September 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Trump fan who assaulted Officer Fanone on Jan. 6 sentenced to more than 7 years in prison (Ryan J. Reilly, 9/27/22, NBC News)

A Donald Trump fan who took his teenage son along as he assaulted Mike Fanone, then a Washington, D.C., police officer, and another officer at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison Tuesday.

Kyle Young, 38 -- an HVAC worker from Iowa whose lawyer said he was "injected" with lies about the 2020 election and who had asked his Facebook followers to join him at the "Stop the Steal" rally -- pleaded guilty in May to a felony count of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


Germany plans to keep 2 nuclear power plants in operation (Deutsche-Welle, 9/27/22)

Germany will keep two of its remaining three nuclear power plants running until at least April, Germany Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Tuesday.

Habeck said the two nuclear reactors located in the southern states of the country, Isar 2 in Bavaria, and Neckarwestheim in Baden-Württemberg, would continue running until mid-April. 

Nuclear power is clean and safe. Why aren't we using more of it? (Daniel Van Boom, Nov. 16, 2021, CNET)

Consider this thought experiment. What would the climate change debate look like if nuclear power was invented tomorrow? Imagine if humanity had only used fossil fuels and renewables up to this point, and an engineering visionary revealed that split atoms could be used to generate clean power. That's the hypothetical posed to me by Dietmar Detering, a German entrepreneur living in New York.

"I'm sure we'd develop the hell out of it," he said, before sighing. "We're looking at a different world right now." 

Detering thinks nuclear energy could be the key to solving the climate crisis. A former member of Germany's Green Party, Detering now spends his spare time as co-chair of the Nuclear New York advocacy group. He's part of a wave of environmentalists campaigning for more nuclear energy. 

Though the word evokes images of landscapes pulverized by atomic calamity -- Hiroshima, Chernobyl, Fukushima -- proponents like Detering and his colleague Eric Dawson point out that nuclear power produces huge amounts of electricity while emitting next to no carbon.

This separates it from fossil fuels, which are consistent but dirty, and renewables, which are clean but weather dependent. Contrary to their apocalyptic reputation, nuclear power plants are relatively safe. Coal power is estimated to kill around 350 times as many people per terawatt-hour of energy produced, mostly from air pollution, compared to nuclear power. 

"Any energy policy has pros and cons, and we feel, after putting a lot of scrutiny on it, that the pros outweigh the cons of nuclear energy," said Dawson, a grassroots campaigner at Nuclear New York.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM

THE BANALITY OF MAGA (profanity alert):


The first-term Florida governor strutted onstage in a boxy suit and red tie, flinging white "Ron DeSantis" baseball caps into the sea of unmasked faces. The sound system blasted "Sweet Florida," a country tribute anthem the Lynyrd Skynyrd-adjacent band Van Zant wrote for him. The music wrapped and the crowd quieted. DeSantis gripped the lectern. He offered cursory praise for Mastriano and then uncorked a grievance-fueled stump speech that sounded like it had been written by AI plugged into Fox News. In DeSantis's telling, the honest people of Florida were besieged by a vast array of liberal scourges: big tech, IRS agents, George Soros, the Biden administration, the corporate media, illegal immigrants, Anthony Fauci, police defunders, Disney, China, communism, cancel culture, critical race theory, and woke gender ideology. Only Ron DeSantis was brave enough to confront these malign forces. [...]

DeSantis's offices have earned a reputation as very unhappy places to work. "When you work for Ron, he makes you feel like you're just lucky to be there," a former gubernatorial aide said. "I once had to drive him to the airport. We got stuck in traffic for an hour, and he didn't say a word," a former congressional staffer told me. "I describe him as having the personality of a piece of paper." Last year, Politico reported ex-DeSantis staffers had formed a "support group" to commiserate over their bruising experiences. "He's a terrible bully," a past adviser said.

The Herculean job of smoothing DeSantis's rough edges and repairing relationships falls to one person: his wife, Casey. A former local newscaster, Casey is by far DeSantis's closest confidant and adviser, multiple sources said. "The only person he listens to is Casey," a former congressional staffer said. DeSantis consults her on everything from hiring decisions and media appearances to policy positions and wardrobe choices. She's been known to write thank-you cards and make phone calls on his behalf. "She is his emotional tuning fork," a former congressional staffer said. Several sources compared her influence to that of the most famous Republican political spouse in recent memory: Nancy Reagan. But no one would mistake Ron DeSantis for Ronald Reagan, the former actor with an innate sense of his audience. Which means DeSantis's political future hinges on the following question: Can he lead the Trump cult of personality with no personality?

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 PM


No one in physics dares say so, but the race to invent new particles is pointless (Sabine Hossenfelder, 26 Sep 2022, The Guardian)

Imagine you go to a zoology conference. The first speaker talks about her 3D model of a 12-legged purple spider that lives in the Arctic. There's no evidence it exists, she admits, but it's a testable hypothesis, and she argues that a mission should be sent off to search the Arctic for spiders.

The second speaker has a model for a flying earthworm, but it flies only in caves. There's no evidence for that either, but he petitions to search the world's caves. The third one has a model for octopuses on Mars. It's testable, he stresses.

Kudos to zoologists, I've never heard of such a conference. But almost every particle physics conference has sessions just like this, except they do it with more maths. It has become common among physicists to invent new particles for which there is no evidence, publish papers about them, write more papers about these particles' properties, and demand the hypothesis be experimentally tested. Many of these tests have actually been done, and more are being commissioned as we speak. It is wasting time and money.

Since the 1980s, physicists have invented an entire particle zoo, whose inhabitants carry names like preons, sfermions, dyons, magnetic monopoles, simps, wimps, wimpzillas, axions, flaxions, erebons, accelerons, cornucopions, giant magnons, maximons, macros, wisps, fips, branons, skyrmions, chameleons, cuscutons, planckons and sterile neutrinos, to mention just a few. We even had a (luckily short-lived) fad of "unparticles".

All experiments looking for those particles have come back empty-handed, in particular those that have looked for particles that make up dark matter, a type of matter that supposedly fills the universe and makes itself noticeable by its gravitational pull. However, we do not know that dark matter is indeed made of particles; and even if it is, to explain astrophysical observations one does not need to know details of the particles' behaviour. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) hasn't seen any of those particles either, even though, before its launch, many theoretical physicists were confident it would see at least a few.

Not that the zoology is testable.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Ex-GOP Politician Is Worried Far-Right Congressmen Have 'Serious Cognitive Issues' (Paul Blest, September 27, 2022, Vice News)

Former Congressman Denver Riggleman says he suspected Republican Reps. Paul Gosar and Louie Gohmert "may have had serious cognitive issues," because they said such mind-boggling things during his interactions with them. [...]

During one meeting, Gohmert "promoted a conspiracy theory related to master algorithms" and said he "suspected there was a secret technology shadow-banning conservatives across all platforms," according to Riggleman, who believed this to be "crazy."

Wild Gohmert moments in the past include wondering if the National Forest Service could alter either the moon or Earth's orbit as a solution to solve climate change, claiming there was "no armed insurrection" on Jan. 6 despite a preponderance of video evidence showing rioters with makeshift weapons, and getting mad that he couldn't cook barbecue on his Congressional office balcony. 

Riggleman also wrote that Gosar was a "blatant white supremacist" along with former Rep. Steve King, according to the Guardian. 

"I had always bristled when I'd hear Democrats dismiss Republicans as 'racists,'" Riggleman wrote. "Now, here I was behind the curtain, seeing that some of my colleagues really seemed to hold these awful views."

If only.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Starmer's big pitch to Middle England has thrown down the gauntlet to Liz Truss (Rakib Ehsan, 9/27/22, CapX)

An early tribute to the Queen - 'a remarkable sovereign' - set the tone for a speech that stuck resolutely to the centre ground. With Labour delegates singing the national anthem at conference for the first time a couple of days ago, the approach from Team Starmer is as clear as day - respecting Britain's traditional institutions is critical to winning over cultural and constitutional conservatives. And he was explicit about his targeting those potential Tory switchers with lines like: 'If you voted for a government to step in on your side... then I say to you that is what I will deliver.' 

It certainly signals a very different atmosphere to the days of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, when the party was run in spectacularly amateurish fashion by anti-monarchist pseudo-revolutionaries.

It's also worth bearing in mind that small 'c' conservatism is of a piece with many voters on the centre-left and, whose own traditionalism Starmer tapped into with references to his working-class upbringing in the 1970s. His description of a pebble-dashed semi, with two hard-working parents offering the 'gift of opportunity' was as solidly centrist a message as you could imagine. Indeed, this was a speech peppered with talk of family stability, community spirit, pride, the public's desire for democratic control, economic self-sufficiency, and - importantly - a points-based immigration system.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:22 PM


Amazon's Satanic Mills (ANTARA HALDAR, 9/27/22, Project Syndicate)

With Britain suffering through its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades - owing to high inflation and soaring energy prices - hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry this month demanded a wage hike. If the demand is not met, they say they will go on strike in November, just ahead of Black Friday and the holiday shopping season. As with other recent labor actions by US rail workers and British Royal Mail employees, the Amazon workers' move has kicked off a debate about who is to blame for the threatened disruption: the elves in the workshop or Father Christmas?

Amazon owes its success to a variety of factors, including a sophisticated data-driven approach. But its real genius lies in its logistics breakthroughs - including route optimization, fleet planning, and metadata management - that allow it to minimize "click-to-ship" time and provide customers with unprecedentedly fast and reliable on-time deliveries. Amazon Prime-branded planes and trucks shuttle packages around the world, operating like clockwork even through a pandemic that grounded much of the rest of the economy.

The mastermind behind the operation is a man named Jeff Wilke, who combined Taylorism (dividing production into narrow, closely monitored and measured repetitive tasks) and Fordism (assembly-line techniques) to create a warehouse model capable of processing more than a million units per day. With the help of robots and close surveillance, human "pickers" and "stowers" now process several times as much merchandise per hour as they once did.

But the system has become notorious for testing human employees' limits. Recent investigations have shown that much of the convenience that Amazon customers enjoy comes at the expense of Amazon's lowest-paid workers.


Amazon's robots are getting closer to replacing human hands (Jason Del Rey, Sep 27, 2022, Vox)

In 2019, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos predicted that within a decade, robotic systems will be advanced enough to grasp items with the dexterity of a human hand. Three years later, Amazon looks to be making progress toward that goal.

A recent video published on the company's science blog features a new "pinch-grasping" robot system that could one day do a lot of the work that humans in Amazon warehouses do today.

No one will miss jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


Secret Service took the cellphones of 24 agents involved in Jan. 6 response and gave them to investigators (Julia Ainsley, 9/276/22, NBC News)

Senior leadership at the Secret Service confiscated the cellphones of 24 agents involved in the agency's response to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol and handed them over to the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, according to two sources with knowledge of the action.

The agency handed over the phones "shortly after" a July 19 letter was sent by Inspector General Joseph Cuffari's office around the time he launched a criminal probe into the Secret Service's missing text messages from Jan. 6, the sources said.

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


Kremlin Says 'Extremely Concerned' By Nord Stream Damage (Moscow Times, Sep. 27th, 2022)

Russia is "extremely concerned" about the damage sustained by the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, the Kremlin said Tuesday. 

Three offshore lines of the Russia-built Nord Stream gas pipeline system sustained "unprecedented" damage, leaking gas into the Baltic Sea, pipeline operator Nord Stream AG said in a statement carried by Russian state agencies Tuesday. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said pressure in the gas pipeline has dropped significantly as a result of the three leaks and refused to rule out sabotage as a potential cause.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Offshore Wind 125 Times Better for Taxpayers Compared to Oil and GasA report finds per-acre revenue from offshore wind blows oil and gas out of the water. (Jessie Blaeser, 9/27/22,  Grist)

From 2019 to 2021, the average winning bid from offshore oil and gas lease sales was $47 per acre. By contrast, the average winning bid for a wind lease sale was 125 times higher -- just over $5,900 per acre. And that number is likely to get even higher given the American wind industry is still in its relative infancy, said Jenny Rowland-Shea, the Director of Public Lands for the Center for American Progress.

With such a high return on investment, the new analysis suggests offshore wind leases could be a promising source of public revenue in comparison to oil and gas leases, while also reducing energy and fuel costs. Freeman said this money could be redistributed to taxpayers in the form of funding federal agencies or paying for health and education programs: "Expanding offshore wind energy is good for [taxpayers'] driving, for their wallet, for the air that they breathe."

And of course, there are environmental benefits too. Energy produced by offshore wind does not result in the same climate consequences as offshore oil and gas energy production, which releases up to 87 metric tons of carbon dioxide per active acre in the Gulf of Mexico. That's roughly the equivalent carbon pollution of 19 cars driven for one year. And according to the report, the social cost of carbon emissions per acre for oil leases is over $16,000 and roughly $2,800 for natural gas leases. Meanwhile, the social cost of carbon emissions from offshore wind power is "essentially nil" per acre, Freeman said. "Clean energy really is clean."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE (profanity alert):

'Let's get right to the violence': New documentary film footage shows Roger Stone pre-Election Day (Zachary Cohen, Holmes Lybrand and Jackson Grigsby, 9/26/22, CNN)

The day before the 2020 election, Roger Stone, the long-time Republican operative and ally of former President Donald Trump, said in front of a documentary film crew that he had no interest in waiting to tally actual votes before contesting the election results.

"F**k the voting, let's get right to the violence," Stone can be heard saying, according to footage provided by a Danish documentary film crew and obtained by CNN.

The clip is one of multiple pieces of footage obtained by CNN that the filmmakers also shared with the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The filmmakers tell CNN they came to an agreement to share certain clips with the committee after a subpoena for the footage was signed by the panel's chairman, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, and delivered to the filmmakers in Copenhagen about two months ago.

Just another "concerned parent".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mastriano's Weirdness, Paranoia, And Prejudice Are Sinking His Campaign (Lucian K. Truscott IV, September 27 | 2022, National Memo)

[P]erhaps the most telling detail about the Mastriano campaign is revealed in the rest of its finance report. Mastriano reported paying no salaries for campaign staff. None. But he did report making payments of some $43,000 to something called Misfit Creates, whose website claims it does something to help you "re-imagine your narrative."

The website's owner is Vishal Jetnarayan, who Mastriano's campaign described in promotional emails as its campaign chairman. Although the Philadelphia NPR station WHYY describes Jetnarayan as "an unknown in Pennsylvania politics," he is not unknown in Christian nationalist circles. He lives in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the same town where Mastriano lives, and on a religious website he runs, Jetnarayan claims that he works in two churches and describes himself as a prophet who speaks directly with God and can help others become able to do the same thing.

Mastriano has also made campaign appearances with Julie Green, another self-described prophet who is well-known in arch-conservative fundamentalist Christian circles. According to WHYY, she has previously accused Nancy Pelosi of drinking the blood of children and prophesied that "a wide variety of politicians will be killed for committing treason."

With nearly 20 prominent state Republican figures recently coming out against Mastriano and pledging to work for the Shapiro campaign, it was icing on the proverbial cake when Liz Cheney announced yesterday that she will campaign against Mastriano and Kari Lake, who is running for governor in Arizona, both of whom are prominent election deniers. "We have to make sure Mastriano doesn't win," Cheney told a crowd at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin on Saturday.

But no tattoos!

September 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


How to Hit Back The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate. (Esther Wang, 9/26/22, New York)

For 72 hours after it happened, Brian Chin hardly left the building. He didn't sleep. He didn't eat. He had arrived at 111 Chrystie, the 23-unit apartment complex his family owns in the heart of Chinatown, at a little before 6 a.m. on February 13 after getting a call from one of his tenants. It was a chaotic scene: The street in front of the building was blocked off, NYPD squad cars and officers everywhere. The police let Chin inside, but no one would tell him what was going on. Outside, the sky was black. Snow was lightly falling. Inside, an alarm blared through the building until a cop took a sledgehammer and silenced it. Finally, an officer told Chin there had been an attack -- then asked to see the security footage.

By now, Chin has watched the tape so many times he's memorized the time stamps: At 4:21 a.m., Christina Yuna Lee, who lived on the sixth floor, returned home from a night out. The grainy video showed her getting out of a car and unlocking the door to the building and a man she didn't know following her. He trailed her up the stairs, and when she entered her apartment, he pushed his way in. Police arrived minutes later, called by neighbors who heard Lee's screams, but they couldn't get into the apartment until a tactical team arrived. By the time they entered, Lee was dead. Police officers found her slumped in her bathtub with dozens of stab wounds on her torso, and the man who had followed her still in her apartment; they arrested him and took him outside.

Lee was covered in so much blood that, according to Chin, the officers initially couldn't tell she was Korean American; he said they told him the victim was African American, and he thought she might be a stranger. When they said she could be Lee, Chin felt something in him snap. He'd had a kinship with Lee, who was 35 when she died; they had both attended Rutgers as undergraduates, and they would chat about their student days. The last time he had seen her was earlier that night as she passed him in the hall. Chin later recognized the man who followed her, too, even if he didn't know his name: Assamad Nash, a 25-year-old Black man who reportedly lived in a homeless shelter nearby and was part of a group that Chin said he frequently saw using and selling K2 -- synthetic marijuana -- on the corner of Chrystie and Grand Streets. Chin realized, he said, that "this was a crime that was just senseless."

As he paced around the building -- talking to the police, dodging the TV trucks that would fill the street -- he started thinking of everything he had seen change on the block since the beginning of the pandemic. He knew that the two Chinese women who ran the bodega on the ground floor had started closing earlier after being robbed several times. There had always been a community of unhoused people in Chinatown, but now those living on the street seemed particularly on edge and prone to outbursts. "For the most part, everyone used to sort of just leave everyone alone -- regular New York stuff. Over this past year or two, everything spiraled out of control," Chin said. "I started seeing this new breed that everyone in Chinatown saw, where there was this aggression that was just unprecedented."

Chin, 30, is a trained psychologist, a former Army reservist, and a TA in Harvard's extension program, in which he helps teach a class on the "psychology of diversity." He has a soft face and an easygoing demeanor and has never thought of himself as political. He said his family has lived in and around New York since the 1930s and bought the building in the early 1970s; Chin started managing it only last year. His family had always "kept a very, very low profile because that's how Asians survive in America." But Lee's death, combined with the other incidents he'd heard about, felt to him like a pattern; just the month before, an unhoused man had pushed a 40-year-old Asian American woman named Michelle Go in front of an oncoming subway train in Times Square, killing her instantly. "This is just a shift from what we've been used to," he said, "to a new type of violence -- a new type of racism against Asians."

He wasn't alone in drawing this conclusion. Asian America can feel nebulous, lumping together people as varied as a third-generation Chinese American landlord and a Hmong refugee. A kind of social invisibility has long been considered one of its few unifying qualities -- and in the nearly three years since Donald Trump started calling COVID-19 "kung flu" and the "China Virus," that has been replaced with hypervisibility. In New York, pandemic-era violence against Asians started more than a month before lockdown: The first widely reported attack occurred on February 2, 2020, when a man called a woman wearing a face mask "a diseased bitch" and punched her in the head. By late March, progressive advocacy groups had counted hundreds of news stories about similar assaults and confrontations around the country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Delhi's Electric Buses Are Making the City Healthier (Reasons to be Cheerful, September 21, 2022)

Researchers looked at the Delhi government's work to electrify the city's bus fleet and found that a 100 percent switch to EVs would have numerous benefits. For one, maintaining an all-electric fleet is cheaper. Even better, public health would improve. Less air pollution could mean 1,300 fewer deaths and 2,800 fewer hospitalizations each year -- which, the researchers said, would save $383 million.

The shift is already underway: 150 electric buses rolled onto Delhi's streets in May, and the goal is to have 80 percent of the fleet be rechargeable by 2025.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Kenya Became the World's Geothermal Powerhouse (Eric Krebs, September 26, 2022, Reasons to Be Cheerful)

Geophysicist Nicholas Mariita remembers when Kenya's geothermal sector wasn't the high-tech powerhouse it is today. In the early 1980s, he regularly joined teams of scientists on expeditions into the country's Great Rift Valley to survey for potential sites where the Earth could be tapped for a prime subterranean energy source. They weren't looking for oil or coal -- they were looking for heat, the key resource in geothermal power.

The Great Rift Valley was still wild then, so dodging snakes and buffalo was part of the job. "One in a while, we'd be chased by a buffalo and have to climb into a tree, and if it was a clever one, it'd flick urine at you with its tail," Mariita recalls. "Those were the kind of funny things we went through."

Their risk has yielded results. In 2020 and 2021, some 48 percent of all electricity generated in Kenya came from geothermal -- the highest share of any country. And as the world seeks to increase both the quantity and cleanliness of its electricity, it's a cheap, bountiful and low-carbon option Kenya plans to increasingly rely on.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Great American Bigot (Mark Harvey, 9/26/22, 3 Quarks)

It's one thing to live with this inherent contradiction of enjoying the fruits of low paid immigrant labor while trying to thoughtfully sort out our immigration issues, it's quite another to go full nuclear bigot. And these last few years have produced a bumper crop of bigots in the United States.

There are few things more reprehensible than watching some lilly-lotioned, pampered politician go on and on about how immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and South America represent a class of thieving, raping, drug-running people. Evidence suggests that both legal and illegal immigrants have significantly lower crime rates than native born Americans. A paper published in 2020 by the Cato Foundation (co-founded by Charles Koch and not exactly a liberal organization) found that crime rates among illegal immigrants were 782 per 100,000, among legal immigrants 535 per 100,000, and--wait for it--1,422 per 100,000 among native born Americans.

It doesn't take much imagination to deduce the desperation and desire for a better life that motivates people to risk it all, leave hearth and home, and cross great distances for the possibility of picking lettuce for poor wages in San Benito, California. In my experience as an employer, Latinos have a tremendous work ethic, a thriftiness, and loyalty that is simply hard to match.

On our ranch in Colorado, we have employed Mexicans, El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Peruvians. They've built miles of fence in the rockiest country, cared for livestock, irrigated, operated heavy machinery and more. I suppose you're not supposed to generalize about any group of people, but to a person they have been highly competent, loyal, non-complainers. Most are tough beyond measure.

One memory I have from about five years ago illustrates this. On an early spring day when it was still snowing one of our irrigation ditches blew out. I asked the Mexican man who was already working for me if he had a friend or two for extra help in repairing the ditch. He showed up with a cousin and I noticed the cousin was wearing work clothes but his shoes were cheap loafers. I mentioned the loafers and the snow and poor footing and the fellow said they were the only shoes he had and he'd be fine. We were too far out to get him another pair of boots. I was dubious but we set out to fix the ditch. The guy worked all day in the mud and snow moving huge logs and rocks--in cheap loafers with zero traction--and didn't gripe once.

One of the great ironies of American bigots is that once upon a time, their own ancestors likely had all the same reasons for leaving Italy or Ireland or Germany or Poland. And their ancestors likely had the same pluck of today's immigrants, bearing poor wages and abuse by earlier nativists. Italians or Irishmen came to America and were called WOPS or Paddies and suffered the indignities of those getting a foothold in a new land. Some of their great grandchildren now ferment in their smug certitude of being "true Americans." It's a rotten fermentation producing cheap vinegar, nothing like good wine.

One of those bigoted Italian descendants is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has taken his bigotry national. You've probably already read about his truly witless stunt shipping a group of 50 men, women, and children seeking refuge in the United States, from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. DeSantis took $12MM from the Florida coffers to lure the refugees with false promises of jobs, legal status, and relocation to Boston. He then had them flown to Martha's Vineyard without notifying any authorities there as a way to teach the northeastern "librulls" about the border problem. If that isn't the definition of human trafficking and criminal fraud, I don't know what is. Moreover, it is a heartless form of bigotry that should forever disqualify DeSantis from ever reaching his golden-ring ambition of becoming president.

As the genealogist Megan Smolenyak points out, DeSantis's great grandmother, Luigia, immigrated from Italy to escape poverty in 1917. She had been living in Italy supported by remittances sent by her husband working the United States (sound familiar?). While crossing the Atlantic on the way to America in February of 1917, the US government passed an immigration act that barred illiterates from entering the country. Records show that Luigia was illiterate. Fortunately the act was not implemented until May, 10 weeks after her arrival to Ellis Island. Luigia slipped in by a scant few weeks. When DeSantis talks about his ancestors immigration, he acts as if it was this very orderly, patient process, when in fact his great grandmother slipped in by a few weeks. Had the timing of the 1917 immigration act been just a few days different, his great grandmother would have been one of the "undesirables" refused entry.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Menorah  (Philippa Joseph, 9/25/22,  History Today)

The seven-branched menorah, an instantly recognisable symbol of Judaism, is much older than the Star of David. It has been in continuous use for longer than any other religious symbol in the western world; Rabbinic teaching dates it to the lifetime of the prophet Moses (1391-1271 BC).

We first read about the menorah - meaning 'candelabrum' - in Exodus, the second book of the Torah, when it is revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses is given instructions as to its form, the precise nature of which has caused debate ever since. A menorah should be a hammered work of pure gold and have a central shaft with three branches sprouting from either side. At the top of each branch and central shaft should be a cup shaped like an almond. These cups are to contain pure olive oil, which will light the Temple. It is written that a menorah was placed in the tabernacle that Moses was instructed to build as a portable place of worship for the Israelites after they had been freed from bondage in Egypt; there were ten golden menorot in Solomon's First Temple in Jerusalem. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Electric Vehicles Could Rescue the US Power Grid (AARIAN MARSHALL & MATT SIMON, SEP 19, 2022, Wired)

Cars are no longer just modes of transportation; they are increasingly integrated into the larger energy infrastructure. If your EV is sitting in your garage fully charged (cars are typically parked 95 percent of the time) and you lose power, that big battery offers an opportunity to keep the lights on. And when there's a sudden spike in demand for the grid--because everyone wants to turn on their AC during a heat wave or their heat during a deep freeze--utilities could pay homeowners for their excess battery power.

This is known as bidirectional or vehicle-to-grid charging (aka V2G), and it's "one of the legitimate game changers," says Clifford Rechtschaffen, commissioner of the California Public Utilities Commission. "If all the EVs in the state plug in during these peak load times and feed power back to the grid, they're acting as giant batteries. We could use them to greatly relieve stress on the grid during the periods of greatest need."

It's still early days for V2G. More than 100 V2G pilots are scattered worldwide, though most are in Europe. California's experimentation has been limited to small test programs. Still, more makers of cars and chargers are offering two-way charging, and experts think the concept could work on a large scale. Some 200 million electric vehicles could be on global roads by 2030, according to a recent estimate. California alone could have 14 million by 2035, the Natural Resources Defense Council estimates. If just local utilities could exploit all those batteries, they'd be able to power every home in the state for three days.

When someone plugs in a car to charge it, alternating current (AC) power is converted into direct current voltage, which is stored inside the car's battery. If the owner has a bidirectional charger, that DC power can be converted back to AC and added to the grid.

Bidirectional chargers are far from common today and can be expensive, often requiring additional specialized hardware. Yet automakers and other companies are starting to roll them out to help EV owners contribute to the grid, or to store and then convert power for their own purposes. Ford's new electric F-150 can power a home for up to three days--a serious perk in the climate-change-wracked dystopia to come. Volkswagen has touted the bidirectional charging capabilities of its newest and upcoming EVs. Just this month, Nissan approved the first bidirectional charger for the all-electric Leaf, a car that has been sold in the US for almost 12 years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Riggleman says Mark Meadows text messages reveal 'roadmap to an attempted coup' (BRAD DRESS - 09/25/22, The Hill)

Former U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) said text messages to and from then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows revealed a "roadmap to an attempted coup" as former President Trump attempted to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Riggleman -- who led a data analyst team for the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot -- told CBS' "60 Minutes" host Bill Whitaker in an interview aired Sunday that messages connected to Meadows revealed an extensive conspiracy within Trump's White House following the 2020 election.

"The Meadows text messages show you an administration that was completely eaten up with a digital virus called QAnon conspiracy theories," the former GOP lawmaker said. "You can look at text messages as a roadmap, but it's also a look into the psyche of the Republican party today."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Queensland coal giant unveils plans for 500MW state-owned wind farm (Sophie Vorrath 26 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Queensland government-owned energy giant Stanwell Corporation has unveiled plans to build a 500MW wind farm, as part of a shift from coal power generation to renewables that includes previously announced plans to install a big battery at its Tarong Power Station.

Stanwell said on Monday that it was working with global renewables developer RES to develop the proposed Tarong West wind farm at a site in Ironpot, 30km south-west of Kingaroy in the Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Return of Fascism in Italy (Ruth Ben-Ghiat, SEPTEMBER 23, 2022, The Atlantic)

Meloni's enemies list is familiar: "LGBT lobbies" that are out to harm women and the family by destroying "gender identity"; George Soros, an "international speculator," she has said, who finances global "mass immigration" that threatens a Great Replacement of white, native-born Italians. Meloni shows affinity for authoritarian strongmen: Like Marine Le Pen, until recently the leader of the National Rally party in France, Meloni has expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin--although she has muted that enthusiasm since his invasion of Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kurdistan in Tehran: What the murder of Jina Amini means for the future of Iran (Loqman Radpey, 26 Sep 2022, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Since the 1990s, the Kurds have abandoned armed resistance in order to focus their energies instead on the liberalisation of Eastern Kurdistan -- for the most part remaining quiescent, though occasionally conducting military operations inside Rojhelat.

The murder of Jina Amini has sparked widespread protests, beginning in Eastern Kurdistan. In the ongoing demonstrations against the Iranian regime, for the first time Baluch, Arabs, Persians, Azeris, and other national and ethnic minorities have joined in support of the Kurds. They chant "Jin, Jiyan, Azadi" ("Woman, Life, Freedom"). This motto has been promoted by the Kurdish female fighters (Women's Protection Units) and is being put into practice in Rojava (Western Kurdistan in Syria) since the 2011 Syrian civil war. This suggests that the protests are now going beyond the question of the hijab -- which has never been an issue for the Kurds, though it remains a fundamental issue for the regime.

What happened to Jina has seemingly united the people in Iran, insofar as it represents an intersection between the Kurds' claim for self-determination and Iranians' desire to throw off the incumbent regime.

It is noteworthy that other Kurdistani segments of the population have also shown their support of the protests. The Kurds in East Kurdistan have the potential to change the status quo as they already built a fledgling Kurdish state, the Republic of Kurdistan, in 1946. Over the last three decades, Kurds in Southern Kurdistan (in Iraq) and Rojava (in Syria) have managed to keep stability and security and thriving economies in the territories under their control, in contrast to the mayhem and violence that has characterised in the wider Middle East. In terms of governability, the Kurdish regions are functioning much better than their neighbours. This has been achieved through the high price the Kurds have paid for their legitimate rights.

If the current protests continue, the Iranian government may lose its sway over Eastern Kurdistan -- this, in turn, could pave the way to implementing Kurdish self-determination. 

Cast out the Palestine out of thine own eye. 

September 25, 2022

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Queensland reaches 66 pct wind and solar for first time as it prepares massive green push (Giles Parkinson, 26 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Queensland - the state with the highest dependence on coal power - reached a new landmark on Saturday when two thirds of its local demand was met with just wind and solar for the first time, ahead of an expected massive green energy push to be announced on Wednesday.

The new benchmark was set on Saturday at 10.35am when wind and solar accounted for 66.8 per cent of the state's demand, beating the previous record of 62 per cent set in late July. Solar accounted for all but 1.5 per cent of that total, according to industry data analysts GPE NemLog2.

The peak in wind and solar share in the Queensland grid was just 55 per cent a year ago. In 2018, it had never been above 13 per cent.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


Giorgia Meloni is a danger to Italy and the rest of Europe (Roberto Saviano, 9/24/22, The Guardian)

It is in her support for people like Orbán that we see what appears to be the real danger posed by Giorgia Meloni.

Meloni's party has succeeded in expanding its electoral base in Italy over the years by poaching militants from other parties ready to jump on what was supposed to be a winner's bandwagon. This high-risk strategy has worked although it has drawn the Brothers of Italy into controversy and several ongoing judicial investigations, into candidates' alleged involvement in corruption, extortion, sleaze and illegal waste disposal. Yet Meloni has been able to reaffirm her credibility by expelling troublemakers and publicly distancing them. The only figures it seems she has difficulty disowning are politicians whose identity is built on far-right ideology.

Meloni denies that she is a fascist. I don't think it is the most important point of her party's programme, but it is worth addressing. it is a simple game: parties whose lineage can be traced back to neo-fascist movements have gone to lengths to detoxify and soften their image, declaring their opposition to antisemitism, racism and the historical fascist experience. [...]

Meloni's real beliefs and goals may not appear exactly the same, but her words can often carry echoes of Mussolini. Her speeches play on the need for identity, on the very human fear of being marginalised or going unrecognised. In her hands identity becomes a propaganda tool for dividing the world into Us and Them, where "they" are LGBTQ+ communities, migrants or those who don't see themselves represented in established structures or the labels imposed by others. The impression given is that they are the bad people, who jeopardise the identity of the entire nation. Totalitarianism has, since time began, leveraged such fears to convince people to voluntarily deprive themselves of their own rights, on the promise of being defended from an external enemy.

Although she denies any connection to fascism, Meloni appears to want to retain support from the wing of the radical right who consider her party too moderate, and only vote for it to make up the numbers against the left. Fully repudiating the party's fascist roots, it seems, would mean losing a lot of these votes.

On the other hand, continued association with neo-fascism would put Meloni in a very uncomfortable position internationally. She has opted therefore for a rebrand, but it is partial. The Brothers of Italy keeps the same logo - an Italian tricolour in the form of a flame - used by the now-defunct neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI), founded in 1946 by such regime supporters as Pino Romualdi, a leading figure in the Fascist party and Giorgio Almirante, who was convicted of collaborating with Nazi troops. [...]

Meloni in her ambiguity, has directed her attacks on migrants. She has fuelled Italians' fears, created an enemy, a scapegoat on which to offload blame for public incompetence and mismanagement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


Iran reformist party urges an end to mandatory veil laws amid Mahsa Amini protests (The New Arab, 25 September, 2022)

Iran's most prominent reformist party urged Tehran to overturn obligatory headscarf laws on Saturday in the wake of the ongoing Mahsa Amini protests that rocked the country.

Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian, died on 16 September following her arrest in Tehran three days prior by the country's Morality Police, who apprehended her for not wearing the hijab "correctly".

The Islamic People's Union of Iran, formed by close associates of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, said that it "demands" that authorities "prepare necessary legal elements that will pave the way for the abolition of compulsory hijab laws," according to a statement issued on Saturday, as reported by AFP.

Sadly, we undercut Khatami instead of welcoming him.

LESSONS FROM THE PAST: U.S.-IRAN PUBLIC DIPLOMACY (Sohaela Amiri, 10/07/14, Center on Public Diplomacy)

In 2002, the direct talks between Iran and U.S. officials begun during Khatami's presidency were restarted and led to a successful collaboration in fighting their mutual enemy: the Taliban in Afghanistan. There were even plans to collaborate in the fight against Al-Qaeda and the war in Iraq, but these plans were scrapped after the inclusion of Iran in Bush's "Axis of Evil." Until 2003, Iran presented successive American presidents with opportunities for rapprochement that were missed--mainly due to the United States' misunderstanding of Iran's political system. Khatami's private offers to the U.S. to discuss all outstanding issues were ignored by the Bush administration for a while, and only responded to in his State of the Union Address.

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Could Balochistan secede from Pakistan? (Vivek Y. Kelkar, 25 September 2022, The Spectator)

The rain and the cold in Quetta, the capital of the Pakistani province of Balochistan, did not deter them. Neither did the floods that ravaged their homes. The families of Balochistan's missing had been protesting for days outside the provincial government's headquarters. On August 25, one of the protestors, Seema Baloch, the sister of Shabbir Baloch, a student leader who had been missing for weeks, fell unconscious and had to be taken to a nearby hospital. The others simply kept protesting.

Government officials gently asked them to leave, but when the protesters asked about the missing--all allegedly abducted by Pakistani security forces--the officials professed ignorance or, worse, helplessness.

Baloch activists claim that nearly a thousand people disappear every year, abducted by the Pakistani security forces. The security forces link nearly all of the missing to Balochistan's independence movement. The call for independence is rapidly gathering momentum there.

It's not a new call. On August 12, 1947, the eve of Pakistan's birth, the Khan of Kalat and ruler of most of Balochistan, Mir Ahmad Yar Khan, announced that Balochistan would be independent, part of neither Pakistan nor India.

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To overturn the evil decree (David Horovitz, 9/25/22, Times of Israel)

The "deep rift that is developing within Israeli society" is the "most complex" challenge to Israel's security, said Ronen Bar [the head of the Shin Bet] two weeks ago.

He didn't specify, but may have been thinking about the fact that the fastest-rising political force ahead of November 1's elections is led by a charismatic extremist who boasted about being able to "get to" Yitzhak Rabin amid the fevered internal climate shortly before the prime minister's 1995 assassination, and who intends to expel "disloyal" citizens if, as is more than possible, he attains ministerial office a few weeks from now.

Or of the routine viciousness with which some of our leaders disparage and delegitimize their rivals, as in the case of Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who, on the very day Bar was speaking, felt the necessity to invoke the Nazis when claiming opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu was behind a smear campaign against him. "These are Netanyahu's methods," Liberman declared, "exactly like those of [Hitler's propaganda chief] Goebbels and Stalin, to make the most severe, absurd accusation and repeat it a million times until people get used to the absurdity."

Or of a political climate so hate-filled that Likud MK Shlomo Karhi, gently encouraged at the end of a television interview a few days ago to give the watching nation a blessing for the New Year, said he hoped it would bring the demise of the current "iniquitous" government. [...]

Our Jewish obligation, at this time of year, is to look back at what we have lately wrought, internalize our misdeeds, and at least try to do better -- in order to, as the High Holiday liturgy cited above puts it, "overturn the evil decree." Our moral requirement, at this and all times, is to live by and disseminate the core imperative to treat others as we would wish to be treated. At Rosh Hashanah 5783, that imperative seems unusually urgent.

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The high cost of Hollywood nostalgiaThirty years after its release, 'A River Runs Through It' stands out as a rarity: a film that finds meaning in the past without yearning to restore it. (Tom Joudrey, September 24, 2022, Boston Globe)

Nostalgia was originally regarded as a disorder by the 17th-century Swiss physician Johannes Hofer, who coined the term after observing that war veterans' debilitating mental ailments seemed rooted in their yearning to return home -- nostos in Greek, and the associated pain, algos. Classic Hollywood was shrewdly keyed into the insight that nostalgia flares up as a defense mechanism when life goes off the rails -- think of Norman Bates pinning on a wig to resurrect his mother in "Psycho" or Norma Desmond entombed in delusions of her silent-era film success in "Sunset Boulevard."

But it's in the political realm where things get interesting. Here, nostalgia empowers demagogues to conjure an idealized past stripped of complexity and then scapegoat the vulnerable to explain the mess of modernity. Instead of inspiring hope-driven projects of innovation and discovery, nostalgia pushes us toward fantasies of restoration: the Islamic State's project to restore the caliphate, the deglobalizing Brexit debacle, Russia's reawakened ambitions for imperial conquest, and, most obviously, Donald Trump's mantra "Make America Great Again," which led directly to the imperative, in the former president's own words, to root out "the sick, sinister, and evil people from within our own country." Nostalgia, in its backward quest for purity and simplicity, can sharpen antagonisms, gin up fears of invasion, and set off stampedes of retribution.

The power of nostalgia to foment political persecution is visible in the flagrant racism of some of the most iconic American films. The release of D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation" in 1915 swelled a moribund Ku Klux Klan to 6 million members. The movie promulgated a myth of white purity under siege by immigrants, Catholics, and, most of all, Black Americans, and the KKK then carried out terrorist campaigns, including cross burnings and lynchings, to realize that ideal of white supremacy.

Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel "Gone with the Wind," and the film that appeared three years later, invoked, with dewy sentimentality, the antebellum South as an agrarian, courtly world of cotton, cotillions, and gentility, harmoniously organized in a benevolent caste system. This simple, beautiful world gets crushed before our eyes by Northern aggressors and General Sherman's army of invaders, who strip and burn plantations to the ground to make way for a further invasion by greedy carpetbaggers. To restore the luster of her plantation home, Scarlett O'Hara has to degrade herself by becoming a scrappy business owner and beating the Northerners at their own game. As she sacrifices her nobility and innocence, audiences are led to mourn a lost Eden -- a civilization that is gone with the wind. The film's nostalgia proved chillingly effective at obscuring the brutality of plantation slavery and at fueling scapegoating and resentment in the segregated era of the late 1930s and for decades after.

Movies that romanticize the past also tend to malign the hard-fought struggles that extended political equality. "Forrest Gump" is a revealing example. Here, morality is reducible to the homespun folk wisdom that life is like a box of chocolates, while the narrative stigmatizes forces pushing for political reform. The civil rights movement gets epitomized by a Black Panther member's outburst of domestic battery. Hippies are drug-snorting hedonists nihilistically teetering on the edge of suicide. The sexual revolution produces the scourge of AIDS. The message appears to be that there was a beloved past underpinned by basic decency and familial love, values that were polluted by the decadent era of sex, drugs, and political agitation.

Matthew Leggatt, a senior lecturer in literature at the University of Winchester in the UK, says that part of the allure of nostalgia is that it allows us to revert to childhood, with the freedom of feeling unburdened by moral responsibility -- or by the obligation to build a more decent future. "Cultural nostalgia," he says, "doesn't let us look ahead with an eye toward innovation and utopian aspirations."

"A River Runs Through It" offers evidence that a more honest reckoning is possible.

...when everyone knew their place...

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Baking bread for a new year, binding five generations together (Alexander Thompson,  September 24, 2022, Boston Globe)

For years, the secret to Carol Michael's grandmother's challah bread recipe was a mystery. Even after years of kneading the traditional Jewish loaves for her family's Friday shabbat dinners and the holidays, Tobye Hollander wouldn't reveal her recipe.

So the family came up with an ingenious ploy. They wrote to the food editor of the New York Times and asked the paper to profile Hollander and spotlight her challah recipe. Surely, they thought, that would get grandma to divulge the recipe.

"My mother said 'the only way I'm going to get that recipe is if I make her famous,'" Carol Michael, 69, recounted at the dining room table of her Brookline home Saturday afternoon.

The trick worked. Hollander gave the recipe up to a Times reporter. A clipping of the original 1971 article still hangs in the living room.

It was a good thing too, because five generations later Hollander's recipe, with a few modifications, is still serving her descendants.

On Saturday, the day before Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, three generations of Michaels gathered to put the old recipe to the test once again.

"Foods are so much a part of the holiday," Carol said.

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Iran protests surge to dozens of cities (Farnaz Fassihi and Jane Arraf, 9/25/22,  New York Times)

The small Kurdish city of Oshnavieh reportedly fell to protesters when local security forces retreated after days of intense fighting, the editor of a Kurdish news site said.

"Since last night, Oshnavieh has been governed by the people," a Kurdish official, Hussein Yazdanpana, said in an interview, adding that women had thrown off their mandatory headscarves in celebration.

"The liberation has far-reaching consequences for other cities," he said, describing the town as a gateway to other Kurdish areas of Iran.

Ammar Golie, an Iranian Kurd based in Germany who edits the news site NNS Roj, has been in regular contact with residents of Oshnavieh, which is in West Azerbaijan province and has a population of 40,000 ethnic Kurds. He said the residents had set up roadblocks at the gateway to the city's only two roads.

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Alone in a new world with vast open space, and sheep (Miriam Jordan, 9/24/22,  New York Times)

ENGINEER PASS, Colo. -- The baas, bleats and bells were fading ever so slightly, and the shepherd's trained ear detected that his flock was veering off the path home, for this was the soundtrack of his life in the Rocky Mountains. "The sheep must be herded," he said in Spanish, as he quickly ascended a hill overlooking a meadow.

Then the herder, Ricardo Mendoza, whistled loudly, commanding his two dogs to coax his 1,700 sheep closer to his campito, a tiny shed with a single sun-bleached word -- "HOME" -- over the door. His employer had hauled it up a winding, unpaved road used by 19th-century miners to this 13,000-foot pass shortly before Mendoza arrived with his horse, pack mule, dogs and sheep, ready to settle into the last outpost of his seasonal nomadic journey, about 65 miles north of Durango in western Colorado.

Mendoza, 46, has spent most of the past decade living in these rugged, remote mountains, herding sheep raised for wool and meat from spring to fall. "You live in complete solitude, just you, your animals and your thoughts," he said, gazing at the wind-swept tundra below the soaring Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn peaks.

He is among some 2,000 herders, most of them from Peru, whom the American sheep industry depends on, brought to the United States on temporary visas designated for people who do grueling agricultural work that many Americans shun.

In the high deserts and mountains of the West, men like Mendoza dwell in tents and tiny campers for months on end, without running water, toilets or other basic conveniences. They often follow their flocks' peregrinations on foot, like previous generations of immigrant sheepherders, performing a job that has endured since biblical times.

