That being said, Thomas's indictment of tyranny can be interpreted as a concession to Augustine's darker vision of politics. Thomas knows that tyrants use fear and excessive force against their people to accumulate power and personal wealth. While the proper response is not tyrannicide, he admits that such unstable regimes are often overthrown. We should not expect perfection, however. Even the best regimes are flawed. An accurate understanding of human nature guards against political utopianism. 

One of the achievements of Christianity was to secure the independence of the church from the state. The final spiritual end of man--beatitude--is the responsibility of the church, a "distinct spiritual government," not the state. On matters of religion, writes Thomas, "kings must be subject to priests." Thus we are to give Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's (Mk 12:17). There is no explicit relationship between church and state prescribed in De Regno. This, says McCormick, allows Aquinas to "valorize the integrity of politics" for the king, but also to emphasize the "superiority of the church" regardless of the political conditions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 AM


Trump considering waiving executive privilege claim for Bannon but prosecutors say he was never shielded (Zachary Cohen and Sara Murray, 7/08/22, CNN)

Last month, Judge Carl Nichols of the DC District Court rejected Bannon's motion to dismiss the case against him, including his arguments that the House select committee's subpoenas were illegal and that he was protected by the secrecy of the presidency because he had been in contact with Trump at the end of his administration.

At trial, Justice Department prosecutors, who received a referral from the House to prosecute him, will need to prove a relatively narrow case if they are to secure a conviction -- that Bannon willfully refused to respond to the congressional inquiry. He will not be able to argue he relied on the advice of his lawyer, the judge has already ruled.

Donald who?

July 8, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


US border guards to face disciplinary action over treatment of Haitian migrants (Deutsche-Welle, 7/08/22)

Four employees from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are facing potential disciplinary action over their treatment of Haitian migrants after a report published Friday found that CBP agents used "unnecessary" force during a widely publicized incident at the US-Mexico border last year.

The 511-page report from the CBP's Office for Professional Responsibility looked into the events of September 19, in which officers on horseback and wearing cowboy hats were photographed chasing after refugees trying to cross the Rio Grande. In one instance, a CBP agent was photographed unfurling a cord resembling a lasso in the face of a man who was carrying a bag of food across the river to an encampment in the United States. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


How the Libertarian Party Became the Reactionary Arm of Trump and Trumpism: The takeover of the party by the Mises Caucus means election subversion has another friend in 2024 (Andy Craig, 7/08/22, the UnPopulist)

The Mises Caucus was incensed by the Johnson/Weld candidacy because it regarded the duo, particularly Bill Weld, as too mainstream. So it embarked on a campaign to capture state chapters. Yet, at the time, few party leaders were willing to openly, honestly and forcefully condemn what was happening (with some notable exceptions). Criticism that was offered tended to be subtle, restrained, and often combined with a myopic both-sides-ism that tried to frame itself as above the fray of "infighting." Many state and national party officers went so far as to insist everyone should just get along. They walked on eggshells, afraid that the notoriously abusive Mises Caucus Twitter mob would come after them (even as the same caucus railed endlessly against leftist cancel culture mobs).

The motives and pattern of behavior--fear, cowardice, cynical political calculation and appeasement to chase votes in internal party elections--that caused the LP to succumb to a reactionary faction replicated in miniature the Trumpist takeover of the GOP. LP incumbents who tried to present themselves as fair and neutral and those who were openly against the Mises Caucus were all swept aside--just like anti-Trump Republicans such as Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois in the GOP. The former has been censured and primaried by the GOP, and the latter has been censured and pushed into early retirement. The current favorite for the next LP presidential candidate is stand-up comic Dave Smith, who, despite his Jewish background, is notorious for praising and defending anti-Semites and white nationalists like Nick Fuentes.

But besides the party's structure, the second reason behind the pusillanimity of the LP in taking on the Mises Caucus is the broader "paleolibertarian" ideology that has haunted the libertarian movement for decades. This worldview has long advocated a strategic alliance with the populist right to fight their mutual enemy: The Establishment. The person who made the most ardent case for such an alliance was anarcho-capitalist polemicist Murray Rothbard, originally a more liberal thinker who took a dark turn in his later years and started inveighing against immigration, anti-discrimination laws and the welfare state. In a sense, Rothbard was the original Flight 93 strategist who believed that there was no more urgent task than to tear down The Establishment by any means necessary, even allying with far-right racists and bigots. He was a precursor of the modern right's obsession with the leftist enemy.

Former Republican congressman Ron Paul has been paleolibertarianism's most visible promoter. His 2008 and 2012 bids for the Republican presidential nomination initially ignited considerable grassroots enthusiasm, even among non-libertarians, thanks to his staunch opposition to war, among other things. But eventually Paul's candidacy went down in flames in no small part due to the emergence of racist newsletters penned under his name some 20 years prior by a Rothbard acolyte. The author, Lew Rockwell, founded the Mises Institute, from which the Mises Caucus gets its name. (It can't be emphasized enough that Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian economist after whom the institute is named, was a liberal champion of toleration and cosmopolitanism who would have roundly condemned his namesake's twisted agenda.)

The newsletters peddled vile steretoypes about African Americans, gay people and other minorities with the aim of courting white, grassroots support. Though the paleo strain has never been dominant in the libertarian movement, it always had its boosters. However, the core party members at the time failed to forcefully challenge and ostracize the paleo faction in the name of avoiding "infighting." This was a missed opportunity. It meant the classical liberal old guard did not have a fully worked out moral argument when the paleos, incensed by the Johnson/Weld candidacy, decided that the party was headed in the wrong direction--that the bigger threat to libertarian principles was wokeism and the cultural left, not the populist and illiberal right. And thus the paleos took control of the steering wheel to course correct.

They're just arguing with the Left over which Identity to valorize.
Posted by orrinj at 10:00 AM


The Future of Conservative Climate Leadership (Alex Bozmoski & Nate Hochman, Fall 2021, National Affairs)

[S]ince 2009, unsubsidized solar- and wind-electricity costs have plummeted 90% and 71%, respectively. Support for clean energy unites vast majorities of Americans, and the desire for action on climate change now enjoys the backing of nearly two-thirds of the public. Just as the traditional business-driven pressure to ignore climate change has shriveled, major business interests -- including the American Petroleum Institute, the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce -- are pressuring lawmakers to come up with predictable and transparent climate policies.

For decades, Democratic lawmakers benefited from the environmental left's staff, funding, research, media contacts, grassroots organization, and legislative and lobbying resources, while Republican lawmakers enjoyed extremely limited support -- and plenty of loud opposition -- from these same groups. But now, for the first time in a generation, the formation of a durable, effective climate coalition across partisan lines appears feasible. The Eco-right is at the helm of this resurgent bipartisan interest.

When one of your authors coined the term "Eco-right" in 2013 to describe a handful of scrappy, conservative-leaning non-profits and think tanks working to guide and embolden the right on climate-related issues, there was a vanishingly small number of Republican lawmakers who would go on record saying that America should lead on climate-risk mitigation. The movement had -- and continues to have -- only a fraction of the size and power of the environmentalist left. But its collection of young, energetic civic enterprises is already influencing Republican lawmaking and rhetoric in important ways.

As the Eco-right gained steam and a growing number of voters began to experience the real-world effects of climate change, GOP leaders started pivoting on the issue. The growing recognition of the need for an alternative to the left-wing climate agenda came to a head in the wake of the party's congressional losses in 2018. That year, Eco-right groups guided Republican leadership in assembling the GOP's first-ever climate-policy package. Several of these proposals eventually become law, including a tax credit for carbon capture that valued carbon dioxide at $35-$50/ton.

During the 2019-2020 congressional session, the Eco-right teamed up with Republican lawmakers again to introduce or co-sponsor dozens more emissions-cutting bills, ranging in scope from a narrow bill to help farmers and ranchers profit from climate-friendly soil-management techniques to several economy-wide, revenue-neutral carbon-tax proposals. This legislative momentum culminated in the passage of the American Energy Innovation Act (AEIA) -- introduced by Republican senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democratic senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- as part of the December 2020 omnibus spending package. Between the AEIA and another provision limiting hydrofluorocarbon emissions, the omnibus was likely the most significant climate-change legislation in American history.

As a new era in climate politics is dawning, many conservative leaders of the next generation are dedicating their careers to ensuring that the results are both effective and practical. But what "effective and practical" climate policy looks like is a difficult question that splits the Eco-right into two distinct camps. To make sense of the debate between them, we need to unpack the suite of climate policies that align with conservative principles. This will also help us determine where the two sides' efforts might be fused together into an appealing climate agenda.


The task of formulating an Eco-right agenda raises an important question: What is the objective of conservative climate policy? The answer could consist of a numerical warming target, such as keeping global temperature increases below two degrees Celsius. It could be stated in more general terms, as in the phrase "a clean and abundant energy future." Or it could be cast in terms of political economy -- "de-carbonizing as quickly as politically possible without causing excessive economic harm," for instance.

It isn't hard to see why the question is so vexing. Climate policy is full of high-stakes trade-offs, and determining the most prudent course of action requires an incredibly complex cost-benefit analysis that incorporates hard-to-measure factors, uncertainty, and ethical parameters. The costs of both action and inaction are typically measured in dollars, but they encompass everything from economic progress and national security to beauty, functioning ecosystems, and even life itself. Further complicating matters is the fact that the costs are uncertain, and are unevenly spread over time and space. Whether we weigh the costs of climate policy against the worst-case climate impacts, the best-case impacts, or something in between is a thorny question of risk tolerance.

Although cost-benefit analyses are indefinite and even dehumanizing, there is simply no better method for determining whether a given climate policy is too costly or insufficiently effective. And despite the ubiquity of the phrase "the science says we must," the best climate science can do is give us a probabilistic distribution of climate-change impacts under a given emissions scenario. In other words, science can help us understand the consequences of our actions, but it has little to offer in terms of solutions.

The best we can do, therefore, is engage in some well-calibrated version of this utilitarian method to weigh priorities, advance alternative goals and policies, and defend our positions against those promoted by the left. Conservative principles can inform how we assess the trade-offs of different approaches and help distinguish serious environmental policies from unserious alternatives. [...]

