November 27, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Netanyahu puts extremist homophobic politician in charge of Israel's Jewish identity (CARRIE KELLER-LYNN, 11/27/22, Times of Israel)

One of the Knesset's most far-right politicians, who holds non-pluralist Jewish views and anti-LGBT, sexist, and anti-Arab positions, will be the next government's head of "Jewish identity," following an agreement signed Sunday with presumed prime minister-to-be Benjamin Netanyahu. [...]

Among Maoz's radical positions, he has said that he wants to constrain eligibility for Jewish immigration to Israel by removing the ability for grandchildren of Jews who are not Jews themselves to qualify under Israel's Law of Return. Many immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union obtain their citizenship under the so-called grandfather clause, and transferring the office that handles their applications to Maoz's purview may affect their processing. [...]

In addition to circumscribing the grandfather clause, Maoz and religious political allies are pushing to carve out non-Orthodox conversion to Judaism from acceptable proofs of Jewishness for immigration.

Maoz has also said that he wants to increase Jewish education in Israeli public schools and wants to scrap unspecified "progressive study programs," including undefined "gender studies."

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Manchin's side deal on brink as GOP seeks his 2024 ouster (ALEXANDER BOLTON - 11/27/22, The Hill)

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said getting the Mountain Valley Pipeline authorized, a key piece of Manchin's permitting reform bill, would be a big win in West Virginia, where fossil fuel is the "life's blood" of the state economy. 

Manchin is already under attack from likely Republican challengers for voting for the Inflation Reduction Act. Getting permitting reform passed as a reward for that tough vote would give him political cover. 

"This is an opportunity to actually win his seat in 2024," O'Connell said, adding that "it would be political malpractice" to give Manchin a victory on permitting reform.  

The motives are obviously dubious, but killing permitting would be the best thing the GOP has done for the environment in at least a decade.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


To those Jews who still support him (Jeffrey Salkin, 11/27/22, RNS)

It should have been enough when his name first came into the public eye, in the early 1970s, when his family's realty company was sued for discriminating against Blacks.

When he mocked the reporter with disabilities, any self-respecting Jew -- or anyone who claims to believe in God -- should have quit him, right then and there. Finis.

When he boasted that he could grab women by their private parts, you should have shaken your head in disgust. "This is not what my faith says about how we speak of and to women," you should have said.

When he urged violence against reporters, you should have said something. "This is not what my faith says about how we behave in the world."

When he characterized Mexicans as rapists, drug dealers and animals, you should have raised your hand. "Excuse me, but you do know that once you start insulting one group of people, there is no end to it."

When he called for a ban on Muslims entering this country, you should have closed your checkbook. "If my grandparents could not have gotten into this country in the 1930s -- and many could not, because of these kinds of policies -- I would not be here."

But, no.

When he commented on the neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, chanting "The Jews will not replace us," and he said that there were "very good people" on both sides: Did you stand up? Where was your Jewish pride?

When he said that he only wanted Jews and not Black people to count his money, why didn't you say: "Wait one minute..."

When he retweeted an image of a Jewish star superimposed over a pile of cash, why didn't you say: "That's my symbol! What are you saying?"

If, back in 2019, you were present at the Israeli-American Council Summit at the Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, and you heard him say about Jews: "A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You're brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me, you have no choice," why didn't you rip off your napkin, and stand up, right then and there?

If you were paying attention when he said: "You're not gonna support me because I don't want your money. You want to control your politicians, that's fine," why didn't you reach for your valet parking claim check?

When he addressed an audience of American Jews and referred to Israel as "your country," why didn't you say, "Yes, we love Israel, but we are citizens of the United States of America..."?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


On the Fall of Fated Men: a review of The Anglo-Saxons. A History of the Beginnings of England: 400-1066 by Marc Morris (Timothy D. Lush, Nov 27, 2022, University Bookman)

A miasmic progressivism choked the life out of academia long ago. Scholars, the great Anglo-Saxonist J.R.R. Tolkien might have observed, are passing into shadow. Rambaran-Olm and Wade have plenty of company. The ponderously named International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England--formerly known as the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists--changed its name in 2019 due to "problematic connotations that are widely associated with the terms 'Anglo-Saxon' and 'Anglo-Saxonist' in public discourse."

As with all organizational statements of this sort, it offers no substance or clarity. If people really were standing around talking about the Anglo-Saxons and connoting problematic things all over the place, well, then, perhaps Rambaran-Olm might have a point. But then I might also be encouraged by the fact that people were talking about something other than Chris Rock getting slapped at the Academy Awards.

Narrative historians are smirking at all this because it will translate into better sales for popular history. Who wants to read a book by the intellectually pompous trying to prove ideological purity? We want good stories told well. Marc Morris's latest book is just that. Ranging over six centuries of invasion, immigration, and royal intrigue, Morris recounts the fascinating tale of that elusive bunch known, quite rightly, as the Anglo-Saxons.

For his part, he will have none of the progressive renaming project. Morris concedes that the Germanic peoples who inhabited Britain from roughly the 5th century onward did not think of themselves as Anglo-Saxons. Rather, they thought of themselves as Angles or Saxons or Jutes.

We Jutes (Judds) are down with that. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A rising star in the Biden administration faces a $100 billion test (Ana Swanson, 11/26/22, New York Times)

Raimondo, 51, has emerged as one of Biden's most trusted Cabinet officials. Company executives describe her as a skillful and charismatic politician who is both engaged and accessible in an administration often known for its skepticism of big business.

Raimondo's work has earned her praise from Republicans and Democrats, along with labor unions and corporations. Her supporters say she could ascend to another Cabinet position, run for the Senate or perhaps mount a presidential bid.

But she is under close watch by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and some other left-wing Democrats, who have criticized her as being too solicitous of corporate interests. Some progressive groups have accused Raimondo of being under the influence of big tech firms and not thoroughly disclosing those ties.

"Secretary Raimondo's job is to help grow an economy that works for everyone, not to be the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce," Warren said in a statement to The New York Times. "I have real concerns about the department's approach, whether it's approving assault weapon sales, negotiating trade deals or supporting big tech companies."

Those criticisms have been fanned by rumors in recent months that the White House is considering Raimondo to serve as the next Treasury secretary if Janet Yellen, the current occupant of that post, eventually steps down. Joe could resign in her favor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


House Republicans don't really have a plan to lower inflation, but economists say that could be a good thing (Jim Puzzanghera, November 26, 2022, Boston Globe)

[I]t's the Republicans who made reducing inflation the centerpiece of their midterm campaign, and in the short term, they might have a greater chance of making the economy worse instead of better.

The only political leverage for House Republicans comes on must-pass bills to fund the government and raise the national debt limit for borrowing money to help pay for federal spending. Stalemates on that legislation could trigger a government shutdown or default on federal debt that would roil financial markets and damage an economy that already is expected to be teetering on the edge of recession next year.

But if those impasses can be avoided, the broader stalemate caused by divided government in Washington should help the inflation fight, economists said. It would keep politicians out of the battle, leaving the task to Federal Reserve officials who have the best tool -- interest rate hikes -- to bring down prices in the short term.

"I think realistically there's going to be very little that the next Congress can do on the inflation front, or the administration," said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the conservative-leaning American Action Forum think tank and a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. "They would all be well-advised not to make it worse ... and don't try to fix it because they really don't have the tools for doing that."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Society: A Community of Souls (Frank Filocomo, 11/27/22, University Bookman)

We are now living in an America plagued by a libertarian ethos; this is the downward slope in Putnam's U-curve. Total libertarianism, which sees the individual as the only important variable, is a fundamentally un-American idea. Russell Kirk, in his prescient essay, Libertarians: the Chirping Sectaries, rightly posits that fusing conservatism and libertarianism is akin to "advocating a union of ice and fire."  

The question remains: Why do conservatives today continue to conflate these two clearly contradictory ideologies? Furthermore, why aren't conservatives actively advocating for a return of American community? Though these are difficult questions to answer succinctly, I propose that the lines have been blurred due to a shift in understanding the role of the conservative. The Edmund Burke Foundation's National Conservatism Project, for example, in trying to correct neoconservative tendencies toward internationalism, has itself drifted from conservatism's communitarian moorings by elevating the nation state--as opposed to local associations and state governments--as the guarantor and goal of conservatism. National goals, of course, will always remain essential to the American people. But a disproportionate "nation first" emphasis entices conservatives to look beyond the particular communities they inhabit toward a universal idea to which it is much more difficult to contribute.