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Martha's Vineyard was portrayed as rich, white, and elite, but there's another side to the island (Brian MacQuarrie, 9/24/22, Boston Globe)

Beyond the spotlight, many islanders bristled at the suggestion -- circulated in conservative media -- that they had quickly turned their backs on the migrants, mostly Venezuelans, who arrived unannounced Sept. 14 and were transferred to temporary housing on Cape Cod two days later. The opposite occurred; locals immediately mobilized to help.

"I was frustrated because a lot of people were saying things that weren't true, that we're just white, rich people here and have no diversity. People don't see our struggles," said Maura Morrison, case manager for Harbor Homes of Martha's Vineyard, an umbrella organization for the island's homeless prevention programs.

It's a struggle that Morrison, a single mother with two children, can relate to personally: She cannot afford to buy a home on the island where she was born and raised. Although the Vineyard's population grew by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, its housing stock increased by only 2 percent.

In addition, the Vineyard's average weekly wage of $1,094 in 2020 was 70 percent of the state average, and its median home price -- now approaching $1.3 million -- was more than double the state's, according to an assessment of the island's housing needs.

"We have people living in the woods who call me all the time looking for shelter," said Morrison, who also serves as the Dukes County homeless prevention coordinator.

Exacerbating the problem has been an increase in summer rentals listed on websites such as AirBnb, housing advocates said. These transactions have been lucrative enough to prompt some homeowners to take their properties off the market during the colder months, further shrinking the pool of available rentals.

And as the wealth gap widens on the Vineyard, racial and ethnic diversity also is increasing.

Nearly a quarter of the year-round population is now multiracial, according to the latest census.

The island's year-round Black population also increased during that time, jumping 67 percent to 798 people in 2020 from 477 people in 2010, nearly three times the growth rate of white residents. And in the summer, when the island's population can soar to 200,000, throngs of Black families continue to vacation here, as they have for decades.

The Vineyard's schools also are a barometer of change.

The number of public school students receiving help with English has more than doubled since 2016, to 472 students in 2021 from 210 six years ago, according to information provided by Dukes County manager Martina Thornton. A total of 94 percent of those pupils hear Portuguese in the home, a reflection of the island's burgeoning Brazilian community.

Morrison was startled by the changes she saw three years ago when she returned to live on the Vineyard.

"When I was in school, I could count on my hand about five African Americans and a small handful of Brazilians in the whole high school," Morrison said.

The growing diversity reflects a much different Vineyard than the image concocted by some on the national stage. 

Caddies and townies on Nantucket have been rumbling for 80 years.  When I was there they ran me down with a Volkswagen van. The permanent residents are tough stock.

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Biden struggles, as does his party, as most Democrats look elsewhere for 2024: POLL (Gary Langer, September 25, 2022, ABC News)

In the November midterm election ahead, registered voters divide 47%-46% between the Republican and the Democratic candidate in their House district, historically not enough to prevent typical first-midterm losses. And one likely voter model has a 51%-46% Republican-Democratic split.

Looking two years off, just 35% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favor Biden for the 2024 nomination; 56% want the party to pick someone else.

Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, for their part, split 47%-46% on whether Donald Trump should be their 2024 nominee -- a 20-point drop for Trump compared with his 2020 nomination.

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On multiple fronts, House GOP leaders trip over agenda rollout (Steve Benen, 9/23/22, MSNBC)

The Daily Beast reported:

As he rolled out the first official Republican Party congressional platform in years, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy fittingly invoked the revered father of the GOP: Abraham Lincoln. At the top of a letter to Republican lawmakers thanking them for their contributions to the "Commitment To America" -- the policy agenda they are launching near Pittsburgh on Friday -- McCarthy included a quote attributed to Lincoln. "Commitment," reads the quote, "is what transforms a promise into reality."

It's a nice quote, but there's literally no evidence that Lincoln ever said it. The phrase did appear in advertising, however, for Lehman Brothers, a Wall Street giant that collapsed in 2008.

And in case that weren't quite enough, House Republican leaders this morning also released a video to help promote their agenda, though as HuffPost noted, it had one key flaw.

House Republican leaders on Friday unveiled their "Commitment to America" agenda for 2023 ― and with it, an inspirational video full of scenes presented as exceptional imagery of America that were actually stock footage from Russia and Ukraine.

In fact, the House GOP's video featured multiple shots from Serg Grbanoff, a filmmaker based in Russia, as well as a Slovakian store that was supposed to help capture American inflation.

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Zelensky 'shocked' by Israel's failure to give Ukraine weapons (Middle East Eye, 24 September 2022)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was "in shock" at Israel's failure to give Kyiv anti-missile systems to help counter Russian attacks, according to an interview made public on Saturday.

Zelensky has been asking for the weapons since shortly after the war started in February. He has mentioned Israel's Iron Dome missile defence system. 

"I don't know what happened to Israel. I'm honestly, frankly - I am in shock, because I don't understand why they couldn't give us air defences," he said.

What interest could Israel have in opposing a regime that oppresses Muslims?

September 24, 2022

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Americans are becoming more likely to cooperate with strangers, not less: Americans are more willing to put the greater good above their own interests today than in the 1950s. (Kristin Houser, 9/24/22,Big Think)

Contrary to popular belief, Americans are more likely to cooperate with strangers today than they were in the 1950s, according to an analysis by the American Psychological Association (APA).

"We were surprised by our findings that Americans became more cooperative over the last six decades because many people believe U.S. society is becoming less socially connected, less trusting, and less committed to the common good," said lead researcher Yu Kou.

Identitarianism isn't working.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Rudy Giuliani faces jail if he can't pay ex-wife Judith Nathan $235K, says Manhattan judge -- he skipped court hearing (Molly Crane-Newman, 9/23/22, New York Daily News)

Rudy Giuliani is looking at jail time if he fails to pay ex-wife Judith Nathan $235,000 next month, a Manhattan judge said Friday.

Judge Michael Katz's order came after Giuliani, the ex-mayor and current Donald Trump consigliere, skipped a court hearing in a lawsuit Nathan filed over his failure to heed the terms of their December 2019 divorce settlement, court officials said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


Springtime for who? An Israeli satirical show shatters taboos by likening Itamar Ben-Gvir to Hitler (Ron Kampeas, September 23, 2022, JTA)

"Eretz Nehederet," Israel's leading satirical program, went there. Kind of.

In Israel's political culture, in which it's okay to call a politician just about anything, but not Hitler, the show did just that in its treatment Wednesday of Itamar Ben-Gvir, a peddler of far-right and racist ideas who is likely to be part of a governing coalition after Nov. 1 elections.

Or, not quite the Adolf Hitler who ran Germany from 1933-1945, but the singing, high-kicking Hitler imagined by Mel Brooks in his classic 1967 comedy, "The Producers."  To the melody of that movie's signature number, "Springtime for Hitler," an actor playing Ben-Gvir celebrates his ascendance from pariah to being courted by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who hopes to win his old job back.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Miles of traffic piles up on Russia's borders as men flee military call-up (KHALIL HAMRA and MEHMET GUZEL, 9/24/22, AP)

 Military-aged men fled Russia in droves Friday, filling planes and causing traffic jams at border crossings to avoid being rounded up to fight in Ukraine following the Kremlin's partial military mobilization.

Queues stretching for 10 kilometers (6 miles) formed on a road leading to the southern border with Georgia, according to Yandex Maps, a Russian online map service.

The lines of cars were so long at the border with Kazakhstan that some people abandoned their vehicles and proceeded on foot -- just as some Ukrainians did after Russia invaded their country on February 24

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Kill the Jones Act: Hurricane Fiona highlights an ugly truth about the US maritime industry. (The Editorial Board, September 24, 2022, Boston Globe)

Once again, Puerto Ricans are paying the price for an antiquated shipping law that makes food and other goods more expensive on the island. The law is inexcusable in ordinary times -- and downright scandalous now, when the island is reeling from yet another natural disaster. [...]

Under a 100-year-old law known as the Jones Act, vessels transporting products between domestic ports -- which includes Puerto Rico -- must be built, owned, and crewed by Americans. As a result of operating in such a protected market, ship builders and shipping companies are able to inflate prices and make outsized profits. US-built ships are two to five times more expensive than foreign-built ships, according to a 2019 estimate.

The law rarely has a discernible impact on most Americans, but it's a permanent economic burden on our fellow citizens in places like Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and Guam. People there can either pay to import foreign cargoes or pay the premium for American-flagged shipping of domestic goods. Either way, the result is higher prices. In Hawaii, the law adds an estimated $248 to annual food costs for its residents. Cars cost about 40 percent more in Puerto Rico than on the mainland. Debate emerges around the value of the law, or lack thereof, every few years when natural disasters strike or conflicts like the war in Ukraine arise. (Hawaii imports a large chunk of crude oil from Russia because the Jones Act makes buying US oil too expensive and had to suspend those imports after the Ukraine invasion.)

September 23, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


More Democrats Than Ever Support The Palestinian Cause, And That's Dividing The Party (Zoha Qamar, SEP. 22, 2022, 538)

Summer 2014 marked one of the most deadly episodes of violence in Gaza. In May that year, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed two Palestinian teenagers. In June, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped while hitchhiking in the West Bank and ultimately killed, and the IDF launched a full-force defense operation in response. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 73 Israelis were killed -- 67 soldiers and six civilians. Meanwhile, 2,251 Palestinians were killed, 551 of them children. Those casualty numbers affected the way the world saw the conflict, and the narrative of justified self-defense that the IDF presented wasn't universally accepted outside Israel, said Dov Waxman, director of the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at UCLA.

"It's really the last decade, during which so many events and shifts and factors have changed thoughts in the public domain," Waxman said." Indeed, myriad dynamics -- for example, how U.S. social-justice movements drew parallels to the escalating violence of the 2010s and how Donald Trump's allied stance toward Israel raised eyebrows during his presidency -- have gradually moved the needle on how the American public views the Palestinians. 

Notably, what happened in 2014 was the first large-scale escalation in the age of widespread social media. In the years since, researchers have pointed to the ways in which social media has reframed how the international community observes war in real time, whether over the past decade with the Palestinians or this year with the Ukrainians. Whereas bumper stickers once spread messages locally, hashtags were now sending information buzzing around the globe. Until then, most wide-scale information, particularly about life in Gaza, came through mainstream media outlets. Now, for the first time, people around the world were exposed and had access to firsthand accounts from Palestinians, many of which challenged (or at least contextualized) the details reported by large outlets. Some posts also singled out headlines and language used by such publications, accusing their framing of the violence as unfairly neglecting the Palestinian struggle.

"That summer, it was just so clear, how disproportionate the violence was," said Ben Daniel. "The Israeli government will often talk about their assaults as 'it's a war,' but it became clear that there was only one side with a military."

Her change in perspective is indicative of how Americans' opinions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have shifted, too -- with change especially pronounced among younger Americans. According to Pew Research Center data from March, 61 percent of American adults under 30 have a favorable view of the Palestinian people, compared with 56 percent who have a favorable view of the Israeli people. Ben Daniel thinks it's important that these young Americans have also been witnessing growing civil rights movements at home.

Political Zionism is ultimately destined to lose the support of Americans for the same reason our old allies the Afrikkaners did.
Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Cars Are Vanishing from Paris (Peter Yeung, September 23, 2022, Reason to be Cheerful)

Under Mayor Hidalgo, Paris has done as much as any city in the world to wage a war on cars amid a growing awareness of the damaging impact they have on cities.

Passenger cars emit huge amounts of pollution and are an inefficient use of finite public space. They are Europe's second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and the leading killer of children. Copenhagen has calculated that for each kilometer cycled by a resident, society reaps a benefit of €0.64 ($0.64), whereas each kilometer driven costs us €0.71 in impacts on health, safety and the environment.

But over recent years, Paris has implemented an array of measures to prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and transit while bringing car use screeching to a halt. In addition to pedestrianizing the Seine's quayside, the French capital has banned heavily polluting diesel cars through the creation of a low-emission zone (which will become progressively more stringent from now until 2030), reduced drivers' access to major streets, expanded green areas, and promoted other ways getting around the city. (During the pandemic, 50 kilometers of cycle routes were added to the existing 700 kilometer network).

As a result, the proportion of journeys by car in Paris has dropped about 45 percent since 1990, according to a paper published by the journal Les Cahiers Scientifiques du Transport. At the same time, the use of public transit has risen by 30 percent and the share of cyclists has increased tenfold.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


Kwarteng brings in a 'new era' of British economic policy - one where growth comes first (Daniel Pryor, 9/23/22, CapX)

Today's 'mini Budget' was proof that the new government are not just talking the talk, but walking the walk: the Growth Plan released as the Chancellor spoke this morning states firmly that 'economic growth is the government's central mission'. Kwasi Kwarteng has put a number on in too, making a 2.5% trend growth target his medium-term aim. After more than a decade of post-financial crisis stagnation and low productivity, such explicit recognition of our central economic problem is hugely welcome.

Granted, when he was Chancellor, Rishi Sunak gave the occasional nod to the virtues of low taxes too, and had slated some income tax changes for a few years down the line. The key difference now is that the policy actually matches the rhetoric: jam today, not jam at some indeterminate point in the future. The Government's tax cuts are unprecedented in modern politics--the biggest tax-cutting event in half a century--and represent the beginning of, in Kwarteng's words, a 'new era' in British economic policy. The days of lazily judging every fiscal change by its immediate distributional impacts alone are over and the 'boosters' are in the ascendancy.

Scrapping the planned corporation tax rise means we will avoid the serious damage it would have done to investment, wages and living standards, with macroeconomic feedback helping to cushion the expected blow to Treasury revenues in the medium term. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Beyond Unhinged: How Trump Confessed To Bank Fraud On 'Hannity' (Lucian K. Truscott IV, 9/23/22, , National Memo)

Hannity presses on, agreeing with Trump that the lenders have their own valuations, "they've got their own bosses and shareholders they have to answer to," because it's not your fault, it's the fault of these biggest, bestest, most powerful people you're dealing with.

Leaning forward, again indicating the gilded magnificence of the room at Mar a Lago, Trump confidently says, "So they would look at a property like this, I don't even have a mortgage on this property, I don't have a mortgage on most of my properties," says the man who has signed away practically everything he owns to Deutsche Bank to get the money he's living on.

"You know, I used to read where he's overextended, he has so much money he borrowed, and I'm saying, what are they talking about? But actually, the one good thing is that people see what a great company I built. I built a great company. A powerful company. A company that's very lowly-leveraged, with among the best assets anywhere in the world, and you look at this asset, and she has this down to $75 million dollars, I can tell you, it's many times that number. She said, oohh, he evaluated it at 75 or whatever it is, and she valued it at 75, or whatever it is, this is Letitia James, no, but if I were going, I don't even have a mortgage on this property, but if I was going to put a mortgage on this property, the institutions are going to be coming over, they're going to be going through comparable properties all over Palm Beach or wherever it is, Miami, we have them all over, we have tremendous properties..."

Are you following this? This is Mar-a-Lago he's talking about. Trump has been charged in the New York lawsuit with overvaluing his properties to use them as collateral for loans. Letitia James, who did her due diligence and looked up all the comparable properties in Palm Beach, determined that Mar-a-Lago was worth $75 million. The New York attorney general discovered in Trump's financials that that he valued it at $739 million in order to qualify for loans.

What Trump does, in his roundabout, incoherent interview with Hannity, is take a shovel in hand and dig a big hole and jump into it wearing his blue suit and red tie and black lace-up shoes, when says Letitia James doesn't have a case against him for overvaluing his properties on loan applications, but look at me! I'm right here on national television and I'm providing all the proof you need that I overstated the value of my properties, in this case, Mar-a-Lago, which isn't worth what non-billionaire Letitia James said it was worth, but "many times that number."

These public statements by Trump, made on the same day he was sued in New York State, are all admissible in James' lawsuit against him. She says he overvalued his properties. Trump's defense is, no I didn't, and yet here he is admitting that's exactly what he did, and he got away with it because the banks with all the best and biggest and most powerful law firms went along with it and loaned him money, so it's all their fault, not his. And yet it's Donald Trump's name on those loan applications Hannity asked him if he filled out, and it's his name on those valuations, and whether the banks went along with his numbers and loaned him money or not, he attested that what he was putting on those financial documents was true.

That, my friends, is called bank fraud, live on the Sean Hannity show on Fox News for everyone, including Letitia James, to see. And that's why we need a new word for "unhinged."

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


House Republicans pull ads from Ohio Trump district (Josh Kraushaar, 9/23/22, Axios)

The National Republican Congressional Committee withdrew about $1 million in ad reservations for the district, according to a GOP source familiar with its strategy, all but surrendering the seat to Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Why it matters: Kaptur's redrawn district -- which backed Trump by three points in 2020 -- once looked like an easy pickup for House Republicans. The GOP is now at risk of squandering another race because Republican primary voters nominated an extreme candidate.

Details: Majewski, an Air Force veteran, has been under fire for sympathizing with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement and saying that every state that backed Trump in 2020 should secede from the United States.

The AP reported this week that Majewski misrepresented his military service, inaccurately claiming he was deployed to Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. In reality, he spent six months loading planes at an air base in Qatar.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


I miss the stiff upper lip: Some social constructions deserve to be kept (Tim Dawson, 9/23/22, The Critic)

Of course, there is an absurdity to the construct. It is, like so much of our history and culture, woven into class. The stiff upper lip, as we think of it now, is hewn in the draughty dormitories of minor public schools. It represents, to some extent, a metamorphosis: from boyish innocent into cold-hearted Major General, or venture capitalist, or Tory politician. There is a twinkle to it, as well: almost a foolhardiness. Its roots are undeniably martial. We think of the officers, on parched foreign soil, insisting on stopping for tea as their position is overrun. We think of the response to Lord Cardigan, following the disastrous charge of the light brigade: "Never mind, my Lord, we are ready to go again". We think -- grimly, blackly -- of the 20,000 men killed on the first day of the Somme.

By the mid-20th century we considered ourselves a nation of quiet stoics. We suffered, yes, as all humans suffer; but we coped. Just. 

"When I was a regular soldier, we had lots of officers who was Honourable, you know," says Lance Corporal Jones, in Jimmy Perry and David Croft's sitcom masterpiece Dad's Army. "At least they was called Honourable. They used to stand there in an haughty manner, as if they'd got a smell under their noses. I tell you one thing -- they was very good at keeping their stiff upper lips. Do you know, we had a young officer in the battle of Omdurman, he had his head blown right off -- and his upper lip was as stiff as cardboard."

Something has certainly changed. We have moved from communicating almost complete emotional breakdown via the merest twitch in the left eyebrow, to proclaiming the most trivial problems as loudly and publicly as possible. 

I say all this as a man with something of an artistic temperament (a temperament, actually, that I'd prefer I didn't have). I tend to pick up on other's emotions and often find myself moved. If I were on the pronoun-wielding left, I'd probably describe myself as an "empath". Even typing it, typing this, feels icky and self-indulgent -- isn't everyone an empath? There's nothing quite like the word "empath" in someone's social media bio to set my Spidey sense on edge. Those that genuinely wear their heart on their sleeve often prefer to pull a discreet cuff over it.

The irony is I find the world of constant fake outrage and hysteria harder to navigate than a consensus that was just a touch more circumspect. I don't think people should button up their emotions until they explode. Hell, even Churchill blubbed. But I am struck that, as a society, we have never been never more more open -- yet, it seems, we have never been less happy.

Rifleman Benjamin Harris, whose superb first-hand recollections of his time in Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese Army are well worth a read, faced death, plague, violence and deprivation. Yet he seems happy; he reports that he was happy. If you took the average British 25-year-old from 1809, and the average British 25-year-old today, and examined their raw mental state, which would be healthier? I am not convinced it would be the young person today.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


EV sales to hit all-time high in 2022, IEA says, but more work needed to put world on net-zero path (Anmar Frangoul, 9/23/22, CNBC)

Electric vehicle sales are on course to hit an all-time high this year, but more work is needed in other sectors to put the planet on course for net-zero emissions by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.

In an announcement accompanying its Tracking Clean Energy Progress update, the IEA said there had been "encouraging signs of progress across a number of sectors" but cautioned that "stronger efforts" were required to put the world "on track to reach net zero emissions" by the middle of this century.

So much done; so much yet to do.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


$9M fund created to boost Upper Valley housing, backed by area employers (NORA DOYLE-BURR, 9/23/22, Valley News)

WEST LEBANON -- Nonprofit housing finance organization Evernorth announced the creation of an $8.95 million workforce housing loan fund for the Upper Valley in a Thursday news release.

The Upper Valley Loan Fund, supported by eight Upper Valley employers, is slated to yield as many as 260 additional rental homes in the region over the next two or three years. Of the new units, 243, or 94%, are to be affordable to people earning between $13 and $25 per hour.

"The bottom line is that the workforce cannot find an affordable place to live in the Upper Valley," Deb Flannery, vice president of lending at Evernorth, said in the release. [...]

The initial fund, capitalized with investments from Bar Harbor Bank, Citizens Bank, Dartmouth College, Dartmouth Health, Hanover Co-op Food Stores, Hypertherm, King Arthur Baking and Mascoma Bank, is expected to leverage about $67 million in additional public and private financing to increase the rate of production of workforce housing.

It's a virtuous loop.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


A multi-agency state effort has successfully reduced lead in schools, officials say (EMMA COTTON, 9/23/22, VTDigger)

Almost all Vermont schools and child care programs have addressed lead in their drinking water systems thanks to a state program created and funded by a 2019 law, state officials announced this week. As a result, students' exposure to lead has plummeted. [...]

There is no safe level for lead in the body, according to the report. Exposure is particularly harmful for children, and it can slow or impair growth and cause learning and behavioral problems.

"Each year hundreds of Vermont kids are poisoned by lead," Mark Levine, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, said in a statement. "This program shows how we can work together as a state to reduce lead exposure and keep our children healthier. Parents and caregivers can take comfort in knowing that the water their kids are consuming at their school and child care is now safer."

From June 2019 through December 2021, schools and state officials tested more than 15,000 taps, according to the report. Of those, one out of five had levels above the state's standard.

Seventy-five percent of schools and 14% of non-school based child care facilities found lead in at least one tap, and 21% of all taps needed to be replaced, according to the report. The highest concentration of lead identified was 25,000 parts per billion.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


Ukraine war comes home to Russians as Putin imposes draft (Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins, Ivan Nechepurenko and Alina Lobzina, 9/23/22, New York Times)

Putin's escalation of the war effort was reverberating across the country, according to interviews, Russian news reports and social media posts. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that Putin's decision had torn open the cocoon shielding much of Russian society from their leader's invasion of a neighbor.

Mothers, wives and children were saying tearful goodbyes in remote regions as officials -- in some cases, ordinary schoolteachers -- delivered draft notices to houses and apartment blocks. In mountainous eastern Siberia, the Russian news media reported, school buses were being commandeered to move troops to training grounds.

Russian officials said the call-up would be limited to people with combat experience. But the net appeared wider, and some men decided it was best to head for the borders.

Yanina Nimayeva, a journalist from the Buryatia region of Siberia, said that her husband, a father of five and an employee in the emergency department in the regional capital, had been inexplicably called up. She said he received a summons to an urgent 4 a.m. meeting where it was announced that a train had been organized to bring men to the city of Chita.

"My husband is 38 years old, he is not in the reserve, he did not serve," Nimayeva said in a video addressed to regional officials.

Despite the Kremlin's crackdown on dissent, protests erupted on Wednesday night across Russia in response to Putin's move, with at least 1,312 people arrested, according to the human rights watchdog OVD-Info. More protests were reported on Thursday, including in Dagestan, an impoverished southern Russian region where anti-draft protesters blocked a federal highway.

"When we fought in 1941 to 1945 -- that was a war," one man yelled in a video of an angry crowd widely shared on social media. "And now it's not war, it's politics."

Military-age men clogged airports and border crossings trying to flee, and some ended up in distant cities like Istanbul and Namangan, Uzbekistan. "We decided that we don't want to live in this country anymore," one reservist said after arriving in Turkey.

Terrifying when the Right's bubble bursts and folks are confronted by reality.

September 22, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 PM


As woman's slaying turns up heat, Iran president asks what about US police killings (AYA BATRAWY, 9/22/22, AP)

The death of an Iranian woman in the custody of the country's morality police must be "steadfastly" investigated, Iran's president said Thursday, even as he turned the tables on the country he was visiting for the UN General Assembly and asked: What about all the people killed by American police?

Can't defend the indefensible. Investigate and prosecute, just as we do our murderous police. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


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Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Fossil fuels make up 90% of Middle East air pollution: study (Patrick GALEY, September 22, 2022, AFP)

More than 90 percent of harmful air pollution in the Middle East and parts of North Africa comes from fossil fuels, according to research Thursday that showed the region "permanently exceeded" dangerous air quality levels.

The World Health Organization this year said the MENA region had some of the poorest air quality on Earth.

The long-standing assumption was that the smog choking most of the region's cities was primarily composed of desert sand, given their location on the world's "dust belt" where there are frequently more than 20 major sand storms each year.

In 2017, an international team of researchers set off on an epic voyage across the eastern Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal and around the Gulf, using specialised equipment to analyse air quality and particulate matter on shore.

They found that the vast majority of small particles -- which can penetrate deep into the lungs, resulting in greater health risk -- were manmade, mainly from the production and use of fossil fuels.

Tax the externalities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


US Capitol rioter and alleged Nazi sympathizer sentenced to 4 years in prison (Holmes Lybrand and Andrew Millman, 9/22/22, CNN)

"You absolutely knew what you and others were doing," McFadden said Thursday, adding that Hale-Cusanelli lied during his testimony in trial when he claimed he didn't know Congress met in the Capitol, despite telling his roommate that he was just outside the House chambers during the riot.

McFadden repeatedly castigated Hale-Cusanelli for racist commentary that "normalizes violence," pointing to the recent increase of antisemitic violence in the US.

In their sentencing memorandum, prosecutors argued that Hale-Cusanelli should receive 78 months behind bars and pointed to his desire for a civil war and antisemitic conspiracies, saying that Jews controlled Democrats, President Joe Biden and all of government.

"It is well-established in the record at this point that Hale-Cusanelli subscribes to White Supremacist and Nazi-Sympathizer ideologies that drive his enthusiasm for another civil war and formed the basis of this Court's pretrial determination that Hale-Cusanelli was a danger to the community," prosecutor Kathryn Fifield wrote.

"What Hale-Cusanelli was doing on January 6 was not activism," Fifield added. "It was the preamble to his civil war."

It's certainly perplexing how racist/misogynist/Islamophic/anti-Semitic all these "very fine people" turn out to be.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Trump Made N.Y. Attorney General's Fraud Case Virtually Unbeatable (RENATO MARIOTTI, 09/22/2022, Politico)

When I was federal prosecutor, I frequently prosecuted bank fraud that looked similar to what Trump and his company allegedly did. I even put away a rich real estate mogul who defrauded his lender. It's not an unusual fact pattern to see. What is impressive is the sheer size of the scheme. Trump allegedly obtained $250 million via fraud over a 10-year period, and the various machinations he used to inflate the value of his holdings was extensive. James alleges that Trump exaggerated the square footage of his triplex apartment in Trump Tower, claiming it was 30,000 square feet rather than its actual size of 11,000 square feet, and therefore should be valued at $327 million rather than $80 million. It's a price, James noted, that no apartment in New York city has ever commanded.

The attorney general's lawsuit doesn't contain damning emails or text messages, the kind that prosecutors typically rely on to prove a defendant's intent. But that might not be necessary under the New York law that James cited which focuses on repeated acts of deception. (And given that his own accounting firm Mazars USA has said it won't stand by the statements it prepared for a decade, it's going to be hard for Trump to argue the valuations were proper.)

But perhaps the biggest reason James has such a winning hand is this: Trump dealt her the cards.

In early August he invoked the Fifth Amendment some 440 times during his deposition in this case. It was undoubtedly the right move for him to make because he faces criminal investigations in multiple jurisdictions, and his words, even though they are ostensibly about matters unrelated to election interference could nevertheless be useful to prosecutors seeking to demonstrate his capacity for deception. Prosecutors could also use his words to bring criminal charges based on the alleged scheme that James uncovered.

But taking the Fifth has severe consequences in this case. Unlike in a criminal case, in a civil proceeding like the suit brought by James, the jury will likely be instructed they can infer that when Trump took the Fifth, his answer would have been adverse to him. Trump's repeated insistence that James' politically motivated suit left him no choice will not withstand the effect of the jury inferring that Trump broke the law and has no good answer to the questions he was asked.

That essentially screws Trump and his family in this case. It is no coincidence that James put in her lawsuit that when Trump was asked whether he "had an ongoing agreement from at least 2005 to the present with Mr. Weisselberg, Mr. McConney and others to prepare the Statement of Financial Condition in a manner that included false and misleading valuation statements, Mr. Trump invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and refused to answer."

In a civil case like this one, that's the ballgame. Trump, his son Eric, and others took the Fifth hundreds of times and they can expect James and her team to throw that back in their faces to prove their case. All of the other evidence is just supporting corroboration. The testimony of Trump and his family -- or lack thereof -- is the centerpiece.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Saudi lobbyist oversees millions in dark money GOP campaign donations: Experts question former Sen. Norm Coleman's role as both foreign agent for Riyadh and Republican fundraiser. (Eli Clifton, 9/22/22, Responsible Statecraft)

Last year, former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, one of the Republican Party's biggest fundraisers, had a request for 30 Republican congressional staffers. Coleman had helped many of their bosses' campaigns in his role atop an organization that raised and spent over $165 million in the 2020 election cycle.

"At this time," wrote Coleman, "the Kingdom would appreciate if your Member of Congress would publicly welcome this step and call out the Houthis for their continuous obstruction of the political process." He was promoting a Saudi ceasefire initiative in Yemen that the Houthi rebels ultimately rejected. The rebels demanded that any such agreement would require the Saudis to fully lift the blockade of Yemen, which had contributed to more than 370,000 deaths.

His ask -- "on behalf of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia" -- wasn't an isolated request. Coleman wrote over 1,000 emails to House and Senate staffers in 2021 and 2022 as part of his paid work for Saudi Arabia. Coleman and several of his law firm colleagues are registered as foreign agents of the Kingdom. The emails, as well as the details of the $175,000 per month contract between Saudi Arabia and Hogan Lovells, the law firm, are all contained in filings submitted to the Justice Department. The contract is part of the Saudi government's robust lobbying operation that saw the kingdom spend $21 million last year to gain influence in Washington, according to public filings.

Why did you think they oppose energy independence after all. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:40 PM


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers: Illegal Immigrants Are Still 'Wisconsinites' (Alana Goodman, September 22, 2022, Free Beacon)

Wisconsin's Democratic governor Tony Evers said he considers illegal immigrants to be "Wisconsinites" just as much as lawful residents, according to newly unearthed video from 2019.

During a speech to the Voces de la Frontera's Migration is Beautiful Masquerade Gala in 2019, Evers said he does not differentiate between illegal immigrants and lawful residents of Wisconsin.

"No matter your immigration status, if you call Wisconsin home, you're a Wisconsinite," Evers told the group.

What else would you call them?

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A Forgotten Champion of Religious Liberty: Dirck Coornhert's 1582 Synod on the Freedom of Conscience speaks to our polarized age. (Joseph Loconte, 9/16/22, Law & Liberty)

The unifying thread to the Synod is the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. Gamaliel reminds the Reformed delegates, for example, that their Catholic adversaries are members of the same human family. They "are fellow human beings who, just like us, prefer to be kindly tolerated rather than violently forced." No follower of Jesus, Gamaliel insists, can escape the ethical core of his teaching: "This law applies to both, indeed to all parties. We are all subjected to this law and I wish fervently that we would all act in accordance with it."

The Union of Utrecht (1579) had enshrined freedom of conscience as the basis of the Dutch Republic; no one was to be punished because of his religious beliefs. Nevertheless, the Reformed Church held an official religious monopoly and prohibited or penalized non-conforming faiths. Coornhert himself had been muzzled by the authorities for criticizing Reformed ministers in print, and he devotes an entire session in the Synod to defending freedom of the press and freedom from censorship. As biographer Gerrit Voogt summarizes it, for Coornhert "free debate and disputation were the lifeblood of a healthy republic."

Although Coornhert emphasized the inner life of faith over traditional Christian doctrine, he was never flippant about religious belief or the desire to honor the teachings of the Bible in public life. The antidote to false or controversial teaching, he believed, was not state-sanctioned crackdowns. Rather, the remedy was "to kill the heresy by means of the truth"--that is, to discuss and debate the meaning of the Scriptures. If the goal was to lead people into a deeper commitment to Christ, he reasoned, "what weapons could then be more useful or necessary to you than the power of God?"

The Synod doesn't explain how a multi-confessional state might function. But it articulates political principles that would supply the building blocks for a more liberal society. In a striking passage, Coornhert quotes a Reformed author who wrote that because men and women are spiritual beings by nature, no authority could "drive religion from the heart," the realm over which God retains exclusive authority:

The prosperity of the kingdom requires solid and sincere concord among all inhabitants. Now we can only have solid concord when all inhabitants enjoy common and equal rights, and this especially in religion. That is why the king should embrace all his subjects with a common and equal love, and this especially in the greatest and weightiest matter of all, religion. It is rooted so deep in people's hearts that one could not find a better or more lasting seal of concord anywhere.

We must not miss the radical quality of the Synod's argument. The unquestioned assumption in Coornhert's day, held by Protestants as well as Catholics, was that the prince should use his political authority to uphold the teachings of the favored, established religion. This meant enforcing doctrinal conformity and punishing dissenters--with civil penalties, prison, banishment, or execution. It was an article of faith that the alliance of church and state toward this end was the only hope of establishing political unity and social peace.

Yet Coornhert reproves Lutherans, Reformed, and Catholics alike for forbidding each other's teachings whenever they gain political power and "have the magistrate on their side." He then flips the argument for stability on its head. If the prince seeks political security, he must not play favorites in matters of religion: "But wise politicians call inequality among the inhabitants or citizens of a country a pestilence to the commonwealth, as by the same token equality is the strongest bond of concord and stability."

In a way that almost no one in the West had ever attempted, Coornhert made a biblical argument that the flourishing of the state depended upon the principle of equal justice: Every person, regardless of religious belief, must enjoy equal rights under the law.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Illuminating Truth & Beauty: The Choral Music of Samuel Adler (Michael De Sapio, September 17th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

Gloriae Dei Cantores (singers to the glory of God) is a choir based in Orleans, Massachusetts, along Cape Cod. Their mission statement declares their aim to "illuminate truth and beauty through choral artistry, celebrating a rich tradition of sacred choral music from Gregorian chant through the twenty-first century." The ensemble's more than fifty recordings, made during their nearly 35 years of performing, bears witness to this wide and catholic repertoire and commitment to values spiritual and artistic.

One of the ensemble's frequent collaborators over the years has been composer Samuel Adler. Adler, who was born in 1928 and turned 94 this year, is something of a national treasure: a living link to the midcentury American musical "school" of Aaron Copland (who was among his teachers). He has particularly concentrated on sacred choral music, and the album To Speak to Our Time gathers together several of his pieces for choir and organ from a long career.

The centerpiece of the album is To Speak to Our Time, a cantata composed in 2018 for the eightieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, the infamous Nazi atrocity against the Jews. It is an event which Adler experienced firsthand. The booklet notes to the CD recount the remarkable story of how he escaped Germany with his father on that very night in 1938. I could hardly improve upon the description:

"Samuel Adler was ten years old--huddled with his father in the balcony of the Mannheim synagogue. He didn't know if he would survive. He saw the lights; he heard the crashing glass; he smelled the acrid smoke of gunfire; and tasted the burn in the air. This night was an invasion--Kristallnacht. What stood between the frightened pair and possible capture or even death, was the collapse of a pipe organ in that balcony where they were hiding, which allowed them to escape. When Adler recounts this story, he leaves no doubt that his life was spared for a purpose.... Today, at ninety-four years of age, there are few composers whose music is more perfectly positioned to speak to our time."

Adler's cantata has texts in four different languages: German, Hebrew, Latin, and English. What strikes you in sampling Adler's music, and his comments on it, is his sincere universality and ecumenical spirit. Born and raised Jewish and the son of a cantor, Adler worked for many years in Christian churches and he has set texts from both the Old and New Testaments. His Choral Trilogy, my favorite of the works on this album, sandwiches a text from Romans between two texts from the Psalms. There is a beautiful spiritual progression in both the texts and music of this triptych. The first movement sets "Why have you forsaken me," the words of Psalm 22 which Jesus appropriated on the Cross. The desolate mood of the opening of this movement gives way to an affirmation of divine authority at the end: "For dominion belongs to God, and He rules over all the nations." The second movement sets a well-known text from Romans, Chapter 8: "Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us," providing a hopeful answer to the question posed in the opening movement. Finally, the last movement dances with the jubilant text of the penultimate Psalm: "Sing to the Lord a new song, sing His praises in the assembly of the righteous," with music that the CD booklet likens to a Jewish village dance.

Adler's music harkens back to the classic midcentury sound of Copland, Piston, Hindemith, Randall Thompson. It's what we might describe as conservative modernism, using harmonic and rhythmic innovation in the interest of expanding and building upon tradition. In interviews Adler has emphasized the importance of knowledge and craft in musical composing. He may be one of the last representatives of this neoclassical approach, standard in the U.S. in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, before postmodern sensibilities came to the fore. True to the neoclassic aesthetic, this music induces a sense of contemplative calm and order. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


Phil Scott doesn't expect unannounced migrants but makes 'contingency plans' (Ethan Weinstein, Sep 21 2022, VT Digger)

In response to a question at his weekly press conference Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott said that while he didn't anticipate unexpected migrants, "we are working on contingency plans."

"We want to welcome as many people as we can into the state. We think that's part of the answer," he said. "But we'd like to have a little bit of lead time in order to accomplish that."

Pressed further about the nature of those plans, Scott pointed to possible emergency housing options.

There are "a number of different areas that we're looking at, whether it's in some of our campuses that have closed, and whether it's some of the existing campuses that might have some space, as well as other initiatives that we have," he said. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Upholding Justice Department, 11th Circuit Panel Spanks Cannon Hard (Lucian K. Truscott IV, September 22 | 2022, National Memo)

Only 48 hours after the Trump legal team filed its response to the Justice Department's request that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals end the restrictions imposed on the 100 folders of highly classified documents, that appeals court -- citing legal precedent after precedent after precedent -- eviscerated the order handed down by Florida District Court Judge Aileen Cannon and ruled in the government's favor.

She's literal cannon fodder. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


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Over 1,300 arrested in Russia as military call-up ignites widespread protests (Times of Israel, 9/22/22)

More than 1,300 people have been arrested at demonstrations across Russia against President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization of civilians to fight in Ukraine, a police monitoring group said Wednesday.

The OVD-Info monitoring group counted at least 1,332 people detained at rallies in 38 different cities across the country after Putin's morning address to the nation.

The protests were the largest in Russia since demonstrations that broke out following the announcement of Moscow's invasion in February.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Rashida Tlaib says progressives can't be pro-Israel, drawing fire from own party (RON KAMPEAS, 9/22/22, JTA

It's an argument that has percolated for years and now members of Congress are duking it out: What fits better into the "progressive" portmanteau, supporting or opposing Israel?

US House Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is Palestinian-American and the only member of Congress who opposes Israel's self-definition as a Jewish state, said Tuesday that there was no room in the progressive movement for supporters of what she called Israel's "apartheid" government.

"I want you all to know that among progressives, it's become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel's apartheid government, and we will continue to push back and not accept that you are progressive except for Palestine," Tlaib said in an online forum organized by American Muslims for Palestine.

Heck, you can't be a small "d" democrat and support racial nationhood.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Operatives linked to DeSantis promised to fly migrants to Delaware -- but left them stranded (SARAH BLASKEY AND NICHOLAS NEHAMAS, SEPTEMBER 22, 2022 , Miami Herald)

A black, luxury SUV with tinted windows pulled into a parking space along the side of a drab, two-story La Quinta motel planted on the northwestern edge of 12 lanes of highway that loop around downtown San Antonio. 

A woman with straight, light-colored hair got out of the rented Infiniti. She took the outdoor stairs, walked to the far end and knocked on the doors to rooms 243 and 241, where a group of Venezuelan asylum-seekers had spent five anxious days waiting. 

She brought them food and a message: They were being sent to Delaware. The bus to the airport would be leaving at 5 a.m. the next day -- Tuesday, Sept. 20 -- she said, according to interviews with six migrants housed at the hotel. 

The migrants didn't know that they were being swept up in an operation that bore striking similarities to one organized the week before by operatives for Gov. Ron DeSantis that ended with 48 Venezuelan migrants dropped off on a Massachusetts island. 

Or that the trip to Delaware being dangled would never happen. 

They also didn't know that an anonymous source close to DeSantis would suggest to NBC News that a planned charter flight from San Antonio to Delaware -- that was destined for an airport not far from President Joe Biden's summer home, according to flight records, and dominated cable news on Tuesday -- was canceled without explanation and then used to "punk" journalists and Democrats and keep the "spotlight" on immigration. 

If so, the migrants interviewed by the Herald were the butt of the joke. They thought they were going somewhere.

...leaving them stranded there is needlessly cruel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


The American security state comes home: Biden is cynically weaponising democracy (ARTA MOEINI AND DAVID CARMENT, September 22, 2022, unHerd)

Seen together, Biden's speeches highlight the often-overlooked synergy between domestic and foreign policy: his rhetoric depicts his administration's war against the amorphous spectre of  "MAGA fascism" at home and its stated goal of militarily defeating autocracies abroad as two sides of the same coin. These speeches could ensnare sceptics on all sides of the spectrum, enmeshing them in false equivalencies. Deny the Establishment's liberal internationalist foreign policy and risk being brandished as one of the "extremists" at home; defend America's civil liberties and due process toward January 6 rioters, and you are in league with Vladimir Putin. This is troubling for any critic of US policy in Ukraine or Taiwan right now, especially the voices of anti-interventionism on the Left. Such voices are already under pressure to conform to the party line and self-censor their restrained positions for fear of being associated with Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.

Cynically?  Opponents of Ukraine and Taiwan in favor of Putin and Xi are enemies of democracy. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


John Train, Paris Review cofounder and Cold War operative, dies at 94 (Alex Traub, 9/22/22, New York Times)

Yet he was also an operator in high finance and world affairs who, by one researcher's account, had ties to U.S. secret services. Mr. Train founded and ran a leading financial firm devoted to preserving the money of rich families, and he worked to support the mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The multifariousness of his career defies definition, but one quality did underlie his many activities. Mr. Train exemplified the attitudes and values of the exalted class he was born into: the white Anglo-Saxon Protestants of the postwar era. He was globe-bestriding but also self-effacing, erudite but also pragmatic, cosmopolitan but also nationalistic, solemn at one moment and droll the next.

"His WASPiness was so old school, and it's long gone now," his daughter Nina said. "Some of his friends were the last of that ilk. He lived and breathed it. He didn't change one bit, right through the '60s." [...]

By his early 40s, Mr. Train was himself a white-haired master of the financial universe who wore a bow tie and pinstripe suit. But he had not grown up excessively. He was still capable, for instance, of defending his interest in names in a 1976 Paris Review article that argued that the North would have lost the Civil War if Ulysses Grant had been given a first name with less "panache."

Mr. Train's other oddball preoccupations that led to books included "remarkable words with astonishing origins," "mots justes and indispensable terms" and "remarkable occurrences" (in 1895, for instance, only two cars existed in Ohio, and, Mr. Train claimed, they collided).

He treated his political interests less jokingly. A committed cold warrior, he wrote for The Wall Street Journal about military affairs. He became concerned that the conspiracy-monger Lyndon LaRouche was a "possible Soviet agent," Mr. Train's longtime assistant Sara Perkins said in a phone interview, and he convened meetings at his home for journalists, law enforcement agents and others in government to raise awareness about research he had done into LaRouche.

September 21, 2022

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It's Fraud All the Way Down at the Trump Organization (Matt Ford, September 21, 2022, New Republic)

Former President Donald Trump defrauded banks, insurers, and tax agencies out of at least a quarter-billion dollars over roughly the last decade, the New York attorney general's office said on Wednesday. That totaling came as part of a lawsuit filed against Trump and his family real-estate business, the Trump Organization, that sought to recoup those illicit profits and ban Trump and his top lieutenants from running a company in New York ever again.

"With the help of his children and senior executives at the Trump Organization, Donald Trump falsely inflated his net worth by billions of dollars to unjustly enrich himself and cheat the system," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement on Wednesday. "In fact, the very foundation of his purported net worth is rooted in incredible fraud and illegality. Mr. Trump thought he could get away with the art of the steal, but today, that conduct ends."

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Trump's Business Empire Could Be Crushed With New Lawsuit (Greg Walters, September 21, 2022, Vice News)

If New York's attorney general gets her way, former President Donald Trump will be drummed out of her state as a businessman almost completely.

That's because her massive $250 million lawsuit against Trump, his company, and his adult children effectively seeks to eradicate them from New York's commercial scene, and in particular, the industry where Trump made his name: real estate.

Victory for NY Attorney General Letitia James would mean banning Trump and three of his kids--Eric, Don Jr., and Ivanka--from running a company based in New York. James wants to block Trump and his family business from buying any New York real estate for five years, and install an independent monitor to oversee all of the company's business activities, including its financial reporting and statements to banks and tax authorities.