Taxation is another tool at conservatives' disposal. Despite Republicans' general opposition to tax increases, taxing pollution is a popular option among many on the Eco-right. Since taxation doesn't require government tracking of energy use or technology, it offers an effective solution that is both administratively and practically simple to carry out -- especially when compared to complex regulatory regimes. Taxation of pollution would operate as a powerful innovation signal throughout the economy and require no foresight or guessing on the part of government actors as to where the most important technological breakthroughs will originate. It would raise revenue that can be recycled into tax cuts or paid directly to citizens through dividend checks, and represents the most efficient policy instrument available for promoting mass adoption of existing low-carbon technologies. Finally, taxation is the only instrument that allows the United States to assert power over the de-carbonization policies of other countries, as a carbon tax imposed on imports (and removed on exports) would encourage America's trading partners to enact their own carbon taxes.

Un-taxation as a solution to climate change has a natural appeal to the Eco-right, given the popularity of tax cuts among Republicans more generally. Some on the Eco-right advocate eliminating taxes on zero- or low-emission forms of energy, as well as cutting taxes on low-carbon alternatives in emissions-producing industries.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Yes, abortion is about race, but not in the way progressives think (DAVID MENDOZA,  JULY 8, 2022, Acton Powerblog)

What has been interesting to see in terms of the fallout of the SCOTUS decision has been how race has been used to justify the need for access to abortion. One New York congresswoman recently asserted (on Twitter) something like this, proclaiming that the "poor and marginalized" will somehow suffer most. It is a commonplace among educated, progressive elites to insist that black and Latina women will now struggle to get access to abortions in ways that white women will not. This is a curious way to frame the discussion, considering the racist history of abortion laws in the United States, which have traditionally targeted black, indigenous, Hispanic, and immigrant groups in efforts to curb their reproduction. In fact, Charles C. Camosy recently noted that one's attitude toward abortion will largely be informed by social class, meaning that progressives elites' views are not in line with the majority of those they claim to represent. The irony here points to the significant disconnect between those who are outraged over the ruling last Friday and the facts of history, which are contrary to what popular pundits and politicians are saying on TV and online. It also highlights the continuous need to defend the dignity of the person in a free society.

To be clear, abortion has been around since the beginning of world history, though in the United States it has a very ugly and racist history. The modern debate about abortion goes back to the so-called Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This era was marked by a centralized approach to American government that was fueled by an ideology known as eugenics, an outgrowth of Darwinian theory that viewed certain races as higher on the "evolutionary scale" than others (or, to quote Wiki, eugenics is "a set of beliefs and practices that aim to improve the genetic quality of a human population, historically by excluding people and groups judged to be inferior or promoting those judged to be superior"). In order to respect the "survival of the fittest," some races simply needed to be prohibited from breeding (although why the "fittest" wouldn't continue to survive regardless remains unclear). Historian Thomas C. Leonard explores this history in his book Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, & American Economics in the Progressive Era. Leonard explains the role that eugenics played in the formation of top-down policies and social engineering. Many notable philanthropists and politicians, including President Theodore Roosevelt, bought into at least some aspects of the eugenicist program. In fact, John D. Rockefeller III founded the Population Council, which was rooted in eugenicist theories. Rachel Ferguson, in her new book Black Liberation Through the Marketplace, writes that, "It cannot be overstated just how academically acceptable, and indeed popular, eugenics was in America during the first three decades of the twentieth century." She adds, "In short, far from being a minority position among white American progressives, eugenics was central to their worldview." Birth control was part of this "worldview" and particularly promoted by figures like Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood and a firm believer in the eugenics project. Moreover, during the Progressive Era many black and indigenous women, as well as certain immigrant groups, were sterilized against their will, atrocities still remembered by many in those communities. Despite this, even the great black scholar W.E.B. du Bois advocated for access to abortion as a way to curb poverty. These eugenics programs also gave legitimacy to Jim Crow laws in the South and were used by Nazi Germany to justify their own eugenics projects.

What's missing from most people's ideas about abortion in America are the names of those who were staunchly against abortion. In an article for Reason magazine, Jesse Walker points out that Senator Ted Kennedy was once staunchly pro-life, and that as late as 1976 Jesse Jackson had an anti-abortion stance. In fact Jackson argued that abortion represented an attack on the black population in the United States, a position that Walker notes was also held by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and '70s.

The larger problem that abortion poses for a free society is that it is a blatant attack on the dignity of the human person. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


How the Jan. 6 Panel Is Supercharging the Georgia Trump Investigation (Jose Pagliery, Jul. 8th, 2022, Daily Beast)

Prosecutors would have a hard time proving that Trump was engaging in a crime if he truly believed that there was actual fraud in Georgia, lawyers told The Daily Beast.

But in recent weeks, the Jan. 6 Committee's half-dozen hearings have laid that to rest, playing video testimony from Trump advisers who recalled telling the commander-in-chief that the conspiracy theories were baseless.

"I told him that the stuff that his people were shoveling out to the public were--was--bullshit, that the claims of fraud were bullshit. And, you know, he was indignant about that," Barr told congressional investigators under oath in a videotaped deposition shared by the committee last month.

"I told him that it was crazy stuff, and they were wasting their time on that, and it was doing a grave disservice to the country," Trump's former AG added.

That testimony will be pivotal to the grand jury, said Adam Kaufmann, a white-collar defense lawyer who was previously a Manhattan prosecutor.

"Trump is going to cloak himself in that he believed he was right. What's going to be really important is what his advisers were saying to him at the time," Kaufmann said. "The Fulton County D.A. is now able to put in front of that grand jury the Attorney General of the United States saying, 'No, Mr. President, we investigated and there was no fraud.'"

"It makes it a lot easier," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


It is Time For Congress to Take Back its Legislative Powers (Frank DeVito, Jul. 8th, 2022, American Conservative)

 Article I of the Constitution is clear: "all legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives." The decision by government to force a transition from one type of energy production to another is a legislative decision, and all federal legislative power is vested in Congress. The Court in West Virginia v. EPA at least makes it clear that if Congress delegates major decision-making authority to an executive agency, it must do so very clearly. But there is good scholarship arguing that the "underlying principles, framing assumptions, and text" of the Constitution strongly demonstrate that the legislative power may never be delegated to a branch of government other than Congress. Our republic very intentionally checks the threat of tyranny by a strong separation of powers. The legislature makes the law, the executive enforces the law, and the judicial branch interprets the law. The founders of our country and all who are cautious about the threat of tyranny work hard to maintain separation of powers.

Executive agencies like the EPA are part of the executive branch. It is quite dangerous to allow the same branch that executes the law to also make it. So while West Virginia v. EPA at least limits agencies from assuming rulemaking power without express language from Congress, there is a good argument that this ruling does not go far enough and that Congress can never delegate its legislative power, no matter how clear the delegation language.

Practically, it should be obvious that it is better for the people to have elected legislators enact legislation, rather than have major laws created by unelected bureaucrats working in executive agencies. It is Congress's job to make federal laws and we should make them do it. But there is a common and legitimate criticism: most members of Congress "lack the technical and policy-relevant knowledge needed to understand the implications of legislative proposals." Our legislators are not experts on the environment, the tax code, or most other complicated policy areas in which they make law. I believe there is a simple and effective alternative to delegating difficult legislative decisions to "experts" in the executive agencies: do not eliminate the input of experts in the legislative process, but shift the experts from working in rulemaking agencies to working as congressional staff members. 

The entire House of Representatives has about 9,000 staff members as of 2021. That is a 14 percent decrease since 2009. This 9,000 employee figure includes the staffers who work directly for one of the 435 representatives, as well as in leadership offices and House committees, in both policy and non-policy positions. By way of comparison, the EPA alone has over 15,000 employees. As cases like West Virginia v. EPA begin to chip away at the ability of Congress to delegate difficult legislative decisions to "experts" in executive agencies, perhaps this transfer of staffing numbers is a simple solution. Experts in particular policy fields need to be involved in the making of complex legislation. But these experts currently occupy the wrong positions. The policy experts belong under Congress as advisors, not after and above Congress as the ultimate rulemakers. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Lawyers feel heat as legal net tightens on Trump plot to overturn election (Peter Stone, 8 Jul 2022, The Guardian)

In another stark sign of the legal jeopardy Giuliani and Eastman face, recent House committee hearings into the attack on the Capitol offered evidence that both lawyers sought pardons from Trump, presumably tied to plotting strategies to block Biden's certification by Congress on 6 January, and fiery speeches they gave along with Trump at a rally on the Ellipse before a mob of his allies attacked the Capitol.

The legal threats facing Clark were underscored at a 23 June panel hearing by scathing testimony from former top justice officials about Trump's plotting with Clark to elevate him to acting attorney general to push the fake electors scheme by falsely claiming in a proposed letter to Georgia officials that the department had "significant concern" about election fraud there and in other states.

The former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue was scalding as he detailed Trump's efforts to replace the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, with Clark in late December 2020, and to pressure state legislators to reject Biden electors by promoting baseless charges of widespread fraud.

Donoghue recounted how he warned Trump at a bizarre 3 January White House meeting - that was attended by Rosen, Trump counsel Pat Cipollone and other top lawyers - that elevating Clark to be acting AG would spark mass resignations, and Clark would be "left leading a graveyard", at the department. Cipollone, who was recently subpoenaed by the House panel, also threatened to resign if Clark replaced Rosen.

Further, according to shocking testimony on 28 June by Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to the ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Cipollone warned her early on 6 January of potential criminal liability for Trump and others if Trump went to the Capitol as he had discussed doing, and asked Hutchinson to "please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol".

All of it adds up to potentially grave consequences for the three lawyers.

Michael Zeldin, an ex-DoJ prosecutor, said: "The strong evidence presented about the fake electors scheme at recent House committee hearings, including testimony by senior justice department officials, laid the foundation for charging Trump's legal advisers, Eastman and Giuliani, and possibly Clark, with multiple state and federal crimes including obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, false statements in connection with the fake electors scheme, and election fraud."

He added: "The cumulative evidence presented over the course of the hearings paint a picture of a president who was told explicitly by multiple people that he lost the election and that once he exhausted his judicial remedies (losing nearly 60 cases) his continuing pressure campaign to prevent the orderly transfer of power was illegal.

"Yet Trump and his attorneys persisted."

Other ex-prosecutors stress that the FBI raids to obtain Clark and Eastman's phones indicate the investigations of the two lawyers have escalated.

"Search warrants of Clark and Eastman's phones means that a judge found probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be found on each of those devices," Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney for eastern Michigan, told the Guardian.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Price of offshore wind power falls to cheapest ever level in UK (Alex Lawson, 8 Jul 2022, The Guardian)

The price of offshore wind power in the UK has fallen to an all-time low, which could ease the pressure on future household energy bills.

Following the biggest ever UK renewables auction, the government said on Thursday the contract price for windfarms was nearly 6% lower than the previous auction, despite the rising cost of materials to build windfarms.

