October 31, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Christian Nationalism Debates Expose Clashing Views of Power (DANIEL SILLIMAN|, OCTOBER 31, 2022, cHRISTIANITY tODAY)

A Pew Research Center poll released last week confirms that the term is slippery. Not everyone is using it the same way.

Pew found that 45 percent of Americans think that that US should be a Christian nation. This includes 81 percent of self-identified white evangelicals, the same percentage that reported they voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

But only about 6 percent of those who want the US to be a Christian nation think that the government should be run exclusively by believers. Less than 1 percent say they want the state to give special privileges to Christians.

It's more common for people to explain they want Americans to be guided by Christian beliefs and values (48%) or generally be moral (21%). One out of every three people who want America to be a Christian nation will clarify, when asked, that that isn't a statement about the government at all. They want Americans--individuals--to have faith in God.

That broader version that Pew calls "Christian nationalism" is embraced by 65 percent of Black Protestants, more than half of white nonevangelical Protestants, and about a third of Hispanic Catholics.

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


The right-wing ecosystem that created the Paul Pelosi conspiracy theory (MATT GERTZ, 10/31/22, Media Matters)

The right's conspiracy theorists went to work soon after news of Paul Pelosi's assault broke. They create dubious but politically beneficial narratives by taking existing facts - particularly ones that emerge early in the life of a story, when initial reports are often wrong - mixing in falsehoods, and using wild logical jumps to put the result in a different context.

First, an investigative journalist at a local TV affiliate reported on Friday that the assailant was wearing only his underwear when police arrived. But the journalist retracted that reporting the same day, and no other outlet confirmed it. 

Second, the dispatcher who received a 911 call from Paul Pelosi said that he had identified the intruder as a "friend." But Pelosi, according to law enforcement, was making that call surreptitiously from the bathroom and speaking "in code" to the dispatcher in an attempt to avoid his suspicion.

Third, some alleged that there were no signs of forced entry at the Pelosi home, suggesting that Paul Pelosi had willingly let DePape inside. In fact, police say he forced entry through the rear door, and aerial photos and video show shattered glass around that entryway (in fact, other internet sleuths claim that the glass pattern is suspicious).

Fourth, Politico reported on Friday based on San Francisco Police Chief William Scott's press conference that the first police officers responding on the scene "were let inside by an unknown person. They discovered DePape and Pelosi struggling for a hammer." This generated speculation that a third individual had been present. But Scott did not actually say that, and the SFPD subsequently confirmed only two people, DePape and Paul Pelosi, were at the home when police arrived.

The right's conspiracy theorists took those four pieces of evidence, mixed in Paul Pelosi's May DUI charge, and concocted the narrative that hehad been the victim of a drunken gay lovers' spat that was subsequently covered up. 

By Sunday, versions of this speculation were rampant on the right. Commentators who present themselves as credible offered a version in which they were simply asking questions because the press supposedly refused to do so.

Those who lack such airs simply claimed, as Dinesh D'Douza did, that "this guy, the assailant, is either a sexual partner or a male prostitute, and this is a sexual rendezvous that went sideways."

Eventually, the story reached Musk, a troll beloved on the right with a penchant for conspiracy theories. And on Sunday morning, he blasted it out to his 112 million Twitter followers. [...]

At the same time, the right-wing media generated nonsensical explanations for why the assailant's Internet footprint is forged and he's actually a leftist. They cannot accept that the assailant believed right-wing conspiracy theories without taking on responsibility, so they've developed an alternate explanation instead. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


'Sorry for what I did': Oath Keeper who pleaded guilty for Jan. 6 breach breaks down on the stand (KYLE CHENEY, 10/31/2022, Politico)

Halting twice to choke back sobs, Young said he pleaded guilty because he had committed crimes, and that in order "to repent and be forgiven, you have to confess. Completely and wholly."

"I won't do anything like that ever again," he said. "It's really embarrassing."

Young's testimony provided jurors with a firsthand account of the Oath Keepers' preparation to travel to Washington ahead of Jan. 6 and their decision to join the crowd that surged past police and into the Capitol. He is one of the prosecutors' key witnesses in the seditious conspiracy trial of Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and four associates, Kelly Meggs, Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins and Thomas Caldwell.

Young's testimony was the second time a member of the group who pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy took the stand against his former colleagues. Jason Dolan, another Florida Oath Keeper, testified earlier in the month.

Dolan and Young both described struggles amid the Covid pandemic, combined with a deluge of pro-Trump media that fueled their beliefs that the 2020 election had been stolen. Young described an unhealthy diet of Facebook and YouTube content that he said left him "ginned up" about the election results. He withdrew from his family and became consumed by national politics, which led him to join the Oath Keepers in the weeks after Election Day 2020. His sister, Laura Steele, a fellow Oath Keeper, is awaiting trial for her part in the alleged obstruction conspiracy.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


ProPublica scrambles to check translation in COVID origin story (Max Tani, Oct 31, 2022, Semafor)

In the days after ProPublica published a searing expose based on a close reading of Communist Party memoranda in Mandarin, it called in at least two translators, according to three people familiar with the exchanges.

That's right: In the days after. [...]

But the story, and Reid's "party speak" interpretations, quickly came under scrutiny from some journalists and experts on China, including many native Mandarin speakers, who said the story was based on a mistranslation.

"You got the tense wrong," Jane Qiu, a China-based writer, wrote in a tweet that was echoed by other Mandarin speakers.

Now ProPublica seems to be having at least a few second thoughts, and is reviewing key details of the story. Three people with direct knowledge told Semafor that editors at the nonprofit news organization have been reaching out to Mandarin translators about whether the publication correctly quoted a communist party dispatch regarding safety in the Wuhan.

One of the Mandarin speakers they contacted, the policy analyst and former translator Matt Schrader, had tweeted that Reid "screwed up." 

Comic gold.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Marjorie Taylor Greene Saying Pelosi Deserves Death Resurfaces After Attack (XANDER LANDEN, 10/29/22, Newsweek)

In one video that was posted on Twitter by CNN reporter Andrew Kaczynski in April that was shared online following Friday's attack, Greene stated before being elected to Congress in 2020: "[Pelosi's] a traitor to our country, she's guilty of treason. She took an oath to protect American citizens and uphold our laws and she gives aid and comfort to our enemies who illegally invade our land--that's what treason is." Greene was referring to Pelosi not supporting former President Donald Trump's border wall, according to CNN.

Greene added: "And by our law, representatives and senators can be kicked out and no longer serve in our government, and it's a crime punishable by death is what treason is. Nancy Pelosi is guilty of treason and we want her out of our government."

It's a mystery...

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Trump Org. CFO will spill tax fraud to New York jury, prosecutors say (ERIN DURKIN, 10/31/2022, Politico)

"This case is about greed and cheating, cheating on taxes," Susan Hoffinger, the chief of investigations for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, told the court on Monday. "The scheme was conducted, directed and authorized at the highest level of the accounting department." Weisselberg's testimony "will give you the inside story of how he conducted this tax scheme."

In opening statements, Hoffinger detailed allegations that Trump personally paid private school tuition for Weisselberg's grandchildren and signed a lease for the top lieutenant's Upper West Side apartment overlooking the Hudson River, because he wanted him to live in Manhattan rather than commuting from Long Island.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


Police: Pelosi suspect wanted to break speaker's knees (LISA MASCARO and STEFANIE DAZIO, 10/31/22, AP)

The federal filing stands in contrast to the mocking jokes and conspiracy theories about the Pelosi attack circulating by far-right figures and even some leading Republicans just a week before the hard-fought midterm elections. The San Francisco district attorney and police chief both said the attack was intentional.

"By breaking Nancy's kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions," the complaint said.

DePape told police of his plans to hold Speaker Pelosi hostage to "talk to her" and viewed her "as the "leader of the pack of lies told by the Democratic Party," the eight-page complaint says. [...]

The attack was an unsettling echo of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, when rioters trying to overturn Joe Biden's election defeat of Donald Trump stormed the halls eerily calling "Where's Nancy?" Some carried zip ties.

Police were dispatched to the home in the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood around 2:20 a.m. Friday after Paul Pelosi placed a 911 call. DePape broke into the rear glass door and made his way upstairs to confront Paul Pelosi, police said. They arrived to see the two men struggling over a hammer, and then DePape struck Pelosi at least once before being tackled by officers. [...]

After Paul Pelosi told the intruder his wife was not home, he then asked DePape how they could resolve the situation, the complaint said. DePape explained he was tired, and wanted to tie Pelosi up while they waited. As they talked, Paul went to the restroom and called 911.

DePape told investigators that he didn't leave even though he knew Paul Pelosi had called 911 because "much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender," the affidavit said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


Review of Superabundance by Marian L. Tupy and Gale L. Pooley (Art Carden,  October 18, 2022, AIER)

The history of innovation and the "time prices" Tupy and Pooley calculate give the lie to the materialist superstition.

To get around the fact that there is no objective standard of value, Tupy and Pooley calculate "time prices." As George Gilder points out in his forward:

The ultimate test and measuring stick of wealth is time. What remains scarce when all else becomes abundant is our minutes, hours, days, and years. Time is the only resource that cannot be recycled, stored, duplicated, or recovered. Money is most fundamentally tokenized time.

To update Simon's analysis, they "calculate the hours and minutes needed to earn the money to buy goods and services" and discover that over time, people have been getting progressively more for the sweat of their brows. Even this understates the real change: work has gotten progressively more pleasant and less strenuous. Tupy and Pooley, therefore, are calculating a lower bound on growing superabundance.

Tupy and Pooley document how resources have become more abundant. They also borrow from scholars and commentators like Joel Mokyr, Deirdre McCloskey, and Matt Ridley to explain why. In short, we got the institutions right (secure private property rights, free markets, and the rule of law), and we got the ideas and rhetoric right (liberty and dignity for entrepreneurs and innovators).

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Prominent conservatives share online disinformation about Paul Pelosi assault (ADAM WREN, 10/31/2022, Politico)

[D]onald Trump Jr. retweeted a proposed "Paul Pelosi" Halloween costume featuring men's underwear and a hammer, saying "The Internet remains undefeated." Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, embraced a false anti-LGBTQ conspiracy surrounding the attack, tweeting and then deleting a post suggesting the perpetrator was a "male nudist hippie prostitute."

Trump Jr.'s and Higgins' posts followed a deleted tweet from Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, that also gave credence to the same disinformation about David DePape, the 42-year-old perpetrator of the Friday morning attack on the Pelosis' San Francisco home. 

Can't blame them for being terrified by looking at themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On October 31, Remember the Political Contributions of the Reformation (Adam Carrington, October 31, 2022, Real Clear Religion)

First, we can turn to the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura." This central claim of the Reformation said the Christian Bible was the highest authority on matters of faith and practice. The Reformation asserted the Bible's unique position against the Roman Catholic belief that church tradition held equal authority. Protestantism's theological stance enhanced the concept of the rule of law, especially fundamental written laws like constitutions, for it said that a set text could be authoritative, with human persons and organizations submitted to it: the church was the creation of Scripture and was ordered by it. We can see a parallel in the American government's relationship to the Constitution. America's institutions each engage in constitutional interpretation. But they all do so in pursuit of following its place as the "supreme law of the land."

Sola Scriptura also aided in the push for universal education. The need to read the Bible for oneself became imperative and thus increased the demand for literacy among more than just the upper echelons of society. Puritan New England, for instance, emphasized the need to teach all, including women, how to read for the sake of knowing their Bible. This massive expansion of who could read opened the door for increased political participation, both based on Biblical principles and on the increased capacity to read other documents besides Scripture, such as political pamphlets and newspapers.

In addition, the Reformation articulated the priesthood of all believers. This point argued that Christ, not human priests, is a Christian's only mediator to God. This claimed more direct access to God among professing believers and, thus, less hierarchy among persons. The equality of human beings before God naturally bolstered ideas of human equality in the political realm. This enhanced arguments that the people should be the ultimate human authority since no person was born, or otherwise made by God, superior to another. It also encouraged the passing of laws applicable in the same way to all. It should be no surprise, then, that popular governments arose in places like England and America that had strong Protestant identities.

Along similar lines, the Reformers also emphasized anew the concept of covenant. Covenants were binding agreements between parties, much like a contract, but with deeper, more sacred implications. Men like Luther, John Calvin, and others interpreted the Biblical story as one of God making a series of covenants with individual persons, groups, and, in Israel's case, a nation. In Exodus, the Hebrew people agree to be God's people and submit to His laws as their government. Politically, this reading of Scripture translated into social contract theory. That theory argued that legitimate governments are formed by the people agreeing among themselves and/or with a ruler on a state's purposes, procedures, and structures. This concept itself flowed from human equality, as it pegged consent of the governed as a necessary starting point for just rule by one human being over another.

Finally, we can tie the Reformation to the dignity of the common man and to the importance of one's home country. Regarding dignity, the Reformation introduced the concept of vocation, that God ordains and blesses all morally-upright work, not giving special status to holy orders. This understanding of vocation recognized dignity in all persons' work and carried political implications to codify that view into law. In our own time, when some tend to denigrate working-class jobs, this Reformation principle defends the dignity of all work and thus of all workers.

Add in the priesthood of all citizens and all consumers and you have the protestantism/capitalism/democracy of Liberalism. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Overt U.S. antisemitism returns with Trump, Kanye West: 'Something is different' (Michelle Boorstein and Isaac Arnsdorf , October 27, 2022, Washington Post)

Experts said the climate is the product of a stew of forces including a digital culture that spreads misinformation and hate and right-wing political forces focused on protecting White Christians' status. [...]

Benjamin Lorber, a longtime researcher of antisemitism with Political Research Associates, said the latest rush of antisemitic rhetoric "fits into that broader political project," and he is not surprised to see it in the lead-up to the midterms this year. "The right is trying to regain power it felt it lost in 2020, so it makes sense, in addition to virulent anti-LGBTQ bigotry, that antisemitism is in the mix again," he said.

He and other experts noted that the 2018 Tree of Life massacre came just before the 2018 midterm elections and that the suspect had posted on the far-right social media site Gab that he was angry about "filthy" Jews who work to resettle refugees, especially Muslims. [...]

Trump earlier this month attacked American Jews in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying Jews in the United States must "get their act together" and show more appreciation for the state of Israel "before it is too late." Trump has multiple times raised the old antisemitic trope that U.S. Jews hold, or should hold, a secret or dual loyalty to Israel rather than the United States. He said evangelicals are "far more appreciative" of actions on Israel than Jews.

Most Republicans said nothing about Trump's Truth Social post. Trump also defended Ye in an Oct. 18 interview with Salem News Channel, and other conservatives also rallied to support Ye, most commonly by portraying him as a victim of supposed efforts by Democrats, in combination with the media and corporations, to suppress opposing viewpoints.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, in clips released by Vice News, didn't challenge Ye during an interview when the performer repeated a belief held by some that today's Jews aren't the legitimate Jews of the Bible. This is part of the doctrine held by the movement known as the Black Hebrew Israelites: that African Americans are the true descendants of ancient Israelites, a belief that is often blended with accusations that mainstream Jews aren't the legitimate Jews.

"When I say Jew, I mean ... the people known as the race Black," Ye told Carlson.

In the interview, Ye also said there is some "financial engineering" to being Jewish.

Antisemitism has also become a prominent issue in the Pennsylvania governor's race between Republican Doug Mastriano, who promotes Christian nationalism, and Democrat Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish. Mastriano's campaign has advertised on Gab. In a September campaign speech, Mastriano attacked Shapiro's attendance of a private Jewish day school in Bryn Mawr, in remarks that were criticized as coded antisemitism. An adviser to Mastriano, former Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis, responded to the backlash by dismissing Shapiro as "at best a secular Jew."

Lorber said that, in a period of rampant misinformation, economic insecurity and alienation, such comments fit into the narrative of a segment of Americans looking to identify internal enemies, groups they perceive to be not sufficiently American or, in the case of Jews, part of some invisible power structure keeping them from success or censoring them. When Adidas ended its partnership with Ye on Tuesday over his antisemitic remarks, some conservatives were quick to cast him as a victim of "woke capitalism."

"They're like: 'Maybe Kanye is on to something,'" Lorber said.

The Identitarianism of the Left/Right necessarily pits Identities against one another.  It's the opposite of Christianity. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Don't blame 'both sides.' The right is driving political violence. (Max Boot, October 30, 2022, Washington Post)

On Friday, a man enflamed by right-wing conspiracy theories (including QAnon) entered the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and attacked her 82-year-old husband with a hammer, fracturing Paul Pelosi's skull. "Where is Nancy?" he reportedly shouted, echoing the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, at President Donald Trump's instigation. This comes after years of Republican demonization of the House speaker, a figure of hatred for the right rivaled only by Hillary Clinton.

The same day as the Pelosi attack, a man pleaded guilty to making death threats against Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). Two days earlier, three men who were motivated by right-wing, anti-lockdown hysteria after covid-19 hit were convicted of aiding a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). In August, another man died after attacking an FBI office because he was so upset about the bureau's search of Mar-a-Lago. "We must respond with force," he wrote on Trump's Truth Social website.

Then there are all the terrible hate crimes, in cities including Pittsburgh, El Paso and Buffalo, where gunmen were motivated by the kind of racist rhetoric -- especially the "great replacement theory" -- now openly espoused on Fox "News." [...]

The New America think tank found last year that, since Sept. 11, 2001, far-right terrorists had killed 122 people in the United States, compared with only one killed by far-leftists. A study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies last year found that, since 2015, right-wing extremists had been involved in 267 plots or attacks, compared with 66 for left-wing extremists. A Washington Post-University of Maryland survey released in January found that 40 percent of Republicans said violence against the government can be justified, compared with only 23 percent of Democrats.

There is little doubt about what is driving political violence: the ascendance of Trump. The former president and his followers use violent rhetoric of extremes: Trump calls President Biden an "enemy of the state," attacks the FBI as "monsters," refers to the "now Communist USA" and even wrote that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a "DEATH WISH" for disagreeing with him. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has expressed support for executing Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.) has tweeted that "the America Last Marxists ... are radically and systematically DESTROYING our country."

That type of extremist rhetoric used to be confined to fringe organizations such as the John Birch Society. Now it's the GOP mainstream, with predictable consequences. The U.S. Capitol Police report that threats against members of Congress have risen more than tenfold since Trump's election in 2016, up to 9,625 last year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brazil's Lula defeats Bolsonaro to become president again (MAURICIO SAVARESE and DIANE JEANTET, 10/31/22, Times of Israel)

With more than 99% of the votes tallied in the runoff vote, da Silva had 50.9% and Bolsonaro 49.1%, and the election authority said da Silva's victory was a mathematical certainty.

It is a stunning reversal for da Silva, 77, whose 2018 imprisonment over a corruption scandal sidelined him from the 2018 election that brought Bolsonaro, a defender of conservative social values, to power.

Da Silva is promising to govern beyond his leftist Workers's Party. He wants to bring in centrists and even some leaning to the right who voted for him for the first time, and to restore the country's more prosperous past. Yet he faces headwinds in a politically polarized society where economic growth is slowing and inflation is soaring.

He started out with great promise last time, but squandered it.  Maybe this time he's serious.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Radical Young Intellectuals Who Want to Take Over the American Right
They hate the establishment. They want to destroy the system. Meet the illiberal upstarts trying to remake conservatism. (Sam Adler-Bell, December 2, 2021, New Republic)

"Conservatism in 2021 means radicalism," announced Nate Hochman, a 23-year-old writer at National Review. Describing the posture of his political milieu, Hochman spoke with urgency and without pretense, less eager to impress than to be understood. "We have to think of ourselves as counterrevolutionaries or restorationists who are overthrowing the regime." He doesn't mean by violence, necessarily. "But ... there's not a lot left to conserve in the contemporary state of things. There are things that need to be destroyed and rebuilt."

If you're scandalized by the language of "counterrevolution" or surprised to hear a conservative talk about "destroying" things and "overthrowing" regimes, you probably haven't spent much time around right-wing college grads of late. [...]

Hochman has thick brown hair, with a disobedient cowlick in front, and large brown eyes. He wears a trim beard and--whenever possible--jeans and a flannel shirt. He looks like the kind of kid who would offer you granola at a trailhead. (And he might. He grew up in Oregon and loves to camp and hike; an overlap, he notes, between the far right and the far left in the Pacific Northwest is a love of roughing it outdoors.)* [...]

Most New Right activists see the Trump presidency as a salutary development. At the very least, they view Trump's success as a symptomatic expression of the novel forces at work in American life. "I'm still lukewarm on Trump, the man," Hochman said. "I think he's a moronic boomer who tapped into something by accident." Saurabh Sharma, a 23-year-old New Right activist, told me that he got his start in politics watching the 2016 presidential campaign, listening to Bernie rallies and Trump rallies "and finding interesting things to like about both."

The Right is the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

GOTTA GO FULL DEPAPE, SON (profanity alert):

What Is J.D. Vance Doing?I watched the Hillbilly Elegy author campaign in Ohio. It has not gone according to plan. (BEN MATHIS-LILLEY, OCT 30, 2022, Slate)

After Elegy was published, Vance--whose day job was in San Francisco at the time--announced he'd be moving back to Ohio. When he resurfaced last year as a competitor in the state's overcrowded Republican primary, he was running with a nastier crowd. He appeared on Tucker Carlson's show, did an interview with 2020 election conspiracy theorist Dinesh D'Souza, and did a campaign appearance with Marjorie Taylor Greene. He complained online that eBay had stopped letting users buy Dr. Seuss books that included racist caricatures, suggested that QAnon believers might be right that many celebrities and politicians are pedophiles, and signed a pledge to subpoena Anthony Fauci for "numerous and demonstrable lies."

Although he's stopped short of endorsing D'Souza or Greene's more florid theories about events in 2020, he nonetheless said that the 2020 election had been "stolen" from Trump, said that he had been wrong to believe Trump would be a poor president, and flew to Mar-a-Lago to successfully seek the big man's endorsement. He suggested in a tweet that some feminists believe "it's bad for women to become mothers" but "liberating" for them "to work 90 hours a week in a cubicle at the New York Times or Goldman Sachs." He defended comments he'd made in 2021 about the potential upside, for one's children, of sticking out an abusive marriage.

Maybe it was really a simple story: Having become unsatisfied with the life of a thought leader, Vance adopted the MAGA personality to pander to a different audience and get his hands on some real power.

It was probably the right strategy for winning the primary in Ohio, at least. I spoke to the Columbus Dispatch's longtime political columnist, Darrel Rowland, about the state's recent history not long after he announced that his newspaper job had been cut after 31 years. He reminded me that Ohio had been "the quintessential bellwether state for decades." (Everyone else from Ohio will also tell you this.) It cast its electoral votes for the winning presidential candidate in every election held between 1900 and 2016 besides two. Those two were 1944, when the state's lieutenant governor was on the Republican ticket running against FDR, and 1960, when Nixon carried the day.

For years, Ohio was balanced, roughly speaking, between urban and/or union Democrats, suburban chamber of commerce types, and conservative farm voters. This did not necessarily mean that every politician and person in the state was an even-tempered centrist--have fun on Jim Traficant's Wikipedia page--but it tended to mean that "blue-collar" moderate Dems and avuncular, fiscally oriented Republicans won statewide. Goings-on in the state capital of Columbus usually accorded with the latter group's interests. There were some hard-right conservatives in the legislature--the so-called Caveman Caucus--but, in Rowland's telling, they were generally treated with endearment "because they had no power." He said onetime state representative and senator Jim Jordan, a member of that caucus, was known to reporters as "one of the nice ones."

This was still the state of affairs in 2012, when Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney in Ohio by 3 points, just barely underperforming the national margin. But by 2020, the state was 12 points redder than the country as a whole. The cavemen, and cavewomen, had taken over. Ohio is holding its current elections using gerrymandered maps that the state's own Supreme Court has ruled are illegal under the terms of a voter-passed referendum, and it passed a law which made all abortion illegal once the Dobbs decision went into effect (though that one is currently blocked in the courts). One state senator asked during a COVID hearing in 2020 whether "the colored population do not wash their hands as well as other groups," while a state rep cited the Holocaust as the kind of "divisive concept" that should be taught, in schools, from multiple points of view. Jordan was the House of Representatives' most vocal promoter of the effort to challenge election results on Jan. 6. Not so nice!

I asked Rowland if he knew how such a hostile takeover happened so quickly, or whether there was anything he looked back on as a portent that he had missed. "I'm just gonna admit up front: I don't know," he said. "It's one of the questions that perplexes me." He seemed shell-shocked to have realized that individuals this extreme had been circulating in his midst this entire time.

There are high-level explanations for what happened. One is the depopulation of cities and towns across the state: Even small pockets of urban density in Ohio, towns with names like Portsmouth and Lorain, still skew Democratic, but those pockets have been shrinking for years. In July, the Census Bureau released detailed information about migration patterns in state-by-state "commuting zones" among individuals born between 1984 and 1992, a subset that happens to include J.D. Vance. Fourteen of the 17 zones in Ohio lost population.

The other explanation frequently given is the rise of the tea party, whose "populist" anger about welfare queens and immigrants and political correctness was cashed in on, electorally, by Donald Trump, who swung the votes of white union members (and those from families that used to belong to unions) toward the Republican Party by campaigning on euphemism-free talk-radio griping. Nine heavily white counties in Ohio flipped from Obama to Trump.

Put simply, a lot of people in Ohio got angrier--or were able to connect their anger to their votes in a new way--at the same time that the electoral math was starting to disincentivize moderation. Vance's book observed the beginning of this phenomenon--and for all that it posited that there exists a white, working-class epidemic of personal laziness and self-indulgence, it's probably not entirely fair to say, as a recent piece by Sam Adler-Bell in the New Republic did, that Vance's career was built by ridiculing his people for the delight of coastal elites. A certain amount of his attention has always gone toward defending some of their tendencies.

In the book, for example, Vance describes the spread of birtherism and other conspiracy theories about Obama as an essentially coherent reaction to factors that "have nothing to do with skin color," such as distrust of the news media and the absence of collective economic opportunity. After joining the Marines, flying through Ohio State, and graduating from Yale Law School, Vance worked for right-wing venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who infamously wrote that he does not "believe freedom and democracy are compatible" in an essay that identified "welfare beneficiaries" and--I am not making this up--"women" as intractable obstacles to enlightened (i.e., business-friendly) public policy.

He is not a stranger to misanthropy, in other words, or the rationalization of extreme beliefs. But those impulses are more pronounced, and less tempered by the spirit of generosity, in his Senate campaign. His book describes Obama as a "brilliant" figure who "overcame adversity in his own right," and says conspiracy theories are ultimately a destructive response to the absence of community. His website platform, by contrast, asserts that Democratic leaders believe America is "an evil and racist country," blows a dog whistle toward individuals who "chose to take a knee as radicals ransacked our cities," and makes six pejorative mentions of the "Chinese."

This rhetoric has currency in Republican politics, but it hasn't been sufficient for Vance to achieve a normal level of popularity for a Republican in this election cycle. 

You can't just be a little bit MAGA; you have to completely ditch your pride.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russians Used a US Firm to Funnel Funds to GOP in 2018. (DAN FRIEDMAN, 10/31/22, MoJo)

The Federal Election Commission recently let a US company that was quietly bankrolled by Russian oligarchs off with a slap on the wrist despite discovering that it had illegally funneled Russian funds to US political candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, two Democratic FEC commissioners said in a scathing statement issued Friday. 

"Half the Commission chose to reject the recommendation of the agency's nonpartisan Office of General Counsel and turned a blind eye to the documented use of Russian money for contributions to various federal and state committees in the 2018 elections," wrote the two commissioners, Ellen Weintraub and Shana Broussard. [...]

During its four-year investigation, the FEC found that the funds initially put up by Abromovich and other Russian nationals were then funneled to Republicans in Louisiana: Sens. John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, a political action committee run by Kennedy, a leadership fund run by House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a PAC backing Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, and the campaigns of Reps. Mike Johnson and Garrett Graves. Other contributions went to state lawmakers. The report didn't explain why the company focused on Louisiana but the state is home to many natural gas firms, and its lawmakers advocate for the industry.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Renewables well ahead of coal and nuclear in US, as they chase down fossil gas (Joshua S Hill 31 October 2022, Renew Economy)

A recent review of data by the Sun Day Campaign reveals that renewable energy sources increased their electrical output by 17.5% compared to the same period a year earlier.

This has resulted in renewables - including wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass - accounting for 23.3% of the total US electrical generation through the first two thirds of the year.

The analysis of data published by the US government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) reveals strong increases in generation by solar, wind, and hydropower.

The GND is too cautious.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


California's EV mandate will harm every state (Benjamin Zycher, October 28, 2022, Washington Examiner)

Proponents of the California mandate claim that this is federalism in action. The reality is the opposite: The California mandate will impose costs upon every other state regardless of whether they choose to adopt similar policies.

Boy, the Right does hate free markets. Car makers need California's business,

October 30, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


The Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India: India's BJP owes much to Narendra Modi's populist vote-catching charisma, but it rests on a platform built in the twentieth century: a review of Jugalbandinby Vinay Sitapati (Sadanand Dhume, 10/29/22, Law & Liberty)

Sitapati has hit a sweet spot with this book. He draws deeply from the well of scholarship, but is careful not to drown his reader in arcane academic debates. This is a riveting read for anyone with a deep interest in Indian politics, but it's equally a useful primer for those curious about Hindu nationalism and the challenges that liberal democracy faces outside the West from illiberal ideologies. It is also a bit of a rarity--a work on Hindu nationalism that neither lionizes nor demonizes its protagonists. This will make Sitapati few friends among Hindu nationalists, whose house intellectuals and fellow travelers confuse hagiography for scholarship. Nor will it endear the author to colleagues in Western academia, where many experts on Hindu nationalism tend to adopt a tone of high moral dudgeon.

For contemporary observers of Indian politics, the story of Vajpayee and Advani is most important for what it tells us about Modi's BJP. On the surface, Modi and his right-hand man, Home Minister Amit Shah, share some similarities with the duo they replaced atop the party. Like Vajpayee, Modi is an acclaimed orator; like Advani, Shah is more of an organization man. But in a deeper way, Modi has changed the party and its culture. Vajpayee and Advani were co-equals; Modi is clearly Shah's boss. Advani recruited rabble rousers; Modi has empowered them. Under Modi, the party no longer feels the need to dog whistle on religion: it explicitly attacks India's 200-million Muslims and Pakistan in order to win elections. In the Vajpayee-Advani era, the BJP tried to project itself as above the pettiness of caste politics. Now it champions caste quotas in employment and education while still preaching pan-Hindu unity. In the Vajpayee-Advani era, Brahmins and other so-called upper castes dominated the party. Modi has substantially remade the party in his image as a vehicle for formerly subordinate Hindu castes.

For all his insights, Sitapati comes across as overly sanguine about the prospects for Indian democracy. He argues, for instance, that Indira Gandhi's arrest of thousands of RSS and Jana Sangh workers during her suspension of democracy (1975-77) "made real [for them] the rights that only democracies guarantee; they learnt the value of civil liberties and freedoms." But it's not clear how well this lesson has been learned. On Modi's watch, India introduced its first religious test of citizenship in 2019. Mobs have lynched Muslims over flimsy accusations of eating beef or stealing cattle. The government has pressured Facebook and Twitter to delete unflattering content and jailed activists under draconian sedition laws that date back to colonial rule. BJP state governments have passed legislation to restrict freedom of conscience and curb marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women.

This year, Freedom House downgraded India from "free" to "partly free." Sweden's V-Dem Institute now classifies India as an electoral autocracy, two notches below liberal democracies like the U.S., Japan, and Australia. In the end, Vajpayee and Advani may go down in history for managing to reconcile an illiberal ideology with a liberal constitution authored by Western-educated Indians eager to emulate Britain and America. Modi's BJP--more populist, chauvinist, and authoritarian in its instincts than before--could end up burying that achievement. Americans looking for a liberal democratic bulwark against China in Asia may need to look elsewhere.

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Lessons from the Russian gas debacle (Scott Sumner, 10/30/22, EconLib)

There are an increasing number of reports that Russia's attempt to use gas exports as a geopolitical weapon have backfired.  Here's Bloomberg:

Worse, Russia also tried to scare Ukraine's friends out of the fight by wielding its brass energy knuckles, causing oil and gas prices to soar. But the West is now prying that weapon out of Russia's hands, Clara Ferreira Marques writes, and will soon start bodying Russia with it. We've found workarounds for Russian energy; Europe is now swimming in so much gas it costs less than zero. Plus we've hurried up our embrace of renewables that will make Russia's fossil fuels obsolete. And being deprived of foreign dollars and expertise will mean more of those fuels stay in the ground.

Another Bloomberg article discusses the long run implications for Russia:

Russia will never go back to fossil fuel exports at levels seen in 2021. Its share of internationally traded gas is seen shrinking from 30% last year to half of that by 2030. The country exported over 7 million barrels per day of oil last year, but the IEA estimates that falls by a quarter by 2030, even in the least-demanding scenario. By the mid-2020s, North America is exporting more oil than Russia.

I see two important lessons from this fiasco

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Experts fear rising global 'incel' culture could provoke terrorism (Mark Townsend,  30 Oct 2022, The Guardian)

Almost 1,000 references to dehumanising misogyny or violent action are recorded each day in the "incelosphere" as the toxicity of male supremacist content continues to intensify.

Analysis of the incel movement found that online references to inflicting violence and extremely degrading language on dedicated incel forums are running eight times higher than in 2016, when researchers first began tracking misogynist content on the internet.

Academics from the University of Exeter also noted an increasing overlap between incel followers and the far right, with online algorithms blamed for pushing young boys towards extreme rightwing ideology.

No one hates just Mexicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


With Western weapons, Ukraine is turning the tables in an artillery war (Andrew E. Kramer, 10/29/22,  New York Times)

On the screen of a thermal imaging camera, the Russian armored personnel carrier disappeared in a silent puff of smoke.

"What a beautiful explosion," said 1st Lt. Serhiy, a Ukrainian drone pilot who watched as his weapon buzzed into a Russian-controlled village and picked off the armored vehicle, a blast that was audible seconds later at his position about 4 miles away.

"We used to cheer, we used to shout, 'Hurray!' but we're used to it now," he said.

The war in Ukraine has been fought primarily through the air, with artillery, rockets, missiles and drones. And for months, Russia had the upper hand, able to lob munitions at Ukrainian cities, towns and military targets from positions well beyond the reach of Ukrainian weapons.

But in recent months, the tide has turned along the front lines in southern Ukraine. With powerful Western weapons and deadly homemade drones, Ukraine now has artillery superiority in the area, commanders and military analysts say.

Ukraine now has an edge in range and in precision-guided rockets and artillery shells, a class of weapons largely lacking in Russia's arsenal. Ukrainian soldiers are taking out armored vehicles worth millions of dollars with cheap homemade drones, as well as with more advanced drones and other weapons provided by the United States and allies.

Probably best not to let industries with vested interests convince you how "formidable" our enemies are.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The attack on Nancy Pelosi's husband is the culmination of longtime GOP hate-mongering (Nicole Narea,  Oct 29, 2022, Vox)

Pelosi has been villainized by Republicans since she first ascended to Democratic leadership.

In 2003, within days of her election as House Minority Leader, she quickly faced gendered attacks from Republicans who were, as Mark Z. Barabak wrote for the Los Angeles Times at time: "eager to attack Pelosi as a loopy San Francisco liberal and exploit her city's reputation as the odd-sock drawer of America. Within days, her face -- garish and twisted -- showed up in an attack ad slamming the Democrat in a Louisiana House race. (He won anyway.) She surfaced as Miss America, complete with tiara, in a spoof on Rush Limbaugh's Web site."

Such attacks continued throughout her tenure as minority leader, including during the 2006 election when Republicans ran a swath of attack ads featuring unflattering photos of Pelosi often looking angry, bug-eyed, or startled. And they increased in 2010, after she had become speaker. Republicans made her the face of their attacks on Democrats' Affordable Care Act and launched a "Fire Pelosi" campaign, which involved a bus tour and images of Pelosi engulfed in flames.

Under the Trump era and in the years since, the attacks only escalated in tenor. Former President Donald Trump, who has remained silent about the attack on Paul Pelosi, shared doctored videos of the speaker designed to call into question her mental fitness, retweeted accusations that she was "drinking booze on the job," and had a litany of derogatory nicknames for her, among them "Crazy Nancy," "Nervous Nancy" and "Nancy Antoinette."

Many of Trump's followers echoed his rhetoric, online and in conservative media such as Fox News. In 2021, Fox News host Mark Levin called her "nasty old bag -- that's what she is, a nasty, vicious, unhinged fool" who "has the hots for Trump" and "can't get Trump out of her head."

Rhetoric involving Pelosi has often taken violent turns as well. In 2018 and 2019, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) repeatedly seemed to suggest support for Pelosi's execution, among that of other prominent Democrats, liking a Facebook post that said "a bullet to the head" would be the most expedient way to end Pelosi's speakership. Taylor Greene also claimed in a Facebook video that Pelosi was guilty of treason, noting "a crime punishable by death is what treason is."

One candidate in the GOP primary for Senate in Arizona this year aired a Super Bowl ad that featured him dressed as sheriff shooting down an actor playing Pelosi, identified as "Crazy Face Pelosi," after he says, "The good people of Arizona have had enough of you." In the period since Labor Day, Republicans have reportedly since spent nearly $40 million on ads that mention Pelosi.

Even on Friday, just hours after the attack, Virginia's Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin linked the attack on Pelosi's husband to the November election, drawing condemnation from Democrats who called the comments insensitive.

"There's no room for violence anywhere, but we're going to send [Pelosi] back to be with him in California," Youngkin said at a campaign rally in Stafford for GOP congressional candidate Yesli Vega.

Fox News anchors have also tried to tie the attack to Republicans' message on crime in the midterms. "This can happen anywhere. Crime is random and that's why it's such a significant part of this election story," Fox anchor Bill Hemmer said on air Friday.

The vilification of Pelosi has taken an even uglier form in ultra right-wing circles online. Some on Trump's social media platform Truth Social have been openly celebrating Friday's attack, with the hashtag #PelosiCrimeFamily trending over the weekend.

Arguably the current venom aimed at Pelosi wouldn't exist without the decades of Republican vitriol against her. President Joe Biden made that connection explicit at a fundraising dinner Friday in Philadelphia, saying that political violence is the natural outcome of the kind of rhetoric that Republicans have enabled. "What makes us think that it's not going to corrode the political climate?" he asked.

It's a mystery how the weak-minded select these targets...

Hate speech, online extremism fed Pelosi attack, terror experts believe (Heather Timmons, 10/29/22, Reuters)

[T]errorism and extremism experts believe it could be an example of the growing threat of so-called stochastic terrorism, in which sometimes unstable individuals are inspired to violence by hate speech and scenarios they see online and hear echoed by public figures. [...]

Pelosi has been demonized online and in public by both far right and far left-leaning political websites and figures. Graphics depicting her being beheaded, and a call to send immigrants to her home, with her address, circulated online this summer, according to Site Intelligence Group, which researches online extremism.

Rita Katz, executive director of Site, said the Speaker was a hate figure for much of the political right, and is the "face of the Democratic establishment and, as such, at the center of many QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories."

Those theories and people who espouse them are sometimes promoted by more mainstream public figures, amplifying the threats, experts say.

"While the intent may be to mobilize one's political base or generate ratings it also adds to the volatility of the threat environment," said Cohen.

Individual attackers, sometimes known as "lone wolves" frequently combine personal with political grievances and are reinforced and radicalized by things they read online, the DOJ's research arm The National Institute of Justice reports.

Attacks on political figures, places of worship and races or ethnicities have occurred in the United States for decades, but law enforcement professionals say the current environment is particularly dangerous.

"Today's radical extremism threat has this powerful digital component that can really accelerate recruitment and activate violence across a broader threat landscape," Aisha Qureshi, a social science analyst at the National Institute, said in an agency podcast before the Pelosi attack.

"Just the sheer volume and speed of misinformation spread through social media really exacerbates this problem," she said.

Threats against political leaders are rising in the United States. Cases related to "concerning statements and threats" against members of Congress jumped from 3,939 in 2017 to 9,625 in 2021, according to the U.S. Capitol Police.

"Look at the FBI attack in Ohio," said Todd Helmus, a senior behavioral scientist at security research firm Rand Corp., referring to an August incident when an armed man tried to break into the Cincinnati FBI headquarters.

Helmus linked that incident to rhetoric surrounding the FBI's removal of classified documents from Trump's Florida estate. Site said the Pelosi attack was being celebrated online by far-right supporters.

October 29, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 2:00 PM


'Vicious, biased': Trump assails judge in NY fraud lawsuit (MICHAEL R. SISAK, 10/29/22, AP) 

Donald Trump is lashing out at the judge handling the New York attorney general's fraud lawsuit against him and his company, calling him "vicious, biased, and mean" in a social media post just days before the case's first court hearing.

Gotta let the Trumpbots know who to attack next.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Where is 'my' Brazil? (Astrid Prange, 10/29/22, deutsche-Welle)

 According to the latest poll, conducted by the polling institute DataFolha on October 27, it will be neck-and-neck. Lula is currently polling at 49%, with the incumbent, Bolsonaro, on 44%.

However, regardless of the outcome of Sunday's election, the poll shows that the population of Brazil does not consist solely of people who identify with the values and policies of this self-proclaimed patriot, despite his dominance of the news coverage.