In short, James set out Tuesday to obliterate his image as a savvy entrepreneur--one that Trump spent decades cultivating through a series of splashy deals, a hit reality show, and finally a bid for the presidency based on the promise of his self-avowed skills as a negotiator. 

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MAGA GASLIGHTS ITSELF (profanity alert):

Greg Abbott's Failures Mean Texas Could Suffer Another Freezing Winter Blackout: In a new documentary, filmmaker Steve Mims tells the truth about the deadly 2021 Texas blackout. (PAUL ALEXANDER,  SEPTEMBER 21, 2022, The Bulwark)

Now Steve Mims, a veteran filmmaker (Arlo and Julie, Starving the Beast), has made a short film, Disaster by Design, that addresses some of lingering questions about Uri. The strength of the film emerges from interviews Mims conducted with experts in the energy field. Doug Lewin, of Stoic Energy, and Virginia Palacios, of Commission Shift (a watchdog group), are impressive, but inclusion of Jerry Patterson, the Texas land commissioner, a Republican who breaks ranks with the state's Republican establishment, gives the film a bipartisan credibility it would not have otherwise.

As for the cause of the disaster, Abbott and his supporters tried to find scapegoats. An easy target was renewables like wind and solar power. On Fox, Sean Hannity claimed that "energy-producing wind turbines are freezing, not working" while Tucker Carlson announced that "the windmills failed like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died." And Abbott charged that when wind and solar producers "shut down," it "thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis." Some such assertions were based on early reporting, which overstated the relevance of renewable energy supplies to the overall problem; later reporting set the record straight. To debunk these erroneous claims, Mims quotes Jerry Patterson. "This 'blame-it-on-the-wind' is bu[....]t," Patterson deadpans in the film. "Let's find a scapegoat. . . Wind, that'll be our scapegoat."

Abbott found more success blaming the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). "ERCOT's annual winter assessment . . . assured the public that there would be enough power to meet peak demand this winter," Abbott said--later noting that "those assurances turned out to be false." What Abbott failed to mention was that the members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, are appointed by him, making him the ultimate authority over the agency he was blaming for the catastrophe.

The disaster's actual cause, as Mims documents, was straightforward. Water froze in the wellheads in the natural gas pipelines, meaning natural gas could not flow through the pipelines, and since Texas gets more than half of its energy from natural gas the grid could not provide sufficient power from other sources so it collapsed. As for the wellheads, they froze because they were not winterized, which would have been required if Texas had not deregulated its electricity production in 1999. So, the ultimate culprit behind Winter Storm Uri was deregulation.

Who benefited? The oil and gas companies who argued for deregulation in the first place. In a deregulated market, prices fluctuate according to demand; during Uri demand was so high that prices skyrocketed from $36 to $9,000 per megawatt hour. Companies that somehow kept their energy flowing saw enormous windfall profits as did some companies that lost power for all or part of the four days but cashed in when the astronomical prices remained artificially inflated even after power was restored. During Uri, Jerry Jones's energy company made so much money his CEO said it was "like hitting the jackpot," while BP raked in $1 billion, Energy Transfer $2.4 billion. "If you want to be angry," Lewin tells Mims, "look at those people who walked away with $11 billion"--the total pocketed by oil and gas companies that made money off Uri.

They're gonna need more Teslas to sleep in.

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The GOP's Surrender to the Antisemites (Jonathan Chait, Sep. 13th, 2022, New York)

On September 3, Cynthia Hughes, founder of the Patriot Freedom project, regaled the crowd at Donald Trump's "Save America" rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with the plight of her nephew, Tim Hale-Cusanelli. Poor Tim, who once served in the Navy, had been convicted for his role in the January 6 insurrection. The story of his "mistreatment" drew moans from the sympathetic audience.

Hughes did not mention that Navy investigators found 34 former colleagues who reported that Hale-Cusanelli had expressed "extremist or radical views pertaining to the Jewish people, minorities, and women." One recollected Hale-Cusanelli's practice of asking new colleagues if they were Jewish. Another remembered him saying Jews "are ruining everything and did not belong here," and yet another recalled him saying, "Hitler should have finished the job." Hale-Cusanelli has been photographed wearing a distinctive Hitlerian mustache. His passion for genocidal antisemitism developed into a passion for a right-wing putsch attempt, and now he has become essentially a martyr figure championed by the Republican Party's leader.

Trump's rise has reshaped the GOP, driving out some of its constituent elements while bringing in previously excluded factions, the ranks of which include virulent antisemites. The lessons of Hitler's Germany have been badly overapplied, so it is important to contextualize these events carefully. The GOP may not be an antisemitic party. Indeed, it has managed to maintain a big tent that includes both Jewish ultrahawks like Miriam Adelson and their most paranoid enemies. Nevertheless, it has become a party in which antisemitism has gained a foothold. No recent development in American life has done more to throw American Jews' safety and civic equality into doubt.

They blame Soros.

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DOE Report Finds Hundreds of Retiring Coal Plant Sites Could Convert to Nuclear (Office of Nuclear Energy DOE, 9/13/22)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released a report showing that hundreds of U.S. coal power plant sites could convert to nuclear power plant sites, adding new jobs, increasing economic benefit, and significantly improving environmental conditions. This coal-to-nuclear transition could add a substantial amount of clean electricity to the grid, helping the U.S. reach its net-zero emissions goals by 2050. 

The study investigated the benefits and challenges of converting retiring coal plant sites into nuclear plant sites. After screening recently retired and active coal plant sites, the study team identified 157 retired coal plant sites and 237 operating coal plant sites as potential candidates for a coal-to-nuclear transition. Of these sites, the team found that 80% are good candidates to host advanced reactors smaller than the gigawatt scale.  

A coal to nuclear transition could significantly improve air quality in communities around the country. The case study found that greenhouse gas emissions in a region could fall by 86% when nuclear power plants replace large coal plants, which is equivalent to taking more than 500,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the roads.  

It could also increase employment and economic activity within those communities. When a large coal plant is replaced by a nuclear power plant of equivalent size, the study found that jobs in the region could increase by more than 650 permanent positions. Based the case study in the report, long-term job impacts could lead to additional annual economic activity of $275 million, implying an increase of 92% tax revenue for the local county when compared to the operating coal power. 

"This is an important opportunity to help communities around the country preserve jobs, increase tax revenue, and improve air quality," said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff. "As we move to a clean energy future, we need to deliver place-based solutions and ensure an equitable energy transition that does not leave communities behind." 

The reuse of coal infrastructure for advanced nuclear reactors could also reduce costs for developing new nuclear technology, saving from 15% to 35% in construction costs. Coal-to-nuclear transitions could save millions of dollars by reusing the coal plant's electrical equipment (e.g., transmission lines, switchyards), cooling ponds or towers, and civil infrastructure such as roads and office buildings.  

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King Charles and the Jacobin Right (Capel Lofft, 9/21/22, The Critic)

Charles Windsor has gone through an extraordinarily rapid transformation. We all know that he became King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and its overseas territories and other Commonwealth realms, the second the Queen's heart stopped beating on the afternoon of Thursday, 8 September 2022. In the minds of the UK's Jacobin Right, he went through an even more dramatic metamorphosis at the same time: from the lunatic lefty "Clown Prince" who was in league with Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, George Soros and the other members of the shadowy elite syndicate that apparently run the world through the obscure auspices of the World Economic Forum -- to His Majesty the King, the venerable Sovereign and beloved Liege Lord of the great country on God's green earth. 

It's easy to mock the motley cast of characters that make up the crankish world of the Guido-GB News British right -- and it's very entertaining, too, so let's do that for a paragraph. Many of them appear to be confused adolescent boys who accidentally wandered into a TV studio in the middle of a school trip and have mysteriously never been asked to leave since. Like a horrible right-wing mirror image of the deranged children that inhabit that barely-glorified hard-left intellectual creche "Novara Media", they have been conducting an adolescent William Hague impersonation contest ever since -- although to be fair to North Yorkshire's favourite pint-downing former Tory leader, they have succeeded in making him look like a cross between Benjamin Disraeli and Edmund Burke.

It's not just the kids though: there are plenty of hoary old-timers who have done a dramatic u-turn now that deranged eco-terrorist Prince Charles has become the Almighty's glorious anointed. Nigel Farage interrupted a busy schedule of day-drinking, wistful self-googling and bashing away on the Daily Mail comment section to give his ever-so-slightly obsequious verdict on the King's early performance. One can only surmise that a portrait of His Majesty has already replaced his beloved, and perhaps slightly soiled, framed photo of the Queen that he kept on his wall between the Pirelli calendars and his mint-condition collection of Rothmans cigarette cards.

In their various ways, what these characters sum up is the extent to which there is a section of the modern British right that is simply one enormous great throbbing id dressed up as a political ideology.

Making "unacceptable!" men their prison husbands is a specialty. 

September 20, 2022

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Texas Sheriff Getting Threats After Saying He'd Investigate DeSantis for Migrant Plane Stunt (Paul Blest, September 20, 2022, Vice News)

On Tuesday, a spokesperson from the Bexar County Sheriff's office told VICE News in an email that "there have been numerous threats, an influx of calls to our dispatch and administrative offices, along with hateful emails received" since the investigation was announced.

They certainly aren't bashful about showing us who they are.

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'As Far as I'm Concerned, That's the End of It': Skeptical Special Master Presses Trump's Lawyers on Declassification Evasions at Hearing (ADAM KLASFELDSep 20th, 2022, Law & Crime)

After the FBI found highly classified documents inside his Mar-a-Lago home, former President Donald Trump sought review of the materials by a special master. Now that his choice for that position has been appointed, Trump's attorneys struggled in their efforts to have the review process play out in the way they prefer.

On Tuesday, a skeptical Senior U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie pressed Trump's lawyers repeatedly on their refusal to disclose whether he declassified any of the documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago -- and if so, which ones.

"The government gives me prima facie evidence that these are classified documents," Dearie said, referring to the plain markings on the records. "As far as I'm concerned, that's the end of it."

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Poll: Jewish voters are highly motivated and concerned about American democracy (Yonat Shimron, 9/15/22, RNS) 

In keeping with decades-long patterns, the poll, based on online interviews with 800 Jewish registered voters conducted Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 by GBAO Strategies, shows that Jewish voters lean overwhelmingly toward the Democratic Party. The poll found 70% of Jewish voters said they planned to vote for Democratic candidates and 24% plan to vote for Republican candidates. (Five percent were undecided.) [...]

[W]hile abortion is a driving issue, especially among younger Jews, the threat to democracy appeared to be an even larger impetus to vote. The poll found 74% of Jewish voters watched the Jan. 6 committee hearings on TV, with 39% saying they watched them "very closely." The hearings motivated 57% of them to vote, the poll said.

The threat to democracy was not as big an issue among voters of all faiths and none, according to an NBC News poll from August, which showed only 29% of registered voters calling threats to democracy the most important issue facing the nation.

"The Jan. 6 issue is driving Jewish voters much more so than the general population," Gerstein agreed.

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Plummeting renewable energy costs open a new way to bridge the political divide (Sarah DeWeerdt, September 20, 2022, anthropocene)

Cost savings is the most persuasive argument to change the opinions of both Democrats and Republicans about renewable energy, according to a new study. Messages about the benefits for a household's bottom line have both the largest and the most durable effect, with little difference across the political spectrum--suggesting that emphasizing cost savings could have bipartisan appeal, a rare opportunity overcome political polarization on energy and climate in the United States.

Past studies have shown that support for renewable energy depends on which benefits are emphasized: some arguments in favor of a switch to renewables hold more sway than others. Past research also suggests that cost is a major driver of people's support for energy policy.

But so far, studies have mostly included messages pointing out that renewable energy could increase household energy costs. The research hasn't kept up with the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy, which has now rendered renewable electricity cheaper than coal in many areas.

In the new study, researchers set out to update the picture, as well as test two other aspects of communication about renewables that haven't been well covered in the past: how long the effects on people's beliefs last, and whether Democrats and Republicans respond differently to messages about the benefits of renewables.

"There are many different benefits of renewable energy that could be emphasized when trying to change opinions and build support for it," says study team member Abel Gustafson, a climate communication researcher at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio. "The findings of our study suggest that--for both Democrats and Republicans--it may be more persuasive to emphasize renewable energy's cost savings than to emphasize its ability to reduce global warming or to create jobs and boost the economy."

Of course, the Right will still oppose it because everyone else supports it.

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What did the public really think about lockdown law?We spent the pandemic studying the public's response to Covid regulations. Five lessons stand out (Joe Tomlinson, September 20, 2022, Prospect)

[O]n 2020, we set out to engage with the public. We completed three representative national surveys, collected more than 100,000 words of focus group contributions, and undertook 50 hours of detailed interviews. Here are our five most important findings.

First, most of the public were generally willing to comply strictly with the lockdown restrictions. Parts of the population "bent" rules on occasion and rates of compliance also diminished over time. But, if assessed in terms of its ability to secure public compliance, lockdown was a policy that was strikingly successful.

Second, while the public started with a high level of understanding of lockdown restrictions, confusion grew as rules became more complex. Perhaps most importantly, there was extensive confusion relating to the legal status of specific rules--was something law or just guidance? This confusion had real implications for how people behaved: people were more likely to comply with a lockdown rule if they thought it had the status of law and was not just guidance.

Third, there were three key drivers of compliance with lockdown law: an anticipation that rule-breaking would be met with disapproval from one's peers; the conviction that breaking lockdown rules was morally wrong; and a general commitment to being law-abiding. People's sense of the effectiveness of the rules in preventing virus transmission was linked to these basic drivers, as was their sense of obligation to others, and their predictions of how seriously Covid-19 would affect their health if they were infected. A small minority had a conviction that restrictions unacceptably infringed their basic rights, and this group were notably less concerned with the morality of breaking lockdown laws.

A succinct description of what they are.

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Refugees from Afghanistan building a new life in southeastern Vermont (TIFFANY TAN, 9/19/22, VTDigger)

In a one-story house a few blocks from downtown Bennington, Mary Jan spends several hours a week fashioning brightly colored yarn into winter scarves or bath mitts. Her hand-knit creations are sold at a couple of stores in the county.

Two days a week, she also works at a local food manufacturer, helping make packaged snacks.

Mary Jan, 35, is still getting used to earning an income. Until August 2021, when her family fled Afghanistan, she'd been a stay-at-home wife and mother of three. Now, her part-time jobs fill some of her free time, but most importantly, they augment her husband's salary as the family builds a new life in America.

When the Mother Judd moved to assisted living, a lovely Afghan refugee family moved into her apartment.  

September 19, 2022

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Two senior Democrats, Dick Durbin and Elizabeth Warren, want more federal oversight after after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent migrants to Martha's Vineyard. (Politico, 9/19/22)

What happened: Two senior Democrats, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said Monday that more federal oversight over government funds was needed after reports that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may have used interest earned from federal Covid aid to pay to send migrants to Martha's Vineyard.

"I met with a group of mayors over the weekend and county officials. And I warned them months ago when we put this money on the table that I didn't want to hear about the world's greatest frisbee park being built as a result of it -- do something serious that we can defend. What DeSantis is doing is just a political stunt. ... That money should be spent at least for the people of Florida."

Not only did Senator Durbin kill W's immigration reform, but he's a recidivist.

A 'Poison Pill' In The Immigration Bill? (ZOE CHACE, 5/07/13, Planet Money)

That big immigration bill working its way through the Senate would let in lots more highly skilled workers on temporary visas. But there's a catch.

The bill says all employers who want to hire workers on these H-1B visas:

... would be required to advertise on an Internet website maintained by the Department of Labor and offer the job to any U.S. worker who applies and is equally or better qualified than the immigrants ... sought...

This language could be a "poison pill" for companies that want to hire workers on these visas, according to Ted Ruthizer, an immigration attorney with a big firm that works with companies who want to hire skilled foreign workers.

Under the provision, an American who applied for a job that went to a foreign worker on an H-1B visa could complain to the Department of Labor. The department could come back years later and audit the hiring process. Depending on the auditors' findings, the company could be fined and barred from the visa process for a few years.

"Employers may well decide they are not prepared to sift through hundreds or even thousands of resumes and then have to document the deficiencies of each US applicant to hire an H-1B professional, no matter how talented," Ruthizer told me. "How about preferring someone who is more articulate and expresses more original ideas? Are those reasons that the government will accept? I doubt it very much."

Sen. Dick Durbin is one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

The Left is the Right.
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Horseshoe Theory Comes to Ukraine: Putin's Western apologists don't reflect the usual conflict between Left and Right--but rather comprise an example of both poles making common cause against the center. (The Quillette Editorial Board, 16 Sep 2022)

In a 1996 book, Le siècle des idéologies, French philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye articulated a "horseshoe theory" of politics, by which the extreme of Left and Right begin to curl back toward one another as they get more and more alienated from centrist politics. As one might expect, the theory has plenty of critics--since, needless to say, few leftists want to be lumped in with their opposite number on the Right, and vice versa. But any objective observer can see that there are a number of ideological elements--a tolerance for street violence; a desire to censor opposing viewpoints; a weakness for powerful strongmen; a disdain for due process and democratic politics; and a tendency to lionize foreign autocrats as offering some viable alternative to liberalism--that really do answer to horseshoe-theory analysis.

On the Left, opposition to the West's support for Ukraine isn't difficult to explain. Leftist figures such as Corbyn, Noam Chomsky, and Australian journalist John Pilger generally view the United States (and the West in general) as the main engine of evil in the world, and so are disposed to respond to any geopolitical crisis simply by putting down stakes on the opposite side of Western interests. (And to such extent as they can bring themselves to criticize the West's enemies, they will usually add, in the same breath, that their misdeeds are scarcely worse than those of white imperialists). It's a pattern of rhetoric that goes back generations.

When it comes to explaining right-wing agitation against Ukraine (or against Western support for Ukraine, at any rate), on the other hand, things are more complex. From the McCarthyism of the 1940s and 50s, to Ronald Reagan's famed "Tear down this wall" speech of 1987, conservative US politicians traditionally have been hyper-vigilant in regard to Russian militarism, sometimes to the point of paranoia.

But that reflex has been ebbing since the Cold War. The binary dynamic of capitalism versus communism is a thing of the past. China, not Russia, is now seen as America's most important competitor on the world stage. And since 9/11, militant Islam has rivalled (and often surpassed) communism as an object of concern within the Republican Party and conservative politics more generally.

Many American conservatives now dwell more on the moral threat from decadent progressive culture, far more than on any geopolitical threat looming over the West as a whole. And when it comes to the moral sphere, Putin is actually seen by many social conservatives as a kindred spirit, what with his frequent propaganda about traditional family values (as opposed to, as the Russian leader describes it, the "genderless and infertile" spirit of feminized Western institutions). Some Republicans have even seemed entranced by the macho-seeming aesthetics associated with Putin's personality cult. Back in 2014, Rudy Giuliani said of the Russian autocrat, he's "what you call a leader."

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NHGOP Candidates Trail In New Poll, but National Numbers Show Positive Trend (Michael Graham, 9/18/22, NH Journal)

With 60 percent of respondents unsure about their perceptions of Bolduc, "the next few weeks will be important for him as he tries to introduce himself to voters while his opponent will try to highlight his weaknesses," Kimball told NHJournal.

Which is why Democrats' money was able to nominate him. 

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Putin's new Ukraine problem: Even the war's biggest supporters are growing dissatisfied (Matthew Bodner, 9/18/22, NBC News)

The scale of the Russian military's and political leadership's setbacks in Ukraine have become too vast for even state media and pro-war activists to ignore.

"The special military operation has completely failed," Igor Girkin, who gained notoriety as one of the main leaders of Russia's initial efforts in eastern Ukraine back in 2014, said in a video this week. "Since March, we have had a full-fledged war. But until now, Russian authorities, the defense ministry, and general staff have behaved as if there's no war."

Igor Strelkov, who is also known as Igor Girkin, the top military commander of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," has thrived on the Telegram messaging service since the start of the war.Bulent Kilic / AFP via Getty Images file
Last week, he declared the war "already lost," and warned his audience of nearly half a million viewers that the war would continue until Russia's total defeat.

Girkin is himself a controversial figure among the marginal but increasingly vocal group of right-wing pro-war bloggers and activists who have thrived on the Telegram messaging service since the start of the war. Their views have traditionally run parallel to official state media messaging but are not firmly under the Kremlin's control. With Russian forces on the retreat, more and more they are accusing the leadership of betraying the troops.

"The Kremlin is worried about this panic sentiment," said Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "The pro-war activists are seen as allies, they are part of the broad pro-Putin consensus in Russia, the disagreement is just about tactics. So, the Kremlin actually has limited means to deal with this camp. They can't turn against them and suppress them the same way they did the liberal opposition."

Even soldiers who have fought in what the Kremlin insists on calling its "special operation" are returning home, refusing to go back to the front, and challenging the official narrative surrounding the war. As Ukraine retakes territory, videos are appearing online appearing to show massive amounts of equipment abandoned by retreating Russian soldiers.

Image: A Ukrainian soldier standing atop an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine on Sept. 11, 2022.
A Ukrainian soldier standing atop an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum on Sept. 11.Juan Barreto / AFP - Getty Images
While the television has told the public that they've been fighting a good, clean war, soldiers are telling their friends, families and fellow citizens stories of a chaotic, unclear and troubled operation.

"Russian society, just as the Russian army, is decaying and falling apart because of corruption," Pavel Filatyev, a Russian soldier who has published a scathing memoir of the first two months of the war, told NBC News. "So the Russian army often is not acting carefully, they are acting unprofessionally, and a lot of mistakes are being made."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'They enriched us.' Migrants' 44-hour visit leaves indelible mark on Martha's Vineyard (Ray Sanchez, 9/18/22, CNN)

After sharing hugs and teary goodbyes with roughly 50 migrants who had arrived unexpectedly by plane on this affluent vacation island, the volunteers who sheltered them at an Episcopal church carried out tables and chairs, packed food onto trucks and folded portable cots.

A familiar quiet had descended by Friday afternoon on the tree-lined downtown block on Martha's Vineyard, where Jackie Stallings, 56, could not stop thinking about a young Venezuelan - she was 23 but looked 15 - who sat with her in the St. Andrew's Parish House the night before.

The asylum seeker showed Stallings cell phone video taken during the journey across a remote Central American jungle, pointing out migrants who died along the way.

"It was like she was showing me cat videos but it was actually their journey and what they endured to get here," said Stallings, a member of the Martha's Vineyard Community Services nonprofit. "There were bodies and moms with babies trying to get through mud that was like clay."

"The heartbreaking part is seeing these beautiful young ladies become desensitized," said her husband, Larkin Stallings, 66, an Oak Bluffs bar owner who sits on the nonprofit's board. "For them, they just flip and show you a picture."

"She was like, look, this one died, part of their original party. And he died and this one died. The mud is like to up to here to them," she said Friday in the shade of the parish house porch, pointing to her thigh. "And you see them, they literally have to lift their legs out the mud. They die because they get stuck."

During their whirlwind 44-hour visit this week, migrants like the young Venezuelan woman left an indelible mark on their accidental hosts in this isolated enclave known as a summer playground for former US presidents, celebrities and billionaires.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden: US forces would defend Taiwan if China invades (Deutsche Welle, 9/19/22)

When asked on whether US forces would defend Taiwan if China invaded the island, Biden said "yes, if, in fact, there was an unprecedented attack."

Biden reiterated that the US maintains a "One China" policy and does not support Taiwan's independence.

Why shouldn't Taiwan be independent and why is he so much more comfortable killing Chinese than Russians? 

September 18, 2022

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A Lesson From the Past for Ron DeSantis (Joshua Zeitz, 9/18/22, Politico)

In the spring of 1962, David Harris, a short-order cook from Little Rock, Ark., arrived in Hyannis, Mass., a small but tony vacation village located on Cape Cod, best known then and now as the location of the Kennedy family's summer compound.

Harris, who was Black, traveled to Hyannis in search of work, with funding and encouragement from Little Rock's White Citizens' Council, one of many local organizations comprised of middle-class white professionals who, while dedicated to the preservation of segregation, styled themselves as the respectable, moderate alternative to the Ku Klux Klan.

Earlier that year, council members in New Orleans and Little Rock dreamed up a public relations stunt: They would offer Black Southerners bus fare and relocation costs to undertake "Reverse Freedom Rides" to Northern cities, where, they told their victims, good jobs and housing awaited them. The idea was to embarrass and expose the hypocrisy of Northern liberals who cheered the real Freedom Rides, but whom, they suspected, would blanch at receiving thousands of Black transplants in their own communities. Harris was just the first of roughly 100 Black Southerners whom the councils shipped to Hyannis.

In this particular case, the Citizens' Council had a specific target in mind: Edward M. Kennedy, the president's younger brother, who was campaigning for a seat in the United States Senate. "President Kennedy's brother assured you a grand reception to Massachusetts," the council's leadership assured them. "Good jobs, housing, etc. are promised."

Kennedy, a summer resident of Hyannis, called the segregationists' bluff: He organized a reception for Harris, comprised of local residents who extended a warm welcome.

The story of the Reverse Freedom Rides assumed new meaning this week when persons seemingly associated with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis promised a group of Venezuelan asylum seekers that good jobs and housing, as well as expedited work permits, awaited them in Boston. The migrants were transported instead, without their knowledge, to Martha's Vineyard, in an attempt to surprise and expose the hypocrisy of liberals who oppose the Republican Party's hard-line immigration stance.

The ploy didn't work out exactly as planned. Residents of the small island warmly embraced the asylum seekers, much as the citizens of Hyannis welcomed David Harris some 60 years earlier.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Good News is Bad News: Understanding Today's Topsy-Turvy Economy and the Fed's Reaction Function (Joseph Politano, 9/17/22, Apricitas Economics)

The biggest source of "good news that's bad news" comes from the labor market. The Federal Reserve wants to get inflation down, and in doing so wants to see aggregate income growth moderate towards the 5% per-year level from before the pandemic. So the fact that aggregate wage growth still remains elevated by pre-pandemic standards is not welcome news to them--higher income growth means higher spending growth, and higher spending growth means higher inflation. [...]

What kind of bad news could become good news based on the Fed's reaction to it? In theory, one example came hidden in last month's jobs report. Even though job growth was relatively strong, the unemployment rate rose from 3.5% to 3.7%. That wasn't from a reduction in workers with jobs but rather from an increase in the number of people without jobs who were actively looking for work.

To be clear, one report is not enough to draw a trend from (especially when unemployment data can be so volatile). But a situation in which wage growth mediates through labor supply improvements rather than labor demand destruction is the Federal Reserve's best-case scenario for the job market. So rising unemployment can also be bad news that's actually good news.

Open the borders and have FL and TX distribute the new employees.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'I belong here': New US citizens take oath on Ellis Island (AFP, September 17, 2022)

The 200 new US citizens are among 19,000 that will be sworn in across the country this week, US Citizenship and Immigration Services said.

As sunlight streamed through the enormous arched windows, the emotion in the room was palpable as the group took an oath of allegiance to the United States, less than a mile away from the Statue of Liberty.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland presided, telling the newest American citizens: "This country -- your country -- wholeheartedly welcomes you."

The head of the Justice Department choked back tears recounting how his own relatives fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe. 

He said two of his grandmother's siblings were unable to escape, and died in the Holocaust.

"I have often thought about what members of my family felt as they came through buildings like this one," he said. "And I have often thought about what their decisions meant for my own life."

Before the ceremony, Lovell Brown, a 31-year-old originally from Jamaica, told AFP she was excited to be on the island for the first time for "such a big moment."

"I just feel like I'm actually a part of the United States now," said the teacher, who has lived in the United States since she was 17.

"It makes me feel like I belong here."

You were American before you got here.

September 17, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


'Huge mistake': DeSantis' migrant transports could undercut support in South Florida (GARY FINEOUT, 09/17/2022, Politico)

The move by DeSantis dominated the radio and television airwaves in South Florida -- where large swaths of Hispanic voters live. One Spanish radio host loudly denounced the move and even compared DeSantis' actions to that of deceased Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who relocated Cubans in the early '60s.

Democrat Charlie Crist, who is challenging DeSantis, on Saturday rushed out a new digital ad targeting Hispanics and the Venezuelan community as part of a six-figure buy pounding DeSantis over his attention-getting move.

"From a Miami perspective, it's a huge mistake," said state Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat challenging incumbent Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.). "All these Republicans -- including my opponent -- historically talk about socialism and communism and that we are standing up to these horrible dictators. The migrants are fleeing exactly what Republicans say they are fighting against."

Florida Republicans in recent years have made it a priority to court Venezuelan Americans, many of whom fled their home country in the past decade amid the political and economic turmoil under Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez. It's a story that has parallels to Cuban Americans -- a crucial bloc of support for the GOP -- who left their country to escape communism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Ron DeSantis Says He'll Double Down on Martha's Vineyard Stunt (Mike Mechanic, 9/17/22, MoJo)

He noted that he plans to use "every penny" of the $12 million that Florida legislators had allocated to relocate migrants. Further flights are "likely," and he is considering sending migrant buses like those Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey have used to shuttle thousands of asylum seekers to DC, New York City, and other urban Democratic strongholds, leaving officials and nonprofit workers scrambling to accommodate the newcomers.

Getting Florida and Texas to distribute our new neighbors and employees more equitably may force us to rethink the program.  There are record job openings and vacant housing; done right this is a nearly ideal solution.  But, first, Joe needs to issue a blanket pardon every day for all personal immigration violations so no one has to travel back for court appearances. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


The Founders' Constitution and its discontents: Adrian Vermeule's Common Good Constitutionalism represents his version of the left's "living Constitution." Few people will embrace his self-serving theory, which is tailor-made to accommodate both his beloved administrative state and integralist moral philosophy--a peculiar combination. (MARK PULLIAM • MAY 10, 2022, Acton)

Vermeule teaches law at Harvard, one of the nation's most elite universities. He specializes in administrative law--a Progressive Era innovation that some critics contend violates the Constitution's separation of powers--and constitutional theory. Constitutional "theory" often has even less to do with the Constitution than constitutional "law." Oddly, for a subject taught in law schools, the field is dominated by moral philosophers, exemplified by John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. The attraction of constitutional theory, from the legal scholar's standpoint, is that the canvas is blank, the inquiry is unhindered by text or history, and the only limits are the scholar's ambition and ingenuity. Vermeule, who holds an endowed chair at Harvard Law School, exudes plenty of both.

Each theorist has his own personal preferences, and Vermeule is no exception. He is an ardent devotee of the administrative state (having co-written a bold defense of it in 2020's Law & Leviathan) and a recent convert to Catholicism, which coincides with his turn toward what some observers call "integralism," a movement that "seeks to subordinate temporal power to spiritual power--or, more specifically, the modern state to the Catholic Church." Vermeule's embrace of integralism aligns him with so-called post-liberals led by Patrick Deneen on the Catholic right, as well as some quirky proponents of "natural law" jurisprudence. (Deneen enthusiastically blurbed Vermeule's book.)

In the 1970s, the nascent field of constitutional theory was dominated by liberal law professors seeking to provide cover for the activist decisions of the Supreme Court during the 1960s under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren (which, unfortunately, continued under his successor, Warren Burger). The left's defense of extra-constitutional rights was termed advocacy of "a living Constitution," suggesting that the document is (or ought to be) malleable enough to be putty in the hands of liberal judges. Decades later, libertarian and even conservative scholars got into the act, hoping to inspire judicial activism in a different direction. More on that later.

Vermeule's provocative book has attracted a good deal of attention. Common Good Constitutionalism is heralded in some quarters (and denounced in others) as an avant garde critique of "originalism"--the notion, popularized by Justice Antonin Scalia in the 1980s, that judges should interpret the Constitution in accordance with its original public meaning--that is, what the document was understood to mean at the time it was enacted. Instead, Vermeule offers an alternative model of government: Elected officials and bureaucrats should act based on their own sense of what would best promote the common good rather than being constrained by the text of the Constitution. Vermeule defines "common good" as "the flourishing of a well-ordered political community," with the goal of achieving "peace, justice, and abundance" (which includes "economic security"). This sounds like New Age utopianism, the realization of which requires centralized power and invites the exercise of broad subjective discretion--precisely the opposite of what the Framers intended.

The Right/Left hates the Constitution precisely because it thwarts their Utopian/Dystopian dreams.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Blue states receptive to (non-MAGA) Republican governors (Josh Kraushaar, 9/17/22, Axios)

The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter has moved the Oregon governor's race into toss-up territory, reflecting the strength of Republican Christine Drazan's candidacy. Oregon Democrats are divided between progressive Democratic nominee Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson, a more moderate candidate running as an independent. Oregon hasn't elected a Republican governor since 1982.

A new Emerson College poll of the Nevada governor's race shows Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) tied with his Republican opponent, Joe Lombardo, at 40%. Some Republican officials now view Nevada as their best opportunity to flip a Democratic-held statehouse.

And in New Mexico, an Emerson College poll finds Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham only holding a five-point lead over Republican Mark Ronchetti in a Democratic-friendly state. As Axios reported last month, Lujan Grisham has been beset with low approval ratings, staff upheaval and charges of hypocrisy.

Why it matters: Candidate quality matters. Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidates are losing badly in Pennsylvania and Michigan, states that are more GOP-friendly than the aforementioned battlegrounds.

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Building A Nation of Welcomers (NAZANIN ASH, FALL 2022, Democracy Journal)

We are at a pivotal moment in the writing of this country's story of democracy. In cities and towns across America, something remarkable is underway. Far from the toxicity of our national politics, Americans in every corner of the map--in rural communities and major city centers--are raising their hands to help people in search of safety, whether it be our Afghan allies or Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion. And by responding to their desire to help--by enabling and empowering Americans to welcome vulnerable newcomers and help them thrive--we may find the answer not only to the displacement crisis but to our own national healing, fueling the rejuvenation of our democracy in troubled times.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has driven global displacement levels to an all-time high of 100 million. If the numbers displaced represented a country, it would be the world's 15th largest. The number of people displaced has more than doubled over the last decade, with brutal and often genocidal conflicts from Syria to Afghanistan to South Sudan and Myanmar burning strong. Conflict and climate crises have grown unchecked. Displacement is now increasingly a permanent state of being rather than a temporary crisis. In fact, over 75 percent of displacement challenges are now classified as "protracted"--crises lasting five years or more. On average over the last decade, less than 3 percent of refugees were able to return home; and less than 1 percent have been resettled to a new community with the opportunity to rebuild their lives with safety and opportunity. Most live their lives in limbo, confined to camps, unable to work legally, move freely, send their children to school, rebuild their lives, and contribute to their host nations. At the heart of each of these lost opportunities lies a story of human potential slipping away for generations to come.

Win-win solutions ought to be within reach: Countries from the United States to the U.K. to Japan are greatly in need of workers at all skill levels. Technocrats have long made the case that immigration is vital to our economies and the care of our aging societies. Immigration done well--where newcomers are given the right to work, access to education and healthcare--is a win everywhere, every time. Poland's economy grew by 8.5 percent in the last quarter while absorbing over 3 million refugees, and importantly, giving them the immediate right to work, with no refugee camps in sight. Germany, which uniquely among its European neighbors accepted over 1.9 million refugees between 2015 and 2020, is reaping the benefits, with 50 percent of employed refugees working in high-skill jobs. Here in the United States, a 2017 Health and Human Services report found that over a 10-year period, refugees contributed over $63 billion more than they received in public services.

But polarized politics stand in the way of these win-win solutions. Instead, the United States and other wealthy democracies have pursued paths that undermine our collective humanity, our economies, our stability, our security--and our democracies. With a few notable exceptions, wealthy nations have led a global retreat from humanitarian obligations, reducing refugee admissions, rejecting asylum seekers, and closing pathways to safety in their countries.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


Robespierre and Us: a review of Robespierre by Marcel Gauchet  (Daniel J. Mahoney, 9/14/22, Law & Liberty)

Robespierre's "liberalism," if we can call it that, was decidedly marred by its rejection of the "wisdom of Montesquieu" and his increasing identification of himself with the purity of revolutionary principles. Gauchet tellingly calls one of his chapters "I, the People." Robespierre began to divinize himself because he divinized the revolutionary people. After Louis XVI's flight to Varennes in June 1791, Robespierre and the Jacobins attacked the King with inhuman ferocity. Robespierre tells the Convention that the King is by definition a tyrant and that his mere existence entails an "insurrection" against the nation and the revolutionary state.

In the Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke stated the real truth. At the end of the ancien regime, the French monarchy was "rather a despotism in appearance than in reality." And the famed English statesman added that the reign of Louis XVI should not be confused with "Persia bleeding under the ferocious sword of Thamas Kouli Khân." But that was precisely how Robespierre saw things, confusing the gentle and conscientious Louis XVI, a Christian of authentic conviction, with a brute and a monster. The King was transmogrified into a tyrant who must "die in order that the fatherland may live." In the name of absolute, inviolable, fanatical "principles" the King must die, so the people could live. There was a reason why Alexander Hamilton bristled when he heard the American Revolution compared to the French Revolution. The leaders of the latter revolution--even some of its much-lauded moderate leaders--were in Hamilton's views "fanatics in political science," as he wrote in 1794. Bereft of the moderation that flows from prudence, Robespierre came to identify liberty with Virtue, and Virtue with Terror. That identification is literally deadly.

One of the strengths of Gauchet's book is the way it continually emphasizes the inability of Robespierre and his fellow fanatics to give serious thought to the art of governance in a political order at once popular and representative. Once Robespierre joined the Committee on Public Safety on July 27, 1793, his (and the Revolution's) metamorphosis was complete. In place of governing, Robespierre and his allies searched for enemies, discerning corruption and conspiracy everywhere. Robespierre made clear that he preferred an "excess of patriotic fervor" over "the stagnation of moderantism." Moderation was the disposition of soul and civic stance that Robespierre loathed above all. His full embrace of fanaticism in the name of virtue and revolutionary principle reached a morally insane apex in his infamous speech of February 5, 1794. There, he announced that the Revolution was endangered by "depraved men" who regarded the Revolution "as a trade and the Republic as a spoil."

He saw ill-defined conspiracies everywhere. "Virtue and Terror" were the only legitimate response to such corruption and such conspiracies. Desmoulins had accused the Jacobins and the sans-culottes, the Parisian revolutionary mob, of succumbing to out-and-out despotism. Robespierre did not dispute the point. But he insisted that "the government of the Revolution is the despotism of liberty against tyranny," a distinction that was specious in these circumstances. Robespierre had once thought the death penalty an abomination. Now he confused justice--"prompt, severe, inflexible," with Terror and loudly proclaimed Virtue without Terror to be weak and ineffectual. Robespierre's fanatical defense of Terror in the name of the "Rights of Man" and Virtue properly understood is the quintessence of ideological despotism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


How Doug Mastriano uses faith to fend off criticism -- even from other Christians: 'They're actually supposed to pray for me and support me as their government leader,' Mastriano said, referring to the Lutheran pastors who criticized him. 'I'm over them politically. I'm their senator.' (Jack Jenkins, 9/15/22, RNS)

Mastriano's debate with the Lutherans dates back to a since-deleted interview with a couple, Allen and Francine Fosdick, self-described Christian prophets with an online ministry called People of Prophetic Power Ministries. 

"'Separation of church and state' -- anyone who says that, show me in the Constitution where it says it," Mastriano told the Fosdicks while sitting at his desk in the Pennsylvania state Capitol. "It's not in there. It's never been in there." In a formulation that has become popular among conservatives, Mastriano added, "We have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

Mastriano, who was gaining popularity in conservative circles at the time for strident opposition to COVID-19 restrictions, referred to a "fake COVID crisis" and chided his fellow lawmakers who had imposed limitations on large gatherings in Pennsylvania. He insisted Christians should show more "courage" in resisting lockdown measures and offered as a model Martin Luther, the 16th-century founder of Lutheranism and leader of the Protestant Reformation.

"Pastors, it's time for you to lead," Mastriano said in the video, which later disappeared when the Fosdicks' YouTube account was revoked for violating the company's guidelines. (A mirror of the video remains accessible on an archival website.) "If that pastor -- and others -- doesn't want to open up, then congregation, maybe it's time to find another church where they have a little more courage."

As he put it in another part of the interview: "I'd like to see the churches stand up -- we have strong religious freedoms in Pennsylvania."

Local churches did, in fact, stand up, albeit perhaps not the way Mastriano intended. Forty-six local Lutheran leaders -- including vicars, former seminary presidents and the pastor at St. James Lutheran Church, a few doors down from Mastriano's local office -- published a full-page ad in the Gettysburg Times supporting many COVID-19 restrictions and rejecting Mastriano's interpretation of their denomination's namesake. The ad cited the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's position, which quoted Luther to argue that Christian decisions should "always be made in the best interests of the neighbor."

"The senator's interpretations of scripture and Luther's actions in the Protestant Reformation are taken out of context to serve his political agenda," the ad read.

Their voices carried weight in the town, where the oldest continuously operating Lutheran seminary in the country occupies a prominent part of the local landscape -- and U.S. history. Founded in 1826, the school's red brick buildings sit atop a hill known as Seminary Ridge, a strip of land that traded hands between the Army of the Potomac and the Confederacy in 1863 in the Civil War battle that made the town famous.

The seminary is known today as the Gettysburg campus of United Lutheran Seminary, which also has a campus in Philadelphia. Sitting in the seminary's library and leaning over an archival text, Erling, a professor of modern church history and global mission, recalled the debate with Mastriano with barely disguised frustration. She doesn't impugn his personal faith, she said, but has little regard for his public theology.

"I don't take him seriously as a religious voice at all. I absolutely do not," said Erling.

Publicly criticizing Mastriano's faith musings wasn't something the group did lightly, she said -- among other things, she and her fellow clergy had to pay for the ad themselves. But Erling argued the state senator left them no choice.

"He was saying that people should not go to the churches unless they're complying with his 'walk as free people,' and that any restrictions are not of Christ," she said. "He hit a ball into our court."

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Little churches still matter, says Martha's Vineyard pastor of church that took in migrants (Bob Smietana, 9/16/22, RNS)

[The Rev. Vincent "Chip" Seadale]  and other members of the Martha's Vineyard Island Clergy Association did what clergy do when a crisis happens: They jumped in to lend a hand.

"We just decided we were going to make it work and then hope for the best," said Seadale in a phone interview.

For two nights, St. Andrew's played host to the Venezuelans, providing meals and a place to stay at the parish house, which hosts a shelter four nights a week during the winter. The church hall is already equipped with cots, a large kitchen, showers and laundry for the shelter.

Other churches and community members sent food, clothes and other supplies -- while the Martha's Vineyard Community Fund collected funds to support the Venezuelans. Immigration lawyers and other volunteers showed up to help them figure out where to go next. Many were in the U.S. to seek asylum and have contacts here but needed help connecting with them.

The Rev. Janet Newton, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha's Vineyard, said that clergy, like other community leaders and residents of the island, had no idea the migrants were coming.

"Ironically," she said, "we were prepared, even though we had no warning."

The Vineyard, she said, is often seen as a playground for the rich and powerful. Former President Obama and other celebrities -- television host David Letterman, journalist Diane Sawyer and film director Spike Lee -- own homes on the island, she said, and that shapes how outsiders see the Vineyard.

That's not the whole story. In the off-season, she said, many people struggle. Affordable housing is hard to come by, and at times, folks who work seasonal jobs can't make ends meet. As a geographically isolated community, Newton said, year-round residents have learned to take care of each other.

"That's probably a bit of a surprise to the people who sent the planes here," she said. "They didn't understand how our community operated or that we could be prepared for this. Hospitality matters here."

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


King Charles promises to protect freedom of conscience and 'space' for faith (Mark King,  17 September 2022, Christianity Today)

"I have always thought of Britain as a 'community of communities'," he said.

"That has led me to understand that the Sovereign has an additional duty - less formally recognised but to be no less diligently discharged.

"It is the duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practise through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals."

The King then said that he wanted to carry out his responsibilities as Sovereign "in a way which reflects the world in which we now live" and to continue the work of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in working to preserve freedom of conscience for all beliefs.

"As a member of the Church of England, my Christian beliefs have love at their very heart," he continued.

"By my most profound convictions, therefore - as well as by my position as Sovereign - I hold myself bound to respect those who follow other spiritual paths, as well as those who seek to live their lives in accordance with secular ideals.

"The beliefs that flourish in, and contribute to, our richly diverse society differ. They, and our society, can only thrive through a clear collective commitment to those vital principles of freedom of conscience, generosity of spirit and care for others which are, to me, the essence of our nationhood.

"I am determined, as King, to preserve and promote those principles across all communities, and for all beliefs, with all my heart." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


The Conservative Wisdom of the Infield Fly (Jordan McGillis, Sep 17, 2022, American Conservative)

For readers who haven't leafed through the rulebook lately, the infield-fly rule specifies the following: if the team at bat has runners at first and second base, or first, second, and third base; has fewer than two outs against it; and hits a pop-up in fair territory that an infielder could catch with routine effort, the umpire invokes the rule and calls the batter out.

The purpose of the rule is to prevent chicanery from the team in the field. If not for the infield-fly rule, a savvy infielder could camp under the pop-up, prompting the baserunners to retreat to their bags of origin, then intentionally let the ball drop to the ground, giving his team the chance to turn a double (or triple) play.