An individual who defines conservatism as nothing more than freedom from a totalist state mistakes the forest for the trees. While opposition to totalism is certainly important, it is a consequence, not the essence, of what it means to be a conservative. Many today who fancy themselves as conservatives are lacking in the fundamental works of literature, history, philosophy, and theology that both shape and reflect Western civilization. In his 1958 Modern Age essay entitled "Cultural Debris," Kirk advocates for a return to classical literature that, for centuries, has acted as the bedrock of Western civilization. Kirk argues that the undoing of a cohesive Western community is due to our indifference toward tradition:

Whether our civilization really retains coherence sufficient for restoration to be possible may be made clear to all thinking men within a few years. If the fabric of our ancient society has declined to the condition of a mere scattering of debris, all the tailors in the world cannot put it aright--nor all the beachcombers live by raking the sand for its vestiges. The totalists say that the old order is a corpse, and that man and society must be fashioned afresh, upon a grim plan. Yet there survive among us some people of intellectual power who hold that the wardrobe of our moral imagination is not yet altogether depleted.

Through the gloomy horizon Kirk points us to a shining light. Conservatives who love and revere Burkean traditionalism can save the day. The problem, though, is that many conservatives remain ideologically confused.

Often, those who deem themselves conservatives will echo certain familiar buzzwords: civil liberty, individualism, constitutional rights, freedom of speech. While there is nothing wrong with these terms per se, there is an essential piece of the pie missing here: community. The doctrine of rugged individualism, it seems to me, is incompatible with community. The Gadsden flag, which reads "Don't tread on me," is erroneously called a conservative symbol; rather it is an exclusively libertarian one. Kirk emphasized that conservatives and libertarians can both agree that bureaucratic overreach forces a straightjacket over individuals and municipalities. But where is the sense of community in "Don't tread on me?" Libertarianism, at least in its most fundamentalist form, is a rebuke of community. 

The Right is the Left.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Avoid People Who Have No Hobbies (Ixtu Díaz, November 27, 2022, European Conservative)

Of all the moral epidemics of our time, perhaps the most pernicious is the silent plague afflicting people who have no hobbies. They are people who live to work. Nothing else. Every single moment of their lives is pure obligation, pure transcendence; even if they have managed to find a certain pleasure in fulfilling their routine duties--perhaps in a slightly less unpleasant job than usual, or a new client, or tearing pages out of a calendar--this twinge of satisfaction can scarcely be called 'happiness.' The man with hobbies often fails to understand just how incredibly rich his life is in comparison with the fabulously anodyne existence of those who consider all forms of leisure a waste of time.

G. K. Chesterton, a king among those who find deep enjoyment in the smaller things of life, had no doubts: "Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling." He was perpetually searching for fun with the childlike gaze he always wore, and he was grateful for the small pleasures he found. "You say grace before meals," he wrote. "All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

What we call hobbies are not a thing of our time, but of all times. When researchers found, deep in the tomb of the pharaoh Reny-Seneb, a board game (Hounds and Jackals), carved in ebony and dating from about 1800 BC., what bothered them most was not that their discovery was a vulgar pastime, but that they did not know the rules. On the island of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, archeologists uncovered several Scandinavian chess pieces from the 12th century, intricately made of walrus' and whale's teeth. In the Middle Ages--so dark and dull according to contemporary commentators--people had a great time playing dice, chess, and backgammon. 

Besides criticizing our neighbors, the world's oldest known pastime involved 49 tokens, found at the Bronze Age burial site of Basur Höyük near the Turkish city of Siirt. Made of stone, these tokens are of different colors: some are spheres, some are pyramids, others evoke dogs and wild boars. The same site also gave us rudimentary dice, and if archeologists had looked more closely, they probably would have found bottles of whiskey, a wad of banknotes, and a few half-smoked cigars.

We can be certain that since prehistoric times, mankind has played games, found hobbies and pastimes, and has reasonably balanced work--hunting mammoths and cleaning the cave--with leisure--going out for a drink or a game with friends. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Laughing at libertarians as crypto burns (Michael Warren Davis, 11/26/22, Spectator)

Our laissez-faire friends were the first crypto enthusiasts. The US dollar, they say, is a "fiat currency." Since we dropped the gold standard, it is no longer based on real wealth -- unlike Bitcoin, which is generated in huge warehouses full of computers known as blockchain mines (you can't make this stuff up).

Libertarians also like crypto because it's not issued by the government. Crypto-based transactions are harder to trace and tax. Naturally, this also makes it harder for the government to protect consumers if (say) a crypto exchange chief decides to take their money and flee to the Bahamas.

Now, for the principled libertarian, that's all fine. He takes a Darwinian view of economics. Anyone stupid enough to fall for a Ponzi scheme deserves to lose their money. But the FTX scandal has shown that crypto itself is a Ponzi scheme. And libertarians fell for it -- hook, line, and sinker.

This is hilarious, because the movement's whole brand is based on the idea of the libertarians as shrugging Atlases. They're on the cutting edge of finance and technology. They could take over the world! But the state holds them back. It kills their creativity with red tape and forces them to support lesser men through heavy taxation.

In reality, libertarians are selfish and dumb. I'd hazard to guess that they're dumb because they're selfish.

From Krugerrands to Randcoin...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


November 26, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/26/22, Letters from an American)

Fuentes has openly admired Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and authoritarian Russian president Vladimir Putin, who is currently making war on Russia's neighbor Ukraine. A Holocaust denier, Fuentes is associated with America's neo-Nazis.

In February 2020, Fuentes launched the America First Political Action Conference to compete from the right with the Conservative Political Action Conference. In May 2021, on a livestream, Fuentes said: "My to keep pushing things further. We, because nobody else will, have to push the envelope. And we're gonna get called names. We're gonna get called racist, sexist, antisemitic, bigoted, whatever.... When the party is where we are two years later, we're not gonna get the credit for the ideas that become popular. But that's okay. That's our job. We are the right-wing flank of the Republican Party. And if we didn't exist, the Republican Party would be falling backwards all the time."

Fuentes and his "America First" followers, called "Groypers" after a cartoon amphibian (I'm not kidding), backed Trump's lies that he had actually won the 2020 election. At a rally shortly after the election, Fuentes told his followers to "storm every state capitol until Jan. 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years." Fuentes and Groypers were at the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, and at least seven of them have been charged with federal crimes for their association with that attack. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol subpoenaed Fuentes himself.

Accounts of the dinner suggest that Trump and Fuentes hit it off, with Trump allegedly saying, "I like this guy, he gets me," after Fuentes urged Trump to speak freely off the cuff rather than reading teleprompters and trying to appear presidential as his handlers advise.

But Trump announced his candidacy for president in 2024 just days ago, and being seen publicly with far-right white supremacist Fuentes--in addition to Ye--indicates his embrace of the far right. 

MAGA always tell you who they are--just listen.

November 26, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Far-right extremist Ben-Gvir to be Israel's national security minister (AP, 11/26/22)'

The awarding of the sensitive role to Ben-Gvir raises concerns of a further escalation in Israel's occupation and control over Palestinians in the country. Ben-Gvir and his allies hope to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians, deport rival lawmakers and impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted of attacks on Jews.

Ben-Gvir is the disciple of a racist rabbi, Meir Kahane, who was banned from Parliament and whose Kach party was branded a terrorist group by the United States before he was assassinated in New York in 1990.

Ahead of Israel's November 1 election, Ben-Gvir grabbed headlines for his anti-Palestinian speeches and stunts, including encouraging police to open fire on Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, who were throwing stones during a confrontation with Israeli settlers and police, as well as pulling a pistol on the residents of the neighbourhood.

Look who gets to wield the sjambok...

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


November 25, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Easing supply chain disruptions drag down shipping rates (Dirk Kaufmann, 11/25/22, Deutsche-Welle)

Martin Kröger, chief executive of the German Shipowners' Association (VDR), says the situation has eased "almost back to normal."

"The backlogs of ships along European coasts have been overcome," he told DW, adding that shipping capacity wasn't so tight anymore as at the end of last year. Another piece of good news, he said, was that ocean freight rates are falling significantly. "Shipping conditions are similar to what they were before the pandemic."

German business daily Handelsblatt has published data showing that shipping rates have come down to pre-pandemic levels, with a 20-foot container from China to Northern Europe, for example, now costing $1,479 (€1,420) on average, compared with around $8,000 at the beginning of 2022. Shipping a container from Shanghai to the US West Coast "is even cheaper than in 2019," the newspaper reported.

Meaning it is once again cheaper to put all your stuff in a shipping container and leave it at sea than to rent a storage unit locally.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mercantilist Follies, Then and Now : Discredited mercantilist notions shape many of our present economic debates. (Samuel Gregg, 9/22/22, Law & Liberty)

At the 2022 American Economic Forum organized by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, I had occasion to listen to an after-dinner speech about trade--more precisely, an economic nationalist view of trade--by former US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer. Chatting afterwards with students attending the Forum, one of them asked me what I thought of Ambassador Lighthizer's remarks. My response was: "It was mercantilism, updated for the twenty-first century." "What's mercantilism?" she inquired.