A string of new contracts should add about 7 gigawatts of clean power capacity to Britain's turbine fleet by 2026. The government hopes to have 50GW by 2030 and has embarked on a push to expand Britain's renewables industry in the face of rocketing fossil fuel prices.

July 7, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 10:21 PM


Renewables supply nearly one-third of US electricity in April (Joshua S Hill 8 July 2022, Renew Economy)

Driven by strong growth in the solar and wind sectors, renewable energy sources across the United States accounted for almost 30% of total national electrical generation in April and over a quarter during the first third of the year.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Watchdog to probe intensive audits of Trump foes who led FBI (AFP, July 7, 2022)

The US tax authority said Thursday it had asked for an independent investigation into rare, intrusive audits of two ex-FBI heads who were prominent adversaries of former president Donald Trump.

James Comey, the FBI director until he was sacked by Trump in 2017, and Andrew McCabe, Comey's deputy and temporary replacement, were both subjected to the Internal Revenue Service reviews while the Republican billionaire was in office.

Individuals are supposed to be picked at random for the IRS's National Research Program audits, making the chances of Comey being singled out in 2017 about one in 30,000, while McCabe's odds in 2019 were about one in 20,000.

The revelation, first reported by The New York Times, raised questions over how two men who ran the nation's premier domestic police agency and were seen by Trump as among his most high-profile foes could both have been selected.

Presumably they weren't registered as bogus Tea Party "charities".

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Europe wants a high-speed rail network to replace airplanes (Ben Jones, 6th July 2022, CNN)

Breakfast in Paris, lunch in Frankfurt and dinner in Vienna -- all without the hassle and frustration of flying.

Imagine a network of modern, super-fast and comfortable trains hurtling between every major city in the European Union, providing a reliable, comfortable and sustainable alternative to air travel.

That was the vision outlined by rail industry leaders in Lyon, France, on June 29, amid ambitious European plans to double high-speed rail use by 2030 and triple current levels by 2050.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


A supersensitive dark matter search found no signs of the substance -- yet (Emily Conover, 7/07/22, Science News)

A massive new effort to detect the elusive substance has reported its first results. Following a time-honored tradition of dark matter hunters, the experiment, called LZ, didn't find dark matter. But it has done that better than ever before, physicists report July 7 in a virtual webinar and a paper posted on LZ's website.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


A Text Adrift  (Tim Parks, July 7, 2022, NY Review of Books)

Does an author's work change when he dies? On May 6, 2021, I sent Roberto Calasso my translation of his unusually slim book, La tavoletta dei destini. He was to check through it before I sent it to the publisher. This was the arrangement with all the translations I had done of his work: he liked to stay in control and I liked the reassurance that he would pick up misunderstandings and missed nuances. "You have changed Sindbad to Sinbad," he immediately objected. I told him this was the name that English and American readers were familiar with. "It has to stay Sindbad," he said.

On the first of July, I wrote reminding him that my delivery deadline was just a week away. He was being slow even by his standards. "I trust you," he replied. "Just send it as it is. I'm writing other things." It was then I guessed that something was up. On July 28 he died. And in November I received the copy edit from the publisher for my comments.

Immediately I sensed I was in new territory. The copy editor knew Italian and had checked my work against the original. There were suggestions, occasionally objections. In the past, since Calasso had excellent English, I could appeal to him to support this or that stylistic choice, if it seemed important. Now this authority was gone. The text was what it was, independent of its author, at the mercy of its readers. A ship had slipped its anchor and was adrift on the high seas, unmanned. Anyone could board it.

There is no more frequent phenomenon in literature than readers interpreting the text differently than the author intended, starting with the first novel, Don Quixote, who readers lionize instead of mocking, forcing Cervantes to concede their point in Book Two.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Second Thoughts on the Second Amendment (Theodore Dalrymple, 7/07/22, Law & Liberty)

The Second Amendment, which I daresay most readers know by heart, says:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This amendment was passed in relation to a document, the American Constitution as unamended, which says (in Section VIII, paragraphs 15 and 16) that Congress shall have the power:

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress...

Now it seems to me that on any natural reading of the above, the right to keep and bear arms that is not to be infringed is in the context of a well-ordered militia, not in the context of going shopping. If it were simply a matter of allowing people to carry guns whenever and wherever they felt like it, the amendment would surely have read "The right of the people to keep and bear arms..." simpliciter. There would have been no need to mention the militia at all. In fact, there would have been a need, or at least a good reason, not to mention it.

I am in sympathy with Originalists who believe that the Constitution should be interpreted as literally as possible, but they should not abandon the position once it yields a result different from the one that they would like.

The text is a stubborn taskmaster. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Liz Cheney Wins the GOP's Manhood Contest (JOHN F. HARRIS, 07/07/2022, Politico)

The person who is the most credible answer to the GOP's manhood problem is a woman: Liz Cheney.

Wyoming's lone congresswoman is widely loathed by acolytes of Donald Trump. Certainly Hawley has not sought to join her in confronting the former president or demanding accountability for the ways his claims of election fraud led to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. But it would be hard to argue that Cheney does not represent "courage, and independence and assertiveness."

Many people will be uncomfortable viewing these admirable qualities through the prism of gender. Standing firm on principle, and doing the right thing even when there may be a high cost to doing so, are qualities anyone should aspire to -- no matter whether they are male, female or reject binary gender categories altogether.

The important point, however, is that many conservatives are comfortable linking gender and personal traits like toughness. Liz Cheney is plainly one of those conservatives.

Recall her rejoinder to Sen. Ted Cruz, after the Texan accused Cheney last year of suffering from "Trump derangement syndrome." Cheney mocked Cruz for groveling toward Trump even though he has in the past attacked Cruz's own family members. "Trump broke Ted Cruz," Cheney told CNN. "A real man would be defending his wife, and his father, and the Constitution."

Recall also a Cheney aide's taunt of Rep. Matt Gaetz, a camera-loving Trump warrior, who traveled to Wyoming to urge voters to reject Cheney and demand her resignation: "Gaetz can leave his beauty bag at home. In Wyoming, the men don't wear make-up."

Her opponents are such fearful little lickspittles that it's hardly a fair contest. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


A Conservative Revolutionary (Brad Littlejohn, Summer 2022, National Affairs)

Once he committed himself, Jay never wavered in his faith that from this struggle would arise a new nation that would extend and enrich the legacy of England's Protestant liberty across the vast expanse of a new continent.

Indeed, there were few patriots who felt as keenly as did Jay a sense of continuity between America's British colonial past and her independent national future. Although himself of French Huguenot stock, Jay always treasured the British heritage in America and the legacy of laws and political institutions it had bequeathed to the young republic. As he wrote to a newspaperman in 1796, "[i]t certainly is chiefly owing to institutions, laws, and principles of policy and government, originally derived to us as British colonists, that, with the favour of Heaven, the people of this country are what they are." And yet, despite the frequent accusations of Anglophilia leveled by his opponents, Jay also understood the importance of America being able to hold her head high not as a nation in name only, but as one ready to chart her own course and earn the grudging respect of the Old World potentates.

With this introduction to Jay in hand, let us turn to consider key elements of his conservative, nationalist statesmanship. First, we shall look at Jay's understanding of the American Revolution, and his determination to maintain as much continuity as possible in the midst of the break with Britain. We will then examine his role in the formation of the new republic, in which he sought to instill in his fellow citizens a dual commitment to law and liberty, thereby resisting the libertinism of radical democracy that the Revolution had unleashed in parts of America. Finally, we will see how Jay's foreign policy sought to make good on America's claim to independence, recognizing the shared interests and culture that continued to unite America and Britain while insisting that America never forfeit her freedom or sacrifice her distinctive interests to those of any other nation. [...]

On Jay's reading, then, the American colonists had initially sought independence not as a good in itself, as it was for radicals like Thomas Paine, but as a means of upholding the traditional laws that served as the bulwark of American liberty. Once the colonies went their separate way in 1776, Jay threw himself enthusiastically into the fight to defend the independence thus declared.

Even then, however, he remained convinced that the preservation of American liberty depended not on abstract ideals or high-minded paeans to the innate goodness of the nation's people, but on the rule of law. Americans, he often observed, were equally capable of "great virtues, and of many great and little vices." "Which will predominate," he wrote to Washington in 1779, "is a question which events not yet produced nor now to be discerned can alone determine," and its answer would depend not on mere good intentions, but on effective government. "The dissolution of our government," Jay observed, "threw us into a political chaos. Time, wisdom, and perseverance will reduce it into form, and give it strength, order, and harmony."

As the Confederation Congress languished in increasing impotence seven years later, he was less optimistic, confessing himself "uneasy and apprehensive; more so than during the war." "The mass of men," he lamented,

are neither wise nor good, and the virtue like the other resources of a country, can only be drawn to a point and exerted by strong circumstances ably managed, or a strong government ably administered. New governments have not the aid of habit and hereditary respect, and being generally the result of preceding tumult and confusion, do not immediately acquire stability or strength.

Too many rabble-rousers in revolutionary America, operating on the thoroughly nonsensical maxim "that government is best which governs least," had tried to sell the American people on the idea that theirs was a revolution not simply against arbitrary or distant government, but against government as such. In one letter to a friend as Shays's Rebellion was unfolding in late 1786, Jay declared, "[i]t is time for our people to distinguish more accurately than they seem to do between liberty and licentiousness. The late revolution would lose much of its glory, as well as utility, if our conduct should confirm the tory maxim, 'That men are incapable of governing themselves.'"

Jay knew history and human nature well enough to recognize that too much assertion of liberty could easily produce its opposite. As he wrote to Thomas Jefferson around the same time, "the charms of liberty will daily fade" for well-intentioned Americans upon seeing the disorder of the new republic,

and in seeking for peace and security, they will too naturally turn towards systems in direct opposition to those which oppress and disquiet them. If faction should long bear down law and government, tyranny may raise its head, or the more sober part of the people may even think of a king.

Jay would later voice similar sentiments in his 1788 Address to the People of the State of New York -- generally hailed as the most important contribution to the great debate over New York's ratification of the Constitution.

Such a turn from liberty to security was precisely the sequence that soon unfolded in France -- a revolution that Jay, unlike Jefferson, was wary of from the beginning. In his first letter on the subject in December 1789, Jay granted that the French Revolution certainly "promises much," and expressed hope it would deliver on that promise. However, he maintained that "there are many nations not yet ripe for liberty, and I fear that even France has some lessons to learn, and perhaps, to pay for on the subject of free government." To a French correspondent a few months later, Jay offered the Burkean admonition (before Edmund Burke wrote his famous Reflections on the Revolution in France): "The natural propensity in mankind of passing from one extreme too far towards the opposite one sometimes leads me to apprehend that may be the case with your national assembly." By 1796, while Jeffersonians still defended France and celebrated her achievements for liberty, Jay observed that the latter stage of the revolution "had, in my eye, more the appearance of a woe than a blessing. It has caused torrents of blood and of tears, and been marked in its progress by atrocities very injurious to the cause of liberty and offensive to morality and humanity."