The infield-fly rule thus robs fans of what would otherwise be a bit of frenetic, exciting action every third game or so. Instead, we watch an umpire point skyward and essentially put the brakes on the play, ruling the batter out and keeping the runners safely aboard. The infield-fly rule grants the defense one out, but denies it the chance at two (or three). On its face, the rule makes the game less interesting without any obvious justification.

Why shouldn't the team in the field be rewarded for a real-time reaction that gives it the advantage? Why shouldn't the team at bat be punished for popping the ball into the air? Looked at in the abstract, there would seem to be no moral downside to scrapping the infield-fly rule. 

Looked at from the conservative cast of mind, however, the rule's wisdom is clear. Developed by practitioners of the game, rather than rationalist observers, the infield-fly rule slows rapid reversals of fortune. The infield-fly rule prevents the batting team's mounting threat of two or three baserunners from evaporating via an unsportsmanlike drop by the defense. To the conservative, the infield-fly rule is more than a benign relic. It is a mild, but positive, good.

The filibuster is similar. Notorious to some, vaunted in the minds of others, it prevents one faction from leveraging a narrow legislative majority to enact sweeping political change. By offering the minority a chance to block significant legislation that lacks 60 votes, the filibuster ensures that any political change enacted by a divided Senate is more measured and widely agreed upon. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Migrants head to temporary shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod (Samantha J. Gross, September 16, 2022, Boston Globe)

In an emotional farewell Friday, the roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants flown unannounced to Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday in what critics derided as a cruel political stunt by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis left the island for temporary housing on Cape Cod.

Just before 10 a.m., one large bus and two smaller ones from the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority pulled in front of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church to a crowd of families waiting in the driveway with backpacks and suitcases.

The teary-eyed migrants hugged volunteers, took selfies, and gave the church -- which had doubled as an emergency shelter for them -- a round of applause before embarking on the next stretch of their journey to Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne, which Governor Charlie Baker's office said Friday was being offered as temporary shelter.

September 16, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


'Camp Auschwitz' Jan. 6 rioter was wearing SS shirt underneath, prosecutors say at sentencing (RON KAMPEAS, SEPTEMBER 16, 2022, JTA )

Robert Keith Packer's sister asked people not to judge him by his cover, a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt. A prosecutor said he was wearing a Nazi SS T-shirt underneath.

The revelation of what Packer, a 57-year-old Virginia pipefitter, was wearing on Jan. 6, 2021, came Thursday when a federal judge sentenced him to 75 days for his role in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol spurred by former President Donald Trump's false claims that he had won reelection.

The sweatshirt, which became a symbol of the rioters' ties to white supremacist movements, was "incredibly offensive," U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said before handing down the sentence.

Not if you're a Nativist/Nationalist. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


The myth of western decadence: The enemies of liberalism are always shocked to find that people will fight for it (Janan Ganesh, 9/16/22, Financial Times)

I am sure a contrarian finance bro will insist, if you look at the right geospatial data, from a certain angle, adjusting for media bias, that the invasion of Ukraine is going well. For now, though, it seems the Kremlin has put too much store in western decadence. Neither the resistance on the ground nor the staying power of its sponsors in the democratic world were bargained for. By way of consolation, Russia has plentiful historical company. Terrorist clerics, godless Marxists and other enemies of the west, or "Occidentalists", share few beliefs. One is that free societies have an innate flakiness: a sort of will to impotence. Even as those enemies have failed to survive, the trope does.

I don't pretend that the average westerner has read their Hume and Spinoza. I don't even pretend they deal in such abstractions as "the west". But there is a way of life -- to do with personal autonomy -- for which people have consistently endured hardship, up to and including a blood price. Believing otherwise is not just bad analysis. It leads to more conflict than might otherwise exist. [...]

The eternal error, I think, is to confuse the substance of liberalism (which is compromise-minded) with people's attachment to it (which is far from compromising). Liberalism is sparse in content. It has no account of the good life, but rather allows competing ones to go at it within a framework of rules. If I say "socialist architecture", for instance, you picture something concrete and rectilinear. What is liberal architecture? There are Islamic rules about sex and diet: a liberal can be celibate or wanton, a vegan or a regular at St Johns.

Occidentalists can't believe that a creed that makes so few truth claims would inspire devotion. But here we still are, and here so many of them aren't.

...can't prevent or reverse the End of History.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


The Clownish Thuggery of DeSantis and Abbott (Jacob G. Hornberger, September 16, 2022, Future of Freedom Foundation)

You can tell how Republicans view illegal immigrants by the clownish thuggery in which two of their most revered governors are currently engaged. After arresting (kidnapping might be a better term) immigrants for violating sacred federal laws against illegal entry, DeSantis and Abbott then have them involuntarily transported to Washington, D.C., or Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where the transporters then dump them. 

In other words, sort of like transporting cattle from Texas to Colorado or oranges from Florida to New York. That's how Republicans view immigrants who have violated their sacred illegal-entry law -- as sub-human, much as they viewed people in North Vietnam and North Korea back in the 1950s and 1960s.

But the fact is that these are real people, not animals or sub-humans. They are people who are fleeing their homeland to save their lives in the hope of coming to the United States to survive, live, work, and prosper. They find themselves not only being arrested (i.e., kidnapped) but then involuntarily transported to places thousands of miles away, without even being informed where they are being forcibly taken.

Many of these immigrants are from Venezuela. That's one of the countries on which the U.S. government, with the full support of Republicans, has imposed a brutal set of economic sanctions. The sanctions target the Venezuelan people with death and impoverishment, with the aim of achieving regime change.

We have a particular moral obligation to welcome peoples we sanction. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Trump openly embraces, amplifies QAnon conspiracy theories (DAVID KLEPPER and ALI SWENSON, 9/16/22, AP)

After winking at QAnon for years, Donald Trump is overtly embracing the baseless conspiracy theory, even as the number of frightening real-world events linked to it grows.

On Tuesday, using his Truth Social platform, the Republican former president reposted an image of himself wearing a Q lapel pin overlaid with the words "The Storm is Coming." In QAnon lore, the "storm" refers to Trump's final victory, when supposedly he will regain power and his opponents will be tried, and potentially executed, on live television.

As Trump contemplates another run for the presidency and has become increasingly assertive in the Republican primary process during the midterm elections, his actions show that far from distancing himself from the political fringe, he is welcoming it.

He's published dozens of recent Q-related posts, in contrast to 2020, when he claimed that while he didn't know much about QAnon, he couldn't disprove its conspiracy theory.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM


Mitch Daniels Is Far More Than An Educator (Marc Ransford & Dustin Siggins, 9/16/22, Real Clear Markets)

As the price of college tuition skyrockets and student loan forgiveness dominates the higher education landscape, one retiring college president looms large: Purdue University's Mitch Daniels, who famously froze tuition for each of the 11 years he held the top position.

But while the freeze has led many of the accolades and favorable news coverage about Daniels' tenure, he has done far more than keep costs low. He's also grown the student body, doubled donor revenue, and improved Purdue's national standing for the quality of its STEM programs. He's also made Purdue the center of attention and investment for major corporations. [...]

Daniels may be humble enough to leave his legacy to the judgment of others. We'd say it's clear that just as Henry Ford wasn't just a car guy and Bill Gates was far more than a computer programmer, Purdue's retiring president is far more than an educator. 

He's a visionary leader. 

...Mitch is the next best way to fill the Bush-shaped hole in the Party. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


Migrants who arrived in Martha's Vineyard to be moved to Cape Cod (KELLY GARRITY, 09/16/2022, Politico)

The migrants will be brought to an emergency shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod in Barnstable County, Massachusetts, which served as an alternative medical care site during the Covid-19 pandemic, and as a shelter for displaced Louisiana residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"We are grateful to the providers, volunteers and local officials that stepped up on Martha's Vineyard over the past few days to provide immediate services to these individuals," Baker, a Republican, said in a statement. "Our administration has been working across state government to develop a plan to ensure these individuals will have access to the services they need going forward, and Joint Base Cape Cod is well equipped to serve these needs."

Looks like we just found a use for all the military bases we need to close.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


The US is on the cusp of a clean energy revolution -- we can't leave anyone behind (DEVASHREE SAHA AND DAN LASHOF, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS - 09/15/22, The Hill)

Clean energy is a major job creator in the U.S., employing 3.2 million Americans and accounting for more than 40 percent of all energy jobs in the country. In 2021, energy sector jobs grew at a much faster pace (4 percent) than overall U.S. employment (2.8 percent). These jobs are benefiting both red and blue states: California, Texas and New York currently employ the most clean energy workers.

Clean energy jobs are set to climb even more in coming years thanks to the massive investments in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) that will pour billions of dollars into clean energy technologies, invest in grid updates and electric vehicles, as well as make the U.S. more competitive in global markets. Sectors across the U.S. economy will see job growth from these climate-smart investments, most notably in the buildings and electricity sectors from energy efficiency, constructing new infrastructure for zero-emissions electricity generation, grid modernization and electrification.

In fact, new analysis from World Resources Institute finds that the U.S. can create nearly 1 million more net jobs by 2035 from federal climate measures included in the IRA and IIJA compared to business-as-usual. But the full employment impact can be significantly larger when you factor in provisions related to onshoring manufacturing of clean energy technologies, which could create up to 3.1 million additional net jobs during the same period. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


How California Kept the Lights On during Monster Heat Wave: A combination of rapid growth in battery storage and efforts to reduce power demand helped California avoid blackouts during an intense heat wave (Anna Blaustein on September 16, 2022, Scientific American)

[I]mpressively, California's grid weathered the heat wave. Scientific American spoke with Michael Wara, policy director of the Sustainability Accelerator at Stanford University, about the strategic improvements and unconventional tactics that helped the grid hold up and how power systems can decarbonize and still stand up to climate extremes. [...]

What happened after CAISO announced that a level-three emergency would go into effect?

We were all kind of bracing for these rotating outages to start. The expectation was they'd start around 6 P.M., which is when the sun starts to get lower on the horizon this time of year, and so the solar power plants start to produce less energy.

Instead what happened is that--in contrast to 2020--we had several thousand megawatts of battery storage that started providing energy and helped stabilize the situation. And then the grid operator called all of its demand response resources [large-scale consumers that the operator pays to reduce electricity usage] and reduced demand even further. It took about 1,000 megawatts or so off the demand at around 5 or 5:30 P.M.

And then something really interesting happened: CAISO sent a text to people in California and they said, look, you need to reduce your demand right now, or we're going to have to start rotating outages. And basically, at the moment that that text was sent, demand fell in California by something like [3,000 megawatts.] It's not totally clear yet if that was a result of that text. But it's interesting to note that, simultaneous with the text, there was this large decrease in demand--and that allowed the system to ride out the evening hours.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Putin admits China has 'concerns' over Ukraine invasion; Russia's Wagner Group is recruiting convicts (Natasha Turak, 9/16/22,  CNBC)

Signs of tension have emerged between allies Russia and China, as Putin acknowledged his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping's "questions and concerns" about Russian operations in Ukraine during the leaders' first in-person meeting since the war began on Feb. 24.

There are reports of mass graves outside the cities recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces after months of Russian occupation, Ukrainian officials and international media present on the scene have said.

Meanwhile, Berlin is taking control of Russian energy giant Rosneft's German operations, citing the need to protect the continuity of business operations and ensure its energy security.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Sabra and Shatila: Jewish nurse recounts horrors of Palestinian massacres (Umar A Farooq, 16 September 2022, Middle East Eye)

On the 40th anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Siegel recounted how she and other nurses struggled to take care of the hundreds of wounded Palestinians, how she herself was nearly executed, and how justice continues to remain elusive despite the magnitude of the atrocity.

"When I got to Beirut, I was shocked. It was one of the saddest scenes I had ever seen," Siegel told Middle East Eye, recalling the time from her home in Washington DC.

Israel launched an attack on Beirut on 15 September - breaking a weeks-long ceasefire that saw members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation leave the city - and sealed it off so no one else could leave.

Then on 16 September, the Phalange, a right-wing Christian Lebanese militia group, entered the Sabra and Shatila camps in response to the assassination of Lebanon's Christian president, Bachir Gemayel. They killed as many as 3,500 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

"The Phalange came in and started to kill people. They started to massacre people, but in the most horrendous way with axes and knives. Some of these pictures, some of these stories, are just horrendous," she said.

But Siegel says the Phalange wasn't operating in isolation.

"The Israelis shot flares into the air. One of the other physicians and myself, we went to the top floor of the hospital during this time, and we saw flares going up in the air and lighting up neighbourhoods of the camp followed by gunfire," Seigel said.

"What was happening is that [the flares] lit the way for the Phalange to go door to door and kill people."

Siegel and an international group of nurses worked tirelessly over the next several days to treat the wounded Palestinians.

The hospital had served as a sanctuary for those shot and wounded by militia forces, and even as it began to run out of supplies, blood, medicine and food, Palestinians continued to enter the hospital in the hope of escaping the violence.

"This went on for like two days and people started to flee towards the hospital, towards Gaza Hospital, looking for safety and security. The hospital got overwhelmed with people. The morgue got overcrowded."

Despite their attempts to stay at the hospital and continue to care for the wounded residents, Phalange forces took the international team of medics out of the hospital on 18 September and began marching them out of the camp at gunpoint.

On her way out of the camp, Siegel told MEE that she passed by dead bodies scattered across the streets, and mothers with their children being guarded by gunmen.

Being Jewish and growing up learning the horrors of the Holocaust, Seigel said her experience reminded her of the stories she heard of Jewish prisoners marching toward concentration camps and the gas chambers.

"As we got towards the end of the camp, they put us up against a bullet-ridden wall and they were about to shoot us," Siegel said.

"What happened was an Israeli stopped it. From the Israeli command post, [the Israeli] saw what the Phalange were doing and said 'we can't be killing white people, all these Norwegians and Swedish and Americans'."

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


With Migrant Trafficking Stunt, GOP Governors Mimic Segregationist 'Uptown Klan' (Laura Clawson, September 16 | 2022, National Memo)

"For many years, certain politicians, educators, and certain religious leaders have used the white people of the South as a whipping boy, to put it mildly, to further their own ends and their political campaigns," Amis Guthridge, one of the architects of the reverse freedom rides, is quoted in an in-depth 2019 piece by Gabrielle Emanuel at GBH News. "We're going to find out if people like Ted Kennedy ... and the Kennedys, all of them, really do have an interest in the Negro people, really do have a love for the Negro."

Hundreds of Black people, mostly from Arkansas and Louisiana, were misled or, in some cases, coerced onto buses north, ending up in states from California to New Hampshire. But the largest number, nearly 100, were sent to Hyannis, Massachusetts. Because when Amis Guthridge said, "We're going to find out if people like Ted Kennedy ... and the Kennedys, all of them, really do have an interest in the Negro people, really do have a love for the Negro," he was intending to send people literally to the Kennedys' doorstep, or anyway to the bus stop closest to where the Kennedys spent their summers, telling them they would meet President John F. Kennedy when they arrived.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


FBI charges Massachusetts woman with Boston Children's Hospital bomb threat (Brandy Zadrozny, Ben Collins and Tom Winter, 9/15/22, NBC News)

The FBI said Thursday that an arrest has been made in connection with a bomb threat against Boston Children's Hospital last month.  [...]

Several children's hospitals, most notably Boston Children's, have been the targets of a far-right harassment campaign for months, led by anti-trans influencers with millions of collective followers who have spread misinformation about the hospitals' gender-affirming treatment for minors. The influencers have similarly waged anti-LGBTQ campaigns against schools and libraries that have been featured on conservative news programs. [...]

In the last week, some of the same influencers began to express doubt that the bomb threat was real. On Wednesday, one of the primary drivers of the harassment campaign, Chaya Raichik of the influencer account LibsOfTikTok, tweeted an email response from Boston police saying the threat did not come through 911. "Many questions remain. Will any journalists investigate?" Raichik tweeted to her 1.3 million Twitter followers.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Alabama GOP chair refused to show license to vote. That became a problem for poll workers: When poll workers asked Alabama GOP Chairman John Wahl for his voter ID, he gave them a card they'd never seen before, ostensibly from the State Auditor's office identifying him as a press secretary. When challenged at the polls, Wahl texted this photo to the Limestone County Probate court. The Alabama Finance Department says it has no record of Wahl working for the state and it never issued him an employee ID badge. (Kyle Whitmire, 9/15/22,

Clyde Martin is a retired TVA supervisor at the Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant who now rides motorcycles and does a little yoga. He has a wife and a kid, but that only comes up when I ask him later. Rather, the first thing he tells me about himself is that he's a Republican. He considers himself a fierce fiscal conservative, which he cares about more than his party's positions on social issues.

He also cares a lot about election integrity, which is why, for the last four election cycles, he volunteered as a poll worker outside Athens in Limestone County.

It was there he would butt heads with one of the most influential Republicans in Alabama, John Wahl, a 36-year-old butterfly farmer chosen last year to be chairman of the state party.

Their conflict was over a bread-and-butter issue of Republican Party politics -- voter ID.

Martin insisted Wahl and his extended family show photo IDs like everybody else when they voted.

And as a result, Martin isn't a poll worker anymore.

Most of the facts of this story are not in dispute. Martin and Wahl give similar accounts, as do others.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Voices of migrants, from a New England island in a new land (Alexander Thompson and Randy Vazquez, September 15, 2022, Boston Globe)

A 25-year-old undocumented migrant from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, Eduardo set out almost three months ago for the United States. Eventually, he reached San Antonio, where he stayed in a migrant resource center for a week and a half. Authorities said they were going to be deported, but then he received word from an agency that he could go to Boston.

"We decided to accept it to see if there were more job opportunities there," he said. "Because here, we want to [find] work quickly."

They were put on a plane, believing they were headed for Boston. But during the flight, the captain said they were heading to Martha's Vineyard.

"We were all surprised because they had said Boston and they threw us here on the island," he said.

When they landed in the afternoon, vans came to pick them up and took them to Community Services of Martha's Vineyard.

"At first they were surprised, just like us," Eduardo said. "But about 15 or 20 minutes later they adapted, just like us. They began to make a list and called the local police and they have been very supportive. We hadn't eaten anything, they gave us food. They offered us to sleep, rest. They tested us for COVID. And they've been supporting us a lot, really a lot."

Two planes land, and an island springs to help (Janelle Nanos and Brittany Bowker, 9/16/22, Boston Globe)

Word of the migrants' arrival ricocheted around the island. 911 was called. A child needed medical attention. The group was exhausted and hungry, and most of the young men wore light clothing that was ill-suited to the island's cooling weather. Vans arrived to transport them the 3 miles to the community services center, which quickly went into action.

Janet Constantino, a nurse practitioner and therapist, was at the center when the migrants arrived. The center reached out to Martha's Vineyard Regional High School for Spanish translators. She said many of the migrants hadn't eaten since 6 a.m.

Within 45 minutes, with the help of the high school, "we had everything set up," Constantino said. The migrants were fed in the center's parking lot, and tested for COVID.

They were eventually bused to the Harbor Homes winter homeless shelter at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Edgartown, where Belcanto was waiting. Army green cots were lined up in rows inside the church, and a play area was set up, with hula hoops for the children. Lawyers showed up too, to help expedite immigration paperwork.

"Some people have their passports and papers and [were] supposed to be in the New York immigration office on Wednesday," she said. "We're working on it step by step."

Meanwhile, local residents were doing what they could.

Maria Sanchez Roa, a senior at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, said she was in her room at home Wednesday "ignoring homework" when her mother came in and told her about the arrival of migrants. The community needed translators, so Justine DeOliveira, a Spanish teacher at the high school, recruited students to volunteer at St. Andrew's Wednesday night.

"I was like, 'Oh all right.' Because we don't have a lot of Spanish-speaking people on the island. It's mostly Portuguese speakers," Sanchez Roa said. She arrived at St. Andrew's with "no idea" what she was supposed to do, so just started talking to people, "to help them along and help them feel more comfortable."

"In English last year, I read books about people coming through the border and their struggles and stuff," she said. "It doesn't really hit you until you build a connection with these people. . . . I'm very grateful I can help."

At about 5:30, Danny Segal, owner of Edgartown Pizza, got a phone call from the community service center asking for 10 extra-large pizzas, he said. So he did what he always does: offered the organization the same steep discount he gives schools and nonprofits. Tim Dobel brought the coffee. The co-owner of Mocha Mott's in Vineyard Haven and his daughter, Casey Engley, who is six months' pregnant, fired up the brewers, filled up a few cartons, and hand-delivered it to St. Andrew's.

As news traveled throughout the island, local residents began arriving to drop off donations outside the church. Local politicians began to arrive as well. By 7:15, Representative Dylan Fernandes was on a ferry to the island.

"Currently migrants are being dropped off on Martha's Vineyard by chartered flights from Texas," he tweeted. "Many don't know where they are. They say they were told they would be given housing and jobs. Islanders were given no notice but are coming together as a community to support them." [...]

"The people here were not expecting us. We were a little confused because we were expecting a city and not an island," said one man, who asked not to be named. "When you arrive at a place where you can finally relax, you are able to relax your mind a bit. You sleep all night. Total relaxation."

Belcastro said she was glad she was able to welcome the migrants and offer them kindness.

September 15, 2022

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On the ground: The scramble to help migrants at Martha's Vineyard (Steph Solis, 9/15/22, Axios)

Katiuska's husband, 35-year-old Pedro Torrealba, said he'll work any job he can find in the U.S. He said he worked two jobs in Venezuela and still didn't have enough money to feed his family of four.

"All I want is a home, no matter whether we have to pay rent, and a job to move forward," he told Axios as his wife, his cousin and his cousin's wife ate breakfast on the front porch, "because I don't like having anything handed to me."
The couple spent two months traveling through Central America and the Mexico-U.S. border.

They left their children, ages 11 and 7, with family in Venezuela and plan to send money back home, but say being apart from their children is painful.

"It's affecting my wife more than me. She's crying because she misses them," he said.

State Sen. Julian Cyr, who represents the Cape and Islands, described Martha's Vineyard as "a welcoming community. We're going to work hard to welcome these folks."

"No one had any idea this was going to happen," Cyr said.

Zoom in: Volunteers Thursday morning brought food, water, diapers and clothing to the church, which was bustling with families, state legislators, interpreters and other volunteers -- a Herculean effort that the community can't sustain long-term, Belcastro said.

Neighbors walked over and delivered cash to a volunteer to give to Martha's Vineyard Community Services, a nonprofit that's providing food for the asylum seekers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Roberts and Kavanaugh Issue a Surprise Warning Shot to Conservative Lawyers (MARK JOSEPH STERN, SEPT 15, 2022, Slate)

The Supreme Court divided 5-4 in a clash over religious liberty and LGBTQ equality on Wednesday, forcing Yeshiva University to stop discriminating against a gay rights group on campus. But the majority's order had little to do with this culture war skirmish. It was, rather, a rebuke of Yeshiva--and specifically, its overeager lawyers--for racing to SCOTUS after losing in the lower courts because of their own errors. Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh did not side with the three liberals against the university because they think gay students deserve equal treatment. They did so because Yeshiva brazenly abused the court's shadow docket on the assumption that it would get special treatment. It was an understandable gamble. But it failed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Fast transition to carbon-free energy could save trillions: The cost of green energy technologies is plummeting, and transitioning to them quickly could be much cheaper than doing it slowly, researchers say (Prachi Patel, September 15, 2022, Anthropocene)

Shifting the world's energy system from fossil fuels to green energy technologies could save at least US $12 trillion, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Joule, shows that transitioning to 100 percent clean energy by 2050 results in lower overall costs than a fossil fuel-based system. It will also allow more energy to be produced, making energy more accessible around the world.

Decarbonizing the energy sector is going to be crucial to fight climate change. But the move to clean energy technologies--which has also been shown to potentially save thousands of lives--is thought to have prohibitively high initial costs.

These cost predictions, though, have been incorrect, according to researchers at Oxford University. Past models have underestimated how quickly renewables will be deployed, and overestimated their costs. This has kept companies from investing in these technologies and governments from incentivizing the move away from fossil fuels, lead author Rupert Way said in a press release.

So the Oxford team turned to a different method, called a probabilistic model, which forecasts costs based more precisely on historical data. In a previous study, they validated this method for 50 different technologies, including oil, coal, gas, wind, solar, and nuclear. In reality, they found that the costs of wind, solar, batteries, electric vehicles, and green hydrogen have fallen much more sharply than key energy models predicted. The actual cost of solar energy fell twice as fast as even the most ambitious models estimated. Meanwhile, the price of fossil fuels has risen steeply.

...pretty soon you're talking about real money.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Ex-Trump official says DOJ investigating him over potential felony violations (Jacob Knutson, 9/15/22, Axios)

Jeffrey Clark, a former Trump Department of Justice official, told the D.C. Bar that the DOJ is investigating him for felony violations involving false statements, conspiracy and obstruction. [...]

Clark was an assistant attorney general who was supportive of Trump's efforts to overturn the election, and the former president sought to install Clark as acting attorney general after former Attorney General Bill Barr resigned.

The D.C. Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a petition in June to launch disciplinary proceedings against Clark for engaging in dishonesty and interfering with the administration of justice.

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Posted by orrinj at 11:28 AM


Buy electric vehicle maker Fisker as demand skyrockets, Needham says (Samantha Subin, 9/15/22, CNBC)

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Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


"Remarkable:" South Australia may soon be first big grid to run on renewables only (Giles Parkinson 15 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Even when wind and solar have produced much more electricity than is needed in the state at any one time, it has always had to have some synchronous generators, and always gas fired generators in South Australia, running to ensure some of the principal grid services can still be delivered.

This requirement was last year reduced from four generators to two generators after the installation of four synchronous condensers that are spinning machines, but do not burn fuel, and can deliver many of those same services as synchronous generators.

Now AEMO is looking to reduce that number from two to one.

Most of the time the second one is only running as a backup incase the other gas generators suddenly fails, but a growing confidence in the ability of battery inverter technology to provide those services, and the presence of more "fast start" generators that could quickly switch on in case of an incident, means that AEMO is now thinking about reducing its minimum requirement to one synchronous generator.

The immediate impact of that is that fossil fuel's share of overall generation in the state (including that for export) could fall from its current minimum of around five per cent to just two per cent, because only one synchronous generator will be required.

And that in turn will further reduce curtailment of wind and solar, and on the number of "directions" from AEMO for gas generators to run. That has already fallen dramatically in the last year.

It also means, that with the completion of the new link to NSW due in 2025/26, the state will likely be able to remove the need for even a single synchronous generator when that is connected.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Russia's battlefield woes reflect failure at the top (CHRISTOPHER MORRIS, SEPTEMBER 15, 2022, Asia Times)

[T][he rigid and inflexible command structure hampering Russian forces on the battlefield can be linked back to both Putin's coup-proofing efforts and attitudes left over from the nation's Soviet past.

The blistering Ukrainian advance into Russian-held territory has invited serious questions about the conflict's conclusion. It is now reasonable to consider the looming possibility of a Russian defeat, not just in terms of their modest objective of consolidating control over the Donbas region, but across the entire conflict.

Even given the widely acknowledged and extensive list of Russian military problems, the pace of the recent Ukrainian counteroffensive might come as a surprise to many. It is particularly telling that Russia has failed to effectively marshal its forces to address the Ukrainian advance.

While Russian forces may be able to regroup and offer limited resistance, they will struggle to overcome the trauma that Ukraine has inflicted on Russia's command-and-control infrastructure.

At the moment, Russian military leadership is in crisis. The Ukrainian military has managed to overwhelm its forces, not only physically but intellectually as well.

The success of the Kharkiv counteroffensive is rooted in the deception of Russian intelligence that caused them to redeploy their forces at the critical moment.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Struggle to find help is real: With the summer season upon Martha's Vineyard, there is a labor shortage. (Eunki Seonwoo -June 18, 2021, MV Times)

Doug Abdelnour, owner of Nancy's Restaurant and Nomans in Oak Bluffs, said he has been having difficulty finding the help he needs. Abdelnour said both restaurants are struggling to employ back-end workers, such as dishwashers and food runners. Abdelnour said filling positions has become harder during the past 10 years. He is offering around $20 to $25 an hour in hopes of attracting more workers. This year saw the lowest number of applications he's seen. 

The summer season is upon Martha's Vineyard. According to the Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, the Island has a year-round population of 17,000 that can swell up to 200,000 people during the summer. To accommodate the increase in demand, businesses on the Island need seasonal workers to fill the gaps. The increase of tourists means more income for businesses, but it comes with a catch. Martha's Vineyard is facing a labor shortage. 

The Times wrote about the anticipated mix of a labor shortage and increased tourists in April, and it appears the fears of fewer workers this summer are coming true. 

DeSantis sends 2 planes of migrants to Martha's Vineyard (Shawna Chen, 9/14/22, Axios)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sent two planes of undocumented migrants to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts on Wednesday, joining Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in sending migrants to sanctuary cities, Fox News first reported.

We need more planefuls.

September 14, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Newsom boasts California avoided rolling blackouts in extreme heat, says anti-green critics want to 'double down on stupid' (Emma Newburger, 9/14/22, CNBC)

In an interview with CNBC's Yasmin Khorram, the governor said the state's electricity demand almost reached a record 52,000 megawatts during the heat wave, and that California's effort to accelerate the transition to clean energy has put roughly 4,000 megawatts on the grid that were not available two years ago.

"That only reinforces that we've got to not just keep up, we've got to jump ahead of Mother Nature, and move this transition forward more aggressively," Newsom said. "And we are committed to do that."

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


John Durham's investigation of the Trump-Russia probe enters final stages (Marshall Cohen, Katelyn Polantz and Evan Perez, 9/14/22, CNN)

Top Durham prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis - who led the team's case against a Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer earlier this year, which ended in a swift acquittal - was supposed to handle another trial next month, but instead is leaving the Justice Department for a job at a private law firm, according to sources. DeFilippis in recent months was at one point working on writing a report on Durham's findings, which will be submitted to Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The scheduled upcoming trial, against a Russian expat who was a primary source of information for the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, is set to begin next month in Alexandria, Virginia. But four weeks before trial, Durham's case suffered a significant blow, with prosecutors acknowledging in recent court filings that they can't convince a critical witness to return to the US to testify.

The October trial against the dossier source, Igor Danchenko, is set to be the third and likely final prosecution of Durham's sprawling investigation, which began in early 2019 and has since gone after Democratic opposition research efforts against Trump's 2016 campaign. (Danchenko pleaded not guilty.)

The federal grand jury Durham had used for his investigation has also expired, and there are no plans to revive that type of investigative work, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

So die the dreams of a million lonely old white men.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


'You're blowing this': New book reveals Melania Trump criticized her husband's handling of Covid (Kevin Liptak, 9/14/22, CNN)

In a phone call with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who maintained ties to the White House despite occasional criticism of Trump, Melania Trump sought help convincing her husband to take the pandemic more seriously.

"'You're blowing this," she recalled telling her husband," the authors write. "'This is serious. It's going to be really bad, and you need to take it more seriously than you're taking it.' He had just dismissed her. 'You worry too much,' she remembered him saying. 'Forget it.' "

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


'You're gonna die tonight': Trump fan admits dragging cop down Capitol steps (Ryan J. Reilly, 9/14/22, NBC News)

A man who wore a "Trump 2020" hat as he beat one officer and dragged another down the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 6 has pleaded guilty, admitting telling officers "you're gonna die tonight" and repeatedly assaulting law enforcement.

Jack Wade Whitton, 32, from Georgia, bragged in a message obtained by the government that he had "fed" a cop "to the people." He pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a felony charge of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers with a dangerous weapon, which carries a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Wind energy hits record peak of 146 per cent of state demand in South Australia (Giles Parkinson 15 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Wind energy hit a record peak of 146 per cent of state demand in South Australia in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as renewables also set an equal record share of the overall grid.

The new peak of 146 per cent was noted by data analysts GPE NemLog2 and occurred at 4.25am, beating the previous record renewable share in the state of 142 per cent that was set at 9.20am on December 21 last year, when there was a mixture of wind and solar.

The excess power was exported to Victoria. Wind and solar output have averaged 64 per cent of state demand over the last 12 months, the most in the world and remarkable in such an isolated grid with few connections.

If renewable energy weren't going to be abundant, clean and cheap it would make no sense.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Secondhand shopping is booming (Jessica Dickler, 9/14/22, CNBC)

So called recommerce grew nearly 15% in 2021 -- twice as fast as the broader retail market and notching the highest rate of growth in history for the industry, according to a 2022 recommerce report by OfferUp.

While dominated by clothing resale, 82% of Americans, or 272 million people, buy or sell pre-owned products, OfferUp found, including electronics, furniture, home goods and sporting equipment, as well as apparel.

Much of the growth has been driven by younger shoppers, particularly teenagers, Heffes said. "We sell a lot of sneakers."

Thrift store shoppers save nearly $150 a month, or $1,760 a year, on average, by buying secondhand items, according to another report by CouponFollow.

Saving money, however, is not the only driver, CouponFollow found. Shoppers said they were motivated by other factors, as well, such as sustainability and the thrill of the hunt.

Because it is considered eco-friendly, it's also become more socially acceptable, Heffes said. "When I started in this business, there was a stigma around purchasing previously owned items, and that stigma is gone."

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


Azerbaijan has used Russia's weakness in Ukraine, expert says (Deutsche Welle, 9/14/22))

DW: The fighting between Ayerbaijan and Armenia falls at a time when Russia is distracted by heavy military defeats in the Ukraine. It is no coincidence, right?

Hanna Notte: I think it's absolutely no coincidence. This is well timed from the Azerbaijani side. They are using a window of opportunity where Russia is very much distracted. It's actually not the first time this is happening. The Azeris engaged in more provocative behavior, not the kinds of strikes, but sort of upping the ante over Nagorno-Karabakh early into the war in Ukraine, testing a little bit the limits of how far they could push things. And now we're seeing this bigger escalation.

At the same time, it does make sense to suggest that when Russia is so heavily preoccupied with Ukraine, when its political, diplomatic bandwidth is very much focused on that conflict, and its position is deteriorating, as you rightly pointed out, that smaller actors in Russia's neighborhood will react to that and will test limits in some of those conflicts in which Russia has been historically a power broker.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Busing migrants from the border is a blessing, not a punishment (Jeff Jacoby, 9/14/22, The Boston Globe)

[Jasmine Aguilera] found the same reaction when she spoke with another group of migrants on a bus out of Yuma, Ariz. Among them was a family of five from Peru, who left their homeland in July after the mother, Jennifer, was threatened by violent gang members. They headed to America hoping to connect with relatives in Boston. After their frightening ordeal in Peru, Jennifer told Time, "a safe, free bus that would take her family closer [to] Boston was a 'blessing.'"

Other journalists have come to similar conclusions. The Washington Post noted that "those who board the buses appear to do so willingly, with no sign of anyone ... being forced or tricked," and reported that "for many of those who have accepted the rides ... the buses have turned into a welcomed pipeline." The Dallas Morning News quoted one thankful migrant who took the bus to Washington. "I consider it true humanitarian aid," Víctor Rodríguez told a reporter. "[I]t allows migrants who have no money, like me, to arrive or get closer to our destination.... My life starts now."

The best solution to the illegal immigration crisis is to make legal immigration much easier. But in the interim, the Texas and Arizona governors' stunt, however cynically intended, turns out to be an excellent idea. Government agencies, working with humanitarian organizations, ought to be encouraged to help migrants move onward from the overstressed border towns. It's in everyone's interest to make it easy for newcomers to disperse to communities nationwide -- whether to connect with relatives or friends already in the country or to move to cities where the labor market is tight and jobs are plentiful.

More than two centuries of experience have shown that where immigrants put down roots, America thrives. As Rupert Murdoch once said, Silicon Valley is misnamed -- "it's not the silicon" that made it such an economic dynamo, "it's the immigrants." Foreigners are far more likely than US natives to start businesses and create jobs, to stabilize declining populations, and revitalize stagnant neighborhoods. The foreign-born come to this country pursuing an American dream. It is in America's national interest to help them get underway.

Abbott and Ducey may have thought they were pulling a fast one. But they outsmarted themselves. Enabling migrants to reach new destinations as quickly as possible is the best thing we can do for them and for us. Keep the buses rolling and the new Americans coming.

Thanks, Nativists!

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside Migrants' Journeys on Greg Abbott's Free Buses to Washington (JASMINE AGUILERA, SEPTEMBER 12, 2022, TIME)

If the states intended to sway the federal government to toughen immigration policy, they so far have been unsuccessful. But in the process, they've provided a service to thousands of migrants seeking homes in the United States. [...]

Most migrants who cross the border don't have much cash on hand and never intended to stay in Del Rio. Many are trying to reunite with family or friends in other parts of the country. When orientation is over, the migrants come back outside into the rain, each carrying a yellow folder with the name of their destination handwritten over the top--Chicago, New Jersey, Miami, Washington D.C. More than half of the 273 people who arrived that day decided to take the Operation Lone Star Bus.

Those who have opted to take the bus are quickly ushered into a building manned by the Texas National Guard. "As soon as they step foot in the U.S., I consider them the U.S.'s responsibility," says one of the Guardsmen, who spoke under condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to speak to the media. It isn't political to him, he says, but rather about helping people on American soil.

The crush at the border is increasing. In 2021, VVBHC assisted about 23,300 people who had crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. Between January and August of this year, that figure neared 32,000. In August alone, 4,500 people were processed through VVBHC.

When VVBHC was founded in 2019, the protocols were different. CBP would either release migrants to local churches or at drop-off points, where they would be on their own to figure out their next steps. The organization was formed as a stopgap to aid migrants and keep the community from being inundated with people unsure of where to go, says Burrow. "When I hear that Washington D.C. is overwhelmed with people, I'm not sure they really realize what they're saying," she says. "They haven't been to the border. They are not seeing what my eyes are seeing here."

While the migrants wait for their charter bus to arrive, many make use of VVBHC's portable showers. It'll be their last chance to wash before the two-night journey to New York City. After five minutes, a Guardsman in a camo-pattern rain poncho knocks on their door, rushing them out. "Buena suerte," he tells them: "Good luck."

The first Operation Lone Star bus of the day arrives at VVBHC around noon. Before boarding, each of the migrants is fitted with a white wristband imprinted with a barcode--a way for Texas to monitor people who use the program. As the travelers board the bus, an official scans their bands and checks their bags, and Burrow hands out sweatshirts for the air-conditioned ride. The bus's 52 seats fill up quickly. A dog sniffs for drugs, and then it takes off. Even through the tinted windows, it's easy to see hands waving goodbye.

For the next two days and nights, 27-year-old Jhason from Venezuela sleeps upright. He and the other passengers are fed pink packages of food resembling military MRE's. "HUMANITARIAN DAILY RATION," the wrapping reads in all capital letters. Beneath the image of an American flag it says: "Food Gift From the People of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA."

"The food isn't that good, but thank God they're helping us with this," Jhason, who is being identified only by his first name because he fears for the safety of his family in Venezuela, tells TIME in Spanish via WhatsApp from aboard the bus. Jhason says he traveled through seven countries over 43 days to get to the U.S.-Mexico border. He has no family or friends in the U.S., but he decides to hop off the bus in Washington because it sounds like a good place to find work, and because he's looking forward to a cold winter.

The passengers on the bus share the same objective, according to Jhason: "To be safe and well emotionally, physically, and psychologically, and even financially."

On Aug. 26, a different bus carrying migrant families arrives at a local Catholic church in Washington D.C. after a two-night trip from Yuma, Ariz. The travelers are met by volunteers who help the migrants plan travel to their final destinations, and give them food, clothes, and the option to shower.

Jennifer and Jimmy are traveling with their three children, ages 16, 13, and 9. They are trying to get to Boston where they have cousins. The family fled Peru in July when Jennifer started receiving threats from a local gang member. Jennifer, who is being identified only by her first name because she fears retaliation, shows TIME a recording she took on her phone of the gang member threatening to kill his wife, who is one of Jennifer's friends. When the gang member found out about the recording, Jennifer says, he started threatening her for collecting evidence of his behavior.

After that frightening ordeal, a safe, free bus that would take her family closer Boston was a "blessing," she says while her youngest child plays with a stuffed animal gifted to her by the church. And the food wasn't too bad: "We ate hamburgers every day," she says with a laugh. Tatiana Laborde, managing director of SAMU First Response, the international nonprofit leading the Washington operation, says migrants on the buses from Arizona often have more amenities than those arriving from Texas-- better food than Jhason's rations, for example, and paramedics onboard. "Texas is Texas," Laborde says.

The racists' loss is our gain.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fossil fuel ban treaty would save lives, say global health groups (Deutsche-Welle, 9/14/22)

Air pollution linked to fossil fuel use causes more than 6.5 million deaths around the world each year, according to a May 2022 study in The Lancet Planetary Health journal. More than 90% of these deaths are happening in rapidly developing countries in Africa and Asia. Almost no one on Earth is spared. According to the latest WHO figures, 99% of the world's population lives in places where the air they breathe exceeds quality limits set by the global body.

The link between fossil fuel emissions and health was made clearer during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, when cities across the world essentially shut down. With businesses closed, roads empty and many people staying home, carbon emissions decreased and air quality improved in many major centers, if only for a short time.

A recent study comparing 46 European cities during those months estimated that 800 deaths linked to air pollution in those cities may have been prevented in the first half of 2020. While just a snapshot of an unprecedented moment in time, the results do reflect how better air quality could improve the health of billions of people worldwide. 

The results of the study are backed by moves to phase out coal in other parts of the world over the last 20 years. After the closure of coal-fired power plants in California and Ontario, Canada, for example, surrounding communities saw significant decreases in premature deaths, preterm births and hospital admissions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why an invasion of Taiwan would failRussia's disastrous miscalculations in Ukraine show why an invasion of Taiwan would be a grave mistake (JOHN QUIGGIN 14 SEPTEMBER 2022, Inside Story)

In the lead-up to the 24 February invasion, the Russians were able to assemble large forces on Ukraine's borders while maintaining ambiguity about their intentions. For fear of inflaming the situation, Ukraine could do little to prepare, and its allies provided little or nothing in the way of lethal military aid.

These conditions were ideal for Russia's opening move. A rapid assault on Kyiv was planned to begin with the takeover of Hostomel Airport by elite airborne troops, who would be followed in by a much larger airborne force. Things didn't go to plan: the assault force was driven off with heavy casualties and the main force turned back. By the time Russian land forces reached Hostomel, the chance of a surprise attack was lost.

Even if the strike had not been a military failure, the political calculation on which it was based turned out to be absolutely wrong. Far from welcoming Russian invaders as liberators, Ukrainians fought back furiously. Even in Russian-speaking cities like Kharkiv, Putin found little or no support.

A decapitation strike against Taiwan would face immensely greater difficulties. There would be no possibility of surprise. Taiwan's air defences have been built up over decades. Reunification has essentially zero support among Taiwanese. And even if the current leadership could somehow be eliminated, local replacements would be equally or more hostile.

The most commonly discussed scenario for forcible reunification is a seaborne invasion. Even before the Ukraine war this idea seemed far-fetched, as a comparison with the Normandy landings in 1944 shows. The Allies had complete air superiority, the narrow English Channel to cross, a wide choice of poorly defended landing sites and a numerical superiority of five to one. The Germans didn't detect the attack until landing craft were within reach of shore. Even so, the Allies fell far short of their Day 1 objectives.

A Chinese invasion fleet, by contrast, would have to cross the 170 kilometre Taiwan Strait with no chance of avoiding detection, then land on one of a handful of well-protected beaches and face numerically superior defenders.

The Ukraine war drives the lesson home. Before the invasion, Russia's Black Sea fleet was widely seen as a major strategic asset. When the initial attacks on Kyiv and Kharkiv failed, a seaborne attack on Odessa was generally anticipated. Ukraine had only a handful of domestically produced anti-ship missiles, and its own navy had been wiped out on the first day of the war. Russia was in complete command of the sea.

Yet the attack never took place. The sinking of the Moskva in April by a Ukrainian Neptune missile proved that the Russians had been right to hold back. Russian naval forces were inadequate even to defend the famous Snake Island, kilometres from Ukrainian mainland. With Ukraine's acquisition of increasing numbers of modern missiles, most of the fleet has been withdrawn entirely to the relative safety of Novorossiysk on the eastern shore of the Black Sea.

Ukraine repelled the Black Sea fleet with a handful of missiles. Taiwan has hundreds, including American-made Harpoons and domestically produced missiles easily capable of hitting Chinese ships before they leave port. Many are truck-mounted and effectively impossible to destroy even with an intensive air campaign.

All the evidence suggests that China understands this. While it is politically necessary for the government in Beijing to maintain that it has the capacity to reunify China by force, the announced plan for doing so is outlandish. It involves securing landing sites with a handful of craft then sending in the main force on lightly modified civilian ferries. No sensible person could take such a plan seriously.

Much the same points can be made about the idea of an extended bombing campaign.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stunning stat: Child poverty hit record low in 2021 (Erica Pandey, 9/13/22, Axios)

The child poverty rate was 27.9% in 1993, but fell to a record low of 5.2% in 2021, according to new census data.

Why it matters: Growing up poor affects every facet of adult life, from health to wealth.