What indeed is mercantilism? It's not a word used commonly today, but mercantilism is shorthand for a set of economic, political, and legal ideas and practices that dominated the European world between 1500 and 1800. "The Mercantile System," as Adam Smith called it, was also the target of Book IV of his Wealth of Nations. It was, as Smith himself later wrote to a Danish correspondent, "a very violent attack . . . upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain." Smith's broadside, however, drew back the curtain to show what mercantilism really entailed. The picture that emerged was not a pretty one, but it illustrates why free trade abroad and free markets at home are far preferable to the neo-mercantilist alternatives on offer today.

Yeah, but trade with foreigners gives you cooties...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Many religious 'Nones' believe in God or a higher power, study finds (Chris Ward,  25 November 2022, Christianity Today)

A new report by Theos finds a broad mix of spiritual beliefs even among those who claim not to have any faith - commonly known as religious 'Nones'. 

Theos' latest report, The Nones: who are they and what do they believe?, found that only 51% of Nones agreed with the statement, "I don't believe in God," and 42% believe in some form of the supernatural.

Fourteen per cent said they believe in a higher power and 9% "believe in God more or less firmly", but only one in 10 (11%) believe in Heaven. 

Over a quarter (27%) agreed with the statement: "I don't know whether there is a God, and I don't believe there is any way to find out."

The report found that many religious Nones have New Age beliefs. While nearly two in five (17%) believe in the power of prayer, 16% were found to believe in reincarnation, 14% in the healing power of crystals, and 14% in the supernatural power of ancestors.

A fifth said that they they definitely or probably believe in life after death and over a quarter (27%) believe in ghosts. 

November 24, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


God and Mr. Lincoln (Joseph Bottum, 11/21/18, American Mind)

And what was Lincoln's theological imagination? In the Second Inaugural, he expresses a profound thought about how providence could have allowed slavery to come into existence and then initiate its abolition. The Civil War's slaughter was punishment for both sides for their part in that story.

What Lincoln saw was the humility necessary to live in a world with God. The war proved not a triumphant march to glorious and bloodless victory but proof that Americans were that most theologically-fraught of beings: an almost-chosen people. God's power belongs solely to God, and we must be tentative and aware of our own sins, even while pressing determinedly toward victory. Only thus can Lincoln ask from us his great peroration: malice toward none, charity toward all.

Lincoln chose his words carefully and theologically. In First Corinthians 5:8, Paul speaks of the "leaven of malice," and "leaven" here is a perfect word for what malice does, in Lincoln's sense of the word: it inflates disagreement and bloats every judgment. For this Thanksgiving, like the one in 1863, there remains the deep meaning worth remembering when we contemplate our political opponents: not malice, but charity.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Religious groups with immigrant members grew fastest over past decade (Yonat Shimron, 11/11/22, (RNS)

The study finds that the Catholic Church in the U.S. is the largest religious body, with 61 million adherents in more than 19,000 churches, comprising close to 19% of the U.S. population. That's a modest growth of 2 million adherents from 2010, when the church had nearly 59 million adherents. 

Sociologist who worked on the census said growth is almost entirely made up of Hispanic immigrants.

"If you took away the Hispanic population in the Catholic Church, it would look as bad as mainline denominations," said Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, who counted independent churches for the census. (Mainline denominations, such as Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian, have been declining for more than 50 years.)

Perhaps the most striking growth was among Muslims. The number of Muslims who participate in mosque prayer increased from 2.6 million in 2010 to 4.5 million in 2020, a 75% increase. (Pew Research estimates there were 3.85 million Muslims in the U.S. in 2020, but those numbers do not include children.)

That growth is due mainly to immigration, said Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Kentucky, who collected the data for Muslims. Higher birth rates may be a secondary reason.

Bagby estimated the number of U.S. mosques at 2,771, a jump of 871 mosques in just a decade.

He suggested Muslims may be in a kind of golden age in the U.S. They are younger than the American population overall, and the Boomers among them are financially well off and able to contribute to the construction of new mosques. (First-generation mosques were often in retrofitted churches or warehouses.)

Mosques, Bagby said, "have mellowed and matured and become more moderate in their understanding of Islam and that has also been an attraction," he said. "Many Muslims who had kept away feel more comfortable coming."

Posted by orrinj at 3:23 PM


Watching 'Casablanca' on its 80th anniversary, we remain in awe of its simplicity - and profound depth (Ben McCann, Nov 24, 2022, MercatorNet)

Casablanca's clearest theme is that neutrality - whether in war or in love - is difficult to maintain.

At the outset, Rick is staunchly apolitical: he is jaded, unmoved by the refugee crisis unfolding around him.

But we also learn Rick has been involved in political causes, supporting losing sides against the Fascists in Spain and Ethiopia. The film traces that ambivalence through Bogart's masterful performance. His cynicism gradually softens once Ilsa turns up, and his animosity to the Nazi chief Strasser grows.

This political about-face comes to a head in one of the greatest scenes in Hollywood cinema: the singing of La Marseillaise at Rick's Café in full defiance of the Nazi officers belting out a German anthem.

It is a deeply patriotic and uplifting scene, and reminds us of cinema's power to engage us, move us and make us cheer.

It also turns the night-club into a microcosm for the war, with it multinational clientele and the competing strands of partisanship, neutrality, aggression and political commitment.

For an America wary of entering the European theatre, scenes like this reminded audiences of the need to fight injustice, intolerance and belligerence.

...detail the brotherhood between two men.

Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


The American Spirit of Gratitude (MIKE COTÉ, NOVEMBER 24, 2022, Ordinary Times)

Thanksgiving is perhaps the quintessential American holiday; we have feasting, we have football, we have family and friends, and we have gratitude. The last line item on that list may seem odd to associate with 'Americanness' as much as the others, but it fits in just fine. In fact, it is deeply embedded in American history, dating back to the colonial era, before the founding of the United States. The strong focus on thankfulness - to the point of dedicating a whole holiday to it - is peculiarly American, but can feel at odds with the classic stereotype of Americans as self-absorbed and entitled. In this case, the stereotype is dead wrong; gratitude is an American tradition that dovetails perfectly with our historic national culture of self-reliance, risk-seeking, and innovation.

The American ethos of thankfulness is just as rooted in our history as is the pioneering spirit and willingness to accept risks in search of a better life. The very first European settlers in what became the United States came here with nothing but what they could carry with them across the stormy Atlantic towards - what was, for them - the great unknown. These colonists - whether they were French fur traders, Dutch merchant-adventurers, Spanish Jesuits, or the English Puritans we associate with Thanksgiving - all took unbelievable risks in leaving their whole world behind to journey into a land as full of promise as it was danger. They wagered their lives on the seaworthiness of their ships, the skill of their crews, and their luck with the weather. They gambled it all on where to land their vessels and disembark, where to set up initial settlements, how to gather crucial resources necessary to sustain life, and how they dealt with the Native inhabitants with whom they interacted. These choices and chances determined whether their settlement would survive, thrive, or fail before the first winter was out.

Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM


Italy's Government Is Stuffed With the Far Right (Ben Munster, NOVEMBER 24, 2022, Foreign Policy)

Just before Halloween, around 3,000 young Italians gathered in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of the northern city of Modena. For two days straight, they partied hard, blasting heavy techno deep into the morning--until locals tipped off the authorities. As dawn broke on the third day, a battalion of black-uniformed riot police swept in. The officers took names, rifled through cars and backpacks for drugs, and impounded a 150,000 euro ($155,000) sound system.

That same weekend, not far from Modena, another group assembled for a very different kind of celebration. Dressed in black and holding aloft a tricolor Italian flag, 2,000 travelers marched through the small town of Predappio, in the Emilia-Romagna region, to commemorate the centenary of the March on Rome by Benito Mussolini. Predappio was the birthplace of the dictator and has long been a pilgrimage site for his followers--even though fascist demonstrations are theoretically illegal in Italy. But unlike at the rave, the officers present just stood there, observing.

The weekend triggered a forceful response from Italy's interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, recently appointed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who ascended to power in September at the head of a far-right coalition with links to Mussolini-era fascism. In a series of speeches and comments to the press, Piantedosi took a hard line against certain gatherings involving 50 people or more, describing them as "invasions" led by meddling "foreigners." He debuted a tough new bill, pledging to punish organizers and promoters with up to 10,000 euros ($10,400) in damages and six years in prison.

The penalty would apply, of course, solely to the illegal raves. The illegal fascist march that occurred simultaneously was a "farce," Piantedosi said--but it "wasn't comparable."