In the first ballot on October 2, 51 million people (43%) voted for Bolsonaro, and 57 million (48%) for Lula. A Brazilian friend of mine sums up the current mood in many parts of the country as follows: "Lula is certainly not the gate to paradise, but he is the way out of hell."

Sad but true: For the past four years, many of my Brazilian friends have felt as if they were living in hell. Almost all of them have lost relatives in the COVID-19 pandemic. Their children have emigrated, because they cannot see a future for themselves in Brazil at the moment.

Many Brazilians are exhausted by the human tragedies, the political manipulation, the growing poverty. They want a return of hope and human empathy; they want the vilification and abuse of political opponents to cease, and the flood of fake news to subside.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


'They beat our a--es': Russian mercenaries talk about humiliating defeat by US in reportedly leaked audio (Alex Lockie, Feb 26, 2018, Bloomberg)

Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February involving US forces and Russian nationals.

Published by Polygraph.info -- a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government -- the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin.

The Pentagon has described the attack as "unprovoked" and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones.

The Pentagon says that about 500 men began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces.

Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left "several dozen wounded" and that some had died.

The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died "right away," appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 -- if not more -- Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance's purpose was to test the US's response.

Ukraine wasn't the first disaster we tricked Vlad into.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


October 28, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 10/28/22, Letters from an American)

The attack on Mr. Pelosi comes after right-wing figures have so often advocated violence against the House speaker that the rioters on January 6 roamed the U.S. Capitol calling for her in the singsong cadences of a horror movie. Before she ran for Congress, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said Pelosi was a "traitor" and told her listeners that treason is "a crime punishable by death," and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) once "joked" about hitting Speaker Pelosi with the speaker's gavel if he becomes speaker himself, prompting laughter from his audience.

Whipping up supporters against a perceived enemy to create a statistical probability of an attack without advocating a specific event is known as "stochastic terrorism." Without using that phrase, Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) explained it today: "[W]hen you convince people that politicians are rigging elections, drink babies blood, etc, you will get violence. This must be rejected."

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Suspect in Pelosi home attack: Pro-nudity activist to QAnon conspiracy theorist (MICHAEL BIESECKER and BERNARD CONDON, 10/29/22, Times of Israel)

A 2013 article in The Chronicle described David DePape as a "hemp jewelry maker" who lived in a Victorian flat in Berkeley with Taub, who hosted a talk show on local public-access TV called "Uncensored 9/11," in which she appeared naked and pushed conspiracy theories that the 2001 terrorist attacks were "an inside job."

A pair of web blogs posted in recent months online under the name David DePape contained rants about technology, aliens, communists, religious minorities, transexuals and global elites.

An August 24 entry titled "Q," displayed a scatological collection of memes that included photos of the deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and made reference to QAnon, the baseless pro-Trump conspiracy theory that espouses the belief that the US is run by a deep state cabal of child sex traffickers, satanic pedophiles and baby-eating cannibals.

"Big Brother has deemed doing your own research as a thought crime," read a post that appeared to blend references to QAnon with George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984."

In an August 25 entry titled "Gun Rights," the poster wrote: "You no longer have rights. Your basic human rights hinder Big Brothers ability to enslave and control you in a complete and totalizing way."

The web hosting service WordPress removed one of the sites Friday afternoon for violating its terms of service.

On a different site, someone posting under DePape's name repeated false claims about COVID vaccines and wearing masks, questioned whether climate change is real and displayed an illustration of a zombified Hillary Clinton dining on human flesh.

There appeared to be no direct posts about Pelosi, but there were entries defending Trump and Ye, the rapper formally known as Kayne West who recently made antisemitic comments.

In other posts, the writer said Jews helped finance Hitler's political rise in Germany and suggested an antisemitic plot was involved in Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine.

"The more Ukrainians die NEEDLESSLY the cheaper the land will be for Jews to buy up," the post said.

In a September 27 post, the writer said any journalists who denied Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election "should be dragged straight out into the street and shot."

Doesn't even sound unusual for the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Brazil's comedians see perfect timing 'to make people laugh' (AFP, October 28, 2022)

A divisive election duel has Brazilians on edge and sometimes depressed, but for comedian Fabio Porchat, it's the perfect time to break out the jokes.

"It's the best time to make people laugh," said the 39-year-old, whose stand-up routine has been a hit in Rio de Janeiro in recent weeks as the country nervously awaits Sunday's runoff between President Jair Bolsonaro and rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"Nerves are on edge, people are sick of the elections. There is fighting within families ... But when we get together to go to the theater for a laugh, it doesn't matter if you are for Lula or Bolsonaro, we laugh at the jokes, and that is that."

The Right/Left exists to amuse us.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


GOP Secretary of State Candidates Scheduled to Appear with a White Nationalist and Conspiracy Theorists: They're not even trying to hide their ties to the extremist fringe. (David Corn, 10/28/22, MoJo)

Mark Finchem, GOP candidate for Arizona secretary of state, attends a conference on conspiracy theories about voting machines and discredited claims about the 2020 presidential election in West Palm Beach, Florida, September 10, 2022. The event featured Republicans running for statewide offices that oversee elections in some of the most important battleground states. Jim Rassol/AP

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An ally of white nationalists; a former CEO and conspiracy theorist who tried to convince Donald Trump to use the National Guard to seize voting machines after the 2020 election; an Ohio math teacher who claims he discovered an algorithm showing that virtually every county in the United States was hacked to prevent Trump's reelection two years ago--these are people with whom Republican secretary of state candidates have forged alliances. 

Mark Finchem, Jim Marchant, and Kristina Karamo, each an election denialist and a GOP contender for secretary of state in, respectively, Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan, were scheduled to appear October 29 at a self-described "Florida Election Integrity Conference 2.0" in Orlando. Also on the bill: other proponents of Trump's Big Lie that the election was stolen from him. The event, one in a series of such conferences being mounted by 2020 truthers across the country, shows how these Republican candidates are closely tied to right-wing extremism. The previous conference in this series, held in New Mexico, was moderated by Lara Logan, the past CBS News reporter who has recently been mouthing bonkers QAnon-ish claims that a Satanic global cabal of elitists is kidnapping hundreds of thousands of children to drink their blood. (She has been booted off Fox News and Newsmax for her conspiracy-driven ravings.)

The Florida event is moderated by Carolyn Ryan, who works for Real America's Voice, a conservative network that broadcasts Steve Bannon's daily show and has promoted QAnon material. Scheduled speakers at the conference--in addition to the three Republican secretary of state candidates--include Laura Loomer, Patrick Byrne, and Douglas Frank, each a luminary in the 2020 truther movement. 

In August, Loomer, who describes herself as a "proud Islamaphobe," narrowly lost a Republican primary contest for a House seat. She had previously declared, "I'm a really big supporter of the Christian nationalist movement," and "I'm going to fight for Christians, I'm going to fight for white people, I'm going to fight for nationalist movements." She has also proclaimed, "I love Nick Fuentes," referring to one of the nation's leading antisemitic white nationalists, called this racist an "ally," and agreed to speak at one of his conferences. After losing that GOP congressional primary, Loomer insisted she was the victim of election fraud--yes, another conspiracy theory--and called on MAGA Republicans to not vote for the Republican candidate who defeated her. 

October 28, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Pennsylvania man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Eric Swalwell (Juliegrace Brufke, October 28, 2022, Washington Examiner)

A Pennsylvania-based man admitted to threatening to kill Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and impersonating members of the Trump family on social media in an effort to raise funds for a fraudulent political organization on Friday.

Without naming Swalwell directly, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams announced that Joshua Hall, 22, pled guilty to one count of "making interstate communications with a threat to injure, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Hall previously pled guilty to "one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison."

Hall placed multiple calls to the California Democrat's office from Yonkers, New York, telling staff members in August he had "a lot of AR-15s" and would attempt to assassinate the congressman if he saw him.

In Retrial, Man Who Helped Run Border Wall Charity Is Convicted (Colin Moynihan, Oct. 28, 2022, NY Times)

A man from Colorado who helped loot a charity that raised private money for a border wall of the sort championed by former President Donald J. Trump was convicted on Friday in a retrial in Manhattan federal court.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Utility Explores Converting Coal Plants into Nuclear Power: The large utility PacifiCorp is studying the viability of turning five fossil-fuel plants into nuclear-energy-and-storage facilities (Benjamin Storrow, E&E News on October 28, 2022, Scientific American)

The West is going nuclear.

A Bill Gates-backed developer and one of the largest utilities in the Western United States announced Thursday they were launching a study to determine if up to five coal plants could be equipped with advanced nuclear reactors.

The move further cemented the relationship between TerraPower, a nuclear developer, and PacifiCorp, a six-state utility headquartered in Portland, Ore. The pair agreed last year to build a 345-megawatt Natrium nuclear reactor at the site of a retiring coal plant in western Wyoming.

The deal signals the emergence of a new energy transition strategy in the West, where PacifiCorp has had to balance the climate goals of its customers in Washington and Oregon with the wishes of its Wyoming consumers, who want to keep the company's coal plants open in their state. Nuclear power brings with it the prospect of jobs and zero-carbon electricity, potentially meeting the climate goals of political leaders and ratepayers in Washington and Oregon.

Posted by orrinj at 5:00 PM


The end of Europe's energy crisis is in sight: What a negative gas price tells us about economics, capitalism and the future (CHRIS GILES, 10/28/22, FT)

All European gas prices have tumbled since Vladimir Putin decided to stop supplying the continent through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline at the end of August. Day-ahead prices are similar to the hourly rate of €50/MWh, month-ahead prices for November are €100/MWh, less than a third of the peak, and future prices for November 2023 are also down from almost €300/MWh to around €140.

It goes without saying that the tumbling cost of gas was neither Putin's intention nor the consensus expectation when the Russian president weaponised European gas supplies during the summer. At the time, sector specialists expected wholesale prices to shoot higher and industry was worried. The voice of German industry, the BDI, warned of a "massive recession".

It was economists who came closest to understanding the likely effect of Putin's energy aggression; people and industries tend to respond to price incentives so they predicted that consumption was likely to fall.

Economic circumstances will still be difficult across Europe this winter, but that is exactly what has happened. The gas-hungry process of producing ammonia for fertiliser -- a low value added business -- ceased until a couple of days ago, with the bulk chemical imported from the US. Dirty coal and clean renewables have been used to substitute for gas in electricity generation. Analysis by Ember, a consultancy, has found that there was a record year-on-year increase in solar and wind electricity generation across the EU between March and September.

Most impressive of all has been the reduction in consumption of gas by both industrial and domestic consumers, not merely related to the mild weather. In recent weeks, Germany's industrial use of gas has been around 20 to 25 per cent down on a year ago while its production in the sector was 2.1 per cent higher in August year on year. German household gas consumption is down similar amounts as families compete to see how far into autumn they can go without turning on the heating.

Tax the externalities and the transition is rapid.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


Pelosi attack suspect David DePape embraced hate speech, multiple conspiracy theories (CBS SF, OCTOBER 28, 2022)

DePape was known for embracing multiple conspiracy theories on subjects such as voter fraud, climate change, and the COVID pandemic on different online forums. He also has posted antisemitic screeds and videos from "My Pillow" founder and Donald Trump sycophant Mike Lindell.

DePape posts frequently fixate on the subject of government or tech company "censorship." One blog has subject tabs with such labels as "Pedophile normalization," Creationism," and "Facts are Racist."

Another website has categories such as "Climate Hysteria,"  "Da Jewbs," and "Groomer Schools."

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Ambition keeps him loyal to Donald Trump. But what does Kevin McCarthy stand for? (Jeffrey Fleishman, Nolan D. McCaskill, Oct. 27, 2022, LA Times)

He has soared through the ranks largely untested in the art of bipartisan deal-making -- evident in his failed battle with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to put his slate of Republicans on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.

"He's all hat, no cattle," said one former Republican congressman. "Blatantly transparent."

But McCarthy's ideological flexibility and his fraught, often humiliating efforts to manage Donald Trump have made him an asset to House Republicans as they head into next month's midterm elections. He is a master at the machinery of electoral politics. Perhaps no one in Washington is more attuned to the races playing out across this clamorous land. He has traveled to dozens of states since August and raised far more money than Trump has for his fellow Republicans this cycle. When most of his colleagues are sleeping, McCarthy is likely flying over some starlit corner of the republic, mapping out designs to elevate himself and return his party to power.

A skilled pragmatist and an establishment politician, he is navigating the crosscurrents of a viscous new America while holding together a fractious and combative caucus that encompasses the incendiary fictions of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and the rebel defiance of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.). But he is reviled in many quarters as a Trump apologist. His critics regard him as an equivocator whose ambition has blinded him to the threats against the country and bound him to a former president inciting a politics of victimhood, lies and persecution.

"I don't see him as recognizable anymore. He's not the same person," said Mike Madrid, a Republican consultant who has known McCarthy for decades and describes him as a classic conservative -- small government, low taxes, free market. "He's dealing with a countercultural movement within the party. He has to pivot to leading a fiery mob. ... The old Kevin McCarthy would have protected the party from the mob. He has been overrun."

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attacked with hammer at San Francisco home (Kevin Breuninger, 10/28/22, CNBC)

Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was "violently assaulted" by a person who broke into the couple's San Francisco home early Friday morning, the speaker's office said in a statement. [...]

The suspect used a hammer in the attack, NBC News reported, citing two people briefed on the incident. He was searching for the House speaker, shouting, "Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?" before assaulting Paul Pelosi, a source briefed on the attack told NBC. [...]

It's not the first time the Democratic House speaker, also 82, has been targeted with threats.

A North Carolina man, Cleveland Meredith, was sentenced last December to 28 months in prison after pleading guilty to threatening to shoot Pelosi. Meredith, 53, had traveled to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, planning to attend rallies on that day, but didn't arrive until the evening, when the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol had been tamped down.

Another man, 77-year-old Steven Martis of Arizona, was sentenced in February to 21 months behind bars for threatening to kill Pelosi in messages to her D.C. office.

And in April, Florida man Paul Hoeffer, 60, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for phone calls in which he threatened to behead Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., another frequent target of criticism from the political right.

The attack on Paul Pelosi comes as the U.S. Capitol Police record a drastic rise in threat cases -- a 144% increase from 2017 to 2021, according to the department.

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 PM


How super-hot rocks miles under the earth's surface could provide limitless clean energy (Catherine Clifford, 10/28/22, CNBC)

The future of clean, renewable energy is underneath our feet. Quite literally.

The core of the earth is very hot -- somewhere between 7,952 degrees and 10,800 degrees Fahrenheit at the very center. If we can drill down from the surface into what's called superhot rock, then we could access the heat of the earth and turn it into a massive source of zero-carbon, always available energy.

A new report out Friday from the Clean Air Task Force, a non-profit climate organization, finds that this category of clean, baseload superhot rock energy has the potential to be cost-competitive with other zero-carbon technologies -- while also, very critically, having a small land footprint.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Oxford Study Sheds Light on Muhammad's 'Underage' Wife Aisha (Dr. Javad T. Hashmi, October 28, 2022, New/Lines)

Working under the supervision of Oxford's Professor Christopher Melchert -- a world-renowned expert in Islamic studies -- Little subjects the traditional Islamic sources in general (and the Aisha hadith in particular) to the historical-critical method.

In contrast to traditional religious methods, the historical-critical approach involves using the latest techniques from the modern historian's toolkit to ascertain historical plausibility or lack thereof. For example, scholars scour the text for historical anachronisms, which would alert them to a fabrication. Readers may be familiar with a similar historical-critical approach applied to biblical materials, popularized among the general public by such scholars as Bart Ehrman, who differentiate between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith, which are not necessarily the same thing.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, some Muslim apologists avidly consume such historical-critical scholarship as it pertains to the Bible and Jesus. Most serious historians, for example, consider the idea of Christ's divinity and the doctrine of the Trinity as later developments of the Christian tradition. It is not difficult to see why Muslims would be sympathetic to such conclusions. On the other hand, some of these same Muslims may feel uneasy when a similar critical approach is applied to traditional Islamic sources. (Of course, this double-mindedness exists also among some conservative Christian apologists who, for instance, are all too happy to exploit the latest historical-critical findings in regard to the Quran's transmission history, while at the same time dismissing Ehrman and others.)

Little's conclusions are far-reaching and will come as welcome news to many Muslims. After analyzing all the various versions of the Aisha marital report, Little concludes the hadith was fabricated "whole cloth" by a narrator named Hisham ibn Urwa, after he relocated to Iraq between the years 754 and 765 CE. Not only would this put the circulation of this report almost a century and a half after the events it purports to describe, but it would also mean it was fabricated in the altogether different environment of Iraq, almost 1,000 miles away from the Arabian city of Medina (where the marriage would have taken place). As it turns out, the fabrication served distinct sectarian and political ends.

Little includes other reports -- such as Aisha purportedly playing with dolls in Muhammad's household -- in his overall critical assessment, deeming them to be partisan sectarian and political stories that are historically untrue. In other words, critical historians have little reason to believe Aisha was in fact married as a child.

The findings of Little's research line up with the work of several modern Muslim scholars and authors who have tackled the same topic before. However, many of these works -- though certainly not all of them -- have been apologetic in nature, poorly-argued, falling short of serious scholarship. What makes Little's contribution especially noteworthy is that he argues the case from a rigorous academic perspective, even refining a scholarly methodology known as the "isnad-cum-matn analysis." This method involves looking for correlations and patterns between the text of a hadith and its chain of transmitters to reconstruct the original from which the other texts disseminate. The process can help identify when a particular report originated (and from whom). Using this Western historical technique, Little's conclusions vindicate the reformist Muslim position.

It should, of course, be noted that even within the classical Islamic tradition there has always been reason to doubt the Aisha marital hadith. As Little writes in his dissertation, Ibn Urwa -- the originator of the report -- was considered unreliable even according to traditional criteria, at least after he relocated to Iraq. He was accused of "senility" (a charitable way of explaining a narrator's unreliable reports) and even of a form of academic deception called "tadlis" in hadith terminology. Tadlis in a hadith does not necessarily mean outright lying or fabrication but typically involves the omission of a flaw in the sourcing, such as by not mentioning a weak link in the chain of transmission so as to imply the hadith's reliability. At minimum, tadlis is a form of sloppiness in transmission.

Little notes the absence of the marital age reports in the earliest sources, including in certain key biographical and legal works. Ibn Ishaq -- Muhammad's best-known biographer -- mentioned nothing about Aisha's age at marriage; the detail was, however, added later by the historian Ibn Hisham (d. 833 CE). Perhaps more damning is the fact the marital age hadith is absent from the earliest Medinan legal collections, including Imam Malik's al-Muwatta, even though the latter cites Ibn Urwa dozens of times. As Little writes, "the failure of Malik to cite this hadith suggests not merely that Malik rejected it, but that it was not circulating in Medina at that time. This is especially given that the marital-age hadith has important legal ramifications, and thus would surely have demanded inclusion into a dedicated Madinan collection of Madinan legal Hadith."

The hadith is also absent from al-Mudawwana, a proto-Maliki collection of Medinan legal transmissions. Indeed, Little writes that, to the best of his knowledge, the earliest Maliki work to cite any version of the marital age hadith appeared "nearly three centuries after the hadith's initial mass-dissemination in Iraq." In sum, the early marriage of Aisha is absent from key early sources in the very city where the event would have taken place. Using this argument from silence (i.e., the absence of this report in the early sources), Little concludes this was a story invented in eighth-century Iraq and only later back-projected onto the life story of Muhammad.

This, of course, begs the question: why? According to Little, the claim about Aisha's age was part of medieval sectarian propaganda, concocted by a Sunni figure to bolster the image of Aisha against Shiite detractors. (Strictly speaking, the terms "Sunni" and "Shiite" only became current later; scholars of this period tend to refer instead to "proto-Sunni" and "proto-Shiite" movements and figures.) This explains why the hadith was fabricated in the Shiite hotbed of Iraq. Aisha, Muhammad's wife and the daughter of the first "Rightly Guided" Caliph of Sunni Islam, Abu Bakr, had a famous rivalry with the prophet's cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first imam for Shiites and the fourth caliph for Sunnis. Not only did Aisha's father compete with Ali for the caliphate, but Aisha herself would also later lead an insurrection against Ali.

In subsequent generations, Sunnis and Shiites used rival lineages to claim religious and political authority. In order to elevate Aisha's status (and their own lineage through her), some Sunnis asserted that she was Muhammad's favorite and his only virgin wife. As a religious and tribal leader, Muhammad had several wives, most of them divorced or widows from his community; collectively, they were revered as "the Mothers of the Believers." Aisha's alleged youth was used to stress her virginal purity -- or, rather, her virginal purity was implied by the extremely young age at which she was said to have been married.

Ancient Near Eastern cultures (like many others throughout history and into modernity) prized virginal purity due to the connotation of being free of carnal sin. For instance, both Christians and Muslims have stressed that Jesus' mother, Mary, was a virgin.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


The Supreme Court Could Overturn Another Major Precedent. This Time, Americans Might Agree. (Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Zoha Qamar, OCT. 28, 2022, 538)

[A] ruling limiting or ending affirmative action in higher education -- though it would have a huge impact on college admissions -- is less likely to draw public outrage. That's because affirmative action is unpopular, even though Americans do want there to be diversity in higher education.

For example, a Washington Post/Schar School poll conducted Oct. 7-10 found that near-identical shares of Americans supported a Supreme Court ruling "banning colleges and universities from considering a student's race and ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions" (63 percent), and thought programs that promote racial diversity in higher education are a good thing (64 percent). This is a great example of one of the central tensions in how Americans think about race-conscious admissions: Many people are uncomfortable with the concept of singling out racial minorities for special treatment if it means other students will have to meet a higher standard, even though they also want universities to have racially diverse student bodies.

Americans' ambivalence about affirmative action is strong enough that a small tweak in question wording can result in a very different result. A Pew Research Center poll conducted in 2017 found that a sizable majority (71 percent) of Americans said that "affirmative action programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses" are a good thing. Of course, this number might have changed over the past few years, but it suggests that reminding respondents about the aims of affirmative action programs -- rather than simply telling them how race-conscious admissions works, as the Washington Post/Schar School poll did -- may change the way people think about the concept.

A YouGov poll conducted in April tested this theory and found that framing does matter. When respondents were asked whether they supported or opposed "an affirmative action program for higher education that increases the share of Black and Hispanic students at selective institutions in the United States," there wasn't a clear consensus: Thirty-seven percent supported the programs, 34 percent opposed them and 29 percent said they weren't sure. But a much larger majority (68 percent) said that race should not "be considered when evaluating [a student's] admission to college," and a plurality (46 percent) agreed that "[q]ualified minorities" should not be given "special preferences in higher education."

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


EU strikes deal to ban the sale of new diesel and gasoline cars from 2035 (Anmar Frangoul, 10/28/22, CNBC)

In a statement Thursday evening, the European Parliament said EU negotiators had agreed on a deal related to the European Commission's proposal for "zero-emission road mobility by 2035."

The plan seeks to slash CO2 emissions from new vans and passenger cars by 100% from 2021 levels and would constitute an effective ban on new diesel and gasoline vehicles of these types. The European Commission is the EU's executive branch.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


New research champions algae farms as the future breadbasket of the Global South (Emma Bryce, October 28, 2022, Anthropocene)

There's an opportunity to feed the world by farming fast-growing, low-resource, photosynthesizing algae on marginal coastal lands globally, researchers show in a recent study. 

These nutrient-rich algae, farmed along coastlines in pounds of seawater pumped up from the ocean, could produce enough food to feed 10 billion people in the next 25 years--"while simultaneously reducing our demands for arable land and freshwater," says Charles Greene, lead author on the new Oceanography study and professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University.

He and his research team relied on GIS models to identify locations across the planet that are close to the sea, and have the right levels of sunlight to propel the growth of single-celled algae, which can grow 10 times faster than regular crops. 

They identified the most suitable locations in southern parts of the planet--which may help shift centers of global food production from the north to the south, the researchers believe. If produced across the identified area, algae alone could generate more than the total planetary protein demand projected for 2050--an amount of roughly 286.5 Mt per year. That's in addition to providing a rich source of minerals and omega-3 fatty acids, among other things. 

Algae could do this using one-tenth of the area required by conventional food sources to produce the same amount of food. Meanwhile, much of that land would be in places, like coastal desert environments, where it doesn't compete with other uses.

All of creation is funny, but there's nothing funnier than the guys who warn you about resource scarcity. Of course, they'd be funnier if they weren't so anti-human. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Overt US antisemitism returns with Trump, Ye: 'Something is different' (Michelle Boorstein and Isaac Arnsdorf , 10/28/22, Washington Post)

"While at a generalized level, antisemitic attitudes have dropped, the incidents have risen because there is less shame. People feel they can say and do anything," Greenblatt said.

Benjamin Lorber, a longtime researcher of antisemitism with Political Research Associates, said the latest rush of antisemitic rhetoric "fits into that broader political project," and he is not surprised to see it in the lead-up to the midterms this year. "The right is trying to regain power it felt it lost in 2020, so it makes sense, in addition to virulent anti-LGBTQ bigotry, that antisemitism is in the mix again," he said.

He and other experts noted that the 2018 Tree of Life massacre came just before the 2018 midterm elections and that the suspect had posted on the far-right social media site Gab that he was angry about ''filthy'' Jews who work to resettle refugees, especially Muslims.

"We're in an era when the MAGA movement's boundaries of who is considered a real, good, authentic American are mutating and the future is very unpredictable," Lorber said.

Trump earlier this month attacked American Jews in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying Jews in the United States must "get their act together" and show more appreciation for the state of Israel "before it is too late." Trump has multiple times raised the old antisemitic trope that US Jews hold, or should hold, a secret or dual loyalty to Israel rather than the United States. He said evangelicals are "far more appreciative" of actions on Israel than Jews.

Most Republicans said nothing about Trump's Truth Social post. Trump also defended Ye in an Oct. 18 interview with Salem News Channel, and other conservatives also rallied to support Ye, most commonly by portraying him as a victim of supposed efforts by Democrats, in combination with the media and corporations, to suppress opposing viewpoints.

Trumpism is nothing but Identity. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Why did Ayanna Pressley sign the letter to Biden calling for direct talks with Russia? (Joan Vennochi, October 26, 2022, Boston Globe)

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader who is likely to become speaker if Republicans take control of House, has already suggested Congress would walk away from the US commitment to Ukraine under Biden. "I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they're not going to write a blank check to Ukraine," he told Punchbowl News.

For progressive Democrats to do anything to undermine support for Ukraine given what's happening on the ground right now -- not to mention two weeks before the midterm elections -- is depressing. Do they really want to help Republicans, not to mention Putin, by undermining Biden? 

October 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM


When wind and solar replace fossil fuels, we will use less energy, save money, and won't be as sick (Giles Parkinson 28 October 2022, Renew Economy)

How can we possibly power a modern economy with renewables? It's an oft repeated question amplified by the fossil fuel industry. But the reality is that in a world largely powered by wind and solar, where most things are "electrified", we won't need as much energy.

This is not new news, but it's worth repeating because it is often forgotten. A new report from Accenture, studying the proposed rapid shift to renewables in Australia over the next two decades, puts this into perspective.

It notes that despite a near 50 per cent increase in demand as the world shifts to electric vehicles and electric appliances in the home, total energy consumption will actually decline, because new technologies are vastly more efficient.

And, it adds, it's not just energy we will be saving through the shift to wind, solar and storage, but money and health outcomes.

The fossil fuel economy is heating our climate, but it is also killing us, slowly, through pollution, and in our homes, at a cost of at least $4 billion a year in Australia alone, and likely much more. But we rarely talk about it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


White House on Ron Klain violating the Hatch Act: 'We are not perfect' (Sam Fossum, 10/27/22, CNN)

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre acknowledged Thursday that President Joe Biden's chief of staff Ron Klain violated the Hatch Act, saying that they take the provision seriously but that they "are not perfect."

"Ron is very careful and takes the Hatch Act very seriously in his media appearances and in his use of Twitter, but he got it wrong this time. And he retweeted something that was political. He fixed it as soon as it was pointed out, and take the warning to be more careful seriously," Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Russia-Ukraine WarPutin Rails Against 'Western Elites' in Speech Aimed at U.S. Conservatives (Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Eric Nagourney, Oct. 27th, 2022, NY Times)

Kind of odd to argue for Russian "culture" on the one hand and read from a speech written by Donald on the other.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


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GOP Rep. Liz Cheney backs Rep. Elissa Slotkin in tight Michigan House race in her first endorsement of a Democrat (Kevin Breuninger, 10/27/22, CNBC)

A source close to Cheney told CNBC that Barrett is "an election denier" who refuses to acknowledge Trump's loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 vote. Barrett joined 10 other state senators in signing a 2021 letter asking Congress to investigate unfounded voter fraud claims, Michigan Advance reported.

Trump's false claims about a "rigged" election fueled many of his supporters to storm the Capitol. Polls have shown large numbers of Republicans still question Biden's electoral victory, and a majority of GOP nominees on the ballot for the midterms have reportedly cast doubt on the results.

"I'm proud to endorse Elissa Slotkin," Cheney said in a statement shared by the Democrat's campaign. "Serving together on the Armed Services Committee, I have come to know Elissa as a good and honorable public servant who works hard for the people she represents, wants what's best for the country, and is in this for the right reasons."

"While Elissa and I have our policy disagreements, at a time when our nation is facing threats at home and abroad, we need serious, responsible, substantive members like Elissa in Congress," Cheney said. "I encourage all voters in the 7th district -- Republicans, Democrats, and Independents -- to support her in this election."

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM


Understanding (and Untangling) the New Right (Seth Moskowitz October 27, 2022, Discourse)

The right, in essence, abandoned the values of small-L liberalism--which is to say, not the ideology associated with the American left, but the enlightenment ideology that champions ideas like individual liberty, due process, pluralism, and free speech. In liberalism's place, the right has begun to champion a more muscular movement eager to wield government power in pursuit of conservative ends.

This enthusiasm for government coercion defines the New Right, and it is what differentiates it from establishment conservatism. 

Having adopted an Identitarian ideology you're just arguing about which Identities government should reward and which punish.

Posted by orrinj at 2:49 PM


The strange alliance between progressives and natcons on Ukraine (John Pietro, 10/27/22, spectator)

If you listened only to the rhetoric of so-called national conservatives, you would think progressives were their polar opposites. But on the issue of foreign policy, it seems like they can find some common ground.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Attack on Taliban vehicle carrying military employees kills five (The New Arab, 27 October, 2022)

"This morning, unknown armed men attacked a ... vehicle carrying medical personnel of the 207th Al-Farooq Army Corps," said Ministry of Defence spokesperson Enayatullah Khowrazmi, referring to a Taliban military unit headquartered in the western province of Herat. Several employees were also injured in the attack, he added.

Since taking over the country in 2021, the Taliban say they have focussed on restoring security to the war-torn nation.

However, in recent months a number of attacks have taken place and the United Nations has said security is deteriorating.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


Masked Poll Watchers Are Showing Up at Voting Sites With Handguns and Kevlar Vests (Ryan Teague Beckwith and Margaret Newkirk, October 27, 2022, Bloomberg)

Two people armed with handguns and wearing tactical military gear, balaclavas masking their face and the license plates on their cars covered, stood watch over a ballot drop box during early voting last week in Mesa, Arizona.

This scene, reported by the Maricopa County Elections Department on Friday, is one that some elections officials and law enforcement fear might spread as believers in Donald Trump's false claims that a second term as president was stolen from him through voter fraud amp up activity ahead of the Nov. 8 election. 

Other agitator election deniers are filming voters dropping off ballots, photographing their license plates and confronting them in parking lots outside early voting locations in Arizona and Michigan, according to Marcia Johnson-Blanco, who is overseeing election protection efforts for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

At least three groups that make baseless claims of widespread voter fraud are encouraging untrained volunteers to engage in the effort. One effort, funded by Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's first national security adviser and a former Army general in Iraq 20 years ago, is specifically recruiting military veterans and police officers to monitor voting.

Posted by orrinj at 1:56 PM


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John Durham's Investigation Has Disclosed Corruption: His Own: The Barr-appointed special counsel was supposed to reveal "the crime of the century." All he revealed was his incompetence--and worse. (Marcy Wheeler, October 27, 2022, New Republic)

Durham's twin trials also revealed how much deceit it takes to sustain the fairy tales the Barr-appointed special counsel was spinning for Fox News's audiences. Durham got an FBI agent to testify incorrectly that Danchenko believed he had received a phone call from Sergei Millian on a cell phone; when Danchenko's lawyer instructed the agent simply to turn the page of a trial exhibit and keep reading, the agent corrected his testimony to note that Danchenko had said the call may have come on a mobile app. The agent agreed with Danchenko's attorney that "we all know that [the testimony Durham elicited is] false."

Prosecutor Brittain Shaw elicited false testimony about whether an FBI analyst had used information Danchenko provided to pitch an investigation into one of his associates. "I was absolutely not trying to lie," Amy Anderson insisted, when shown a document that proved Danchenko had in fact provided information Shaw claimed he had hidden. Durham even tried to elicit false testimony to suggest that Danchenko had been asked--ever!--about a report at the core of one charge against him. He did so by pointing to a different, earlier Christopher Steele project, suggesting it was the Democratic-funded dossier.

Durham's boosters claim he has exposed the failures of the Crossfire Hurricane FBI team that was probing links between the Trump campaign and Russia. But the biggest 2016-related failure revealed at the trials showed that two cybersecurity agents who first analyzed anomalies associated with Russia's Alfa Bank misrepresented their timing and never reviewed key data. As a result, the FBI dismissed the anomalies without answering key questions about them. "The FBI didn't necessarily do everything right here," prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis said, admitting his own witnesses' investigative failures to the Sussmann jury. "They missed opportunities. They made mistakes." One of the agents who blew it accurately predicted that "any chance you get to work something like this that truly has [zero] repercussions if you mess it up." He is among the only FBI agents involved in a Russia investigation in 2016 that Barr's DOJ didn't punish for their involvement.

Besides, Durham's own investigative failures were far more stunning than anything described at trial. First, he never asked DOJ's inspector general for relevant evidence until after he indicted Michael Sussmann. That led Durham to rediscover something he had been told four years earlier but claimed to have forgotten: The inspector general had cell phones from his key witness. The inspector general also provided meeting notes by FBI witnesses disproving the case against Sussmann. And only in this same period months after the indictment did Durham ask his key witness to review what he had in his own iCloud account; along with one text that showed Durham had charged the wrong date, the witness found evidence that Sussmann helped the FBI kill a New York Times story about the Alfa Bank anomaly, something that undercut all Durham's claims about Sussmann's motive for sharing the tip with the FBI.

Even Durham's case against Danchenko showed investigative shortcomings. Durham proudly had his case agent describe the laborious work the team did to rule out that Danchenko had received a telephone call from Sergei Millian, but described nothing that would rule out a call using a mobile app--an egregious oversight for any prosecutor, especially one in such a high-profile case.

It took a June Roger Stone interview of George Papadopoulos to reveal that Durham never interviewed Trump's former campaign aide. Durham didn't interview Papadopoulos before he and the attorney general flew to Italy chasing some of Papadopoulos's baseless theories about the genesis of the investigation. Durham didn't interview Papadopoulos in conjunction with the Danchenko case, which would have shown that Millian was setting up meetings in New York City via an iPad during precisely the period Durham claimed such coordination was impossible. He didn't interview Papadopoulos to understand what Papadopoulos meant when he described Millian as "a very shady kind of person" in 2018 congressional testimony that Durham did rely on.

Durham doesn't need to do a report to show what an incompetent investigation looks like: His team modeled it.

While his ideology fueled much of the incompetence that's not the same thing as corruption.  It's just why you keep power away from ideologues.

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


Exclusive: Kanye West has a disturbing history of admiring Hitler, sources tell CNN (Chloe Melas, 19/27/22, CNN_

Several people who were once close to the artist formerly known as Kanye West told CNN that he has long been fascinated by Adolf Hitler -- and once wanted to name an album after the Nazi leader.

It's what he and Donald bonded over.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


The wasted potential of garbage dumps (Neel Dhaneshaneel,  Oct 24, 2022, Vox)

About 17 miles south of downtown Houston, Texas, on the western edge of a majority-Black neighborhood called Sunnyside, there is an unkempt-looking patch of trees. To a visitor driving down Belfort Avenue or Reed Road, which serve as the trees' boundaries to the north and south, they might look like a rare patch of urban forest in the city, or perhaps an extension of nearby Sunnyside Park.

But the trees are not the remnants of an old forest that survived Houston's hungry sprawl, nor are they the kind of green space that arises from careful public planning.

"These are trash trees," said Efrem Jernigan, a lifelong resident of Sunnyside and president of South Union CDC, a local community development nonprofit. Jernigan means that literally: They're growing on top of a 240-acre patch of land that used to be an active landfill.

"For 40 to 50 years, white Americans came here and dumped on Black Americans," said Jernigan. Once the site of Houston's largest trash incinerator, the landfill was closed in the 1970s, after residents protested the death of an 11-year-old boy there in 1967. In the decades since, the trees have been the only things to find any use for the site.

That's about to change. This year, work will begin to cut those trees down and replace them with solar panels, creating a 52-megawatt solar farm and revitalizing a site that has long served as little more than a reminder of the injustices of the past. When it's completed, it will join a growing list of landfill-to-solar projects across the United States that have the potential to help propel underserved communities to the forefront of the clean energy future.

Just another reason for MAGA to hate renewables.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Getting Past the Solipsistic Self: a review of of Bonnie Kristian's Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (Daniel Bennett, 10/27/22, Law & Liberty)

Untrustworthy begins with definitions. Despite the book's subtitle, Kristian prefers "epistemic crisis" to "knowledge crisis" because of the former's nod to epistemology, or understanding and interpreting reality itself. She identifies how this crisis manifests differently across the political spectrum. For those on the right, the crisis is best seen in support for conspiracy theories like QAnon, which, depending on how researchers ask questions, finds support from 30-50 percent of white evangelicals. For those on the left, the crisis is found in elevating identity and experience as essential to understanding reality, rendering objective truth claims all but impossible. Because this crisis shows up differently in different groups, it is easy for these groups to point the finger at their opponents while ignoring the challenges in their own tribe.

The Left and Right are both just Identitarian.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


New Hampshire May Be the Granite State, But Its Voting Population Is Always in Flux (Kenneth Johnson, Andrew Smith, Dante Scala, 10/25/22, UNH)

Nearly 28 percent of potential Granite State voters on November 8th were either too young to vote or did not live in New Hampshire in 2016. This figure underscores the rapid, substantial turnover among New Hampshire voters, an important point often overlooked by pundits and prognosticators. In fact, New Hampshire's population is among the most mobile in the nation: two-thirds of residents aged 25 and older were not born in the state. Nineteen percent of today's potential voters resided somewhere other than New Hampshire in 2016; in addition, just over 8 percent were not old enough to vote six years ago (Figure 1). Such migration, coupled with natural population change, as young voters come of age and older generations of voters pass from the scene, has altered the voting population considerably. The young potential voters tend to be more liberal than the 72 percent of potential voters who were already established here in 2016 (Figure 2). However, most of the voters new to New Hampshire are recent migrants to the state, who tend to be less liberal than young voters and more like the state's established voters. Given the narrow margins common in many recent New Hampshire elections, these new voters could have a significant impact on the 2022 election results. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Man convicted of killing 6 with SUV in Christmas parade (TODD RICHMOND, 10/26/22,  Associated Press)

Brooks' main defense theory appeared to be that he was a sovereign citizen, echoing a conspiracy theory that every person is a nation and isn't subject to government restrictions. He refused to recognize the court's jurisdiction over him, refused to answer to his own name, launched into meandering cross-examinations, and muttered under his breath that the trial wasn't fair.

He got into daily arguments with the judge that often devolved into shouting matches. At one point he glared at Dorow so intensely she had to take a recess because she said she was scared of him.

Multiple times, she moved him into another courtroom where he could watch the proceedings via video and she could mute his microphone when he became disruptive.

One day, after he was moved to the other room, he stripped off his shirt and sat bare-chested on his table with his back to the camera. On another day, he built a barricade out of his boxes of legal documents and hid behind it. On yet another, he held up a Bible so no one could see his face on camera and tossed his copy of the jury instructions into the garbage.

"We felt very, very offended by his behavior, his disrespect of the court, the decorum, the families, his insulting the judge, his challenging the judge," Opper said at a news conference.

"That's not the way our system is designed. That was intentional on his part. We truly believe that. He did everything he (could) except claim the dog ate his homework," Opper said. "He tried to turn this into his story. Let's talk about Mr. Brooks and his family. We just kept redirecting it back to the real focus here, our families, our victims, our community and his responsibility for this destruction."

October 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Europe now has so much natural gas that prices just dipped below zero (Anna Cooban, 10/6/22, CNN)

The price of benchmark European natural gas futures has dropped 20% since last Thursday, and by more than 70% since hitting a record high in late August. On Monday, Dutch gas spot prices for delivery within an hour -- which reflect real time European market conditions -- dipped below €0, according to data from the Intercontinental Exchange.

Prices turned negative because of an "oversupplied grid," Tomas Marzec-Manser, head of gas analytics at the Independent Commodity Intelligence Services (ICIS), told CNN Business.