"Fewer children growing up in poverty is good for the future," says Renee Ryberg, a co-author of a new report from Child Trends that digs into the data. "It's as simple as that."

Not only are there immediate improvements to the well-being of kids and families, there are also long-term benefits for society, like lower rates of crime, lower health care costs and more tax revenue.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


3 men convicted for Jan. 6 attacks on Capitol Police (TuAnh Dam, 9/13/22, Axios)

The Justice Department said the three men were found guilty of a combined 22 offenses, including counts of aiding or abetting or assaulting, resisting, or impeding law enforcement officers,.

Of the 22 charges, 14 are federal charges while eight are misdemeanor charges.

The big picture: More than 870 people have been arrested for crimes related to the breach of the Capitol, including over 265 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Justice Department criminal investigation now touches nearly all efforts to overturn 2020 election for Trump (Katelyn Polantz Sara Murray Evan Perez Kristen Holmes, 9/13/22,  CNN

Justice Department criminal prosecutors are now examining nearly every aspect of former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election - including the fraudulent electors plot, efforts to push baseless election fraud claims and how money flowed to support these various efforts - according to sources and copies of new subpoenas obtained by CNN.

The investigation is also stretching into cogs of the sprawling Trump legal machine that boosted his efforts to challenge his electoral loss - with many of the recipients of 30-plus subpoenas that were issued in recent days being asked to turn over communications with several Trump attorneys.

The sweeping effort has many in Trump world concerned about the potential legal significance of being caught up in a federal investigation.

We didn't just take Richmond.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Most Americans don't want Trump or Biden to run in 2024: poll (MAX GREENWOOD, 09/13/22, The Hill)

Most Americans don't want either President Biden or his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, to run for the White House again in 2024, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris poll shared exclusively with The Hill. 

Two-thirds of voters surveyed - 67 percent - said that Biden shouldn't seek another term in the Oval Office, with nearly half citing their belief that he's a bad president as the reason why. Another 30 percent said it's simply because Biden, who would be 84 by the time he takes the Oath of Office again, is too old for the job. 

September 13, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


The Conservative Right's Undying Fascination With an Obscene Anti-Immigration Novel (Shikha Dalmia, The UnPopulist)

Raspail, a staunch Catholic, had long been on an obsessive quest to defend the West's racial and cultural purity. And The Camp of the Saint's main objective is to jawbone the West into confronting how liberalism, progressive humanism and Christian meekness are destroying this sacred goal. He sets up a denouement so cartoonish that even Mad Max writers would cringe.

The central plot line of the book involves an armada of "kinky-haired, swarthy-skinned, long-despised" Indians who, exhorted by a "turd eating" god-man to get a piece of the "white man's comfort," board a fleet of rickety ships to France, the land of "milk and honey," to escape poverty and illness.

The sojourners are hungry and diseased. But that evidently does nothing to dull their satyr-like sexual appetite since these are people who, in Raspail's telling, "never found sex to be a sin." So their journey becomes one long orgiastic ride as they hump everything in sight. Here's Raspail in his own words. (And be advised, it's not for the faint of heart.) [...]

Unsurprisingly, this book is a perennial cult classic among white supremacists in America and Europe. Every time a refugee crisis, big or small, emerges, they start chattering in dark, apocalyptic tones about the prescience of the book--never mind that countries have been absorbing refugees of famine and war since time immemorial. The National Vanguard Magazine, founded by the notorious neo-Nazi William Pierce (whose novel The Turner Diaries called for a white-led violent revolution in America) routinely whips out characters and scenes from Raspail's magnum opus to explain current events. VDare, a restrictionist website that has long been peddling racist nonsense against immigrants, has a tag named after the book to archive posts. And then there is the race-baiting Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose quasi-white-nationalist founder John Tanton, a Michigan-based ophthalmologist, republished the book in America in 1994. He gushed in his introduction that the book would perform the vital function of evoking "different feelings" toward immigrants from those evoked by bathetic Ellis Island stories that "exalt the immigrant experience."

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Rensselaer County's Republican elections commissioner arrested by FBI (Brendan J. Lyons, Sep. 13, 2022, Times Union)

 Jason T. Schofield, the Republican Rensselaer County Board of Elections commissioner, was arrested outside his residence Tuesday morning by the FBI and charged with fraudulently obtaining and processing absentee ballots last year using personal information of at least eight voters without their permission, according to an indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court.

The indictment handed up last week -- and unsealed Tuesday during his arraignment -- charges Schofield with 12 felony counts of unlawful possession and use of a means of identification. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


An ex-Marine was about to bomb an Indiana mosque. And then they welcomed him inside: Joshua Seftel's 'Stranger at the Gate' tells the story of military vet Richard 'Mac' McKinney's change of heart -- and religion -- after getting to know Muslims off the battlefield (RENEE GHERT-ZAND, 9/13/22, Times of Israel)

He did, in fact, plan to construct an improvised explosive device (IED). He considered setting it off in front of the Islamic Center of Muncie on a Friday afternoon in 2009, just as worshipers were gathering outside the building.

"I was hoping for 200 dead or injured -- at least," McKinney says straight into the camera.

In the end, McKinney did not commit mass murder -- thanks to a plot twist that demonstrates the power of kindness to change people.

"Kindness can be so transformative. Just talking to someone, reserving judgment, and finding common ground can make a huge difference," director Seftel said in a recent interview with The Times of Israel.

The Brooklyn-based Seftel was referring to the way longtime members of the Islamic Center, including Afghan refugees Dr. Saber Bahrami and his wife Bibi Bahrami, and African-American Muncie native Jomo Williams warmly welcomed McKinney when he walked through the door.

Incensed that a woman wearing a burqa had picked up her son at his daughter's school, McKinney was sure the boy was a terrorist in training and that it was time to put his plot into action. Looking for proof to justify the terrorist act he was about to commit, he forced himself to enter the mosque.

"I was convinced these people were killers. By the end of the night I thought they'd have me in the basement with a sword to my throat," McKinney says.

Instead, he was treated as a valued guest, although the center's members sensed there was something odd about him.

Moved -- and much relieved -- McKinney began to feel comfortable among these Muslim Americans.

"These people were just plain old pleasant. They were happy to be alive, happy to be American, and happy to talk to me," McKinney says.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Refugee "baggage" does not include inclination to crime (SORA HEO, SEPTEMBER 13, 2022, Niskanen Center)

In January 2017, President Trump signed Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States, an executive order dramatically reducing refugee resettlement. Referred to as the "travel ban" or "Muslim ban" by critics, the sudden policy change reversed decades of U.S. immigration policy. In part due to unfounded fears that refugees increase crime rates and pose a national security threat, the policy resulted in the lowest number of resettled refugees in a decade and a 65.6 percent decrease in resettlement from 2016 to 2017. 

The Trump Administration's rhetoric conflated immigration and crime and sparked a national shift away from supporting immigration. In a poll released this month, more than half of Americans claimed that there is an ongoing "invasion" at the Southern border, in tune with the national shift away from pro-immigration.

The presumption was that when a large number of refugees arrive in a region, crime rises in subsequent years, and placing limits on immigration would drastically decrease crime rates. In actuality, there was a null effect on crime rates in response to changes in refugee resettlement rates brought by the 2017 ban.

The association between crime and immigration is not new. In 2017, 45 percent of Americans agreed that immigrants exacerbate crime. Particularly within the GOP, the topic of immigration has served as key campaign fodder - 71 percent of Republicans believe that immigrants worsen crime rates, as opposed to 34 percent of Democrats. Given that refugees are painted in one light by the broader community - individuals escaping war, poverty, and persecution, Americans seem to expect they possess a relatively high inclination to commit violent crime.Despite a 65.6 percent drop in refugee resettlement, there was no visible effect on various types of crime, according to findings from a University of Cambridge study on the relationship between crime and refugee resettlement after the ban's implementation.

The study plots the relationship between 2015-2016 to 2017-2018 changes in refugee arrivals and present-day policy changes in crime rates along the blue regression line. If less refugee resettlement led to lower crime rates, we would witness a downward sloping regression line. Across both types of crimes (left versus right plots) and when measured in rates and logs (top versus bottom plots), there is no apparent correlation between the reduction in refugee arrivals due to the ban and subsequent changes in local crime rates. The findings suggest that crime rates would have been similar had refugee arrivals continued at pre-Executive Order levels.

Likewise, examining crime data from ten U.S. cities that received the most refugees relative to their population size between 2006-2015 reveal that rather than crime rising, nine out of ten cities became considerably safer.

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U.S. Sen. Rick Scott's epic fail at GOP campaign job: squandered millions, crap candidates (Diane Roberts, SEPTEMBER 12, 2022, Florida Phoenix)

The upshot is that Scott blew through $172.2 million bucks to net $8.8 million. The NRSC has cancelled TV buys in key midterm states while Democrats, with nearly twice as much cash in the bank, are ramping up their ads. No wonder Republican donors feel burned.

Mitch McConnell is not happy, letting it be known that he was "concerned" about Scott's disappearing cash debacle as well as what he delicately referred to as "candidate quality."

He means the passel of cretins, head cases, and oafs who got enough Trumpy votes in Republican primaries to advance to the general election in November.

Scott struck back with the imbecilic fury of a person who'd spent too many hours prostrate on that tacky carpet at Mar-a-Lago. In a Washington Examiner op-ed, he accused "smart guy" party leaders and "the DC crowd" of "trash-talking" Republican candidates. "It's treasonous to the conservative cause," huffed Scott.

Yep, Scott thinks the 2022 crop of Trumplet hopefuls are "great candidates," fine folks like Blake Masters, who's challenging Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. Masters blames gun violence on "Black people, frankly," while putting out an ad showing him standing in the Arizona desert brandishing a short-barreled shotgun, which is, he snarls, is "designed to kill people."

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Justice Department subpoena storm broadens Trump's potential legal woes (Stephen Collinson, 9/13/22, CNN)

A strikingly broad subpoena sweep against more than 30 former officials and campaign aides of ex-President Donald Trump represents the clearest sign yet of the seriousness of the Department of Justice's criminal probe into events surrounding the US Capitol insurrection.

The gambit, revealed on Monday, also shows that while Trump may succeed in slowing a separate investigation into the retention of classified information at Mar-a-Lago, his potential exposure to legal consequences is deep and threatening. Trump has not been charged with a crime in either probe.

But the subpoenas show that the DOJ's investigation, which has proceeded behind the scenes for months and caused Trump critics to express frustration with Attorney General Merrick Garland, is far more expansive than was previously known. And it appears to be intensifying, with investigators apparently narrowing their focus based on other subpoenas, evidence and witness testimony.

"This is the way classic investigations are conducted, moving up the chain so to speak," David Laufman, former chief of the Justice Department's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, told CNN's Erin Burnett Monday.

"They are now encompassing individuals closer and closer to the President to learn more and more about what the President knew and when he knew it."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inflation 'collapse' will launch powerful market rally, Credit Suisse predicts (Stephanie Landsman, 9/12/22, CNBC)

Credit Suisse expects the Federal Reserve to pause interest rate hikes sooner than widely expected due to tumbling inflation.

According to the firm's chief U.S. equity strategist, it will launch a powerful market breakout.

"This is actually what's being priced into the market broadly," Jonathan Golub told CNBC's "Fast Money" on Monday. "Every one of us sees when we go to the gas station that the price of gasoline is down, and oil is down. We see it even with food. So, it really is showing up in the data already. And, that's a really big potential positive."

...blinds them to simple economics.  Just like the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Justice Department issues 40 subpoenas related to Trump in widening Jan. 6 inquiry (Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer, 9/12/22,  New York Times)

The Justice Department has issued about 40 subpoenas over the past week seeking information about the actions of former President Donald Trump and his associates related to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, according to people familiar with the situation.

Two top Trump advisers, Boris Epshteyn and Mike Roman, had their phones seized as evidence, those people said.

The department's actions represent a substantial escalation of a slow-simmer investigation two months before the midterm elections, coinciding with a separate inquiry into Trump's hoarding of sensitive documents at Mar-a-Lago, his residence in Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Atlanta, a local prosecutor takes on murder, street gangs, and a president (Richard Fausset, 9/12/22,  New York Times)

Fani T. Willis strode up to a podium in a red dress late last month in downtown Atlanta, flanked by an array of dark suits and stone-faced officers in uniform. Her voice rang out loud and clear, with a hint of swagger.

"If you thought Fulton was a good county to bring your crime to, to bring your violence to, you are wrong," she said, facing a bank of news cameras. "And you are going to suffer consequences."

Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, had called the news conference to talk about a street gang known as Drug Rich, whose members had just been indicted in a sprawling racketeering case. But she could have been talking about another crew that she is viewing as a possible criminal enterprise: former president Donald Trump and his allies who tried to overturn his narrow 2020 election loss in Georgia.

In recent weeks, Willis has called dozens of witnesses to testify before a special grand jury investigating efforts to undo Trump's defeat, including a number of prominent pro-Trump figures who traveled, against their will, from other states. It was long arm of the law stuff, and it emphasized how her investigation, although playing out more than 600 miles from Washington, D.C., is no sideshow. [...]

The phrase "I don't like a bully" is one Willis deploys often. After taking office in January, she had a quote from Malcolm X painted on the wall as a mission statement: "I'm for truth no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against."

How republican.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ukraine's sudden gains prompt new questions for commanders (Thomas Gibbons-Neff, 9/12/22,  New York Times)

By expelling Russian troops from a large slice of strategic territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region, Ukrainian forces are now positioned to make a move on the Donbas, the industrialized eastern territory that President Vladimir Putin of Russia has made central to his war aims. Just before flooding troops across the border in February, Putin declared the Donbas independent from Ukraine, and he held up the region's sovereignty as a key justification for the invasion.

Russia now has control of nearly 90% of the Donbas, where its military shifted much of its focus after a staggering defeat around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in the spring. If Ukraine were to retake even a part of the region, it would be an embarrassing blow to the Kremlin.

September 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


A key weapon in Ukraine's blitz (The Monitor's Editorial Board, September 12, 2022, CS Monitor)

[A]s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the start of the war when he bravely stayed put in Kyiv, Ukraine's best weapon is the truth.

Unlike most Russians, Ukrainians can easily follow reports of the war - both defeats and victories. Their military can more easily recruit willing volunteers, whereas Russia has seen large defections of its volunteer fighters and has experienced difficulties in enticing Russian men to sign up for service in Ukraine.

Even referring to the war as a war can land a Russian in jail. A poll in August by independent pollster Levada found 48% of Russians pay little or no attention to the events in Ukraine. Most media are tightly controlled by the Kremlin.

Ukraine's ability to command truth as a weapon includes one clever ploy: Many of the captured Russian soldiers are handed a cellphone to call their mothers to reveal details about the war. This has spread news about corruption and bad leadership in the military.

Those problems may help explain Russia's latest battlefield retreat. As Russian blogger Yuri Podolyaka wrote to his 2.3 million Telegram followers last week, the Russian people could soon cease to trust "the government as a whole."

Live not in the Right bubble.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Prominent Republicans join coalition to support Whitmer for reelection (Steve Neavling, Sep 12, 2022, Detroit Matters)

More than 150 Michigan Republicans banded together to launch a group supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's reelection bid, her campaign announced Monday.

The group includes business leaders, former state lawmakers, an ex-congressman, and top staff from the Republican administrations of Gov. John Engler and Rick Snyder. Jeff Timmer, the former head of the Michigan Republican Party, also signed on.

"We, as Michiganders, know what a great place this state is to live, work, and recreate. We also know we have a bright future," Bill Parfet, chairman and CEO of Northwood Group, said in a statement. "To reach that future, we all need to work together to revamp education, infrastructure, effective government, job creation, safer communities, vital core cities, and preserving the state's incredible national resources. We all want the same outcomes."

The formation of the group comes as the Michigan Republican Party struggles to unify ahead of the November election. With far-right candidates for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, the party has alienated moderate Republicans as it continues to echo former President Donald Trump's election lies and push an anti-abortion agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Man Murdered Wife, Shot Daughter After Being Sucked Down 'Q Rabbit Hole,' Family Confirms (Will Sommer, Philippe Naughton, Sep. 12th, 2022, Daily Beast)

A Michigan man's obsession with the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory culminated in a Sunday incident in which he murdered his wife and badly injured one of his children, his daughter told The Daily Beast.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Luke Mogelson on the Far-Right, the Militia Movement, and the Threat of Trumpism: And Other Lessons From His New Book The Storm is Here (Luke Mogelson, September 12, 2022, LitHub)

It's no secret that right wing extremism has been on the rise over the last few decades in the United States, a militia-based movement that came to forefront of national consciousness on January 6, 2021, as an unruly mob stormed the Capitol Building. We talked to Luke Mogelson, author of The Storm is Here: Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, about what it all means, and where it might be going. [...]

LH: In the book you have a line, after relating your experiences with war and violence in Iraq and Syria: "Were large scale violence to erupt in the US, it would be something different: A war fueled not by injury but by delusion." Can you expand on that?

LM: Right-wing militarism emerges from a sense of victimhood. Yet right-wing militants are overwhelmingly white heterosexual Christian men--no doubt the least victimized demographic in American history. Those who exploit right-wing fear and anger for political or financial gain resolve this paradox by inventing fictional grievances and phantoms of oppression.

These inventions run the gamut from nativist propaganda (an illegitimate Black president, an invasion of Muslim and Hispanic immigrants, an Antifa insurgency) to outlandish conspiracy theories (a pandemic engineered by Bill Gates and George Soros, a cabal of Democratic pedophiles overseeing an international sex-trafficking industry, a Venezuelan plot to flip electronic votes from Biden to Trump), but they are all illusory.

In contrast, every civil war I've covered has been premised on real grievances, real oppression, real violation. When I've asked frontline soldiers on any side of a given civil conflict why they were risking their lives, they have almost always responded with concrete, rational answers, be it the Talib whose village was oc­cupied by foreigners or the Yazidi whose daughter was enslaved by ISIS or the Syrian whom the regime kidnapped and tortured.

The recent invasion of Ukraine, on the other hand, offers an interesting comparison with our situation in the U.S. While Ukrainians are obviously resisting genuine oppression, Russians have fabricated a slew of fictional grievances to rationalize their unprovoked aggression (from accusing Ukraine of developing nuclear and biological weapons to characterizing its leaders as genocidal Nazis). Tellingly, many pro-Trump pundits and activists in the US, such as Tucker Carlson, have embraced and amplified these falsehoods while expressing their admiration and affinity for Vladimir Putin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Arizona's Latino voters and political independents could spell midterm defeats for MAGA candidates (Gina Woodall, 9/12/22, The Conversation)

The victories of extremist GOP candidates and open support of baseless conspiracy theories have added a volatile ingredient to the politics of Arizona, where a historically conservative electorate is undergoing dramatic political shifts due to changing demographics.

Over the past 10 years, residents who identify solely as white saw their numbers shrink from 73% in 2010 to 60% in 2020. At the same time, the number of residents who identified as more than one race grew from 3.4% in 2010 to nearly 14% in 2020.

In all, Arizona has close to 7.5 million residents, and over 30% of them identify as Latino. Over the past decade, the state's Latino population grew from 1.9 million to 2.2 million. By some estimates, Latinos could make up as much as 50% of the state's population by 2050.

If national statistics are any indication, Latino voters tend to support Democrats. In a March 2022 poll, about 48% of Latinos nationwide considered themselves Democrats, and only 23% identified as Republican.

In Arizona, the numbers are similar.

According to a 2022 study, Latinos are more likely to be Democrats than non-Latinos are, with 45% of Latinos affiliating with the Democratic Party, compared with 28% of non-Latinos. Less than 15% of Latinos are registered as Republicans, the report found, and 40% are registered as "other" and are not affiliated with either major party.

The growth of Latino voters in Arizona contributed to Joe Biden's win in 2020 - and also the elections of Democrats Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate. [...]

Given the increase in Latino voters in the state, it is no surprise that tightening immigration laws is an issue among the GOP, especially among Trump supporters.

In fact, Lake wasted little time after her primary win to use incendiary language in proclaiming her first goal if elected governor in November.

"Day 1," she wrote on Twitter. "I take my hand off the Bible, give the Oath of Office and we Declare an Invasion on our Southern Border ..."

Posted by orrinj at 12:24 PM


Gas prices keep plunging (Matt Phillips, 9/12/22,  Axios)

What we're watching: The futures prices for "reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending," or RBOB. This wholesale gasoline benchmark tends to move in advance of the retail gasoline prices you see while filling up.

It's down more than 10% in the last 10 trading sessions, suggesting lower retail prices are still to come.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Energy crisis: Why we benefit from darker cities (Deutsche-Welle, 9/12/22)

The International Dark Sky Association, an Arizona-based NGO, estimates that about one-third of all outdoor lighting burns at night without benefit. Even before the energy crisis and higher prices, shutting off this fruitless lighting would save $3 billion (€2.9 billion) a year.

Since fossil fuels are still the main source of energy worldwide, simply switching off useless lights helps reduce air pollution and harmful emissions.

In India, for example, extreme lighting emits 12 million tons of CO2 per year, according to Pavan Kumar of the Rhani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

That's about half as much as the country's total air and sea traffic per year. 

Today, more than 80% of people worldwide live under light-polluted skies. In Europe and the US, the figure is as high as 99%, meaning people no longer experience real darkness.

Sufficient darkness at night is also good for health. Studies have demonstrated the link between artificial light and eye injury, sleeplessness, obesity and in some cases depression.

Much is related to melatonin, a hormone that is released when it gets dark.

"When we don't get that hormone, when we don't produce that hormone because we're exposed to so much light in our apartment, or as a shift worker, then the whole working of this biological clock system becomes problematic," said Christopher Kyba, a scientist at the Potsdam-based German Research Center for Geosciences.

A 2020 study from the US shows that children and adolescents who live in areas with a lot of artificial light get less sleep and suffer more often from emotional problems.

The introduction of artificial light is "one of the most dramatic changes we've made to the biosphere," said Kyba. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The truth about Albania's non-existent wind power industry (Deutsche-Welle, 9/12/22)

The Lezha mountain range in northern Albania looks down over the Adriatic Sea. Here, in the not-too-distant future, an extensive wind farm is due to start generating power. This is an extraordinary milestone in wind power generation in a region where copious wind isn't extraordinary at all.

Albania is blessed with hundreds of superlative locations for both on- and offshore wind power generation yet sadly, nowhere in all of Albania - neither on land nor off its 345- km-long (215-mile-long) coastline, is a single turbine churning the wind to produce energy.

In April this year, the Albanian government finally gave Biopower Green Energy and Marseglia Group, an Albanian-Italian venture, the go-ahead for Albania's first ever onshore wind project.

"Albania! Albania! You border on the Adriatic, your land is mostly mountainous and your chief export is [energy]!"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Floating Solar Farms Are a Game Changer (Eric Krebs, September 12, 2022, Reasons to be Cheerful)

The sun's power is virtually infinite -- opportunities to collect and make use of it are not. As demand for renewable energy increases, so does the need for places to generate it.  

This need has set off a global scramble for real estate on which to build the green energy infrastructure the world desperately needs to avert a climate catastrophe. This is especially true for large solar arrays, which take up vast amounts of acreage. But over the last few years, a technological evolution has resulted in solar farms that take up no land at all.

The most recent major example went into operation in July: an undulating array of 12,000 solar panels 100 miles southwest of Lisbon bobbing atop the reservoir of Portugal's Alqueva dam.

With a span of four soccer fields and a peak capacity of five megawatts, the Alqueva Floating Solar Power Plant, built by Portugal's main public utility EDP, is the largest floating solar farm in Europe, generating enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 30 percent of the region's population. It's part of a rising tide of floating solar -- or "floatovoltaic" -- power plants that are proving the renewable revolution need not stop at land's end. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Grid demand hits record low as rooftop PV takes bigger bite out of coal power's lunch (Giles Parkinson 12 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Grid demand in Queensland, Australia's most coal dependent state, hit a record low on Sunday as the growth of rooftop solar PV took a bigger bite out of the traditional midday lunch of the state's coal generators.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, Queensland's minimum demand hit a record low of 3,469MW at 1pm on Sunday. This beat the previous record of 3,488MW set in winter on August 20, 2022, and AEMO says it marks the first minimum demand record in spring 2022.

Some of the generation was being soaked up by exports to NSW, the state's pumped hydro generators, and the state's first big battery at Wandoan South which was charging up at a rate of 50MW at that point.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia is facing defeat in Putin's gas war against the European Union (Aura Sabadus, 9/11/22,  Atlantic Council)

A week after Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended gas exports to Germany via Nord Stream 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened on September 7 to cut remaining supplies and leave "the West to freeze" if it attempted to cap oil and gas prices. Such statements would have thrown markets into a spin and created political panic only a few months ago but that is now no longer the case. Instead, there are signs Putin may have overplayed his hand and could be about to lose his gas war against Europe.

For more than a year, Gazprom has kept European energy markets on tenterhooks. The Russian company reduced this year's overall gas supplies to Europe by 40% compared to 2021, limiting exports to major buyers or completely suspending deliveries to companies or countries that refused to yield to political pressure. The tactic has pushed European gas prices to all-time highs, soaring ten times above the five-year average as companies and governments scrambled to find immediate solutions and avert an energy crisis of unprecedented proportions with winter looming.

However, Europe appears to be adjusting to Russia's tactics. Although prices remain very volatile and well above the averages witnessed in recent years, they have already dropped more than 40% since reaching record highs at the start of September. Meanwhile, there are growing indications that markets are finding solutions to the new circumstances, inspiring cautious optimism that the coming winter season may not be as bleak as many in Europe initially feared.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Defense of Liberalism (Steven Smith, Sep. 11th, 2022, Public Discourse)

Fukuyama begins with a definition of liberalism borrowed from the English philosopher John Gray that stresses four main features of the doctrine. Liberalism is individualist; it values liberty and autonomy, especially the rights to property and the rights to freedom of speech above all else. It is egalitarian; it ascribes equal human worth to all men and women. It is universalist; it values persons independent of their membership in particular tribes, states, and nations. And it is meliorist; it believes in human progress, but as something to be achieved moderately and not in wholesale revolutionary transformations.

Fukuyama provides a useful walking tour--probably the best part of the book--of the various pathologies of liberal individualism. From the right, during the 1970s a philosophy of freedom and autonomy morphed into a doctrine of "neo-liberalism" or libertarianism that stresses property rights and market liberty above all else. Neo-liberalism was the creation of economists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, which then became something like the official ideology of Ronald Reagan's America and Margaret Thatcher's Great Britain. It was applied with often brutal consequences in the recently liberated countries of the former Soviet empire. The result was to turn liberalism into a version of Gordon Gekko's "greed is good."

From the left, liberal individualism morphed into a form of identity politics. The right to equal recognition and respect owed to each individual became the rights of particular identity groups to special consideration. Since there is no such thing as an individual outside a group, like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island, liberalism must give more attention to the surrounding cultures that shape individual identity. Multiculturalism thus became a formula for dividing Americans by replacing the emphasis on individual rights with group rights, creating a kind of arms race to achieve special victim status.

Both of these, Fukuyama correctly argues, are corruptions of liberalism that need to be resisted. The most powerful contemporary alternative to liberalism is the rise of ethno-nationalism in Russia, China, India, Hungary, and the United States. Nationalism could be a called a form of right-wing identity politics because it takes national membership as a trump card of inclusion and exclusion. Nationalists begin from the commonsense supposition that the national state is the basic unit of political order that must be defended in order to ensure national security and the rule of law. But nationalism today means much more than this. It is not simply a matter of securing borders from "invasion," but of determining who is the real American and who is not. It is a way of dividing citizens into rival and competing camps of ins and outs, who belongs and who is "other." According to the nationalist writer Glenn Ellmers, more than half of actual Americans "are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term."

The Identitarians are right to hate America. Created beings are individuals--which is why each gets a say in government, economics and religion--but have no Identity, which is an attempt to convey extra worth by virtue of ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Sad but not unhappy": J.R.R. Tolkien's vision of sorrow and joy (Ralph C. Wood, 5 September 2022, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Gandalf, the Christ-like wizard who quite literally lays down his life for his friends, knows that he is an unworthy bearer of the Ring -- not because he has evil designs that he wants secretly to accomplish, but rather because his desire to do good is so great. Gandalf's native pity, when combined with the omnipotent strength of the Ring, would transform him into an all-forgiving, justice-denying magus, not a figure befitting the origins of his wizard-name in the Anglo-Saxon word wys ("wise").

Lady Galadriel, the elven queen, also refuses the Ring of coercion. It would make her enormous beauty mesmerising. Those who had freely admired her loveliness would have no choice but to worship her slavishly. Rare among modern writers, Tolkien understood that evil's subtlest semblance is not with the ugly but with the gorgeous. "I shall not be dark", Galadriel warns, "but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"

The hobbits are worthy opponents of the allurement of the Ring exactly because their life-aims are so very modest. Wanting nothing more than to preserve the freedom of their own peaceable Shire, they have no grandiose ambitions. Their meekness uniquely qualifies them to destroy the Ring in the Cracks of Doom. Theirs is a Quest that can be accomplished by the small even more aptly than by the great -- by ordinary folks far more than conventional heroes. In fact, the figure who gradually emerges as the rightful successor to Frodo is the least likely hobbit of them all, the comically inept, grammar-slaughtering, xenophobic -- but also name-fulfilling creature -- Samwise Gamgee.

Precisely in the unlikely heroism of the small but doughty does Tolkien's pre-Christian world become most Christian and joyful. Whether in the ancient Nordic and Germanic, or else in the Greek and Roman worlds, only the strong and extraordinary are capable of heroism. The great man stands apart from his mediocre kith. He outdistances them in every way, whether in courage or knowledge.

It is not so in Middle-earth. The greatness of the Nine Walkers lies in the modesty of both their abilities and accomplishments. Their strength lies in their weakness, in their solidarity as a company unwilling to wield controlling power over others. It turns them into literal com-panis -- those who break bread together. Though the Fellowship contains representatives from all of the Free Peoples, some of them have been historic enemies -- especially the dwarves and the elves. Yet no shallow notion of diversity binds them together. They are united not only by their common hatred of evil, but also by their ever-increasing, ever more self-surrendering love for each other. Through their long communal struggle, they learn that there is a power greater than mere might. It springs not chiefly from the foreswearing of force, but from minds and hearts united in a high and holy calling.

The animating power of this Company is the much-maligned virtue called pity. It is a word that has come to have malodorous connotations, as if it entailed a certain condescension toward its recipients -- as if the one who grants pity stands above them in moral and spiritual superiority. Knowing well that pity was the quality that Nietzsche most despised in Christianity, but also that the word derives from the antique Roman elevation of pietas as a fundamental reverence toward everything to which we owe our lives, Tolkien transforms the term into the epic's chief virtue.

Frodo had learned the meaning of pity from his Uncle Bilbo. When he first obtained the Ring from the vile creature called Gollum, Bilbo had the chance to kill him but did not. Frodo is perplexed by this refusal. It is a pity, he contends, that Bilbo did not slay such an evil one. This phrase angers the wise Gandalf. It prompts him to make the single most important declaration in the entire Ring epic:

"Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that [Bilbo] took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity."

"I am sorry, "said Frodo. "But ... I do not feel any pity for Gollum ... He deserves death."

"Deserves it! I daresay he does" [replies Gandalf]. "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement ... [T]he pity of Bilbo will rule the fate of many -- yours not least."

Gandalf the pre-Christian wizard here announces the unstrained quality of Christian mercy that is completely unknown to the pagan world. Not to grant the wicked their just penalty is, for the ancient Greeks, to commit an even greater injustice. As a creature far more sinning than sinned against, Gollum thus deserves his misery. He has committed Cain's crime of fratricide in acquiring the Ring. Even so, Gandalf insists on pity, despite Frodo's protest that Gollum be given justice. If all died who warrant punishment, none would live, answers Gandalf. Many perish who have earned life, Gandalf declares, and yet who can restore them? Neither hobbits nor humans can live by the stones of merit alone.

Hence Gandalf's call for pity and patience: the willingness to forgive trespasses and to wait on slow-working providence rather than rushing to self-righteous judgment. "The pity of Bilbo will rule the fate of many" gradually becomes the motto of Tolkien's epic, as the phrase appears like a leitmotiv in all three volumes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump should be treated as any other citizen in DOJ investigation (Rashard Rose and Morgan Rimmer, 9/11/22, CNN)

"He's not the president, and we do have some special exceptions for someone actually in the office. So, I do think that, just like any American, if there is evidence, that evidence should be pursued," Clinton told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union."

September 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Amazon acquires warehouse machinery and robotics maker Cloostermans (Annie Palmer, 9/09/22, CNBC)

Amazon has acquired Cloostermans, a Belgian company that makes technology used in warehouses, the company announced Friday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Amazon began working with Cloostermans in 2019, using its technology to help move and stack heavy palettes and goods, as well as package products together for delivery, the retail giant said.

Cloostermans will become part of Amazon Robotics, Amazon's division focused on automating aspects of its warehouse operations. The unit was formed after Amazon acquired Kiva Systems, a manufacturer of warehouse robots, for $775 million a decade ago.

Amazon continues to launch new machines in warehouses. In June, the company unveiled a package ferrying machine called Proteus, which it referred to as its first fully autonomous mobile robot. It's also deployed other robots that can help sort and move packages.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Air pollution cancer breakthrough will rewrite the rules (James Gallagher, 9/11/22, BBC)

The researchers have produced evidence of a different idea. The damage is already there in our cell's DNA, picked up as we grow and age, but something needs to pull the trigger that actually makes it cancerous.

The discovery came from exploring why non-smokers get lung cancer. The overwhelming majority of lung cancers are caused by smoking but still, one in 10 cases in the UK is down to air pollution.

The Crick scientists focused on a form of pollution called particulate matter 2.5 (known as PM2.5), which is far smaller than the diameter of a human hair.

Through a series of detailed human and animal experiments they showed:

Places with higher levels of air pollution had more lung cancers not caused by smoking

Breathing in PM2.5 leads to the release of a chemical alarm - interleukin-1-beta - in the lungs

This causes inflammation and activates cells in the lungs to help repair any damage

But around one in every 600,000 cells in the lungs of a 50-year-old already contains potentially cancerous mutations

These are acquired as we age but appear completely healthy until they are activated by the chemical alarm and become cancerous

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Ukraine hails snowballing offensive, blames Russia for blackouts (Pavel Polityuk and Tom Balmforth, 9/11/22, Reuters)

Ukrainian forces kept pushing north in the Kharkiv region and advancing to its south and east, Ukraine's army chief said on Sunday, a day after their rapid surge forward drove Russia to abandon its main bastion in the area.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


'A nonconformist with a conservative's regard for tradition': Ralph Vaughan Williams at 150: a review of Vaughan Williams by Eric Saylor (Hugh Morris, 9 Sep 2022, The Guardian)

Writing with clarity of vision is tricky given how embedded Vaughan Williams is in British musical culture. He wore many hats in his time: symphonic composer, choral society conductor, folksong collector, hymn-tune compiler. Vaughan Williams enjoyed a combination of popularity and prestige unrivalled by many of his British contemporaries, and he remains the nation's favourite composer, even if others might have a stronger claim to be Britain's best.

Familiarity emanates from Vaughan Williams's musical language; its blend of folk modality, references to the English Renaissance and austere chromaticism creates a close conversation between present and past. Vaughan Williams once remarked that he didn't remember whether he had composed a piece or just remembered it. "I've not had a new musical idea since I was 30," he would later tell the conductor Christopher Finzi.

But as Saylor's new biography shows, Vaughan Williams was actively involved in building a tradition for the future - he did more than merely draw on the past. Where Saylor describes Vaughan Williams's work collecting folk songs as preservationist and promotional, Vaughan Williams's "revivalist and reformist" compilation of the New English Hymnal (confining his most hated Victorian hymns to an appendix nicknamed the Chamber of Horrors and replacing them with Tallis, Purcell, Gibbons and a lot of contemporary pieces - including some of his own) demonstrates his inclination to look afresh at traditions otherwise taken for granted. He was, according to previous biographer Michael Kennedy, "that extremely English product - the natural nonconformist with a conservative regard for the best tradition". But regard doesn't necessarily equate to reverence - a key duality Vaughan Williams battled with as he worked to find his own compositional voice and his own English tradition to situate it in.

In many ways the editorial approach taken by Vaughan Williams when compiling the hymnal - looking beyond received notions of taste - was mirrored in his music, which was criticised after the second world war. As Saylor notes, a new generation of composers and critics "took issue with the music and the aesthetic values that he had long promoted, such as his continued advocacy for the relevance of folksong and a robust culture of 'national music' for England".

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


This Canadian company wants to build a train-plane 'hybrid' that can go 620 miles per hour--take a look (Tom Huddleston Jr., 9/11/22, CNBC)

Toronto-based TransPod recently unveiled plans for a "FluxJet," a fully-electric transportation system that's "a hybrid between an aircraft and a train." The project, currently in the conceptual stage, would involve 82-foot-long, magnetically levitated trains that would carry passengers at roughly 621 miles per hour.

That's faster than a commercial jet, and roughly three times the speed of most high-speed trains -- with zero emissions, no less. The FluxJet would rely on "contactless power transmission," where the train would pull power from the existing electric grid through magnetic fields, the company says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Latino political power grows at the Massachusetts State House (Marcela García,  September 9, 2022, Boston Globe)

In the Latino-held seats, state Representatives Frank Moran, who represents Lawrence, Andover, and Methuen; Carlos González of Springfield; Andy X. Vargas of Haverhill; Jon Santiago of Boston; and Orlando Ramos, also of Springfield, all cruised to reelection. Representative Marcos Devers of Lawrence lost his primary to newcomer Latino candidate Francisco Paulino. On the state Senate side, Adam Gomez, who represents parts of Chicopee and Springfield, also won his unchallenged primary. They all are the presumptive winners since their races remain uncontested in the November general election. (Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Senate, gave up reelection to run for governor.)

Meanwhile, of the potentially new Latino legislators, just Chelsea's Judith Garcia and Chicopee's Shirley Arriaga face an opponent in November. The rest, Sam Montaño of Boston, Manny Cruz of Salem, and Estela Reyes, Pavel Payano, and Paulino of Lawrence, will be unopposed on the ballot.

"There were only three Latino legislators when I first got elected as state representative in 2003," Sánchez, now a senior adviser at Rasky Partners, told me. "[Tuesday's primary] election was a turning point for Latinos in Massachusetts. These victories reflect not only that Latinos can win in Latino districts but that Latinos can appeal to a greater electorate in the Commonwealth. We see it nationally and now we're seeing it here. It's about time."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A necessity': Lebanon's forced conversion to solar (Aya Iskandarani, September 11, 2022, AFP)

Thanks to solar energy, residents of the northern Lebanese village of Toula are finally able to enjoy ice cream again -- a treat in a sun-baked country plagued by power cuts.

Lebanon's economy collapsed in 2019 after decades of corruption and mismanagement, leaving the state unable to provide electricity for more than an hour or two per day.

Last winter, the mountain village of Toula barely had three hours of daily generator-driven electricity.

Solar power now helps keep the lights on for 17 hours, an engineer working on the alternative energy project said.

"For two years the kids have been asking for ice cream, now it's finally time," said Toula mini-market owner Jacqueline Younes, beaming.

"We are waiting for our first order of ice cream to arrive."

While many Lebanese rely on costly generators for electricity, a growing number of homes, companies and state institutions are turning to solar -- not out of environmental concern, but because it's their only option.

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The green king: Charles the environmentalist (AFP, September 10, 2022)

At Highgrove, Charles has cultivated a garden, which is open to the public, as well as a fully organic farm.

It initially left some neighbouring farmers sceptical, but has gradually become a successful business and sells its produce under the "Duchy Organic" brand in the high-end supermarket chain Waitrose.

"His Royal Highness has taken many steps personally to live in a more sustainable way," his official website for his tenure as prince of Wales said.

It noted about 90 percent of energy for office and domestic use now came from renewable sources, with around half that generated from on-site renewable sources such as solar panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps and the remainder from electricity and gas purchased from renewable sources.

For several years Charles has published his annual carbon footprint -- including unofficial travel -- which amounted to 445 tonnes in the year to March 2022.

His car, an Aston Martin owned for over 50 years, has been modified to run on surplus English white wine and whey from the cheese-making process.

It runs on a mixture of 85 percent bioethanol, and 15 percent unleaded petrol.

The monarch has been president of the WWF-UK animal charity since 2011, emulating his late father Prince Philip, who performed the same role from 1981 to 1996.

He is also the patron of several other associations, such as "Surfers Against Sewage", and made numerous speeches warning of the disappearance of biodiversity.

More recently, in April, he wrote an article for Newsweek magazine -- and also graced its cover -- headlined "our children are judging us".

His vocal stances on issues including the environment have prompted some criticism that he is departing from constitutional norms which see the royal family remain politically neutral at all times.

Charles has repeatedly vowed to remain true to constitutional practices, as recently as this week when he ascended to the throne.

But he may not see environmental and conservation causes as overtly political.

It's not political.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Former Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller subpoenaed by Justice Department (Sara Murray, 9/10/22, CNN)

Stephen Miller, a former White House speechwriter and senior adviser under President Donald Trump, has been subpoenaed by the Justice Department, a source tells CNN.

The department is seeking information about the Save America PAC, alleged "fake electors," and communications between Miller and a long list of people.

CNN has previously reported that a federal grand jury is examining the Save America leadership PAC, one of former President Donald Trump's main political and fundraising vehicles, in an expansion of the criminal investigation into the events surrounding the US Capitol attack on January 6, 2021.

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'They're in on it': GOP hopefuls loyal to Trump see enemies within own party (CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, 9/11/22, AP) 

Four US Republicans who have promoted false claims about the 2020 presidential election and are running for top state election offices said Saturday they were fighting against a corrupt system -- even pointing a finger at mysterious forces within their own party.

The candidates -- Arizona's Mark Finchem, Michigan's Kristina Karamo, Nevada's Jim Marchant and New Mexico's Audrey Trujillo -- said they want to overhaul how elections are run in their states. They appeared at a conference inside a South Florida hotel ballroom that featured numerous speakers falsely claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from former US president Donald Trump.

"Our biggest enemy is our own party," said Marchant, a businessman and former state lawmaker who was among Trump's most ardent supporters challenging President Joe Biden's 2020 win in Nevada. 

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EXCLUSIVE: Royal beekeeper has informed the Queen's bees that the Queen has died and King Charles is their new boss in bizarre tradition dating back centuries (JOHN DINGWAL, 9/10/22, MAILONLINE)

The bees have also been told, in hushed tones, that their new master is now King Charles III

Speaking from the Buckingham Palace gardens, Mr Chapple told MailOnline: 'I'm at the hives now and it is traditional when someone dies that you go to the hives and say a little prayer and put a black ribbon on the hive.

'I drape the hives with black ribbon with a bow.

'The person who has died is the master or mistress of the hives, someone important in the family who dies and you don't get any more important than the Queen, do you?

'You knock on each hive and say, 'The mistress is dead, but don't you go. Your master will be a good master to you.'

'I've done the hives at Clarence House and I'm now in Buckingham Palace doing their hives.'

At the height of summer, Mr Chapple takes care of over a million bees though by late summer their numbers have dropped.

He said: 'In Clarence House there are two hives and in Buckingham Palace there are five.

September 10, 2022

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Team Putin Admits Their Worst Case Scenario Is Coming True (Julia Davis, Sep. 9th, 2022, Daily Beast)

In the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin's top propagandists predicted a swift victory and derided the Ukrainian military as an unwilling bunch of incompetents. As the war dragged on, they continued to claim that Volodymyr Zelensky's government was about to fall. Faced with Ukraine's mounting counteroffensive, which is rapidly achieving impressive gains, Russian propagandists are now describing an enormous horde, armed with the best Western weaponry and swimming in foreign specialists.

With state TV studios full of doom and gloom, prominent pundits and experts seem to be preparing Russian audiences for future losses of occupied Ukrainian lands, which are being painstakingly reclaimed by the Ukrainian military. During Wednesday's broadcast of the state TV show 60 Minutes, host Evgeny Popov said: "We wish courage to our warriors, who are indeed doing very important work, they are resisting an enormous horde that has been trained in the West."

Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired Lieutenant-General of the Russian Armed Forces, claimed that the Ukrainian military is overflowing with American participants: "There are not only advisers, but specialists. I think that there are thousands of American advisers and specialists on the ground in Ukraine, they're probably present in every unit."

During his Wednesday's radio show, Full Contact, top Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov--with a noticeably bruised face--surmised: "I'm worried. Naturally, we want for our guys to crush [the other side] and only to advance, but life doesn't work that way." Solovyov refused to address the source of his injuries, but in light of Ukrainian military gains, his bruised ego was likewise on full display.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Leading the female film revolution: Pam Grier in London (Dr. Tim Sandle, September 10, 2022, Digital Journal)

Such was 73 year-old Grier's enthusiasm and prolonged answers, the forty minute session did not allow for too many questions, but Grier filled the time with an array of anecdotes.

These anecdotes covered her life growing up in relative poverty in a rural community to her attending film school in L.A. Grier as also briefly involved with the music scene, providing backing vocals for Bobby Womack and Sly Stone. She was spotted by horror-centric B-movie director Roger Corman, which provided an entry route into movies. This led to her taking the leading role in half-a-dozen 1970s films.