The new law was seen by the opposition as grossly disproportionate, evidence of a pernicious double standard. But it was also a reflection of the difficult balance that the Meloni government has had to strike in its attempts to mediate between two conflicting goals. On the one hand, it must play to its base by pursuing culture war propaganda victories--targeting migrants and young partygoers, for instance.

On the other hand, it must keep international opinion onside. Meloni's initial solution has been to stow her more overtly hard-line allies at the margins of government while stocking key ministries with supposedly moderate officials who will stick to the establishment line on fiscal policy and Ukraine. But this is an illusion: Almost all hail from the far right.

Why did you think MAGA love her?

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Concerns for India's religious minorities after Supreme Court calls for action against Hindu conversion (Christianity Today, 24 November 2022)

Human rights and religious liberty campaigners are sounding the alarm after India's Supreme Court called on the government to act against supposed "fraudulent religious conversion".

India's highest court in the land said last week that forced conversions were "a danger to national security".

Responding to the court order, the Coalition for Minority Rights in India said in a submission to the UN that changing religion is neither "dangerous" nor "fraudulent".

It warned that India's religious minorities are "...on the edge of a precipice as their rights and freedoms have eroded in the face of a growing violent majoritarian ideology". 

"We deplore last week's ruling," a spokesperson for the coalition said.

"It decries 'fraudulent religious conversion' as a 'nationwide problem' with no facts or data to support such allegations.

"We are worried that in the light of this, the government of India will undermine religious freedom even further."

Met one Nationalism you've met them all.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


The Science of Giving Thanks to God: A growing body of research backs the benefits of divine gratefulness, in good times and bad. (PETER C. HILL AND ROBERT A. EMMONS, NOVEMBER 21, 2022, Christianity Today)

 New projects funded by the John Templeton Foundation have theologians, philosophers, and psychologists like us exploring gratitude to our supreme benefactor.

Already, these researchers have discovered that believers who experience and express gratitude to God report feeling more hope, higher satisfaction, more optimism, fewer depression episodes, and greater stress recovery. Their studies suggest that gratitude to God magnifies and amplifies the effects of gratitude toward other people.

Grateful believers aren't just happier because they're better off, either. We see people experiencing gratitude to God in the midst of adversity.

Jason McMartin, a theologian at Biola University, in a paper not yet published, contends that suffering intensifies our encounters with God, reframing the experience of gratitude by expanding our vision of what we can be grateful for, including painful experiences as gifts themselves. Pain is real, but God's grace abounds. Gratitude to God is our response to our suffering meeting God's sovereignty.

Research ratifies this. A study by Joshua Wilt and Julie Exline at Case Western Reserve University found that among theistic believers, gratitude to God for negative events functioned similarly to gratitude for positive events in that both drew one closer to God.

Such findings suggest that when facing difficult life situations, the practice of gratitude to God can be cultivated to counter the natural tendency of prioritizing bad over good. This reframing is not merely a veneer of positive thinking but rather a deep and abiding sense that goodness dwells under the rancor and heartache of daily life.

Social psychologist David Myers has long observed, based on scientific research, that just as we can think ourselves into a way of acting, we can act ourselves into a way of thinking. If we deliberately practice gratitude, our thoughts and feelings often come around.

One idea is keeping a journal listing the blessings that we receive from God along with the lessons learned from our challenges. During times of adversity, we can ask ourselves, How is God present in this challenge? How is this challenge a reflection of God's will for my life? How do I experience God uniquely through this challenge? How does this challenge make me closer to God?

Another practice is to intentionally engage in worship. Of course, this includes weekly corporate worship but may also involve a few moments of private worship throughout the week where gratitude is openly expressed. For example, it is hard to not be grateful, even in the worst of times, when singing hymns such as "How Great Thou Art":

And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in--
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin!

Openly expressing such sentiments is yet another way of acting ourselves into being thankful.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


This Thanksgiving, give thanks for refugees (Darcy Hirsh, 11/23/22, RNS)

In his 1789 Thanksgiving Day proclamation, George Washington wrote of America's "great and various favors" -- economic opportunity, religious freedom and the dignity of equality under the law -- that made this country a place where generations of those same hardscrabble people could overcome obstacles and achieve untold success. He spoke of the importance of giving back, of uniting "to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually." 

This Thanksgiving, that message holds special weight. Since last year, more than 250,000 newcomers have come to the United States and are observing the holiday for the first time.

They are Afghans who escaped the brutality of the Taliban regime and Ukrainians who fled the onslaught of the Russian invasion. They are people from all over the world who, due to religious and political persecution, were forced to flee their homes searching for the same "great and various favors" as my great-grandparents.

And now, they are our neighbors. 

This year, I've seen firsthand not only how communities are stepping up to help newcomers, but how refugees are enriching communities. Working with local Jewish community organizations and partners, my organization, Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Shapiro Foundation, has helped resettle over 2,000 Afghans and Ukrainians through volunteer circles, groups of community members who have come together to divide the responsibilities of resettling a newcomer. 

Since this initiative began, these volunteer circles have helped displaced Afghans and Ukrainians integrate into communities, find housing, start new jobs, enroll their kids in schools and begin the pathway to self-sufficiency in pursuit of the American Dream.

Our hospitality will make our country and our communities stronger.

These displaced individuals are translators, engineers, teachers and caregivers. They are motivated, they are hard workers, they are people who have proven their willingness to face great danger to better their families and overcome immense obstacles. 

That's how refugees have historically molded America into a strong, diverse nation that is a global leader in technology, business, medicine and so much more. They have strengthened the fabric of our communities and helped reinvigorate cities across the country, making contributions through culture, community or the economy.

Many of the great leaders in business, medicine, entertainment, technology, politics and other professions can trace their roots to the refugee story. Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger were refugees, as well as Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Freddy Mercury and Google co-founder Sergey Brin. 

In 2015 alone, more than 181,000 American entrepreneurs who arrived in this country as refugees generated $4.6 billion in business income. In medicine, international medical graduates -- those who earned their medical licenses and degrees abroad, but who came to the United States to practice -- make up 25% of all U.S. doctors.

This Thanksgiving, we should be grateful not only for what our country has done for refugees, but also for what refugees have done for America. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


Stumping for secularism, Lapid says incoming coalition creating a 'halachic state' (CARRIE KELLER-LYNN, 21 November 2022,Times of Israel)

Addressing policies pushed by the religious parties expected to be part of the Likud-headed coalition, Lapid says that in the forming government "yeshiva students will receive more money than IDF soldiers. [Religious Zionism head] Smotrich wants to close soccer matches on Shabbat. A law will be passed to separate men and women in the public sphere."

Speaking at his Yesh Atid party's Monday faction meeting, Lapid turns to right-wing Likud's more than a million voters and asks, "Is this what you wanted? That's why you voted for Likud?"

"You are going to be a minority in this government. A minority of those serving in the army, a minority of the middle class, a minority of those who believe in a moderate Jewish tradition that welcomes every person," he adds.

Lapid has said that he will sit in the opposition rather than again join hands with Netanyahu, and his party denied reports last week that it was quietly negotiating to form a unity government with Likud to boot out extremist Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit, and Noam.

"If someone asks where we will be - we will be here in the Knesset day and night, we will be in the streets, we will be in the town squares, we will be on the bridges. We will not be silent, we will not disappear, we will not give up, we are fighting for the future of our children," he adds.

What part of Political Zionism does he not get?

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


'Gold Hydrogen' Is an Untapped Resource in Depleted Oil Wells (CHRIS BARANIUK, NOV 24, 2022, Wired)

THERE WAS NO prospect of getting any more oil out of the old well. It was just a depleted cavern hiding beneath the sun-baked Texas soil. But then some folks came along and squirted a special liquid into it. They went away for five days, and when they came back it was no longer an oil well. It had transformed into a hydrogen source.

Cemvita Factory, a biotech firm in Texas, had spritzed a carefully selected combination of bacteria and nutrients down the bore hole. Once inside the well, the microbes began breaking down the residual oil hydrocarbons in there--dregs that would be unprofitable to extract--to generate hydrogen and CO2. This field test in July, though small in scale, was a "huge success," says chief business officer Charles Nelson.