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


3 men convicted of providing aid to terrorists in Whitmer kidnapping plot (Kara Berg, 10/26/22, The Detroit News)

Three men have been found guilty by a Jackson County jury of materially aiding a terrorist and being a member of a gang as part of a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

This verdict comes after a three-week trial where the Michigan Attorney General's Office had to prove that Paul Bellar, Joseph Morrison and Pete Musico provided aid to Adam Fox or Barry Croft, both of whom were convicted in an August federal trial of being ringleaders in the Whitmer kidnapping plot. Jurors spent two weeks listening to each side present testimony in the largest domestic terrorism case in a generation that has shed light on political extremism in Michigan.

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Blake Masters Endorsed Notorious White Supremacist Writer (Eric Hananoki, October 26 | 2022, National Memo)

Author and Senate nominee Blake Masters endorsed a book by Sam Francis in an Instagram post last year. Masters was recommending a commentator who wrote that the country should "oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind"; claimed that "immigrants, in particular Hispanics," will "kick the common culture into the gutters"; and claimed that "neither 'slavery' nor 'racism' as an institution is a sin."

Masters, who is a protege of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel, is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona. White nationalist Fox News host Tucker Carlson has heavily backed his candidacy and, in a quote posted on Masters' campaign website, called him "the future of the Republican party. Very smart guy. I'm rooting for him."

Francis was a longtime conservative columnist who died in 2005. The right-wing Washington Times fired him in 1995 after he made a racist speech at a white nationalist conference.

Alec Dent wrote in Vanity Fair that Masters "has been promoting Francis's ideas throughout his Senate campaign, going so far as to recommend his book of essays, Beautiful Losers, which Masters has cited as an influence on his style of conservatism, in an Instagram Story that was pinned at the top of his account.

It's just about Identity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After primaries, some Republican candidates try an extreme makeover to soften their hard-line positions (Tal Kopan,  October 25, 2022, Boston Globe)

Fresh off their primary victories this year, a handful of Republican congressional candidates celebrated in an unusual way: They quietly scrubbed their campaign websites.

In Arizona, gone were the Republican Senate nominee's references to being "100% pro-life" and his call for a constitutional amendment to confer "personhood" on all unborn babies. In Washington state, a Republican Senate hopeful removed a section of her site questioning the integrity of the 2020 election. And in a North Carolina House race, a prominent picture of former president Donald Trump and references to being "100% pro-life" and "100% pro-Trump" disappeared from the GOP candidate's website before Labor Day.

Candidates often recalibrate their campaigns and tweak their messages -- the proverbial pivot -- to appeal to a broader electorate after a primary aimed at gaining support from the party's base. But the reinventions by some 2022 candidates are going further, attempting major departures from explicitly stated positions during the primaries to more politically palatable stances for the fall.

"These candidates are finding out that appealing to a general election electorate is very different from appealing to a Republican base," said former Virginia Republican representative Tom Davis, who chaired the House Republican campaign arm when he was in office.

"Voters are going to have to decide if this is a true conversion or if this is just political expedience," he said. "This is not the first time it's happened in American politics and it won't be the last."

...are these guys genuine knuckle-draggers or faking it for the Trumpbots?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Energy loss is single biggest component of today's fossil-based electricity system (Karin Kirk, 26 October 2022, Renew Economy)

Traditional electricity generation has a thermodynamics problem: Burning fuel to generate electricity creates waste heat that siphons off most of the energy. By the time electricity reaches your outlet, around two-thirds of the original energy has been lost in the process.

This is true only for "thermal generation" of electricity, which includes coal, gas, and nuclear power. Renewables like wind, solar, and hydroelectricity don't need to convert heat into motion, so they don't lose energy.

The problem of major energy losses also bedevils internal combustion engines. In a gasoline-powered vehicle, around 80% of the energy in the gas tank never reaches the wheels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iron-flow battery maker behind massive US project starts work on Australia factory (Sophie Vorrath,  26 October 2022, Renew Economy)

Like other flow batteries, the chemistry and technology used by ESS is ideal for long duration energy storage duration up to 12 hours, and flexible in terms of where it can operate, geographically.

The company says it's also comparatively safe and stable compared to some other chemistries - non-toxic, with a 25-year lifespan without capacity fade. Hot climates are ideal - and it says there's no fire danger.

Where ESS's technology becomes, perhaps, more competitive than other flow batteries - vanadium, for example - is in its core ingredients: earth-abundant iron, salt and water.

"That is a pretty great starting point from where you can drive the ingredient prices down," says Dresselhuys, speaking to RenewEconnomy at the All-Energy Australia conference and exhibition in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How solar and battery households can beat coal and gas plants at their own game (Sophie Vorrath, 10/26/22, Renew Economy)

Energy retail upstart Amber Electric says customers using the company's SmartShift home battery management platform have earned a combined total of $60,000 over the past quarter, simply from exporting their stored solar energy.

Amber rolled out the beta version of its SmartShift app to customers across the National Electricity Market in February, offering a service that automates batteries to charge when energy is cheapest, through renewables, and then discharge when energy is most expensive.

Customers using the app quickly discovered the software's ability to earn between $40-$100 in a single evening by sending power to the grid during price spikes - of which there have been a great deal over the past year.

October 25, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


Family denies Rubio's claim of politically motivated attack (Miami Herald, 10/25/22)

Diana Rosa Lopez isn't sure exactly what started the fight between her son and an ex-white supremacist canvassing for Sen. Marco Rubio outside her home in Hialeah Sunday.

But Lopez, a registered Republican, says it wasn't about politics -- despite a viral tweet from Rubio claiming that his canvasser was attacked because he worked for the GOP.

"My son doesn't know anything about politics. He likes fishing," Lopez told the Miami Herald in a Tuesday interview at her house. [...]

"He deserves whatever he deserves for getting in a fight," Diana Lopez said. But she was clear: "This has nothing to do with politics."

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 PM


Florida judge orders DeSantis to hand over migrant flights records (GARY FINEOUT, 10/25/2022, politico)

A Florida judge on Tuesday found that Gov. Ron DeSantis' office is not following the state's public records law and ordered the administration to turn over records connected to the migrants flights from Texas to Martha's Vineyard within the next 20 days.

Circuit Judge J. Lee Marsh rebuffed arguments from the governor's lawyers that they should be allowed to wait until Dec. 1 to hand over records, including phone and text logs belonging to James Uthmeier, the governor's chief of staff who was involved in the operation to fly nearly 50 mostly-Venezuelan migrants to the vacation island.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 PM


New Study Warns That Argentina Is Stuck in an 'Oil and Gas Trap' (Nick Cunningham, Oct 25, 2022, deSmog)

Argentina's risky gamble on fracking has led to massive environmental and public health costs, and despite years of government support, the industry remains on shaky financial ground. As the energy transition picks up pace, the South American nation could be left with tens of billions of dollars in stranded assets, according to a new report by Dutch consultancy Profundo. The Argentine government, with the cooperation of an array of global institutions, has the country locked in an "oil and gas trap," mortgaging the country's future on fracking even as the financial risks continue to grow, the report warns.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Progressive Caucus Retracts Letter on Ukraine Policy Over Fears It Aligned With GOP (Patricia Zengerle, 10/25/22, Washington Examiner)

The Right, not the GOP. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM


Seeing Red in Rhode Island: Republicans eye pickup of a congressional seat in a deep-blue New England district. (Emmett Hare, October 25, 2022, City Journal)

Democrats looking for weak spots in the midterm defense of their House majority probably didn't expect to find one in deep-blue Rhode Island. Nevertheless, one of Rhode Island's two congressional seats remains highly competitive late in the campaign, with former Cranston mayor Allan Fung, the Republican nominee, stubbornly remaining a few points ahead of the Democratic nominee and state treasurer, Seth Magaziner. The race is shaping up to be a test of the prospects for centrist-leaning Republicans to succeed in Democratic-leaning districts--or any district.

Fung is a relentlessly friendly, pro-business political overachiever. A Providence-born son of immigrants, he exudes gratitude for the opportunities afforded to his family. A four-term mayor of Cranston and two-time GOP gubernatorial nominee (in 2014 and 2018), Fung has focused his campaign on kitchen-table issues like home-heating expenses for the approaching winter and the high grocery bills and gas prices squeezing the middle class.

...just competentist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


2 right-wing activists plead guilty in 2020 election robocall scheme (Rebecca Falconer, 10/24/22, Axios)

Jacob Wohl, 24, and Jack Burkman, 56, were indicted in October 2020 in connection with a scheme that Cuyahoga County prosecutors said targeted thousands of minority voters with pre-recorded messages that falsely claimed they could face mandatory vaccines or be tracked by law enforcement if they voted by mail.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sanctions May Push Russia into 'Technological Regress' (EDWARD GRAHAM,  OCTOBER 24, 2022, Defense One)

The report identified two key drivers of Russia's ability to develop and deploy advanced military systems through 2030: "The impact of Western sanctions on Russia's government revenue and ability to access critical technology, and the extent of the degradation of the Russian military in Ukraine, which will force choices on the Kremlin about how to prioritize military expenditures."

While Russia has been under international sanctions since 2014--when it illegally annexed Crimea and emboldened separatist uprisings in eastern Ukraine's Donbas region--the more stringent sanctions imposed since February are "much greater, affecting a broader range of goods and a wider range of sanctioned entities" and "Russia's future military capabilities by limiting Russia's access to technology."

"Furthermore, the imposition of export controls means that Russia cannot access strategically important goods such as semiconductors or precision machine tools that are produced in third countries, including China, India, Singapore and Taiwan, when they use equipment licensed from the United States or its allies," the report said. 

A submissive American president was his only hope. He just failed to reckon with the Deep State.

October 24, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


China's Coming Clash with Economic Reality (JIM O'NEILL, 10/24/22, Project Syndicate)

At a meeting with a senior Chinese official a few months ago, I jokingly said that my 30-plus years of "understanding" China may have been a fluke, because I couldn't comprehend some policies the country had adopted in recent years. The only way I could rationalize them was to conclude that they must be part of some tactical maneuver to neutralize factions within the CPC's upper echelons ahead of the Congress. Judging by who the Congress has chosen to be next to Xi in the new leadership, there have certainly been further purges of opponents - and very few signs of a reversal of the policies of recent years.

Unless the post-Congress days and weeks produce a big surprise, I see growing dilemmas emerging for Xi and the CPC.

In the BRICs analysis (the purported rise of Brazil, Russia, India, and China) that my then-colleagues and I produced a generation ago, the decade 2021-30 was supposed to be when China's economy closed in on the US in nominal terms. This was why the BRICs economies collectively might go on in the next decade to become larger than the G7, which would of course represent an enormous change to the modern world order.

This assumed that countries would achieve their long-term potential productivity rate, because Chinese GDP growth would decelerate as its labor-force growth peaked, implying that most of the 4.5-5% GDP growth we had assumed would reflect productivity gains. This growth rate is consistent with what China has stated is both required and desired to double its GDP per capita by 2035 from the 2020 level.

But the last three years suggest that China is unlikely to achieve this target unless it reconsiders its current policies. Virtually all scientific evidence suggests that it is impossible to eradicate COVID-19. The only plausible way to manage it is with proven vaccines. Chinese leaders' fear that abandoning the zero-COVID policy would overrun the health system and cause mortality to rise is understandable, but the policy is entirely inconsistent with the path to the 2035 goal. It has been clear for some time that China can achieve its goal only if Chinese consumers become a central part of the country's growth model. Rolling lockdowns make this virtually impossible.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


US left-wing lawmakers urge Biden to negotiate on Ukraine (AFP, October 24, 2022)

Left-wing US lawmakers on Monday urged President Joe Biden to seek a negotiated settlement with Russia to end the Ukraine war including by exploring security arrangements acceptable to both sides.

Can't tell the left from the Right without a scorecard. It's all just Identity. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Top doctor panned for voicing fear of 'Arab womb,' floating fines for Bedouin births (MICHAEL HOROVITZ, 10/24/22, Times of Israel)

A department head at Soroka Medical Center faced backlash Monday after expressing concern over high Bedouin birthrates at a parlor meeting hosted by Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked the previous evening in the southern town of Omer.

"The multiplying population, the most problematic population, is a sort of paradox, an oxymoron. We understand that the birthrate overwhelms us; the Arab womb, on the other hand, we encourage it with stipends for the children," said Prof. Gideon Sahar, head of cardiothoracic surgery at Soroka Medical Center.

Sahar went on to suggest that Bedouin families should face a fine after giving birth to a fifth child.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


California Poised to Overtake Germany as World's No. 4 Economy (Matthew A. Winkler, October 24, 2022, Bloomberg)

Gavin Newsom is as familiar as anyone with the media narrative of earthquakes, persistent wildfires, droughts, homelessness and companies fleeing California to Texas for a tax- and regulation-free lifestyle. This is nothing new. California's governor recalls a 1994 Time Magazine cover story citing "a string of disasters rocks the state to the core, forcing Californians to ponder their fate and the fading luster of its golden dream."

And yet, "the California dream is still alive and well," the state's 40th governor said in a Zoom interview a month before his probable reelection.

He's not wrong. California's economy has proven relatively resilient, first through the pandemic and now through the current period of elevated inflation. So much so, that the Golden State's gross domestic product is poised to overtake Germany's as the fourth largest in the world after the US, China and Japan. It had already leapfrogged Brazil (No. 7) and France (No. 6) in 2015 and supplanted the UK (No. 5) in 2017. Although many of California's current figures won't be published until 2023, estimates suggest the state may have already caught Germany, with at least one forecast implying California is ahead by $72 billion when considering the state's recent growth rate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Social Media Rhetoric Incite Hate Incidents? Evidence from Trump's "Chinese Virus" Tweets (Andy Cao, Jason M. Lindo & Jiee Zhong, October 2022, NBER)

We investigate whether Donald Trump's "Chinese Virus" tweets contributed to the rise of anti-Asian incidents. We find that the number of incidents spiked following Trump's initial "Chinese Virus" tweets and the subsequent dramatic rise in internet search activity for the phrase. Difference-in-differences and event-study analyses leveraging spatial variation indicate that this spike in anti-Asian incidents was significantly more pronounced in counties that supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election relative to those that supported Hillary Clinton. We estimate that anti-Asian incidents spiked by 4000 percent in Trump-supporting counties, over and above the spike observed in Clinton-supporting counties.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Putin's Russian Fatherland Is Losing Its Fathers -- And Its Future (Froma Harrop, October 24 | 2022, National Memo)

Ukrainians who left are flooding back into their country, while young Russians head to the exits in extraordinary numbers. Over the long run, the loss of draft-age men, especially educated ones, could pose a greater threat to Russian power than declaring victory and withdrawing.

"Demography is destiny," the French philosopher Auguste Comte famously said. A country's people as measured by numbers, age and educational level is said to be the fuel that powers civilizations. Russia is losing on all three counts.

Even before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia was facing a collapse in population as fertility rates cratered. Among Vladimir Putin's delusions was the belief that his government could encourage more births and at the same time send potential fathers to the frontlines as cannon fodder.

A report by the United Nations sees Russia's population falling by roughly 2 million by 2030. And it came out before Putin's mass mobilization.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's business, already shrinking, faces a tough test in court (Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Jonah E. Bromwich, 10/23/22,  New York Times)

The trial in state Supreme Court will present an embarrassing scene for the former president, pushing to the forefront one of several criminal investigations swirling around him.

This case centers on special perks doled out by the former president's business, the Trump Organization, which comprises a universe of more than 500 corporate entities. Last year, the district attorney's office accused two of those entities -- The Trump Corp. and Trump Payroll Corp. -- of awarding off-the-books benefits such as rent-free apartments and leased luxury vehicles to a few top executives who failed to pay taxes on the perks.

As jury selection begins Monday, District Attorney Alvin Bragg appears to have the upper hand. The Trump Organization's 75-year-old chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, recently pleaded guilty to conspiring with the two corporations to carry out the scheme -- and agreed to testify at their trial, tipping the case in favor of Bragg, a Democrat.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When Karl Marx Made the Case for Capitalism (.DAMON ROOT,  NOVEMBER 2022, reason)

In November 1864, Karl Marx wrote a letter congratulating President Abraham Lincoln on his reelection to the White House. "From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of England felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class," Marx declared. He was therefore thrilled by the news that Lincoln would continue "to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world."

That reconstructed social world did not just involve a Union victory in the Civil War. What Marx had in mind was the triumph of the North's free labor system and the accompanying spread of Northern capitalism throughout the would-be Confederate States of America.

If the idea of Marx welcoming the spread of capitalism comes as a surprise, that's because you don't know Marx. The free market economist Joseph Schumpeter famously likened capitalism to a "gale of creative destruction." But Marx actually said something similar in The Communist Manifesto, co-written with Friedrich Engels in 1848.

In barely a century, they wrote, capitalism "has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together." It has "rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life" and "wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal" arrangements. "All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away," and "all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air."

According to Marx, history unfolded in a grand series of stages, each defined by its dominant mode of economic production and each specifically arising to replace the one that preceded it. "In broad outlines," he wrote in the preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, "ancient, feudal, and modern bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society." Capitalism, in other words, was a historically necessary step in human progress.

The great revolutionary forces unleashed by capitalism, Marx thought, would in turn form and shape a self-aware proletariat class that would ultimately lead humanity into a glorious communist future. But that would happen only after capitalism had worked its magic. "No social order ever perishes," Marx maintained, "before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed."

The greatest innovation of capitalism was one that industrialization might have made apparent to Marx, though not necessarily: the complete replacement of labor with machines. How are you going to get people to revolt against capitalism when they don't even have to work for their wealth?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Isn't Inflation Falling? (Ben Carlson, 10/21/22, Wealth of Common Sense)

(1) Everyone got wealthier during the pandemic.

OK, maybe not everyone but the royal we is far wealthier. Collectively, U.S. households got much richer during the pandemic.

The net worth of U.S. households coming into 2020 was just shy of $110 trillion.

By the end of the second quarter net worth was up to more than $135 trillion, after hitting an all-time high of nearly $142 trillion coming into this year.

From the end of the first quarter in 2020 through the first quarter of 2022, the net worth of Americans increased by 37%, by far the biggest increase on record since the Fed began tracking this data in 1989.

That was from the Covid low through the post-pandemic high but even if we start from pre-pandemic levels, the 30% increase is by far the largest 2 year increase in net worth on record before this period.

And for once, it's not just the top 10% or the top 1% that's benefitted.

Take a look at the change in net worth of the bottom 50% over time:

From 1989 to the pre-GFC 2007 peak, the net worth of the bottom 50% went from $773 billion to $1.4 trillion.

So in a little less than 20 years, the net worth of this group rose by more than $620 billion.

The bottom 50% was devasted by the financial crisis and housing crash with the total net worth of this group declining to $190 billion.

By the end of 2019, it had come all the way back and then some, up to almost $2 trillion.

It's now $4.4 trillion.

So the net worth of the bottom 50% has increased by $2.4 trillion since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, meaning it has more than doubled in less than 3 years.

This group of households tends to spend a greater percentage of their income than those with more financial assets so it shouldn't come as a surprise that people continue to spend in the face of higher inflation.

The U.S. consumer has likely never been more prepared for high inflation (and a potential recession) than they were coming into this period of higher prices.

No one likes inflation but we love to spend money in this country. So most people have simply decided to complain but still spend through the pain of higher prices.

As historians cast their glance back across human history, the fact that this pandemic was the only one where people got richer will be one of the most extraordinary anomalies they find.  Of course, the failure to tax consumption led to people spending wealth they could have invested.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


October 23, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 10/23/22, Letters From an American)
Over the weekend, the Maricopa County Elections Department announced that two people, both armed and dressed in tactical gear, stationed themselves near a ballot drop box in Mesa, Arizona. They left when law enforcement officers arrived. At least two voters later filed complaints of voter intimidation, both complaining that they were filmed dropping off ballots. One complained of being accused of "being a mule," a reference to people who are allegedly paid to gather ballots and stuff drop boxes for Democratic candidates.

Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Recorder Stephen Richer issued a statement: "We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box.... [V]igilantes outside Maricopa County's drop boxes are not increasing election integrity. Instead they are leading to voter intimidation complaints."

The presence of armed vigilantes outside of voting places is a scene directly out of the 1876 "redemption" of the South.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and the fledgling Republican Party used the federal government to defend equality before the law and to expand opportunity for ordinary Americans. After the war, they included the newly emancipated southern Black population in their vision of an economy based on legal equality and free labor. When white southerners tried to force their Black neighbors back into submission, Congress passed the 1867 Military Reconstruction Act, establishing the right of Black men to vote for delegates to write new state constitutions.

White southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors to keep them from voting. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers and calling themselves the Ku Klux Klan, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls.

Members of the Ku Klux Klan tried to stop southern Republicans--both Black and white--from voting in favor of the new state constitutions. They killed nearly a thousand Unionists before the 1868 elections, terrorizing their neighbors and undercutting democracy in the South.

MAGA has klaimed the Konfederates Krown. 

October 23, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Better Read on the EconomyREVIEW: 'The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate' by Phil Gramm, Robert Ekelund, and John Early (Robert VerBruggen, October 23, 2022, Free Beason)

The book's core is a series of chapters taking on numerous concepts the government tries to measure.

Income? They're counting only cash income--leaving out in-kind transfers like food stamps and employer benefits, as well as failing to subtract taxes. Inflation? They're overestimating it, which means they assume more of our gains are eaten up by rising prices than is really the case. Both of these problems, meanwhile, affect the measurement of poverty, which depends on whether a family's income exceeds a threshold that is adjusted for inflation over time. Inequality also hinges on what is counted as income, and to make matters worse, international comparisons are sullied by the Census Bureau's failure to conform to the reporting rules other countries follow. These aren't wild conspiracy theories; they're backed up with careful explanations and citations, and for the most part already well known to people who follow these academic debates.

Even more interesting is the authors' attempt to present a fresh picture of American households' finances--both in terms of the current income distribution and in terms of trends over time--by accounting for problems like these.

Ranking households by their earned income (including employer-paid benefits and investment income), there's a 60-to-1 disparity between the top 20 percent and the bottom 20 percent. The official Census Bureau numbers, including all cash income, put the disparity at about 17 to 1. But add in all transfers and subtract taxes, and the gap shrinks to 4 to 1.

Government transfers to the lowest-earning quintile are enormous, totaling about $45,000 per household--about $19,000 from old-age entitlements, $2,500 from disability, $10,000 from Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and $1,500 from food stamps, plus $13,000 from other programs. The mix is different for elderly and non-elderly households, but the authors report very similar total results when the elderly are excluded, with bottom-quintile non-elderly households also receiving about $45,000 in total.

Indeed, by Gramm et al.'s calculations, the bottom 60 percent of households have been made startlingly equal. The bottom 20 percent end up with roughly $50,000 after taxes and transfers, versus $54,000 for the second quintile and $66,000 for the middle one. If one further adjusts for household size, the lowest income quintile slightly beats the second-lowest, which works more but sees less government largesse and has more mouths to feed.

Regarding poverty, the official rate has stayed within a narrow range of about 10 percent to 15 percent for decades. But when the authors add in government benefits the official measure fails to count, the rate is more like 3 percent, and it falls even lower if the inflation adjustment is improved as well. Gramm et al. also cite work from Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan that reached similar numbers by measuring poverty based on consumption rather than income.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Guardian writer doesn't get why Americans love fall (Teresa Mull, 10/23/22, Spectator)

[O]ur English cousins have finally crossed the line. Writing for the Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi vilifies that which we Yanks hold most sacred: "the season they call 'fall.'" According to Mahdawi, autumn is "overrated" "rubbish." Instead of pumpkin-spicing everything, she suggests we elevate another squash variety, "the humble courgetti," as our favorite flavor profile of the season.

I simply cannot let such abuse go unchallenged.

My first take on Mahdawi's view of fall is that she's jealous. She writes that the season "has been commercialised to an extent I don't think any other season has." In fact, that America has managed to make money out of dropping temperatures and dying leaves is a testament to our tremendous entrepreneurial know-how. We make and spend money by hyping something we had absolutely nothing to do with, and we do not apologize.

Mahdawi's second censure of fall is unfortunate, but proves she's really grasping at straws. "The leaves turning different colors are pretty, I'll happily admit that," she writes. "I'm not dead inside. You know what is dead inside, though? Those leaves. The trees don't want them so they kick them off and they rot on the floor and turn into a soggy mess that harbors mold and releases spores that give me allergies."

Where to begin. Mahdawi writes that her favorite season is spring (seriously?!).

Mud Season?  That's the second worst time of the year.

October 22, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 PM


About Those Anti-Immigration Ads Airing During the MLB Playoffs (LINDA CHAVEZ  OCTOBER 22, 2022, The Bulwark)

The ad campaign is sponsored by a group called Citizens for Sanity. According to Open Secrets, the outfit's board of directors includes three former Trump administration officials who are also involved with America First Legal Foundation, the new Trumpy group run by Stephen Miller, Donald Trump's former point man on immigration. The aim of Citizens for Sanity seems to be to stoke fear and loathing in voters who might be tempted to vote for Democrats in the upcoming elections because they're turned off by some of the extremist GOP candidates in their states.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 PM


Georgia voters are breaking early voting records (Marquise Francis, October 20, 2022, Yahoo! News)

Nearly half a million Georgians have cast their ballots in the midterm elections through three days of early voting, according to Georgia's secretary of state, blowing past the previous record three-day totals in 2018 and keeping pace with a historic 2020 turnout in the presidential election.

"One of the bigger surprises ... was the huge turnout in early voting," Greg Bluestein, a veteran Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist who wrote a book on Democrats turning his state blue in 2020, said earlier this week on his newspaper's politics podcast. "I expected the turnout to be high, but the levels we're reaching here in Georgia are reaching presidential levels".

Jim Crow's a lot harder than it used to be.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Federal budget deficit fell to $1.4 trillion as pandemic spending eased (Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Alan Rappeport, 10/22/22,  New York Times)

The federal budget deficit fell to $1.4 trillion for the 2022 fiscal year from $2.8 trillion a year ago, a reduction driven primarily by the winding down of pandemic emergency spending and a surge in tax receipts, according to the Treasury Department.

President Biden trumpeted the deficit reduction Friday morning, saying the fact that it was cut roughly in half was evidence that his economic policies were working.

(1) Our budget deficit is meaningless as a matter of economics. It's mainly a matter of aesthetics.  

(2) Aesthetics matter. We could go a long way towards restoring faith in government by balancing the budget and "controlling" the border.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Where are all the workers? The state's labor force keeps shrinking. (Larry Edelman,  October 21, 2022, Boston Globe)

Massachusetts employers are hiring, even if they've turned more cautious amid inflation and recession concerns.

But workers? There still aren't enough of them to meet demand.

The state's labor force -- the number of workers with a job or actively looking for one -- shrank by 13,500 in September, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said on Friday. It was the fourth straight monthly decline, and the largest since January 2021.

The Confederates can't send us enough of the people they dislike.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


More Proof That This Really Is the End of History (Francis Fukuyama, Oct. 17th, 2022, The Atlantic)

The weaknesses of strong states have been on glaring display in Russia. President Vladimir Putin is the sole decision maker; even the former Soviet Union had a politburo where the party secretary had to vet policy ideas. We saw images of Putin sitting at the end of a long table with his defense and foreign ministers because of his fear of COVID; he was so isolated that he had no idea how strong Ukrainian national identity had become in recent years or how fierce a resistance his invasion would provoke. He similarly got no word of how deeply corruption and incompetence had taken root within his own military, how abysmally the modern weapons he had developed were working, or how poorly trained his own officer corps was.

The shallowness of his regime's support was made evident by the rush to the borders of young Russian men when he announced his "partial" mobilization on September 21. Some 700,000 Russians have left for Georgia, Kazakhstan, Finland, and any other country that would take them, a far greater number than has actually been mobilized. Those who have been caught up by the conscription are being thrown directly into battle without adequate training or equipment, and are already showing up on the front as POWs or casualties. Putin's legitimacy was based on a social contract that promised citizens stability and a modicum of prosperity in return for political passivity, but the regime has broken that deal and is feeling the consequences.

Putin's bad decision making and shallow support have produced one of the biggest strategic blunders in living memory. Far from demonstrating its greatness and recovering its empire, Russia has become a global object of ridicule, and will endure further humiliations at the hands of Ukraine in the coming weeks. [...]

Something similar, if a bit less dramatic, has been going on in China. One of the hallmarks of Chinese authoritarianism in the period between Deng Xiaoping's reforms in 1978 and Xi Jinping's accession to power in 2013 was the degree to which it was institutionalized. Institutions mean that rulers have to follow rules and cannot do whatever they please. The Chinese Communist Party imposed many rules on itself: mandatory retirement ages for party cadres, strict meritocratic standards for recruitment and promotion, and above all a 10-year term limit for the party's most-senior leadership. Deng Xiaoping established a system of collective leadership precisely to avoid the dominance of a single obsessive leader like Mao Zedong.

Much of this has been dismantled under Xi Jinping, who will receive the blessing of his party to remain on as paramount leader for a third five-year term at the 20th Party Congress. In place of collective leadership, China has moved to a personalistic system in which no other senior official can come close to challenging Xi.

This concentration of authority in one man has in turn led to poor decision making. The party has intervened in the economy, hobbling the tech sector by going after stars such as Alibaba and Tencent; forced Chinese farmers to plant money-losing staples in pursuit of agricultural self-sufficiency; and insisted on a zero-COVID strategy that keeps important parts of China under continuing lockdowns that have shaved points off of the country's economic growth. China cannot easily reverse zero-COVID, because it has failed to buy effective vaccines and finds a large part of its elderly population vulnerable to the disease. What looked two years ago like a triumphant success in controlling COVID has turned into a prolonged debacle.

All of this comes on top of the failure of China's underlying growth model, which relied on heavy state investment in real estate to keep the economy humming. Basic economics suggests this would lead to massive misallocation of resources, as has in fact happened. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Taliban strike back against Daesh terrorists (Reuters, 10/22/22)

Taliban security forces have reportedly killed six Daesh members in an overnight operation in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The Daesh fighters killed in the raid on their hideout were involved in two major attacks in recent weeks, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the ruling group's administration, said on Saturday.

"They were the attackers of the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque and also ... of Kaaj Institute," said Ahmadi, who said one Taliban security force member was killed in the operation.

October 21, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 PM


Ohio GOP candidate apologizes for antisemitic 'Jew you down' comment (ANDREW LAPIN, 22 October 2022,JTA)

Facing criticism about her use in 2014 of the antisemitic phrase "Jew you down," the Republican nominee for a competitive state Senate seat in Ohio this week said she was just trying to praise Jews' frugality, before issuing an apology.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


From Dog Whistle to Rebel Yell: The disturbing direction of MAGA rhetoric about race.  (THEODORE R. JOHNSON  OCTOBER 21, 2022, The Bulwark)'

With the midterms just weeks away, MAGA Republicans have been busy playing up racial stereotypes and hurling invective. During a Trump rally in Nevada on Oct. 8, Senator Tommy Tuberville declared in a frenetic ramble that Democrats are "pro-crime" and that black Americans are "the people that do crime." Not to be eclipsed, the next day Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene told a crowd in Arizona that "Joe Biden's 5 million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you . . . replacing your culture"--echoing the central premise of the conspiratorial "Great Replacement" theory.

The crudeness of MAGA race rhetoric starts at the top: Donald Trump leapt into politics by becoming the chief proselytizer of birtherism, falsely asserting that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. He began his campaign in 2015 by saying Mexican immigrants to the United States are mostly drug dealers and rapists. He continued as president to make racist remarks, including notorious comments about "shithole countries" sending immigrants to America and about how the black and brown congresswomen of "The Squad" should "go back" to the countries they came from (even though all but one were born in the United States). Trump's references to COVID-19 as the "kung flu" and the "Chinese virus" were no fluke, either; he described Elaine Chao--who served as his transportation secretary and is married to Mitch McConnell--as the senator's "China loving wife, Coco Chow!"

The dwindling days of dog whistle politics are upon us. Instead of using veiled racial messages to evoke resentment toward specific groups, Republican politicians seem increasingly willing to "say the quiet part out loud."

MAGA has never been about anything else.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


China May Never Become A Superpower (Doug Bandow, 10/21/22, 1945)

Although China's remarkable growth after the post-Mao reforms reflected the release of enormous resources, both capital, and labor, inefficient state enterprises survived, in part because they provided politically important employment. As would be expected, they have remained a major economic drag. Now further reform, once promised by Xi, is unlikely: his government views parastatals as an essential tool for reasserting party control over economic actors.

Commercial discrimination and abuse have turned many foreign investors against what was once seen as illimitable markets likely to yield inevitable profits. The Xi government's continuing rigid COVID-lockdown policy, along with rising wages, Chinese government restrictions, and U.S. political pressure, also are encouraging businesses to rethink the PRC. Overall, U.S. investor confidence in China is at record lows. Although there so far has been no exodus of firms from the PRC, they are less likely to make ambitious plans for the future.

China is heavily indebted, a problem exacerbated by continuing COVID lockdowns. The latter also is exacerbating youth unemployment, the impact of which concerns families as well as young adults. An increasing number of disillusioned younger workers are adopting attitudes of "lying flat" and "let it rot," downgrading ambitions and reducing efforts.

The New York Times interviewed a 25-year-old who was "among a small but growing group of Chinese who are looking to the exits as China's pandemic controls drag into their third year. Many are middle-class or wealthy Shanghai residents who have been trapped for nearly two months by a citywide lockdown that has battered the economy and limited access to food and medicine. Some ... have ties overseas and worry that China's door to the world is closing. Others are disheartened by heightened government censorship and surveillance, which the pandemic has aggravated."

The PRC's property bubble is not new but is another significant economic weakness, one long promoted by Chinese government policy. Indeed, the country is notorious for its "ghost cities." The ongoing crisis has greatly affected urban households, two-thirds of whose wealth is in property, and the middle class, as many property buyers pay mortgages on unfinished homes. Indeed, some buyers have joined mortgage strikes, further destabilizing the real estate market.

This decline is likely to intensify. Warned the Council on Foreign Relation's Brad Setser: "China's real estate crisis poses financial risks, but it is ultimately a crisis of economic growth. Since the development and construction of new property is estimated to drive over a quarter of the country's current economic activity, it is not difficult to see how a temporary downturn in the property market could promote a prolonged economic slump."

Analysts have even begun speculating on China's resemblance to Japan in the 1990s when a real estate collapse contributed to the infamous "lost decade." State banks, many already saddled with significant bad debts, are suffering as the real estate market slows. In fact, Chinese regulators have ordered banks to provide continued financing to troubled developers to complete ongoing projects, further undermining already overburdened financial institutions.

Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Researchers find benzene, other toxics in gas piped to California homes (Elena Shao, 10/21/22,  New York Times)

The gas that is piped into millions of California homes contains hazardous air pollutants, including benzene, a chemical linked to cancer, a new study found.

The researchers estimated that each year California gas appliances and infrastructure leak the same amount of benzene as is emitted by nearly 60,000 cars, but these leaks are unaccounted for in the state's records.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, adds to a growing debate over proposals to limit the use of gas in homes because of its impact on climate change and public health.

Always fun when the petrophiles pretend it's cheap. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Harvesting Solar Energy Is a Win for America's Farmers: Agrivoltaics reduce emissions, save water, and may even boost crop yields. (TOM PHILPOTT, NOVEMBER+DECEMBER 2022, MoJo)

America's solar industry has boomed in recent years, and is slated for a big boost from the Democrats' recently passed climate bill. Yet solar still only accounts for about 3 percent of electricity flowing into America's grid--less than one-seventh the share from coal. If we want to phase out fossil fuels and accommodate an electric vehicle revolution, the sun's contribution has to rise dramatically--and fast. But where to put all the panels? 

The best places for solar installations, according to a 2019 study from the University of Utah and Oregon State, tend to be the areas where we already grow our food. That's because, just like sun-loving tomato plants that fare poorly when the mercury creeps north of 85 °F, photovoltaic (PV) panels lose their efficiency at higher temperatures. But that doesn't mean we have to starve ourselves to keep lights on and cars humming. By elevating solar panels far enough above the ground so people, plants, and animals can operate underneath, we can "essentially harvest the sun twice," says University of Arizona researcher Greg Barron-Gafford. Enough sunlight to grow crops gets past the panels, which also act as a shield against extreme heat, drought, and storms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DARPA changed technology. Now Renee Wegrzyn wants to bring the same innovation to medicine. (Bryan Walsh, Oct 20, 2022, Vox)

The way we'll know whether Renee Wegrzyn can be successful in her new job as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) is if she is allowed to fail.

ARPA-H is a new federal agency focused on biomedical innovation that was made in the image of one of the most secretly successful government organizations in US history: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Officially the R&D arm for the US military, DARPA is a unique fusion of government, academic, and industry brainpower, meant to do nothing less than invent the future. Which it has done -- beyond plenty of military hardware, like the Predator drone, DARPA has helped seed a range of modern innovations that have little to do with warfare, from GPS to the internet to Moderna's mRNA Covid-19 vaccines.

All those smarts and a multi-billion-dollar budget go a long way, but what makes DARPA so successful is a willingness to take major risks that may well never pay off -- something rarely seen in government bureaucracies. That's the kind of willingness that ARPA-H -- which President Biden set up this year with a budget of $1 billion -- must have to succeed.

The Covid vaccine was a miracle of good government. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Health department medical detectives find 84% of U.S. maternal deaths are preventable (APRIL DEMBOSKY, 10/21/22, KQED)

For several weeks a year, the work of nurse-midwife Karen Sheffield-Abdullah is really detective work. She and a team of other medical investigators with the North Carolina public health department scour the hospital records and coroner reports of new moms who died after giving birth.

These maternal mortality review committees look for clues to what contributed to the deaths -- unfilled prescriptions, missed postnatal appointments, signs of trouble that doctors overlooked -- to figure out how many of them could have been prevented and how.

The committees are at work in almost 40 states in the U.S. and in the latest and largest compilation of such data, released in September by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a staggering 84% of pregnancy-related deaths were deemed preventable.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ilhan Omar, Representation and Muslim Political Organizing in the West (Imran Amla, 10/19/22, Traversing Traditions)

Ilhan Omar is Somali, a refugee, a Muslim and a woman. The collection of these identities shape the way she is perceived by a large percentage of voters. Some on the left see these as a cross-section of identities which make her the ideal candidate for a diverse modern state. Others on the right see the same identities as a threat to the country they believe in. It is clear that the view of some on the right has made Omar the target of virulent abuse and death threats. Her role as one of the most prominent and visible Muslim politicians in the West makes her vulnerable in a society that has painted Muslims as barbaric people whose views and way of life are antithetical to Western society. This would have significant impact on her physical safety and mental health and in this aspect, it is absolutely necessary that Muslims show support for Omar and defend her right as a Muslim to play an active role in American politics. [1]

However, as Muslims, there is an another harm that we must address when considering our role in politics. Spiritual harm is an aspect of life that is often disregarded when considering our involvement in a secular political world, one that refuses to understand the impact of politics and political decisions beyond the physical. This is where the politics of diversity and representation play an active role in harming individual Muslims and the community, despite the best intentions of Muslim activists. [2]

In recent years, there has been a call for increased diversity in politics. President Biden promised and delivered a diverse cabinet that he claimed represented America. [3] Similarly, in the UK, none of the Great Offices of the State are currently held by a white man. [4] But in achieving these goals, the failure of diversity politics has been exposed in broad daylight. When diverse individuals are only seen for the diversity they represent and not the politics they advocate for, not only are they able to perpetrate harm, but they are able to use the very same diversity language to deflect from criticisms levelled against them. In the UK, Priti Patel, Home Secretary of the UK until this September, was able to use her childhood experience of racism to deflect from the racism of some of her own policies in government, including the deportation of refugees to Rwanda. [5]

In the case of Omar, the way her identity is perceived by the left has led to two different outcomes, both of which should be a cause for concern among politically active Muslims in the West. The first of these issues is the reduction of being a Muslim to a part of her diverse identity, instead of an all-encompassing expression of her faith and belief in a set of values inspired by the command of Allah and the example of the Prophet ﷺ. The diminishing of faith means that instead of taking into account Islam and its practices, liberal diversity politics lumps together being Muslim with race, gender, and sexuality, all markers of marginalized identities.

This misconception of faith leads to the second issue. The left does not defend or stand with Muslims because it believes in their right to practice their faith in the manner ordained. Instead, they defend Muslims seeing them as yet another marginalized group targeted by government policy across the globe. This also means that Omar and many other Muslim activists establish transactional relationships based on mutual support for these different historically marginalized groups. This support can range from supporting clearly un-Islamic positions to attending un-Islamic events in solidarity with groups who claim to support the Muslim community on key issues. 

Unfortunately, in her role as one of the most visible Muslims politicians in the Western world, Omar has fallen into this trap. 

You can be either Muslim or Identitarian, not both. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Newsmax Bans Lara Logan After She Goes Full QAnon, Spews Blood Libel on Network (Justin Baragona, Oct. 20, 2022, Daily Beast)

Nearly a year after she was kicked to the curb by Fox News for essentially calling Dr. Anthony Fauci a Nazi, Lara Logan was on Newsmax's primetime airwaves pushing QAnon tropes, invoking blood libel, and fear-mongering about a "global cabal" planning to "dilute the pool of patriots" in the United States with "100 million illegal immigrants." [...]

Logan, who once called migrants "a virus bomb" on America, immediately kicked off the segment by casually accusing the White House of importing immigrants in an effort to "incite" violence from the right.