Pam Grier proved to be a witty, sharp, and amusing. She was also well aware of the interconnection between her work and changing societal norms and values. Not only did she help push actors of colour more into the mainstream she also advanced women in film, especially with the provision of leading roles for women in action orientated movies.

Many of Grier's 1970s works are associated with the 'blaxploitation' genera of movies. These movies, generally profitable and able to extend to a diverse audience, have equally been criticised of perpetuating stereotypical characters for certain sections of the community who often involved in criminal activity.

Grier acknowledges this but also the cultural significance of bringing black actors into the mainstream and with tilting the gender disbalance over certain roles.

In many of these films, the female role would simply be a scene setter for the male Grier's films, she is the lead and one that takes a proactive role. In the film that was shown at the BFI, 1974's Foxy Brown, Grier takes on a bests a criminal gang of largely white men. This movie is representative of Grier's '70s output, where her character displays a cunning ability to exact retribution on men who challenge her.

The iconic status of the role is apparent in the fact that Quentin Tarantino renamed the character of Jackie Burke from 'Rum Punch' to 'Jackie Brown', in his movie of the same name, as an homage to Foxy Brown.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


Artificial Intelligence Could Be a Great Equalizer: The benefits of AI will accrue not only to the wealthy and technologists but also to the poor and disadvantaged (Tyler Cowen, September 9, 2022, Bloomberg)

But the benefits of AI do not accrue only to those in the technology sector. AI makes many goods and services cheaper, and that in turn benefits the poor and disadvantaged. If software routes packages and shipments more efficiently, then transportation costs will be lower. If software and AI programs help economize on the use of electricity, then it will be easier to mitigate climate change. As computational biology improves health care, the sick will benefit.

The people who least need AI are the super-rich. They already can hire armies of servants to manage their obligations, schedules, and so on. They do not need to economize on the use of human labor. The rest of us do, whether directly or indirectly through the businesses we patronize.

Another benefit for lower-income groups is that current manifestations of AI do not usually displace the jobs of the poor. Many poor individuals hold jobs in the service sector or perform manual labor. Those tasks are either hard to automate (a robot gardener?) or, because wages are low, less profitable to automate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Moscow Municipal Lawmakers Demand Putin's Resignation (Radio Liberty, 9/10/22)

Municipal deputies in the Moscow district of Lomonosovsky have appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign, saying "everything went wrong" since the start of his second term and they believe a change of power is necessary for the sake of the country.

The deputies posted their protocol decision on the Lomonosovsky district's website, including a 30-minute video of their meeting on September 8.

In their appeal, the deputies emphasize that the aggressive rhetoric of Putin and his subordinates has thrown Russia back into the Cold War era. They disputed economic data showing a doubling of the country's GDP and said the minimum wage did not increase to the level declared by the government.

They also said smart and hard-working people have left Russia en masse, and there is no trace of the promised stability.

Addressing Putin directly, they said: "Your views, your management model are hopelessly outdated and impede the development of Russia and its human potential."

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


Kyiv claims 'astonishing' advances in east Ukraine (AFP, September 10, 2022)

Kyiv said Saturday its forces were making lightning gains in the east of the country in a shock counter-offensive to recapture territory that fell to Russia shortly after Moscow's February invasion.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meanwhile arrived in the Ukrainian capital for a surprise visit, which she said was to demonstrate Berlin's support for Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

"Ukrainian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more cities and villages. Their courage coupled with Western military support brings astonishing results," foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on social media. 

"It's crucial to keep sending arms to Ukraine. Defeating Russia on the battlefield means winning peace in Ukraine," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


Advocates make push for Montreal-to-Boston passenger rail (David Sharp, 9/09/22, Associated Press)

Rail advocates are dusting off a proposal for passenger train service between Montreal and Boston, riding a renewed interest in train travel to bolster a concept that has been around for more than a decade.

"It's not a hard sell at all. A lot of people want this," said Francois Rebello, a former national assembly member in Quebec and a consultant on the project.

Hundreds of travelers would ride a privately operated, overnight train each day if obstacles can be overcome to make the service a reality in coming years, according to a ridership study.

It wouldn't be a high-speed affair. Promoters envision a different experience -- a relaxed ride with a meal and sleep before arriving bright-eyed at the destination. The 14-hour ride would travel through Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.

The proposal comes against a backdrop of a rail revival, and more than $100 billion in railway infrastructure funding approved by Congress.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


An Icon, Not An IdolThe genius of a monarchy embedded in a democracy. (Andrew Sullivan, 9/09/22, Weekly Dish)

You can make all sorts of solid arguments against a constitutional monarchy -- but the point of monarchy is precisely that it is not the fruit of an argument. It is emphatically not an Enlightenment institution. It's a primordial institution smuggled into a democratic system. It has nothing to do with merit and logic and everything to do with authority and mystery -- two deeply human needs our modern world has trouble satisfying without danger.

The Crown satisfies those needs, which keeps other more malign alternatives at bay. No one has expressed this better than C.S. Lewis:

Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes, or film stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

The Crown represents something from the ancient past, a logically indefensible but emotionally salient symbol of something called a nation, something that gives its members meaning and happiness. However s[****]y the economy, or awful the prime minister, or ugly the discourse, the monarch is able to represent the nation all the time. In a living, breathing, mortal person.

The importance of this in a deeply polarized and ideological world, where fellow citizens have come to despise their opponents as enemies, is hard to measure. But it matters that divisive figures such as Boris Johnson or Margaret Thatcher were never required or expected to represent the entire nation. It matters that in times of profound acrimony, something unites. It matters that in a pandemic when the country was shut down, the Queen too followed the rules, even at her husband's funeral, and was able to refer to a phrase -- "we'll meet again" -- that instantly reconjured the days of the Blitz, when she and the royal family stayed in London even as Hitler's bombs fell from the sky.

Every Brit has a memory like this. She was part of every family's consciousness, woven into the stories of our lives, representing a continuity and stability over decades of massive change and dislocation. No American will ever experience that kind of comfort, that very human form of patriotism across the decades in one's own life and then the centuries before. When I grew up studying the Normans and the Plantagenets and the Tudors, they were not just artifacts of the distant past, but deeply linked to the present by the monarchy's persistence and the nation's thousand-year survival as a sovereign state -- something no other European country can claim.

The Queen was crowned in the cathedral where kings and queens have been crowned for centuries, in the same ceremony, with the same liturgy. To have that kind of symbolic, sacred, mystical thread through time and space is something that is simply a gift from the past that the British people, in their collective wisdom, have refused to return.

Long live the King.

Had George simply given us our own Parliament we'd not be so bereft. 

September 9, 2022

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US Supreme Court blocks ruling requiring Yeshiva University recognize LGBTQ club (LUKE TRESS, AGENCIES and TOI STAFF, 9/09/22, Times of Israel)

The US Supreme Court temporarily blocked a lower court's ruling requiring Yeshiva University in New York City to recognize a campus LGBTQ pride group.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted an emergency request on Friday, filed last week by the modern Orthodox university that cited its rights under the First Amendment, which protects the free exercise of religion. The university argued that such recognition would be contrary to its beliefs.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Steve Bannon's indictment reveals the truth about Trumpism (Andrew Gawthorpe, 9/09/22, The Guardian)

Although donors to the group were assured that 100% of their money would be used on construction, large sums were siphoned into the pockets of those running the group. And who as chairman of the board allegedly took the greatest sum of all? None other than Steve Bannon.

This affair - in which two people have already pleaded guilty - is a very direct example of a prominent figure in the Maga movement lining their pockets with the money of unsuspecting marks. But it also stands as a metaphor for the movement as a whole. Far from standing up for the interests of "ordinary Americans", Maga exists to funnel money, power and prestige to a small elite while not lifting a finger to improve the lives of anyone else.

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


The Weakness of Xi Jinping: How Hubris and Paranoia Threaten China's Future (Cai Xia, September/October 2022, Foreign Affairs)

I have long had a front-row seat to the CCP's court intrigue. For 15 years, I was a professor in the Central Party School, where I helped train thousands of high-ranking CCP cadres who staff China's bureaucracy. During my tenure at the school, I advised the CCP's top leadership on building the party, and I continued to do so after retiring in 2012. In 2020, after I criticized Xi, I was expelled from the party, stripped of my retirement benefits, and warned that my safety was in danger. I now live in exile in the United States, but I stay in touch with many of my contacts in China.

At the CCP's 20th National Party Congress this fall, Xi expects that he will be given a third five-year term. And even if the growing irritation among some party elites means that his bid will not go entirely uncontested, he will probably succeed. But that success will bring more turbulence down the road. Emboldened by the unprecedented additional term, Xi will likely tighten his grip even further domestically and raise his ambitions internationally. As Xi's rule becomes more extreme, the infighting and resentment he has already triggered will only grow stronger. The competition between various factions within the party will get more intense, complicated, and brutal than ever before.

At that point, China may experience a vicious cycle in which Xi reacts to the perceived sense of threat by taking ever bolder actions that generate even more pushback. Trapped in an echo chamber and desperately seeking redemption, he may even do something catastrophically ill advised, such as attack Taiwan. Xi may well ruin something China has earned over the course of four decades: a reputation for steady, competent leadership. In fact, he already has.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Drunken Rudy Giuliani went on Islamophobic rant, new book claims (MEE, 9 September 2022)

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and confidant of US President Donald Trump, lashed out with Islamophobic comments during a dinner party, according to a new book. The outburst likely contributed to his being overlooked for the position of Secretary of State.

At a 2016 dinner, an inebriated Giuliani mistook a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke for a Muslim and called out: "I'm sorry to have tell you this, but the founder of your religion is a murderer," according to a new book by Geoffrey Berman, a former US attorney for the southern district of New York (SDNY).

Giuliani went on to share a "wholly inaccurate, alt-right history of the creation and development of Islam, stating that it was an inherently violent religion from its origins to today", Berman writes.

The former New York mayor pulled his phone out to guests and "showed the group drawings of violent acts purportedly committed by Muslims".

"It was unbelievable," Berman said. "Rudy was unhinged. A pall fell over the room."

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Solar power saved Europe €29 billion in this summer's energy crisis (Paweł Czyżak, 9 September 2022, Renew Economy)

In a tough summer for Europe that brought record-high energy prices and sweltering heatwaves, solar power has provided some much-needed relief.

Our analysis published today reveals that record levels of solar power across the EU this summer avoided the need for 20bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas, which would have cost €29bn (£25bn) to import.

The success of solar could help shine a pathway out of the energy and climate insecurity that the EU is currently facing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


SolarBotanic Trees Launches Revolutionary Solar-Powered Tree (Off Grid Energy Independence)

SolarBotanic Trees today announces the arrival of its game-changing 'solar tree' designed to offer aesthetically pleasing and sustainable energy, ideally suited to large scale commercial environments such as flagship office sites and sports stadia.  [...]
This first-generation SolarBotanic Tree will eventually spawn a family of products, primarily aimed at the rapid Electric Vehicle charging market for homes, businesses and commercial car parks, where solar power can be captured and stored for charging points. It will also encompass a sophisticated AI-driven energy storage and power management system (PMS), where trees can be linked and form part of a local grid, or feed into the main grid, essential to optimise an increasingly electrified future. 

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Why Chileans rejected a new 'progressive' constitution: The left-wing government's proposed alternative would have made a mockery of democracy. (JAMES HEARTFIELD, 9th September 2022, spiked)

In 2018, Social Convergence, a new left-wing coalition led by Gabriel Boric, emerged. Amid widespread civil unrest breaking out in 2019, Boric's campaigning paved the way for the 2020 referendum, in which the public agreed a new constitution was needed. In 2021, a constitutional convention was set up to draft the new constitution. The convention's members were mostly elected, though it also contained several independent representatives from civil society and there were also seats reserved for indigenous representatives. In March 2022, Boric was elected as Chile's president, which seemed to give further momentum to the constitutional process.

But the constitutional convention quickly lost its way. The process was captured by left-wing activists. And conservatives were largely frozen out or alienated by the process.

The fundamental error made by the convention was that it behaved as if it were drafting policy, rather than a constitution. The representatives in the convention imagined Chile as they would like it to be, for now and for eternity, instead of drafting a constitution that would allow Chileans the freedom to decide for themselves what policies they should adopt in future.

The convention included an extraordinary number of new social rights, which ought really to have been policies rather than constitutional clauses. For instance, there were clauses guaranteeing gender quotas for public offices and the right of indigenous people to veto aspects of national policy. It also tried to enshrine certain 'rights' on behalf of nature and to recognise animals as sentient beings.

Some of these policies may be laudable on their own terms - some less so. But if enshrined in a constitution, they would undermine the very purpose of a democratic constitution, as they would bind future Chilean parliaments to a certain set of policies. In other words, the proposed new constitution would have actually restricted the democratic rights of citizens.

At some point, the constitutional convention lost sight of what it was supposed to be doing. Most of the left-wing participants failed to notice (or did not care) that they were not carrying much of the country with them through the process. They mistook the widespread public dissatisfaction with the political right (caused by years of economic turmoil) for popular support for left-wing social policies. Conservatives generally looked on the convention as either a bit of a joke or as something sinister, thanks to its support for liberal social policies on abortion and the family.

There was a sense that President Boric and the convention thought that they might be able to change the character of the country through the constitution. They wanted to bake in their ideas of progressive social change, by making them a part of the constitutional make-up.

Underlying this was a sentiment that the people were not really to be trusted with democracy. Ironically, in this sense, the proposed constitution was something of a left-wing mirror image of the old Pinochet-era constitution. Boric and his allies ended up proposing that their own political ideals should become fundamental laws that would be put beyond democratic contestation.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


THE PRO-LIFE LEGACY OF FRANCIS SCHAEFFER (Christopher Talbot, 9 . 5 . 22, First Things)

When the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision in late June, Christians of various traditions began to reflect on the incredible amount of work that had led up to this historic moment. Thousands of pregnancy centers throughout the United States and many pro-life organizations deserve our praise. Countless individuals over the past fifty years have worked tirelessly toward securing the right to life for the unborn--many of whom will only be fully recognized in eternity for their influential roles. Yet, there is one man in particular who made so much of this possible. 

Francis Schaeffer is very much the "father" of the pro-life movement among protestants. Without his work and influence, Dobbs may never have come to pass. Garry Wills, in his book Under God, rightly notes that regarding the increase in pro-life activism, "One man deserves more credit than anyone else--Francis Schaeffer." It was Schaeffer who developed the vision and framework for the pro-life movement as we understand it today. And yet, he was the exception during the early post-Roe years. Shortly after Roe was decided, former SBC president and pastor W. A. Criswell "felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person." Evangelicals in the middle of the last century were largely unconcerned about the atrocities of abortion, and were ambivalent toward activism on the matter. Advocacy for the unborn was deemed a "Catholic issue," unimportant to many protestants.

Not to Francis Schaeffer.

Because human beings are made in the image of God, they possess inherent dignity. This principle influenced Schaeffer's apologetics as much as it did his public theology. He embodied this doctrine in the way he conversed with skeptics and cared for the most vulnerable. He believed each and every individual--regardless of their age, status, race, nationality--had immeasurable worth as a human being.

Because of this, Schaeffer challenged the heinous practice of abortion, which he regarded as an assault on the imago Dei. Without the imago Dei, he argued, human life is cheapened and lacks value, leading to an increase not only in abortion, but also in infanticide, euthanasia, child abuse, pornography, torture, crime, and violence. Schaeffer understood that abortion did not operate in isolation; it opened the doorway to other evils.

And Nationalism/Nativism

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Save the Children's Children: a review of What We Owe the Future: A Million-Year View by William MacAskill (Julian Baggini, September 2022, Literary Review)

Some things will happen anyway. The transition to renewable energy, for example, is almost inevitable, given its efficiency. Action today will only affect the pace of change. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


On Christianity: An essay as a foreword for Tom Holland's Dominion (Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 8/25/22, Incerto)

[T]his entire book revolves around one simple, but far-reaching thesis. By a mechanism dubbed the retrospective distortion, we look at history using the rear view mirror and flow values retroactively. So one would be naturally inclined to believe that the ancients, particularly the Greco-Romans, would seem like us, share the same wisdom, preferences, values, concerns, fears, hopes, and outlook, except, of course, without the iPhone, Twitter, and the Japanese automated toilet seat. But, no, no, not at all, Holland is saying. These ancients did not have the same values. In fact, Christianity did stand the entire ancient value system on its head.

The Greco-Romans despised the feeble, the poor, the sick, and the disabled; Christianity glorified the weak, the downtrodden, and the untouchable; and does that all the way to the top of the pecking order. While ancient gods could have their share of travails and difficulties, they remained in that special class of gods. But Jesus was the first ancient deity who suffered the punishment of the slave, the lowest ranking member of the human race. And the sect that succeeded him generalized such glorification of suffering: dying as an inferior is more magnificent than living as the mighty. The Romans were befuddled to see members of that sect use for symbol the cross -the punishment for slaves. It had to be some type of joke in their eyes.

Clearly pagans were not totally heartless -there are records of pagan cities in Asia Minor assisting other communities after a disaster but these are rare enough to confirm the rule[2].

There is also the presence of skin in the game in the new religion. Christianity, by insisting on the Trinity, managed to allow God to suffer like a human, and suffer the worst fate any human can suffer. Thanks to the complicated consubstantial relation between father and son, suffering was not a computer simulation to the Lord but the real, real thing. The argument "I am superior to you because I suffer the consequences of my actions and you don't" applies within humans and here in the relationship between humans and God. This extends, in Orthodox theology, to the idea that God, by suffering as a human, allowed humans to be closer to Him, and to potentially merge with Him via Theosis.

Once in, Christianity proved impossible to remove, and the Nazarean mindset and its structure directed its opponents, its heresies, and its replacement -starting with Julian and ending with the most recent accretions of secular humanism.

For Christianity had a sweet vindication when Julian The Apostate, falling for the retrospective distortion, decided to replace of the Church of Christianity by the Church of Paganism along similar organizational lines, with bishops and all the rest (what Chateaubriand called the "Levites"). Julian did not realize that paganism was a soup of decentralized and overlapping individual or collective club-like affiliations to gods.

What has been less obvious is that while we are inclined to believe that Christianity descends from Judaism, some of the reverse might be true. For even the mother-daughter relationship between Judaism and Christianity has been, as of late, convincingly challenged. " If there had been no Paul, there would have been no Rabbi Akiva" claims the theologian Israel Yuval[3] as we can see in Rabbinical Judaism the unmistakable footprints of Christianity.

Further East, Shiite Islam shares many features with Christianity, e.g. the same dodecadic approach, with twelve apostles, the last of whom will be associated with Jesus Christ, plus self-flagellation rituals around the memory of all-familiar martyrdom. These can be possibly attributed to a shared Levantine origin, but the Christian influence wholly accepted by Islamic scholars since Islam is backward compatible[4]. But it is clear that the latest position of Supreme Leader has been largely inspired by the Catholic hierarchy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


100 years of charles mingus: A compilation of the writer's favorite Charles Mingus tracks (MATT HANSON,  09/08/2022, Smart Set)

An unavoidable issue that Mingus struggled with all his life, and a very timely concern in our hyper-political times, is the indignities and complexities of race and racism in America. Race is a fiction that nevertheless writes the script of too much of American life. Mingus did his best to flip it. The story of Mingus's actual ancestral roots tends to change depending on who you ask, but Mingus was evidently part Black, part Chinese, part white, and possibly any number of other things.   

Being mixed race was evidently one of the reasons why he often felt on the outside of whatever group that was around. If you watch the documentary Triumph of the Underdog, he remembers what the schoolyard bullies called him, and suffice to say that it's unprintable. He sometimes described himself as always being too Black to be white and too white to be Black. This anguished mental state was clearly not an easy space to inhabit, especially in the tightly normative world of midcentury America, but that mélange of experiences and intersecting narratives is exactly what makes Mingus as American as anyone. 

It may be apocryphal, but I tend to believe the story that young Mingus was getting picked on all the time at school for being different and fighting so much that he was eventually taken to the school psychologist. The results of an IQ test informed him that apparently he was a genius and so don't let the other kids get him down. If anything, I think the story illustrates the essential contradictions that fueled the vision: his immense skill contending with his volatility, deep vulnerability balancing roiling anger, and sarcastic wit wrapped in an iron pride.    

Life ain't easy for any musician (just ask, they'll tell you) but it's notoriously tough for jazz musicians. The often long, wordless, complex music doesn't have the easy absorption of your average three-minute singalong pop tune. Mingus certainly intended to rouse and captivate his audiences, but that became increasingly harder to do as rock and roll started to take over the airwaves in the '50s and '60s. Every performer wants to get people to listen. And it isn't always the easiest thing to do when playing a complex, intricate tune amid the bustle of a crowded, smoky nightclub with drinks clinking and talk circulating, made worse when the paying audience (which is, needless to say, tends to be predominantly white) is expecting to be entertained rather than challenged or confronted. 

Jazz's vital reliance on improvisation and teamwork makes it harder to phone it in, as plenty of successful pop bands tend to do whenever they want the easy money of a legacy tour. You've got to be totally present, utterly in the pocket, with all synapses firing fully and precisely to play good jazz, let alone court exquisitely orchestrated chaos with a mercurial Mingus as ringmaster night after night. This is probably why his musicians tended to stick with him despite all the macho bullshit: all that berating, the smashed stuff, the punchouts, and all the rest of it. Mingus played an already demanding music to its fullest extent, and this made the people around him better, upping their game by keeping them on edge. That's a test that only a few can pass; many are called but few are chosen   

Genius that he was, Mingus did the first crucial thing that all artists must do and mastered the forms that he inherited from his musical ancestors, especially Duke Ellington. Then he proceeded to take them apart with dissonance, free improvisation, poetry, and genre-bending. A natural if temperamental leader, the number of gifted musicians he collaborated with is remarkable. In true jazz style, their story cannot be told without his story, and his story is inseparable from theirs. Mingus often willfully confronted his audiences, demanding the tribute of fully paid attention, ("Isaac Stern doesn't have to put up with this s[***]") and, in return, he and his crew gave them everything they had, which was big helpings of everything. 

So now that we've had some time to let his legend grow and his reputation develop and we take his greatness for granted, let's give him the attention he deserves, shall we? Friends, newbies, fans, and the idly curious are all invited to pull up a chair, light something up and/or pour yourself a drink and lend the mighty Mingus your ears. Here follows a selection of some of my favorite Mingus tunes, with a few supplemental texts offered as guides to the perplexed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Died: Queen Elizabeth II, British Monarch Who Put Her Trust in God: In her seven-decade reign, she spoke regularly of the importance of her personal faith. (DUDLEY DELFFS,  SEPTEMBER 8, 2022, CT)

[T]he Queen's faith was more than the product of polite deference to historical tradition. Throughout her reign, she articulated the importance of her faith and recommended it to her subjects.

"For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life," she said in 2000. "I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ's words and example."

In 2002 the Queen endured a painful year of personal losses with the deaths of her sister, Princess Margaret, and the Queen Mother. In her annual Christmas address that year, she spoke of how her faith had sustained her.

"I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad," she said. "Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

The Queen consistently extended her influence to acknowledge and celebrate religious diversity and tolerance in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations, and throughout the world. Her Majesty's Christmas and Commonwealth Day messages often addressed the theme of interfaith harmony and respectful tolerance. Leaders of various faiths and denominations regularly attended royal ceremonies, including weddings and services of thanksgiving, at the invitation of the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the Queen attended a multifaith reception at Lambeth Palace, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, featuring the leaders of eight faiths in the United Kingdom including Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. At this event, the Queen said, "Faith plays a key role in the identity of millions of people, providing not only a system of belief but also a sense of belonging. It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged. They remind us of the responsibilities we have beyond ourselves."

The Queen's efforts were recognized in 2007 by the Three-Faiths Forum, an organization dedicated to building understanding and lasting relationships between people of all faiths and beliefs. It presented Her Majesty with the Sternberg Interfaith Gold Medallion, awarded to individuals who have helped promote peace and tolerance among people of different faiths.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


How Christianity Influenced the Development of Capitalism in Medieval Europe: Jacob Soll on Piety and Profits in the Middle Ages (Jacob Soll, September 9, 2022, Lit Hub)

Franciscan poverty posed a real threat to the Church. While most Franciscans preached peace, other groups of radical mendicant friars, such as the Northern Italian Dolcinian sect of the early 1300s, periodically led powerful and violent movements to overthrow the social order and destroy the Church as an institution of private property. The Church sent armies against them, and in 1307, the leader of the movement, Fra Dulcino, was captured and burned at the stake.

The Scottish Franciscan monk and Scholastic philosopher John Duns Scotus took a more nuanced view of pricing than Aquinas, proposing that prices came neither from balanced exchange nor from moral rules. Rather, he believed they came from a freely working secular market process. Private property was not the purview of the Church, which was ill equipped to understand all the market activities that went into creating value.

As Duns Scotus saw it, prices came from quantity and from the value of labor and expertise. To understand a price, one had to take into account "diligence, prudence, care, as well as the risk one accepts in doing such business." Therefore, it was very difficult for churchmen to calculate market prices.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


The Rings of Power: The Necessity of Vigilance and the Limits of Beauty (Marc LiVecche, September 9, 2022, Providence)

[I]n place of a full-throated review I want to reflect instead, on what I take to be a pair of central themes developing through the first two episodes and to consider how they might be viewed through the lens of Christian realism.

The first theme grounds the second. Except for a brief introduction, The Rings of Power plays out in Middle Earth's seismic Second Age, which began following the successful termination of the War of Wrath and the defeat of Morgoth, the satanic antagonist of the First Age. Morgoth's chief lieutenant, Sauron, was himself greatly weakened. He fled and hid, slowly reconsolidating his power over more than a millennium. Our story begins here, with Galadriel, known to LOTR fans as the Lady of the Woods of Lothlórien, leading a company of elven fighters in search of Sauron, who she rightly believes remains a threat to Middle Earth . As she puts it in a voiceover, "For though Morgoth fell an age ago, some feared a new evil would rise from his shadow." Not everyone agrees with Galadriel's dire assessment that Sauron is still alive. She laments:

The trail grew thin. Year gave way to year. Century gave way to century. And for many elves, the pain of those days passed out of thought and mind. More and more of our kind began to believe the Sauron was but a memory, and that the threat at last was ended.

Galadriel knows such lulls might prove deadly. "Evil does not sleep. It waits," she warns. "And in the moment of our complacency, it blinds us." In this, she voices a principle that runs through much of Tolkien: the need to maintain constant vigilance against the advent or rekindling of evil. Considering his beloved hobbits, for instance, it is emphasized at several points in LOTR that the hobbits' insular lifestyle of quiet normality is made possible only because of the watchfulness of valorous men who stand guard outside their borders, entirely unbeknownst to the hobbits themselves. It's reasonable to think this sentiment was fortified by Tolkien's own combat experience. Shortly after being married in 1916, Tolkien was sent into action at the Battle of the Somme, during which he lost several close friends and was himself invalided to a hospital for trench fever. [...]

But this emphasis on vigilance seems merely the ground for The Rings of Power's more significant point of focus. While being watchful is essential, knowing what to watch out for can be harder than it seems.

In an early dialogue in the beginning of the premier episode, a youthful Galadriel is speaking with her older brother about good and evil. He says to her:

Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward, the darkness of the water is vast, irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret. For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward, but up. Fixed on the light that guides her. Whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew.

On the one hand, the image has much to say about resisting temptation--a perennial issue in Tolkien's universe. But Galadriel offers an important insight: "But sometimes the lights shine just as brightly reflected in the water as in the sky. It's hard to say which way is down. How am I to know which lights to follow?"

How indeed? Fans of the LOTR know that what might seem like light is actually darkness. The Ring of Power itself is like the darkness of Galadriel's brother's invocation. It beguiles its victims into believing that it is a desirable thing, drawing them down beneath its power--possessing them until they abandon all good things in life to devout themselves to this false divine.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Why Ukraine Will Win: The country's military is advancing on the battlefield. If Ukraine defeats Russia's massive army, the ripple effects will be felt across the globe.  (Francis Fukuyama, September 2022, Journal of Democracy)

First is the question of why the war occurred in the first place. [...]

The real threat perceived by Putin was in the end not to the security of Russia, but to its political model. He has asserted that liberal democracy didn't work generally, but was particularly inappropriate in the Slavic world. A free Ukraine belied that assertion, and for that reason had to be eliminated.

The second critical point concerns Western solidarity in support of Ukraine. Up to now, the continuing supply of weapons and economic sanctions have been absolutely critical to Ukraine's ability to resist Russian power. Most observers have in fact been surprised by the degree of solidarity shown by NATO, and particularly by the turnaround in German foreign policy. [...]

Thirdly, a Russian military failure--meaning at minimum the liberation of territories conquered after 24 February 2022--will have enormous political reverberations around the world. Russia and China prior to the war argued that liberal democracies, particularly the United States, were in decline. They argued that their authoritarian systems were better at accomplishing big tasks and acting decisively. What has happened instead is that the Russian model of centralized decision-making, centered around one man, has committed one of the gravest political blunders in recent history. Putin, isolated during the pandemic and out of touch with the reality both of his own military and of public opinion in Ukraine, believed that he would be greeted there as a liberator. China, for its part, is seeing its rate of growth tanking as the result of a "zero-Covid" policy that its paramount leader, Xi Jinping, seems determined not to waver from. Western democracies, by contrast, have appeared united and determined in the face of this challenge.

If the Ukrainians don't simply hold out against Russia but actually defeat Russia's massive army and force it to retreat, the positive reverberations will be felt across the globe. Populist nationalists around the world, from Viktor Orbán to Matteo Salvini to Marine Le Pen to Donald Trump, have expressed admiration for Putin's style of strongman rule. A Russian defeat and humiliation will puncture this narrative of the advantages of authoritarian government, and might lead to a rekindling of democratic self-confidence. It has been easy for publics in Western democracies to take for granted the peace and prosperity brought about by the liberal world order. It may be the case that every generation needs to relearn the lesson that the alternatives to liberal democracy lead to violence, repression, and ultimately economic failure. Such a lesson will be driven home if the world sees brave Ukrainians fighting for their country succeed beyond all expectations.

Ukraine will win. Slava Ukraini!

Now to trick Xi into attacking Taiwan so we can crush him too.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Donkey domestication happened 7,000 years ago in Africa: DNA study (Agence France-Presse, September 8, 2022)

Despite transforming history as beasts of burden essential for transporting goods and people, the humble donkey has long been woefully understudied.

But scientists on Thursday took a big step towards clarifying the species' origins with a comprehensive genomic analysis of 238 ancient and modern donkeys, finding they were likely domesticated in a single event in eastern Africa some 7,000 years ago.

The domestication of animals is a function of the desire to domesticate animals.

September 8, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Trump's Save America PAC finds itself in DOJ's crosshairs (BETSY WOODRUFF SWAN, 09/08/2022, Politico)

 The Washington Post calculated that as of June of this year, half the money given to Save America came from retirees.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:24 AM


Why electricity prices are rising unevenly across New England (Miriam Wasser, 9/08/22, WBUR)

The primary reason for the spike is our reliance on fossil fuels. Specifically, natural gas.

Natural gas accounts for about 38% of the country's electricity, though here in New England, it's more like 53%. And the price of our main source of energy is anything but stable.

Gas prices are extremely volatile

Historically, New England burned oil and coal for power, but we switched many of our plants over to natural gas after the "fracking boom" in the early 2000s. Supply was high and prices were cheap, which was good for consumers, but not sustainable, said Dennis Wamsted, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Indeed, prices started to rise after the U.S. began turning its glut of natural gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and exporting it.

The COVID pandemic in 2020 temporarily disrupted this trend; the global economy came to a halt and many oil and gas operations curtailed production. But as demand for fossil fuels began to rebound in 2021, supplies haven't recovered as quickly. This has meant steadily rising prices. Add in some record-setting cold temperatures in many parts of the country this past winter, and prices have gone up even more.

"And then Russia invaded Ukraine and the world changed," said Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association. "We are now facing the largest international energy crisis of my lifetime. [We're] seeing enormous volatility across all the energy commodities, and in particular, natural gas and oil."

Russia is the second-largest producer and the largest exporter of natural gas in the world, and its invasion of Ukraine in late February sent global energy prices into a frenzy. In fact, natural gas experienced its biggest 30-day price swing of the last two decades after the war began.

There's another important factor that helps explain why New England pays a lot for natural gas. We simply have a hard time getting it. We don't sit on top of any fossil fuel reserves and we are at the end of the gas pipeline system, which means we can't easily bring in more when demand calls for it.

"We just have a physical constraint of how much gas we can deliver through the pipeline system to New England," said Ben Butterworth, director of climate, energy & equity analysis at the Acadia Center.

Thralldom to fossil fuel was a mistake.  Use the resources we have: sun, wind, hydrogen, etc.
Posted by orrinj at 10:52 AM


Steve Bannon surrenders to Manhattan DA (JULIAN SHEN-BERRO, 09/08/2022, Politico)

Longtime Trump ally and former White House adviser Stephen Bannon handed himself over to New York state prosecutors on Thursday.

Bannon, 68, reported to the Manhattan District attorney's office a little after 9 a.m. The office confirmed his pending indictment. He faces criminal charges for his role in a group that raised $25 million to build a wall along the border with Mexico, but which federal prosecutors said defrauded donors for the group's own enrichment instead.

He'll finally have time to write The Rest of My Struggle...

Posted by orrinj at 10:48 AM


The GOP Respose to Biden's Democracy Speech Proves His Point Yep, they are dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump. (Jonathan Chait, 9/08/22, New York)

Last week, President Biden delivered a speech warning that Donald Trump's authoritarian movement posed a threat to American democracy. The Republican response did more to confirm his point than anything he said.

Biden's main argument was simple: A wing of the Republican Party aligned with Trump refuses to renounce violence, respect the integrity of elections, or accept the rule of law. Biden argued that this faction composes a minority of the party, but has been able to bully the party's officials into compliance:

Now, I want to be very clear -- (applause) -- very clear up front: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.

I know because I've been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.

But there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country. [...]

It was obviously predictable that the party's Trumpiest voices would respond to a critique of Trumpism with knee-jerk hostility. Lauren Boebert called it "one of the most disgusting and decisive speeches in American history." (She presumably meant to say "divisive," not "decisive.") Fox News personalities Mollie Hemingway and Tucker Carlson were even more unhinged.

If you thought he was talking about you he was.

Posted by orrinj at 10:44 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


'London Bridge is down': the secret plan for the days after the Queen's death (Sam Knight,  17 Mar 2017, The Guardian)

In the plans that exist for the death of the Queen - and there are many versions, held by Buckingham Palace, the government and the BBC - most envisage that she will die after a short illness. Her family and doctors will be there. When the Queen Mother passed away on the afternoon of Easter Saturday, in 2002, at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, she had time to telephone friends to say goodbye, and to give away some of her horses. In these last hours, the Queen's senior doctor, a gastroenterologist named Professor Huw Thomas, will be in charge. He will look after his patient, control access to her room and consider what information should be made public. The bond between sovereign and subjects is a strange and mostly unknowable thing. A nation's life becomes a person's, and then the string must break.

There will be bulletins from the palace - not many, but enough. "The Queen is suffering from great physical prostration, accompanied by symptoms which cause much anxiety," announced Sir James Reid, Queen Victoria's physician, two days before her death in 1901. "The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close," was the final notice issued by George V's doctor, Lord Dawson, at 9.30pm on the night of 20 January 1936. Not long afterwards, Dawson injected the king with 750mg of morphine and a gram of cocaine - enough to kill him twice over - in order to ease the monarch's suffering, and to have him expire in time for the printing presses of the Times, which rolled at midnight.

Her eyes will be closed and Charles will be king. His siblings will kiss his hands. The first official to deal with the news will be Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen's private secretary, a former diplomat who was given a second knighthood in 2014, in part for planning her succession.

Geidt will contact the prime minister. The last time a British monarch died, 65 years ago, the demise of George VI was conveyed in a code word, "Hyde Park Corner", to Buckingham Palace, to prevent switchboard operators from finding out. For Elizabeth II, the plan for what happens next is known as "London Bridge." The prime minister will be woken, if she is not already awake, and civil servants will say "London Bridge is down" on secure lines. From the Foreign Office's Global Response Centre, at an undisclosed location in the capital, the news will go out to the 15 governments outside the UK where the Queen is also the head of state, and the 36 other nations of the Commonwealth for whom she has served as a symbolic figurehead - a face familiar in dreams and the untidy drawings of a billion schoolchildren - since the dawn of the atomic age.

For a time, she will be gone without our knowing it. The information will travel like the compressional wave ahead of an earthquake, detectable only by special equipment. Governors general, ambassadors and prime ministers will learn first. Cupboards will be opened in search of black armbands, three-and-a-quarter inches wide, to be worn on the left arm.

The rest of us will find out more quickly than before. On 6 February 1952, George VI was found by his valet at Sandringham at 7.30am. The BBC did not broadcast the news until 11.15am, almost four hours later. When Princess Diana died at 4am local time at the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris on 31 August 1997, journalists accompanying the former foreign secretary, Robin Cook, on a visit to the Philippines knew within 15 minutes. For many years the BBC was told about royal deaths first, but its monopoly on broadcasting to the empire has gone now. When the Queen dies, the announcement will go out as a newsflash to the Press Association and the rest of the world's media simultaneously. At the same instant, a footman in mourning clothes will emerge from a door at Buckingham Palace, cross the dull pink gravel and pin a black-edged notice to the gates. While he does this, the palace website will be transformed into a sombre, single page, showing the same text on a dark background.

Screens will glow. There will be tweets. At the BBC, the "radio alert transmission system" (Rats), will be activated - a cold war-era alarm designed to withstand an attack on the nation's infrastructure. Rats, which is also sometimes referred to as "royal about to snuff it", is a near mythical part of the intricate architecture of ritual and rehearsals for the death of major royal personalities that the BBC has maintained since the 1930s. Most staff have only ever seen it work in tests; many have never seen it work at all. "Whenever there is a strange noise in the newsroom, someone always asks, 'Is that the Rats?' Because we don't know what it sounds like," one regional reporter told me.

All news organisations will scramble to get films on air and obituaries online. At the Guardian, the deputy editor has a list of prepared stories pinned to his wall. The Times is said to have 11 days of coverage ready to go. At Sky News and ITN, which for years rehearsed the death of the Queen substituting the name "Mrs Robinson", calls will go out to royal experts who have already signed contracts to speak exclusively on those channels. "I am going to be sitting outside the doors of the Abbey on a hugely enlarged trestle table commentating to 300 million Americans about this," one told me.

For people stuck in traffic, or with Heart FM on in the background, there will only be the subtlest of indications, at first, that something is going on. Britain's commercial radio stations have a network of blue "obit lights", which is tested once a week and supposed to light up in the event of a national catastrophe. When the news breaks, these lights will start flashing, to alert DJs to switch to the news in the next few minutes and to play inoffensive music in the meantime. Every station, down to hospital radio, has prepared music lists made up of "Mood 2" (sad) or "Mood 1" (saddest) songs to reach for in times of sudden mourning. "If you ever hear Haunted Dancehall (Nursery Remix) by Sabres of Paradise on daytime Radio 1, turn the TV on," wrote Chris Price, a BBC radio producer, for the Huffington Post in 2011. "Something terrible has just happened."

Having plans in place for the death of leading royals is a practice that makes some journalists uncomfortable. "There is one story which is deemed to be so much more important than others," one former Today programme producer complained to me. For 30 years, BBC news teams were hauled to work on quiet Sunday mornings to perform mock storylines about the Queen Mother choking on a fishbone. There was once a scenario about Princess Diana dying in a car crash on the M4.

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:00 AM


United Airlines raises bet on electric air taxis with 200 aircraft from upstart Eve (Leslie Josephs, 9/08/22, CNBC)

United Airlines is pouring more money into the future of electric air taxis, which the carrier says could help reduce carbon emissions once the aircraft come to market and replace car trips.

The carrier said Thursday that it agreed to buy 200 electric air taxis from Eve Air Mobility, an Embraer-backed startup, and that it has options to purchase 200 more. Chicago-based United is also investing $15 million in Eve, which listed on the New York Stock Exchange in May.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


The Queen's Tears (Mark Steyn, September 16th 2001, National Review)

The foreign leader who said it best last week was the Queen, though she didn't really say a word. I have met Her Majesty from time to time (I am one of her Canadian subjects), and to put it at its mildest, for those with a taste for American vernacular politics, she can be a little stiff: the Queen stands on ceremony and she has a lot of ceremony to stand on. But on Thursday, for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, she ordered the Coldstream Guards to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" - the first time a foreign anthem had been played at the ceremony.

The following day something even more unprecedented happened: at Britain's memorial service for the war dead of last Tuesday, the first chords of "The Star-Spangled Banner" rumbled up from the great organ at St Paul's Cathedral, and the Queen did something she's never done before - she sang a foreign national anthem, all the words. She doesn't sing her own obviously ("God Save Me"), but she's never sung "La Marseillaise" or anything else, either; her lips never move.

And at that same service she also sang "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic", for the second time in her life - the first was at the funeral of her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. On Friday, she fought back tears. When she ascended the throne, Harry Truman was in the White House. The first President she got to know was Eisenhower, back in the war, when he would come to the Palace to brief her father. She is the head of state of most of the rest of the English-speaking world - Queen of Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas, Belize, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, etc. But she understands something that few other leaders of the west seem to - that today the ultimate guarantor of the peace and liberty of her realms is the United States. If America falls, or is diminished, or retreats in on itself, there is no "free world". That's the meaning of the Queen's "Ich bin ein Amerikaaner" moment.

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


Most Americans see Trump's MAGA as threat to democracy: Reuters/Ipsos poll (Jason Lange, 9/08/22, Reuters) 

Days after Democratic President Joe Biden gave a fiery speech attacking former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies as an extremist threat, a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Wednesday found a majority of Americans believe Trump's movement is undermining democracy.

Fifty-eight percent of respondents in the two-day poll - including one in four Republicans - said Trump's "Make America Great Again" movement is threatening America's democratic foundations.

Just because they want to reinstitute the Confederacy?

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


'He Was Bored': Historian Alexander Etkind On Putin's Mechanisms Of Self-Destruction In Ukraine War (Sergei Medvedev, 9/08/22, Radio Liberty)

Famously, one of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's favorite phrases was, "It's boring in the world, gentlemen!" And according to Vienna-based historian, culturologist, professor, and author Alexander Etkind, Dostoyevsky stands as a particular hero to current Russian President Vladimir Putin for exactly this sentiment.

Etkind, born in St. Petersburg, is well-known in the world of the humanities and social sciences for his series of books that have become fundamental to the perception of Russian history.

In an interview with RFE/RL, he delves into the need to psychoanalyze the deep pathology that has manifested itself in the current Russian government, and he maintains that it is through the understanding of Russia's past preoccupations and prerogatives that we can glimpse the true mechanism of Putin's motives in detaching modern Russia from the modern world -- and, ultimately, its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

RFE/RL: Your book Eros Of The Impossible: The History Of Psychoanalysis In Russia, published in 1993, is a collection of essays about Russia's Silver Age (1890-1917) from a psychoanalytical perspective. Nietzsche plays an important role in the intellectual history of that period, and you write that everywhere else Nietzscheism was a beautiful intellectual game, but in Russia it was practical Nietzscheism. Lenin is a practical example. Can we apply an understanding of Nietzsche to what is happening in Russia now, to its war in Ukraine, and to Putin himself?

Alexander Etkind: The first chapters speak of there being a strange combination of Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud. This led to extraordinary phenomena: Trotsky, for example, was both a Nietzschean and a Freudian, although he considered himself, of course, exclusively a Marxist. The most difficult thing for these people was the idea of a "superman." For Trotsky, as for Gorky, and for other people, this idea was essential: to create new people, and these people will live in a completely new way.

Putinism, unfortunately, is intellectually very poor. I believe Trotsky read Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, but I don't believe Putin has read anything like that.... Once upon a time, [Andrei] Illarionov, the [former] chief economic adviser to the Russian president, gave him Ayn Rand to read.

Can't help but be hopeless.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


EVs aren't straining the electric grid -- and they just might save it (Joann Muller, 9/08/22, Axios)

Even if they're plugged in all day, owners can schedule when they need their car to be fully charged. Then smart charging technology will automatically find the optimal time to charge.

Where it stands: Many utilities commonly charge customers lower rates for electricity use during off-peak hours, which is helpful when charging an EV at home.

Utilities also typically reward EV owners with discounts for participating in "demand response" programs that automatically interrupt charging briefly when demand is high, allowing the utilities to smooth out energy peaks and avoid blackouts.

What's next: Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology takes that relationship even further, enabling utilities to draw power out of an EV when it's most needed. That's already working for school buses.

Car owners set the rules about how much energy they're willing to give back, and when. [...]

Using a special charger introduced this week from Fermata Energy, Leaf owners can earn money selling electricity to their utility without affecting their car's battery warranty.

The city of Boulder, Colorado, for example, saved about $250 a month on electricity by using a Nissan Leaf to power a city-owned recreation building in a pilot project.