That the American Revolution did not follow the same destructive course was due in no small part to Jay's tireless efforts to instill a respect for the rule of law in his restless compatriots. As an eminent lawyer in pre-revolutionary America, Jay found himself elevated first to chief justice of New York and later to chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In these roles, Jay was not merely called upon to hear cases, but play an important role as an educator, instructing the American people in the art of self-government through the regular charges to grand juries he was called upon to give when overseeing circuit courts. On his first circuit as Supreme Court justice in March 1790, Jay offered a powerful summary of his political philosophy in his charge to the jurors:

It cannot be too strongly impressed on the minds of us all how greatly our individual prosperity depends on our national prosperity, and how greatly our national prosperity depends on a well organized, vigorous government, ruling by wise and equal laws, faithfully executed; nor is such a government unfriendly to liberty -- to that liberty which is really inestimable; on the contrary, nothing but a strong government of laws irresistibly bearing down arbitrary power and licentiousness can defend it against those two formidable enemies. Let it be remembered that civil liberty consists not in a right to every man to do just what he pleases, but it consists in an equal right to all the citizens to have, enjoy, and to do, in peace, security, and without molestation, whatever the equal and constitutional laws of the country admit to be consistent with the public good.

All the key elements of Jay's Federalist perspective are here: the close connection between individual and national prosperity, the need for a vigorous government to act as a safeguard of liberty, and the vast difference between libertarianism and the ordered liberty that rests on laws enacted by the people.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Dobbs, Medicine, and Threats to Maternal Life: Genuine cases of conflict between maternal and fetal health raise difficult moral questions, but a necessary starting point is to affirm both that physicians must honor their commitment to the mother's health and that the law's just protection of unborn human life should not interfere with that responsibility.  ( CHRISTOPHER O. TOLLEFSEN, 7/06/22, Public Discoure)

Laws restricting abortion should prudently and justly acknowledge the need to preserve the mother's life when threatened in a way that can be medically addressed.
And it is not unjust because both the mother's and the child's lives are at stake; surely it is not unfair to the child to save the mother. And even when either one could be saved, it is reasonable and not unfair to recognize the mother's authority in deciding what shall be done; if she decides to put her own life at risk to save the child, her authority should be respected, but it should not be overridden if she chooses otherwise.

The case of ectopic pregnancy is similar. The various ways in which ectopic pregnancy can be permissibly addressed have in common that the death of the unborn child is no means to the saving of the mother's life. Rather, removal of a diseased part of the fallopian tube, or of a child whose location is a threat to both lives, is a permissible means to an upright end. And again, there is no unfairness: the child in an ectopic pregnancy is sadly doomed whatever is done.

So again, physicians committed to the life and health of both patients need not--should not--think they are performing abortions to save the life of the mother. They are rather engaging in life-saving medical procedures that have as an unintended but justly accepted side effect harm to the fetus. The cases are similar to those in which physicians accept as a side effect a heightened risk of death in performing surgery, administering high doses of pain medication, or removing life-sustaining but burdensome medical technologies.

A completed miscarriage is even further from posing a genuine medical dilemma. But what if a miscarriage is underway, and medical intervention is needed to save the mother, but at the cost of hastening the child's demise? Must the physician wait, while putting the health of the mother at risk?

No: once more, intervention to save the mother's life or prevent a grave health deficit is morally permissible when the harm to the child is a fairly accepted side effect. Physicians should act prudently to preserve maternal health in such cases and are not, when acting rightly, engaged in a "preemptive" abortion.

The law should acknowledge these moral truths: laws restricting abortion should prudently and justly acknowledge the need to preserve the mother's life when threatened in a way that can be medically addressed. Indeed, Dobbs notes that "By the end of the 1950s, according to the Roe Court's own count, statutes in all but four States and the District of Columbia prohibited abortion 'however and whenever performed, unless done to save or preserve the life of the mother.'" Permitting medical intervention in defense of the mother's life is part of our nation's legal history and tradition in a way that the right to abortion is not.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM


Ron Shelton on Making Bull Durham, Getting Sued by Thomas Pynchon, and Why Baseball is the Most Literary Sport (Dwyer Murphy, July 7, 2022, LitHub)

Dwyer Murphy: In The Church of Baseball, you write, "The biggest mistake a sports movie can make is to have too much sports in it." I always thought of Bull Durham as a romance first and a sports movie second. A romance between characters. A story about people with romantic ideals moving through the world. How about you: you made the movie, how would you characterize it?

Ron Shelton: I've spent thirty years trying to figure out the movie and why it works. Some of it, I was unconscious of while we were making it. For example, what is Crash Davis about? He's a man who loves something more than it loves him back. That's a universal thing that makes the movie last. We've all loved something more than it loves us back. And Annie Savoy is a woman at an equal crisis point in her life. She's invented a game around boys and young men, something that's unsustainable, too. So they're both at this crisis. If they stop doing what they love, they'll have to grow up. That's the risk that it takes them an hour and forty-eight minutes to work through.

Like all great stories, it's about the love between two men: Crash and Nuke.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Where Jan. 6 prosecutions stand, 18 months after the attack (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 07/07/2022, Politico)

Eighteen months since a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transition of presidential power, prosecutors are closing in on another milestone: 900 arrests.

According to the latest Justice Department figures, more than 855 members of that crowd are facing charges that range from trespassing on restricted grounds to seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors estimate that more than 2,000 people actually entered the Capitol unlawfully that day, which means hundreds more arrests are likely in the months to come.

For a year and a half, the justice system has been slowly grinding through those cases, which have taken on increasing complexity as the House Jan. 6 select committee reveals new details about then-President Donald Trump's own role in fomenting the events of that day.

So far, 325 defendants have pleaded guilty to crimes stemming from the breach of the Capitol, the vast majority to misdemeanor crimes. But the most crucial tests of the Justice Department's work are still to come. The ongoing hearings of the Jan. 6 panel have produced compelling testimony that points toward Trump's knowledge of the potential for violence, and the trials of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys -- groups accused of conspiring to violently prevent the transfer of power -- are still months away.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


July 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Renewables supply nearly half of German power demand in first half 2022 (Sophie Vorrath, 6 July 2022, Renew Economy)

Renewable energy has supplied roughly half of Germany's electricity demand for the first half of 2022, new data has shown, boosting the amount of renewables in the mix by six percentage points compared to the same period in 2021.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Georgia Grand Jury Subpoenas Giuliani, Eastman And Graham (Mark Sumner, July 06 | 2022, National Memo)

An incomplete list of how Trump attempted to overturn the results in Georgia includes:

An "absurd" lawsuit that was blasted by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp as being nothing more than a collection of lies that had been flatly rejected in other states. (That lawsuit was actually withdrawn the morning of January 6.)

Trump's call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump was caught on tape asking for Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to defeat Biden, and threatening the official if he didn't come through for Trump.

Giuliani appeared three times before Georgia state legislators, spreading claims of voter fraud he knew were unfounded and encouraging them to take control of the election process and simply ignore the votes.

Eastman also appeared before a legislative hearing and argued that there was "more than enough" evidence of voter fraud and that it was the "duty" of the legislators to appoint alternative electors.

Drafting a slate of 16 fake electors who then pretended to be the "lawfully elected electors" of the state and submitted false documents to Congress.

Sen. Lindsey Graham called Raffensperger and urged him to simply toss out mail-in ballots in counties that favored Biden.

Trump, Giuliani, Powell, and a cast of dozens if not hundreds went on to insist that Kemp and Raffensperger were part of an international plot to deny Trump a repeat visit to the White House.

Now, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Trump's team is going to get another day in court, but not the day they wanted.

The grand jury has subpoenaed Giuliani, Graham, and Eastman, along Trump advisers Cleta Mitchell, Kenneth Chesebro, and Jenna Ellis. They've also subpoenaed conspiracy-mongering podcast host Jacki Pick Deason.

July 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Harvard-Harris: Americans Don't Know What Roe Did (CHARLES C. W. COOKE, July 5, 2022, National Review)

[W][hen one adds in the subsequent questions in the poll, the case for Roe as a beneficial political settlement (which was made by Justice Breyer during oral arguments, by the majority in Casey, and by anyone who was too embarrassed to pretend Roe was law) falls apart. Out of the options presented to them, 72 percent of respondents said that they supported abortion up until 15 weeks -- the exact issue at stake in Dobbs -- while 49 percent went only to six weeks. Both of these views were incompatible with Roe, which means that, whether they knew it or not, many Americans said they supported Roe while opposing what Roe actually did.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The world's most powerful tidal turbine just got a major funding boost (Anmar Frangoul, 7/05/22, CNBC)

According to Orbital Marine Power, its 2-megawatt O2 weighs 680 metric tons and has a 74-meter hull structure. The company describes the O2, which uses 10-meter blades and started grid-connected power generation last year, as "the world's most powerful tidal turbine."

Mark Munro, executive director at the SNIB, said its investment in Orbital aligned with its "mission to support home-grown innovation and the just energy transition."

"The company's unique and scalable approach to tidal stream energy has an important role to play in the journey towards net zero," Munro added.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Pro-Choicer and a Pro-Lifer Do LunchAfter Dobbs, there are areas where both sides can agree. (MONA CHAREN  JULY 5, 2022, The Bulwark)

Pro-choicers err if they think that the other side is not truly concerned about unborn life but merely seizes upon this issue to keep women subservient. In fact, among Americans 50 and older, women outnumber men among those who identify as pro-life. It's hard to credit that all of those American women, most of whom came of age in a feminist, post-Roe era, are motivated by a desire to subjugate themselves.

Further, looking at polls and arguing that most people are pro-choice is misleading. Polls on abortion are of limited utility because people interpret labels differently. As another friend put it to me recently: "I'm pro-life and my wife is pro-choice but when it comes to legal limits on abortion, we're in exactly the same place." Nor are beliefs about when life begins dispositive. One in three Americans believes that life begins at conception but that the decision to abort must be the woman's alone. Most Americans, like most Europeans, are comfortable with liberal access to abortion in the first 12 weeks, and progressively uneasy with access later in pregnancy.