Credit to her for recognizing that the path into MAGA is racial hygiene. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Bless His Heart': Jeb Bush Responds to Trump's False Allegation About His Father's Handling of Government Documents (Michael LucianoOct 20th, 2022, Mediate)

On Thursday, Fox News host Neil Cavuto asked Jeb! Bush for his reaction to Trump's claim.

"Just last week Donald Trump had cited your father, your late father, George H.W. Bush - the former president of the United States - as someone who had papers. He said he took millions and millions of documents to a former bowling alley," Cavuto said. "They were pieced together in what was an old and broken Chinese restaurant. In order words, they were stored a place like that. I didn't quite understand the attack line, but I did want to give you the opportunity to respond to that."

"Sure," Bush replied. "I mean, have you heard the southern expression 'bless his heart'?"

"I have, indeed," Cavuto answered.

"Bless his heart," Bush stated. "This is kind of a weird accusation. The National Archives - when they're building these presidential libraries - have to find a place to store all of the documents that are going to go into the archives at the presidential libraries. And this was an abandoned bowling alley that they fixed up, that they secured, that had all the security necessary to make sure that national security matters were protected. And they used that to build out the presidential library."

Cavuto mused about Trump's inclusion of a Chinese restaurant in his story.

"Well, the Chinese restaurant as well." the host said. "That part lost me. I do remember [something] about a temporary storage facility as the library was being built. In fact, I distinctly remember that. But where did that come from? Was he insinuating that your father had a link to China there?"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


October 20, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 10/20/22, Letters from an American)

[O]n  September 23, Kwasi Kwarteng, Truss's chancellor of the exchequer--Britain's finance minister--announced the promised tax cuts without suggesting any way to pay for them. The value of the British pound plummeted, and on October 14, Truss forced Kwarteng to resign and walked back the tax cuts. 

Truss's own power became so precarious that on October 14, the Daily Star tabloid set up a live feed featuring a head of iceberg lettuce next to a portrait of Truss, asking, "Which wet lettuce will last longer?" 

Resignations from the government continued, and then  a badly botched vote in Parliament yesterday created such chaos and anger that it appeared Truss could not recover. She resigned today. The Conservative Party will pick a new leader by October 28.

The lettuce celebrated its victory with disco lights. "After an unbeleafable campaign I am thrilled to have been crowned victorious in these chard times," it said tonight on a voice-over. "However we must romaine cautious. This is just the tip of the iceberg."

October 20, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


Covid-19 Vaccines Should Be Among Regular Immunizations, CDC Advisers Say (Dominique Mosbergen, Oct. 20, 2022, WSJ)

Vaccine experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supported adding Covid-19 vaccines to the agency's lists of recommended regular immunizations.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, voted unanimously on Thursday in support of including Covid-19 shots on the lists of measles, tetanus and other inoculations that adults and children 6 months and older should get in the U.S.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


As Demand Cools, US Container Imports Tumble Sharply (Lisa Baertlein, 10/20/22, Reuters)

After more than two years of surging demand, the volume of container imports coming through U.S. ports has tumbled sharply, raising questions about where a sector once tracked as a supply-chain stress point will hit bottom.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Fears About Loss of Status Are Driving the Rise of Christian Nationalism: An Interview With Paul Matzko: The movement is back-filling a theology to justify supporting a sinner like Trump (Aaron Ross Powell, 1020/22, Reactionary Minds)

The following is a transcript of Reactionary Minds' interview with Paul Matzko. Matzko, an evangelical, is a research fellow at the Cato Institute. He is also a historian of the American Right, and the author of The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took on the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement. The transcript has been lightly edited for flow and clarity. [...]

Aaron Ross Powell: Let's start by unpacking the term Christian Nationalism. What in this context do we mean by Christian?

Paul Matzko: This is a definitional issue. If you say someone's a Christian Nationalist, most of the time they're going to say, "Well, no, I don't think I am." Because it's a bit of a loaded term. It's important that we define what we mean when we discuss it, how people who are self-identified Christian Nationalists, what they mean by using the term. What folks who we would say espouse Christian Nationalist views, even though they wouldn't call themselves Christian Nationalists, mean by the term.

The funny thing about Christian Nationalism, the two terms there, it's a bit like the old saw about the Holy Roman Empire being neither holy nor Roman, nor much of an empire. Christian Nationalism is neither particularly Christian in terms of its, I guess you'd say, fidelity to historic Christian orthodoxy, nor is it all that effectively nationalist when it comes down to it.

I think of it as a response to a particular moment in American history. But it is a response to this moment by anxious Christians that echoes previous moments in U.S. history when previous generations of Christians have espoused similar views, just cloaked in different language with different targets, for their anxiety. It's both new in the sense that it reflects this particular moment, but also very old in that you can find strains of what I guess today we would call Christian Nationalism, though it's a relatively recent term, all the way back through American history.

Aaron: What is this moment then?

Paul: [...] I think the key to note is that episodes of Christian Nationalism in American history, and I can tell you more about the long history of this, tend to correspond with feelings of anxiety and are ultimately rooted in cultural fear that some status or place or significance is being lost and might never return. And it ultimately tends to fuel paranoid political activism, which is what we're seeing right now and which we are labeling Christian Nationalism.

Aaron: How does Trump fit into that then? This goes back, I think, to my initial question of what we mean by Christian because one of the odd things that we've seen is an embrace of a man who arguably does not embody Christian values. He seems to be a consummate sinner and does not seem to know anything. When I grew up, there were always these television preachers you'd flip across when the Saturday morning cartoons had ended and you still just didn't want to get up from the TV. So you're flipping channels, and there'd be these guys. One of their characteristics was, as bizarre as they were, they had basically memorized the Bible and could quote all these things.

Trump doesn't have that either. He doesn't know anything, and his values run very counter to my understanding of the values Christ stood for. And yet he's embraced, which seems like this weird response to a lack of influence, because if what you're imagining is happening is that Christian values are no longer central to American life, but now you're embracing as the guy who's going to represent you and bringing them back, someone who is even more in opposition to Christian values than most of those "nones" or secular humanists seem to be.

Paul: Well, it's true. There is an irony or hypocrisy, I suppose, depending on how you view it there. That is one of the reasons why quite a few, maybe I should put #NotAllChristians, or #NotAllEvangelicals, or #NotAllConservativeChristians, because there are significant numbers who were anti-Trump for precisely the reasons you mentioned. They said, "Look, a twice-divorced notorious liar and a grifter is not a fitting representative of Christian interests in politics." They were the minority opinion. After all, at the end of the day, about 80% of self-described Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and a similar number in 2020. It's definitely the minority opinion.

As far as why it makes sense though, despite that difference is, again, I think you have to see this as rooted in fear. When you're afraid, there is little you wouldn't do. The way this gets justified, and so I don't want to overemphasize the justifications for it because I suspect that even if these justifications weren't invented, other justifications would've been invented. These are ex-post facto, how do we justify the results that we wanted?

The thing is, they aren't wrong to be fearful that their status is entirely wrapped up in Identity.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Parler was jubilant about Kanye West buying it. Then the problems started. (Meridith McGraw, Jordain Carney and Rebecca Kern / October 20, 2022, Politico)

On the afternoon that Parler, a social media platform popular with conservatives, announced its acquisition by Ye, better known as Kanye West, the site emailed hundreds of VIP members to excitedly share the news.

There were just two problems.

Parler neglected to blind-CC email addresses and inadvertently revealed the contact information of at least 10 lawmakers and many more conservative stars. [...]

The recipient list included a number of emails whose identity was impossible to know. But it also included emails for MAGA media stars like Charlie Kirk and Jack Posobiec; Trump world figures like Kimberly Guilfoyle, Brad Parscale, and Dan Scavino; and other names including Eduardo Bolsonaro, Project Veritas' James O'Keefe, Michael Flynn, Dan Bongino and Dana Loesch. POLITICO reached out for comment from these individuals. Flynn's email bounced back.

On the list were GOP lawmakers too, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and the generic press email addresses for numerous other members of Congress.

The text of the email described the recipients as owning "gold-badged accounts" and informed them of Ye's plans to buy Parlement Technologies. The outreach team assured recipients that "Parler's core mission will remain the same" and pledged to keep lines of communication open.

The usual suspects.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Divide between Republicans and Democrats over flu shots deepens in covid's wake: Poll (Jonathan Lambert, October 19, 2022, Grid)

The partisan split in flu vaccine uptake has widened as the United States braces for what could be its worst flu season since the covid pandemic began.

A third of U.S. adults have gotten a flu shot this fall -- including 49 percent of Democrats and 22 percent of Republicans, according to a new Harris-Grid poll. Just over a quarter of adults do not plan to get the flu vaccine this year, the poll found, but that rises to 37 percent among Republicans. Thirty percent of adults said they will get the shot, and 9 percent are unsure.

Getting vaccinated against influenza did not used to be so polarizing, said Rupali Limaye, a behavioral scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

I'm old enough to remember when we used to make fun of anti-vaxx soccer moms and their yoga instructors, before the Right became so feminized. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Taliban rule is unstable, illegitimate and falling apart: As the Taliban shift from waging war to governance, deep cracks are emerging in the militant outfit's unity and outlook (NISHANK MOTWANI, OCTOBER 20, 2022, Asia Times)

At their core, the Taliban is Pashtun-dominated, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, despite their large membership of fighters from other ethnicities.

Indications that unity and the distribution of power are points of friction became apparent within months of the regime seizing power. The arrest of popular Uzbek Taliban commander, Makhdoom Alam, in Balkh province in January 2022, reportedly on the orders of the Taliban's Pashtun former deputy defense minister Mullah Mohammad Fazl, suggests the Taliban favor one ethnic group.

Hundreds of Uzbek protesters surrounded the Taliban's security headquarters in Maymana to demand his release. Violence erupted and four people were killed. The Taliban sent reinforcements, including a unit of suicide bombers.

The confrontation ended after negotiations, but the reasons for Alam's arrest remain unclear. The Taliban are accused of evicting ethnic Uzbeks and Turkmen in northern Afghanistan from their homes and giving the properties to Pashtun nomads.

As Taliban leader Amir Hibatullah Akhundzada installs loyalists, fissures are likely to widen between the Haqqani network, a semi-autonomous offshoot of the Taliban, and southern Taliban groups such as the Kandahar cleric court.

That could result in fragmentation if the Taliban's Interior Minister and head of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani, uses his influence to subvert Akhundzada's Kandahar base.

History Ends everywhere.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bill Ackman Thankfully Questions Misery As the Cure for Inflation (John Tamny, 10/20/22, RCM)

It's always been a mystery why those fearful of low-wage overseas workers don't clamor for more immigration. Don't they see the obvious?

When individuals reach the United States, their productivity automatically soars. Thanks to copious investment, those lucky enough to work in the U.S. do so exponentially more productively. And their higher wages support the previous contention. Much as some who should know better believe foreigners are coming for "free stuff," the more apparent truth is that they come for investment in all things American. Translated, work in the U.S. pays really well relative to other parts of the world.

This happy reality came to mind recently while reading about an interview with outspoken hedge-fund billionaire Bill Ackman. Commenting recently on what some errantly deem "inflation," Ackman asked, "Doesn't it make more sense to moderate wage inflation with increased immigration than by raising rates, destroying demand, putting people out of work, and causing a recession?"

Ackman is surely right about immigration. Legalize the inflow of willing workers. Humans are the producers of abundance, and the U.S. is where they can produce the most. It's very simple.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Judge: Trump signed court document that knowingly included false voter fraud stats (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 10/19/2022, Politico)

"President Trump, moreover, signed a verification swearing under oath that the incorporated, inaccurate numbers 'are true and correct' or 'believed to be true and correct' to the best of his knowledge and belief," added Carter, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. "The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public. The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States."

October 19, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


War drives $73bn spend on green hydrogen as soaring gas price risks stranding of 'dirty' hydrogen (Carbon Tracker, 20 October 2022)

War in Ukraine has spurred over $70 billion of fresh investment in green hydrogen in just a few months as costs drop and has made fossil fuel-produced Hydrogen uneconomic as gas prices soar. As a result of higher gas-feed prices, $100 billion of 'dirty' hydrogen assets may become stranded by 2030, a report published by Carbon Tracker on Thursday found.

Since the start of the conflict natural gas prices, a major feedstock for producing fossil fuel-produced hydrogen (blue and grey), has soared by more than 70% on international markets triggering an energy crisis and pushing lawmakers worldwide to urgently source alternative sources of fuel.

Clean Hydrogen's Place in the Energy Transition finds the surge in the gas price has caused the levelised cost of fossil-produced hydrogen to jump and accelerated investment and plans to build out more clean hydrogen assets as interest in the fuel rises, amid technological advances in its manufacture and falling costs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano's new ad uses same stock footage as Russian propaganda (Charles R. Davis, 10/19/22, Business Insider)

Over the summer, as its soldiers were bogged down in a war that has made their nation an international pariah, Russia's embassy in Spain posted a video on Twitter encouraging people to move to their country, boasting that newcomers would enjoy a land of traditional values free from "cancel culture."

Doug Mastriano, a state senator and the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, is promising voters in his state much the same thing, his campaign centering the candidate's opposition to transgender rights and anti-racist pedagogy. And in a new ad, the GOP candidate -- who won his May primary after a late endorsement from former President Donald Trump -- even features an image from the same photoshoot used by the Russian government.

What don't Trumpists share with Vlad?

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'By Any Means Necessary': Ex-Oath Keepers Recruit Testifies He Took Up Arms and Prepared to Be 'Tagged with Treason' to Reverse Trump's Election Defeat (ADAM KLASFELDOct 18th, 2022, Law & Crime)

In questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey S. Nestler, Dolan emphasized he meant that literally.

"Did you actually take firearms to the D.C. area?" Nestler asked.

"Yes," Dolan replied.

The government displayed two of those weapons for the jury.

"You said that you were prepared to take up arms," Nestler said. "Were these one of the arms you were prepared to take up?"

"Yes," Dolan answered.

"How do you know?" Nestler prodded.

"Because I built it," Dolan replied.

That firearm was his rifle, and after another round of similar questions, the jury was shown another weapon that Dolan identified as his pistol. The jury also received an eyeful of messages Dolan sent and received as a member of the Oath Keepers' encrypted chat forum.

Dude, it worked: you are treasonous.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scoop: Freedom Caucus chair floats potential Ukraine peace talks probe (Andrew Solender, 10/18/22, Axios)

Perry's comments mirror the concerns of isolationists -- on both the right and the left...

...he couldn't show that Trumpism isn't Putinism?

[N.B.--the "both" in the story should be a "/"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


John Durham Failed Because the 'Russiagate' Conspiracy Never Happened Trump's answer to Robert Mueller was a total face-plant. (Jonathan Chait, 10/18/22, New York)

John Durham's latest, and presumably final, humiliation is the capstone of his failed attempt to prove a conspiracy theory that has long been accepted as settled fact in the conservative universe. This theory holds that, in 2016, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or James Comey (or maybe all of them -- the mastermind changes in different iterations) devised a plot to smear Donald Trump by ginning up an FBI investigation into his completely innocent and superficial connections to Russia. The purpose of the scheme was to paint Trump as a Russian stooge. Somehow, the plotters forgot to activate its key step: leaking the existence of the FBI probe before the election. In any event, the planned October surprise became a January surprise, hampering Trump's presidency until Robert Mueller was eventually forced to admit there was no collusion, after which the damage had already been done.

The actual events of this period are clear. Trump began exhibiting a suspicious pattern of behavior in relation to Russia. He lavished its dictator with praise, surrounded himself with people who were sympathetic to and/or paid by Moscow, hinted at his own business deals with Russia but defied precedent by refusing to publish his tax returns, and appointed a man who had managed the presidential run of a Russian puppet in another country as his own campaign manager.

Many people were alarmed by these things and wanted to get to the bottom of them. It is true that the same people also did not want Trump to win the election, but it completely misapprehends their motives to assume that their only goal for investigating his deeply suspicious Russia connections was a desire to smear him. If anything, this rationale is backward: Trump's ties to Russia made national security officials oppose him. What national security official would be happy about having a president who was in bed with, and creepily submissive to, one of the country's biggest global enemies?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case for Energy Optimism (Alex Turnbull, Oct 17, 2022, Syncretica)

Gas storage levels are high and continue to grind higher with gas prices now back to mid year lows and falling further. Expiry on the October TTF contract is going to be interesting - what happens if storage is at close to its limits as was the case for oil in April 2020? I do not expect this to quite trade at a negative price but a very mild weather forecast and high storage levels can lead to strange things happening.

The steepness in the curve arguably already constitutes "weird things" and we are likely to see more before we are done. Weather for Europe is forecast to be mild for the next few weeks so that is *interesting*.

Looking out beyond the next month or two demand response is really taking off now in Europe as outlined in this Politico piece. Some of my initial despair at Europe's prospects earlier in the year centred around the lack of demand response which in turn appeared to be as much consumer and policy inertia as chip shortages for heat pumps and solar inverters which have only recently eased. No more - we are seeing vertical adoption of consumer technology to structurally reduce gas use and, combined with very strong messaging and incentives from governments it is now showing up in the data. There are a number of dashboards here but what is particularly encouraging is that households are now responding almost as well as industry in reducing demand. If this can continue along with the current weather forecast this winter does not look that bad and gas prices should move towards a stable level albeit materially higher than before the Ukraine invasion, likely around 100 euro for TTF. For markets and confidence though seeing that the "top is in" is very important - so long as businesses and consumers can get some confidence around that as the key driver of inflation in the EU a lot of good can flow from there.

For that reason I am sceptical of people calling for sustained energy inflation going forward. In Europe inflation dynamics are almost single factor at this time, and if that factor is being fixed then the prognostications of Russel Napier do not make much sense to me. Prices are set at the margin and if Europe's power and heating markets are on a path to marginal pricing from a scarcity pricing regime then the price is going down from here - at least 50% lower for gas for example.

 It's important to use the blip to change policies permanently though. 

October 18, 2022

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Key Steele dossier source acquitted of lying to FBI charges (Jacob Knutson, 10/18/22, Axios)

A jury acquitted Igor Danchenko, an analyst hired to compile parts of the Steele dossier that alleged ties between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, of charges of lying to the FBI on Tuesday.

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Nancy Pelosi said that as rioters raged inside the Capitol on Jan. 6, she was concerned about the Secret Service's treatment of then-Vice President Mike Pence. (Politico, 10/18/22)

"I myself wondered if he could trust the Secret Service to take him to a safe place. I don't know," she told MSNBC Tuesday.

Pelosi's perspective: The speaker's comments to Andrea Mitchell offer eye-opening insight about her mindset as she sheltered at Fort McNair during the pro-Trump riot on Jan. 6, 2021. Pence remained under guard in a loading dock beneath the Capitol during the six hours the building remained in lockdown, and his aides said he refused to get into a Secret Service vehicle at the behest of his detail. But they've also said he was primarily worried about giving the rioters a victory by pushing him to flee -- and Pence aides haven't echoed concerns about his potential danger at the hands of the Secret Service.

Evidence released by the Jan. 6 select committee showed some Secret Service agents fearful for their own safety as they worked to secure an escape route for Pence while rioters closed in on the Senate chamber, coming within just 40 feet of the then-VP and his detail. The committee has also displayed images and audio of Pence working to coordinate with security services to retake the Capitol from his secure location.

What panel members have said: Pelosi's comments come as Jan. 6 select committee members raise questions about the Secret Service's actions leading up to and during the attack. In recent days, lawmakers have also suggested agents gave inconsistent testimony and are preparing to call some back to testify. And they're still sifting through over a million records turned over by the Secret Service.

"There is something going on at the Secret Service, either pure incompetence, all the way on the scale to potentially very criminal activity ... or just having a preference for one side or the other," select panel member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said Monday on CNN. [...]

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has described Pence's refusal to get into his Secret Service vehicle as one of the most chilling moments the committee has explored -- a subtle echo of the concerns Pelosi aired on MSNBC. But Pence has made no allegations about the motives of any Secret Service officials, in fact hailing law enforcement for its role in protecting him, lawmakers and the Capitol.

Posted by orrinj at 11:43 AM


October 17, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 10/17/22, Letters from an American)

As Republican political strategist Sarah Longwell wrote in The Bulwark today, the Republican Party is facing an "extinction event," having been taken over by former president Trump to become the right-wing MAGA Party. As Longwell wrote, "In the Republican party as it is currently constituted, political power emanates completely and totally from Donald Trump." 

Longwell explains that Republicans have been stuck in a "Triangle of Doom," in which Republican base voters want their media to confirm their biases. Fringe media outlets confirming those biases gain traction. In order to reach voters, Republican politicians have to go on those fringe outlets, and that, in turn, normalizes fringe media. Over time, this triangle radicalized the party until 70% of Republicans now believe the lie that Democratic president Joe Biden didn't win the 2020 election. 

"Say goodnight," she writes. "The party's over." All but the MAGA Republicans have left. "The Good Republicans are gone," Longwell writes. "Probably for good."

Today, Fox Nation began a mock trial of Hunter Biden, with reality TV personality Judge Joe Brown saying that "something's way wrong here, way wrong," and suggesting that the legal investigations into Trump and the lack of them into the Bidens give the appearance that Trump and Biden "don't live in the same country." 

Hunter Biden is not in the government, of course, and is not under indictment; Trump and the Trump Organization are embroiled in a number of lawsuits that suggest the former president and his associates saw government service not as a way to improve American lives but as a way to make money. Ginning up a show trial for Hunter Biden seems an attempt to rile up the base and undercut the many legal issues in the news concerning the former president. But such a show trial is also a fundamental rejection of the rule of law, suggesting that the law is simply a political tool to use against enemies rather than a body of laws before which we are all treated equally.

There is a reason Trump supporters are trying to undermine the rule of law. In New York, Trump's wealthy friend and financial backer Thomas Barrack is on trial for selling his access to Trump to the leaders of the United Arab Emirates in exchange for investment money. The U.S. government says that Barrack fed confidential information to UAE leaders while permitting them to shape Trump's speeches and policies. In the first three years of Trump's term, Saudi Arabia and the UAE invested about $1.5 billion in Barrack's real estate company. 

In Northern Virginia the trial of Igor Danchenko for making false statements to the FBI, led by John Durham and other holdovers from the Trump Justice Department, suggests the Trump administration played fast and loose with national security in an attempt to undermine the Russia investigation. Witnesses in the trial have testified that the "highly unusual" decision by Trump attorney general Bill Barr to declassify an interview with Danchenko and share it with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hurt national security. Graham promptly made a summary of the interview public to bolster the argument that the Russia investigation was "corrupt." But that release meant that internet hobbyists quickly figured out who Danchenko was, exposing a key FBI informant as well as his friends and family in Russia. 

This exposure for political reasons not only burned a key source, it weakened the ability of the U.S. to cultivate informants. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Good News, the World Is Getting Better (Bjorn Lomborg, 10/17/22, NH Journal)

Indeed, in the 1920s, half a million people were killed by weather disasters, whereas in the last decade, the death toll averaged 18,000. This year, just like 2020 and 2021, is tracking below that. Why? Because when people get richer, they get more resilient.

Weather-fixated television news would make us all think that disasters are getting worse. They're not. Around 1900, 4.5 percent of the land area of the world would burn every year. Over the last century, this declined to 3.2 percent. In the previous two decades, satellites have shown further decline -- in 2021, just 2.5 percent burned. This has happened mostly because richer societies prevent fires. Models show that, despite climate change, human adaptation will mean even less burning by the end of the century.

And despite what you may have heard about record-breaking costs from weather disasters (mainly because wealthier populations build more expensive houses along coastlines), damage costs are declining, not increasing, as a percent of GDP. 

But it's not only weather disasters that are getting less damaging despite dire predictions. A decade ago, environmentalists loudly declared that Australia's magnificent Great Barrier Reef was nearly dead, killed by bleaching caused by climate change. The U.K. Guardian even published an obituary. This year, scientists revealed that two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef shows the highest coral cover since records began in 1985. The good-news report got a fraction of the attention.

Not long ago, environmentalists constantly used pictures of polar bears to highlight the dangers of climate change. Polar bears are even featured in Al Gore's terrifying movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." But the reality is that polar bear numbers have been increasing -- from somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 in the 1960s to 26,000 today. We don't hear this news. Instead, campaigners just quietly stopped using polar bears in their activism.

There are so many bad-news stories that we seldom stop to consider that life is getting much better on the most important indicators.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Australia backs plan for intercontinental power grid (AFP, October 18, 2022)

Australia touted a world-first project Tuesday that could help make the country a "renewable energy superpower" by shifting huge volumes of solar electricity under the sea to Singapore.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese in Canberra to ink a new green energy deal between the two countries. 

Albanese said the pact showed a "collective resolve" to slash greenhouse gas emissions through an ambitious energy project. 

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The Only Direction for Xi's Dictatorship (CHRIS PATTEN, 10/17/22, Project Syndacite)

The son of a senior party official imprisoned by Mao as an alleged rightist, the 15-year-old Xi was sent to the countryside for "re-education" during the Cultural Revolution. Under Deng, the family's fortunes improved; Xi's father re-emerged as a reforming provincial boss. Xi himself became a political adviser to the military, then a party apparatchik. While he did not stand out for his political or intellectual prowess, he continued to ascend the party ladder. His status as a princeling played a large part: because his father was an economic reformer, people assumed that Xi would be one, too.

Though it is difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of Xi's political rise, it is clear that several enabling trends predated his presidency. For example, the CPC had already begun consolidating power by the time Xi became its top leader. Under Xi's predecessor, Hu Jintao, party leaders worried they were losing their grip on the economy and attempted to reassert government control over the private sector.

Moreover, the notion that the CPC must engage in an "intense struggle" against Western values - the subject of the now-infamous "Document No. 9" that was widely circulated among party members in 2013 - was likely agreed upon before Xi came to power. To be sure, once installed, Xi threw himself into the struggle with gusto.

Similarly, party leaders had been spooked by an alleged attempt by two prominent political figures - Bo Xilai, the then-party chief of Chongqing, and Zhou Yongkang, the party's former security chief - to seize power in 2012. At the same time, the rise of Big Tech, together with the splintering effects of globalization and urbanization, had made the CPC's top brass increasingly nervous. So, when Xi insisted on being given greater powers than his predecessors before taking over, they did not put up much of a fight.

Once in power, Xi proved adept at exploiting this growing nervousness to strengthen his control over the party, the government, and the country. His desire to maintain the CPC's authority over every aspect of life in China has fueled a growing cult of personality that places Xi's "Chinese Dream" at the heart of the Communist creed.

Increasingly convinced that Western democracies - namely, the United States - are in decline and that the future lies with his model of authoritarian governance, Xi has also overseen a shift in Chinese foreign policy toward grievance-based nationalism. 

The China-Defending 'Conservatives' Strike Again (ISAAC SCHORR, October 17, 2022, National Review)

A kind of right-wing character who exalts the genocidal Chinese regime and bemoans the United States' raison d'être has come into existence in recent years. I've dubbed this cohort "ChiCons," in spite of the fact that little about these people can be called conservative, in the American sense.

Sohrab Ahmari, a founder and editor of Compact, is a charter member of the ChiCon Club. Last October, he wrote a column for the American Conservative that decried American individualism while downplaying the genocide China is perpetrating against its Uyghur population. Before that, he had professed to be "at peace with a Chinese-led 21st century."

"Late-liberal America is too dumb and decadent to last as a superpower," he explained. "Chinese civilization, especially if it recovers more of its Confucian roots, will possess a great deal of natural virtue."

Now, Ahmari has produced another instant classic. At a conference held at Franciscan University of Steubenville earlier this month, he pontificated that "if China treated workers the way Amazon does, American elites would be outraged."

Can't tell your Chi-Coms from your Chi-Cons without a scorecard. 

October 17, 2022

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Furrygate: A Litterbox of Lies: A friend's wife's CrossFit trainer's mom saw a post on a Facebook group about kids identifying as cats and using litterboxes at school. (TIM MILLER,  OCTOBER 17, 2022, The Bulwark)

First it was my brother, who works at a school in Colorado. He regaled me with a story from a recent function where multiple moms mentioned the proliferation of furries in schools and the grim news that some teachers were putting litterboxes in classrooms. Then it was Heidi Ganahl, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Colorado sharing that she was "collecting and distributing photos" of children who identified as furries. She pledged in an interview to blur out the faces in her binder full of kittens.

The furry tales compounded upon themselves in my Twitter mentions and DMs. They were shared by several other prominent Republicans. Last week the man with the largest audience in all of podcasting, Joe Rogan, got in on the action during an interview with former Democrat and noted furriologist Tulsi Gabbard.

"Are you ready for this," he begins. (I was.)

"My friend, his wife is a school teacher and she works at a school that had to install a litterbox in the girls room because there's a girl who is a furry who identifies as an animal and her mother badgered the school until they agreed to put a litterbox in one of the stalls. . . . It's bananas."

"It is, it's absolutely insane," Tulsi concurred.

So insane that it makes one wonder, is it actually true?

If it is, why does every litterbox story seem to be sourced by a friend's wife's CrossFit trainer's mom? Shouldn't there be photo evidence? Or primary-source documentation of the stench that curls toes?

Our friends at NBC News looked into the matter recently and came up empty. But is it possible that they are a corrupted part of Big Mascot?

We needed to get to the bottom of this ourselves. What follows is a Bulwark investigation.

The stuff these zany Trumpbots are willing to swallow...

Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


Greek renewables fully cover power demand for first time on record  (Reuters, 10/10/22) 

Power generation from renewables fully covered Greece's electricity demand over a few hours last week, for the first time in the history of the country's electricity system, its independent power transmission operator IPTO said.

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Trump again decries lack of US Jewish appreciation for him, as Zionist group prepares to fete him (RON KAMPEAS, OCTOBER 16, 2022, JTA)

Donald Trump, the former U.S. president, has once again said he is baffled by the lack of appreciation he feels coming from American Jews.

"No president has done more for Israel than I have," he said on Truth Social, the social media platform he owns. "Somewhat surprisingly, however, our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S."

He added, "U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel -- before it is too late!"

Zionists appreciate him, Jews don't. Hating Muslims is an ideology, not a faith.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'We're all dispersed': Migrants sent to Martha's Vineyard have now settled throughout Eastern Mass (Mike Damiano, October 16, 2022, Boston Globe)

They left Venezuela months ago and traversed Central America on bus, train, and foot. Then, famously, they flew to Martha's Vineyard on private planes and ferried to the mainland to stay, for a time, on a military base.

Now, the Martha's Vineyard migrants are achieving some semblance of stability, or at least striving to do so. Forty-seven of them have found housing in Massachusetts -- in Lowell, Brockton, Stoughton, Provincetown, and other towns on Cape Cod, according to Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the head of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

Four have even returned to Martha's Vineyard, where the group first landed on Sept. 14, according to Rachel Self, a lawyer on the island who has assisted the migrants since their arrival. (Two of the 49 migrants have moved to New York.)

Meanwhile, their prospects for remaining in the United States long term have received a boost from a Texas law enforcement official.

Last week, the Bexar County sheriff in San Antonio certified that the migrants originally taken to the Vineyard are legally victims of a crime who are assisting a law enforcement investigation, according to Self, who said she traveled to Texas to complete the certification process.

Send more.

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A betrayal of Ukraine and the leftA false equivalence is compromising reactions to the war among some on the left (ANTHONY BARNETT, 10/17/22, OPENDEMOCRACY)
"To All Who Care about Humanity's and the Planet's Future": this is the title of a call to us all that has been published in the form of a petition by sincere people on the left, some of them my friends. It is specifically concerned with bringing peace to Ukraine and preventing war over Taiwan, and also addresses how to change the world for good.

But if its perspective is accepted as the left's view, it will be a disaster for progressive democrats and the idea of socialism. The call is profoundly misconceived, both with respect to Ukraine and Taiwan, especially Ukraine, and also in the general political analysis it offers.

I say this with regret. One of the main drafters is American law professor Richard Falk, a comrade from the struggle against the US war in Vietnam. His outstanding work helped lay the basis for the development of modern international law and human rights. I've worked with and admire two of the lead signatories.* There are thirty-eight of them, including Jeremy Corbyn.

Abandoning South Vietnam to socialism wasn't sufficient? 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Putin is the offspring of a political culture based on insuperable adversity to democracy. (Vladimir Tismaneanu, 15 Oct 2022, Quillette)

For Putin, the death of the USSR in December 1991 was a personal tragedy. A national and global debacle. A victory for the wicked, rotten, decadent, degenerate, diabolical West. He lamented the fall of the Berlin Wall. In a brief interval, Putin lost two places he had loved: The GDR and the USSR. Keep this trauma in mind and you will understand the deep motivations of his kleptocratic imperialism. Putinism is a vindictively predatory fantasy.

What dark impulses and twisted visions of the world drive the Russian military to use torture against their prisoners, both military and civilian? After Nazi Germany's and imperial Japan's defeats in World War II, commissions supervised the defascization of the broadly defined cultural sphere. The documents of the Allied Commission in Japan are located at the University of Maryland in College Park, where I teach. They show the importance of a methodical analysis of the Fascists' propaganda weapons. A democratic Russia would need to overcome not only political neuroses but also, and even especially, the shackles of the mind. In other words, it must overcome a culture of violence, arrogance, subservience, and mystical worshipping of authority. The crucial point is to cultivate the sense of responsibility without which arbitrariness and cruelty prevail over decency and accountability. These truths need to be internalized by Russian men and women in the same way German and Japanese men and women came to understand the criminality of their vanquished dictatorships.

Ironically, decrying Western hegemony and expansionism, Putin, who annexes territories and sets up sham elections to feign legitimacy, while trying to conquer Ukraine, simultaneously does not hesitate to masquerade as a champion of anti-imperialism. Claiming he is leading an "anti-colonial movement" against the West, he proudly proclaims, "We need to turn this disgraceful page. Western hegemony will be smashed. This is inevitable. We must do this for our people, the great historical Russia." For Putin, modernity is the enemy. It's time for a return to Tradition, to the healthy, pristine, homogeneous community.

Russia's barbaric war in Ukraine has shown that tyrants despise humane behavior. Putin has no mercy for the Ukrainians and treats his own subjects as a statistical fiction. The 300,000 individuals drafted in the "partial mobilization" are, for him, just disposable figures. An heir to Stalin's amoral calculations, Putin treats human life scornfully. The individual has no God-given rights, only duties to the sacrosanct Motherland. The September 30th Red Square address was a testimony to delusional pragmatism. It is a paradoxical attempt to pursue both strategic and ideological goals. Kate Langdon and I have developed and applied Jacob L. Talmon's concept of totalitarian democracy to explain the Putin system (our book came out in spring 2020). In Putin's mind, Russia's special mission is to defend the world against Western degeneracy, rottenness, and, most notably, "Satanism." The Devil himself pretends to perform a planetary exorcism. In fact, Putinism is an updated, Russified version of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's exaltation of the mythical General Will (la volonté générale). Whoever doubts the official triumphant narrative is an "enemy of the people."

As the Integralists are our Rousseauvians.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Covid 'transmission truthers' are peddling a nonsense narrative (Stuart Ritchie, Oct. 17th, 2022, CapX)

 'Jet fuel can't melt steel beams'. Nowadays, 9/11 conspiracy theories are such a fringe preoccupation that it's easy to forget how widespread they were in the early 2000s.

The hugely popular homemade documentary Loose Change, released in 2005, pushed the idea that the mainstream theory of why the twin towers fell - al-Qaeda flew planes into them - just couldn't explain all the facts, and it was far more likely that the US government had deliberately blown up the buildings in a 'controlled demolition'.

One reason people believed these ideas was that the 9/11 attacks were very confusing: there was a huge morass of information from the day of the attack, and at first blush it didn't all seem to line up. Seemingly anomalous facts - like the temperature at which steel beams melt, which is way above the temperature of burning jet fuel - were genuinely difficult to square with the official story. That led to people latching on to the alternative theories - however bizarre.

Which brings us to another major focus of conspiracy theories: the pandemic. Now that most of us have moved on with our lives, it's easy to forget the context of the time, the exact statements politicians, scientists, and doctors made, and the precise timeline of scientific progress with vaccines and other treatments.

Enter the Covid conspiracy theorists.

Conspiracy theories are a function of the terror of freedom.  Certain people need to believe that someone/anyone/SomeOne is always in control of events.

They'd be more pitiable if they weren't so dangerous. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Hampshire strapped by labor shortages (ANNMARIE TIMMINS, 10/16/22, New Hampshire Bulletin)

With more than 200 town and city offices relying on it for a steady supply of license plates and renewal decals, the Department of Safety says it can't afford staff vacancies. Revenue Administration officials say the same as workers process hundreds of paper tax forms and payments - with an outdated scanner.

A number of other state agencies cite similar circumstances and have identified a solution: $18.6 million in modern technology, more than they would ask for in their agency budget. Funding may no longer be a challenge thanks to millions in federal pandemic recovery money.

Nine departments have identified a range of technology upgrades, from tools like tablets and scanners to computer systems that would reduce their reliance on paper - and people to process it. The requests, which are expected to go before the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee Friday, are part of the State Workforce Efficiency Enhancement Program led by the Governor's Office for Emergency Relief and Recovery, which requires the money be used for one-time technology purchases.

"The governor has told all of us the same thing: We have to get used to this very competitive recruiting effort," said Ken Merrifield, commissioner of the Department of Labor. His workforce is down 23 percent. "You make investments like this in one-time technology that can save man hours, and it can make the difference between being able to serve customers efficiently or not."

The trend of labor and energy costs towards zero is the most important phenomenon of the age.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Are we witnessing another Iranian revolution? (Naser Ghobadzadeh, 13 Oct 2022, ABC REligion & Ethics)

The second significant phenomenon that the current protests reveal is that a social revolution has already taken place in Iran. This revolution has occurred in opposition to the efforts and extensive planning of the ruling clerical Islamists. [...]

[T]here is significant evidence that the efforts of Iran's clerical Islamists have been in vain. Not only have they failed to make Iranian society more religious, they may have made it even less so. Expressions such as societal secularisation, the sacred as secular, and Iran's secular shift have been coined by experts to conceptualise this significant development, which could rightly be called "social revolution".

The current round of anti-government demonstrations is undoubtedly a manifestation of such a social revolution. The killing of Mahsa Amini offered the excuse for collective protests against the Iranian leaders' imposition of religious values and norms. While the grievances of dissidents extend to a wide range of economic and political issues, these protests have centred on opposition to the government's imposition of religious values and norms on a population who do not hold them themselves. The issue of hijab is a small but visible indication of the fundamental differences between the way that Iranian leaders and the protesters view women. Significantly, these tensions extend to a whole host of social issues -- not just those affecting women. A social revolution has occurred in Iran and a generation has emerged that gives greater priority to freedom, democracy, and human rights than to religious values and norms.

If Iranian leaders continue to insist upon the imposition of their own religious values and norms on the whole population, then chronic instability and periodic uprisings will become an inevitability of Iranian politics. 

Compounding the regime's difficulty is that this is the generation that really needs to be exploited economically because of the disastrous reduction in fertility they pursued. 

October 16, 2022

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'Who are the terrorists?': How a new Palestinian generation is fighting occupation (David Hearst, 10 October 2022, Middle East Eye)

The village of Letwani is the end of the road. Literally. Behind it lies a settler road which starts in Jerusalem and ends in the South Hebron Hills.

In front of it is the Masafer Yatta, an area of 30 square kilometres which Israel declared as a military firing zone in the 1980s.

Masafer Atta's 2,500 residents are involved in daily pitched battles with settlers and soldiers.

The morning I arrived in Letwani, Asharaf Mahmoud Amour, aged 40, looked calmly at a pile of breeze blocks. It was the remains of his house. A bulldozer had demolished it a few hours before. To his amazement, the soldiers had left standing the shed to the left and the chicken house to the right, both under demolition orders.

"I will tell you where we are sleeping tonight - with the chickens and the goats," Amour said.

"All they want is to make us leave. Destroying the houses, blocking us from fields, terrifying us all the time with the soldiers and settlers around, invading the houses, arresting us. And we know that what they want from this is to push us out. This is the challenge we accept," the father of five children said.

"They are trying to present to the world that we are terrorists. Who are the terrorists? We are trying to stay in our homes. They are the ones who are terrorising us. I will stay here even if I have to sleep under a stone."

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM



As set forth in his groundbreaking and disquieting 2017 book Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (Princeton University Press), Professor Whitman found--contrary to many previous historians--that the Nazis had carefully studied American race law and social policies in developing the notoriously racist and antisemitic Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and other racist policies. He cautions, however, that whatever the influence of American law, the Nazis were ultimately the authors of their own monstrous schemes.