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Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Deflation -- Not Inflation -- Is the Real Concern (DAVID BLANCHFLOWER, 09/08/2022, Politico)

The only reason inflation would rise again is with another shock. The Covid supply shock was ebbing away which made the Fed think inflation was temporary, but then another shock -- the Ukraine war -- gave prices a boost again. But now prices are headed down and inflation is temporary, unless another Covid shock comes along, say. And unfortunately, central bankers have little clue on how to fix deflation and the kind of depressed economy that follows.

The longest timeline on the path of inflation that exists anywhere is instructive. The data is downloadable from the Bank of England in "FRED" and shows Consumer Price Inflation for the U.K. since 1210. (The U.S. for age reasons can't compete.) The chart shows after bursts of high inflation, it's common to see years of falling prices. Deflation occurred in 340 of these years. High inflation is not usually followed by nearly as high inflation. Historically that doesn't happen.

Oil prices have been sliding as have the prices of many commodities. An important signal of what is coming is the Baltic Dry Index, which collapsed in June 2008 ahead of that year's economic crisis and is in freefall again. It is the daily price of renting giant ships called capesize vessels, which are too big to go through the Suez or Panama canals. Prices are announced at 10 a.m. daily on the Baltic Exchange in London; wheat and coal are dry, oil is wet. BDIY was 5600 in November and today it is 1100 and the cost of shipping containers has halved in 2022. None of this is a surprise given that China's economy is slowing, with the lowest growth rate in 40 years and the Eurozone and the U.K. are already in recession. When global demand is falling, ships stop sailing and prices drop. Deflation is the fear.

Meanwhile, the conversion to renewables and mechanization are going to nearly remove the cost of labor and energy from production. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Israeli study: Vaccines slash long COVID cases, with 80% drop in shortness of breath (NATHAN JEFFAY, 9/08/22, Times of Israel)

Coronavirus vaccines dramatically reduce the occurrence of long COVID, new Israeli research has shown.

All ten of the most common long COVID symptoms were reduced by at least 50 percent among people who had at least two vaccine shots, the peer-reviewed study found. The reduction in shortness of breath, for example, was 80%. [..]

"This is really the cherry on the top of the cake -- a benefit of vaccination that wasn't anticipated," Prof. Michael Edelstein, a Bar Ilan University epidemiologist who led the study, told The Times of Israel.

"We've known for a long time that vaccination reduces the severity of COVID-19 illness," he added. "We are starting to see evidence there is even more benefit, namely protection against unpleasant -- and sometimes life-altering -- long COVID symptoms. So there is now an extra reason to get vaccinated, if you ever needed one."

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Hydrogen-Powered Passenger Trains Are Now Running in Germany (Sarah Kuta, September 7, 2022, Smithsonian)

Once all 14 of the new trains are in service, the line will become the first route to run exclusively on hydrogen, according to a statement from Alstom, the France-based company that developed the trains.

The high-tech trains, called Coradia iLint, combine hydrogen with oxygen to produce power. The byproducts are only steam and water, and any heat created gets recycled and used to power the trains' air conditioning systems.

Diesel trains, on the other hand, produce high amounts of nitrogen dioxide pollution--even more so than cars traveling on busy streets, according to a study published last year. Developers say the new hydrogen trains are quiet, and they make the air cleaner for passengers to breathe.

"It's less noisy," says Bruno Marguet, an executive with Alstom, to Fast Company's Adele Peters. "You don't smell the diesel smoke when you're in the station... there aren't diesel emissions from [nitrogen oxides], which are harmful for health."

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


A Better Conservative Media and a Better Politics: Why I joined The Dispatch. (Nick Catoggio, 9/07/22, The Dispatch)

As I write this, the most powerful establishment conservative media outlet in America is being sued for defamation because some of its hosts were too eager to entertain theories that the 2020 election was stolen. Increasingly, the two tiers aren't so neatly distinguished.

Too much of conservative media defines big media by its worst episodes of ideological bias and information suppression and resolves to live down to that standard. When forced to choose between the truth and the cause, most right-wing sites now unfailingly choose the cause--to the extent there remains any "cause" beyond defending the authoritarian impulses of Donald Trump and his disciples. Many have become the propagandists they once undertook to expose, a facet of the Trump-era ethos that conservatives can succeed only by behaving as badly as their opponents have in their most depraved moments.

But here's the worst part. Many of their readers want it that way.

Not everyone who caters to a Trump-worshiping audience does so out of ardor. Many do it for grubby reasons of audience capture, because they fear losing the adulation (and remuneration) of their fans. There's a certain, not uncommon type of activist who reads partisan political sites simply to sate their desire for total war against the enemy. To them, if you're not fighting dirty, you're not trying to win. War is war, after all. Alienate that sort of rage-junkie and you might find that any relevance you had within your media niche disappears with them.

Conservative media needs better authorship and better readership. Which is why I'm here.

Steve Hayes and Jonah Goldberg have built a precious thing in The Dispatch, a publication with the right kind of writer and the right kind of reader. One of the few hopeful notes in conservative media over the last five years is that a new site that prioritizes the truth over the cause might find enough of an audience to grow quickly into the success that this one has become. As a Dispatch reader, I appreciate that the writers on this team aim above all to inform, not to own the libs. (Although lib-owning is often a natural consequence of better information.) And I admire them greatly for having resisted the vogue of illiberalism, the ends-justifies-the-means logic of "better an autocrat than a Democrat." In a populist age, they've held populism to account for its most toxic excesses.

As a Dispatch writer, I'll do the same.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


Researchers pluck green hydrogen from the air, without any need for liquid water (Sophie Vorrath, 8 September 2022, Renew Economy)

An electrolyser that collects atmospheric water vapor, including from seemingly "bone dry" air, and converts it into hydrogen has been developed by Australian and international researchers.

The breakthrough, led by a team at the University of Melbourne, paves the way to produce renewable hydrogen without the need to consume precious drinking water.

In a study published in Nature Communications, the prototype device, which absorbs moisture from the air and splits it into hydrogen and oxygen, is powered by solar and wind.

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Malthusian Theory Has Always Been False: A review of Superabundance: The Story of Population Growth, Innovation, and Human Flourishing on an Infinitely Bountiful Planet by Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley. (August 2022) (Robert Zubrin, 8 Sep 2022, Quillette)

The authors start by comparing today's Malthusians to Thanos, the villain of the blockbuster movie Avengers: Infinity War, whose goal was to kill half of all living beings in the universe to preserve its allegedly scarce resources. They then go on to show in considerable detail why, in the modern world, such thinking is not only deeply evil but completely counterfactual. That is, while human numbers have quadrupled worldwide since the 1950s, in virtually every category human wellbeing has radically improved. Average personal income has risen 315 percent in the USA, 278 percent in the UK, 82 percent in sub-Saharan Africa, 690 percent in India, and 1,936 percent in China, for an average of 307 percent overall. So, whereas Malthusian theory would predict that per capita income would decrease when the population quadrupled, it actually multiplied fourfold--and total worldwide income increased sixteenfold. Malthus said that population growth would outrun food supply, because population increases geometrically while food production increases arithmetically. But for the past 70 years (in fact, for the past 200 years), total worldwide income has increased as the square of the increase in population!

As the authors show, Malthusian projections of population growth leading to impoverishment have proven equally wrong in all other metrics of human wellbeing, including average global lifespan, which increased 38 percent over the period in question; infant mortality, which decreased 55 percent; per capita caloric intake, which increased 38 percent; battle deaths, down 95 percent; secondary school enrollment, up 90 percent; extreme poverty, down 75 percent;  and deaths by natural catastrophes, down 99 percent. Et cetera, et cetera.

The abundance of natural resources has also greatly increased. The authors show this by measuring the price of goods measured in average wage labor hours. This is a fair approximation, but it actually understates the authors' case, because the advance in technology has eliminated the need for people to engage in huge amounts of unpaid labor, especially in the area of housework. For example, a couple living in a house with running water, gas heat, and a washer and dryer can now spend time earning money that their ancestors would have previously needed to devote to hauling water, chopping wood, and washing and drying clothes by hand.

Nevertheless, even measured by this conservative metric, the average "time price" of 26 natural resources and commodities for US blue-collar workers has fallen by 98 percent (i.e., dropped by a factor of 50) since 1850. Globally, the increase in abundance has been even faster, with the average time price of the 37 top commodities tracked by the World Bank reducing by a factor of 14 since 1960. The statistics the authors advance to support their thesis of rapidly growing abundance in virtually every category of good for the past two centuries is encyclopedic, with over 180 pages of charts and tables of data presented. If anyone ever needs data to prove that the application of Malthusian theory to the modern world is total nonsense, they will find it in this book.

The book also has many other valuable features, including tracking the antihumanist conceit across history in the literary and philosophical genres. It also contains a collection of absurd apocalyptic predictions by arrogant Malthusians that offers so much fun as to make it alone worth the price of the book.

Even the Malthusians only ever think there are too many "others".

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Heat pumps can cut your energy costs by up to 90%. It's not magic, just physics (Alan Pears, 9/08/22, One Step Off the Grid)

Relative to an electric fan heater or traditional electric hot water service, I calculate a heat pump can save 60-85% on energy costs, which is a similar range to ACT government estimates.

Comparisons with gas are tricky, as efficiencies and energy prices vary a lot. Typically, though, a heat pump costs around half as much for heating as gas. If, instead of exporting your excess rooftop solar output, you use it to run a heat pump, I calculate it will be up to 90% cheaper than gas.

Heat pumps are also good for the climate. My calculations show a typical heat pump using average Australian electricity from the grid will cut emissions by about a quarter relative to gas, and three-quarters relative to an electric fan or panel heater.

If a high-efficiency heat pump replaces inefficient gas heating or runs mainly on solar, reductions can be much bigger. The gap is widening as zero-emission renewable electricity replaces coal and gas generation, and heat pumps become even more efficient.

Heat pumps available today achieve 300-600% efficiency - that is, for each unit of electricity consumed, they produce three to six units of heat. Heat pumps can operate in freezing conditions too.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Texas Mass Shootings Up 62.5 Percent Since Permitless Carry Bill  (Jef Rouner, 9/07/22, Reform Austin)

Just over a year ago, Governor Greg Abbott signed a law making it legal for anyone in Texas over the age of 21 to openly carry a gun in public without a permit or license.  Since then, the number of mass shootings has risen 62.5 percent.

Neither party is pro-life.
Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Marco Rubio downplays classified docs scandal as a 'storage' issue (Steve Benen, 9/06/22, MSNBC)

Six years ago, Sen. Marco Rubio repeatedly warned Americans that Donald Trump was so "dangerous" that he couldn't be trusted with highly sensitive national security secrets. As it turns out, the Florida Republican was right: Trump brought classified materials to his unsecure country club and refused to give them back, apparently putting our national security at risk.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Why the populists failed (Miquel Vila, September 07, 2022, UnHerd)

[F]or all its charming British idiosyncrasies, Johnson's rise and ignominious fall is not a drama specific to the UK but a defining feature of the first populist wave. Under this label, we can classify a diverse range of anti-establishment forces and leaders which rose to power in the period from 2014 to 2022, whether Donald Trump, Syriza, or the coalition government between the Movimento 5 Stelle and La Lega. These movements all represented different ideas and varying degrees of claimed distance from liberal power brokers, but they all campaigned under the slogan of taking power from the elites and giving it back to the people, promises they all singularly failed to achieve.

The promise and virtue of anti-establishment forces lay in their capacity to build their strength by gathering support from aggrieved sectors of the working and middle classes who felt the system was failing them. They introduced topics to the public agenda that were excluded from political debate. The new communication techniques introduced by populists disrupted traditional political parties. This ensured populist coalitions were successful election-winning machines, but governing effectively was an entirely different story. Perhaps one of the most significant traits populist governments share is that absolutely none of them actually fulfilled their pledge of rebuilding their nations anew.

The constraints of real-life governance will always water down any promise of revolutionary change. Nevertheless, the problem with that recent wave of anti-establishment governments is not that the reforms they implemented fell short, but that such reforms never even began. The first thing Trump did was to suspend the TPP and the TTIP agreements, but then his government failed to present a programme to re-industrialise America. Boris Johnson eventually got Brexit done, but his real merit was preventing Brexit from being actively undone by technocratic liberal activists. Leftist Syriza passionately campaigned against EU austerity measures but, in the end, surrendered before a humiliating memorandum imposed by the Troika. Overall, almost no remarkable policy change was delivered by any of the numerous anti-establishment governments that took office during the past 10 years.

This is because these new forces were always weaker than hysterical liberal pundits wanted us to believe. To begin with, populist platforms have often been unwieldy coalitions of the disenchanted, united around a charismatic leader and common contempt for liberal elites. Their leaders have often been excellent communicators -- especially compared with the boring centrist grey men -- but they rarely had deep ideas of their own. If populist governments did not deliver meaningful change, that is partly because they didn't know what exactly they wanted to do once in power. Political opportunism may get you into office, but it can't reform a country.

Without a clear set of ideas, populists had a hard time framing social events in ways that could break with traditional political allegiances. And once in power, sooner or later, they all withdrew to their original  ideological safe space. When BLM protests erupted around the country, Trump took a traditional Republican stand, invoking "law and order", though until then, a central part of his discourse relied on a strong mistrust of the deep state and the security apparatus. On the Left, we have seen how Bernie Sanders, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Podemos sided once and again with the liberal centre to "Stop Fascism". For a brief moment, it seemed possible that Boris Johnson would unleash the sovereign power of the British state towards reindustrialisation and finally lead the Tories from under Thatcher's shadow.

Despite their use of disruptive communication and reliance on mobilised grassroots, the platforms that enthroned populist leaders were ultimately all too similar to the traditional electoral machines they aimed to confront. In the case of Johnson or Trump, they used conventional parties with almost no internal reform. Regardless of the lack of clear vision at the top, populist platforms lacked a competent, reliable line of middle-ranking officials able to translate the orders of the command staff to the tailored demands of everyday politics. History teaches us that reliable bureaucracies are the backbone of good governance. Every visionary start-up leader needs a bunch of boring Excel drones, but the boring work of government was never quite to the populist, crowd-pleasing taste of Johnson, Trump, or Salvini.

For the hard work of actually governing, they'd have needed the immigrants they hate.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Schumer Super PAC Spends Millions To Damage Moderate Republican in New Hampshire Primary (Patrick Hauf,  September 7, 2022, Washington Free Beacon)

A super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) is spending millions in New Hampshire's Senate Republican primary to damage a moderate, competitive candidate--a move that benefits a pro-Trump challenger who has called the state's Republican governor a "Chinese Communist sympathizer."

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Elected officials, police chiefs on leaked Oath Keepers list (ALANNA DURKIN RICHER and MICHAEL KUNZELMAN, 9/07/22,  Associated Press)

The names of hundreds of US law enforcement officers, elected officials, and military members appear on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that's accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism pored over more than 38,000 names on leaked Oath Keepers membership lists and identified more than 370 people it believes currently work in law enforcement agencies -- including as police chiefs and sheriffs -- and more than 100 people who are currently members of the military.

It also identified more than 80 people who were running for or served in public office as of early August. 

September 7, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP leaders at a literal loss for words about Biden-era job growth (Steve Benen, 9/06/22, MSNBC)

Late last week, Americans received more great employment news: The economy added another 315,000 jobs in August, bringing the total for the year to 3.5 million jobs, with several months to go. This is a total more in line with what we'd expect to see in a full year, not eight months into the year. It also outpaces any individual year from Donald Trump's term.

But wouldn't you know it, GOP leaders on the Hill responded to the job numbers by saying literally nothing about the good news. No press releases, no tweets and no public comments. They literally found themselves speechless.

It's inherently queer the way folks root against the American economy depending on who's in office to get credit for it.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Dry Run: The Ouster of a County Official as an 'Insurrectionist' Creates Ominous Precedents for Trump (Roger Parloff, September 6, 2022, Lawfare)

A judge today removed a county official from office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, the hoary post-Civil War provision that bars certain people from holding office if they have "engaged in insurrection" against the United States.

Judge Francis Mathew, of the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, ousted Otero County (N.M.) Commissioner Couy Griffin, due to his involvement in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. According to lawyers who brought the case, it represents the first time a court has disqualified an official under Section 3 since 1869. (Congress refused to seat a U.S. congressman, Victor Berger, under the section in 1919.)

Mathew's 49-page ruling also marked the first formal judicial finding that the Capitol riot amounted to an "insurrection" within the meaning of that constitutional provision.

The decision could have enormous repercussions for the nation's next presidential race, as advocacy groups have vowed to try to bar Trump from appearing on state ballots on the grounds that his role in instigating the Capitol riot disqualifies him from holding federal office.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Paying billions in subsidies to fossil fuel industry makes absolutely no economic sense (Richard Denniss, 7 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Fossil fuel subsidies from major economies including Australia reached close to $US700 billion in 2021, almost doubling from 2020, according to new analysis by the International Energy Agency and OECD.

These subsidies are expected to keep rising in 2022 as governments worldwide attempt to use fossil fuel subsidies to shield customers from the high energy prices caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Reports: Steve Bannon facing N.Y. state indictment (Rebecca Falconer, 9/06/22, Axios)

Steve Bannon, former Trump chief strategist, is expected to face a new criminal indictment and surrender to New York prosecutors on Thursday, the Washington Post first reported on Tuesday.

September 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


Trump Says Geoff Diehl Will Rule Massachusetts With 'Iron Fist' If Elected (EWAN PALMER, 9/6/22, Newsweek)

Donald Trump called on Republican voters to back Geoff Diehl, his choice for governor in Massachusetts, in Tuesday's GOP primary, while promising the former state representative will "rule with an iron fist."

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 PM


Destroying ISIS: a review of Degrade and Destroy by Michael R. Gordon (Ralph L. Defalco iii, 9/06/22, Law & Liberty)

In the second part of Degrade and Destroy, Gordon recounts the 2014-2019 campaign that eventually destroyed ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Operation Inherent Resolve did not emerge from a dedicated planning process, nor was its ultimate objective clearly defined at the outset. The author recounts how the White House considered two distinctly different courses of action: direct US military action, including airstrikes--or a limited advisory role of planning, intelligence, and logistics for US forces.

The author explains how Obama's National Security Council planning team was then simply overcome by events. The ISIS offensive in eastern Iraq took Pentagon and White House planners by surprise. The administration was faced with a stark choice: commit US forces to a combat role with close air support of pro-American Iraqi-Kurdish forces, or risk losing a modern airport, the US consulate, and a hub of new US commercial interests to the militants.

Faced with the dilemma, and reportedly upset by the turn of events, Obama ordered the air attacks that eventually became a doctrinal approach during Inherent Resolve: massive and unopposed air power would be wielded in support of proxy boots on the ground. During the last three years of the battle against ISIS, operational fires from manned and unmanned airstrikes and from American artillery were engrained in the battle plans. 

Then, a few weeks later, the objective of Operation Inherent Resolve was stated with remarkable clarity for an administration that had long relied on subtly nuanced statements and carefully parsed language about the war. In a national address, Obama told the country, "Our objective is clear. We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy." Gordon here shares his keen insight that "destruction" raised the bar for US planners, advisors, and operators. The objective now was not merely to regain lost territory, but to destroy ISIS as an effective fighting force, as an insurgency intent on toppling the Iraqi government, and as a jihadist movement exporting terrorism abroad.

The important thing is that it is universally replicable: there can never be a caliphate absent our permission

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM


A New Mexico judge cites insurrection in barring a county commissioner from office (Ashley Lopez, 9/06/22, NPR)

A county official in New Mexico who was convicted of entering a restricted area during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol must be immediately removed from office for his involvement in an insurrection, a judge decided Tuesday.

District Court Judge Francis Mathew ruled that Couy Griffin, an Otero County commissioner, is now disqualified from holding public office because he violated Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment by participating in the Jan. 6 insurrection, as well as mobilizing others to also engage in the siege.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Donald Trump Goes on Bizarre Rant Against Electric Cars: Nothing he said made any sense at all. (Victor Tangerrman, 9/06/22, Futurism)

Over the weekend, former US president and noted reality TV star Donald Trump went on an unhinged rant about electric cars, presumably to pander to a group of die hard followers in Pennsylvania.

His peculiar conclusion? We should get "rid of this stuff," because charging infrastructure is still lacking in the country. If you're scratching your head, us too.

Come for the racism; stay for the Luddism. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Chile's rejection of populism is an example for the world (Michael Stott, 9/05/22, Financial Times)

Populism has cast a particularly long shadow in Latin America. Crowd-pleasing orators proclaiming a new utopia pepper its recent history.

General Juan Domingo Perón spawned an eponymous movement in the 1940s so powerful it has dominated Argentine politics ever since. More recently, Hugo Chávez's "Bolivarian revolution" in Venezuela and Andrés Manuel López Obrador's "Fourth Transformation" in Mexico have seduced voters with magical promises that belied the authoritarianism of their respective leaders.

In this unpromising political landscape, Chile's decision in a referendum on Sunday to reject decisively an impossibly utopian constitution stands out as a remarkable example of civic maturity. This is a setback for leftwing president Gabriel Boric, the former student protest leader who had staked much political capital on the now-rejected radical draft.

Voters were, almost literally, promised the earth (the draft would have granted constitutional rights to nature). Attractive-looking carrots abounded among the 388 articles drawn up by a specially elected assembly after a year of sometimes raucous debate.

The draft constitution obliged the state not only to provide health, education and housing, but also to ensure the production of healthy food and the promotion of Chilean national cuisine. Bizarrely, in a country where millions still lack broadband internet services, it would have guaranteed a right to "digital disconnection".

Yet Chileans saw through the utopian vision amid an altogether more prosaic reality of rising inflation, a slowing economy and myriad economic challenges. Nearly 86 per cent turned out to vote, and almost 62 per cent of them voted against the new constitution.

Such electoral maturity is highly unusual anywhere, let alone in a middle-income country. According to a global study by two American academics, Zachary Elkins and Alexander Hudson, voters have approved 94 per cent of the 179 new constitutions put to them since the French Revolution of 1789.

But Chileans did not abandon a desire to shed the sin of origin of the current constitution, drawn up under Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship from 1973-90. Colombia's leftwing president, Gustavo Petro, tweeted after Sunday night's result that "Pinochet has come back to life". 

He never went anywhere.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Tale of two borders': Mexicans not seen at busy crossings (ELLIOT SPAGAT, 9/05/22,  The Associated Press)

As hundreds of migrants line up along an Arizona border wall around 4 a.m., agents try to separate them into groups by nationality.

"Anyone from Russia or Bangladesh? I need somebody else from Russia here," an agent shouts and then says quietly, almost to himself, "These are Romanian."

It's a routine task for the Border Patrol in the wee hours in this flat expanse of desert where the wall ends. Migrants from at least 115 countries have been stopped here in the last year, but that may be less striking than what's missing: Mexicans are virtually absent.

Instead, families from Venezuela, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, India, and dozens of other countries arrive in Yuma after wading through the knee-deep Colorado River. Their presence reflects how a pandemic-era rule still shapes the journeys of many migrants, even though much of the United States has moved on from COVID-19.

The Right often claims not to object to immigration per se, just to mass immigration from one society.  Problem solved.  Open the border.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Will Greg Abbott Pay a Political Price for Texas's Faulty Power Grid?The governor, running against Beto O'Rourke for a third term, is cozy with the oil and gas industry that has slow-walked upgrades. (PAUL ALEXANDER  SEPTEMBER 6, 2022, The Bulwark)

After such a devastating storm, it would seem logical for Texas to impose sweeping reforms to ensure a similar tragedy was avoided in the future. Instead, in March 2021, the Texas legislature passed two bills: Senate Bill 2, which gave the governor added control over ERCOT, and Senate Bill 3, which, as Nitish Pahwa notes in Slate, included "a proposed overhaul of emergency alert systems, a requirement for state regulators to review the availability of energy reserves, and orders for power generators as well as transmission lines to bolster their weather resiliency." Abbott, who faced fierce criticism for his handling of the storm, declared victory. The bills "fixed all of the flaws" of the grid, he said; "everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas."

One thing the bills did not do was to require the natural gas pipelines be winterized, the main reason the grid failed. Oil and gas industry leaders did not want to incur the debt of winterizing the pipelines, so the legislature, with Abbott's blessing, did not require it. According to Disaster by Design, a soon-to-be-released short film about Uri, Kelcy Warren, chairman of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, contributed $1 million to Abbott at the end of the legislative session, four times more than any previous donation he made. Even though Energy Transfer enjoyed a $2.6 billion windfall from Uri, the company opposed moves to winterize Texas's natural gas pipelines.

As the anniversary of Uri approached this past February, Abbott said the Texas electric grid "is the most reliable and resilient it's ever been." Critics disagree. "He is stating that the ERCOT grid has never been stronger," says Ed Hirs, University of Houston Energy Fellow, "but given that it has been the worst and weakest in the nation, that is not saying much. Abbott complains that Biden policies in favor of renewables have weakened the grid. But the voters are smarter than that. Other grids have dealt with new generation resources without problems. The legislature and Governor Abbott know they did not address the critical failures identified following the 2021 winter grid failure."

Abbott's coziness with the oil and gas industry has opened him to criticism. "Governor Abbott has resisted all significant improvements on the grid," says George Shipley, a longtime Democratic strategist in Texas. "What he has done is take millions of dollars from oil and gas. He is bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry."

With some success, O'Rourke has turned the grid into a wedge issue in the campaign, which is not surprising since a University of Texas at Tyler survey from last month found that only 15 percent of Texans have confidence in the current grid.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CalWave Successfully Concludes Wave Energy Project in California (Off Grid Energy Independence, 9/06/22)

CalWave has successfully concluded its open-ocean wave energy pilot after 10 months of continuous operation off the coast of San Diego. The project, which deployed in September 2021, was supported by a US Department of Energy (DOE) award with the goal to demonstrate CalWave's scalable and patented xWave™ technology as a cost-effective, sustainable solution for energy generation. Not only does the demonstration represent California's first at-sea, long-duration wave energy project, but it also serves as a critical step toward proving wave power as a commercially viable renewable resource.
The pilot device, named x1™, has now been recovered and decommissioned. Findings will be used to inform CalWave's next grid-connected deployment, scheduled to occur at the federally-approved, 20-MW PacWave wave energy test site off the coast of Newport, Oregon.
Wave energy has been assessed by experts as capable of supplying upwards of a third of global energy demand, yet the development of a viable technology capable of reliably withstanding harsh ocean conditions has been slow to evolve, until now. CalWave's pilot verified its xWave™ system as effective for overcoming the key challenges of performance, reliability, survivability, and cost.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Taliban statement on women's rights calls for caution (CHRIS FITZGERALD, SEPTEMBER 6, 2022, Asia Times)

The Afghan Taliban's apparent decision to allow women and girls a right to go to school and work is a positive development. But it should be welcomed cautiously by the international community until there is evidence of meaningful change. After all, the Taliban have made such promises before. 

Taliban officials announced this week that under Islamic law, women and girls have the right to education, work and entrepreneurship. However, there was a caveat, with officials adding that the movement is working to create a "safe environment" for women and girls in schools and the workplace. What this means is unclear. 

In a full statement, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Vice and Virtue, Sadeq Akif Muhajir, said that "Islam has given women the right to education, Islam has given women the right to work, Islam has given women the right to entrepreneurship."

Major social change should be cautious.

September 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


'Destroying Democracy': Biden Doubles Down On 'MAGA Republican' Criticism In Labor Day Speech (Alison Durkee, 9/05/22, Forbes)

Speaking at a rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Biden criticized the "MAGA Republicans, the extreme right, the Trumpies," saying "MAGA Republicans in Congress have chosen to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate and division." [...]

19%. That's the share of U.S. adults who identify as "part of the MAGA movement," according to a CBS News poll conducted August 29-31.

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


DeSantis, elections supervisors disagree over who determines voter eligibility (Evan Donovan, Sep 2, 2022, WFLA) 

Tampa Bay area supervisors of elections say the Florida Department of State informs them of voter eligibility, pushing back on recent comments from Gov. Ron DeSantis since he announced 20 arrests for voter fraud in the 2020 election by his new Office of Election Crimes and Security.

Meanwhile, several ex-felons arrested for voter fraud in Hillsborough County say they thought they were eligible to vote because they'd received voter registration cards or had been told they were eligible.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. DeSantis said the responsibility for determining eligibility rests at the county level.

"They're the ones that are registering people," DeSantis said. "You go in your county and you register locally. You're not registering in Tallahassee at the state government. And so it's really their responsibility to ensure that their voting rolls are accurate."

But elections supervisors take issue with several parts of the governor's assertion.

Information voters enter when they register online in Florida "goes into the Florida voter registration system, maintained by the state," according to the Pinellas County elections office. "The information is then pushed to counties via the 'suspense queue' to the counties."

Additionally, while supervisors agree they are ultimately responsible for removing ineligible voters from the rolls, that information comes to them from the state, describing a process that is well-understood among elections supervisors and their staff and has been for years.

"No, it's not very confusing, it's pretty clear," said Lori Edwards, the Polk County supervisor of elections, when asked who is responsible for determining eligibility. "It's the state, and that's per Florida statute. Florida statute says the Florida Department of State Division of Elections is responsible for identifying that information, compiling the background information and supplying the county supervisor of elections with it."

Other Tampa Bay area elections supervisors pointed to Florida statutes as well, specifically F.S. 98.075, which begins by stating, "the department shall protect the integrity of the electoral process by ensuring the maintenance of accurate and current voter registration records." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


Americans increasingly concerned about political violence -- CBS News poll (ANTHONY SALVANTO, SEPTEMBER 5, 2022, CBS NEWS

Against a backdrop of so much concern that democracy is under threat, Americans also see a rising potential for political violence: almost two-thirds think the coming years will bring an increase. And the percentage holding that view has itself been rising even higher, compared to 2021. 

Good work, Dark Brandon. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Socialism, Nationalism, and Tolkien: How an unfinished Lord of the Rings sequel gives insight into young radicals on the left and right. (Alec Dent, Sep 3/22, The Dispatch)

"Deep indeed run the roots of Evil, and the black sap is strong in them. That tree will never be slain. Let men hew it as often as they may, it will thrust up shoots again as soon as they turn aside."

It is with this depressing thought that Borlas begins his dialogue about the nature of evil with his interlocutor Saelon in The New Shadow, J.R.R. Tolkien's scrapped sequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The text is brief, just the beginning of a novel that was meant to show "the inevitable boredom of Men with the good." Amazon has brought attention to what occurred before the trilogy in its new series The Rings of Power, but it is worth examining the few pages Tolkien wrote in which he explored what came next. His understanding of human nature makes what little of The New Shadow that he wrote deeply insightful, and an unsettling warning about our own political climate. [...]

The storyline will sound familiar to anyone paying attention to the politics of millennials and Gen Zers today. In our time of unprecedented wealth and safety, the once-defeated foe of illiberalism has made a reappearence. Young leftists have increasingly positive views of socialism, while young right-wingers have increasingly positive views of nationalism. As Jonah Goldberg laid out in Suicide of the West, illiberal views in the West are due largely to a lack of appreciation for how good we have things right now, a lack of understanding of how we got here, and a lack of understanding of how a radical overhaul of society would alter the world as we know it. This is especially true of younger generations, who have little to no direct experience with the failures of illiberalism. Having not witnessed others try and fail, they're more open to limiting free speech, race-based nationalism, polyamory, and a whole host of other ideas that were long thought unacceptable in America.

Tolkien has a sharp understanding of this peace-time radical mindset, and in the little he wrote of The New Shadow he managed to capture not just how they think and are motivated, but how they operate in early stages as well. In The New Shadow, Saelon never outright says he's in the cult. He hints at it, and tries to draw out Borlas' view of it by using language and references that would be familiar to only those in the know. The radicals of today use the same strategies, using words that mean little to outside observers, but show a deeper, esoteric meaning to fellow travelers, like bringing up land acknowledgements to show that you're a true believer on the far left or casually dropping the white nationalist Sam Francis' name in conversation to show that you're a true believer on the far right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 PM


Gasoline prices are expected to continue to fall after Labor Day and some states could see below $3 (Patti Domm, 9/05/22, CNBC)

Gasoline prices are expected to continue their more than two-month decline over the three-day holiday weekend, as Americans drive less and continue to conserve fuel.

Prices have been falling since the national average for unleaded gasoline peaked at just under $5.02 per gallon on June 14. The price at the pump Monday was $3.79 per gallon nationally, according to AAA.

"I think the good news is going to keep going for now," said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. Gasoline prices should continue to decline into the fall, barring a refining disruption, he noted.

Keep them at $6 via gas taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


How Portland Stopped the Proud Boys: Portland, Oregon, witnessed early versions of the Proud Boys events that culminated in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021; years of anti-fascist organizing and the belated intervention of law enforcement halted their activities in the city (Robert Evans, September 5, 2022, New Lines)

This was the first summer since 2019 that I have not needed to don armor, strap on a gun or load up a first aid kit to go and report in downtown Portland, Oregon. Since 2017, the Rose City has hosted regular gatherings of far-right militant groups, like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, that degenerate into mass brawls with anti-fascist activists. Violence has been regular enough that some local left-wing activists refer to summer as the "fighting season." But this year, there were no protests or rallies of note.

While the Pacific Northwest, true to its reputation, has an assortment of bespoke local fascist groups, the Proud Boys, a far-right gang that has been labeled a "terrorist entity" in Canada and New Zealand, have been present at nearly every event.

Their absence from Portland this summer is noteworthy. The opposite has been true for much of the rest of the country. There are more Proud Boys chapters now in the United States than there were on Jan. 6, 2021. The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project has tracked more than 200 of their public events around the country since they stormed the U.S. Capitol.

And these events have only grown more violent. In 2020, only 18% of Proud Boy-involved events ended in violence. In 2021, 25% ended in blood and beatings. The range of acceptable targets has broadened as far-right political violence has become normalized. The Proud Boys and other right-wing paramilitary groups have disrupted school board meetings in at least 12 states. They have crashed LGBTQ-oriented book readings at libraries and harassed pride rallies.

But in 2022, they didn't show up in Portland. It's worth looking into why. But if you want a quick answer, here it is: Portland fought back.

The Rose City has a long history as a hotbed of radical activism amid one of the most conservative parts of the country. Portland is the city where local police officers deputized for the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s and that President George H.W. Bush nicknamed "Little Beirut" after intense protests against his visit following the Gulf War. In the 1990s, it was a breeding ground for fascist violence following the murder in 1988 of Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian immigrant, by members of the White Aryan Resistance. Tom Metzger, the group's founder and a famous Nazi organizer from California, recruited heavily from disaffected young men in Portland. Anti-racist skinheads started organizing in opposition, and over the course of several bloody years, far-right groups were prevented from rallying openly in the city.

This started to change in 2016 with the founding of Patriot Prayer by Washington State native Joey Gibson. Gibson lived in Vancouver, Washington, which is across the river from Portland and effectively a suburb of the city. Like most of non-urban Oregon, it is extremely conservative. At first, Gibson claimed that his organization's purpose was to "liberate conservatives" from oppression in liberal-dominated cities by hosting prayer vigils, free speech marches and pro-Second Amendment rallies.

The first Patriot Prayer event was a rally in the wealthy neighborhood of Lake Oswego in March 2017. It followed a series of left-wing and liberal protests that were held on Inauguration Day and Presidents Day, which ended in police violence against demonstrators. The Oswego rally ended with lots of yelling but no violence. In April 2017, Gibson organized the "Rally for Trump and Freedom," attended by roughly 300 people. The Three Percenters, a right-wing militia that played a major role on Jan. 6, provided "security" for the conservatives in an early example of the sort of intergroup organizing that characterized the Capitol insurrection.

Fistfights and mass brawls became more common at every event that followed. When I've talked to anti-fascist activists in Portland, there's one fight from these days that comes up more than any other: the Aug. 6, 2017, mass brawl at the waterfront. Members of recognized Nazi groups fought alongside those from Patriot Prayer, and members of the Three Percenters again handled security as hundreds of people exchanged strikes with fists, batons and mace.

The left-wing response to these rallies escalated after May 2017, when former Patriot Prayer marcher and white supremacist Jeremy Christian stabbed two men to death on a train. The attack started with Christian hurling racial epithets at two teenage girls, one of whom was a Somali Muslim wearing a hijab.

To Portland's anti-fascists, the attack was evidence of everything they'd been saying for months: Patriot Prayer rallies were breeding grounds for racist violence. More people started donning black hoodies and crafting makeshift weapons. ("Black bloc," initially a tactic to protect activists' identity by wearing identical all-black outfits, became something of a uniform for Portland's anti-fascists.)

From the end of 2017, livestreams and tweeted video clips from Portland street fights became a reliable content stream for local journalists and right-wing media figures. Many people made an excellent living from simply filming violence and letting the money roll in from various crowdfunding sites. (By 2020, left-wing livestreamers grew more common as well.) The spectacle around these events was a draw for right-wing activists around the country. Portland "antifa" became the boogeymen of the right-wing media, and for some activists loyal to then President Donald Trump, it was de rigueur to be seen opposing them.

Nothing embodied this stage more clearly than an August 2019 Proud Boys rally. The city government decided to wall both sides off from each other using huge numbers of police officers. This effectively meant that the police acted as an escort while several hundred Proud Boys and their allies marched across a bridge. There were still several clashes that day, but it was less violent than past rallies. The whole mess cost the city of Portland at least $3 million. Joe Biggs, an influential leader of the Proud Boys, called the event a success and gloated about costing the city money. He threatened to hold follow-up events with the goal of eventually bankrupting Portland.

It was around this time that I moved to town. I'd attended a few of the earlier protests, but by late 2019, what struck me most was the fatalism so many of Portland's left-wing protesters seemed to feel. There was a strong belief that the national media was constantly on the lookout for evidence of "antifa" violence, which the police and the federal government would use as a pretext for a crackdown.

Black bloc anarchists, often filmed in direct combat with far-right brawlers, made the news. But Portland's anti-fascist community was much deeper than that. At their large rallies, between 10% and 15% of the crowd would be actively prepared, if not eager, for a fight. This core of militant activists was supported by a larger community that engaged in nonviolent organizing. There were people who showed up as medics, and others who brought food and water. Some activists would show up with bubble-wrap screens to block the cameras of livestreaming right-wingers. Others came with musical instruments, dressed as bananas or clowns to distract attention and drown out right-wing speakers on megaphones.

Portland protest moments constantly went viral, but one fact that never quite made it outside the local media bubble was how many anti-fascists were older -- parents, even grandparents. Several of my sources among the anti-fascists were former Republicans, frightened of what people like Biggs and Gibson might represent. In interview after interview people expressed variants of the same fear: They won't stop in Portland.

They didn't. Biggs was indicted for seditious conspiracy earlier this year, along with four other Proud Boys, for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. Three out of five of the Proud Boys charged with sedition had attended multiple Portland protests and rallies. Before they tried to overturn a democratic election, they were fighting in downtown Portland next to Gibson.

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


This nanoparticle could be the key to a universal covid vaccine: Ending the covid pandemic might well require a vaccine that protects against any new strains. Researchers may have found a strategy that will work. (Adam Piore, September 5, 2022, MIT Technology Review)

[I]n early 2020, when covid-19 hit and he was soon to receive his degree, Cohen, Bjorkman, and other members of the lab set to engineering a universal covid vaccine--one that would provide protection not just against all its variants, but also against future illnesses caused by entirely new types of coronaviruses.

"We're definitely going to need something like this to fight covid-19 as new variants emerge," Cohen says. "But beyond that, the potential for new global outbreaks and pandemics caused by other coronaviruses is clear. We need something that can prevent new covid-19-like scenarios from happening again. And we need it as soon as possible."

Public health officials and scientists had long complained about a lack of funding--or a sense of urgency--to develop vaccines that would protect us against future pandemics. Prompted by covid-19, however, the US National Institutes of Health began doling out tens of millions of dollars to research groups pursuing universal coronavirus vaccines.

The stakes couldn't be higher. In January, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the development of universal coronavirus vaccines an "urgent need," noting that the emergence of covid-19 variants over the last two years hints at far larger long-term threats. He has since argued that even more resources are needed to continue the fight, and he has been publicly lobbying lawmakers to allocate them.

This new kind of custom-designed, bioengineered vaccine could be the answer we so desperately need to avoid future coronavirus pandemics.

"Scientific evidence and ecologic reality suggest that coronaviruses will emerge again in the future, potentially posing an existential threat," Fauci wrote in an article coauthored with two other infectious disease experts for the New England Journal of Medicine.

The key to meeting the challenge, groups like Bjorkman's are ­showing, may lie in our ability to use the tools of synthetic biology to trick the microscopic weapons of the immune system--weapons that already exist in the human body.  The researchers are finding ways to supercharge these immune cells to provide remarkably general protection against invading microbes. If these approaches succeed, they could not only provide much more effective protection against covid but possibly revolutionize how we create new vaccines for complex viruses in general.

Having helped lead the way in developing these techniques, Cohen, Bjorkman, and their collaborators are now tantalizingly close to achieving their goal of manufacturing a vaccine that broadly triggers an immune response not just to covid and its variants but to a wider variety of coronaviruses.  

Their vaccine consists of a spherical protein core, studded in a soccer-ball-like pattern with the tips of "spike" proteins taken from the surface of eight varieties of coronaviruses--what the scientists call a mosaic nanoparticle. Remarkably, initial results showed that in a test tube, antibodies produced by this synthetic vaccine were able to identify and stick to not just all eight coronaviruses represented on the nanoparticle, but four additional coronaviruses not used in the vaccine. In March, the group reported that the vaccine appeared to protect mice and monkeys that had been exposed to an array of coronaviruses.

In July, they published results in Science, showing that their mosaic nanoparticle vaccine protected mice and nonhuman primates against the delta and beta covid-19 variants as well as the human viruses that caused the first SARS outbreak in 2003. The results are perhaps the most promising evidence yet that this new kind of custom-designed, bioengineered vaccine could be the answer we so desperately need to avoid future coronavirus pandemics.

The next step is to test the vaccine in humans. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will provide as much as $30 million to begin human trials. Edinburgh-based biotech company Ingenza will manufacture the medicine.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


Conservative media figures 'sick of having to defend' Trump, ready to move on (Katherine Doyle, September 05, 2022, Washington Examiner)

The New York Post argued in a recent editorial that focusing on Trump rather than the Democrats would hurt Republicans in the midterm elections. His rebound in 2024 polls of GOP primary voters could do the same in two years.

"But if the focus is on Trump instead, enraged Democrats will unite, pause their internecine warring while independents will abstain or vote against the GOP," the editorial board wrote.

"If Republicans want Americans to vote against Biden, they have to campaign against him, not against the FBI or the deep state or on whether Trump had the right to have boxes of classified documents in his closet," tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro. "There is a reason Democrats are eager to keep Trump at the center of the conversation: half of independents say Trump is a major factor in their vote, and they're breaking 4-1 for the Democrats. Republicans shouldn't play that game. If they do, they're cruising for a bruising."

The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, which previously condemned Trump for failing to act as the Capitol riot raged, this week urged readers to "ignore Mr. Trump's attacks" on Republican leadership.

The Mar-a-Lago raid is different from past controversies, a former senior Trump campaign operative said.

"He's been the Teflon Don and has been able to weather pretty much everything that's been thrown at him, but will he weather this? Is this the last straw? And if he's going to go down the rabbit hole, are you going with him?" this person said. "A lot of people are contemplating their futures and the future of the party and whether or not it needs to be in the image of Donald Trump or in the image of America First, which is a movement and not a man."

Last week, Fox News's Steve Doocy questioned why the former president kept top secret files at his residence after the Justice Department this week released a bombshell filing from prosecutors that included a photo of classified documents at Trump's Florida estate.

"Part of this is what they're calling a Trump fatigue, where privately, they're telling the president, 'We get it, you've been a target since Day One, all you wanted to do was govern the country, we like your policies, we're with you in spirit, we know you're getting screwed,'" the operative said. "But it's a cost-benefit analysis."

If the old white men who worship him give up their Identity and compromise on ideology there's nothing left of them.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


Sustainable Battery has Biodegradable Electrolyte Made From Crab Shell (Advanced Batteries & Energy Storage Research, 9/05/22)
Batteries use an electrolyte to shuttle ions back and forth between positively and negatively charged terminals. An electrolyte can be a liquid, paste, or gel, and many batteries use flammable or corrosive chemicals for this function. This new battery, which could store power from large-scale wind and solar sources, uses a gel electrolyte made from a biological material called chitosan. For further information see the IDTechEx report on Advanced Li-ion and Beyond Lithium Batteries 2022-2032: Technologies, Players, Trends, Markets.

"Chitosan is a derivative product of chitin. Chitin has a lot of sources, including the cell walls of fungi, the exoskeletons of crustaceans, and squid pens," says Hu. "The most abundant source of chitosan is the exoskeletons of crustaceans, including crabs, shrimps and lobsters, which can be easily obtained from seafood waste. You can find it on your table."
A biodegradable electrolyte means that about two thirds of the battery could be broken down by microbes--this chitosan electrolyte broke down completely within five months. This leaves behind the metal component, in this case zinc, rather than lead or lithium, which could be recycled.
"Zinc is more abundant in earth's crust than lithium," says Hu. "Generally speaking, well-developed zinc batteries are cheaper and safer." This zinc and chitosan battery has an energy efficiency of 99.7% after 1000 battery cycles, making it a viable option for storing energy generated by wind and solar for transfer to power grids.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


Legal work-related immigration has fallen by a third since 2020, contributing to US labor shortages (Jose Ivan Rodriguez-Sanchez, 9/05/22, The Conversation)

With Americans having fewer children and the nation's labor force getting older, many employers in manufacturing, aviation and other industries are having trouble finding enough workers.