Nelson would not comment on what bacteria and nutrients the company is using, but he says his firm aims to produce hydrogen for $1 per kilogram, which would be competitive against other methods of obtaining the fuel. He estimates there are more than 1,000 depleted oil wells dotted around the United States that are suitable for the same kind of microbial treatment: "A lot of these reservoirs are abandoned, they're in the custody of the state, they're orphaned and waiting to be cleaned up." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


What are the Jewish roots of Thanksgiving?: For the leader of the Pilgrims, verses from the Hebrew Bible, cited in accordance with the practice of Jewish law - constitutes the original Thanksgiving (STUART HALPERN, NOVEMBER 7, 2022, Jerusalem Post)

As Nick Bunker notes in his Making Haste from Babylon, the Pilgrims carried to our shores a rather surprising companion - Maimonides. Or rather, his compendium of the Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah. Those Pilgrims were led by William Bradford, who would serve as governor of Plymouth Colony. Bradford, historical records show, carried with him an edition of the Bible published in 1618 that contained the annotations of a Puritan scholar named Henry Ainsworth. After their safe passage, Bradford led his fellow new arrivals in thanking God for their survival over the course of the journey by reciting verses from Psalm 107. The Bible he used to do so contained the following note, courtesy of Ainsworth:

"And from this Psalme, and this verse of it, the Hebrues have this Canon; Foure must confess (unto God) The sick, when he is healed; the prisoner when he is released out of bonds; they that goe down to sea, when they are come up (to land); and wayfaring men, when they are come to the inhabited land. And they must make confession before ten men, and two of them wise men, Psal. 107. 32. And the manner of confessing and blessing is thus; He standeth among them and blesseth the Lord, the King eternal, that bounteously rewardeth good things unto sinners, etc. Maimony in Misn. Treat. Of Blessings, chap. 10, sect. 8."

Based on this summary of Maimonides' legal articulation of birkat hagomel, the blessing recited by Jews to this day after they are saved from danger, Bradford saw his compatriots' arrival in America as mirroring the Israelites' journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land - one of the four conditions requiring "confession and blessing." To Bunker, this prayer - verses from the Hebrew Bible, cited in accordance with the practice of Jewish law - constitutes the original Thanksgiving.

There were no Jews on the Mayflower, and only around 2,000 in the colonies during the American Revolution. But even in George Washington's day, the Jewish story informed America's articulation of its gratitude to God. In October 1781 (the day being marked in November was not formally instituted until President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed its celebration in 1863), British Gen. Charles Cornwallis surrendered to Gen. Washington. Addressing the battle-weary but victorious troops in Yorktown, Virginia, Rev. Israel Evans, one of Washington's favorite military chaplains, delivered a Thanksgiving sermon in which he, too, saw the safety and success of the nascent nation through an Israelite lens. The poem he recited as part of his sermon read:

To him who led in ancient days

The Hebrew tribes, your anthems raise;

The God who spoke from Sinai's hill

Protects his chosen people still.

WHILE THE vast majority of American Jews have celebrated Thanksgiving as part of American civil religion over the subsequent two-and-a-half centuries, some rabbinic scholars hesitated to offer a full-throated embrace of the tradition. After all, while the United States proved to be a promised land for millions, the real Jewish national homeland lay to the east.

Thus the renowned rabbinic scholar Rabbi Moshe Feinstein offered no less than four responsa analyzing the permissibility of Jews observing Thanksgiving, eventually concluding it is a simhat reshut, an optional, albeit nonobligatory, festive celebration. Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner took a more prohibitive stance, forbidding marking a holiday based on the Christian calendar. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, on the other hand, is reported to have had a habit of beginning his regular weekly Talmud lecture early in order to travel to his sister's in time for Thanksgiving dinner.

Talmudic debates aside, gratitude is, of course, inherent to the very essence of Judaism itself. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:39 PM


The Extremely American History of Pecan Pie (ROSSI ANASTOPOULO, NOV 24, 2022, Slate)

Unlike apples (and apple pie), which we so often describe as American, pecans are native to the North American continent, predating the country we call the United States by millennia. They were an important food source for many Indigenous people thousands of years ago. In fact, the nut's name most likely comes from the Algonquin word "paccan," which refers to a nut that needs to be cracked by stone. Like so much else related to Indigenous food origins and their links to what Americans eat today, that history's been pretty much erased.

Pecans were cultivated by white people once they settled on the continent, and there are accounts of Thomas Jefferson growing them at Monticello. He even recommended them to his pal George Washington, who installed them amongst the crops of Mount Vernon. But commercial pecan production would not have taken off without Black ingenuity and innovation. In 1847, an enslaved man known only as Antoine invented a way to graft pecan trees, melding the scion of one pecan tree to the rootstock of another for easy propagation. Introduced on the Oak Alley plantation in Vachery, Louisiana, Antoine's game-changing invention quickly spread across the South, launching lucrative pecan cultivation in states like Georgia and Texas, which would eventually become hot spots for the nut.

Once the commercial pecan market that Antoine made possible sprang up, the nut started to become available everywhere--by 1867 you could find pecans sold in New York markets through the winter and spring. Beyond city markets, pecans were also exhibited at fairs and festivals all over, including the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

As the nut grew more popular, people started to use it more and more in their kitchens. But there are very few accounts of people baking them into pie until the end of the century. In 1886, Harper's Bazaar declared: "Pecan pie is not only delicious, but is capable of being made 'a real state pie,' as an enthusiastic admirer said." Another early recipe, featuring a meringue, was published in 1897 as Texas Pecan Pie in Ladies' Home Journal.

But pecan pie really exploded in the early 1900s. What remained a mostly regionalized dish at the turn of the century, was, by the 1940s, everywhere, with recipes in beloved cookbooks like Joy of Cooking. How?

We owe it all to Karo Corn Syrup.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


The Pilgrims' rabbi (Jeff Jacoby, November 22, 2022, Arguable)

As for the idea that Thanksgiving is exclusively a Christian tradition, the Pilgrims themselves would have been the first to deny it.

Among the passengers who sailed to America aboard the Mayflower and founded Plymouth in 1620, none would prove as influential as William Bradford, who was elected governor of the colony in 1621 and would serve in that position for close to 30 years.

Like many of his fellow Puritan Christians, Bradford had an absorbing interest in the Hebrew Bible and Jewish religious custom. He perceived a deep affinity between the wanderings of the Pilgrims -- who had fled England to escape religious persecution -- and the ancient Israelites' journey to the Promised Land. Bradford was a disciple of the Puritan scholar Henry Ainsworth, and brought with him on the Mayflower Ainsworth's most important work, "Annotations on the Five Books of Moses," along with his commentary on the Book of Psalms.

As Nick Bunker explains in "Making Haste from Babylon," his acclaimed 2010 history of the Mayflower Pilgrims, Puritans like Ainsworth had a passion "to absorb the wisdom of the Bible from as close to the source as possible." That inspired them to "read with sympathy the rabbis of the Roman Empire, Egypt, and medieval Spain, authors whose books were preserved by the Jews of Germany or Venice." Ainsworth drew on the works of many rabbinic scholars, but he revered above all the towering 12th-century Sephardic Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides, whom he dubbed "the wisest of the Hebrew Rabbins."

It was in reading Ainsworth's commentary on the 107th Psalm -- the opening words of which are "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good" -- that Bradford encountered the Jewish teaching that would became the basis of the Pilgrims' Thanksgiving.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


November 23, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Colombia says Venezuela's Maduro to resume talks with opposition (AFP, 11/23/22)

The opposition is seeking free and fair presidential elections, next due in 2024, while Caracas wants the international community to recognise Maduro as the rightful president and lift sanctions.

Colombia's Petro has become involved since becoming his country's first leftist president in August.

He had worked to improve his country's relationship with Venezuela, resuming diplomatic ties for the first time since 2019, when former president Ivan Duque refused to recognise Maduro's election.

Venezuela is now also hosting peace talks between the Colombian government and the last official rebel group in the country, the National Liberation Army.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 PM



In a bid to bolster its understaffed workforce of drivers, Domino's Pizza is splashing cash on a fleet of 800 electric Chevrolet Bolts, painted in Domino's livery.

As the largest pizza chain in the world, Domino's investment in EVs marks a particularly high profile adoption by the fast food industry of electric transportation.

"We've got a long way to go, but we will have the biggest fleet of electric vehicles in the pizza industry, period," Domino's CEO Russell Weiner told Wall Street Journal in an interview.

Posted by orrinj at 5:32 PM


Civilians Without Guns Take Out Mass Shooters More Often Than Civilians With Guns (SHIRIN ALI, NOV 23, 2022, Slate)

Richard Fierro became an overnight sensation after he took down the gunman of a mass shooting happening inside an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, over the weekend. Once bullets could be heard in the club, Fierro catapulted into action, running directly toward the shooter, pulling him down to the ground, and beating him with the shooter's own gun. By the time cops showed up, the shooter was no longer struggling. Fierro actually feared that he had killed him. He didn't--the 22-year-old gunman was hospitalized, and has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder and bias-motivated crime.

It helps to know that Fierro spent 15 years as an Army officer, with three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, making him uniquely qualified to intervene. He now joins a small but mighty number of unarmed civilians that have successfully stopped gunmen in mass shootings. From 2000 to 2021 there have been at least 433 active shooter attacks in the United States--a disturbing rise in recent years--and 249 of those attacks ended before the police arrived on the scene. In 64 of those situations, a bystander either subdued the attacker or shot at them. [...]