The history Professor Whitman reveals is profound and often heartbreaking. Hitler and his Nazi adherents admired many aspects of US law and history while ignoring our constitutional restraints and the ideal of egalitarianism. In Mein Kampf, penned almost a decade before he became German Chancellor in 1933, Hitler openly praised the United States as the world leader in racist policies and laws and in establishing a racist social order. Hitler admired restrictive US immigration laws that favored Northern Europeans and mostly excluded other nationalities, ethnicities and races. He admired American criminal laws forbidding miscegenation and particularly the mixed marriages or sexual relations between white and Black citizens. He admired Jim Crow segregation laws and other white supremacist provisions that effectively robbed African Americans of civil rights and made them second-class citizens. He admired American eugenics that prized white supremacy and led to laws that encouraged sterilization of the "feebleminded" and others found somehow defective. And, as a devoted reader of Karl May--the German pulp fiction writer who romanticized the conquest of the American West by bold white men--Hitler admired the mass extermination of Native Americans by "Nordic" settlers in the nineteenth century and the subsequent isolation of most Indigenous survivors on reservations.           
In his book, Professor Whitman carefully examines the evolution of American laws that discriminated against non-whites from the Naturalization Act of 1790 that specifically opened naturalization to "any alien, being a free white person" to the post-Civil War Jim Crow segregation laws, as well as miscegenation laws from as early as 1691, and extremely restrictive immigration laws such as the racist Johnson-Reed Act of 1924. He also notes the power of American eugenics and legalization of sterilization for the "unfit" in most states.

Professor Whitman also recounts the Nazi fascination with, and reference to, our law as they drafted racist laws that deprived Jews of rights of citizenship and, eventually, included other non-Aryans. He found ample evidence of serious discussion and frank modeling of legislation based on US law and policies that privileged white citizens at the expense of others. A notorious example, the Nazi Nuremberg laws of 1935, essentially robbed Jews of all rights of German citizenship and criminalized mixed marriages and sexual relationship between Jews and Aryans.

Ironically, Professor Whitman found that some Nazi race laws were less harsh than American legislation. For example, the Nazis found too extreme the American rule that "even one-drop" of African American blood made a person Black, as touted by fierce segregationists such as Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo. The Nazis went back two generations in tracing Jewish heritage rather than back countless generations as the American "one-drop" rule permitted.

Maybe the Trumpists are right that it's not fair to compare Nazism to their Nativism....

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Intelligence failures before Jan. 6 warrant even more investigation (Frank Figliuzzi, 10/15/22, MSNBC)

[A]t Thursday's hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., touted "evidence that President Trump was aware of the risk of violence" and that "the FBI, U.S. Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police and other agencies all gathered and disseminated intelligence suggesting the possibility of violence at the Capitol prior to the riot."

The Biden administration should be demanding answers. Did the leaders of our nation's law enforcement and intelligence agencies fumble the ball that day? Or was their failure to prevent violence more akin to intentional grounding? Without substantive answers from agency leaders many of us will be left to conclude that there was a willful blindness to the signs that were staring them in the face. Was there institutional sympathy for the rioters' cause? Were there orders from higher-ups to downplay the available intelligence? Do existing guidelines and laws constrain robust collection and investigation of domestic terror threats? If the premier agencies in federal law enforcement are to maintain credibility, they must be transparent with the public they depend upon and protect.

The FBI is the nation's primary counterterrorism agency, and Schiff said Thursday that "days before Jan. 6, the president's senior advisers at the Department of Justice and FBI, for example, received an intelligence summary that included material indicating that certain people traveling to Washington were making plans to attack the Capitol. This summary noted online calls to occupy federal buildings, rhetoric about invading the Capitol building and plans to arm themselves and to engage in political violence at the event."

The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for approving and disseminating critical intelligence to state and local law enforcement. But according to a March 4 report from the DHS inspector general, DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis "identified specific threat information related to the events on Jan. 6, 2021, but did not issue any intelligence products about these threats until Jan. 8, 2021." That report also found that "the Field Operations Division (FOD) considered issuing intelligence products on at least three occasions prior to Jan. 6, 2021, but FOD did not disseminate any such products ultimately. It is unclear why FOD failed to disseminate these products."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Physics, Beauty, & the Divine Mind (George Stanciu, October 16th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

During the summer before my senior year at the University of Michigan, I took Introduction to Theoretical Physics, taught by Professor Otto Laporte. For some odd reason, the class met at 7:00 PM. One night, Laporte walked in, with two martinis under his belt, and announced, "Tonight gentlemen, I'm going to show you something beautiful." He proceeded to elegantly lay out several fundamental theorems about vector spaces. When finished, he stepped back from the blackboard and said, "Isn't that beautiful." One student in the class, the very worst one, asked, "What is so beautiful about that?" Laporte was taken back, and after a moment of silence, asked, "Do the rest of you see that this is beautiful?" We all nodded, and several students replied, "Of course." The professor then turned to the student who was blind to the beauty of vector spaces and told him, "You be quiet. The rest of us see it." Laporte told us in his blunt way that intellectual insight and the apprehension of beauty are not democratic, that poor cultural formation, political and economic ideology, and a habituation to lies and ugliness can cut a person off from truth and beauty.

Strangely, neither Laporte nor any student in his class could give the characteristic marks of beauty. Except for the worst student, we all recognized mathematical beauty without having ever been taught to. In the terminology of ancient philosophy, our souls by nature were attuned to beauty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Australia's biggest network battery to be built at site of demolished coal power station (Giles Parkinson, 16 October 2022, Renew Economy)

The Waratah "super battery" - the massive storage facility that is to partially replace the country's biggest coal generator - is to be built at the site of a now demolished coal power station.

The NSW state government says the 700MW, two hour (1,400MWh) Waratah Super Battery will be built at Lake Munmorah, where a former 1400MW coal plant was closed a decade ago after nearly half a century of service, and near the Colongra gas peaking plant operated by the federal government owned Snowy Hydro.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Floating wind farms are planned for the Gulf of Maine to tap huge amounts of potential wind power far off shore ( David Abel, October 15, 2022, Boston Globe)

Dagher is the executive director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine in Orono, and his is the first in the United States of the next generation of wind turbines that are the new great hope of the clean energy world. Federal officials estimate that two-thirds of the nation's potential wind power are in waters too deep for traditional wind turbines, with some of the best locations off the coast of New England, particularly the Gulf of Maine.

"This is a major opportunity," said Dagher, who has been researching and designing floating turbine technology for more than a decade. "There's enough offshore wind to power the country four times over, all within 50 miles of shore."

Only the Left/Right hates energy independence. 
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October 15, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, )ctober 15/22, Letters from an American)

At Thursday's meeting of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, as Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) showed that former president Trump both recognized that he had lost the election and intended to leave the White House, he noted that on November 11, just four days after Democrat Joe Biden had been declared the winner of the 2020 election, Trump had abruptly ordered U.S. troops to leave Somalia and Afghanistan by January 15. 

Indeed, according to an Axios investigation by Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu last May, two days before that order, on November 9, 2020, John McEntee, Trump's hand-picked director of the Presidential Personnel Office, told retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor that Trump wanted him to "Get us out of Afghanistan. Get us out of Iraq and Syria. Complete the withdrawal from Germany. Get us out of Africa." When Macgregor, who was brought on to the administration on November 11, said he didn't think that was possible, McEntee told him to "do as much as you can." 

Kinzinger's point was that Trump clearly knew he was leaving office because he was deliberately trying to create chaos for his successor. When he abruptly pulled the U.S. out of northern Syria in October 2019, he abandoned our Kurdish allies, forcing more than 160,000 Syrians from their homes and making them victims of extraordinary violence. The Pentagon considered Trump's November 11 instructions "a rogue order," since they had not gone through any of the appropriate channels, and disregarded them.

The release of the Biden administration's annual National Security Strategy (NSS) on Wednesday, October 12, 2022, highlights just how big a catastrophe we dodged. 

Just as Trump's abrupt withdrawal from Syria left a vacuum for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian president Vladimir Putin, and as Trump's planned but not executed withdrawal of troops from Germany would have hamstrung the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) so it could not have countered Putin's Russia, so would the abrupt disengagement of the U.S. around the world have created a giant vacuum for authoritarian countries to fill.

Donald's debt to his Nationalist masters is hardly the first he didn't pay off.

October 15, 2022

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The Quest for the Best: Is it in the Eye of the Beholder? (Joseph Pearce, October 14th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

The more that we learn the language that beauty speaks, which is ultimately the language of the Logos, the more will our subjective preferences converge into the objective presence of goodness, truth and beauty Himself.

The claim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is an expression of philosophical relativism. It confuses and conflates goodness, truth and beauty with preference, prejudice and opinion.

Preference has a kinship with prejudice and is often kindled by it. It can distort our ability to see beauty. Many young people prefer rock and rap to Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini but such preference says nothing about the objective merits of these forms of "music". The attraction to rock or rap might have more to do with the rhythm-driven message of the less than lyrical "lyrics". The ugliness and brutality of the form reflects the ugliness and brutality of the message. This should remind us that there is no direct connection between attraction and beauty. We are all attracted to certain sins and there's nothing uglier than sin.

By way of contrast, we do like the music of Rachmaninov because of its beauty, which is inseparable from our sense that it is also good and true. It violates our sense of reality to say that Rachmaninov's Rhapsody is ugly or bad; it is clearly neither, whether we prefer it to other forms of music or not. There is something about what it is that transcends our opinions and prejudices.

This transcendent presence of beauty is apparent to an even greater degree in the primal art of Creation. When we see a sunrise, or leaves washed with sunlight, we know that we are experiencing something beautiful that reflects something that is also good and true. And such knowledge also transcends our preferences, prejudices and opinions.

Our brains predict the future while listening to music (John Anderer, 8/23/21, Study Finds)

 The human brain can predict the future, at least when it comes to music. Researchers with the Association for Psychological Science report that when a "musical phrase" has an unresolved or uncertain quality, our minds instinctually and automatically predict how the tune will end. Simply put, your brain fills in the blanks missing from a song.

Prior research on neural patterns while hearing music reveals that the brain perceives musical phrases largely by looking back, not forward. This latest study, however, takes things a step further. Yes, the mind looks back when we hear a song, but only to help it anticipate what is coming next from the melody.

October 14, 2022

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AN END TO DOOMERISM: Or why I'm coming out as an impatient optimist. (Hannah Ritchie, 10/15/22, Big Think)

The issue is that people mistake optimism for "blind optimism" -- the blinkered faith that things will always get better. Problems will fix themselves. If we just hope things turn out well, they will. Blind optimism really is dumb. And it's not just stupid, it's dangerous. 

If we sit back and do nothing, we will not make progress. That's not the kind of optimism that I'm talking about.

Optimism is seeing problems as challenges that are solvable; it's having the confidence that there are things that we can do to make a difference. "Urgent optimism," "pragmatic optimism," "realistic optimism," "impatient optimism" -- I've heard many terms for this concept. 

To make my case for why optimism is so essential for progress, we need to understand the positions of optimists versus pessimists. The definition of pessimism is "a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen." Optimism, on the other hand, is the "hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something."

People mistakenly see optimism as an excuse for inaction. They think that it's pessimism that drives change, and optimism that keeps us where we are. The opposite is true. 

Optimists are the ones that move us forward. They are the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the ones willing to put their reputation, money, and time on the line because they see an opportunity to solve a problem. 

Pessimism blocks solutions. If we always believe that the worst will happen, then what's the point in starting? If any action will fail, we should stick with the status quo. Follow the pessimists if you want the world to stagnate or regress.

The reason pessimists sound smart is that it's hard to prove them definitively wrong. Pessimists are a moving target. If they predict that a technology will fail, and it succeeds, then there is always another reason why it won't work. It might have solved one problem, but it won't solve all of them. Or it might work for most people, but it won't work for everyone. 

There are almost limitless opportunities to shift the goalposts. A pessimistic stance is a safe one. There is often little to lose.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Judge dismisses 1 of 5 counts against Trump dossier source (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/14/2022)

The remaining four counts against Igor Danchenko will go to a jury Monday after prosecutors and the defense rested their cases Friday. But Judge Anthony Trenga reserved the right to toss out the other four counts regardless of what the jury decides.

[Trenga] said that accepting the prosecution's argument that the question had a broader context than mere talking would result in "divorcing words from their common meaning." [...]

In the remaining counts that will go forward, prosecutors argue that Danchenko fabricated interactions with a supposed source named Sergei Millian, who was a former president of the Russian-American Chamber of commerce.

Defense lawyers say Danchenko received an anonymous call from a person he believed to be Millian, and that Danchenko was forthright from the beginning that while he suspected the call came from Millian he was not certain. [...]

Durham's other two cases resulted in an acquittal and a guilty plea with a sentence of probation.

Testimony this week at trial has highlighted Durham's difficulty in proving his allegations. Two key FBI witnesses for the prosecution ended up providing testimony that was highly favorable to Danchenko, resulting in the unusual spectacle of Durham seeking to eviscerate the credibility of his own witnesses on re-direct.

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How Putin's Latest Attempts to Escalate in Ukraine Have Backfired (CATHY YOUNG  OCTOBER 14, 2022, The Bulwark)

[I]f the desired effect is to cow Ukrainians into submission and make them beg Zelensky to sit down with Putin at the negotiating table, such a scenario seems extremely unlikely. "It's only going to make us angrier," Oleksiy Arestovych, a prominent adviser to the office of the president, told Russian expatriate YouTuber Mark Feygin. Arestovych, who pointed out that power and water were soon restored to most Ukrainian households, insisted that the greatest damage from Monday's attacks (and the far smaller follow-up barrages on Tuesday and Thursday) was to Russia itself: The strikes had "radically" hardened world opinion against the Kremlin, weakening arguments in favor of new peace talks and strengthening arguments in favor of supplying more advanced weapons systems--and air defense systems--to Ukraine. Of course, Arestovych has reasons to stress Russian weakness. But it is a fact that in the wake of the attacks, the delivery of missile defense units to Ukraine from Germany, the Netherlands, France, and the United States is being sped up; meanwhile, on Thursday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a near-unanimous resolution (99 votes in favor, one abstention) urging member countries to "declare the current Russian regime as a terrorist one." Footage from the air strikes and their aftermath seems almost calculated to create a new wave of sympathy for Ukrainians: When you see civilians in Kyiv singing their national anthem while sheltering in the subway, it evokes iconic images of heroic resistance such as the "Marseillaise" scene from Casablanca.

Seen from this vantage point, the Russian strikes seem less like a show of strength and more like a show of desperation. To be sure, if the Russians could keep up their air terror campaign for weeks, the calculus could change. But this is where a classic Soviet joke comes to mind: A zoo visitor outside an elephant's cage reads an inscription cataloguing the massive amount of vegetables an elephant consumes in a day and asks a passing zookeeper if the elephant can really eat that much food. "Sure he can," says the zookeeper, "but ain't no one gonna let him have it." There's little doubt that Putin would happily bomb Ukraine into rubble if he could; but if nothing else, he doesn't have an unlimited supply of rockets, and whatever drones the Russians can get from the Iranians in a hurry are unlikely to help much.

Donald's presidency was Vlad's only hope and our deep state dispatched that disaster.

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They united to oppose an extremist party entering Israel's government in 2019. This time, leading US Jewish groups are staying quiet. (RON KAMPEAS OCTOBER 13, 2022, JTA)

In 2019, when then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in talks with an extremist party to coordinate election tactics, the message from the U.S. Jewish community was clear: Don't.

That's no longer the case now that the former prime minister is once again working with Otzma Yehudit and its leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to work out an agreement that would get him back into the prime minister's seat. [...]

At least two prominent pro-Israel Democrats, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Rep. Brad Sherman of California, have warned Netanyahu how damaging it would be to relations with the party if Netanyahu brings Ben-Gvir into the government Two groups that spoke up in 2019, the Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in remarks solicited in recent days, that they were just as alarmed now as they were then.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said a failure by the organized Jewish community to present a solid wall of opposition to allowing into government a party based on the teachings of the racist late rabbi Meir Kahane would have far-reaching consequences not just for the U.S.-Israel relationship, but for Israel's relationship with U.S. Jews.

"For those who identify with Israel because of shared values, shared democratic values, shared Jewish values, what Jewish or democratic values are not compromised by racism, by the kind of hate-filled politics that [Ben-Gvir] has espoused? So I think it definitely will cause a distancing and a disaffection of many, many people who feel very, very committed and very strongly supportive of Israel," Jacobs said in an interview.

"That this would be the next political iteration, I think would certainly test those bonds," he said.

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'Open Source' Seeds Loosen Big Ag's Grip on Farmers (Michaela Haas, October 14, 2022, Reasons to be Cheerful)

When Jack Kloppenburg looks out over his sprawling vegetable garden in rural Wisconsin, he sees half a dozen arm-thick green-striped squash called Candystick Dessert Delicata, and a gaggle of bright yellow Goldini squash among the lush green. "These are so delicious!" he exclaims with all the enthusiasm only a lifelong gardener can muster. But what's special about the vegetables is not just their taste: They have all been grown from open source seeds developed by Oregon farmer Carol Deppe, a Harvard-trained geneticist and board chair of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI).

Most people have heard of open source software, maybe also of open source beer (Free beer for all!) or open source pharmaceutical research. The principle is the same: Someone developed the seeds -- for cowpeas, corn, rye and more -- and now offers the resource for everybody to share. 

Just like software development has been co-opted by a few global companies like Microsoft and Apple, the international seed development and trade, too, is controlled by a few big giants like Bayer (Monsanto), Corteva (DuPont) and ChemChina (Syngenta). A 2012 Oxfam study found that four companies dominate more than 60 percent of the global trade with grains. 

When we buy cereal or bread, few pay attention to the fact that most grains are protected or even patented. Most farmers don't own the seeds they sow on their fields. "They are renting them," Kloppenburg, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-founder of OSSI says with disgust. The problem with that? "A few global companies have the monopolies on global seed trade, and they breed cash crops like corn and soy, purely for money. They don't care about biodiversity, world hunger or about the small farmer." What sounds like a business problem impacts everybody, Kloppenburg insists. "These few gene giants on top of the food chain decide what ends up on our plates."

In 2012, Kloppenburg and half a dozen like-minded agriculture experts founded OSSI as an alternative to the monopolies. OSSI's aim is the "free flow and exchange of genetic resources, of plant breeding and variety development," Kloppenburg says. With global warming, disease and changing climatic patterns, "we need novel plant varieties that are capable of responding to the changes. Farm to table is popular, but we really need to talk about seed to table."

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October 13, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 10/13/12, Letters from an American)

In the weeks that followed, the Trump campaign launched 62 lawsuits over the outcome and lost 61, winning only a technical victory that had no effect on the vote count. The committee established that when the Supreme Court refused to turn over the electoral counts of four states to state legislatures, rather than the states' voters, Trump was livid. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the top aide to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that Trump was "raging." He said: "I don't want people to know that we lost. This is embarrassing...." 

So Trump launched a pressure campaign against state officials to get them to assign their states' electoral votes to him rather than to Biden. He pressured Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, telling him "I just want to find 11,780 votes" to put him over the top to take the state's electoral votes. Trump pressured officials in other states. He also pressured Department of Justice officials: "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and to the Republican congressmen." When that effort failed, Trump tried to replace acting attorney general Jeff Rosen with loyalist Jeff Clark, stopping only when the leadership of the Department of Justice threatened a mass resignation.

Thwarted, Trump turned to the idea of false electoral slates from the states, working with loyalists in the states to send to Washington a fake set of electoral votes in favor of him rather than the Biden electors voters had chosen. Even lawyer John Eastman, who pushed the plan, admitted it was illegal, violating the 1887 Electoral Count Act. 

When that plan, too, failed, Trump fell back on his last resort: a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were counting the electoral votes. Trump had primed a mob by repeating the lie that the election had been stolen, and today the committee revealed that Jason Miller, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, forwarded a link from a pro-Trump website to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows less than a week before January 6, saying, "I GOT THE BASE FIRED UP." The linked web page was about the upcoming session of Congress to count electoral votes, and it had comments like "Gallows don't require electricity." "If the filthy commie maggots try to push their fraud through, there will be hell to pay." "Our lawmakers in Congress can leave one of two ways; one, in a body bag, two, after rightfully certifying Trump the winner."

The committee today released new information gleaned from Secret Service communications, showing that the service had extensive information that there was an attack on the Capitol planned for January 6 and that testimony suggesting otherwise was "not credible." The committee said its investigation of the Secret Service is ongoing.

On January 6, members of the crowd at the Ellipse rally were armed, and Trump knew it. Nonetheless, he urged them to march on the Capitol. When his handlers refused to let him join them, he retreated to the private dining room in the White House and watched the violence unfold on television, ignoring pleas from congressional leaders, advisors, staff, and family to call off the rioters. Instead, at the very moment Vice President Mike Pence's life was most in danger from the mob, Trump tweeted that Pence had let him down, energizing the rioters.

Meanwhile, other lawmakers stepped into the breach left by Trump's refusal to act. Today's hearing had previously unseen footage captured by Alexandra Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) daughter, of congressional leaders working the phones to get law enforcement officers to clear the Capitol. The footage is chilling, as our elected leaders beg for help that is not coming. Pelosi took over the functions of the president, calm in the chaos as she worked to restore order and demonstrate that our government could still function.

October 13, 2022

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Microgrids provided electric sanctuaries amid the devastation of Hurricane Ian (Lisa Cohn, 10/14/22, Renew Economy)

Microgrids created electric sanctuaries in Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas after Hurricane Ian made landfall in southwest Florida in September, packing winds as high as 155 miles per hour. The storm knocked out power to more than 2 million people, leveled homes and sparked floods and water shortages while sending sharks swimming through streets.

Microgrids kept power flowing in at least three residential communities, plus retail establishments, medical facilities, a university and manufacturing operations in the four states.

With medical and emergency services needed in the wake of the hurricane's destruction, a number of critical service operations gained power from microgrids.

A hospital in the storm's path powered by a PowerSecure microgrid was one of the few hospitals in the area with a backup microgrid and clean drinking water, said Debra Phipps, director of monitoring, PowerSecure.

"For a time it was the only hospital in the immediate area able to take new patients and many patients were transported to this hospital from other locations to be cared for," she said.

Also working to supply electricity to meet the needs of those who provide critical care and emergency response services was FootPrint Project, a non-profit that provides clean energy systems such as microgrids during emergencies. It partnered with New Use Energy, Tesla, Sunrun, Schneider Electric and others.

Smart Aid International and Footprint Project are working to deploy a solar microgrid trailer in Lakeland, Florida, said Paul Shmotolokha, CEO of New Use Energy Solutions, which provided the solar microgrid. The trailer included 1.26 kW of lightweight solar panels, with the ability to expand the system an additional 1.5 kW. It's especially suited to emergencies because it weighs a low 2,300 pounds and can be towed by a Subaru, he said.

Footprint Project also deployed microgrid systems to help power Toolbank USA's disaster services trailer in Punta Gorda, Florida, according to a LinkedIn post from Footprint Project. In addition, Footprint Project set up a temporary solar microgrid for Charlotte County Fire emergency services in Florida, as well as for the Port Charlotte Christian Academy preschool. This afforded children, parents and child care providers light and a place to charge their phones, laptops and e-learning devices.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Greta Thunberg breaks ranks with German Green Party and urges Germany not to shut down nuclear power plants (CHRISTIAAN HETZNER, October 12, 2022, Fortune)

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has broken ranks with the German Green Party on the subject of atomic energy and urged the government not to abandon the technology.

Current domestic plans foresee all three remaining nuclear power plants going offline at the end of the year, a legacy of Angela Merkel's abrupt change of policy following the 2011 Fukushima disaster.  

"I personally think it's a bad idea," she told a German talk show ahead of its broadcast on Wednesday. "If they are already running, I think it would be a mistake to shut them down in favor of coal."

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Engineers have retrofitted a diesel engine to burn clean hydrogen (Prachi Patel, October 13, 2022, Anthropocene)

Vehicles fueled by hydrogen are much more energy-efficient than those powered by fossil fuels, and they only emit water vapor and warm air. But these vehicles need special battery-like devices called fuel cells to drive their motors.

Not anymore. Researchers in Australia have retrofitted diesel engines to run on 90 percent hydrogen as fuel, emitting 86 percent less carbon. [...]

Retrofitting existing diesel engines should be faster and easier. So mechanical and manufacturing engineering professor Sanghoon Kook and colleagues at The University of New South Wales in Sydney modified a car-sized diesel engine by adding a hydrogen injector to it along with its original diesel injector.

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Elaine Chao, Donald Trump's Transportation secretary, told the Jan. 6 committee she resigned because of her "personal values." (Politico, 10/13/22)

What she told the committee, according to an audio clip played in the hearing:

"I think the events at the capitol, however they occurred, were shocking. And it was something that, as I mentioned in my statement, that I could not put aside," Chao said.

"And at a particular point, the events were such, that it was impossible for me to continue given my personal values and my philosophy," she continued.

Chao added that "I came as an immigrant to this country. I believe in this country. I believe in the peaceful transfer of power. I believe in democracy. And so ... it was a decision that I made on my own."

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Khamenei's Dilemma (Christopher de Bellaigue, October 13, 2022, NY Review of Books)

The protests that followed Amini's death after she was arrested in Tehran by the morality police, apparently for an infraction of the Islamic dress code, started in earnest in her home province of Kurdistan, in the far northwest, and spread across the country. All the agencies of the state mobilized to meet the threat and began a nationwide campaign against the protesters, including beatings, arrests, deaths in custody, propaganda, and judicial indictments. After four weeks and an estimated two hundred deaths--casualty figures must be treated with immense caution--the protests don't appear to be letting up. By some measures, and making allowance for our reliance on reports that protesters have managed to send out of the country despite the government's efforts to block the Internet, they are growing.

The official response to the unrest bears the signature of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, who more than anyone will determine how this will end. His approach to the most serious threat to the Islamic Republic since the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s is heavily informed by what happened the last time an Iranian regime tottered and fell. As a young cleric, Khamenei was a militant opponent of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, spent time in his jails, and was tortured by his police. The hatred he exudes for the Shah is indivisible from his contempt for the tactical errors that the monarchy committed in its final phase and his determination to avoid them.

It took a year for the Islamic Revolution to become unstoppable, and during that time the revolutionaries' greatest ally was the Shah himself. By heaping odium on Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, one of several prominent opposition figures, the government gave a divided opposition a leader to unite around. And the Shah's irresolution contributed to his undoing. With each sacked prime minister, each inept crackdown or mea culpa, he fueled the suspicion--not only among the revolutionaries but also his own close allies--that he lacked the ruthlessness necessary to save himself and his regime. That suspicion was borne out on January 16, 1979, when he fled Iran. Two weeks later Khomeini returned from exile and took control of the country.

So when, on October 3, in a speech to graduates of the army college, the supreme leader finally broke his silence over the current protests, it wasn't to offer a balm to those whose loved ones had been killed by the security forces or abducted by plainclothes agents and not seen since. He offered no apology for the death of Mahsa Amini, no sympathy for the family of Nika Shakarami, a sixteen-year-old girl who was arrested in Tehran and killed with a blow to the head. Instead, in his quiet, grandfatherly way, Khamenei told the new officers that it was the security forces, not the protesters, who had been wronged during the protests, and that the country's right-thinking, pious majority had been done an injustice by enemies determined to prevent Iran from acquiring "strength in all fields" (which one might interpret to include a nuclear weapon).

If we've learned anything about Khamenei since he took over as supreme leader from Khomeini on the latter's death in 1989, it's his readiness to use the sternest measures to defend a regime he helped set up. The character of the Islamic Republic has been formed by isolation and sanctions. The state's institutions are on perpetual high alert and its commanders and scientists are not infrequently assassinated. The supreme leader observes all this from his bunker. And when he speaks, he weighs his words, which a sizeable number of Iranians continue to believe are close to the words of God, and gives a sense of what will come.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 PM


Far-right collector of fascist memorabilia elected Italian Senate speaker (Times of Israel, 10/13/22)

Ignazio La Russa, who was elected speaker of the Italian senate Thursday, is a veteran of the far-right who collects fascist memorabilia as a hobby. [...]

His landowner father, Antonino La Russa, was a local official in Sicily for the National Fascist Party of dictator Benito Mussolini.

And after World War II, he was elected MP and then senator for its successor organization, the Italian Social Movement (MSI), set up by Mussolini's followers.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Texas sheriff certifies the Martha's Vineyard migrants are crime victims, opening the door for special visas (Sarah Betancourt, October 13, 2022, GBH News)

A Texas sheriff has certified that the nearly 50 migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis were victims of a crime. That certification is a key step in qualifying them for a special visa they would not have otherwise been eligible for.

Texas' Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar expeditiously signed certification forms for all of the migrants, according to Boston-based immigration attorney Rachel Self, who went down to San Antonio to obtain the paperwork.

"Based upon the claims of migrants being transported from Bexar County under false pretenses, we are investigating this case as possible Unlawful Restraint," Salazar
said in a statement to GBH News. "We have submitted documentation through the federal system to ensure the migrants' availability as witnesses during the investigation."

The documents are key parts of applications for U-visas, which are reserved for crime victims, or people who witnessed crimes. Immigration attorneys like Self are seeking these visas for the mostly Venezuelan immigrants on the grounds that they were brought to the Vineyard under false pretenses.

"These certifications will ensure that the migrants can continue to help our law enforcement officials, and that they will be able to process and heal from the incredibly traumatic experiences they have suffered as a result of the cruel, heartless acts committed against them," Self said in a message to GBH News.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


A catalyst alloying platinum with a rare earth element could slash fuel cell costs  (SPX, Oct 13, 2022)

Researchers have devised a method for combining high-cost platinum and a low-cost rare earth element, lanthanum, as an alloy to serve as a catalyst in the next generation of fuel cells that will improve their performance and slash their cost. The development should make it easier to decarbonize those heavy transport vehicles that are less amenable to the use of batteries to power them.

Batteries may have won the battle against hydrogen fuel cells for cleanly powering cars, but a number of other forms of transportation find it difficult to swap out internal combustion engines for batteries due to a range of obstacles such as the weight and volume of batteries that would be required for the sort of services they deliver. This is particularly true for heavy transport such as shipping, aviation and long-haul trucking. In these cases, most transport analysts suggest that they are likely to depend on some sort of clean fuel instead.

A fuel cell is able to power vehicles and other machines by turning the chemical energy of hydrogen into electricity, with the only other outputs being water and heat. Up until now, the type of fuel cell most commonly used in a number of devices, from satellites to the Space Shuttle, has been the alkaline fuel cell, whose invention dates back almost a century. The next generation is more likely to look something like Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell, which also uses hydrogen to produce electricity, but it is much more compact, making it especially attractive for heavy transport vehicles.

Key to making such electrochemical reactions more efficient-and thus reduce the cost of fuel cells to make them more competitive with using fossil fuels-is finding better catalysts, materials that speed up those reactions.

Battery tech breakthrough paves way for mass adoption of affordable electric car ( (SPX, Oct 13, 2022)

A breakthrough in electric vehicle battery design has enabled a 10-minute charge time for a typical EV battery. The record-breaking combination of a shorter charge time and more energy acquired for longer travel range was announced today (Oct. 12) in the journal Nature. [...]

"Our fast-charging technology works for most energy-dense batteries and will open a new possibility to downsize electric vehicle batteries from 150 to 50 kWh without causing drivers to feel range anxiety," said Wang, whose lab partnered with State College-based startup EC Power to develop the technology. "The smaller, faster-charging batteries will dramatically cut down battery cost and usage of critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium, enabling mass adoption of affordable electric cars."

Starting to wonder if we really need all these blacksmiths...

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Trump aide was seen on security footage moving boxes at Mar-a-Lago (Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, 10/12/22,  New York Times)

A long-serving aide to former President Donald Trump was captured on security camera footage moving boxes out of a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's residence in Florida, both before and after the Justice Department issued a subpoena in May demanding the return of all classified documents, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Had to make room for his Hero of Russia medal. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Hydro-Québec to buy Great River Hydro, which owns 13 power stations in New England (Emma Cotton, Oct 12 2022, Vt Digger)

Great River Hydro, based in Westborough, Massachusetts, operates dams, power stations and storage reservoirs along the Deerfield and Connecticut rivers. According to a map on the company's website, it owns six stations along the Vermont-New Hampshire border, one station on the Vermont-Massachusetts border and three on the Deerfield River in southern Vermont. 

Combined, the stations represent the largest hydropower fleet in New England and have the capacity to generate 589 megawatts of electricity, powering around 213,000 homes in the region, according to a press release from the two companies. 

Officials with Hydro-Québec pointed to New England's "ambitious decarbonization and electrification objectives" and said the region is a place where the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources is "poised to increase sharply."

Hydro-Québec, which is owned by the Canadian government and generates, transmits and distributes electricity, has been exporting hydropower to New England since the 1980s. One of the largest hydro producers in the world, it is Canada's largest electricity producer. 

"This acquisition represents a unique opportunity to combine our know-how in managing and leveraging hydro facilities with Great River Hydro's thorough understanding of the New England market," Sophie Brochu, president and CEO of Hydro-Québec, said in a statement. "By combining our strengths, we can support the development of new renewable energy projects, in a market where such resources are in high demand."

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


October 12, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 10/12/22, Letters from an American)

Today, a jury in a civil trial in Connecticut determined that conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Free Speech Systems, the parent company of his "InfoWars" network, must pay $965 million to the families of eight of those murdered at Sandy Hook and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting. A previous decision in a similar case left Jones with an order to pay almost $50 million to the parents of one of the other Sandy Hook victims, and a third Sandy Hook damages trial is pending.

Twenty first-graders and six educators died in the 2012 attack, but Jones insisted the massacre was a hoax and the victims' families actors, all part of a plot to create an excuse for confiscating guns.

Jones's followers have harassed the families ever since. Jones has admitted his theories were wrong and the massacre happened, but he says that he is not to blame for the actions of his followers and that the harassment was not as bad as the plaintiffs claim.

A judge earlier ruled that Jones is liable for defamation, invasion of privacy, inflicting emotional distress, and violating Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act by lying about the massacre to sell his products on InfoWars. A representative from Free Speech Systems testified that Jones and the company made at least $100 million in the last ten years.

Jones was not at the court today. He was broadcasting, making fun of the proceedings, and begging his followers for money, promising it would not go to pay the damages because he had declared bankruptcy and, in any case, he intended to appeal.

What we are seeing is what happens when the MAGA narrative meets a legal system that requires sworn testimony and recognizes perjury as a crime.

It's why the Trumpbots hate stuff like laws and the FBI.

October 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Venezuela's exodus become America's gain? (Ben Kew, October 11, 2022, Spectator)

Another cause behind the recent surge is the realization that not only is America massively richer than most other destinations, but it also provides a potentially safe and welcoming passage. Most of those arriving on the border are requesting political asylum, and given the despotism and gross human rights violations of the Maduro regime, their cases must be examined and considered carefully. After Donald Trump broke off all diplomatic relations in 2019, the US does not recognize the Venezuelan government. This means that unless migrants hold citizenship elsewhere, authorities are legally unable to send them back. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Leak Found In Key Oil Pipeline From Russia To Germany, Sabotage Not Suspected (Radio Liberty, 10/12/22)

PERN, the operator of the section of the pipeline in Poland where the leak was discovered, said in a statement on October 12 that the oil link has been partially shut.

"The cause of the incident is not known for the moment. Pumping in the affected line was immediately stopped. Line 2 of the pipeline is functioning normally," PERN said, adding that the leak was detected late on October 11.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Gov. Youngkin pushing for small modular nuclear reactor in Southwest Virginia (Ashley Hoak, October 10th 2022, WCYB)

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has a "moon shot" goal to ramp up nuclear energy. He's aiming at Southwest Virginia, saying it "has an extraordinary workforce in the energy world."

Youngkin's 2022 Virginia Energy Plan includes several recommendations in energy innovation.

"Southwest Virginia has always been, and always will be about energy," said Will Payne, director of Invest SWVA.

One goal of the plan is to deploy a commercial small modular nuclear reactor in Southwest Virginia within 10 years. Payne says it's a prime area, due to its coal-mining roots.

"With these locations, mining activities required significant power, significant water and other land attributes that are also conducive to the deployment of small modular reactors."

He says small modular reactors, or SMRs, harness thermal energy to generate electrical power. Adding the self-contained generation units are small, more economical, safe and modular in nature.

You don't have to stay backwards forever.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Yom Kippur and the priority of a good heart (Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, 3 Oct 2022, ABC Religion & Ethics)

In the Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), we read that Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had five distinguished disciples, whom he asked to go out and see the best way to live our lives.

Rabbi Eliezer said what was central was to have a good eye. Rabbi Yehoshua said it was to be a good friend. Rabbi Yose, a good neighbour. Rabbi Shimon, it is to be someone who acts with foresight. And Rabbi Elazar, a good heart. Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai favoured the words of Rabbi Elazar, "for in his words, the others are included".

The language of the Mishnah is quite instructive. Rabbi Yochanan's instruction is to "go out and see". In expressing his own preference, he says "I see the words of Rabbi Elazar". Sight and foresight are the essence of Rabbi Eliezer's and Rabbi Shimon's dicta.

So, how best to live our lives? "Go out and see" is a call for investigation and judgement. Rabbi Yochanan was not asking his disciples for mere bookwork, conjecture or exclusive lofty reason. They had to go out, meet people, and experience the world before making their determination. Good and right living is about people and perception, not theories or postulation from an ivory tower.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The World According to Xi JinpingWhat China's Ideologue in Chief Really Believes (Kevin Rudd, November/December 2022, Foreign Affairs)

Xi has brought that era of pragmatic, nonideological governance to a crashing halt. In its place, he has developed a new form of Marxist nationalism that now shapes the presentation and substance of China's politics, economy, and foreign policy. In doing so, Xi is not constructing theoretical castles in the air to rationalize decisions that the CCP has made for other, more practical reasons. Under Xi, ideology drives policy more often than the other way around. Xi has pushed politics to the Leninist left, economics to the Marxist left, and foreign policy to the nationalist right. He has reasserted the influence and control the CCP exerts over all domains of public policy and private life, reinvigorated state-owned enterprises, and placed new restrictions on the private sector. Meanwhile, he has stoked nationalism by pursuing an increasingly assertive foreign policy, turbocharged by a Marxist-inspired belief that history is irreversibly on China's side and that a world anchored in Chinese power would produce a more just international order. In short, Xi's rise has meant nothing less than the return of Ideological Man.

And folks were surprised that Donald worshipped him?  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Putin's acolytes are boxing him in: The illusion of the Russian president's power is being shattered (Anna Arutunyan, 11 October 2022, Spactator)

Taken together, it suggests that President Vladimir Putin, who has balanced the interests of powerful government clans for over 20 years, is losing control. The head of GCHQ Jeremy Fleming has made a similar assessment today, saying that Russian are 'seeing just how badly Putin has misjudged the situation'. 

While Kadyrov has stopped short of directly naming Putin's close ally Shoigu, he is the one implicitly being scapegoated. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Kadyrov is being backed up by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the private military company Wagner. Putin has leaned on Wagner to fight his wars, and Prigozhin's bad blood and rivalry with Shoigu over money and government contracts is well known. 'These punks should be shipped to the front barefoot with machine guns,' Prigozhin said.

Kadyrov's calls for a nuclear strike and Prigozhin's blustering might seem, at first, to serve the Kremlin's purposes by playing bad cops that make the Kremlin look conciliatory by comparison. But in reality, they are boxing Putin in, chipping away at his power. There are reasons that Kadyrov and Prigozhin are acting the way they are. None are because Putin had a secret meeting with these men telling them what to say. It is because both, in their own way, smell blood, and seem to be using the confusion and vulnerability to seek to extract money and government contracts from the Kremlin.

Kadyrov has long been a loose cannon. While professing to be Putin's loyal foot soldier and sending thousands of his own National Guard to fight Putin's wars, he has played a tough bargaining act with the Kremlin ever since Putin appointed the former rebel fighter to rule over a restive Chechnya in 2005.

In 2015, the assassination of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov just steps away from the Kremlin, attributed to at least one person with links to Kadyrov (who has always personally denied involvement in the killing), sparked growing frustration within Russia's security community. The assassination was both a profession of loyalty to the Kremlin but also a warning. It underscored that, while Kadyrov's supporters might be purportedly enthusiastic 'servants' of Putin, the Kremlin was finding it increasingly hard to control them. 

Before Russia's invasion in January, Kadyrov openly said Chechnya could not survive without Moscow's money. This summer, meanwhile, he asked the Kremlin to position air defense systems in the mountains of Chechnya. This was widely interpreted as another threat against Putin.

Does Kadyrov know how unrealistic his ambitions are? It's hard to say. But his behaviour says more about Putin's diminishing capacity to control his vassals than it does about Kadyrov himself.

Prigozhin rose to prominence under a similar trajectory to Kadyrov - with the Kremlin first outsourcing its dirty work to the Wagner group, only to see Prigozhin himself become a powerful rival to the Defense Ministry. 

October 10, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, Oct 10, Letters from an American)

According to Deborah Haynes, a security and defense editor at Sky News in the United Kingdom, Sir Jeremy Fleming, who is the director of the U.K.'s intelligence and security agency, will say in a speech tomorrow that the Ukrainian forces are "turning the tide" against Russia. "The costs to Russia...in people and equipment are staggering. We know--and Russian commanders on the ground know--that their supplies and munitions are running out.... Russia's forces are exhausted. The use of prisoners to reinforce, and now the mobilisation of tens of thousands of inexperienced conscripts, speaks of a desperate situation." 

Tonight, Forbes estimated that the missiles used in today's strikes cost between $400 and $700 million, and it is highly unlikely Putin can replace them. 

As if to illustrate Russia's weakness, its influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus region has failed, destabilizing countries formerly under its sway. This opens the way for other influences there: earlier this week, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev, whose countries have been engaged in a deadly border dispute since Russia got involved in Ukraine and could no longer protect Armenia, held peace talks with French president Emmanuel Macron and European Council president Charles Michel without Russian representatives present.  