As someone who has been part of the pro-life movement, I can say with some confidence that what motivates many pro-lifers is a deep conviction that they are standing up for the most vulnerable members of the human family--the unborn. Far from taking a right away, they think they are simply recognizing the rights of an oppressed minority. Some even see themselves as the successors to the anti-slavery movement.

Some pro-choice advocates can slide into a troubling nonchalance about life itself. A July 4 letter to the editor of the New York Times put it this way:

The extreme laws triggered by the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade are predicated on the religious belief in a soul at conception. With the large percentage of pregnancies ending in miscarriage, the God these lawmakers believe in certainly works in mysterious ways.

But that elides the question of agency. Nature delivers all kinds of miseries that take the lives of infants and others, from crib death to earthquakes to meningitis. That doesn't mean we take infanticide in stride. Intentionally taking a life is a grave matter. It may in very rare circumstances be justified, but it is never something to shrug off.

On the other hand, pro-lifers who focus exclusively on saving the lives of unborn babies overlook the insurmountable reality that pregnant mothers and babies cannot be unlinked. There is no analog to pregnancy; no other situation in which one person's right to life depends upon another being a physical host for nine months and undergoing the rigors of labor and birth. A baby's welfare depends completely on the mother's desire to protect and nurture that life. If, to cite just one of many possible examples, she is negligent by drinking to excess while pregnant, she is likely to give birth to a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. FAS is associated with brain damage, deformities, heart and kidney defects, and scores of other pathologies. Forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy she doesn't want carries risks for both mother and child.

For the past decade, I've been involved in a private charity that provides assistance to Jewish women with crisis pregnancies (there is an abundance of such Christian groups). Members of the founding board of directors were both pro-life and pro-choice but united by the desire to provide alternatives. We didn't lobby to change laws. We just helped women who wanted our aid. Some had been abandoned by husbands or boyfriends. Many had financial strains and other children. Some were in abusive relationships. All were incredibly grateful to find support during a difficult time. Some pro-life organizations have done similar work, but much more is needed, especially post Dobbs. It's impossible to say how many women who abort would not do so if they had financial and other support, but it's something both sides can agree is an unmixed good.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Army bases that honor Confederate traitors could soon be renamed for these heroes (Chris Cameron, 7/04/22, New York Times)

During the Jim Crow era, nine Southern Army bases were named for treasonous Confederate generals who fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy. Now a commission established by Congress has suggested new names for the bases that "embody the best of the United States Army and America."

Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, would be renamed Fort Liberty, if the recommendations are approved by Congress. The other bases would honor some of the Army's most distinguished heroes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The crack-of-dawn call to Larry Doby that changed baseball (Anthony Castrovince, 7/05/22, MLB)

Larry Doby got what shut-eye he could as the bus carrying him and his Negro League teammates made its trek from Wilmington, Del., to Newark, N.J., in the early morning hours of Thursday, July 3, 1947.

As Doby slept that night 75 years ago, he did not know about the newspaper report bearing his name. Did not know that his home would, in a matter of hours, be swarmed by inquiring reporters. Did not know that his life -- and the entire structure of professional baseball -- was about to be enduringly altered.

By the time Doby had disembarked the bus, driven his Ford convertible to his apartment in Paterson, N.J., and gotten into bed for a more proper rest, it was roughly 5:30 a.m. And it was just before 7 a.m. when Newark Eagles owner Effa Manley rang Doby's phone and cut short his sleep with the big news.

"Larry," she said, "you have been bought by the Cleveland Indians of the American League and you are to join the team in Chicago on Sunday."

While Jackie Robinson's color-barrier-breaking debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers 11 weeks earlier was a cultural touchstone and a vital precursor to the American civil rights movement, it is important to consider what the purchase of Doby's contract meant not just for the now-integrated AL, but for baseball's framework.

Robinson, after all, had signed his contract with the Dodgers in October 1945, and spent the entire 1946 season in the Minor Leagues with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Montreal. He was promoted to the Majors six days before the start of the 1947 season, unofficially debuting in an exhibition game at Ebbets Field four days before the real thing.

Doby, on the other hand, arrived to the AL literally overnight, on a Pennsylvania Railroad train, to make his debut -- 75 years ago today -- on July 5, 1947, against the White Sox.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox and friends confront billion-dollar US lawsuits over election fraud claims (Adam Gabbatt , 4 Jul 2022, The Guardian)

Fox Corp had attempted to have the suit dismissed, but a Delaware judge said Dominion had shown adequate evidence for the suit to proceed. Dominion is already suing Fox News, as well as OAN and Newsmax.

"These allegations support a reasonable inference that Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch either knew Dominion had not manipulated the election or at least recklessly disregarded the truth when they allegedly caused Fox News to propagate its claims about Dominion," Judge Eric Davis said.

Davis's ruling is not a guarantee that Fox will be found liable. But the judge made it clear that this isn't some frivolous attempt by Dominion - and media and legal experts think Fox could be in real trouble.

"Dominion has a very strong case against Fox News - and against OAN for that matter," said Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor who teaches constitutional law at Stetson University and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute.

"The reason Dominion is suing is because Fox and other rightwing news outlets repeated vicious lies that Dominion's voting machines stole the 2020 election from Trump for Biden. But all of these conspiracy theories about Dominion's machines were just pure bunk, and Fox as a news organization should have known that and not given this aspect of the big lie a megaphone.

"What's particularly bad for Fox is [that] Dominion asked them to stop and correct the record in real time, and Fox persisted in spreading misrepresentations about the voting machine company."

Indeed, in his ruling, Davis noted that "other newspapers under Rupert Murdoch's control, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Post, condemned President Trump's claims and urged him to concede defeat".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On Trump's Unhappy Fourth, He Had A Shrieking Social Meltdown (Brandon Gage, July 05 | 2022, National Memo)

Former President Donald Trump is celebrating July 4th by raging against his detractors on his Twitter-knockoff app Truth Social.

In a trio of angry rants, Trump railed against Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) - the vice-chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol - for suggesting on Sunday that the bipartisan panel is likely to make multiple criminal referrals to the Justice Department to indict Trump for trying to overthrow the federal government.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Sand battery' could solve green energy's big problem (Matt McGrath, 7/05/22, BBC)

Right now, most batteries are made with lithium and are expensive with a large, physical footprint, and can only cope with a limited amount of excess power.

But in the town of Kankaanpää, a team of young Finnish engineers have completed the first commercial installation of a battery made from sand that they believe can solve the storage problem in low-cost, low impact way.

"Whenever there's like this high surge of available green electricity, we want to be able to get it into the storage really quickly," said Markku Ylönen, one of the two founders of Polar Night Energy who have developed the product.

The device has been installed in the Vatajankoski power plant which runs the district heating system for the area.

Low-cost electricity warms the sand up to 500C by resistive heating (the same process that makes electric fires work).

This generates hot air which is circulated in the sand by means of a heat exchanger.

Sand is very effective medium for storing heat and loses little over time. The developers say that their device could keep sand at 500C for several months.

So when energy prices are higher, the battery discharges the hot air which warms water for the district heating system which is then pumped around homes, offices and even the local swimming pool.

July 4, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Dobbs v Jackson: the rediscovery of judicial humility: The majority of the current US Supreme Court exercises restraint in the interpretation of their nation's Constitution (Michael Quinlan, Jul 4, 2022, Mercator Net)

Before discussing the decision in Dobbs, it is useful to start with first principles and consider the proper role of a Court called upon to interpret a nation's constitution.

A Court exercising this power is engaged is a very serious exercise. The constitution of a country sets out the basic law and principles of the nation and how power will be separated between executive, parliamentary and judicial branches. Where the country is a federation, the constitution will also say how power will be divided between Federal and State governments. Those engaged in the drafting have engaged in a debate and ultimately determined what to include and what to exclude from the constitution which has then been ratified.

Typically, a constitution can be considered to be a "super statute" because it is superior to other laws and invalidates conflicting laws. It is stable, because it is more difficult to alter than other legislation, and it is justiciable, which means that a court can be asked to rule on constitutionality of legislation.

Constitutions derive their power from the people, and they enjoy this superior status because their creation is not akin to that of ordinary legislation. The US Constitution, for example, was the result of discussion, debate and vote by delegates selected by the then States. On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates signed the document which would become the Constitution after the process for its ratification had concluded. This process involved popular debate in the States and required ratification by at least 13 of the State legislatures then forming the union. The Constitution was ratified by Delaware on December 7, 1787 and by all of the then extant States by May 29, 1790.

The US Constitution itself sets out the method for its amendment. This requires that an amendment be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both Houses of Congress. An amendment can also be proposed via a convention called for by two-thirds of the States. Three-fourths of the State legislatures, or three-fourths of conventions called in each State must then ratify the change. Since the original ratification of the Constitution it has been amended 27 times.

The Constitution and the amendments which have been made to it ultimately derive their power from the people. Whilst the power to resolve disputes about the Constitution ultimately resides in SCOTUS, the judges of that Court are not elected by the people, come from few places, have less diverse backgrounds, education and experiences, and are far fewer in number than the representatives of the people elected to the State or Federal parliaments.

It must be tempting for judges in superior courts -- particularly when faced with parliaments unwilling or unable to address social issues -- to use their power to insert rights into constitutions, and particularly where they are clear that doing so will be in the public interest. This appears to be what happened in Roe v Wade in which,the Court found a right to abortion existed in the Constitution.

Yet it is impossible to conclude that anyone involved in the drafting or ratification of the Constitution or amendments to it could have considered that they were creating any such right. In identifying such a right, the Court was involved in an exercise of judicial legislation as the minority judges -- and others -- pointed out at the time.

In Dobbs, SCOTUS found that the 1973 decision in Roe v Wade was "egregiously wrong". This is because it found that the right that the Court there found was not expressly set out in the Constitution and had no grounding in its provisions.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


Slavery Enriched White Slave Owners But Robbed America, Not Just African Americans: This horrid institution deprived the 'land of the free' of Black talent (Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, 7/04/22, The UnPopulist)

It is scandalous that Thomas Jefferson, the man who penned the immortal declaration of July 4, 1776, that "all men are created equal"(and women, dear!) did not liberate his slaves even at his death, or free even his own slave children by Sally Hemings--who, by the way, was his deceased wife's half sister. It's a miserable historical muddle.