If unarmed civilians can successfully kneecap mass shooters, what about armed civilians? Martaindale told me the data just doesn't show that the "good guy with the gun" argument, often preferred by Republicans (we're looking at you, Ted Cruz) bears out. "There are plenty of incidents where people are armed but pulling out that weapon and shooting at that moment might cause more harm," he said. That's because bystanders can be in dangerously close range and a civilian also shooting out bullets can make the job of law enforcement confusing--once on the scene they have to figure out where the shots are coming from and who's responsible.

Based on ALERRT's analysis, out of 249 attacks that ended before police arrived on the scene, civilians shot at the attacker 22 times--less than the number of civilians who physically subdued the gunmen, which happened 42 times.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:14 PM


How the Hydrogen Revolution Can Help Save the Planet--and How It Can't: Many researchers see a huge role for hydrogen in decarbonizing economies (Davide Castelvecchi, Nature magazine on November 23, 2022, Nature)

[A] few hundred metres away from the Luleå furnace is a smaller one that makes iron with much less carbon pollution. This pilot technology replaces coal with hydrogen, and releases only water vapour. "This is the new way to make steel, and with this, we can in principle eliminate all the carbon dioxide," Pei says.

The hydrogen-to-steel route isn't entirely pollution-free; other steps in converting iron to steel still emit some CO2, and the iron ore must be mined. Still, last year, this site produced the world's first 'green steel', with the aid of hydrogen that was made using Sweden's abundant low-carbon electricity, generated from hydropower, nuclear and wind. The pilot plant is owned by HYBRIT, a joint venture that SSAB formed in 2016 with Swedish utility company Vattenfall and LKAB, the national mining company.

A Hybrit initiative employee shows fossil-free produced sponge iron, the raw material from which steel is made.
Sponge iron -- the raw material from which steel is made -- produced at the HYBRIT plant in Luleå, Sweden, without the use of fossil fuels. Credit: Steffen Trumpf/dpa/picture alliance/Alamy Stock Photo
Making steel green is just one of the ways that hydrogen is now expected to help decarbonize the world's economy. Although some have touted hydrogen's use as a transportation fuel, it's unlikely to have much impact in that sector or in heating, for which batteries and electrical power already provide more efficient low-carbon solutions. Rather, hydrogen's biggest contribution will be to clean up industrial processes, from producing plastics and fertilizers to refining hydrocarbons. These industries have conventionally been thought of as harder to decarbonize, and have received less attention from the media, investors and policymakers.

Hydrogen might find uses in energy production, too. Liquid fuels made from hydrogen might one day power air travel and shipping. And hydrogen could even help to decarbonize the electricity grid: excess solar or wind power could be diverted into making the gas, which could then be used in other industrial processes or simply to store energy. In this way, hydrogen is expected to act as a bridge between many different sectors of the economy.

"Hydrogen is sort of unique because of its versatility in the ways you can produce it and in the ways in which you can use it," says Dharik Mallapragada, a chemical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

Policymakers anxious to reach net-zero emissions goals have begun a massive push for hydrogen, notably in the United States and the European Union. In some cases, they are subsidizing the price of low-carbon hydrogen; in others, handing out tax credits for hydrogen producers or for industries that use it.

Partly as a result, investment in hydrogen projects is experiencing a boom. The Hydrogen Council, an industry group in Brussels, estimates that the hundreds of large-scale hydrogen projects announced already amount to a possible investment of US$240 billion by 2030 -- although so far, only one-tenth of these are fully completed deals. By 2050, the council thinks the market for hydrogen and hydrogen technologies will be worth $2.5 trillion per year.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


What Happened? (Sean Trende, November 17, 2022, Real Clear Politics)

What makes it all the stranger is that it looks like Republicans will notch a significant victory in the popular vote. As of this writing, they've received 51.0% of the vote to Democrats' 47.1%. [...]

So, what happened? There are three theories that I think work. First, though, it is worth examining two theories that don't work that well. The first such theory is that the Dobbs decision cost Republicans dearly. This is facially plausible - there's little doubt that Democrats received a shot in the arm from seeing Roe overturned, and poll after poll show Americans would generally like to see abortion remain legal in the early stages of pregnancy. The issue likely cost the GOP some winnable House special elections over the summer as GOP vote shares in polls dipped nationally. But by October, the GOP had clawed its way back in most national polling. More likely, Dobbs elevated Democratic enthusiasm to fall levels early, and the GOP eventually caught up. 

More importantly, the Dobbs theory doesn't jibe with two things we see. First, there were substantial gaps in gubernatorial outcomes, where governors who backed - or even signed - abortion bans ran well ahead of other candidates. Ohio's Mike DeWine signed a "fetal heartbeat" law, which effectively bans all abortions. His attorney general cast doubt on a story that a 10-year-old had to travel to Indiana to receive an abortion, hours before the victim was identified. Yet they all received 60% of the vote, along with Republican Supreme Court candidates who could control the future of abortion rights in Ohio. Senator-elect J.D. Vance ran well behind them, although abortion was not placed at the center of that campaign. Brian Kemp ran well ahead of Herschel Walker. Joe Lombardo ran ahead of Adam Laxalt. Even Kari Lake ran ahead of Blake Masters. Greg Abbott - who signed Texas' infamous abortion "bounty" law, seemingly paid no price. 

Finally, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that overall, Republicans received more votes. That's a problematic fact for the theory that the House underperformances were a function of abortion politics. [...]

So what does work? There are three parts to the explanation, none of which are mutually exclusive. 

1) The first is simply that candidates do matter. In the past decade, and especially after Trump's win in 2016, it has become fashionable among pundits (including myself) to wave away candidate issues. This cycle, though, candidate quality seems to have made a comeback. This fits the data nicely: Vance running behind DeWine (who was seen as governing in a more bipartisan manner than perhaps he deserved); Walker running behind Kemp; Masters running behind Lake. In the House there were scores of candidates who lost in swing districts that they probably should have won, and as you list the names you start to see why: Joe Kent, J.R. Majewski, Karoline Leavitt, Vega, and so forth. Even Lauren Boebert came remarkably close to losing.  

That many of these candidates were concentrated in swing seats didn't help the Republicans' cause, while better Republican candidates in bluer seats didn't quite get the push they needed. You can see this in Virginia, where 10th District Republican Hung Cao - an outstanding candidate - lost by just six points in a district Biden won by almost 20 points, while Vega lost by a similar margin in a district Biden won by half that margin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China may have 'passed the point of no return' as Covid infections soar (Evelyn Cheng, 11/23/22, CNBC)

Surging Covid infections across mainland China make it harder for the government to achieve zero-Covid without reverting to a harsh lockdown, Macquarie's Chief China Economist Larry Hu said.

In the last few days, the daily case count has climbed to around or more than 28,000 -- near levels seen in April during a stringent lockdown in Shanghai, according to CNBC calculations of Wind Information data. The figures showed the last time mainland China saw only a handful of daily infections was in June, shortly after Shanghai eased its restrictions.

The latest Covid wave has hit the southern city of Guangzhou, the capital city of Beijing and many central parts of China -- prompting local officials to tighten restrictions on business and social activity this month.

"China might have already passed the point of no return, as it's unlikely to achieve zero Covid again without another Shanghai-style hard lockdown," Hu said in a report Tuesday. "What policymakers could do now is to slow the spread of virus, i.e. flatten the curve, by tightening the Covid controls for the time being."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Accountant testifies Trump claimed decade of huge tax losses (MICHAEL R. SISAK, 11/22/22, AP)

Donald Trump reported losses on his tax returns every year for a decade, including nearly $700 million in 2009 and $200 million in 2010, his longtime accountant testified Tuesday, confirming long-held suspicions about the former president's tax practices. [...]

Bender's testimony came on a day full of Trump-related legal drama, including the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for Congress to get six years worth of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses.

Also Tuesday, the judge in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud lawsuit against Trump and his company set an October 2023 trial date; a federal appeals court heard arguments in the FBI's Mar-a-Lago documents investigation; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, testified before a Georgia grand jury probing alleged 2020 election interference.

Bender's tax loss testimony echoed what The New York Times reported in 2020, when it obtained a trove of Trump's tax returns. Many of the records reflected massive losses and little or no taxes paid, the newspaper reported at the time.

The Times reported Trump paid no income tax in 11 of the 18 years whose records it reviewed, and that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017, the year he became president. Citing other Trump tax records, The Times previously reported that in 1995 he claimed $915.7 million in losses, which he could have used to avoid future taxes under the law at the time.

November 22, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Huge age gap shows up in AARP poll of Warnock-Walker runoff (CHLOE FOLMAR, 11/22/22, The Hill)

A poll released on Tuesday by AARP, an interest group for those aged 50 and older, found a significant age gap in voters' preferences in the Georgia Senate runoff election between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and former NFL player Herschel Walker (R).