The Trumpists put an awful lot of faith in Kremlin Kanye. 

October 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


There Is a Name for Meloni's Blend of Socialism and Nationalism: She is a harbinger of a new global synthesis of the illiberal left and the illiberal right (Robert Tracinski, 10/11/22, The UnPopulist)

American conservatives went wild over the first post-election speech by Georgia Meloni, who is expected to become Italy's next prime minister. In what could serve as a manifesto of social conservatism, Meloni declared that the enemies of the family are:

[T]hose who would like us to no longer have an identity and to simply be perfect consumer slaves ...

And so they attack national identity, they attack religious identity, they attack gender identity, they attack family identity. I can't define myself as Italian, Christian, woman, mother. No. I must be Citizen X, Gender X, Parent 1, Parent 2. I must be a number. Because when I am only a number, when I no longer have an identity or roots, then I will be the perfect slave at the mercy of financial speculators. 

None of this makes any sense. Meloni thinks she is crusading against what we call "wokism" by upholding the importance of "identity." But the rap against the woke is precisely their obsession with identity, seeking special protections for people who identify as members of various groups ("people of color," "queer," "trans" and so on). What Meloni seems to mean by upholding the importance of identity is that she wants to defend some identities--"Italian, Christian, woman, mother"--rather than others. It's not for nothing that contemporary national(ist) conservatism has been defined as identity politics for white people, a mirror image of that which it claims to oppose.

But what is more striking about this central passage in Meloni's speech is the weird combination of the conservative culture war and an anti-capitalist conspiracy theory about "financial speculators."

Who doesn't realize that the Identitarians are all the same?

Posted by orrinj at 4:49 PM


Understanding The Results Of A Randomized Trial Of Screening Colonoscopy (AZRA RAZA, 10/11/22, 3Quarks)

Editorial in The New England Journal of Medicine:

For more than two decades, colonoscopy has been recommended as one of several available options for colorectal cancer screening, and it has been the predominant form of screening for colorectal cancer used in the United States. However, the best evidence to support its use has been limited to data from cohort studies, which have estimated that this type of screening has been associated with a 40 to 69% decrease in the incidence of colorectal cancer and a 29 to 88% decrease in the risk of death from this disease.1 Unlike randomized, controlled trials, which have provided support for fecal occult blood testing and sigmoidoscopy,2 cohort studies probably overestimate the real-world effectiveness of colonoscopy because of the inability to adjust for important factors such as incomplete adherence to testing and the tendency of healthier persons to seek preventive care.

This evidence gap is addressed by the landmark Nordic-European Initiative on Colorectal Cancer (NordICC) trial, the results of which are now reported in the Journal by Bretthauer et al.3 This pragmatic trial involved nearly 85,000 men and women who were randomly assigned either to receive an invitation to undergo screening colonoscopy or to receive usual care (i.e., no screening). In the intention-to-screen analysis, colonoscopy was found to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer over a period of 10 years by 18% (risk ratio, 0.82; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.70 to 0.93). However, the reduction in the risk of death from colorectal cancer was not significant (risk ratio, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.64 to 1.16).

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM


Billboards touting Republicans supporting Josh Shapiro for governor going up around Pittsburgh area (10/11/22, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The Republican Accountability PAC -- a group that exists in a network of messengers and activist organizations that sprouted after Donald Trump's victory in 2016 -- is putting up more than 30 billboards on Tuesday as part of its overall $2 million spend in Pennsylvania hitting Republican Doug Mastriano. [...]

One of the PAC's billboards reads, "I'm a conservative. I'm a gun owner. I'm voting Josh Shapiro," and shows a picture of a man named James, of Farmington, Fayette County.

The subject of the billboard, James Carmine, told the Post-Gazette on Monday that he feels betrayed by his party and doesn't believe the GOP represents his values anymore. Pittsburghers might remember Mr. Carmine's name: He was a Republican candidate for mayor in 2001, losing to Tom Murphy.

Mr. Carmine is a self-described neoconservative and a registered Democrat, changing his registration after the rise of Mr. Trump in the GOP. He said the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was unforgivable, and though he is "embarrassed" that he's a registered Democrat after all these years, he sees it as a moral duty.

"A Republican is a person who will put his life on the line for inalienable natural rights," said Mr. Carmine, choking up in tears and apologizing for getting emotional.

Asked how he came to be involved with a national PAC, Mr. Carmine said he sought it out himself -- and that Bill Kristol, a prominent neoconservative and longtime power broker in the conservative think tank space, is one of his idols. Mr. Kristol is chairman of the PAC's board.

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


EXCLUSIVE: 'You gotta get some help.' (JOSH BOSWELL, 10/10/22, Daily Mail)

Biden sounds close to tears in the voicemail left on Hunter's abandoned laptop on October 15 - three days after Hunter bought the gun and lied about being a drug addict - begging him to get help.

'It's Dad. I called to tell you I love you. I love you more than the whole world pal,' Joe said in the October 15 message. 'You gotta get some help. I know you don't know what to do, I don't either.'

Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Elon Musk Spoke to Putin Before Tweeting Ukraine Peace Plan: Report (Matthew Champion, October 11, 2022, VICE News)

Elon Musk spoke directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin before tweeting a proposal to end the war in Ukraine that would have seen territory permanently ceded to Russia, it has been claimed.

In a mailout sent to Eurasia Group subscribers, Ian Bremmer wrote that Tesla CEO Musk told him that Putin was "prepared to negotiate," but only if Crimea remained Russian, if Ukraine accepted a form of permanent neutrality, and Ukraine recognised Russia's annexation of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

No wonder the Trumpbots are so excited about Elon buying Twitter: they think he'll make it a propaganda outlet.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scientists develop "wind harvester" to generate power from a light breeze (Joshua S Hill, 11 October 2022, Renew Economy)

Designed by scientists from NTU Singapore, the new wind harvester is able to generate and store power at wind speeds as low as 2 metres per second (m/s). Each wind harvester is only 15cm by 20cm and can produce a voltage of 3 volts and generate electricity power of up to 290microwatts.

The wind harvesters also boast low wear and tear, made as they are from a fibre epoxy. The main energy generating attachment that interacts with the wind is also made from inexpensive materials such as copper, aluminium foil, and Teflon. [...]

[T]he NTU scientists believe their wind harvesters have potential as a replacement for batteries in LED lights and structural health monitoring sensors - such as those used on bridges and skyscrapers.

In laboratory tests, the wind harvester was able to power 40 LEDs consistently at a wind speed of 4m/s.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans Somehow Made Celebrity Worship Even Dumber (Matt Lewis, Oct. 11, 2022, Daily Beast)

Every once in a while, it's instructive to stop and remember how low Republicans have sunk--and how fast. Imagine if ten years ago I had described the future of the Republican Party as follows:

The most beloved figure in the party of family values is a thrice-married casino magnate who starred in a reality show, raved about how hot is daughter is, bragged about trying to have sex with a married woman, and allegedly had sex with a porn star just months after his wife delivered their child.

Second, the party's most celebrated star of the moment is a rapper who struggles with bipolar disorder, sends anti-Semitic tweets, and married a woman who became famous after starring in a supposedly leaked sex tape. Despite his incoherence and disturbing instability, right-wing media fetes the superstar whenever he spouts particularly shocking MAGA rhetoric.

Third, Republican control of the Senate hangs on whether a long-retired football star (who lied about fathering multiple illegitimate children and allegedly paying for an abortion) and a quack TV doctor (made famous by Oprah Winfrey) win their respective races in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

If this were a decade ago, your first response would have likely been to call bullshit. After all, it's ten years ago. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the current Republican nominees. Your second response probably would be shock at how decadent and depraved the party of the "moral majority" had become. And your third response might have been to point out that the party has been taken over by celebrities.

It's less troubling that the Right--which is by nature submissive--has joined this cult of personality than that they choose avatars with such crappy ones.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Musk's battery packs vs Forrest's green hydrogen: Battle for the future will need both (John Mathews 11 October 2022, Renew Economy)

The battle of the billionaires has become the stuff of headlines. The world's richest man, Elon Musk, has gone head-to-head with Australia's richest man, billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest.

Musk, founding investor in battery-powered car giant Tesla, has famously mocked hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as "mind-bogglingly stupid".

Forrest has just placed a very large bet on green hydrogen through his Fortescue Future Industries company. It's no surprise Forrest has hit back, calling Musk "just a businessman" rather than a "real climate avenger".

The stoush might sound tabloid. But at its heart is serious debate about the world's industrial future.

Battery-electric cars have already proven their worth, whereas hydrogen fuel-cell cars are still emerging. But green hydrogen isn't a one-trick pony - it can replace fossil fuels in many high-emissions industrial processes, such as making steel or cement.

As we accelerate towards a green future, will batteries or fuel cells power the world? The short answer is, we'll need both.

Who cares which alternatives win? Just tax what we don't want.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Major pro-O'Dea donor, heir to a Gilded Age banking fortune, wrote of 'slavery redux' (CHASE WOODRUFF, OCTOBER 10, 2022, Colorado Newsline)

Facing an uphill battle to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Republican Senate hopeful Joe O'Dea has received little help to date from deep-pocketed national GOP campaign groups.

But as Election Day approaches, he's getting a big boost from a megadonor closer to home: the Wyoming-based heir to a 19th-century banking fortune who wrote in a self-published autobiography that Black people are "belligerent" and "unwilling to pitch in to improve their own situations."

"All I wanted was some rational (totally colorblind!) immigration rules and now I'm in bed with racist misogynist Islamophobic anti-Semites.  Where did I go wrong...?"

October 10, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


How a New Anti-Woke Bank Stumbled (Rachel Louise Ensign, Peter Rudegeair,  and AnnaMaria Andriotis, Oct. 10, 2022, WSJ)

An A-list group of financial backers including Ken Griffin and Peter Thiel gave Toby Neugebauer tens of millions of dollars to build a new kind of bank--one aimed at people who see Wall Street as too liberal.

The potential customer base was huge, Mr. Neugebauer and his business partner, former Mike Pence chief of staff Nick Ayers, told the investors. Plumbers, electricians and police officers, the pitch went, are fed up with big banks that don't share their values.

The startup, called GloriFi, initially aimed to launch with bank accounts, credit cards, mortgages and insurance, while touting what it called pro-America values such as capitalism, family, law enforcement and the freedom to "celebrate your love of God and country."

Within months, the investors' money was nearly gone, and GloriFi was on the verge of bankruptcy. It missed launch dates, blaming faulty technology and failures by vendors, and laid off dozens of employees. It stumbled with products; for instance, a plan to make a credit card out of the same material used for shell casings failed when the company realized the material could interfere with security chips and potentially be too thick for payment terminals, according to people familiar with the matter.

Some employees alleged that Mr. Neugebauer had a volatile temper and drank on the job, and the company's unusual workspace--Mr. Neugebauer's home--added distractions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


The world's whitest white paint is coming for cars, planes, and spacecraft (ELISSAVETA M. BRANDON, 10/10/22, Fast Company)

The same scientists at Purdue University have now developed whitest white 2.0 and the research has been published in the journal Cell Reports Physical Science. The new version is 2.5 times thinner than the original, 80% lighter, and reflects 97.9% of the sun, or just a smidge less than its thicker counterpart. And while it could eventually be spray- painted on a spacecraft, it's also thin enough to coat cars, planes, and refrigerator trucks, where it could lower surface temperature by up to 42 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, it could help reduce AC consumption in vehicles, and since these air- conditioning systems consume fuel, it could help save on gas, too.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


Nobel Prize in economics given to Bernanke, 2 US-based economists for work on banks (AP, 10/10/22)

Bernanke, then head of the Fed, teamed up with the Treasury Department to prop up major banks and ease a shortage of credit, the lifeblood of the economy.

He slashed short-term interest rates to zero, directed the Fed's purchases of Treasury and mortgage investments and set up unprecedented lending programs. Collectively, those steps calmed investors and fortified big banks.

They also pushed long-term interest rates to historic lows and led to fierce criticism of Bernanke, particularly from some 2012 Republican presidential candidates, that the Fed was hurting the value of the dollar and running the risk of igniting inflation later.

The Fed's actions under Bernanke extended the authority of the central bank into unprecedented territory. They weren't able to prevent the longest and most painful recession since the 1930s. But in hindsight, the Fed's moves were credited with rescuing the banking system and avoiding another depression.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Solar lights the way in fight against forced labor (ANDREA BUSFIELD, OCTOBER 10, 2022, Asia Times)

With the European Commission poised to ban products with supply chains tainted by forced labor, the solar-energy industry is lighting the way for other businesses to follow.

After more than a year in development, the trade body SolarPower Europe, working in partnership with Solar Energy UK, has launched the Solar Stewardship Initiative (SSI), a concrete plan to reinforce a responsible, transparent, and sustainable solar value chain.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


LA councilmembers face calls to resign over racist remarks (Russell Contreras, 10/10/12, Axios)

Three Latino Los Angeles City Council members and an influential labor leader are facing calls to resign following a leaked recording of a conversation featuring racist remarks.

Driving the news: The California and Los Angeles branches of the NAACP demanded late Sunday that Council President Nury Martinez and the others resign after the Los Angeles Times reported she called a Black child a monkey.

Racism is not a function of whiteness.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wave power generators could help to "firm" solar and wind, says report (Jim Regan, 10 October 2022, Renew Economy)

Wave machines dotted along Australia's coastlines could hold the key to filling generation gaps in solar and wind-powered grids and reduce the need for battery storage, cutting the cost of renewable energy in the future, Australian research and trial operations show.

Australia's premier science agency, CSIRO, says in a report commissioned by Wave Swell Energy, that teaming wave power with solar and wind has the potential to greatly reduce energy storage costs needed to guarantee uninterrupted power delivery.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump Tried To Trade 'His' Classified Papers For Russia Probe Secrets (Lucian K. Truscott IV, October 10 | 2022, National Memo)

I guess we should have assumed right from the beginning that Russia Russia Russia was back there somewhere behind Trump's removal of thousands of documents from the White House when he left office. Among them were hundreds of highly classified documents containing some of the nation's most important national security secrets, including, we have learned, at least one document marked Top Secret/ Compartmented Sensitive Information, concerning nuclear weapons.

On Saturday, Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reported that last year, as the National Archives was fruitlessly seeking the return of a dozen or more boxes of documents and other materials Trump had taken from the White House in January of 2021, Trump discussed with his lawyers trying to make a deal to trade the documents he had illegally taken for "a batch of sensitive documents that he thought proved his claims" that he had been wronged by the FBI and the Mueller investigation of his campaign's ties to Russia. "In exchange for those documents, Mr. Trump told advisers, he would return to the National Archives the boxes of material he had taken to Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida," the Times reported.

So, what's really going on here? Is the deal Trump tried to make with the National Archives an aha moment, or not? While the Times dismisses it as just another step in Trump's long journey of delay, distraction, and lies as he tried to hang onto "my" documents, Marcy Wheeler does not. If you're not reading Marcy's Emptywheel blog, you're really missing out. You want to talk about somebody who makes connections others don't, who's unafraid to go straight up against whatever conventional wisdom is circulating around Washington, and who isn't afraid to question the reporting of such media power-mavens as Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt, Marcy is it.

To explain why Trump's obsession with the Russia investigation would lead him to attempt to trade his trove of secret documents for whatever records the National Archives held on the Mueller investigation, Marcy goes all the way back to a moment in 2017 on the night Trump was returning from the G-20 Summit in Helsinki and his really, really private meeting with Vladimir Putin, at which no notes were taken and Trump did not even use his own translator, relying instead on Putin's. Trump was on Air Force One when news reached the traveling White House staff that the Times, in a story reported by yes, Haberman and Schmidt, along with Peter Baker, was going to report that a meeting had been held in Trump Tower in June of 2016 between Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort with at least one known Russian intelligence agent who was offering "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

Trump and Hope Hicks repaired to the presidential office portion of Air Force One to craft a statement explaining away why such a meeting had taken place. The Mueller investigation was already underway. Trump was being hammered daily for his connections with Russia during the campaign. And he had just appeared at a joint press conference in Helsinki alongside the Russian president at which he was asked by a reporter, who do you believe about Russian involvement in the presidential campaign? Your own intelligence agencies, which reported unanimously that Russia had interfered with the campaign, or Vladimir Putin? Trump answered that Putin had denied it "strongly" during their really, really private meeting, and he believed Putin.

So Trump dictated a statement to be read to the Times reporters over the phone from Air Force One explaining that the Trump Tower meeting with several Russian nationals, including the known Russian intelligence agent, had been about "adoptions of Russian children" by Americans, which had been halted by sanctions imposed by President Obama when news came out that the Russians had interfered in the election entirely on behalf of then-candidate Trump.

There was some speculation about the possibility that emails relating to setting up the Trump Tower meeting might come out and that they would be very damaging, and Trump huddled with his aides to deal with that possibility as well.

Marcy Wheeler makes the excellent point that way, way back in July of 2017, Trump was so cozy with Putin that he basically allowed Putin, after his really, really secret meeting with him, to dictate the statement to the press writing off the Trump Tower meeting as being about "adoptions," which Marcy quite properly reads as "sanctions," and recalls that it was sanctions imposed by Obama that were the subject of the infamous phone call between Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn had promised that Trump would lift the sanctions as soon as he took office, and that got Flynn in so much trouble that he lasted something like 17 days as Trump's national security adviser before he was fired for lying to Vice President Pence about the Kislyak conversation. Flynn also lied to the FBI, which got him indicted and convicted after he pleaded guilty. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Twitter Locked Kanye West's Account After He Posted An Antisemitic Tweet (David Mack, 10/09/22, BuzzFeed News)

After more than a week of disturbing behavior that has seen him condemned by many (and yet praised by House Republicans), Kanye West reached a new low Saturday night, tweeting a hateful screed against Jewish people that was then removed by Twitter for violating their policies.

October 9, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Alabama's Tommy Tuberville injects the ghost of Bull Connor into 2022 midterms (Will Bunch, 10/09/22, Philadelphia Inquirer)

It must have been 6 p.m. -- metaphorically, if not actually -- when first-term Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville took the stage at Saturday's Trump rally, encouraging voters to go Republican in Nevada's neck-and-neck Senate election which may decide who controls that body in 2023. Tuberville surely drowned out the noise from the fire station with his own six-alarm siren appeal to voters' darkest instincts -- taking the greatest hits from a Republican fall campaign that has increasingly fallen back on racist fearmongering and making it much, much worse.

"They want to take over what you've got," Tuberville warmed up the pro-Trump crowd -- "they" his amorphous term that could have meant Democrats, or Black people, or the Washoe People, or some other "Other" -- in what the journalist Matthew Chapman noted is a literal echo of language used by the KKK to rile up Southerners in the 1960s.

The Alabama senator made his pitch for Nevadans to elect Republican Adam Laxalt, the challenger with 2022′s best shot at unseating a Democratic incumbent in Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, by echoing the new party line that Democrats are "pro-crime," in a year when voters are more alarmed than usual about that issue. But then he took it next-level by leaving no doubt who he wants his audience to see as the criminals.

"They want to control what you have!" Tuberville told the assembled Trumpists. "They want crime because they want to take over what you've got! They want to have reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that. Bull[***]!" The crowd roared. "They're not owed that."

Suddenly, the ambiguity surrounding "they" was all cleared up, since the main (although not only) group that's made a case for reparations are African Americans, once enslaved and then subject to racial apartheid, especially in Tuberville's Alabama and the rest of the Deep South. A U.S. senator was openly equating Blackness with criminality, layering on the outrageous claim that "they" have the nerve to demand reparations while taking your stuff.

'I mean, I've watched and listened to A LOT of old George Wallace speeches," Tom Moon, a columnist for Alabama Political Reporter, wrote on Twitter. "You'd be hard pressed to find many that were worse than this. In 2022. Just disgusting."

No one proposes giving reparations to the slave drivers, Tubby. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


'A time bomb': Anger rising in a hot spot of Iran protests (SAMYA KULLAB and SALAR SALIM, 10/09/22, AP)

Growing up under a repressive system, Sharo, a 35-year-old university graduate, never thought she would hear words of open rebellion spoken out loud. Now she herself chants slogans like "Death to the Dictator!" with a fury she didn't know she had, as she joins protests calling for toppling the country's rulers.

Sharo said that after three weeks of protests, triggered by the death of a young woman in the custody of the feared morality police, anger at the authorities is only rising, despite a bloody crackdown that has left dozens dead and hundreds in detention.

"The situation here is tense and volatile," she said, referring to the city of Sanandaj in the majority Kurdish home district of the same name in northwestern Iran, one of the hot spots of the protests.

"We are just waiting for something to happen, like a time-bomb," she said, speaking to The Associated Press via Telegram messenger service.

The anti-government protests in Sanandaj, 300 miles (500 kilometers) from the capital, are a microcosm of the leaderless protests that have roiled Iran.

Led largely by women and youth, they have evolved from spontaneous mass gatherings in central areas to scattered demonstrations in residential areas, schools and universities as activists try to evade an increasingly brutal crackdown.

It's long past time for Iran to let such regions go.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


'Ukraine is going to win': Estonia's departing spy chief opens up on Putin's war (Michael Weiss, October 9, 2022, Yahoo News!)

[T]he West is "more united than it has ever been in the last 30 years or so." And the man to thank for that resides in the Kremlin. "Putin has helped us by coming up with new incentives or ideas that are totally crazy from the European point of view," Marran says.

This is certainly true up to a point, but Putin still curries influence with far-right ideologues in Europe, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. And Europe is still widely dependent on Russian oil and gas. Putin aims to whittle away at European consensus on sanctions and his own geopolitical isolation by exacting prohibitively high costs for them. It's the one war of attrition he may still be capable of winning. Energy prices are set to rise even higher this winter, now that OPEC has joined with Russia in agreeing to cut its daily production levels by 2 million barrels.

Marran, though, is sanguine. He believes Europe can and will weather an especially cold winter. "Our populations have been warned already that it's going to be difficult and expensive, but we need to survive because it's a war situation." He is fond of the refrain used to justify Estonia's outsize military assistance to Ukraine that every Russian tank destroyed in Ukraine is one less Russian tank that could someday invade Estonia. Välisluureamet also provides real-time actionable intelligence on Russia's war machine with seemingly less hesitation than other Western services. "Every bit and piece we collect that might help Ukraine, we just give it to them."

Behind this reflexive assistance lies moral obligation wedded to utilitarianism wedded to a unique form of survivor's guilt: Ukraine's profound misfortune, and dramatic battlefield success, has unintentionally bolstered Estonia's security. Putin's war is flailing so badly that few observers think he could invade another neighbor anytime soon, let alone a NATO member. He recently yanked as many as 24,000 of the 30,000 soldiers formerly stationed along Russia's western flank to replenish crippling personnel losses in Ukraine, losses that Kyiv estimates to be in excess of 60,000. Furthermore, NATO is far more alive to the day-one requirements of any invocation of its Article V collective security clause than it has been in the past. President Biden recently reiterated that the U.S. military would defend "every inch" of NATO land. This includes Estonia, a member since 2004, and long considered a "tripwire" state in any hypothetical Russian attack, given its proximity to Russia.

The world's largest military alliance is "in good shape in the region," Marran affirms, noting that Western troops now train daily with Baltic ones. NATO is also set to expand, again thanks to Putin, with the anticipated accession of Sweden and Finland. This twinned membership will transform the Gulf of Finland into what he calls "an internal NATO lake." The broader Baltic Sea, which houses some of Russia's most strategic sealanes and ports, is set to be fully ringed by NATO members.

Välisluureamet publishes a yearly unclassified report filled with insights on Russian military maneuvers, intelligence services and cybersecurity operations, an Estonian bailiwick ever since a crippling 2007 cyberattack that was widely attributed to Russian hackers. These reviews are said to be "read religiously at CIA." Chapter one of the 2022 edition, published on Feb. 15, less than two weeks before Putin's invasion of Ukraine, was titled "Russia is Ready for War."

On Ukraine, Välisluureamet has been more bullish from the outset on Kyiv's chances to withstand a Russian war of conquest than were many other intelligence services in NATO, which anticipated the collapse of Ukraine's conventional army, the loss of its air force and a recourse to partisan warfare. That assessment fed directly into policymaking -- namely, the reluctance of the Biden administration to equip Ukraine with the heavy offensive Western firepower it now sends in waves of billion-dollar security assistance packages. But even now the White House has its limits; it has refused to directly dispatch long-range artillery missiles out of fear that they might be used to hit targets inside Russian territory and escalate the war.

Marran believes this U.S. barrier is misguided. "I think the West should kind of get over this self-limitation that we should limit the weapons systems or ammunition to 80 kilometers or 40 kilometers. Keep in mind, all the NATO arms sent there are now being tested in wartime. So we have a self-interest in giving Ukraine what they ask for. But I'm convinced we'll get there, eventually. We are light years from where we were on Feb. 24."

Estonia has been closely advising Ukraine's intelligence services since 2014, the year of Russia's initial invasion and occupation, and the dividends of that advice are now demonstrable on the battlefield. In the past several weeks Ukraine has recaptured more than 4,000 square miles of terrain, not only in the northeast of the country but now also in the south. Russian frontlines are collapsing in Kherson, whose provincial capital was the first major population center to fall to Moscow in the opening days of the war. And despite Putin's heralded "annexation" of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson, his army is losing ground in all four districts to simultaneous Ukrainian combined-arms offensives. Just yesterday, Ukraine somehow partially collapsed the Kerch Bridge -- one of Putin's prize projects -- which connects Russia to occupied Crimea.

The more Russia is defeated, the louder the chorus of voices grows advocating Ukraine negotiate the terms of its conditional surrender. Everyone from Elon Musk to Pope Francis has lately urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to enter into negotiations with Moscow. But the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians are against any ceasefire that entails giving their land to an invading force that they're pushing farther back every day.

Marran cautions that advising Ukraine to enter peace negotiations is strategically backward. "It is our job as intel services to give correct information assessments to our leadership. And our assessment is that we shouldn't push Ukraine to any negotiations because that will send a message to Putin that things will go his way, and he will start slicing the sausage."

But what of the worst-case scenarios now being advanced in the West, such as Putin's potential use of a tactical nuclear weapon or some other nonconventional means of halting or reversing Ukraine's advances? Biden recently told the crowd at a New York Democratic fundraiser, "We have not faced the prospect of armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis." The cliche in U.S. foreign policy discourse that a "cornered" Putin is a more dangerous Putin. Marran sees it in reverse. "I would say that it is better for us to see him in the corner than outside of it, where he'll have more options to deal with the West. I think that's what he's hoping for. I would let him stay in the corner."

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Lincoln Would have Had an Answer for the "Originalists" (Richard Striner, 10/9/22, HNN)

There are excellent reasons for strengthening the public's allegiance to our nation's highest law, but originalism is not the way to do it.  It is not the right way to maintain the vitality of a living Constitution.

It could make the Constitution moribund and undermine the fabric of what we take our nation to be.  It is subversive.

One of the conclusions of Roe v. Wade was that the right to abortion emanates from the right to privacy -- a right the Supreme Court established in the 1965 decision of Griswold v. Connecticut.  

Once you concede--correctly--that the Court simply invented a permission out of whole cloth--a hundred eighty years into the Constitutional regime--you've come untethered from law altogether.

Public allegiance to our nation's laws is best strengthened by having the Legislative Branch write them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Spiritual Lessons of a Christian Nationalist Military DefeatPower corrupts, Christendom clashes with Christianity, and brutality isn't strength. (David French, 10/09/22, French Press)

On February 24, the world's most powerful Christian nationalist went to war, at the helm of what many people considered to be one of the world's most potent militaries. Russian President Vladimir Putin spent more than two decades--exercising more power than any American president could ever hope to possess--forging church, state, and culture into an (allegedly) mighty instrument of raw, anti-woke national power.

And what have we seen? An incompetent army has raped, looted, and murdered its way across the Ukrainian countryside. Even its elite units lie in shattered ruins outside key Ukrainian cities, and a Ukrainian counterattack is breaking the Russian line. While the Russian elite cries for "holy war" in front of a listless crowd of state employees, the men who would be holy warriors run for the border, eager to escape conscription by any means possible. 

There are spiritual lessons here. When advanced nations collide in sustained combat, it's not just armies that confront each other, but systems and civilizations. Hidden strengths emerge. Hidden weaknesses are exposed. And as we watch history unfold in eastern Ukraine--Russians retreating on the battlefield, Russians fleeing their own country en masse to avoid the fight, and a panicked Putin threatening a genocidal response--we are watching in real time a profound and meaningful example of the fatal weakness of Christian nationalism.

It's not a model of national renewal. It's a blueprint for corruption, brutality, and oppression. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A time bomb': Anger rises in Kurdish city at heart of Iran protests (SAMYA KULLAB and SALAR SALIM, 10/09/22, AP)

Growing up under a repressive system, Sharo, a 35-year-old university graduate, never thought she would hear words of open rebellion spoken out loud. Now she herself chants slogans like "Death to the Dictator!" with a fury she didn't know she had, as she joins protests calling for toppling the country's rulers.

Sharo said that after three weeks of protests, triggered by the death of a young woman in the custody of the feared morality police, anger at the authorities is only rising, despite a bloody crackdown that has left dozens dead and hundreds in detention.

"The situation here is tense and volatile," she said, referring to the city of Sanandaj in the majority Kurdish home district of the same name in northwestern Iran, one of the hot spots of the protests.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iranian State TV Hack Puts Supreme Leader In Crosshairs, Shows Slain Protesters (RFE/RL's Radio Farda, 10/09/22)

Activists in Iran have disrupted a live state television broadcast by airing images and messages in support of continuing protests against the government and the country's strict hijab law requiring women to wear head scarves.

Islamic Republic TV footage of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meeting state officials was interrupted briefly on October 8 and replaced with images of slain protesters and 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, whose death in police custody last month after being arrested for not wearing a head scarf sparked protests across the country.

An image showing Khamenei in crosshairs and in flames was also aired during the interruption, for which the hacktivist group Edalat-e Ali took credit. The images were accompanied by the words "join us and rise up."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kanye West says he'll go to 'death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE' after Instagram ban
(Times of Israel, 10/09/22)

Acclaimed rapper Kanye West appeared to threaten Jewish people in a tweet posted Sunday, shortly after his Instagram account was restricted for content viewed by some users as antisemitic.

"I'm a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I'm going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE The funny thing is I actually can't be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda," he wrote, in one of his first tweets in two years.

Not far off the MAGA theory that they can't be racist because a few black people are Trumpist. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Top US officials hold first in-person meeting with the Taliban since the US killed al Qaeda's leader in July (Alex Marquardt, October 8, 2022, CNN)

The presence of CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and the Taliban's Wasiq at the meeting on Saturday indicates an emphasis on counterterrorism. The White House last month called cooperation with the Taliban on counterterrorism "a work in progress."

Cohen was accompanied by the State Department's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom West, who has often led engagement with the Taliban since the US withdrawal last year. [...]

While the Taliban maintains ties with al Qaeda, they are facing an insurgency from the Islamic State offshoot known as ISIS-K. The group has routinely targeted the Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan. At least 25 people, primarily young women, were killed in a suicide attack last week at an education center in a predominantly Hazara neighborhood in Kabul. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

"The Taliban are struggling to prevent ISIS-K attacks, making them look feckless, particularly in Kabul," says Beth Sanner, a former Deputy Director of National Intelligence who led Afghanistan analysis at the CIA. Sanner is also a CNN contributor.

"[Cohen] is likely to deliver a firm message that we will conduct more strikes as we did against Zawahiri if we find that al Qaeda members in Afghanistan are supporting operations that threaten the US or its allies," Sanner said. "ISIS-K now poses an internal Afghan threat, to the Taliban and to sectarian stability given ISIS-K's focus on killing Shias, but there is some reasonable concern that ISIS-K could ultimately turn its sights on external plotting if the Taliban is unable to contain them."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Study Finally Shows Just How Much Deadlier COVID Has Been for Republicans: And suggests that, yes, anti-vaccine rhetoric is to blame. (DONALD MOYNIHAN, OCT 07, 2022, Slate)

Despite early wide-scale access to COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. has outstripped its peer countries when it comes to the all-important measure of mortality known as "excess deaths." Meanwhile, U.S. life expectancy has continued to drop dramatically due to the coronavirus even as longevity measures have begun rebounding elsewhere. [...]

• When it comes to the public's beliefs about the pandemic, such as whether there should be more or fewer COVID restrictions, the gap between left- and right-leaning voters has been much higher in the U.S. than elsewhere.

• COVID cases and deaths are higher in more Republican counties.

• Republicans are more likely to believe misinformation about vaccines.

• Republicans are substantially less likely to get vaccinated.

• Researchers have found that exposure to conservative media, particularly Fox News, made people more vaccine hesitant.

This body of evidence had some limitations, though. For instance, the fact that red counties tended to have higher death rates than blue ones might not mean that conservatives were more likely to die from COVID if lots of Democrats who happened to live in right-wing parts of the country were perishing too. Or, if more Republicans were dying, it might also be because they were different from Democrats in ways that affect COVID outcomes but were not directly driven by ideology. They might just be older, in worse health, or in a community with poorer health resources, for example.

Recently, however, a new working paper by three Yale public health and economics researchers--Jacob Wallace, Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, and Jason Schwartz--is offering the most definitive and direct evidence I've seen yet confirming that Republicans have indeed been more likely to die because of COVID. The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, also confirms the scale of these deaths and points to the central role vaccine hesitancy has likely played in the tragedy.

When Donald needs you to be ready to die for denial it's the least you can do. 

October 8, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Great Books: the Winnetou series by Karl May (Katja Hoyer, October 2022, Engelsberg Ideas)

It's easy to see what made May's Wild West so appealing to late-nineteenth century audiences. By the time he made his breakthrough in the 1890s, an estimated 2.3 million German-born people lived in the United States, over half of whom had left the country in the previous decade alone to seek their fortune. May wrote at the peak of a collective German romanticisation of the Americas as an untamed, wild landscape full of opportunities, rugged beauty and adventure. He wrote for those who could not leave. Trapped in the grinding work mills of Germany's industrial cities, many workers found relief in the newly-popular genre of pulp fiction. After a long shift at the factory, what could be better than to escape into a fantasy world as far removed from one's own as possible but credible enough to be a dream to pin one's hopes upon? With a literacy rate close to 99 per cent, Germany allowed nearly all its citizens access to literature. Cheap printing and a multitude of libraries (including in factories) made it an affordable past-time too.

Many Germans had heard stories from relatives or neighbours who had emigrated to the United States and were thus keen to present this life-changing decision in glowing terms to those who had stayed behind. Tales of the vast open prairie were told in crammed, damp tenement flats. Adventure stories of German cowboys and their encounters with Native Americans provided much needed relief from the mind-numbing repetition on the assembly line. And who could have understood the workers' longing for this real, yet unreachable world better than May who had himself worked tirelessly to escape poverty and failed for so long to make it in the world of the burgeoning middle classes.

May's own longing for his imagined West was so great he gradually began to fall under the spell of his own creation. He began to claim he was in fact the first-person narrator of many of his stories: Old Shatterhand, Winnetou's blood brother. He claimed to have written the novels based on his own experiences in the US and went so far as to fabricate items from the stories as 'proof.' He had the character's famous rifles, Bärentöter [Bear Killer] and Henrystutzen [Henry carbine] made, as well as Winnetou's Silberbüchse [Silver Gun] -- all three can still be seen today at the Karl May Museum in Radebeul, near Dresden. May also had pictures taken in outfits that resembled those he described in books. For further corroboration, Winnetou often calls his friend Scharli, a German version of Charlie, meant as an allusion to May's first name Karl. It's hard to tell if his fans took his antics and marketing strategy seriously, or if they pretended they did in order to make the illusion of his Wild West absolute. Whatever motivated them, they wrote to May in their droves, pretending they were writing to the novels' hero and author as one and the same person. May obliged and answered many of them personally, further feeding his own myth. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Hundreds of Billions of Dollars Later, China's Semiconductor Industry Is Still an Also-Ran (David Masci and Christine McDaniel October 7, 2022, Discourse)

For the past decade or more, China has been seen as an unstoppable economic colossus that will soon not only become the world's largest economy but achieve preeminence in many if not most key industries. But according to George Calhoun, this narrative is incorrect. As long as the country is run by a Chinese Communist Party focused first and foremost on maintaining political control, he says, China will never develop the innovative capacity of the U.S. and other Western countries and will inevitably remain an economic also-ran, particularly in the cutting-edge technology sector. Nowhere is this truer than in the all-important semiconductor industry, says Calhoun, who is a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Low-traffic cities would be a boon - both for our health and the British economy (Ben Ramanauskas, Oct. 7th, 2022, CapX)

Not only are the arguments against car-centric cities compelling, but pedestrianised urban areas - as the Covid era showed - are very attractive.

The problem is not just the emission from cars which are damaging our health and the environment, but the underlying fact that many of our towns and cities are designed around cars, rather than people. Even major cities such as Leeds are poorly served by public transport, effectively compelling many people to make journeys by car. And even in cities with decent public transport, people are often discouraged from walking or cycling by a lack of infrastructure. 

High car usage is also bad for the economy. Too many vehicles means congestion, which hampers productivity. People being stuck in traffic wastes both time and money. Indeed, research from the CEBR suggests that from 2014-2030 the overall cost of congestion to the UK economy will be £300bn.

So, where do we go from here? The answer isn't just making cities less car-friendly, but making them better suited for cyclists and pedestrians. This will take a few minor adjustments and some more substantial reforms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Truck bomb explodes on Russia's Crimea bridgeA high-prestige target and a key supply corridor for Moscow's troops in southern Ukraine has been severely damaged (ANDREW SALMON, OCTOBER 8, 2022, Asia Times)

In what looks like a spectacular espionage operation, the Kerch Strait Bridge, which links Russia proper to the annexed Crimean peninsula, was heavily damaged and at least partly cut in a dawn explosion.

Footage, allegedly from CCTV on the bridge and circulating on social media, shows a truck driving across one of the bridge's two road spans exploding. Subsequent footage and photos show two sections of at least one of the road spans have collapsed into the sea.

On the adjacent rail span, a tanker train is furiously blazing. It is unclear if the fire will cause enough structural damage to drop the rail span of the 18km-long bridge - the longest in both Russia and Europe - into the Black Sea.

We are Hezbollah. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Americans Are Losing Their Work EthicEven reduced immigration and job openings for miles aren't luring America's ever-growing workforce dropouts back in. (MATT WELCH | 10.7.2022, Reason)

 Beginning with the restrictionist presidency of Donald Trump in 2017, and then supercharging through the effective 2020-21 border-closure triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. took in about 1.7 million fewer working-age immigrants than would have come at the prior intake rate, according to a recent analysis by Giovanni Peri, economics professor at University of California at Davis.

Meanwhile, absent those immigrants the domestic economy experienced a post-vaccine hiring explosion, with the unemployment rate--which measures the percentage of people actively looking for but failing to find a job--hitting 50-year lows. Inflation-adjusted average wage growth also jumped for a while there, increasing by at least 4 percent annualized for 12 consecutive months.

This should have been the moment when the startlingly high number of prime-aged Americans classified as Not in the Labor Force ("NILFs," no really) got off the sidelines and back into the job market.

And yet: "That did not increase work rates or labor force participation of Americans who are already here," says American Enterprise Institute economist Nicholas Eberstadt, author of the freshly revised (with post-pandemic intro) 2016 book Men Without Work. "We've now got this incredible peacetime labor shortage, and we also have a drop in the number of people in the workforce, by at least a ballpark of 3 million lower than we would have expected on trend before COVID. And that's leaving out immigration, so it's actually lower."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Civil War Reenactor Indicted For Planting Pipe Bomb at Cedar Creek BattlefieldGerald Drake Also Charged With Stalking and Mailing Threating Letters (DOJ, 10/06/22)

A federal grand jury in Charlottesville has indicted Gerald Leonard Drake, 63, from Winchester, Va., for mailing threatening letters, stalking, and planting a pipe bomb at the Cedar Creek Battlefield in Middletown, Virginia during a Civil War reenactment event in 2017.  In the mailings sent to victims and two newspapers, Drake purported to be a member of Antifa and threatened harm, including referencing the Unite the Right riots in Charlottesville.

The indictment, which was unsealed following Drake's arrest today, charges him with fifteen criminal offenses including: mailing threatening communications, malicious use of explosives, possession of an unregistered destructive device, unlawful manufacture of a destructive device, use of explosives to commit a federal felony, and stalking. [...]

As detailed in the indictment, Drake belonged to a reenactment unit that participated in the annual reenactment at Cedar Creek Battlefield until he was removed from his unit in 2014.  In later years, Drake volunteered with the Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation (CCBF), which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of history related to the Cedar Creek Battlefield and which hosts an annual reenactment attended by merchants, reenactors, and visitors. 

On September 23, 2017, a letter was received at the CCBF visitor center addressed to "Cedar Creek Battlefield people."  The envelope and its letter both bore a printed Antifa symbol depicting a black flag overlayed atop a red flag inside of a circle.  The letter claimed the reenactment event "clearly celebrates the war to keep African-Americans in chains," and warned the reenactment organizers that if the event was not cancelled, the trouble they would inflict on Cedar Creek Battlefield would make the riots that took place in Charlottesville in August look like "a Sunday picnic."