But it is every bit as muddled to believe that American prosperity depended on slavery, as some authors of the 1619 project do when they equate the Southern plantation with capitalism. They are not alone. Slavery and wealth are linked in American lore: In his second inaugural address, on March 4, 1865, another great if flawed president, Abraham Lincoln, declared, "If God wills that [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, ... as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said, 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

It is a creditable sentiment, nobly expressed by our poet president. Would that he had lived and fulfilled the promise to the freedmen of 40 acres and a mule. Yet Lincoln's lyricism can mislead. The "piled" plunder of the crime of slavery is dwarfed by the returns of the honest commerce that might have been; Jefferson's declaration is an economic opportunity sadly missed. Free and equal Black Americans would have generated far more wealth in America than enslaved ones did. Economic history is unequivocal: Jefferson's slavery wasn't the basis of America's prosperity; Jefferson's liberalism, so beautifully expressed in the document we celebrate today, was.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Multiple criminal referrals of Trump possible, Cheney says (Amy B Wang, 7/04/2022,  The Washington Pos)

"I think it's a much graver constitutional threat if a president can engage in these kinds of activities, and the majority of the president's party looks away, or we as a country decide we're not actually going to take our constitutional obligations seriously," Cheney said.

Cheney went on to express grave concerns about the idea of Trump running as the GOP presidential nominee for a third time.

"I think there's no question, I mean, a man as dangerous as Donald Trump can absolutely never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again," Cheney said.

The Republican Party, she said, could not survive if Trump were its 2024 presidential nominee.

"Millions of people, millions of Republicans have been betrayed by Donald Trump. And that is a really painful thing for people to recognize and to admit, but it's absolutely the case," Cheney said. "And they've been betrayed by him, by the big lie, and by what he continues to do and say to tear apart our country and tear apart our party." [...]

"What kind of man knows that a mob is armed and sends the mob to attack the Capitol and further incites that mob when his own vice president is under threat? When the Congress is under threat?" Cheney said. "It's very chilling."

Trump and his allies have since sought to discredit Hutchinson, but Cheney said she was "absolutely confident" in the former White House aide's testimony. Hutchinson also testified last week that Trump was "irate" when he was told he would not be able to travel to the Capitol with his supporters after his speech on the Ellipse, and that she was told Trump lunged at his security detail in anger while inside the presidential limousine.

When asked if the committee had additional evidence to corroborate Hutchinson's testimony, Cheney said the committee had "significant evidence about a whole range of issues, including the president's intense anger" inside the presidential limo. Cheney pointedly suggested that anyone who was denying Hutchinson's version of events testify before the committee under oath as well.

"What Cassidy Hutchinson did was an unbelievable example of bravery and courage and patriotism in the face of real pressure," Cheney said. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Falling Commodity Prices Raise Hopes That Inflation Has Peaked (Ryan Dezember, July 4, 2022, WSJ)

A slide in all manner of raw-materials prices--corn, wheat, copper and more--is stirring hopes that a significant source of inflationary pressure might be starting to ease. [...]

Much of the climb in prices was due to supply constraints following pandemic lockdowns, weather events last year that reduced harvests and sapped fuel reserves, and war in Europe. Those pressures have eased, though supply shocks are still jolting prices.

July 3, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 PM


GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger: More Witnesses, Evidence Surface In Jan. 6 Probe (HOPE YEN, Jul 3, 2022, AP)

More evidence is emerging in the House's Jan. 6 investigation that lends support to recent testimony that President Donald Trump wanted to join an angry mob that marched to the Capitol where they rioted, a committee member said Sunday.

"There will be way more information and stay tuned," said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.

The committee has been intensifying its yearlong investigation into the attack on Jan. 6, 2021, and Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee's vice chair, is making clear that criminal referrals to the Justice Department, including against Trump, could follow.

At least two more hearings are scheduled this month that aim to show how Trump illegally directed a violent mob toward the Capitol on Jan. 6, and then failed to take quick action to stop the attack once it began.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Gridlock in Congress has amplified the power of the Supreme Court (Adam Liptak, 7/02/22,  New York Times)

Without "clear congressional authorization," the court said, the Environmental Protection Agency was powerless to aggressively address climate change. In years past, that might have been the start of a dialogue with Congress, which after all has the last word on what statutes mean, because it can always pass new ones.

But thanks to legislative gridlock, Congress very seldom responds these days to Supreme Court decisions interpreting its statutes -- and that means the balance of power between the branches has shifted, with the justices ascendant.

The Legislative branch doesn't like to legislate. The Court used its power to tell them they have to.  It's almost like we have a governing text. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Trump's Favored Agent Tarnished The Secret Service (Brandon Gage, July 03 | 2022, National Memo)

Retired United States Secret Service agent Jonathan Wackrow said on Saturday that Tony Ornato, the one-time head of former President Donald Trump's security detail whom Trump installed as deputy White House chief of staff for operations in 2019, tarnished the Secret Service's reputation as an apolitical organization. [...]

Wackrow explained to CNN anchor and chief domestic correspondent Jim Acosta that Secret Service personnel have expressed concerns that Ornato's unprecedented role chipped away at the agency's historical neutrality.

"This is a big question. I know that a lot of agents are talking about that. I mean, it's very hard to maintain your independence when you were a political appointee. And I think this is a very unique situation that Tony has put the Secret Service in, you know, they have to defend somebody while they were in a political role not under the operational control of the Secret Service. It's very difficult," Wackrow said.

"And I want to just take that as an outlier. That is not the norm. So for the viewers, this is a very individual issue. But I think that we're seeing the integrity of the Secret Service come into question now," Wackrow continued. "But I believe in the institutional integrity of the Secret Service and their motto, 'worthy of trust and confidence.' Tony is an outlier in this situation. It is not representative of the women and men every single day that are out there providing that protection to our governmental leaders."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Victoria starts momentous shift from dirty and expensive gas, but is it quick enough? (Giles Parkinson 3 July 2022, Renew Economy)

"We know renewables are the cheapest form of energy and we're making it easier for Victorian households and businesses to go all electric with more choice and more support.

"Victorians have been at the mercy of private gas companies for too long, it's time to put gas on the back-burner as we help Victorians cut energy bills and halve emissions by 2030."

Victoria already has the country's only legislated emissions reduction target, of 50 per cent by 2030, and is aiming for a 50 per cent share of renewables in its grid, although the new blueprint released by the Australian Energy Market Operator points to an even quicker shift and assumes its three remaining brown coal generators will be closed by 2032.

July 2, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


Massachusetts' restrictive gun laws are working. The Supreme Court may have just upended that. (Ivy Scott, July 1, 2022, Boston Globe)

The ripple effects of the Supreme Court decision last week striking down New York's restrictions on carrying concealed handguns could pose a particular threat in Boston, which, while far from immune from gun violence, has fared much better than other cities its size at keeping shootings down.

With the year half over, 67 people were shot in Boston, seven fatally, according to the city's Police Department. Four cities with populations comparable to Boston's -- Louisville, Ky.; Nashville; Las Vegas; and Portland, Ore. -- had two to four times as many shootings, and six to 10 times as many fatalities, a Globe analysis found.

Guns are also more likely to be the cause of homicide in cities where gun laws are looser. Firearms were involved in 95 percent of homicides in Louisville this year, 81 percent in Nashville, and 73 percent in Las Vegas. In Boston, fatal shootings represent 50 percent of homicides this year.

While gun violence surged in major US cities during the pandemic, homicides and shootings in Boston declined last year and have fallen even further this year, according to police data. The striking difference points to the importance of gun restrictions and wide-ranging efforts by hospitals, community groups, and the police to reduce urban violence, specialists say.

"The overwhelming factor in violent deaths is access to guns," said David Hemenway, a professor at Harvard University's School of Public Health and former head of the National Violent Death Reporting System. "In states where there's easy access to guns, there are more gun homicides." [...]

While Massachusetts is lauded for its heavy restrictions on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity magazines, some of its stricter measures may now be at risk. Massachusetts is one of five states with laws similar to the one in New York struck down by the court, which give local government the discretion to decide who gets a gun permit; here, local police chiefs can deny someone a handgun license if they are determined to be unsuitable or not in need of one. And it remains difficult for law enforcement agencies to slow the influx of guns from states with fewer regulations.

"Laws have to be more stringent to prevent people from getting access to available guns too easily," said Daniel Semenza, a criminal justice professor at Rutgers University. "Background checks, licensing and registration, red flag laws, all of these are an important part of the 'Swiss cheese' approach to policy that focuses on layering different precautions to close the loopholes."

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


An innovative state energy program is lowering emissions -- and residents' electric bills (Dharna Noor, July 2, 2022, bOSTON gLOBE)

Massachusetts cities and towns are using an innovative state program to lower residents' utility bills while aggressively driving demand for clean power in the state, according to a new analysis. [...]

Once seen primarily as a means to slash utility costs, aggregation is increasingly viewed as a way to promote clean energy. In Boston, for instance, which purchases its power from Constellation Energy, the standard plan is 10 percentage points cleaner than Eversource's basic plan. Still, through the first half of 2022, it saved users an average of $27.62 monthly, and from July through December, it's expected to save those customers an average of $40.26 monthly.

Massachusetts requires that clean energy be part of all electricity supplied to consumers. Under the state's renewable portfolio standard, that includes locally produced solar, wind, and some controversial sources like landfill gas. This year, the minimum is 20 percent.

Eversource and National Grid, which each serve more than 1 million customers statewide, purchase energy at that minimum requirement. But many aggregations are working with suppliers who guarantee an even cleaner mix, a model the Alliance calls "green municipal aggregation."

In Massachusetts, all aggregations are opt-out, meaning if your town has one, you're automatically enrolled into its standard package, but can choose to use the local utility or a competitive provider instead.

Municipalities control how much clean power their standard plans offer, and most choose to just meet the state's minimum. But the authors found that, currently, more than 50 municipalities' standard plans are offering higher amounts of renewable power. Half of those offer at least 10 percentage points more clean energy than the required minimum; some have wildly exceeded the state's requirement. Newton's standard energy package is the cleanest in the state, with an 82 percent renewable mix, and Lowell and Brookline, with 65 and 50 percent, respectively, are next in line.

Posted by orrinj at 2:07 PM


Trump Group pays for Jan. 6 lawyers, raising concerns of witness pressure (Luke Broadwater, Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni and Alan Feuer, 7/01/22, New York Times)

Former President Donald Trump's political organization and his allies have paid for or promised to finance the legal fees of more than a dozen witnesses called in the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6 attack, raising legal and ethical questions about whether the former president may be influencing testimony with a direct bearing on him.

The arrangement drew new scrutiny this week after Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide in his White House, made an explosive appearance before the House panel, providing damning new details about Trump's actions and statements on the day of the deadly riot.