Warnock leads Walker by 24 percentage points among voters aged 18-49, while Walker leads by 9 points among voters aged 50 or older, according to the poll from AARP Georgia. The two groups differ in their preferences by a total of 33 points.

Voters are more supportive of Walker the older they are, according to the poll, which has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points among respondents 50 and older.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


DC's faith communities rally to protect bused-in immigrants (Emily Neil, 11/22/22, RNS)

The day in April that the first busload of migrants arrived in Washington, D.C., happened to be Holy Thursday, the feast on the Christian calendar that remembers Jesus washing the feet of his disciples the evening before his death. 

The Gospel story is about service, of care, the Rev. Sharon Stanley-Rea explained. Stanley-Rea, a Disciples of Christ minister and then-director of the denomination's Refugee and Immigration Ministries, showed up at a news conference with a basin of water and a towel after that first bus arrived -- symbols, she said, of the spirit of welcome she felt the faith community in the nation's capital was being called to emulate. 

And not just Christians, she recalled. Holy Thursday fell during Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, and Passover, a major Jewish holiday, began a day later. "Thankfully, from the first moment that the initial bus arrived," Stanley-Rea said, "I think we need to hold on to the power of, of that timing, as we have continued to see that spirit power, that commitment to service." [...]

The Congregation Action Network, a coalition of more than 70 faith-based organizations formed in 2017 in response to the Trump administration's "Muslim ban," had begun providing social services and food during the COVID-19 pandemic. When migrants began arriving in Washington this spring, the coalition immediately began meeting the newcomers' most urgent material needs. 

"You have a lot of faith communities, and groups that were already serving people who are food insecure, or unhoused, kind of well positioned to then transition some of that support to these newly arrived migrants," said Elias Johnson, director of CAN.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


Bored Out of Our Minds: a review of  Why Boredom Matters: Education, Leisure, and the Quest for a Meaningful Life by Kevin Hood Gary (Elizabeth Amato, 11/22/22, Law & Liberty)

What is the optimal way to respond to boredom? Gary considers but finally rejects what he terms "the quest for authenticity" as offered by thinkers such as Heidegger and Camus in which the bored self overcomes the meaningless of life by fashioning an authentic self. Gary offers several worthwhile arguments, but observes, quite rightfully, that the popularization of authenticity is too easily co-opted by consumerism. It is altogether too easy for marketers and influencers to say that the surest way for you to "do you" or to "be yourself" is to buy whatever they are selling. Authenticity sells, but it also does not avoid despair.

The entire point of morality is to subject your authentic self and become a boring predictably good person.  It's why the End of History is not Utopian.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 PM


Michigan man arrested for threatening FBI Director Chris Wray, Rep. Garamendi (Ashley Capoot & Dan Mangan, 11/22/22, CNBC)

A Michigan man who owns a registered handgun was arrested for making death threats against FBI Director Chris Wray two weeks after making similar threats against Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California, according to a federal court filing released Tuesday.

The man, identified as Neil Matthew Walter, was charged with transmitting in interstate commerce a communication containing a threat to injure another person.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


U.S. Renewable Energy Will Surge Past Coal and Nuclear by Year's End (Benjamin Storrow, 11/22/22, E&E News)

For now, U.S. renewable output is edging higher. Wind and solar output are up 18 percent through Nov. 20 compared to the same time last year and have grown 58 percent compared to 2019, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The government energy tracker predicts that wind, solar and hydro will generate 22 percent of U.S. electricity by the end of this year. That is more than coal at 20 percent and nuclear at 19 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 3:07 PM


Manhattan prosecutors again consider a path toward charging Trump (Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum, 11/22/22, New York Times)

The renewed scrutiny of the hush money comes amid an intensifying swirl of legal and political drama around Trump. On Friday, Merrick Garland, the US attorney general, appointed a special prosecutor who vowed to proceed quickly with two federal investigations into the former president. It is unclear whether Bragg or the special counsel will ultimately seek charges against Trump, who just announced a third presidential run.

For Bragg, the hush-money developments suggest the first signs of progress since he took office at the beginning of the year, when he balked at indicting Trump in connection with his business practices.

Supreme Court clears way for Trump tax records to be sent to Congress by IRS  (Dan Mangan, 11/22/22, CNBC)

The order Tuesday by the Supreme Court, which noted no dissent from any justice, comes more than three months after a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled that the Ways and Means Committee had the right to obtain Trump's tax returns.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks on the Appointment of a Special Counsel (DoJ, Washington, DC ~ Friday, November 18, 2022)

Good afternoon.

I am here today to announce the appointment of a Special Counsel in connection with two ongoing criminal investigations that have received significant public attention. 

The first, as described in court filings in the District of Columbia, is the investigation into whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote held on or about January 6, 2021. 

The second is the ongoing investigation involving classified documents and other presidential records, as well as the possible obstruction of that investigation, referenced and described in court filings in a pending matter in the Southern District of Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 3:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Celebrating the United States of Stuffing (DIANA HUBBELL, NOVEMBER 21, 2022, Atlas Obscura)

Let's get one thing out of the way: stuffing is indisputably the best Thanksgiving dish. Turkey is fine, gravy is essential, and I'll never say no to a sweet potato, but stuffing just plain rules. It's good soused in gravy on Turkey Day, better still fried in butter and topped with sunny side up eggs for breakfast the next day. The real pros throw it in a waffle iron, creating a whole nest of craggy, crunchy edges. [...]

[E]ven if Americans didn't invent it, in our typical maximalist fashion we have taken stuffing to its logical extremes, fortifying it with an unholy amount of butter and whatever delicious things happened to be available in our home region.

In Louisiana, that might mean chunks of andouille sausage, while Texans may prefer pecans. New Englanders might throw in shucked oysters. It means the carbohydrate base of choice can be cornbread in the South, wild rice in Minnesota, mashed potatoes in Pennsylvania-Dutch country, masa in New Mexico, or brioche if you're feeling fancy.

All that variation is part of why stuffing is so difficult to define. Plus, in order to avoid salmonella contamination, most Americans no longer actually put their stuffing inside the turkey at all.

As the designated Thanksgiving cook in my household, however, I'd argue that stuffing's somewhat nebulous identity means it's one of the rare opportunities for creativity on this holiday. 

Kellogg's Croutettes are stuffing--everything else is deviant.

November 21, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


AN INNOCENT AT RINKSIDE (William Faulkner, 1/24/1955, Sports Illustrated)

Excitement: men in rapid, hard, close physical conflict, not just with bare hands, but armed with the knife blades of skates and the hard, fast, deft sticks which could break bones when used right. He had noticed how many women were among the spectators, and for just a moment he thought that perhaps this was why--that here actual male blood could flow, not from the crude impact of a heavier fist but from the rapid and delicate stroke of weapons, which, like the European rapier or the frontier pistol, reduced mere size and brawn to its proper perspective to the passion and the will. But only for a moment because he, the innocent, didn't like that idea either. It was the excitement of speed and grace, with the puck for catalyst, to give it reason, meaning.

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 AM


Amazon can't get enough human workers -- so here come the robots (Joann Muller, 11/17/22,  Axios)

Amazon is rolling out an army of robots that could soon select and sort the majority of the 13 million packages it delivers every day.

Why it matters: Increased demand for expedited delivery has the e-commerce giant looking for ways to shave package processing time.

Speed pressure has triggered union organizing efforts at some Amazon warehouses by workers who complain of injuries and exhaustion.

Turnover rates are so high the company fears it could run out of people to hire in its U.S. warehouses by 2024, according to Recode, citing internal Amazon research.

No one will miss labor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 AM


Super-hot salt could be coming to a battery near you: New battery chemistries can help unlock more renewable energy for the grid. (Casey Crownhart, November 17, 2022, MIT Technology Review)

With the mismatch between lithium-ion batteries and our future energy storage needs, it seems like everybody is working on an alternative way to store energy. In just the last year, I've covered iron air and iron flow batteries, plastic ones, and even one startup using compressed carbon dioxide to store energy. 

Now, another technology is making the jump from the lab to the commercial world: molten salt. 

Ambri is a Boston-area startup that's building molten-salt batteries from calcium and antimony. The company recently announced a demonstration project deploying energy storage for Microsoft data centers, and last year it raised over $140 million to build its manufacturing capacity. 

The company says its technology could be 30-50% cheaper over its lifetime than an equivalent lithium-ion system. Molten salt batteries can also exceed 80% efficiency, meaning that a relatively low amount of energy that's used to charge the battery is lost to heat.  

Ambri was founded in 2010 based on research from Donald Sadoway's lab at MIT. The goal was to develop a low-cost product for the stationary storage market, says David Bradwell, the company's founder and CTO. 