Antifa may not even exist--it's just Confederate re-enactors.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pro-Trump Rally-Goers Blame Mysterious Bogeymen for Latest Event Flop (Zachary Petrizzo, Oct. 08, 2022, Daily Beast)

Despite their attempts to draw in the MAGA faithful by playing Donald Trump speeches ahead of their first speaker, the "Stop the Tyrants & Unite for Freedom" gathering flopped. Even with frequent Steve Bannon podcast guest Matt Braynard in attendance, a mere 27 individuals--including two hired private security guards--showed up. [...]

Elsewhere at the event, theories flowed about why the event didn't pan out and draw in the masses.

Right-wing speaker and lawyer Deborah Weiss blamed the organizers for scheduling the event on a sunny Friday afternoon.

"First of all, it's a weekday during the day, [and] a lot of people work," she told The Daily Beast. "Second of all, it's very, very hard for conservative groups to get their message out right before the election," she said before claiming email invitations for the event were censored by suspicious left-wing forces.

She then fine-tuned that theory to claim email invitations wound up in spam folders--directed there somehow by unspecified sinister figures.

"They didn't go into my inbox. They disappeared entirely," she said. "Hard to get the message out!"

Similarly, self-proclaimed "Capitan" Matthew Woods, dressed in colonial attire (except for his run-of-the-mill "khakis"), echoed the claim of would-be right-wing attendees being "fear[ful]" of being back in Washington, D.C. Woods also expressed frustration over the lack of notice to potential event attendees.

MAGA fashion designer Andre Soriano spoke too, flanked by a female model wearing a Trump-inspired dark red dress reading, "Keep America Great." Wearing a black top hat, along with a long pea-coat (a look he called "Abraham Lincoln-ish"), Soriano railed against Biden while taking issue with stimulus checks. By the end of his short speech, he was in tears. Literally. He fell into the hands of a nearby organizer's arms after walking off stage.

The new Big Lie: Trumpists were at work. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Federal judge faults Postmaster General DeJoy in mail delays (The Associated Press,  Oct. 7, 2022) 

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan concluded that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's actions delayed mail deliveries and that he acted without obtaining an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission.

DeJoy restricted overtime payments for postal workers and stopped the agency's longtime practice of allowing late and extra truck deliveries in the summer of 2020. The moves reduced costs but meant some mail was left behind to be delivered the following day.

Those delays and the removal of many mail-sorting machines were among actions that led New York and several other states to sue -- claiming the actions amounted to voter suppression. DeJoy, a longtime Republican donor and political ally of former President Donald Trump, eventually halted some of his operational changes "to avoid even the appearance of impact on election mail."

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat who is running for re-election, said Friday that the Postal Service actions "made a mockery of the right to vote."

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New documents shed light on Florida's migrant flights (Miami Herald, 10/08/22)

Documents obtained from the state agency charged with managing the controversial migrant relocation program explicitly say that its mission was "to relocate out of the State of Florida foreign nationals who are not lawfully present in the United States,'' according to records obtained Friday by the Herald/Times.

That may pose a problem for Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose administration paid a Destin-based aviation company, Vertol Systems Company, more than $1.56 million to transport migrants -- including two Sept. 14 flights from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, even though the 48 Venezuelan passengers never set foot in Florida. [...[

The document, labeled "memorandum for record" under the company's letterhead, states that the company would provide "services to FDOT, on an ongoing, month-to-month basis, in the form of separate relocation projects."

The Vertol agreement indicates that the first one was to "involve the facilitation of the relocation of up to fifty (50) individuals to the State of Massachusetts or other, proximate northeastern state designated by FDOT based upon the extant conditions. The total price for all Services related to Project 1 is $615,000.00, subject to FDOT approval."

The state agreed to prepay Vertol for the flights, which amounted to about $12,812 per migrant. It made the first payment on Sept. 8, according to state records, and subsequently paid Vertol $950,000 on Sept. 19.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When migrants were sent to Martha's Vineyard, a spirited team of Massachusetts lawyers jumped to help (Tonya Alanez, October 7, 2022, Boston Globe)

The morning after dozens of migrants arrived unannounced last month on Martha's Vineyard, immigration lawyer Rachel M. Self raced to the island from a citizenship hearing in Lawrence. She was in emergency-response mode. While driving, she tuned into a Zoom conference with fellow immigration lawyers to discuss strategy. From Cape Cod, she hitched a ride on a newspaper delivery boat to get to the Vineyard, and then by noon she had hailed a taxi to get to the Edgartown church where the migrants had spent the night.

"It never even occurred to me not to show up at the church as quickly as I could," said Self, 44, who happens to live in Edgartown. "It was in my backyard. It was in my area of expertise. It was a language that I spoke, it was something I was very familiar with."

Once at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Self, who learned Spanish as an exchange student, spent nearly eight hours scanning immigration documents using her cellphone, laptop, and a WiFi hotspot. As other volunteer lawyers made their way to the island, they created spreadsheets listing each migrant, their next immigration appointment, their intended destination, and immediate medical needs. Within days, each migrant had been paired with a lawyer who would represent them for free.

The scramble in those early days -- and the continued advocacy since then -- exhibited, once again, the force of a spirited team of Massachusetts immigration lawyers, far from the southern border but able to flex their clout and power in the name of their advocacy. Their work put Massachusetts on the national map when it came to fighting Trump immigration policies and, now, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' controversial relocation program.

October 7, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Republicans called Biden's infrastructure program 'socialism.' Then they asked for money. (Edward-Isaac Dovere and Sarah Fortinsky, 10/07/22, CNN)

Last November, GOP Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota released a statement slamming the passage of the freshly approved infrastructure law he referred to as "President Biden's multi-trillion dollar socialist wish list."

Then in June, Emmer - the House Republican campaign chairman leading attacks on Democrats for supporting the law - quietly submitted a wish of his own.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Emmer expressed his hearty support for a multimillion dollar grant to improve part of Highway 65 in his district. The work was critical, Emmer argued, not just for his constituents, but for people all over Minnesota. Crashes were leading to fatalities. Congestion was leading to huge delays. Plus, Emmer added, "this grant also strives to serve as a social justice measure."

Emmer's plea is one of dozens obtained by CNN in response to a public records request, full of instances like Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville modulating his tone from accusing the law of "using fuzzy math and IOU's to hide the real cost," to appealing to Buttigieg because "as a former mayor, you understand better than anyone the time and money that goes into applying for highly competitive grants.

The letter writers include high profile attackers of government spending, as well as several in tight reelection races, such as Florida Rep. María Elvira Salazar and California Rep. David Valadao, who like Emmer, slammed the Biden law in public and then behind the scenes asked for money from it.

..they are at its teats. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Trump has one eye at elections overseas even as the midterms approach (MERIDITH MCGRAW, 10/07/2022, Politico)

Trump's warned about world war stemming from U.S. policy towards Taiwan, he's entertained Hungary's Viktor Orban at his club in New Jersey, and talked longingly about his relationship with Kim Jong-Un as the North Korean leader fired ballistic missiles over Japan.

His allies say it's part of building his own political brand. [...]

He faced early criticism for his reluctance to rebuke Russian President Vladimir Putin over the war in Ukraine. And he has been eager to host events at his club that are sponsored by the Saudi-backed LIV tour golf tournament, despite widespread condemnation that it is the regime's effect to obscure its terrible humanitarian record. [...]

"Trump is a budding authoritarian and he feels a natural affinity with other actual or aspiring authoritarians abroad. Some call it the Illiberal International," said Max Boot, a foreign policy expert who advised Republican presidential campaigns. "They are united by their embrace of nationalism and xenophobia and rejection of liberal democracy, science, and even reason. 

Xi, Kim, Putin, the Wahhabists...dude knows what MAGA stands for.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


"A Failure on All Our Parts." Thousands of Immigrant Children Wait in Government Shelters. (Melissa Sanchez, Oct. 7, 2022, ProPublica)

The public has largely stopped paying attention to what's happening inside shelters and other facilities that house immigrant children since President Donald Trump left office, and particularly since the end of his administration's zero tolerance policy, which separated families at the southern border.

But the shelter system remains in place under President Joe Biden. The numbers can fluctuate but, as of earlier this week, more than 9,000 unaccompanied immigrant children were in custody, according to data from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the privately run shelters.

The vast majority are children and teens from Central America who entered the country through the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian. The shelter system is designed to house these children temporarily -- the average length of stay is about a month -- until they can be placed with a relative or family friend or, in some cases, in foster care.

Inviting their families to come join them in America would be a good start.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Rethinking Libel, Defamation, and Press Accountability (Carson Holloway, 9/21/22, Claremont)

The New York Times doctrine has also undermined our nation's commitment to equality. It creates unjustifiable inequalities--between ordinary citizens and public figures (whose reputations are less protected), between journalists and all other professionals (who, unlike reporters, must face the consequences of their negligence), and between the press and public figures (most of whom have little power to resist a corporate media determined to assail their reputations). Finally, New York Times v. Sullivan runs counter to one of the basic aims of American government: to secure the natural rights of all. Reputation, as the American Founders teach us, is a right as fundamental and as precious, and as deserving of the government's protection, as life, liberty, and property.

Moreover, these grave evils by no means result from a necessary fidelity to the Constitution. On the contrary, they arise from constitutional infidelity. With its opinion in New York Times v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court of 1964 was not discovering and adhering to the original meaning of the First Amendment. It was, rather, departing from that meaning and imposing its own novel standards on our nation's First Amendment jurisprudence. The key elements of the New York Times doctrine--the distinction between public figures and all other Americans, and the burden on the former to demonstrate "actual malice" in order to prevail in a libel action--are not rooted in the original understanding of the First Amendment. The original understanding instead held that libel--false, defamatory publication--is outside the freedom of the press and not protected by that venerable principle. Accordingly, today's Supreme Court should, at the earliest suitable opportunity, reverse New York Times v. Sullivan and return our nation to its traditional, and more wholesome and reasonable, standards of libel.

As importantly, no republican purpose is served by relieving a certain institution from public responsibility. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Zinc-air batteries get dramatic boost from low-cost metal breakthrough (Amalyah Hart, 7 October 2022, Renew Economy)

Researchers say they've found an efficient and cost-effective solution that could drastically improve zinc-air batteries, an energy storage option that's clean and safe but, until now, has been hampered by performance issues.

The race to find high-density, cost-effective and environmentally friendly batteries is a major hurdle for the realisation of an electrified world, because most renewable energy sources, being intermittent, require good energy storage solutions.

Rechargeable zinc-air batteries are powered by oxidising zinc with oxygen from the air. They're considered a possible candidate for next-generation power storage because, in theory, they could have ultra-high energy density. Not only that, but they can be recycled, safely disposed of and recharged with new zinc.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A majority of GOP nominees -- 299 in all -- deny the 2020 election results (Amy Gardner, 10/06/22, Washington Post)

Although some are running in heavily Democratic areas and are expected to lose, most of the election deniers nominated are likely to win: Of the nearly 300 on the ballot, 174 are running for safely Republican seats. Another 51 will appear on the ballot in tightly contested races.

Allegiance to the Republic is the bare minimum. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Astronaut and the Alien: In an uneventful debate, Mark Kelly has an encounter of the GOP kind. (AMANDA CARPENTER, OCTOBER 6, 2022, The Bulwark)

Arizona's Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, an honest-to-goodness astronaut, must have felt like he was talking to an alien tonight.

No, not in space. At the Arizona PBS debate, where Kelly had a "first and likely only" encounter with his opponent, GOP Senate nominee Blake Masters. Yes, it was weird.

Masters--a Peter Thiel creation--is a bastard conglomeration of the internet and Trumpism. Take one part Silicon Valley bro and add one part rad-trad Crossfit philosophy, shake on some Stanford pretentiousness, stretch it out into something that resembles a slightly more human form than Jared Kushner and you'll get the idea. Watching the debate, one got the sense that Kelly, a stocky man who is not just a retired astronaut but also a naval aviator with combat experience and a master's degree in engineering, didn't know what to make of the being who called himself "Blake." Probably because Masters is wholly and only conversant in the tongue of Trump.

Most GOP nominees running in the midterms are election deniers. Would it be all that...
Whenever Kelly tried to make a point about the upcoming elections and democracy, Masters steered the conversation to how the FBI supposedly suppressed information in some deep-state conspiracy to elect President Joe Biden. It was as if Masters were speaking another language.

He's only conversant in dog whistle. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Now Walker Says Paying For Abortion Is 'Nothing To Be Ashamed Of' (David Badash, October 07 | 2022, National Memo)

Georgia GOP senatorial nominee Herschel Walker is doubling down on his denials he paid a girlfriend to have an abortion, emphatically insisting he knows "nothing" about it - after saying, "why in the world would I not be forgiven of something like that?" and insisting it's "nothing to be ashamed of" - despite wanting to criminalize and ban all abortion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet 'The Right Stuff,' The Latest Doomed Reactionary Dating App (Matthew SheffieldOct 6, 2022, TYT)

In an essay for Newsweek, company co-founder John McEntee wrote that it was too difficult to find romantic partners who agreed with him on mainstream dating websites.

"Personally, I have never and would never date anyone who doesn't share the same political views as me," McEntee wrote. "When I filtered my settings to include conservative women from the ages of 21-29 ... only a handful of users appeared."

Despite proclaiming his desire to exclude progressive women from his personal dating pool, McEntee, the former Trump White House personnel director, said that he felt it was unfair that others would do the same to Republicans.

"Often, right-wing people don't tag themselves as so, because other people may not want to match with them or could be mean-spirited towards them," he argued.

Wanting to keep out the libs while crying about liberal exclusion is just one commonality that The Right Stuff has with its many predecessors in the reactionary dating space.

As far back as 2006, right-wing radio host Sean Hannity used early dating-website-in-a-can software to power "Hannidate," a sub-site dedicated to helping his super-fans hook up -- once they'd faxed in a legal release form.

Hannidate became defunct more than a decade ago, but you can catch a catch a glimpse of it via the ever-useful Internet Archive. Most of the profiles aren't accessible, but the site's homepage regularly touted a "featured profile" of what seems to have been an overwhelmingly male user demographic.

The Right exists to amuse us.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Covid death rates are higher among Republicans than Democrats, mounting evidence shows (Aria Bendix, 10/06/22, NBC News)

Average excess death rates in Florida and Ohio were 76% higher among Republicans than Democrats between March 2020 and December 2021, according to a working paper released last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Excess deaths refers to deaths above what would be anticipated based on historical trends.

A study in June published in Health Affairs similarly found that counties with a Republican majority had a greater share of Covid deaths through October 2021, relative to majority-Democratic counties.

Nativism/Nationalism, an ideology to die for.

October 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


'Riyadh's errand boy': Biden's Saudi overtures panned after OPEC oil move (Katherine Doyle, October 06, 2022, Washington Examiner)

President Joe Biden's attempt to bridge ties with Saudi Arabia is under renewed scrutiny after a coalition of oil-producing states led by the kingdom slashed oil production quotas by 2 million barrels per day, defying Washington at a time of political peril for the White House and Democrats.

No one expected him to be competent, but it really wouldn't have been hard to do the reverse of Donald on everything. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Fulton County prosecutor investigating Trump aims for indictments as soon as December (Sara Murray and Jason Morris, 10/06/22, CNN)

The Georgia prosecutor leading an investigation into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election is aiming to quickly wrap up the grand jury's work after the midterm elections and could begin issuing indictments as early as December, sources familiar with the situation tell CNN.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said that her investigation into attempts to subvert the 2020 election will go quiet beginning later this week to avoid any appearance of influencing the upcoming election. But while her investigation will not make any overt moves in the next few weeks, her team is gearing up for a flurry of activity after Election Day.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Kari Lake uses stock footage of Russian soldiers in campaign ad (RICHARD EBERWEIN - 10/06/22, WCPT 820)

A recent campaign ad for Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) uses stock footage of Russian soldiers.

The footage is shown while the ad claims Lake will use the National Guard to help secure the U.S. border with Mexico.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


12 News/RWU Poll: Fung leads Magaziner in race for Congress (Ted Nesi, Tim White, Oct 6, 2022, WPRI)

 Republicans remain positioned to win a congressional race in Rhode Island this fall for the first time since 1992, but Democrats still have a shot at holding the seat, an exclusive 12 News/Roger Williams University poll released Thursday shows.

The survey of 254 likely voters in Rhode Island's 2nd Congressional District finds Republican Allan Fung at 46% and Democrat Seth Magaziner at 40%, with 9% of voters undecided and 4% supporting independent candidate Bill Gilbert, who will appear on the ballot as "Moderate."

Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


The Universe Is Not Locally Real, and the Physics Nobel Prize Winners Proved It (Daniel Garisto, October 6, 2022, Scientific American)

One of the more unsettling discoveries in the past half century is that the universe is not locally real. "Real," meaning that objects have definite properties independent of observation--an apple can be red even when no one is looking; "local" means objects can only be influenced by their surroundings, and that any influence cannot travel faster than light. Investigations at the frontiers of quantum physics have found that these things cannot both be true. Instead, the evidence shows objects are not influenced solely by their surroundings and they may also lack definite properties prior to measurement. As Albert Einstein famously bemoaned to a friend, "Do you really believe the moon is not there when you are not looking at it?"

No Observer?  No nothing.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Biden scolds 'MAGA Republicans' after 5th Circuit Court strikes down DACA, orders no new applicants (Lawrence Richard, 10/06/22, Fox News)

President Biden lashed out at a federal appeals court on Wednesday, after it ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was illegally implemented by the Obama administration.

In a statement, the president called the decision "unlawful" and urged Congress to make permanent legislative protections to help more than 600,000 immigrants currently protected by DACA.

Then repeat the pardon every Friday until Congress passes reform. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Poll puts Jewish Democrat just 2 percentage points behind Boebert in red district (PHILISSA CRAMER, 10/06/22, JTA)

A poll conducted last week suggests that Adam Frisch could unseat Lauren Boebert in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District in November. Boebert received support from 47% of likely voters, while Frisch received 45%, in the poll that has a 4.4% margin of error.

Frisch, a two-term city council member from Aspen who has served on the board of his local synagogue, is running to offer an alternative to Boebert, who backed former president Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election and has expressed admiration for the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Proud Boys member pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy over Jan. 6 (Jacob Knutson, 10/06/22, Axios)

Jeremy Bertino's guilty plea potentially gives the Department of Justice a key witness against Proud Boys leader Henry "Enrique" Tarrio and four other members who will face trial over seditious conspiracy and other charges later this year.

Bertino, 43, a former leader of the Proud Boys, also pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, the Justice Department said.

Bertino faces up to 20 years in prison for the seditious conspiracy charge and up to 10 years in prison for the firearms charge, including potential financial penalties.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Federal agents think they have enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden with tax and gun-buy crimes, report says (Dan Mangan, 10/06/22, CNBC)

Federal agents believe they have enough evidence to support charging Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, with tax crimes and making a false statement in connection with the purchase of a gun, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Please, Lord God, let it be so.  Watching the Right revel in the work of the 187,000 IRS agents and the gun grabbers makes it all worthwhile.

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Fox News CEO warned against 'crazies' after 2020 election, Dominion says (David Folkenflik, 10/06/22, NPR)

Besieged by angry viewers, denounced by then-President Trump, questioned by some of its own stars, Fox News found itself in a near-impossible spot on Election Night 2020 after its election-analysis team announced before any other network that Joe Biden would win the pivotal swing state of Arizona.

Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott proved so flummoxed by what ensued that she warned colleagues, "We can't give the crazies an inch." [...]

For days after the election, Trump and his top aides demanded the network rescind its announcement of Biden's victory in Arizona, even pressuring the network's controlling owners, Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. In the weeks that followed, a cadre of Fox News stars hosted Trump's advisers - and even Trump himself - to peddle baseless conspiracy theories of election fraud. Many of those false claims asserted without evidence that Dominion's technology and machines had been used to rig the vote and to cheat Trump out of the White House.

According to Nelson's remarks at the hearing, senior Fox News executives interceded to try to block Fox Business stars Lou Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo from having Trump's campaign attorneys, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, on their shows to repeat such lies. In late 2020, Dobbs and Bartiromo hosted Trump's advocates to make those accusations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Yisrael Beytenu pans own digest calling Likud 'party for Jews from Arab nations' (Times of Israel, 10/06/22)

Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu issued criticism of its own party newsletter Thursday after comments there said opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party has become "another sectorial party for Jews from Arab countries."

The statement, made in a Russian-language bulletin, was evidently a general reference to Mizrahi Jews.

It further said "the problem" was that the party leaders "have the cultural and psychological norms of those ethnicities."

At a minimum they have cooties. Of course, it's probably best not to let the folks who believe in racial Zionism know that they are biologically Palestinian (and vice versa).

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


The US does not want regime change in Iran (Matthew Petti, 10/05/22, The Post)

Both sides misread Washington's intentions towards Iran. Although US pressure has deeply impacted Iranian politics, it is not leading to "regime change." Instead, US policy is structured to inflame Iran's social contradictions. And that policy has borne fruit, trapping Iran in a cycle of polarisation.

US pressure is designed to exacerbate the tensions between the aspirations of Iran's educated middle class and the values of the Islamic Republic. It achieves this by shrinking the economic pie for everyone, primarily through sanctions. By targeting certain imports over others -- forcing a tradeoff between bare necessities and luxuries -- the sanctions have led to "intensified income inequality and inflation," former sanctions architect Richard Nephew claimed.

At the same time, US power has targeted elite Iranian factions who could drive change. Many Iranians had pinned their hopes on the Reformists, a loyal opposition movement that united old guard revolutionaries with young liberals. But the most intense US pressure on Iran took place after the Reformists took power. President Donald Trump reversed US diplomatic outreach to Iran, and placed the country under severe economic sanctions and military threats. Violent unrest broke out across the country in November 2019, ensuring that the legacy of Reformism was not only humiliation abroad, but also blood-soaked repression at home.

With a military coup d'etat unlikely, the United States offered alternatives that seemed almost designed to fail. The Obama administration helped reconstitute the Mojahedin-e Khalq, an Islamic socialist faction that was purged from the Iranian revolution and later earned a reputation as Saddam Hussein's muscle squad. Under the Trump administration, US government funding and private donations flowed into an Iranian-American activist scene plagued by petty toxic politics.

As we've shown in places like Iraq, Palestine and Egypt, the one intolerable outcome is democratic election of Islamic parties. 
Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


Spain's First Smart Agrovoltaic Plant (Sensor Tech Research, 10/05/22)
Thanks to this solution, the installation will help to improve the quality of the grapes, allow a more efficient use of the land, reduce the consumption of irrigation water and improve the crop's resistance to climatic conditions in the face of rising temperatures and increasingly frequent heat waves. The production of this pilot plant, with a capacity of 40 kW, will be used entirely for self-consumption by the González Byass and Grupo Emperador wineries, which will thus be able to reduce their emissions, make progress in the decarbonisation of their activity and reduce their energy costs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Putin is losing the war in all 4 Ukrainian regions he 'annexed' (Michael Weiss and James Rushton, October 5, 2022, Yahoo! News)

Rumors of deep Ukrainian advances into Russian-controlled areas of Kherson, directly north of the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea, have been confirmed by pictures of victorious Ukrainian soldiers hoisting the Ukrainian flag above liberated villages. The Ukrainians have been advancing down the west bank of the Dnipro River, using the natural barrier of the waterway to secure their left flank, while threatening to encircle the Russian troops to their east. And their progress has been so rapid that pro-Russian voices on the global messaging service Telegram are in a state of total panic, begging any of their readers with a well-placed contact in the Russian military to immediately send air support, although none appears forthcoming. "We need aviation more than ever!" begged one Russian Telegram channel. "If anyone has access to command, send it to us!!!"

According to a conversation said to be between Russian soldiers intercepted by the SBU, Ukraine's domestic security service, the use of U.S.-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) has been as devastating in the south as it has been elsewhere along the frontline. One Russian soldier is allegedly recorded saying, "Here the legs are shaking. [The HIMARS] hits, the earth is shaking. Here, ours are all trembling." In another intercept, a Russian soldier calls his father back home encouraging him to avoid mobilization. Eight of his comrades, the soldier says, recently left a hospital in Kherson without arms and legs. And Ukrainian advances on the west bank of the Dnipro have now brought the majority of the Kherson Oblast within range of Ukraine's supremely accurate Western-supplied artillery, giving them a host of new Russian targets to destroy.

October 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PRC: Israel blockade undermines development in Gaza (MEMO, October 5, 2022)

In an address delivered virtually to the General Debate at the UN Human Rights Council held on Monday, the PRC expressed deep concern about the suffocating blockade of Gaza and lamented the critical economic conditions of its 2.1 million residents. [...]

"During these 15 years, the international community has spent an estimated $5.7 billion in Gaza just to help keep the population afloat in impossible conditions."

"Gaza has the potential to flourish through its own development, however, the blockade prevents it from doing so," it added, noting that Israel imposes a ban on importing building materials and restricts the use of 3G and 4G phone data among other things.

It quoted Oxfam's Country Director, Shane Stevenson, who recently said that "most of Israel's blockade restrictions are motivated by politics, not security." He added that the Palestinian families in Gaza "are being collectively and illegally punished."

The PRC said the right to development is an inalienable human right as is people's right to self-determination.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Reason Iran Turned Out to Be So RepressiveShiite clerics in earlier centuries could never have imagined so intrusive a system. (Shadi Hamid, OCTOBER 4, 2022, The Atlantic)

Ideas matter. Ideology made Iran's Islamic revolution possible. But ideas do not come fully formed in a vacuum. Unusual ideas are typically the product of unusual situations. As perhaps all political doctrines are, the unadorned radicalism of Khomeini's philosophy of government was a reaction to what had come before. The shah wasn't just any dictator. He was an exceptionally brutal one. More than that, he fashioned himself an authoritarian modernizer, like Turkey's Kemal Atatürk before him, who would cut Islam down to size and reorganize society on strictly secular lines--with Western backing no less. The orchestrated attack on Islam that many Iranians perceived was made more sinister by the unfortunate fact of a CIA-supported coup that had ousted the democratically elected prime minister in 1953, thereby elevating the shah.

Khomeini, along with a growing number of conservative clerics and laymen, came to believe that Islam was in danger of being extinguished. If as much as Islam's very preservation was at stake, exceptional measures would have to be taken, with a frown and a grimace if need be. This helps explain how Khomeini could possibly declare that the absolute mandate (velayat-e-motlaq) of Islamic government was "the most important of the divine commandments ... and has priority over all derivative commandments, even over prayer, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca." In another time and place, this would have been dismissed as nonsensical ranting, or worse, heresy.

Khomeini's radicalism was real and deeply felt. His grievances were legitimate. But the totalizing nature of the dictatorship to come was not predestined. Another ingredient was necessary. That something else was the modern state, in all of its sprawling, overbearing glory. Until the 20th century, states simply could not be authoritarian in the fullest sense of the word. Their bureaucratic, technological, and surveillance capacity was limited. Even under despots, ordinary people could still live relatively free lives because the state could only extend its tentacles of control so far. The introduction of the nation-state removed any such constraints. Leaders could seek dominion not just over government but over society, too. Not only did they want to change your behavior; they wanted to transform the way you perceived the world.

If the shah's strong state was what threatened Islam, a strong state--and perhaps even a stronger one--would be required to protect it from its enemies at home and from those abroad as well. This expansiveness is in the character of revolutions, when they succeed. They are wondrous events. As the longtime Berkeley professor Hamid Algar once argued, perhaps with a hint of hyperbole, the Iranian revolution was "the most significant, hopeful, and profound event in the entirety of contemporary Islamic history." But many revolutions prove too wondrous. Because they fight against great injustice and promise, in turn, a great reordering, revolutions can't help but forge a stronger state than the one they seek to destroy.

The irony is that the clerics were well aware of these pitfalls. As the Iranian American sociologist Said Arjomand writes, Khomeini's original vision was one of "a withered state." For both better and worse, this antiauthoritarian impulse is embedded in Islam.

The missing element here is that no state ever withers when it is attacked from without.  Our inability to accept the Revolution--particularly after the hostage crisis--has made us the half of the A-frame that props up a more repressive republic than Iran requires. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


For Sweden, it's back in the fight (Helene Cooper, 10/04/22, New York Times)

The last time this famously neutral country went to war, Napoleon was on the back foot in France, and Britain was preparing to burn Washington.

But Russia's invasion of Ukraine has upended 200 years of global pacifism for the children of the Vikings.

And so it was that as President Vladimir Putin of Russia issued veiled threats late last month about unleashing nuclear war, the United States was holding military exercises with Sweden, one of NATO's most recent applicants.

While the war raged in Ukraine, hundreds of Marines joined their Swedish counterparts for maneuvers in the Baltic Sea, on and around some of Sweden's 100,000 mostly uninhabited islands. In the cold rain and under heavy fire, they scrambled up slippery rocks, landed combat boats on shores, and crawled on their bellies through forested ravines.

October 4, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM



Animal experimentation, for better or worse, is an established part of scientific research. But even by those standards, Oz is accused of violating norms. A number of the experiments were allegedly in direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act, inflicting extensive -- and illegal -- suffering on many of these living creatures. And in all of these studies Oz, currently running for public office, had "full scientific, administrative, and fiscal responsibility for the conduct."

Per the report, the allegations were initially made in 2003 and 2004 by a whistleblower named Catherine Dell'Orto. Her testimonies are harrowing -- in one instance, Dell'Orto claimed that a dog was kept alive for a month for continued live experimentation despite, as Jezebel writes, being in an "unstable, painful" condition.

Another horrifying claim alleged that several puppies, which were given no anesthesia, were killed via intracardiac injections of expired drugs; those dead puppies were then allegedly left in a garbage bag with their living littermates.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Will Herschel Walker's Abortion Controversy Hurt His Chances In Georgia? (Nathaniel Rakich, OCT. 4, 2022, 538)

On Monday night, The Daily Beast reported that Herschel Walker, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Georgia who has said he wants to ban abortion in all circumstances, had paid for his pregnant then-girlfriend to get an abortion in 2009.

The only way it could be better for him is if he gunned the kid down.
Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


Details emerge about mystery woman who led migrants to Martha's Vineyard (Mike Damiano, October 3, 2022, Boston Globe)

Even before she was publicly identified -- The New York Times first published Huerta's name Sunday -- attention had focused on her alleged role in the scheme, and the mystery of her identity.

Migrants said she had introduced herself only as "Perla" and held herself out as a kind of guardian angel. Outside an immigration resource center in San Antonio, they said, she approached Venezuelans and promised a better life up north.

She seemed to be targeting Venezuelans, in particular. Carlos, a migrant who did not want his last name published, said Monday that when Huerta approached him in a white van outside a Walgreens, her first question was, "Are you Venezuelan?"

When he said yes, she drove him to a hotel and put him and other migrants up for the night.

"I thought it was some kind of special program for Venezuelan immigration," he said. "But it was all a trick."

Millions of Venezuelans have left their home country in recent years amidst political upheaval and economic instability, and many have headed for the United States and applied for asylum. According to federal government figures, more than 25,000 Venezuelans were stopped at the US southern border in August of this year, four times more than in August 2021.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


In retreat on Ukrainian fronts, Russia shows signs of disarray (Andrew E. Kramer, Carlotta Gall and Anton Troianovski, 10/04/22,  New York Times)

The Kremlin reflected the disarray of its forces on the ground, where territory was rapidly changing hands, acknowledging that it did not yet know what new borders Russia would claim in southern Ukraine. "In terms of the borders, we're going to continue to consult with the population of these regions," Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Monday.

The military conscription Putin ordered Sept. 21 to bolster his battered forces has set off nationwide turmoil and protest, bringing the war home to many Russians who had felt untouched by it. Many men have been drafted who were supposed to be ineligible based on factors such as age or disability.

On Monday, the governor of the Khabarovsk region in the Far East said that half of the men called up there, numbering in the thousands, should not have been drafted and had been sent home and that the region's military commissar had been dismissed.

Putin had meant for Monday to be a triumphant day in Moscow, where the lower house of Russia's rubber-stamp parliament, the State Duma, voted unanimously to ratify his proclaimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions after sham referendums there.

But events on the battlefield threatened to make a mockery of such declarations, as Ukrainians continued to recapture blasted, largely depopulated cities and towns from the retreating Russians. North of Lyman, the village of Pisky-Radkivski, retaken last week, was littered with burned-out Russian tanks, abandoned Russian gear and the bodies of Russian soldiers Monday.

Ukraine claimed Monday to have destroyed a Russian armored column near the village of Torske in the Donetsk region, east of Lyman and just 20 miles from Lysychansk. The attack left roads in the dense pine forest cluttered with burned tanks and armored vehicles, said Vladyslav Podkich, a Ukrainian military spokesperson.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How anti-Semitism took root in the Labour Party (DANIEL BEN-AMI, 4th October 2022, spiked)

Neither side grasps the real character of the new form of anti-Semitism that has emerged in Britain over the past decade or so. It is a peculiar amalgam of identity politics and an affinity with Islamism as a political movement.

Advocates of identity politics tend to see society in terms of racial groups, with privileged whites supposedly oppressing groups of people with darker skin. Moral virtue is then accorded to the racial victims of whiteness.

According to this simplistic worldview, Jews are generally seen as a privileged racial group, since in the overwhelming majority of cases they are white. Indeed, the fact that Jews are often prosperous has led some identitarians to call Jews 'hyper-white'. Some even argue that Jews weren't always white, but have become white by becoming better off.

Most proponents of identity politics would accept that Jews were victims of the Nazi Holocaust. In that narrow sense, identitarian activists are, for the most part, genuinely opposed to anti-Semitism. But all too often, their conception of anti-Semitism ends there. They cannot see that anti-Semitism can and does exist in many varied forms, including outside of the far right.

This one-sidedness helps explain how Corbyn can insist he is not anti-Semitic, while unthinkingly endorsing the expression of anti-Semitic tropes. Infamously, in 2012, Corbyn gave his approval to an anti-Semitic mural by Los Angeles-based street artist Mear One. Freedom for Humanity showed several apparently Jewish bankers playing a game of Monopoly on a tabletop supported on the naked backs of workers. Corbyn did later release a statement saying he regretted he had not looked more closely at the image. And it is easy to see how he made such a mistake. Presumably, at first glance, he saw a picture he considered anti-capitalist without noticing its anti-Semitic implications.

Once you settle on Identity politics, hating other Identities is an inevitable step. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Irony Meter Explodes as Migrants Lured TO Florida for Hurricane Ian Cleanup (Dan Ladden-Hall, Oct. 03, 2022, Daily Beast)

Migrants are reportedly being transported from New York City to Florida for work supporting cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ian--weeks after the governor put migrants on a flight to Martha's Vineyard. Over the weekend, scores of Venezuelan migrants were boarding vans heading to the Sunshine State from a pickup point in Queens, despite having little information about who they would be working for, the New York Post says. "They want us for hurricane cleanup, we'd get paid $15 an hour, overtime and $15 for food daily, I think," Javier Moreno, 37, told the paper, adding that a woman named Camila "from an organization" approached him with a flier about the work. "I'm going for the work," Moreno added.

Work MAGA won't do.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


My relative running for Congress is part of a movement that endangers Jews. Should my family speak out? (Daniel Miller, October 03, 2022, The Forward)

Max Miller belongs to a political movement that's endangering America and endangering Jews. He is also my first cousin.

A former Trump aide and self-proclaimed part of the "America First team," Max Miller is the Republican nominee for Congress in the newly-formed, gerrymandered Ohio 7th Congressional District.

Last month, Max spoke at a Trump rally in Ohio right before Marjorie Taylor Greene. During the rally, some in the crowd gave Trump a straight armed, one-finger salute. I and many others were horrified at the resemblance to a Nazi Sieg Heil. Apparently, it's a QAnon gesture. But under these circumstances, no board member of the Holocaust Memorial Council, like my cousin, should have tweeted out the next day that the rally was a "fantastic night."

What is our family to do? And really, what are any of us to do?

This is not the first time my family has been in this sort of situation. Josh Mandel married into our family in 2008 (but has since divorced), and his political rise caused divisions in our family. Despite his right-wing and extremist positions, even some Democratic family members supported his campaign in 2012. Most likely did not.

Now, once again, there are divisions in our family over politics. My large extended family has long been a champion of Jewish values, but as far as I know, only a few of us have spoken out against Max's campaign. This is the case even though most in the family reject Trumpism and work to "repair the world" every day.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


There is no home for Asian Americans in the Republican Party anymore (Victor Shi, October 3, 2022, Boston Globe)

I will always remember March 16, 2021, when eight people -- including six women of Asian descent -- were shot to death in Atlanta. It was devastating, but it was also unsurprising given the rise of anti-Asian rhetoric, much of it fueled by former president Donald Trump, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

His use of terms like "Kung Flu" and "Chinese Virus" stoked anti-Asian sentiment, ultimately resulting in a record level of Asian American hate and violence in America. The shootings in Atlanta were just one high-profile example of the consequences of hateful language aimed at a specific racial community and the lack of condemnation by the Republican Party.

One might hope Trump would learn from his mistakes and stop using racist, incendiary language to describe Asian Americans. But he hasn't.

Over the weekend, Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, and released a post in which he called Elaine Chao, his former Labor secretary and wife to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, "China Loving Wife, Coco Chow."

The response from the vast majority of Republicans -- including McConnell and Chao herself -- has been silence. 

Wrong Identity.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ketanji Brown Jackson grabs the spotlight in first Supreme Court session (JOSH GERSTEIN, 10/03/2022, Politico)

[T]he court's newest justice politely dominated the questioning at the outset of Monday's session.

"Why is it that your conception of this does not relate in any way to Congress's primary objective?" Jackson asked Damien Schiff, a lawyer defending landowners seeking a narrow interpretation of federal power. "Do you dispute that the primary objective as stated in the statute ... is that Congress cared about making sure that the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters was protected?"

Jackson remained an active questioner throughout the argument, scoring assists from several colleagues, including Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, who pressed Schiff to respond to her queries. [...]

Justice Neil Gorsuch smiled broadly as the session got underway and casually chatted with one of his new neighbors, Sotomayor. He also deferred to Jackson once, who replied with some praise, sort of.

"I just wanted to follow up on Justice Gorsuch's very fair points, which were my points," she said.

Kavanaugh also tried at least once to get Roberts' attention for a question from Jackson, who sits to Kavanaugh's left.

She'll figure out that oral arguments are insignificant to case outcomes soon enough.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tired of power cuts, blockaded Gaza turns to solar (Rosie SCAMMELL and Mai YAGHI, Oct 3, 2022, AFP)

Palestinians living in the Israeli-blockaded enclave of Gaza have long endured an unstable and costly electricity supply, so Yasser al-Hajj found a different way: solar power.

Looking at the rows of photo-voltaic panels at his beachfront fish farm and seafood restaurant, The Sailor, he said the investment he made six years ago had more than paid off.

"Electricity is the backbone of the project," Hajj said, standing under a blazing Mediterranean sun. "We rely on it to provide oxygen for the fish, as well as to draw and pump water from the sea."

The dozens of solar panels that shade the fish ponds below have brought savings that are now paying to refurbish the business, he said, as labourers loaded sand onto a horse-drawn cart.

Hajj said he used to pay 150,000 shekels ($42,000) per month for electricity, "a huge burden," before solar power slashed his monthly bill to 50,000 shekels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Herschel Walker threatens to sue over abortion accusation and is then attacked by son (OLIVIA OLANDER, 10/03/2022, Politico)

Herschel Walker, who has taken an unyielding stance against abortion rights as the Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia, threatened on Monday to sue the Daily Beast after it reported that Walker once paid for a girlfriend's abortion. [...]

Things got more complicated for the Republican candidate when his son, Christian Walker, subsequently sent a series of tweets accusing his father of abusive behavior and of being a terrible father.

"I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us," Christian Walker tweeted. "You're not a 'family man' when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence."

In another tweet, he added: "I don't care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you're some 'moral, Christian, upright man.' You've lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you."

October 3, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Anger Over Russia's Battlefield Defeats Bursts Into The Open, Posing A Challenge For Putin (Mike Eckel, 10/03/22, Radio Free Europe)

For weeks now, on the uncensored Telegram channels of hard-line nationalists and Russian military bloggers, there's been a litany of angry criticism of Russia's military commanders amid a stunning Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region and elsewhere resulting in substantial Russian losses.

Now with the Ukrainians' weekend victory in Lyman, a Donetsk region city and strategic rail hub southeast of Kharkiv, that criticism is bursting into wider public view, hitting the front pages of some of Russia's biggest newspapers.

That's a serious problem for Russia's military brass -- and potentially for the Kremlin.

"I wouldn't predict a palace coup imminently. If there were one, we'd almost be the last ones to know about it, these things happen pretty swiftly when they do," said James Nixey, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Chatham House think tank in London. "But obviously, there is increasing discontent in the upper Russian echelons about the course of the war, and that is being manifested in various ways, people can't hold it in."

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Nuclear fusion plant to be built at West Burton A power station (Tony Roe & Alex Smith, 10/03/22, BBC News)

Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced the government's choice in a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

"Over the decades we have established ourselves as pioneers in fusion science and as a country our capabilities to surmount these obstacles is unparalleled, and I am delighted to make an announcement of a vital step in that mission," he said.

"The plant will be the first of its kind, built by 2040 and capable of putting energy on the grid, and in doing so will prove the commercial viability of fusion energy to the world." [...]