She did so after firing a lawyer who had been recommended to her by two of Trump's former aides and paid for by his political action committee, and hiring new counsel. Under the representation of the new lawyer, Jody Hunt, Hutchinson sat for a fourth interview with the committee in which she divulged more revelations and agreed to come forward publicly to testify to them.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


The Self-Hate Of Abortion Advocates (KELLY MARCUM, 7/02/22, American Conservative)

"Electrical activity in a group of organizing cells is not a heartbeat"

In the days since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I've seen a fair number of hysterical posts and tweets, ranging from silly to wildly ignorant. But none of them hold a candle to the post I first quoted, alleging that there is in fact no baby at all, just a group of cells with "electrical activity." 

Far be it from me to point out that that definition applies to every human being, as we are all composed of clumps of cells that function due to electrical activity. Of course, this is not a medical term. Indeed, it was created by a few spin doctors to counter the messaging of the heartbeat bills passing at the state level. Clearly the point here, as in every attempt to dehumanize a category of humanity in order to justify their termination, is to render the unborn child "less than." It's quite hard to admit that you're fine stopping a baby's heart. Make that baby just a group of cells with electrical activity and suddenly you're just doing a little mechanical work, not murdering a little one. 

Of course, none of us would ever actually use these terms in real life. Earlier this year, when my husband and I were told that our little one had passed away in utero, my doctor did not say, "Oh well, the electrical activity in that group of cells has ceased." She said she was sorry, but my baby had died. Granted, my doctor is pro-life, but in good faith I'll assume that even the most rabidly pro-abortion OB-GYN would refrain from "electrical activity" jargon when talking to a grieving mother who just lost her baby. Further, I assume that even my pro-abortion friends and family, who have posted many things similar to what I quoted above in the past days and weeks, would express sympathy if told of my loss, and their sympathy would be sincere. 

But here we come to the crux of what it means to be pro-choice. In the eyes of those clamoring for a "woman's right to choose," my baby was only worth mourning because I wanted her. Had I wanted to end her life, they would have cheered that it was my right, that she meant nothing, just a clump of cells with electrical activity. I know few pro-abortion individuals who would state that as plainly as I just wrote it. Instead, they would hide behind the variety of one-liners that have dominated the online world since the Dobbs opinion was leaked in May. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


A Look Around the US Economy (Fisher Investments Editorial Staff, 06/28/2022)

Stocks had a rough day Tuesday, and the alleged culprit is one we have seen with increasing frequency lately: A raft of good-looking economic data supposedly raises the likelihood of more big Fed rate hikes to come. This is part and parcel of a sentiment phenomenon we call the "pessimism of disbelief"--investors' tendency to see any good news through a negative lens. It is a hallmark of late downturns and early recoveries, and its prevalence today is a big reason we think this downturn's end is likely close by. When people dismiss good news as bad, it shows a big gap between sentiment and reality--substantial room for positive surprise. What did people overlook in the latest data? Read on!

Everyone wants to be the hero of their own story: our affluence and ease thwart that.

July 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Meadows intermediary may have tried to influence Hutchinson's testimony to January 6 committee, sources say (Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer, 7/01/22, CNN)

One of people who may have been trying to influence Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony did so at the behest of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to multiple sources familiar with information gathered by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the vice chairwoman of the committee, brought up two examples of possible witness intimidation at a hearing featuring Hutchinson, who was an aide to Meadows in the Trump White House, earlier this week, without naming a witness or who made contact. Sources now tell CNN that both instances recounted by Cheney were directed at Hutchinson, and that Hutchinson believes the messages were intended to impact her testimony.

Liz just keeps "over delivering"

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Accounts of Trump angrily demanding to go to Capitol on January 6 circulated in Secret Service over past year (Noah Gray and Zachary Cohen,  July 1, 2022. CNN)

Then-President Donald Trump angrily demanded to go to the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and berated his protective detail when he didn't get his way, according to two Secret Service sources who say they heard about the incident from multiple agents, including the driver of the presidential SUV where it occurred. [...]

Like Hutchinson, one source, a longtime Secret Service employee, told CNN that the agents relaying the story described Trump as "demanding" and that the former President said something similar to: "I'm the f**king President of the United States, you can't tell me what to do." The source said he originally heard that kind of language was used shortly after the incident.

"He had sort of lunged forward -- it was unclear from the conversations I had that he actually made physical contact, but he might have. I don't know," the source said. "Nobody said Trump assaulted him; they said he tried to lunge over the seat -- for what reason, nobody had any idea."

The employee said he'd heard about the incident multiple times as far back as February 2021 from other agents, including some who were part of the presidential protective detail during that time period but none of whom were involved in the incident.

The source added that agents often recounted stories of Trump's fits of anger, including the former President throwing and breaking things.

"Not just plates," the source added, a reference to how Hutchinson testified this week that she saw ketchup on the wall and a porcelain plate shattered on the floor of the White House dining room after Trump had thrown his lunch at the wall upon hearing about then-Attorney General William Barr telling a media outlet there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Posted by orrinj at 1:57 PM


Rudy Giuliani Deletes Tweet Insisting Cassidy Hutchinson Was Not Present When He Asked for a Pardon (Colby Hall, Jul 1st, 2022, Mediate)

But it does strain credulity that he was sober enough to realize he needed one. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Cassidy Hutchinson's Testimony Changed Our Minds about Indicting Donald Trump (Alan Z. Rozenshtein, Jed Handelsman Shugerman, July 1, 2022, Lawfare)

Until Tuesday, we had both publicly stated that the Department of Justice had insufficient evidence to indict former President Trump for his conduct on January 6. Our conclusion, which we each came to independently, was largely grounded in First Amendment concerns about criminalizing purely political speech.

But Tuesday's explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former aide to Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, changed our minds. In particular, Hutchinson testified to hearing Trump order that the magnetometers (metal detectors) used to keep armed people away from the president be removed: "I don't fucking care that they have weapons, they're not here to hurt me. They're not here to hurt me. Take the fucking mags [magnetometers] away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here; let the people in and take the mags away." 

Admittedly, Hutchinson is only one witness, and it is true that some of her testimony would, in the context of a criminal trial, constitute hearsay. But Hutchinson--unlike many of her detractors who have contested certain details of her testimony--testified under oath and, contrary to the sneering commentary of the House Judiciary Committee GOP Twitter account, not all of Hutchinson's second-hand remarks were introduced to establish the truth of the matter asserted. Even much of that portion of her testimony that did constitute hearsay might still be admissible under the relevant evidentiary rules. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


The Happiness Data That Wrecks a Freudian Theory (Ben Cohen, June 30, 2022, WSJ)

[C]lose readings of Shakespearean characters and compelling anecdotes disguised as scientific evidence are no match for mountains of data...

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Trump's vulnerabilities for 2024 mount after new testimony (STEVE PEOPLES and THOMAS BEAUMONT, 7/01/22, AP)

Here in Iowa, the state expected to host the first presidential nominating contest in roughly 18 months, several voters signaled Thursday that they were open to another presidential candidate even if Trump were to run again. At the same time, some conservative media outlets issued scathing rebukes of the former president. Aides for multiple GOP presidential prospects also indicated, publicly and privately, that they felt increasingly emboldened to challenge Trump in 2024 following the explosive new testimony.

Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, drew roughly 350 conservative activists to a congressional fundraising barbecue on Thursday in Sioux County, where Trump won 82% of the vote in 2020.

And there was ample evidence of Trump fatigue. Interviews with a dozen attendees revealed strong interest in a 2024 alternative, even if Trump is on the ballot.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find people in this area who support the idea that people aren't looking for someone else," said Dave Van Wyk, a transportation company owner. "To presume that conservative America is 100% behind Donald Trump is simply not the case."

For some Republican voters, that was the feeling even before this week's stunning new testimony.

Former White House staffer Cassidy Hutchinson on Tuesday offered previously unknown details about the extent of Trump's rage in his final weeks of office, his awareness that some supporters had brought weapons to the city on Jan. 6 and his ambivalence as rioters later laid siege to the Capitol.

Upset at the size of the crowd at his "Stop the Steal" rally -- many supporters avoided entering because they were armed and didn't want to go through metal detectors -- Trump said words to the effect of, "I don't care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me," according to Hutchinson. She recalled hearing about a separate incident after the rally in which Trump tried to grab at the steering wheel of the presidential vehicle to go to the Capitol to join his supporters. [...]

The conservative Washington Examiner's editorial board said Hutchinson's testimony "ought to ring the death knell" for Trump's political career. "Trump is unfit to be anywhere near power ever again."

The often Trump-friendly New York Post blasted the headline: "Tyrant Trump." And the conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wrote, "Just when it seems as if Donald Trump's behavior after his 2020 loss couldn't possibly look worse, a new piece of wild testimony arrives."

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Liz "Showtime" Cheney Is Dropping Beguiling Hints About Another Potential Jan. 6 Bombshell (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, JULY 01, 2022, Slate)

The joke about having apostate GOP Rep. Liz Cheney serve as vice-chair of the House's Jan. 6 select committee was that putting a Republican in charge of something might end up being the most politically effective move that modern congressional Democrats have ever made. It wasn't just any Republican, either; it was the daughter of one of the most ruthless GOP operators of his era, former vice president Dick Cheney, a man so skilled in the deft dance of the political rhumba that he once got away with shooting a guy in the face.

That analysis has proven sound.  [...]

Among other reasons, this is because she's played to the serialized-television format of the hearings by teasing "bombshell"-type revelations and then fully airing them later in context that makes them even more dramatic. Most notably, she mentioned during the first hearing that the committee would present testimony suggesting that Trump reacted approvingly when he heard that mob in the Capitol was chanting the phrase "hang Mike Pence." She made good on that promise on Tuesday when questioning Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. "As an American," Hutchinson said after seeing a clip from a previous interview with the committee during which she recounted hearing Meadows tell another official about Trump's alleged comments, "I was disgusted."

A few other moments on Tuesday suggest Cheney has some more sizzlers planned, particularly regarding the White House's connection to Jan. 6 violence.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Mark Meadows' associate threatened ex-White House aide before her testimony (Hugo Lowell, 30 Jun 2022, The Guardian)

Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson received at least one message tacitly warning her not to cooperate with the House January 6 select committee from an associate of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The message in question was the second of the two warnings that the select committee disclosed at the end of its special hearing when Hutchinson testified about how Donald Trump directed a crowd he knew was armed to march on the Capitol, the sources said.

"[A person] let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. 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," read the message. The redaction was Meadows, the sources said.