The gap between the demand for labor and its supply was already forming in 2017. By 2018, the U.S. economy had increasingly more job openings than unemployed workers. That gap has widened during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people have died, retired early or simply dropped out of the job market.

By July 2022, as the pandemic's effects on the workplace were easing, the U.S. had 11.2 million job openings but only 5.7 million unemployed workers who might fill them. [...]

An estimated 45 million people living in the United States, roughly 14% of the population, were born elsewhere. About one in six U.S. workers is an immigrant.

Some of these foreign-born workers are legally employed on a temporary basis with an array of visas that make it possible to obtain jobs that run the gamut from software designers to apple pickers.

In some cases, these employees can obtain legal permanent residency - often called "a green card." Some temporary work visas last longer than 12 months, so the number of workers with authorization is higher than the number of visas issued in that year. H-1B visas, which require a high level of education for fields like computer programming, last three years and can be renewed for another three.

The government issued a record 813,330 temporary employment-based visas in 2019. The total fell by about a third to 566,000 in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic got underway, and the numbers were basically flat in 2021 at 566,001 - the first year of Joe Biden's presidency.

Make immigration legal again.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Biden Laid the Trap. Trump Walked Into It. (David Frum, Sep. 4th, 2022,  The Atlantic)

In 2016, Hillary Clinton warned that Donald Trump was a fool who could be baited with a tweet. This past Thursday night, in Philadelphia, Joe Biden upped the ante by asking, in effect: What idiot thing might the former president do if baited with a whole speech? On Saturday night, the world got its answer.

For the 2022 election cycle, smart Republicans had a clear and simple plan: Don't let the election be about Trump. Make it about gas prices, or crime, or the border, or race, or sex education, or anything--anything but Trump. Trump lost the popular vote in 2016. He lost control of the House in 2018. He lost the presidency in 2020. He lost both Senate seats in Georgia in 2021. Republicans had good reason to dread the havoc he'd create if he joined the fight in 2022.

So they pleaded with Trump to keep out of the 2022 race. A Republican lawmaker in a close contest told CNN on August 19, "I don't say his name, ever."

Maybe the pleas were always doomed to fail. Show Trump a spotlight, and he's going to step into it. But Republicans pinned their hopes on the chance that Trump might muster some self-discipline this one time, some regard for the interests and wishes of his partners and allies.

One of the purposes of Biden's Philadelphia attack on Trump's faction within the Republican Party was surely to goad Trump. It worked.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


A funhouse mirror of the soul: Belated thoughts on Frederick Buechner's saints (Lucas Thompson, 5 Sep 2022, ABC Religion & Ethics)

Let me begin by pointing out what Buechner's novels are not, lest I give the wrong impression right from the start. They are not conventional hagiographies, in which good deeds are held up for believers to imitate. They are not didactic parables of virtue triumphing over evil, nor pious models of godliness. As Buechner himself said, these novels are "not Sunday School stories with detachable morals at the end" and contain no easy lessons. There are no sanctimonious preachers scoring points against unbelievers in his fiction, or holier-than-thou types for whom real human concerns are only abstractions. His saints do not moralise or proselytise. Buechner knew as well as anyone that we are rightly wary of didacticism, and of novels masquerading as sermons. ("When I have the feeling the someone is trying to set me a good example", he once put it, "I start edging toward the door.") His saints are not plaster saints, they are not particularly decorous or polite, and are just as likely as the rest of us to fail themselves and others.

More surprising still, perhaps, is the fact that they offer little by way of comfort or reassurance -- instead, they unsettle and provoke. The popular conception of saints, as meek-and-mild types with their heads in the clouds, detached from ordinary human experience, is nowhere to be found. Nor are these novels edifying tales of triumphant faith. In Buechner's fiction, virtue is by no means always victorious. Though Buechner was himself an ordained Presbyterian minister (who studied at Union Theological Seminary under some of the giants of twentieth-century theology, including Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, and James Muilenburg), he went to great lengths to avoid using his novels as pulpits. "I lean over backwards not to preach or propagandize in my fiction", he told one interviewer. "I don't dream up plots and characters to illustrate some homiletic message." These novels do not seek to give fictional illustrations of Christian doctrine, nor to convert readers to the Christian faith.

Instead, Buechner saw saints as being simultaneously flawed and majestic, with the power to capture our imagination in a way that familiar religious language cannot. "In his holy flirtation with the world", he wrote, in a characteristically startling and mystical image, "God occasionally drops a pocket handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints." Saints, for Buechner, "are essentially life-givers. To be with them is to become more alive." Elsewhere, he expanded on this conception:

To be a saint is to live not with hands clenched to grasp, to strike, to hold tight to a life that is always slipping away the more tightly we hold it; but it is to live with the hands stretched out both to give and receive with gladness. To be a saint is to work and weep for the broken and suffering of the world, but it is also to be strangely light of heart in the knowledge that there is something greater than the world that mends and renews. Maybe more than anything else, to be a saint is to know joy.

It was precisely these kinds of saints that Buechner spent most of his life writing about.

There are two key precedents in twentieth-century literature for such a project: Albert Camus's The Plague, in which Meursault famously poses the question of whether one can "be a saint without God" as "the only concrete question that I know today"; and Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, in which the whiskey priest, on his deathbed, sees how his life could have been so much more than it was, with nothing more than a little "courage" and "self-restraint":

He was not at the moment afraid of damnation -- even the fear of pain was in the background. He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed, with nothing done at all. It seemed to him at that moment that it would have been quite easy to have been a saint. It would only have needed a little self-restraint, and a little courage. He felt like someone who has missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew now that at the end there was only one thing that counted -- to be a saint.

Buechner wrote movingly on both these texts, but the second played a particularly important role in shaping his own literary project. He said that The Power and the Glory was where he "learned that a saint is not what people normally think of -- a moral exemplar." Instead, he realised, saints "can be just as seedy and hopeless as the whiskey priest."

Buechner stumbled across his subject matter unexpectedly, recognising that, like Greene, he had unwittingly produced a flawed and "seedy" and "hopeless" saint in a quartet of novels on Leo Bebb, a religious charlatan who nonetheless lights up other people, giving them new life. Buechner called him "a religious crook" who is also "a bearer of grace." The Bebb novels are populated with hucksters and con-men, and are full of bawdy comedy, sexual exploits, exhibitionism, even infanticide. Yet somewhere in the writing of the novels' central character, Buechner realised that he had accidentally created a saint:

When I first began, I thought of Bebb as an Elmer Gantry figure whom I would expose in the process of writing about him. But I came to like him more and more and to see more clearly what was saintly about him.

From this point on, he resolved that he would only write about saints -- that he could only write about saints: "Saints with feet of clay are the only subjects that interest me now." For reasons mysterious even to him, Buechner believed that he was unable to bring any other kinds of characters to life.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Over-the-counter hearing aids could bring lower prices and a burst of innovation (Robert Weisman, September 4, 2022, Boston Globe)

"I'm hopeful that we're going to see breakthroughs in technology and innovation," said Dr. Meaghan Reed, director of clinical audiology at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston. "If I am wearing something that looks more like a Bluetooth ear phone or an Apple Air Pod, that's going to remove the stigma of age... that some people associate with hearing aids."

Hip new designs won't come right away. When stores begin stocking hearing aids for the first time, thanks to a Food and Drug Administration ruling last month to allow retail sales, the big change will be price.

Most people currently pay between $2,000 and $3,000 for medical-grade devices prescribed by specialist physicians called audiologists, a price tag that typically includes multiple office visits for screenings, fittings, and adjustments. Starting in mid-October, the cost of consumer hearing aids purchased in stores or online, with self-operated volume controls, is expected to range from $300 to $500.

That could entice legions of hearing-challenged but budget-conscious adults who now "bluff their way through conversations" at the dinner table or a workplace conference room, Kelley said.

September 4, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 PM


Chile expected to reject overhaul of dictatorship-era constitution (AFP, September 4, 2022)

Chileans head to the polls on Sunday to choose whether to adopt a new constitution that aims to shift its market-driven society into one that is more welfare-based, while enacting broad institutional reforms.

Although Chileans previously voted in droves for a rewrite of the current constitution -- adopted in 1980 during Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship -- opinion polls suggest the new text will be rejected.

Pinochet saved the country. Just compare the GDP to Cuba's.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 PM


More than a third of senior pastors believe 'good people' can earn their way to Heaven (Ian M Giatti,  04 September 2022, CT)

At least a third of senior pastors in the United States believe one can earn a place in Heaven by simply being a good person, according to a nationwide survey.

A god we can manipulate is obviously comforting, just not God.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Researchers discover a way to extract more than 95% of uranium from seawater (B. David Zarley, 9/04/22, Big Think)

The power behind nuclear power comes from rending uranium atoms; a tiny amount of the element unleashes energy many magnitudes greater than other fuel sources. 

Uranium occurs naturally in rocks, soil, and water, but is generally extracted at scale from uranium mines -- which is considered a finite resource. 

There's another source of uranium, a vast source: the ocean. The trick is getting it out.

Nuclear power requires uranium, which is considered a finite resource.

Now, a team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune have created a gel that pulls over 95% of uranium from seawater.

Their technique "introduces the concept of extracting uranium from natural seawater may lead to an unlimited supply of uranium at an economically affordable cost," principal investigator and IISER chemistry professor Sujit K. Ghosh told

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Building a zero emissions grid in US in just 13 years would save $US1.2 trillion (Giles Parkinson, 4 September 2022, Renew Economy)

A landmark new study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US finds that if the world's biggest economy decarbonises its grid in just 13 years it would save up to $US1.2 trillion in avoided health and climate costs.

The new study, done in conjunction with the US Department of Energy, plots a range of scenarios on how to reach net zero emissions on the world's biggest grid in just 13 years.

Three of the four scenarios require additional power systems costs of between $US330 billion and $US400 billion, while a fourth - limited by transmission constraints and amount of wind that can be deployed - requires more storage, and more nuclear, that doubles the cost to around $US740 billion.

But each of the scenarios delivers considerable more benefits in avoided health impacts and climate change because it shuts down the combustion of fossil fuels for electricity.

According to NREL, those savings from a net zero grid include avoiding 130,000 premature deaths, saving up to $US400 billion, with a further saving of more than $US1.2 trillion when factoring in the avoided cost of damage from the impacts of climate change.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A white nationalist pyramid scheme': how Patriot Front recruits young members (MacKenzie Ryan,  2 Sep 2022, The Guardian)

Undergirding Patriot Front's activities is a rigid, top-down hierarchy, researchers say.

Rousseau is at the head. Lieutenants run departments of the group, including media production, recruitment and online security. Fifteen regional network directors organize local and national activities, and supervise members.

Once recruits become members, they are required to attend monthly roundups, hit a weekly activism quota, and show up to demonstrations, according to Moon. If they don't, Rousseau expels them from Patriot Front.

Internal chats obtained by extremist experts show members complaining about the ongoing expenses they incur paying for stickers, stencils and other mandatory propaganda materials, which Rousseau charges them for.

Rousseau charges members a premium for Patriot Front propaganda material, Tischauser said, adding that network directors are expected to push members to purchase flyers to go on several flyering runs a month. "In this sense, Patriot Front is close to a white nationalist pyramid scheme," Tischauser notes.

The tightly organized structure enables Patriot Front to be responsible for up to 14 hate incidents a day, according to the ADL. Under the direction of network directors, Patriot Front members defaced 29 murals honoring Black history, LGBTQ+ pride, migrant history and police shooting victims, said Tischauser. [...]

Recent events have somewhat disrupted the group's carefully constructed image. Earlier this year, the leftwing non-profit Unicorn Riot leaked the group's internal audio and chats, which helped investigators discover the identity of the national team, regional directors and many other members. And following the arrest in Coeur d'Alene, all 31 names of arrested members were broadcasted and published in local media outlets, along with their mugshots.

"They got kind of the opposite of what they wanted: they weren't able to disrupt the LGBTQ Pride events, and they got a whole lot of mainstream media attention," Piggott said.

The Idaho arrests also exposed that their members flew into the state from different parts of the country, Piggott added. "It lifted the veil a bit. They may not have the numbers they say they have."

While the racism is the Right's brand, nothing so clearly defines them as their entirely justified panic that they are not men. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump brands Biden 'enemy of the state,' says FBI raid was an 'abuse of power' (ANNE LEBRETON, 9/04/22, AFP)

 Donald Trump branded Joe Biden an "enemy of the state" Saturday, as he hit back at the US president's assertion that the Republican and his supporters are undermining American democracy and slammed last month's FBI raid of his Florida home.

Making his first public appearance since the August 8 raid, Trump said the search was a "travesty of justice" and warned it would produce "a backlash the likes of which nobody has ever seen."

Threats of further violence become him and his sycophants.

Blocking Kiwifarms (Matthew Prince, 9/03/22, Cloudflare)

Kiwifarms has frequently been host to revolting content. Revolting content alone does not create an emergency situation that necessitates the action we are taking today. Beginning approximately two weeks ago, a pressure campaign started with the goal to deplatform Kiwifarms. That pressure campaign targeted Cloudflare as well as other providers utilized by the site.

Cloudflare provides security services to Kiwifarms, protecting them from DDoS and other cyberattacks. We have never been their hosting provider. As we outlined last Wednesday, we do not believe that terminating security services is appropriate, even to revolting content. In a law-respecting world, the answer to even illegal content is not to use other illegal means like DDoS attacks to silence it.

We are also not taking this action directly because of the pressure campaign. While we have empathy for its organizers, we are committed as a security provider to protecting our customers even when they run deeply afoul of popular opinion or even our own morals. The policy we articulated last Wednesday remains our policy. We continue to believe that the best way to relegate cyberattacks to the dustbin of history is to give everyone the tools to prevent them.

However, as the pressure campaign escalated, so did the rhetoric on the Kiwifarms site. Feeling attacked, users of the site became even more aggressive. Over the last two weeks, we have proactively reached out to law enforcement in multiple jurisdictions highlighting what we believe are potential criminal acts and imminent threats to human life that were posted to the site.

Legal Experts Mock McCarthy Putting Garland And Wray 'On Notice' (David Badash, September 04 | 2022, National Memo)

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), in an apparent effort to protect Donald Trump, is now attempting to bully Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray into undermining the U.S. Dept. of Justice's criminal investigation into the former president's unlawful retention and refusal to return stolen White House records including secret defense and national security documents classified at the highest levels.

In a letter to both law enforcement leaders dated Friday, McCarthy threatens them with powers he does not have, and legal and government experts are mocking him as a result. [...]

Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law law professor with a focus on national security writes: "As separation-of-powers debates go, I'm usually pretty pro-Congress. And even *I* don't think that Congress has the constitutional authority to demand 'all communications and documents' from the Executive Branch relating to an ongoing criminal investigation."

Former CEO and Editor of the publisher of Foreign Policy Magazine, journalist, podcast host, former Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce, and foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf mocks McCarthy, saying, "Er, nope. That's just not something you have the power to do."

Former Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Mitchell Epner rhetorically asks, "Does Kevin McCarthy believe that AG Merritt Garland is unaware that the House GOP does not have subpoena power? McCarthy's statement that "they must provide all communications and documents relating to the raid" confuses his wishcasting with enforceable demands."

Former DOJ Inspector General and Asst. U.S. Attorney at SDNY Michael Bromwich writes, "Oversight over ongoing criminal investigations simply doesn't happen, unless you want to kill the investigation. This is dishonest and disingenuous grandstanding for an audience of one."

"Kevin McCarthy wants the FBI to stop investigating where 80 classified/military aide documents disappeared," notes national security journalist Marcy Wheeler.

September 3, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden speech denouncing Trump, 'MAGA ideology' sparks threats, calls for violence (Jana Winter, September 2, 2022, Yahoo! News)

By Friday afternoon, posts on forums popular among white supremacists and far-right extremists called for the assassination of Biden, and named Jewish administration officials including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as potential targets. Declarations of civil war were also appearing, according to documents detailing some of the threats.

"On Gab, one user posted a series of violent threats accusing Biden of stealing the election," according to a threat alert from Site Intelligence Group sent to law enforcement agencies and others on Friday. Trump and many of his supporters have long claimed, without evidence, that the 2020 presidential election won by Biden was stolen from Trump due to widespread voter fraud.

Site Intelligence Group, which tracks online extremism activity, issued several threat alerts detailing calls for violence in response to Biden's speech. The potential threats were posted in online forums tied to the Proud Boys, neo-Nazis and other extremist groups.

"Users on several far-right and ultranationalist venues made violent threats against President Joe Biden following his speech addressing political extremism on September 1, 2022," said one of the alerts. "Users advocated for Biden to be murdered and predicted violence if he continues speaking about the topic."

The MAGAs got tricked out from under their rocks by a senile old man.  Even if their racism doesn't embarrass them, that should. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Man who attempted to assassinate Argentine vice president has Nazi tattoo (Times of Israel, 9/02/22, Times of Israel)

The suspect was identified as 35-year-old Fernando Andre Sabag Montiel. He attempted to shoot Kirchner point-blank outside her Buenos Aires home, but the loaded handgun he aimed at her face apparently failed to go off.

Montiel posted images of himself on Instagram posing in front of a mirror, showing off his tattoos. On his elbow is a black sun symbol, called schwarze sonne in German, according to the Spanish news outlet El Pais.

The emblem is also known as the sonnenrad, or sun wheel. It was used in Nazi Germany and has been adopted by neo-Nazis.

The symbol has been used by white supremacist and neo-Nazi mass shooters in the past. Payton Gendron, a white supremacist who killed 10 Black people in May in Buffalo, New York, had the black sun emblazoned on his gear. Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people at two New Zealand mosques in 2019, had the symbol on his vest.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After Mar-a-Lago search, Meadows turns over more texts and emails to Archives (Jamie Gangel Kristen Holmes Jeremy Herb Evan Perez, 9/02/22, CNN)

Within a week of the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows handed over texts and emails to the National Archives that he had not previously turned over from his time in the administration, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Meadows' submission to the Archives was part of a request for all electronic communications covered under the Presidential Records Act. The Archives had become aware earlier this year it did not have everything from Meadows after seeing what he had turned over to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021. Details of Meadows' submissions to the Archives and the engagement between the two sides have not been previously reported.

"It could be a coincidence, but within a week of the August 8 search on Mar-a-Lago, much more started coming in," one source familiar with the discussions said.

September 2, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM


Biden Gambles That 'We the People' Still Exist: Countering Trump's antidemocratic movement isn't a normal political challenge. (Anne Applebaum, SEPTEMBER 2, 2022, The Atlantic)

The principles of classical liberalism that underlie the American political system emerged in an era, the late 17th century, when people were exhausted by violent religious wars. The philosophy that eventually created our democracy was therefore designed to "lower the temperature of politics," as Francis Fukuyama has recently written, to take issues of existential truth off the table so that people could live in safety. In liberal democracies, citizens were persuaded to adopt a culture of moderation, restraint, and adherence to the rule of law; respect for the rights of others to think what they want; support for independent courts, checks and balances, and neutral institutions such as election boards. None of that has necessarily been very inspiring to people who want high emotion, feelings of unity, or moral crusades in public life. In Liberalism and Its Discontents, Fukuyama argues that the values of liberal democracy are by definition "thinner than those offered by societies bound by a single religious doctrine," and he is right.

This is the deep source of the most serious problem facing Joe Biden, and not just Joe Biden: how to energize citizens to defend moderation, how to create excitement about institutions that were designed not to be exciting, how to build enthusiasm for the political center--the people of all political beliefs who still respect the rules and understand why they are important. Above all, how to get Americans to see that the challenge presented by the "MAGA Republicans," as the president called them in his speech last night, is not a normal political challenge. Trump's political movement is not a threat to liberal democracy because of its beliefs about taxes, spending, welfare, immigration, energy policy, or even abortion, however vehemently some Americans might disagree with them. Nor is it threatening because it is conservative, for it is not conservative in the traditional sense at all.

MAGA Republicans are rather a threat because their leader does not accept the outcome of elections when he loses them; because he does not believe that the rule of law applies to him; because he does not adhere to the culture of restraint, tolerance, and moderation; and because he is now seeking to help elect other politicians who feel the same way. In their drive to change the political system, and to ensure that they can retain power even if they lose, Trump's followers have verbally and sometimes physically attacked Capitol police officers, election workers, the FBI, the Department of Justice, and civil servants. He and his acolytes use violent language, and they inspire violence in return. As Biden put it last night, they "tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people. This time, they're determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people."

One of the more useful aspects of the speech is all the guys self-identifying as who he was warning about. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Hypocrite Biden's speech was about one thing only -- trying to bait Trump (John Podhoretz, September 1, 2022, NY Post)

Joe Biden has become America's leading troll -- and he's trolling Donald Trump. The president's supposedly grand speech in "defense of democracy" under attack by "Trump and the MAGA Republicans" was hardly a visionary call to renew our commitment to the Republic.

If it had been the highfalutin speech we were promised, Biden wouldn't have spent ludicrous time praising himself for things like prescription-drug costs and burn-pit health coverage. No, this speech was nakedly, even comically, designed not to elevate but to offend -- to poke and taunt and push his predecessor and his predecessor's camp followers and acolytes into firing back about how evil Biden is.

Biden wants Trump angry, and loud, and silencing every other voice but his own. It's not an accident that Biden's rise and the Democratic enthusiasm surge has come in tandem with Trump once again at the top of the American news agenda over the past six weeks. Biden knows he won in 2020 by successfully making the election a referendum on Trump. Nothing would make him happier than having the 2022 election continue in that vein.

For that to happen, he needs Trump and his Trumpies to be seduced into yelling and screaming and tweeting and arguing that the 2020 election needs to be re-run and that people who stormed the Capitol need to be apologized to and whatever other damn-fool argle-bargle comes out of their mouths and fingers.

Imagine allowing yourselves to be so easily manipulated by two doddering old men?  

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


China tightens control over civil society amid rising nationalism (Deutsche-Welle, 9/02/22)

Apart from using nationalism to achieve certain political goals, Teng Biao said Chinese authorities' attempt to interfere with citizens' personal choices is a phenomenon that typically happens in a totalitarian country. "While many people will resent the government's intervention, the majority of the Chinese people are unable to criticize the authorities' improper behavior," he stressed.

"Although many people feel very worried about the logic behind the kimono incident in Suzhou, such reflection and worry will not become mainstream. Fervent patriotism and anti-Japanese sentiment are much stronger," the lawyer added.

Wang from HRW and Guo from the University of Toronto both believe that by stirring up nationalistic sentiment, Beijing wants to create a social echo chamber in China where there is no space for alternative voices, say experts. "Many people are afraid of being targeted by nationalistic netizens online, so they choose to remain quiet," Wang said. "One of the effects of nationalism is the chilling effect."

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


U.S. adds solid 315,000 jobs in August (Courtenay Brown, 9/02/22, Axios)

America had another month of solid job gains: The economy added 315,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% as more workers entered the labor force, the government said on Friday. [...]

The Fed has been bracing for some heat to come out of the labor market. It has raised interest rates at a historically rapid pace in a bid to squash elevated inflation. This report offers some good news as wage growth slowed -- and more workers entered the workforce, helping ease the tightness in the labor market.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM


I Am Spartacus (PETER KIRSANOW, September 2, 2022, National Review)

Last night, I watched as our infirm commander in chief railed into the night against MAGA Republicans, an apparent subhuman race of miscreants who pose a clear and present threat to our democracy. I was sufficiently alarmed by the speech that I felt compelled to conduct a self-analysis and was devastated to conclude that I am a MAGA Republican.

Sadly for him, Spartacus was his opposite: a warrior for the immigrant be treated as Roman citizens. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM


William Barr, on Fox, says there's no legitimate reason for classified docs to be at Mar-a-Lago and doubts Trump declassified (Sonnet Swire, 9/02/22, CNN)

Former Attorney General William Barr appeared on Fox News on Friday to say there is no "legitimate reason" for classified documents to have been at Mar-a-Lago and cast doubt in the idea that they had somehow been declassified.

"No. I can't think of a legitimate reason why they should have been - could be taken out of government, away from the government if they are classified," Barr said of the documents found at former President Donald Trump's Florida resort.

Posted by orrinj at 12:42 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Tide on the turn: the waning influence of authoritarian regimes around the world (Evgenii Dainov, 9/02/22, Deutsche-Welle)

[A]ny historian worth his or her salt will tell you that dictatorship, economic prosperity and growing international influence cannot exist side by side for long. Either the dictatorship has to go, or the prosperity and influence begin to dwindle. This is what has happened to China. As the dictatorship has grown stronger, the country's prosperity and influence have waned.

Today, China admits to a debt that is over 250% of its GDP (Greece was declared bankrupt at 127%). China experts warn that there is additional hidden debt, which is around 44% of the admitted debt. Add all this up and we are talking about a total debt in the region of 350% of GDP -- a completely incredible and totally untenable situation.

Plain-clothed security personnel scuffle with demonstrators outside a People's Bank of China building in Zhengzhou, China July 10, 2022
China's declining prosperity: security personnel scuffle with demonstrators during a protest over the freezing of deposits by some rural-based banks in Zhengzhou in July

When dozens of provincial banks became unable to serve their customers recently, tanks were sent in to protect the banks from the incensed population.

Xi Jinping wants to be re-elected General Secretary of his party. Yet he cannot afford to stand in that election as the man on whose watch the economy went "belly up," as the Americans say. He has obviously decided to "do a Putin," in other words to mobilize support with belligerent behavior.

We no longer see a China that is confident that the future is hers. We see a failing authoritarian regime on the verge of panic. [...]

Only 10 years ago, while China looked like the great economic power of the future, Russia seemed to be a hegemonic geopolitical power in the making. Back in 2006, it had even cobbled together an international alliance called BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China, joined by South Africa in 2010), the stated aim of which was to end global American hegemony in the field of advanced technology. The original BRIC states also vowed to undermine the international standing of the US dollar by producing their own BRIC currency. In Europe, Russian hybrid "soft power" was taking over politics, culture and the media.

By 2020, however, it was becoming clear that the BRICS alliance was unable to achieve any of its stated aims. BRICS had not superseded the Americans in the field of advanced technology nor managed to dent the US dollar.

Meanwhile, Russia's version of "soft power" was also beginning to fizzle out. Trump lost the election in the US, and in Europe, authoritarian and populist parties sustained and (in some cases) financed by Putin were rapidly losing ground.

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron won the French presidential elections against Putin ally Marine Le Pen, running on a modern, progressive, non-nationalist platform. In the Bavarian elections of 2018, the far-right AfD party, instead of sweeping the board as expected, was undermined by the Greens, which became the second most powerful party.

In 2019, the Strache scandal decapitated the Austrian far right. In Poland and Hungary, the regimes began losing control of big cities in local elections. Finally, despite much pre-election bombast, the European far right did not win the 2019 elections to the European Parliament.

Europeans were turning Putin's friends out of power, replacing them with centrist-liberal-green coalitions. In 2021, the far-right was thrown out of parliament in Bulgaria, as people elected to power a progressive center-green coalition. Two months previously, Germany had elected a left-green-liberal coalition government. [...]

Against this backdrop, the FBI's raid on Trump's home is a signal not only that the political time of such men (why does it always seem to be men?) has passed, but also that, as their political futures disappear, what awaits them are criminal charges.

People like Putin, Xi Jinping and their imitators will be around for a long time. But theirs is not the future. The "tide in the affairs of men" has turned. Now it is our job to take it "at the flood," securing a future in which government of the people, by the people, for the people remains dominant.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Plan to launch Montreal-to-Boston train service gains steamThe overnight sleeper train would also make stops in Portland, Old Orchard Beach, and Durham, N.H. (Christopher Muther, September 1, 2022, Boston Globe)

A long-delayed proposal to connect Montreal to Boston via an overnight sleeper train appears to be back on track as proponents of the service, along with elected officials from Quebec, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont gathered Thursday in rural Quebec to throw their collective political weight behind it.

"This is a brilliant time for us to reconvene and make this vision a reality," said state Senator Richard Bennett of Maine, a Republican from Oxford. "The expansion of passenger rail is of great interest throughout Maine, across both political parties." [...]

The route would be on existing freight tracks owned by multiple rail companies. Discussions with railways are at a preliminary stage, Pepin said. Despite all of that, the sleeper train has become a popular topic of conversation in Quebec. (Even a border crossing guard expressed excitement about the possibility.) It's hard not to be drawn to the concept: A train with a club car, a dining car, and sleeper cars is the stuff of Agatha Christie novels and recalls the glamorous age of train travel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amazing: US credibility still intact a year after Afghanistan withdrawal: It's time for hawks to face the facts: 'Credibility' arguments are both analytically absurd and dangerous for American interests. (Daniel Larison, 9/02/22, Responsible Statecraft)

Hawks denounced the withdrawal from Afghanistan for many reasons, but one of their recurring complaints was that it threatened to wreck U.S. credibility in the world.

According to the standard hawkish view, withdrawing from a failed war signals weakness and a lack of resolve, which in turn causes allies to lose confidence in U.S. commitments to protect them and encourages adversaries to become aggressive on the assumption that the U.S. is unwilling or unable to oppose them. Hawks hold to a quasi-mystical view of credibility where a withdrawal anywhere invites aggression everywhere, and they then try to blame the withdrawal for causing whatever goes wrong anywhere else in the world afterwards.

In the year since the last U.S. forces departed Afghanistan, the record clearly shows that the hawks were panicking over nothing, and that the hawkish credibility argument is nothing more than an ideological fantasy. Policymakers should remember this the next time they are inclined to heed blood-curdling warnings about the need to maintain credibility by going to war or staying bogged down in one.

Leaving Afghanistan was supposed to deal a fatal blow to U.S. credibility with global consequences. But today, one looks in vain for the adverse effects that they predicted. U.S. alliances are no weaker, and allies are arguably more reliant on the U.S. and more trusting of its promises than before.

For so long as we keep peoples dependent on us we prevent them from growing up.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ukrainian offensive is achieving far more than it appears (Paul Wallis, September 2, 2022, Digital Journal)

Ukrainian moves toward Kherson are steady but not hurried. These are good tactics. They're also symptomatic of the military reality. The Russians have been progressively less able to counter Ukrainian attacks on any level, including precision artillery strikes from HIMARS, ground and air attacks.

The Ukrainian air force is flying again, which it wasn't able to do when Russia had air superiority. Russian artillery dominance is much less of a factor outside of Donbas. The much-predicted big Russian pincer attack in the east never really happened.  Those troops are still in those positions, but there's no future in the attack anymore.

A bogged-down Russia fighting a much more agile and far more active Ukraine can only have one outcome in military terms. The initiative is well and truly Ukraine's. The extremely patient demolition of Russian supplies by Ukraine is clearly paying off. This has been done at a relatively extremely low cost to the Ukrainians and a very high price to the Russians.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BIDEN ON THE CONTINUED BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF THE NATION (President Joe Biden, September 1, 2022, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

THE PRESIDENT:  My fellow Americans, please, if you have a seat, take it.  I speak to you tonight from sacred ground in America: Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This is where America made its Declaration of Independence to the world more than two centuries ago with an idea, unique among nations, that in America, we're all created equal.
This is where the United States Constitution was written and debated.
This is where we set in motion the most extraordinary experiment of self-government the world has ever known with three simple words: "We, the People."  "We, the People."
These two documents and the ideas they embody -- equality and democracy -- are the rock upon which this nation is built.  They are how we became the greatest nation on Earth.  They are why, for more than two centuries, America has been a beacon to the world.
But as I stand here tonight, equality and democracy are under assault.  We do ourselves no favor to pretend otherwise.
So tonight, I have come this place where it all began to speak as plainly as I can to the nation about the threats we face, about the power we have in our own hands to meet these threats, and about the incredible future that lies in front of us if only we choose it.
We must never forget: We, the people, are the true heirs of the American experiment that began more than two centuries ago.
We, the people, have burning inside each of us the flame of liberty that was lit here at Independence Hall -- a flame that lit our way through abolition, the Civil War, Suffrage, the Great Depression, world wars, Civil Rights.
That sacred flame still burns now in our time as we build an America that is more prosperous, free, and just.
That is the work of my presidency, a mission I believe in with my whole soul.
But first, we must be honest with each other and with ourselves. 
Too much of what's happening in our country today is not normal.
Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
Now, I want to be very clear -- (applause) -- very clear up front: Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans.  Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology.
I know because I've been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.
But there is no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans, and that is a threat to this country.
These are hard things. 
But I'm an American President -- not the President of red America or blue America, but of all America.
And I believe it is my duty -- my duty to level with you, to tell the truth no matter how difficult, no matter how painful.
And here, in my view, is what is true: MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution.  They do not believe in the rule of law.  They do not recognize the will of the people. 
They refuse to accept the results of a free election.  And they're working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself. [...]
They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol on January 6th -- brutally attacking law enforcement -- not as insurrectionists who placed a dagger to the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
And they see their MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 election as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
They tried everything last time to nullify the votes of 81 million people.  This time, they're determined to succeed in thwarting the will of the people.
That's why respected conservatives, like Federal Circuit Court Judge Michael Luttig, has called Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans, quote, a "clear and present danger" to our democracy.
But while the threat to American democracy is real, I want to say as clearly as we can: We are not powerless in the face of these threats.  We are not bystanders in this ongoing attack on democracy.
There are far more Americans -- far more Americans from every -- from every background and belief who reject the extreme MAGA ideology than those that accept it.  (Applause.)
And, folks, it is within our power, it's in our hands -- yours and mine -- to stop the assault on American democracy.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


NSW backs pumped hydro projects promising 60 hours of energy storage (Sophie Vorrath, 2 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Five pumped hydro projects promising a combined energy storage capacity of up to 60 hours have been given a financial leg-up by the New South Wales government, as the state races to replace its ageing coal fleet and shift to renewables. [...]

The funding, just under $50 million in total, aims to help pumped hydro developers to cover upfront costs and encourage investment from the private sector to back the state's target of at least 2GW of new long duration storage by 2030.

Pumped hydro could deliver 100 percent renewable electricity (Eric C. Evarts, APRIL 3, 2019, Green Car Report)

A new study by researchers at the Australian National University have identified 530,000 sites around the world suitable for pumped hydro storage that can store up to 22 million gigawatt hours of electricity--coincidentally about what other studies show would be needed to support a reliable electric grid powered entirely by renewable energy. 

The storage would be needed to take full advantage of renewable wind and solar power even when consumers are not demanding peak power, and then supply that power back to the grid at times when they do.

September 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


How Russia's strange cultural mindset led to Vladimir Putin's great miscalculation (Alex Berezow, 9/01/22, Big Think)

My grandparents are both gone now, so for insights into the Russian mindset, I turn not only to the news but to the country's classic literature. Full of gloom and a seeming resignation to fate, the characters cope and make sense of their impoverished, miserable lives with vodka, bitter cynicism, and dark humor. Consider this exchange between Father Ferapont and a monk from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It concerns whether the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and speaks to Father Ferapont:

"The Holy Spirit can appear as other birds -- sometimes as a swallow, sometimes a goldfinch and sometimes as a blue-tit."

"How do you know him from an ordinary tit?"

"He speaks."

"How does he speak, in what language?"

"Human language."

"And what does he tell you?"

"Why, today he told me that a fool would visit me and would ask me unseemly questions."

To be sure, this sort of snarky humor is not unique to Russia. Scandinavian humor is notoriously dark. Besides, much of the time, Russians' biting humor is a coping mechanism for living under an oppressive government that has casually violated human rights for centuries and habitually lies to the public. Indeed, an old Soviet joke, which has taken on renewed significance, says, "The future is certain; it is only the past that is unpredictable" -- a reference to the government's long tradition of rewriting history to support the regime and its political ambitions. 

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The Russian mindset, therefore, is one filled with cynicism and distrust, which importantly, extends all the way to the top. While the Russian public is cynical and distrustful of its leaders, high-ranking officials in the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin, are cynical and distrustful of the outside world. 

As a result, there is a pervasive narrative, fueled by the media and long embraced by the country's elite, that Russia is and deserves to be a glorious country, but it is being held back by the nefarious West. In her book Putin's World, Angela Stent explains that Russians simultaneously have a superiority complex and an inferiority complex regarding their role in the world. The former is rooted in the country's truly impressive history and culture, while the latter is rooted in the centuries-long belief that the West is determined to undermine Russia. Poet and diplomat Fyodor Tyutchev once wrote, "There is not a single interest, not a single trend in the West, which does not conspire against Russia." That was in 1864. In terms of worldview, little has changed since then -- and, ultimately, it is what underlies the war in Ukraine. [...]

So, what caused the second, larger invasion that began in February 2022? Unlike the ouster of Yanukovych in the Maidan Revolution eight years earlier, there wasn't any single precipitating event. Instead, Putin seems to have been reacting to Ukraine's ever-closer drift toward the West, particularly NATO. What's ironic is that Ukraine's chances of joining the EU, let alone NATO, were far smaller before the invasion began. Putin's invasion accelerated the very scenario that he long feared.

In an interview with Big Think, geopolitical analyst Ian Bremmer referred to Putin's decision as the "single biggest geopolitical mistake made by any leader on the global stage since the Wall came down in 1989." Bremmer adds, "The misjudgment was massive. The failure was immense and immediate. And the consequences for Putin and for Russia will be permanent."

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


The 4 major criminal probes into Donald Trump, explained: Keeping track of all the criminal investigations of Trump isn't easy, so we did it for you. (Ian Millhiser, Aug 31, 2022, Vox)

The FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida residence because, as federal prosecutors said in a fiery court filing Tuesday, they believed not only did the former president possess "dozens" of boxes "likely to contain classified information" but also that "efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government's investigation." In that search, the FBI said it did remove over 100 classified documents, some of which reportedly contained information about nuclear weapons. That's all part of just one investigation into possible violations of the Espionage Act, the improper handling of federal records, and obstruction of a federal investigation.

Meanwhile, a second federal investigation is looking into the January 6 attack on the Capitol and broader efforts to overturn the 2020 election, an issue that obviously could implicate the man who spent most of the 2020 lame-duck period trying to erase his loss to President Joe Biden.

In Georgia, a number of Trump allies are being subpoenaed as part of a state criminal investigation into interference with the 2020 election in their state specifically. Trump consigliere Rudy Giuliani is a target of the investigation. Trump could also be implicated, and even criminally charged, before this Georgia investigation concludes. In a post-election call with Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Trump told the state's top election official that he wants "to find 11,780 votes." Biden defeated Trump in Georgia by 11,779 votes.

Then there are two separate New York investigations into the Trump Organization and Trump's web of surrounding businesses, which are investigating allegations that Trump misrepresented his companies' finances in order to obtain bank loans or to reduce taxes.

New York Attorney General Letitia James's investigation into these allegations is primarily civil (as in, non-criminal), but a parallel investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg already led to two indictments -- both the Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg were indicted in July 2021.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Russian Army Running Out of Reserves to Replenish Its Forces in Ukraine (MICHAEL WASIURA,  9/1/22, Newsweek)

As Ukrainian forces continue to use Western-supplied weaponry to execute precision strikes on Russian military targets, the Russian response remains largely limited to the rhetorical realm. Military experts tell Newsweek that the reason behind the Kremlin's seeming restraint is simple: the Russian military is no longer able to deploy significant numbers of additional conventional forces to Ukraine in the short term.

"In the short-to-medium run, Russia isn't capable of generating much more effective conventional force than it has already deployed," said George Barros, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Trump legal filing appears to contradict former president's defense for having documents (Jerry Dunleavy, September 01, 2022, Washington Examiner)

Former President Donald Trump appeared to contradict one of his key defenses for having top secret documents at his Mar-a-Lago home in a new filing from his legal team.

The confusion was created in the Trump team's filing in response to the DOJ's efforts to shoot down the former president's attempt to convince a federal judge to appoint a special master to review independently what the FBI had seized. In the filing, Trump's team agreed that any special master who is picked would need a top security clearance to review the records.

However, that appeared to go against Trump's defense that he declassified everything before leaving office. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


The Great Resignation forced U.S. companies to order a record number of robots (TRISTAN BOVE, August 30, 2022, Fortune)

The U.S. robotics industry is booming, partly thanks to the nation's record labor shortage.

Despite recession warnings and fears of an inevitable economic collapse, America in 2022 is full of jobs, it's just that nobody wants to take them.

In 2021, the U.S. added 3.8 million jobs, an "unprecedented" number according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But since then, labor participation has declined sharply, with around 3.4 million fewer workers participating in the job market than immediately before the pandemic, according to the chamber.

Companies of all shapes and sizes have struggled to cope with the mounting labor shortage, and have seemingly tried everything to remedy it, from reducing operating hours to offering employees previously unheard-of perks.

Now new data suggests that American companies are leaning more on something else to combat the lack of human workers: robots.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 AM


How Gorbachev tried to save the USSR (MAXIMILIAN HESS, 1 September 2022, UnHerd)

Gorbachev shaped generations of European foreign policy towards Russia, most notably that of Angela Merkel, whose defining experience was witnessing Soviet troops standing down as the Berlin Wall crumbled. But his actions were guided not by benevolence but by the misguided belief it would enable the Soviet Union to focus on protecting its internal cohesion.

Gorbachev did not idly stand by as the Soviet Union collapsed. In most former Soviet territories, his legacy is shaped by the violence that proliferated at the end of his rule, particularly in the Baltics and the Caucasus. He fought to retain the Soviet Union, cracking down on pro-independence protests.

Gorbachev may have been a genuine reformer, but he was also a card-carrying communist. His reforms and the internationalism represented by his withdrawal from the Cold War battlefield were an attempt to restore the Soviet state to the Leninist mission he believed Stalin and his ilk had corrupted. In response to unrest in the ethnic republics, Gorbachev sought to refashion the USSR as a new 'Union of Sovereign States,' keeping Leninist internationalism at the core of his planned cure for USSR's ills, even as rivals such as Boris Yeltsin abandoned the Communist Party. Gorbachev only allowed the Soviet Union to breathe its last when he lost his faith.

The Failed Dream of Mikhail Gorbachev (Casey Michel, August 31, 2022, New Republic)

Gorbachev, of course, failed--thanks in large part to his own myopic efforts to steer the Soviet Union to a newer, brighter future. There was his blinkered anti-alcohol campaign, which starved the Soviet economy of much-needed revenue. There was his noteworthy political aloofness, which alienated potential allies and provided further fodder for his domestic opponents. (Gorbachev's naivete about basic politics earned him the nickname "The Martian.") And there was the fact that, despite the promise of perestroika and glasnost, Gorbachev always seemed hesitant to follow through on many of his pledges. He was a man in a blindfold, groping his way toward some unknown destination, increasingly frustrated that he kept getting lost and that fewer and fewer people were following him.

As events began spiraling beyond his control--as pushback in places like East Germany and the Baltics and the Caucasus began eroding the Kremlin's influence faster and faster--Gorbachev flailed, tacking right, and then left, and then right again. He was praised in the West for his international maneuvers: for pulling Soviet troops from both Afghanistan and Eastern Europe, and for talking about potentially ridding the world of nuclear weapons once and for all. "Gorbymania" was a real phenomenon, especially once the Cold War ended.

But domestically, Gorbachev showed a different side. An autocrat like his predecessors, Gorbachev couldn't handle the fact that Soviet citizens weren't coming along with his project--and that, in fact, some were outright opposed to his rule altogether.

Which is why, in 1986, Soviet forces under Gorbachev began massacring protesters in Kazakhstan. And then they did the same against anti-Soviet protesters in Georgia. And then again in Azerbaijan. And then again in Lithuania. And then again in Latvia. The dissolution of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev may have avoided some of the worst-case scenarios. But it was never the peaceful venture that some in the West still regard it. Gorbachev's victims were almost always those populations colonized by the Soviet Union, firmly opposed to Moscow's rule and trying to finally break free.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Trump's legal jab left him open to Justice Department strike (Alan Feuer and Glenn Thrush, 8/31/22,  New York Times)

Former president Donald Trump may have thought that he was playing offense when he asked a federal judge last week for an independent review of documents seized from his residence in Florida -- a move that, at best, could delay but not derail an investigation into his handling of the records.

But on Tuesday night, the Justice Department used a routine court filing in the matter to initiate a blistering counteroffensive that disclosed new evidence that Trump and his legal team may have interfered with the inquiry.

In the filing, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, department officials revealed more details about the classified materials that Trump had taken from the White House, including a remarkable photograph of several of them arrayed on the floor of Mar-a-Lago, his home and private club in Florida. In what read at times like a road map for a potential prosecution down the road, the filing also laid out evidence that Trump and his lawyers may have obstructed justice.

It was as if Trump, seeming not to fully grasp the potential hazards of his modest legal move, cracked open a door, allowing the Justice Department to push past him and seize the initiative.