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the project would replace the coal-fired power station site - owned by French energy giant EDF - which is set to be closed this year.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Trump rallies drift to fringe ahead of potential 2024 bid (JILL COLVIN, 10/03/22, AP)

Trump's rallies have always attracted a broad swath of supporters, from first timers taking advantage of their chance to see a president in person, to devotees who camp out for days and follow him around the country like rock band groupies. But after spending much of the last two years obsessively peddling false claims of a stolen election, Trump is increasingly attracting those who have broken with reality, including adherents of the baseless QAnon conspiracy, which began in the dark corners of the internet and is premised on the belief that the country is run by a ring of child sex traffickers, satanic pedophiles and cannibals that only Trump can defeat.

As he eyes another White House bid, Trump is increasingly flirting with the conspiracy. He's reposted Q memes on his social media platform and amplified users who have have promoted the movement's slogans, videos and imagery. And in recent weeks, he has been closing out his rally speeches with an instrumental song that QAnon adherents have claimed as their anthem and renamed "WWG1WGA" after the group's "Where we go one, we go all" slogan.

Trump and his allies often dismiss suggestions that he advances conspiracy theories or condones violence. "The continued attempts by the media to invent and amplify conspiracies, while also fanning the flames of division, is truly sick," his spokesman, Taylor Budowich, said in a statement. "America is a nation in decline and our people are suffering, President Trump and his America First movement will not be distracted by the media's nonsense, and he will instead continue fighting to Make America Great Again."

But interviews with more than a dozen Michigan rally-goers Saturday underscore his influence and serve as reminder that many cling to his every word and see his actions as validation.

Several of those interviewed said they only began attending Trump's rallies after the 2020 election, when they said they had become more politically engaged. Several, like Virginia Greenlee, of Holland, Michigan, said they had been in Washington on January 6, 2021, when Trump supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, trying to halt the peaceful transition of power by disrupting the certification of Biden's win.

"President Trump really woke people up because I didn't even know there was a deep state or fake media, fake news, until he started bringing light," said Greenlee, who said she did not go inside the building, but watched from outside. She blamed the violence on leftist protesters masquerading as Trump supporters, though there is no evidence to support that claim.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


What happened while Ron DeSantis was fighting the culture wars (Judd Legum, 10/03/22, POPULAR INFORMATION)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has had a busy year. He has enacted legislation prohibiting teachers from acknowledging the existence of LGBTQ people. He has banned private businesses from conducting trainings about racial bias. And he has flown dozens of migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, under false pretenses. 

But while DeSantis was fighting the culture wars and positioning himself for a future presidential run, he has failed to meaningfully address one of the state's biggest problems: its dysfunctional and collapsing property insurance market. 

Florida's property insurance system was in crisis even though the state had not been struck by a major hurricane since 2018. Then Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida's west coast, killing at least 74 people and inflicting tens of billions of dollars in property damage. Things are about to get much worse. 

Florida property faces catastrophic risks from weather events that worsen each year due to climate change. For years, many of the nation's major insurers have wanted little to do with covering property in Florida. Currently, State Farm covers 8% of Florida's home insurance market, but "no other major national insurer has more than 4%." 

That leaves Floridians reliant on thinly-capitalized local insurers with very high rates. Floridians pay an average of "$4,231 a year per [property insurance] policy, compared to a US average of $1,544." Premiums have increased as much as 30% per year. Nevertheless, these companies are having a hard time surviving. In the last five years, six Florida insurance companies have gone out of business "without responding to a hurricane, and four more are in the process of liquidation." 

The collapsing market has left many Floridians reliant on the Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a state-run agency that is supposed to be the "insurer of last resort." It now provides property insurance for more than 1 million Floridians. But Citizens has limited resources. It currently has $13.5 billion available to pay out claims -- a pool of money that will be depleted, if not exhausted, by Ian. If Citizens runs out of money, Florida law "allows [Citizens] to assess non-customers to pay out claims." 

This assessment, known as a "hurricane tax," would result in increased costs for Floridians that don't even own homes but carry auto, renters, or other forms of insurance. Florida State Senator Jeff Brandes (R) warns that Floridians could "see rate hikes of up to 40% next year as a result of Ian." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Boeing-backed Wisk Aero reveals a four-seater autonomous air taxi (ANDREW J. HAWKINS, Oct 3, 2022, The Verge)

Air taxi startup Wisk Aero unveiled its sixth-generation aircraft, an all-electric four-seater that can fly without a human pilot. The Boeing-backed company said it will seek approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to carry passengers as part of a commercial air taxi service.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's 'Death Wish' Rhetoric (The Editorial Board, Oct. 2, 2022, WSJ)

Mr. Trump wrote on Truth Social.

"In any event, either reason is unacceptable. He has a DEATH WISH. Must immediately seek help and advise from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!" he added.

This continues Mr. Trump's attacks on Elaine Chao, Mr. McConnell's wife, for being Chinese-American. Her real offense was resigning as transportation secretary after Mr. Trump's disgraceful behavior on Jan. 6. His feud with Mr. McConnell is also personal, as the Kentucky Senator condemned Mr. Trump's Jan. 6 actions and hasn't spoken to him since.

But the "death wish" rhetoric is ugly even by Mr. Trump's standards and deserves to be condemned. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the Broken Immigration System Took a Toll on My Love for AmericaSeeing how America feels about its immigrants changed how I feel about America. (SHAY KHATIRI  OCTOBER 3, 2022, The Bulwark)

America's immigration problem has a lot to do with cynicism, and there is no consensus among Americans about what to do about illegal immigration. The Biden administration has inherited a mess from its predecessors and Congress, and seems intent on handing down the hideous heirloom again. (It doesn't help that mainstream media outlets have almost entirely ignored immigration, ceding the issue to right-wing media to present it however it helps them.)

The beginning of the asylum and refugee problem goes back to the Obama administration's panicky, incompetent response to Republican outcries about border crises, which, unlike the "caravans" we hear about every midterm season, were real. The crisis overlapped with the beginning of the war against the Islamic State and sporadic terror attacks. Add to this pre-existing security concerns about thousands of migrants crossing the border. The administration decided to reallocate Department of Homeland Security resources, including immigration case officers (known as "immigration judges" although they work for the executive branch), to background checks and screening on the border-crossers. Not coincidentally, this is when immigrants learned that applying for asylum could be a side door into the country.

When someone applies for asylum in the United States, they are given a work authorization and are allowed to stay--again, without any status but also without violating the law--until the USCIS processes the case to either be approved for asylum or deported. Sometimes asylees really do get lost in the country and skip the hearing--no hearing, no deportation. The Trump administration decided to fix the problem by adopting a "last-come, first-served" policy: Immigrants applying for asylum since 2018 will go ahead of everybody else in the system. So each new asylum seeker goes ahead of me and further delays my case.

Under U.S. law, an asylum case must be processed within 180 days. During the George W. Bush administration, it would take a few weeks for an applicant to come out of the system--not counting Global War on Terror-related delays. When Obama left office, because of the growing border crisis and the reduction in case officers, wait times had stretched to four or five years. Under Trump, for those who applied before the "last come, first served" policy, the wait time doubled to around eight years. The Biden administration has kept both policies but also exacerbated the surge at the southern border. The wait time is now well north of a decade.

Congress has shown no interest in fixing the problem. Republicans have an interest in prolonging it because their base voters are mobilized by the ongoing crisis. Democrats are the same because they too can mobilize their base by pointing to Republican reaction and occasional bigotry.

The Biden administration has, reportedly, considered marginal reforms but decided against them. According to Andrea Flores, a former official at the National Security Council tasked with border management, the proposals have been killed by Ron Klain, Susan Rice, and Jake Sullivan--Biden's chief of staff, head of domestic policy, and national security advisor.

"Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Nobel prize in medicine has been awarded for research on evolution (AP, October 3, 2022)

Paabo has spearheaded research comparing the genome of modern humans and our closest extinct relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, showing that there was mixing between the species.

There's no such thing as species.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fascism and Illness Have Long Been Intertwined in Italy's National Consciousness (Thea Lenarduzzi, Oct. 3rd, 2022, LitHub)

When just a handful of infections had been confirmed in Italy, the attacks on people of east Asian descent began. Newspapers reported a case in Bologna, where a Chinese-Italian teenager was beaten up by a group of four men. "What are you doing in Italy?" they shouted, "You're bringing us diseases? Get lost, you and your virus." The scene was witnessed by a man, sitting on a nearby bench, who stepped in to help the boy. A report on Bologna Today says he was a Moroccan, and this reminds me that until recently "marocchino" was a catch-all term for any dark-skinned immigrant, a label akin to vu cumprà, whose mock pidgin Italian--"you buy?"--conjured desperate and untrustworthy street hawkers, pests.

There were other attacks. Chinese businesses were boycotted. The Chinese embassy expressed serious concern. A national poster campaign was deemed necessary: "The virus is the enemy, not the Chinese people." In Naples, La Repubblica reported, a bus driver departing from Piazza Garibaldi saw a man with a suitcase--"un uomo orientale," an "oriental" man--waiting to board and accelerated away from the bus stop. A passenger is quoted as saying, "He did the right thing, we don't want the virus here." Calls for a ban on all travel from China were soon followed by calls for a ban on all boats coming from Africa, where no cases of the virus had been reported. As one virus spread around the world, it awoke this old one, too.

Perhaps this is muscle memory. We have always grafted diseases onto select groups of people. During the fourteenth century, the Italians were gripped by the idea that certain people might be intentionally spreading plague. They accused local Jewish communities, which had, they reasoned, always wanted to eradicate Christianity. Men, women and children were burnt alive. In the fifteenth century, syphilis, meanwhile, was, for the Germans, the "French Disease"; for the French, it was carried by Neapolitans (who said it was French). In Turkey, it was the "Christian disease."

In the nineteenth century, British colonists considered cholera to be inherently Indian, a product of an uncivilized way of life. Around the same time, the Americans were blaming it on the Irish and the Italians--destitute, filthy migrants who clambered off ships into crowded harbors looking for work. Their clothes were said to be saturated with sickness. In 1916, Italian immigrants were accused of causing an outbreak of polio in New York and on much of the East Coast, and two years later, along with Jews, they were shunned as bringers of influenza. We have forgotten what it is to be blamed, to be the scapegoat of a society's ills.

"When I was a girl it was malaria everyone was scared of," Nonna told me one day, when I had called to update her on my parents' predicament.

"It was very common," she said, "and very dangerous. You would get a fever and twenty-four hours later you were dead."

I asked if it was malaria that took the first baby Manlio or the twins, but she didn't know. "It's possible. You prayed it wouldn't happen but there were cases. The marshes were not far from here."

Malaria, a sickness in the blood, is ancient but with us still--a historical constant, like the famous mosquito preserved in amber. Though it was eradicated across Europe decades ago, it is rife in Africa. Medicine has not yet found a solution; vaccines work, for a time, and then they don't.

Calls for a ban on all travel from China were soon followed by calls for a ban on all boats coming from Africa, where no cases of the virus had been reported. As one virus spread around the world, it awoke this old one, too.
This shapeshifter has gone by many names: camp fever, ague, intermittent-, swamp- or marsh-fever. Until the turn of the twentieth century, when the female Anopheles mosquito was identified as the cause of infection, the marsh air itself--heavy with the smell of stagnant water and rotting vegetation--was assumed to be poisonous. Mala aria, bad air. Paludismo, swampism, or, I suppose, swampitis.

The beggars and brigands who hid out in these inhospitable water-lands, whose hair and rags were thought to be impregnated with the "seeds" of contagion, were viewed with fear and revulsion. Like Caliban, they could summon "all the infections that the sun sucks up from bogs, fens, flats." Their touch was the kiss of death.

Since Roman times, the plan had been to drain the swamps, to render them inhabitable and agriculturally useful. But successes were few and short-lived. Some say the fall of the Roman Empire can be linked to a particularly bad outbreak of malaria, or "Roman Fever," as it was then known. (I write this a few months after the Italian government collapsed in disagreement over how to handle our own pandemic; the country is now on its sixty-ninth government since the end of the Second World War.)

The Sisyphean struggle against the waters continued for centuries, but the Fascist era into which Nonna was born brought an intensification. The aftermath of the First World War had seen a steep rise in cases of malaria, especially in the Veneto and the Friuli, where fighting had made it impossible to carry out routine maintenance of dredged lands. Quinine tablets were widely distributed, at great cost to the administration.

In 1923, a year into his reign, Mussolini put his characteristic spin on an edict from the late 1800s and declared war on the putrid waters. I wonder if he didn't feel a particular outrage because malaria was a disease that contaminated good Italian blood.

The bonifica delle paludi--the reclamation of the swamps--was the propogandists' dream come true. It was, they said, Italy's panacea: once these wastelands were rendered fertile and buildable, people would no longer need to emigrate in search of a better life. Because, in a sense, the loss of thousands of fine, strong Italians had, for at least half a century, been the nation's most debilitating illness. Not only was the constant population drain a source of embarrassment for the government--not to mention concern: Italians abroad were Italians out of control--but all too often the migrants themselves suffered great indignities. So, a promise was made: Italy's total livable, farmable land would be increased by a third.

Returning to land south of Rome, partly drained by Augustus centuries earlier, a workforce of former soldiers put in place a system of levees and pumps, and, in 1932, on the soil that emerged, Mussolini's architects built Littoria, whose pale stone architecture, simple but ostentatious, with a tall clocktower at its heart, shone like a beacon of cleanliness and renewal.

A few years later, Pontinia was erected nearby, and people, primarily from the Veneto and the Friuli, flocked to the area to make their homes afresh. Strange that this proud Christian nation should forget so readily God's admonishment against building on soft ground.

"That was a good thing he did, you know?" Nonna said. "People don't like to admit it, but it's true."

I say nothing when Nonna says such things. He was let down by those around him. He lost control of the generals. He was misled, people forget. These lines, residua of her formal education, I think, don't seem to fit with the other things I know about her, so mostly, I let them wash over me and try to forget. I can't bring myself to engage because, I confess, I'm frightened of what else might come out.

Ranting about CRT?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Chinese Academics in US Increasingly Going Home Out of FearTrump-era spying probe a major cause as 'yellow peril' recurs (John Berthelsen, 10/03/22, Asia Sentinel)

The United States is paying a heavy price for the China Initiative, the 2018 probe of academic and economic spying begun by then-President Donald Trump which has driven up the number of Chinese-born academics departing back to China by 40 percent, according to a new study by the Asian American Forum.

The investigation was ordered ended last February by President Joe Biden. But, according to the 46-page report, titled Caught in the Crossfire: Fears of Chinese-American Scientists, "The China Initiative caused panic and an exodus of senior academic researchers of Chinese descent in the US." The number who dropped their American academic or corporate affiliation in 2021 in favor of a move back to a Chinese institution jumped by 23 percent over 2020. In 2021, 1,500 Chinese scholars who were educated in the United States left to go back to China.

The US loss has been China's gain. The returning academicians have steadily moved into top positions in academia and industry, "lured to return to China by a combination of factors: large and fast-growing investments in science, high social prestige and attractive financial rewards tied to positions in Chinese institutions, and capable research collaborators and assistants."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden needs to unclog the refugee pipeline  (The Editorial Board, October 3, 2022, Boston Globe)

Last week, President Biden announced that the United States will maintain the same cap on refugee entries as the previous fiscal year -- a maximum of 125,000 people. That's a stark and welcome contrast to the Trump administration's approach to dealing with the many displacement crises unfolding around the world, which was to essentially shut out as many people seeking refuge as possible by bringing the cap down to a historic low of 15,000 per year. But while Biden's commitment to admitting more refugees than his predecessor is certainly a step in the right direction, his administration's record on the issue still leaves much room for concern.

Just look at the numbers. Last year, after lifting the cap on refugees to 125,000, the United States processed fewer than 20,000 people through the Refugee Admissions Program. 

Lift the caps.

October 2, 2022

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Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Italy's Failure Is a Failure of Statism, Not Liberalism: The growth of populism in Italy follows logically from the fact the Italians never embraced classically liberal reforms. (John O. McGuiness, 10/02/22, Law & Liberty)

The recent election in Italy marks the first time in the modern era that populist parties have won a majority of the seats in a legislature in Western Europe. While the two parties that won, the Northern League and Five Star, did not run on a common policy platform and and may have difficulty governing together, their success represents a milestone for Western populism. But it does not represent a defeat for liberalism, at least of the classical kind. Italy has since World War II been the nation in Western Europe least hospitable to such liberty.

From the beginning of the new Italian constitutional order, Italian politics had three important strands in its politics, all hostile to liberalism. For a long time, the Christian Democrats headed governments. They were heavily influenced by Catholic social thought antithetical to free market economics. Its focus was on directly protecting the livelihood of the (generally male) breadwinner. As a result, Italy enacted laws that made it extremely hard to fire workers. It also protected businesses from pharmacies to notaries from the competition that technological change would otherwise have created.

Italy was also home to the largest Communist Party in Europe. That party promoted state-run industries and impeded competition with them. The third strongest force, the socialists, were pretty much in favor of both programs, although sometimes in weaker form. The liberals represented a tiny minority in the Italian parliament despite a proud intellectual heritage, today reflected by the Bruno Leoni Institute. All the major parties have supported exceedingly generous pensions paid for by the state, which have burdened the young and made its debt the highest in Western Europe except for Greece.

After making the easy economic gains from catching up after the devastation of the world war, the Italian economy has stagnated. It has had essentially no growth for the last two decades. Few nations in the world other than Zimbabwe have done worse. It has sky-high youth unemployment because businesses do not want to hire those they cannot fire. As an old professor says in the Best of Youth, one of Italy's great films of the last decade, it is becoming a country fit only for old dinosaurs like him. While there have been a few reforms in the last decade, Italy has had no change on the order of Thatcher's revolution or even the Hartz reforms in Germany.

Given the failure of its politics to deliver, Italy is the Western European country most ripe for populist revolt, even if what it needs instead is a refoundation in classical liberalism and the opportunity society it creates.

Pity the losers of the Long War. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


The Willful Blindness Of America's Conservative Intellectuals (Mona Charen, October 02 | 2022, National Memo)

Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor, whom the Journal is endorsing, may be in favor of school choice, but that's a little beside the point when you consider the larger picture. Lake has declared that the 2020 election was "corrupt and stolen." Regarding the current president of the United States, she has expressed pity, urging that "Deep down, I think we all know this illegitimate fool in the White House -- I feel sorry for him -- didn't win. I hope Americans are smart enough to know that." She has no patience for temporizers. "It is not enough to say you are for 'Election Integrity' if you are not for DECERTIFYING the 2020 election if wrongdoing, fraud or different results are revealed," she tweeted last year.

There is no fiction she has not willingly endorsed. She told a group of young women that they shouldn't take precautions about COVID because "The truth is that hydroxychloroquine works and other inexpensive treatments work." A week before the voting, she announced, "We're already detecting some stealing going on." And despite her victory, she carried a sledgehammer onstage on primary night and pantomimed smashing electronic voting machines.

That's the GOP nominee for governor of Arizona. What does the Wall Street Journal do with these awkward realities? The editorial board interprets them as problems only insofar as they make it harder for her to win.

"GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake hasn't helped herself or her party by insisting that the 2020 election was stolen. Her election fraud claims put off many Republicans and independents and are a loser in the general election. A winning and unifying issue for Republicans this November is school choice."

The important thing is for the election-denying cult member to win, so let's find something that can distract disaffected Republicans and independents.

Despite all of the foregoing, it's just possible that Lake is the most mainstream of the major Republican candidates in Arizona this year. The GOP nominee for Senate is Blake Masters, an election denier who spices up the usual fare with "great replacement" talk. "The Democrats dream of mass amnesty, because they want to import a new electorate," he says. He attributes America's problems with gun violence to "Black people, frankly." When asked for a "subversive" thinker he admires, he responded with "How about, like, Theodore Kaczynski?" Yes, Wall Street Journal editorial board, how about that?

But wait, we're not finished with Arizona's contributions to national insanity. The Republican candidate for secretary of state in Arizona is not just an election-denying extremist enemy of democracy, but a card-carrying member of the Oath Keepers, the fine gentlemen who are currently being tried in federal court for seditious conspiracy. Mark Finchem has appeared on QAnon-linked radio talk shows and spoke at a rally in January with Trump, Mike Lindell, and the whole clown car of kooks. His website features a banner inviting readers to "Sign the petition to decertify and set aside AZ electors." Soon he may be the secretary of state of Arizona.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Mussolini's willing followers? The Italians devoted to Fascism and the duce: The postwar orthodoxy held that most Italians never truly bought into Fascism. Yet, wrote the late Christopher Duggan in 2012, the devotion to Mussolini expressed in analysed diaries and letters of the time tells a very different story (Christopher Duggan, September 26, 2022, History Extra)

[T]he idea that Italian people had simply been the 'victims' of a warmongering leader wasn't confined to the dark days of 1940. In fact, the idea would go on to provide powerful ammunition for what, after 1945, became the dominant public interpretation of Fascist Italy: that it was ruled by a dictatorship built on limited or minimal popular support.

Various sources helped to make the idea that Fascism had never really been accepted by the mass of Italians into something of an orthodoxy. The Allies were content to accept it, not least because it spared them the need to press for purges of the public administration which would leave the conservative fabric of the state weakened at a time when the Italian Communist and Socialist parties appeared a major threat.

In the 1930s especially, when the liberal capitalist model seemed everywhere in crisis, Mussolini's Italy inspired a broad array of political movements in countries ranging from Argentina and Brazil in South America, to Portugal, Spain, Hungary, Romania and Poland in Europe, to China in the far east. These movements all had different features and emphases, not least because at the heart of fascism was the idea of asserting the threatened identity of the nation, especially against communism. 

Hence in the case of Italy, the idea of Rome and its universal mission played an important role. In Franco's Spain, the Catholic Reconquista of the Middle Ages provided an emotionally powerful point of historical reference.

Given how influential Italian Fascism has been - far more so than Hitler's Third Reich, whose extreme racism and brutal expansionism place it on the radical edge of the spectrum - the fact that fascism has, since 1945, so often been viewed through the filter of Nazism has probably made for historical distortion.

Mussolini - the populist charismatic leader - is much more the prototype of the 20th-century dictator than Hitler. And though anti-Semitism was common to numerous fascist movements, it was not as central to many as it was for Nazism.

Arguably, it was the defence of religious values, seen as vital elements of national identity against the materialistic doctrines of liberalism and communism, that was a more important common factor.

The Right today is not specifically Hitlerian--Adolph is pretty silent about Mexicans--but it is more properly viewed as similar to Nazism than as fascist. Nevermind just the racism, there is also the fact that Communism is long dead and the last thing they want to preserve is Christianity, specifically, or the End of History, generally. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


Republicans abandon Obamacare repeal (Sahil Kapur, 10/02/22, NBC News)

Republicans are abandoning their long crusade to repeal the Affordable Care Act, making the 2022 election the first in more than a decade that won't be fought over whether to protect or undo President Barack Obama's signature achievement.

The diminished appetite for repeal means the law -- which has extended health care coverage to millions of people and survived numerous near-death experiences in Congress and the courts -- now appears safer than ever.

With slightly more than a month before the next election, Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail aren't making an issue of Obamacare. None of the Republican Senate nominees running in eight key battleground states have called for unwinding the ACA on their campaign websites, according to an NBC News review. The candidates scarcely mention the 2010 law or health insurance policy in general. And in interviews on Capitol Hill, key GOP lawmakers said the desire for repeal has faded.

"I think it's probably here to stay," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and a former chair of the GOP's campaign arm.

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Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM


Once Known for Vaccine Skeptics, Marin Now Tells Them 'You're Not Welcome': The wealthy California county just north of San Francisco has one of the nation's highest Covid-19 vaccination rates after years of being known for parents who opposed shots for childhood diseases. (Soumya Karlamangla, Oct. 2, 2022, NY Times)

For more than a decade, few places in the nation were associated with anti-vaccine movements as much as Marin County, the bluff-lined peninsula of coastal redwoods and stunning views just north of San Francisco.

This corner of the Bay Area had become a prime example of a highly educated, affluent community with low childhood vaccination rates, driven by a contingent of liberal parents skeptical of traditional medicine. Marin was something of a paradox to mainstream Democrats, and often a punching bag. In 2015, during a measles outbreak in California, the comedian Jon Stewart blamed Marin parents for being guilty of a "mindful stupidity."

But Marin is the anti-vaccine capital no more.

In the pandemic age, getting a Covid-19 shot has become the defining "vax" or "anti-vax" litmus test, and on that account, Marin County has embraced vaccines at rates that surpass the vast majority of communities in the nation. It comes after public health efforts to change parents' opinions, as well as a strict state mandate that students get vaccinated for childhood diseases.

And as the nation has grown more polarized, Marin residents are less comfortable wearing the "anti-vax" label increasingly associated with conservatives. Americans who identify as Democrats are more than twice as likely to be vaccinated and boosted against Covid -- and Marin County is one of the bluest enclaves in America.

"It kind of became the cool thing to do to get vaccinated," said Naveen Kumar, physician-in-chief for Kaiser Permanente San Rafael Medical Center.

Dr. Kumar said some Marin parents who were hesitant about the vaccines have been persuaded by their children's enthusiasm, which he has witnessed among his teenage son and his friends. "I could hear him talking about, 'Can you believe there's this kid in my class and he's not vaccinated?' he said. "You almost become a little bit of an outcast if you're not vaccinated."
Among children 5 to 11, 80 percent in Marin County have both of their Covid shots, more than double the statewide or national rates. The rate among those under 5 is more than five times the nation's.

Given that a fifth of elementary-school-age children here still have not gotten the vaccines, it is not clear that Marin holdouts have changed their minds. But anti-vaccine parents no longer feel as empowered to voice their opinions. The mood shift was pointedly captured by a local columnist, who declared in January, "Unvaccinated? You're not welcome in Marin."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump chooses racist nickname for his own ex-transport secretary in rant about her husband Mitch McConnell (Sravasti Dasgupta, 10/01/22, Independent)

He also mocked Mr McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, who served as the secretary of transport in his administration by giving her a racist nickname.

"In any event, either reason is unacceptable. He has a DEATH WISH. Must immediately seek help and advise from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!"

The Right wishes they could dress this up as fascism. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An island of acceptance in an ever-redder Texas: How San Antonio, a gateway for migrants, became a hunting ground for DeSantis: Locals say this hospitality toward outsiders is a longstanding tradition in the city. (Samantha J. Gross,  October 1, 2022, Boston Globe)

The warmth and generosity of the welcome Apunte Dias says her family received in this south-central Texas city was echoed in descriptions shared by a dozen other migrants here who spoke with the Globe. San Antonio residents welcomed them with new clothes, assistance with plane tickets, and, for many, a prayer, as the migrants made their way to new lives in cities scattered across the nation and to wait for their asylum requests to be adjudicated.

Locals say this hospitality toward outsiders is a longstanding tradition in the city, the first major metropolitan area that many crossing the US border with Mexico encounter. It is an ingrained spirit that marks this as an island of acceptance in ever-redder Texas, and makes it seem like a strange hunting ground for a politician to exploit new arrivals in a political ploy aimed at burnishing national ambitions. [...]

The dignified welcome offered by so many San Antonio residents amid the demonization of those crossing the border by some in the Republican base captures the duality of America's immigration debate. It's a city that is facing the direct repercussions of a lack of federal immigration reforms and an effective border policy, while defining itself as a welcoming place where a "Charter for Compassion" hangs in the doorway of the mayor's office.

There's a reason the Right hated Compassionate Conservatism: the compassion and the conservatism.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ralph Vaughan Williams: Sixth Symphony (Norman Lebrecht, 10/02/22, The Critic)

The English composer's fifth symphony, like Dmitri Shostakovich's seventh, was a musical turning point in the Second World War. Both exuded confidence in the ultimate victory of good over evil, offering a strategic boost to Allied confidence in the critical years of 1942-3. The Shostakovich symphony had universal impact; Vaughan Williams was of primarily English importance.

Five years passed before he brought forth another symphony and the change in tone is extreme. Writing in the privations of post-War austerity, when there was not enough to eat or heat, the national composer pushed the brass core of his orchestra to every known excess, before signing off with an epilogue of unequalled bleakness. At 75 he may have feared this would be his own epitaph, but this was not an artist who sweetened the pill or offered placebos. VW told it as it was. The sixth symphony, when done well, is as shattering as any work of its era.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CPAC Earns Outrage With Deleted Tweet On 'Ukrainian Occupied Territories' (Zachary LeemanOct 1st, 2022, Mediate)

"Vladimir Putin announces the annexation of 4 Ukrainian-occupied territories. Biden and the Dems continue to send Ukraine billions of taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, we are under attack at our southern border. When will Democrats put #AmericaFirst and end the gift-giving to Ukraine?" the original tweet reads.

Vlad earned there love when he rode a horse shirtless.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Rise and Fall of the 'Freedom Convoy': A new book examines the trucker-led protests against Canadian vaccine mandates. (Andrew Lawton, 1 Oct 2022, Quillette)

For all the work that convoy organizers were putting into managing logistics, messaging, and other details, they remained at the mercy of the convoy's grass-roots actors. At ground level, the convoy was taking on a life of its own, as evidenced by the border blockades that started to take form far away from Ottawa. On the same weekend that the main convoys arrived in Ottawa, a group of truckers blocked the Canada-United States border crossing near Coutts, Alberta. It's a crossing that's responsible for $15.9 billion each year in cross-border trade--or $44 million per day. All it took was a few dozen truckers to bring it to a standstill.

Coutts was just the beginning. Other blockades developed in Surrey, British Columbia; Emerson, Manitoba; and the critical Ontario-Michigan bridge crossings at Sarnia and Windsor, among other locations. This was consistent with the original idea of simultaneous national protests, jam-ups, and slow-rolls envisioned back in December, 2021 by early convoy organizer Brigitte Belton. But neither she nor the convoy protesters had anything to do with these border blockades. They just happened.

"We'd find out about the border closures from the media," Wilson said. "If these truckers [in Ottawa] thought it was a good idea to block a border, they would have driven to the border. They wouldn't have driven across the country in winter to go to Ottawa."

"I wish we could take the credit for the blockades, but we cannot," Lich said in a February 14th Facebook video. "This movement has captured the hearts of Canadians and the entire world. We're aware that Canadians nationwide are feeling inspired by the truckers' resolve here in Ottawa and are starting their own convoy demonstrations as a means of showing support for ending mandates. We wish them well and are so heartened to see how organically this movement is spreading. We, of course, encourage all demonstrators across the country to be peaceful, just like we have been and will continue to be here in Ottawa."

But Lich didn't write that statement, even if she was the one reading it. And she later said she was uncomfortable with some aspects of the border blockades, which she viewed as fundamentally different from the situation in Ottawa. "We were trying to find a balance between being kind of supportive [of the blockades], but not being too supportive," she told me. "Because we weren't condoning illegal behaviour."

Critics of the protests claimed that the border blockades had caused significant economic damage to Canada and its workers. In fact, the volume of Canada-US cross-border trade in February 2022 actually increased over the February, 2021 numbers, as trucks simply diverted to other crossings. Nevertheless, the blockades were disruptive, and seemed to erode some of the goodwill the convoy had gained from the public and certain Conservative politicians. On February 10th, Bergen once again lauded the convoy for growing into an "international phenomenon," but this time added, "the time has come to take down the barricades, stop the disruptive action, and come together. The economy you want to see reopened is hurting."

All told, the border blockades were a mixed blessing for the truckers. Convoy organizer BJ Dichter said he thinks the blockaders were responsible for the ongoing American coverage, particularly from cable news, talk radio, and conservative digital outlets. But Lich said the blockades were "harmful in the long run." The media associated them with the Ottawa convoy organizers, despite the lack of any direct connection. And as a result, they set the stage for government officials to creates plans for bringing the Ottawa protests to an abrupt end.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stunning week of early coal closures opens path to 100 pct renewables (Giles Parkinson, 2 October 2022, Renew Economy)

It has one of the most stunning weeks on Australia's rapidly accelerating green energy transition - a pledge by the country's most coal dependent state to close all its coal generators by 2035, quickly followed by another pledge by the country's biggest polluter to do exactly the same thing.

The new timelines outlined by the state of Queensland and utility AGL Energy should not be surprising. They are more or less in line with the most likely scenario laid out by the  Australian Energy Market Operator, and the assumptions behind the federal Labor government's 2030 emissions reduction target.

It's just a matter of deciding to do it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Italy's Giorgia Meloni is no Mussolini - but she may be a Trump (Lorenzo Marsili, 9/28/22, The Guardian)

It is precisely because Meloni is not a fascist outcast that her actions offer a blueprint for, if not the world, then Europe. Gone may be the days when the victory of far-right populists and extremists appeared unthinkable or untenable. We may instead be in a new degenerated, rightwing normality: where that honourable and necessary space in a democracy - the space occupied by Jacques Chirac, Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel - becomes perverted and consistently occupied by Trumps and Melonis. Meloni may succeed in mutating the far right from the status of outsider in European politics to tenacious insider.

Such degeneration has been spearheaded in the US by the Republican party, as remade by its collusion with Donald Trump, which the FT columnist Edward Luce rightly described recently as a "nihilistic, dangerous and contemptible" political force. One half of the traditional political spectrum in the US has broken away, taking with it the health of American democracy. That same process - rather than the sensational emergence of a fascist, but ultimately short-lived government in Italy - may be what is taking hold in Europe.

Hatred of Jews, Muslims and immigrants has nothing to do with love of God and Country. 

October 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:25 PM


Why Right-Wing Traditionalism Is So Appealing to So Many: Liberal modernity just isn't providing a sense of meaning to a lot of people--which is enabling the far right's rise. (Matt Lewis,  Oct. 01, 2022, Daily Beast)

A snippet from a 2019 speech given by the incoming Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni went viral on Twitter this week.

In case you missed it, Meloni (according to the translation) alleges that "everything that defines us is now an enemy." She adds that "they" attack "national identity," "religious identity," "gender identity," and "family identity." (Sure sounds to me like that bête noire of the right, identity politics.)

Next, Meloni says that "they" want to turn her into a number, because "when I am a number, I no longer have any identity or roots." This process, she says, is done to make her "the perfect slave at the mercy of financial speculators--the perfect consumer."

I don't pretend to be an expert on Italian politics, but I don't have to be. There are common themes between this and what we are seeing on the nationalist right in the good old U.S.A. For that reason (among others), it shouldn't be surprising that Meloni's speech was widely praised by the American right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


AI suggests Hans Niemann may have indeed been cheating: According chess software, Niemann played a perfect game vs Magnus Carlsen (Jon Hoefling, 9/28/22, DeadSpin)

On Sunday, Yosha Iglesias, an up-and-coming chess YouTuber, posted a video using online software called ChessBase to review Niemann's game against Carlsen. ChessBase also helps determine the engine score for specific moves. For those who don't know, an engine score basically determines how good a move was based on how a chess engine, which is designed to play perfectly, would've played. For context, most world champions play at around a 70-75 percent engine score. According to Iglesias, at the pinnacle of Carlsen's career, Carlsen was playing at around 70 percent. During Bobby Fischer's famous 20-game winning streak, he was playing at 72 percent.

And according to Iglesias' research, Niemann did indeed play engine perfect in this much-talked-about match with Carlsen.

It's not super uncommon to play a single game at 100 percent, but on multiple occasions? Now, things are getting suspicious. The only time someone has consistently reached near 100 percent in recent history was Sébastien Feller, who achieved 98 percent optimal play at a tournament circa 2010. Later, the French Chess Federation determined that Feller was cheating by communicating with two other players. Basically, international master Cyril Marzolo stayed home and was being fed Feller's moves by grandmaster Arnaud Hauchard. Marzolo would then put those moves into a chess engine, and send coded messages to Hauchard letting him know what Feller's best move would be. Then, Hauchard, who was sitting in the same hall where Feller was playing, would sit at a table in Feller's line of sight. Based on what table Hauchard sat at, Feller would know what moves to make. It sounds complicated, and it was. The ruse wasn't found out immediately, but eventually, chess officials caught on and banned Feller from competing for over two years.

The point of that story is to show how unlikely a string of near 100 percent games is in over-the-board chess. Niemann, however, has more than a few such games, including one against Cristhian Camilo Rios in the second round of the Sharjah Masters on Sept.18, 2021, where Niemann played engine perfect for 45 consecutive moves.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


When A Republican Governor Suddenly And Desperately Needs Federal Aid (Joe Conason, October 01 | 2022, National Memo)

On his very first day in Congress -- long before he began to preen as a potential presidential candidate - Ron DeSantis proved that he was unfit to hold the highest office in the land. The date was January 4, 2013, and he cast his maiden vote on the House floor against $9.7 billion in federal flood insurance aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy, which had devastated New York and New Jersey.

Now, nearly a decade later, that vote strikes a stunning chord of hypocrisy and cruelty, when he is pleading for far larger sums from Washington to rebuild the communities destroyed by Hurricane Ian in his home state. With his characteristic arrogance, DeSantis abruptly dismisses any questions about his self-interested reversal as "politics" and "pettiness."

Back when he voted "no" on Sandy aid to the northern states, DeSantis pretended to be a fiscal conservative. He claimed to sympathize with the victims of that storm but wasn't inclined to send them any help beyond the usual Republican thoughts and prayers. According to him, increasing the flood insurance program's debt at that time "with no plan to offset the spending with cuts elsewhere is not fiscally responsible."

That finger-wagging and penny-pinching is entirely absent from the letter DeSantis sent a few days ago to President Joe Biden. Instead, he urged the administration to provide "100 percent reimbursement" for the hurricane damage suffered in southwest Florida. Nowhere did his letter suggest - and in none of his media appearances has the governor ever said - that the White House should first identify "budget offsets." (In fact, DeSantis had earlier abandoned all that sanctimonious noisemaking when he voted in October 2017 for a $36.5 billion relief bill after a trio of catastrophic storms struck Florida. That bill contained no offsets either. The following year, DeSantis ran for governor.)

"Daddy, sorry I've been such a vile little putz.  Please send money."

Cuba Makes Rare Request for U.S. Aid After Devastation From Hurricane Ian (Vivian Salama and José de Córdoba, Sept. 30, 2022, WSJ)

The Biden administration has received a rare request from Cuba's government to provide emergency assistance following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian, according to communications reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The Left is the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


Is China about to turn on Russia? (NATHAN LEVINE, 10/01/22, UnHerd)

The conflict has left Beijing in an exceptionally awkward position. A short, sharp war that toppled the pro-Western Ukrainian government -- i.e. what Putin appears to have originally expected -- would undoubtedly have been a big win for China, severely undermining the unity and influence of the Western liberal order that it also seeks to overturn. It's possible this was the bright future Xi was told to expect when, just before the war, Putin met him in February and the two leaders signed a joint statement declaring there were now "no limits" to the China-Russia partnership. Fast forward to today, however, and the protracted conflict, and the exposure of the Russian army's simultaneous weakness and brutality, has turned into a serious headache for China.

Diplomatically, Beijing has attempted to straddle the fence on the war by supporting Russia rhetorically and morally even as it refrains from providing it with any of the material support Moscow has begged for with growing desperation. Russia has had to settle for shoddy, second-hand armaments from North Korea and Iran instead of the high-tech kit from China that it probably expected to receive. Even Washington has, almost grudgingly, admitted that China has so far complied with its sanctions on Russia.

The distinctly materialist Marxist-Leninist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) probably assumed its response would be appreciated around the world. Instead, no one is happy: the West has reacted with moral outrage that China hasn't openly denounced Russia, while the Russians doubtless privately seethe with a sense of betrayal, having discovered that "our Chinese friends are tough bargainers", as Putin let slip.

Overall, the war is increasingly turning into a diplomatic disaster for Beijing, helping to drive perceptions of China to record lows around the world. In particular, it has shattered previously close ties with Europe. The European Union is now preparing a series of measures targeting forced labour and "economic coercion" that are likely to limit the EU-China trade relationship. Even the once reliably friendly -- some might say naïve -- Germans are now rapidly rethinking their tight economic relationship with China. The newly elected Giorgia Meloni, soon-to-be prime minister of Europe's third-largest economy, is also a ferocious China hawk who has pledged to reconsider Italian support for China's Belt and Road Initiative and make Taiwan "an essential concern for Italy". Meanwhile, once-enthusiastic countries in Eastern and Central Europe, led by the Baltic States, have begun to drop out of diplomatic and economic arrangements with Beijing. And with the advent of the war worsening existing concerns about Xi's draconian zero-Covid policies, China has, as EU Chamber of Commerce president Jörg Wuttke recently pointed out, begun to rapidly lose "its allure as an investment destination" for European companies overall.

For Xi, this could not come at a worse time. China is facing an exceptionally challenging economic outlook, including a worsening real-estate crisis, a debt bubble totalling at least 300% of GDP, an unprecedented level of capital flight, and a youth unemployment rate already over 20% -- not to mention the damage inflicted by rolling Covid lockdowns. China simply cannot afford to lose additional trade and investment right now, especially from an economic partner as large as Europe. Meanwhile, the broader inflationary and recessionary pressures unleashed by the war and Western energy sanctions threaten to badly limit the market for worldwide exports at the very moment they are most needed by China's struggling economy.

Worst of all, China is only two weeks away from the 20th Party Congress, the defining event of the Chinese Communist Party's cutthroat internal politics.

Leave it to the Right to join the Left in rejecting liberalism, generally, and America, in particular, just as the illiberal regimes crash and burn.