The Trumpists can't withstand accurate testimony. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Rehnquist's Revenge: Without Rehnquist's unique Glucksberg opinion, the conservative justices in Dobbs would have lacked a workable due process standard.  (Michael Toth, 6/30/22, Law & Liberty)

Several prominent jurists avoided the line-drawing problem altogether by rejecting "substantive due process" as judicial activism. New Deal justice Hugo Black disagreed with the Supreme Court's recognition of a constitutional right to contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut on the grounds that federal courts had no constitutional power to invalidate state laws as "arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable." Black's view was widely shared among the early leaders of the conservative legal movement, most notably the federal appellate judge (and failed Supreme Court nominee) Robert H. Bork.

In Washington v. Glucksberg (1997), Rehnquist struck a balance on the scope of constitutional liberties in a case that rejected constitutional protections for euthanasia. In his majority opinion (all of the justices rebuffed a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide, but for different reasons), Rehnquist recognized that the due process clause protects individual rights that are not expressly enumerated in the constitution. But to invalidate a state law, Rehnquist ruled that the individual right had to be "deeply rooted" in the nation's history and tradition. He further cautioned that courts needed to exercise the "utmost care" in determining whether the historic record "objectively" supported the recognition of constitutionally protected liberty.

The formulation is a product of Rehnquist's own skill as a lawyer in negotiating a compromise between conservative and libertarian views of constitutional liberties.

Rehnquist's formulation turned the page on the internal war among conservative jurists on the doctrine of substantive due process. The Chief Justice flatly rejected Bork's view that unenumerated rights are constitutionally baseless. By the same token, Rehnquist circumscribed the scope of substantive due process rights to avoid the ahistorical invention of new constitutional rights against longstanding and widely-accepted state restrictions.

Twenty-five years after the decision, Glucksberg remains the controlling standard for determining substantive due process cases. Justice Alito's majority opinion in Dobbs turns on whether abortion is "deeply rooted" in the American experience. The opinion begins by invoking Glucksberg and proceeds with a thorough historical analysis of abortion restrictions during which Rehnquist's opinion is cited a dozen times.

Without Glucksberg, the conservative justices in Dobbs would have lacked a workable due process standard. And it is impossible to imagine the Glucksberg standard coming from anyone other than Chief Justice Rehnquist. Although Justices Scalia and Thomas signed onto Glucksberg, the opinion does not analyze the due process clause from an originalist perspective. Instead, the formulation is a product of Rehnquist's own skill as a lawyer in negotiating a compromise between conservative and libertarian views of constitutional liberties. It's notable that Rehnquist worked for both Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon.

The realism of the Glucksberg formulation may leave constitutional idealists disillusioned. But it will likely continue as the due process standard for as long as the court's current conservative majority remains in place. What this means is that the one-time conservative aversion to unenumerated rights is officially over. This could pave the way for constitutional challenges to overbearing school boards under the name of parental rights "deeply rooted" in the nation's history. Proponents of judicial restraint may question whether courts are best positioned to adjudicate the contours of fundamental rights.

They are not.  Electorates are. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM



The rumble of shuffling mahjong tiles filled the air in Chinatowns across the United States in the 1920s. Before even seeing the game, you could hear it being played in apartment buildings, association halls, and back rooms of general stores. You might assume that most Chinese Americans were already familiar with mahjong long before the colorful, complex tile game hooked the broader American public, but the opposite is true: Before the early 20th century, mahjong was not a widespread part of Chinese culture, particularly in the regions from which most immigrants to the U.S. hailed.

Many Chinese Americans began playing the game in the 1920s, swept up in an enormous international fad. But the game fast became a fixture in their communities--a versatile pastime that, through the sounds and the language of gameplay, and through its visual presence in public places and in private homes, helped create spaces for a new, shared Chinese American experience.

Mahjong first evolved as a gambling game in the area around Shanghai in the mid-to-late 1800s. By the turn of the century, it was played mostly by men for both high and low stakes in Shanghai's courtesan halls, before it swept the Empress Dowager Cixi's Beijing court in the last years of her reign. After World War I, mahjong became popular in Shanghai's social clubs thanks to a rising class of Chinese intermediaries and the growing number of Americans who frequented these clubs. The rhythms of the game, its mix of luck and strategy, and the satisfaction of the tiles' heft and feel propelled its spread. Mahjong tables were settings for forging friendships, building community, or demonstrating power moves of posturing and strategy. A number of these players--most famously a Standard Oil representative named Joseph Park Babcock who brought mahjong to California in 1922--marketed the game in the U.S., promoting it as an exciting and "exotic" new pastime. It took off like wildfire. Soon the most elite Americans, from President and First Lady Harding to Hollywood celebrities, were playing mahjong, as were throngs of fans in Europe, Japan, Australia, elsewhere in China, and beyond. It was never only a game for the wealthy, however, as players from across the social spectrum--and across lines of gender, race, and region--embraced the game

Why Jews are still crazy about mahjong (Benjamin Ivry, April 29, 2021, The Forward)

From the 1920s until today, mahjong has captured the imagination of American Jewish players like few other games. Annelise Heinz, who teaches at the University of Oregon, is the author of "Mahjong: A Chinese Game and the Making of Modern American Culture." Recently, I spoke with Heinz about what mahjong has meant to Jewish communities. [...]

You cite one source that in the 1950s, some Jewish families believed that the game originated in East European shtetls and that mahjong was a Yiddish term.

People tell me that even today. In 2011, when I visited the Project Mah Jongg exhibit at New York's Museum of Jewish Heritage two elderly Jewish American men walked in; one said that mahjong was from the 'Old Country.' Some people tell me that when they were growing up, they thought that mahjong was a Yiddish word. It was part of the Jewish fabric they were surrounded with, and they weren't thinking very hard about it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Indonesia: The most amazing development story on Earth?: A huge and yet versatile country (Noah Smith, Jun 28, 2022, Noahpinion)

[A] large diverse population, in a post-colonial state, tends to be a recipe for dysfunction. As Alesina et al. (2006) showed, European empires often created "artificial" states by lumping a bunch of ethnic groups together within fairly arbitrary borders, and this practice tended to lead to a bunch of ethnic conflict that made it hard for these countries to grow (at least, for a while). Indonesia somewhat fits this bill -- much of it used to be part of various Javanese empires (Java being the most populous island in the archipelago), but the modern state is a creation of Dutch colonialists.

As one might expect from this history, the country has often been riven by ethnic conflict, and there's still some of this today. The most severe right now is the Papua Conflict, a low-level civil war between the government and a separatist movement.

Indonesia's post-colonial history is violent and turbulent. In the 1960s the army, with support from the U.S. CIA, committed a mass slaughter of half a million suspected communists. In 1998 there was a huge series of riots against ethnic Chinese people, which ended up toppling the country's dictator at the time.

Given its natural challenges and this bloody and chaotic history, it's all the more remarkable that Indonesia is now one of the freest and most democratic in its region, with a higher Freedom House ranking than Malaysia, the Philippines, or Singapore. Since the fall of the dictator Suharto in 1998, the country has had four peaceful transitions of power (though one of these was an impeachment of a president who tried to dissolve the parliament). Minority rights have improved over time. Though the country is about 87% Muslim, and did have a bit of Islamist terrorism for a while, this has mostly faded in recent years, and the country is generally looked upon as a model for peaceful Islam.

Increasing stability and freedom is always impressive, but at a time when global authoritarianism and intolerance are gaining strength, it's all the more so. In a world growing steadily darker, Indonesia has bucked the trend. And there's some evidence that Indonesia's move toward democracy has been good for its economic growth.

But what's also impressive about Indonesia is that it has maintained long-term economic growth while switching its basic development model -- and now may be about to switch models a second time.

The first thing I do when trying to figure out a country's development model is to go to the Atlas of Economic Complexity and look at its exports -- basically, a measure of what the country specializes in. Roughly speaking, there are two types of developing countries -- natural resource exporters and industrial exporters. The former typically have all kinds of problems -- political dysfunction, overvalued currency, vulnerability to resource price swings, and so on. This is known as the Resource Curse. The industrial exporters generally start out poorer, since they don't have much to sell. But as long as they maintain the right policies they tend to experience steadier growth; eventually, they usually end up richer than the resource exporters.

Globalization is Americanization.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Three Things I Think I Think - Flation, Flation, Flation (Cullen Roche,  06/30/2022, Pragmatic Capitalism)

1) Inflation has peaked. 

Back in January I said inflation had peaked. This morning's Core PCE data seals the deal for me - it looks like inflation peaked in February. So, I missed it by a month. Still, this one looks very clear to me from here on out. The year over year comparisons become much flatter as the year goes on. By the end of the year a lot of the underlying inflation components are going to be negative.  Given all the broad economic weakness and potential downside in housing, my baseline is that inflation is still going to be well above the Fed's 2% target by year-end, but I think the odds of a runaway 1970s style inflation are very, very low now. There is no chance of hyperinflation. I would actually argue that the risk of deflation is substantially higher at this point than the risk of hyperinflation.

The effects of the forced transition away from carbon and labor alone are epochal. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


For thrift stores, hard times can be busy times (Annie Probert, June 29, 2022, Boston Globe)

When everything feels more expensive, it's good business to be known for bargains. Just ask thrift stores.

"It's part of our mission to provide affordable goods to the community, and we're recession-proof," said Chris Roth, manager of The Thrift Shop of Boston in Roslindale. "There's always outside economic forces, but at the thrift shop, prices won't be going up to reflect that."

At the Bureau Drawer in Quincy, sales have been increasing for months, and while bargain-hunters make up a big chunk of customers, the store has also seen more people coming out of concern about rising prices, said Rick Doane, executive director of the organization that receives the thrift shop's proceeds.

What inflation.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Supreme Court's EPA ruling goes far beyond climate change: The court's reasoning could restrict federal regulation in many areas, making it more difficult for agencies to protect consumers, set standards for health and safety, and regulate financial markets, among other things. (Jody Freeman, June 30, 2022, Boston Globe)

Traditionally, courts give agencies substantial discretion to interpret broadly worded statutes Congress delegates to them within their areas of expertise. The Supreme Court acknowledged this principle in a 1984 case, Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, noting that Congress entrusts implementation to agencies who are more expert than courts.

In Thursday's decision, the court ignored that precedent and embraced a radically different approach called the major questions doctrine, which holds that Congress does not authorize federal agencies to adopt regulations of major social and economic significance using broad legal language. The major questions doctrine displaces the traditional rule that courts will defer to agency interpretations of the statutes they are charged with administering. In practice, it means that federal agencies cannot adopt significant rules to respond to unforeseen challenges unless Congress anticipated their application of the statute and explicitly authorized it in advance.