The inspiration came from an unlikely place: aluminum production. Using similar chemical reactions to what's used for aluminum smelting, the team built a lab-scale, low-cost energy storage system. But turning this concept into a real product hasn't been so straightforward.

The magnesium and antimony-based chemistry the company started out with proved difficult to manufacture. In 2015, after continuing issues with the batteries' seals, Ambri laid off a quarter of its staff and went back to the drawing board. 

In 2017, the company pivoted to a new approach for its batteries, using calcium and antimony. The new chemistry relies on cheaper materials, and should prove simpler to manufacture, Bradwell says. Since the pivot, the company has worked out technical glitches and made progress on commercialization, going through third-party safety testing and signing its first commercial deals, including the Microsoft one. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 AM


How Republican Anti-Vax Madness Killed Off Their Party's Midterm Voters (Lucian K. Truscott IV, November 17 | 2022, National Memo)

From DeSantis in Florida to Abbott in Texas, Republican governors were in a hurry to get their states out of lockdown but in no hurry at all to get people vaccinated. In fact, some red states passed laws making mandatory vaccination requirements imposed by county and city governments illegal, and in some Republican states, governors forced school boards to re-open their schools before administrators and local school boards thought it was safe.

Here is the way that's paying off for them. According to figures published recently by the Pew Research Center, death rates in urban areas during 2020 and early 2021 were nine times higher than those in rural counties. In the waves of the disease that followed - the third wave, after the first vaccine roll-out; the fourth or Delta wave; and the fifth, or Omicron wave - the figures were reversed. Death rates in rural areas went up, while those in urban areas went down.

The pattern began to mimic the way people voted in America. In the early stages of COVID, counties that voted Democratic had much higher death rates than rural Republican counties. By the third wave of the disease in the fall of 2020, "Counties that voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden were suffering substantially more deaths from the coronavirus pandemic than those that voted for Biden over Trump," according to Pew. As the vaccine roll-out went on, the difference between red and blue counties became more pronounced, even as the total number of deaths in the country began to fall. As the fourth wave of the disease set in, "death rates in the most pro-Trump counties were about four times what they were in the most pro-Biden counties," according to Pew.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 AM


Don Quixote Tells Us How the Star Wars Franchise Ends: We can predict what will happen to Disney brand franchises by studying how past pop culture narratives collapsed (Ted Gioia, 11/09/22, Honest Broker)

Cervantes's knight was the famous Don Quixote, celebrated in the book of the same name. And we could argue endlessly whether this book was, in fact, the first novel. The exact chronology here isn't the key issue. The more pressing point is that Don Quixote made all the earlier books about knights look ridiculous. In other words, Cervantes pursued the literary equivalent of a scorched earth policy.

The title character in his book is a shrunken and shriveled man of about 50, who has gone crazy by reading too many stories about knights and their adventures. In a fit of delusion, he decides to leave home and pursue knightly adventures himself--but the world has changed since the time of King Arthur, and our poor knight errant now looks like a fool. Other characters mock him, and play practical jokes at his expense--and simply because he believes all those lies in the brand franchise stories.

We start to feel sorry for Don Quixote, even begin cheering for our hapless hero. Thus this protagonist, in Cervantes's rendering, is both absurd and endearing. This is what raises the novel above mere satire--because we eventually come to admire Don Quixote for holding on to his ideals in the face of a world where they don't fit or belong.

In other words, there is much to praise in this book, but this three-layered approach to reality is perhaps the most interesting aspect of them all. Here are the three layers:

Don Quixote is just an ordinary man, not a hero by any means.

But in his delusion, he pretends to be a hero, following rules and procedures that are antiquated and irrelevant. They merely serve to make him look pitiful and absurd.

Yet by persisting in this fantasy, he actually does turn into a hero, although a more complex kind that anticipates the rise of the novel. He is the prototype of the dreamer and idealist who chases goals in the face of all obstacles.

The reality is, of course, exactly the opposite of the usually perspicacious Mr. Gioia's contention.  Hilariously, not only did readers treat the Don as a hero for being Arthurian but even Disney retold the Arthurian tales. Indeed, Star Wars not only relies on Knights with swords and heroes following chivalric codes but Luke is essentially just another Wart, who discovers his real lineage via a wizard and magical sword.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 AM


The Diminishing Returns of Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric: A majority of voters want balanced solutions. (ALAN CROSS  NOVEMBER 17, 2022, The Bulwark)

Since 2014, conventional wisdom for many on the right has been that stoking fears of immigrants and refugees is a winning strategy. That year, Eric Cantor, the GOP House majority leader, experienced a shocking primary loss to David Brat; Tea Party opposition to immigration reform was an important factor in Cantor's loss, and the new hardline stance Brat advocated would become Republican writ following Donald Trump's successful, openly nationalist--at times, even nativist--campaign for the presidency in 2016. Republicans have since assumed that making overt appeals to anti-immigrant sentiment and fear of white replacement--concerns party operatives take to be widespread among voters but kept under wraps for fear of censure--would not only secure primary victories among the base, but also win the party control of Congress and the White House.

How has that worked out for them? Well, after Trump won in 2016, he spent two years calling for limits to legal immigration, invoking travel bans, and implementing a de facto family separation policy at the border. The 2018 midterms were, in part, a referendum on America's immigration policies, especially after Trump made migrant caravans his messaging focus in the run-up to the election. But after Democrats gained 41 seats and took control of the House that year, Trump dropped the dropped the caravans issue, and it soon fell out of the news.

By 2020, Trump's anti-immigrant emphasis was fading, and as it became less of a priority for him, it also became less of a concern for voters. While 70 percent of registered voters polled in 2016 said that immigration was a top concern going into the election, only 65 percent said so in 2018, and by 2020, that number had dropped to 52 percent. The Trump campaign still talked about immigration negatively as he ran for re-election, but by then he had shifted his rhetorical emphasis more to law and order. But the sentiment was locked in and people remembered. He lost the presidency and Democrats held the House and won control of the Senate, giving them a governing trifecta.

This year's midterms arrived following the admission to the United States of tens of thousands of Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, and in the midst of a COVID-related buildup of asylum seekers and higher than normal numbers of border encounters. Even so, immigration has remained a relatively low-priority issue for American voters, at least from a negative sense, with only 54 percent rating it as an issue of major concern in Pew's pre-election poll. (This was the first year since Trump's 2016 win that the issue did not make the top ten in Pew's poll.) Some on the right tried to make the border situation a major campaign focus, but the issue just didn't resonate negatively with voters in the same way it appeared to during Trump's original campaign. In the news networks' exit polling, 10 percent of respondents said immigration was the most important issue for them, ranking just below gun policy and crime, and far below abortion and inflation. (Of that 10 percent of voters who prioritized immigration, about three quarters were Republicans and one quarter were Democrats.)

Years of negative rhetoric aimed at immigrants and refugees hasn't changed the public's positive perception of them: Polls consistently show over 70 percent of Americans believing that immigration is a good thing for the United States. 

It is the aesthetics of people sneaking over the border that upsets people, demonstrating that government can't control events, an illusion they require.  Admit immigrants freely at designated sites where they can be processed in an orderly fashion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Don't Blame the Immigrants. It's Our Laws That Are Criminal.Our immigration problem is that we're not politically capable of fixing the broken system. (MONA CHAREN, SEPTEMBER 21, 2022, The Bulwark)

Around the time that Venezuela was a prosperous country, the Republican party was guided by leaders who sympathized with the plight of those fleeing oppression, and took pride in the fact that so many aspired to come here. But today's GOP is in the grip of populists who portray desperate asylum seekers as hostile invaders. The Democrats, in this telling, are part of a conspiracy to flood the nation with immigrants who will "replace" the current dominant groups and reliably vote Democrat forever. (It's ironic that Republicans are actually increasing their share of the Hispanic vote.)

Many on the right portray illegal immigrants as criminals who are "breaking into our house" and deserve to be treated as such. So a word about the law. Under U.S. statutes, if a migrant comes into this country, turns himself in to a border guard or other authority, and asks for political asylum, he is entitled to a hearing. Asylum seekers are not "illegal" immigrants. They are simply following the law we enacted. There are some kinds of attempted entry that are illegal. These include using a fake passport, attempting to cross the border anywhere other than a border inspection point, or attempting to enter on false pretenses. The Venezuelans that DeSantis treated so shabbily were guilty of none of those things. They were simply desperate people hoping for a better life. DeSantis didn't see suffering human beings. He saw props. He saw Fox News coverage. (Fox, unlike the governor of Massachusetts, was tipped off in advance). And he saw the chance to show the GOP base what a jerk he could be.

The DeSantis justifiers object that border states are being flooded with illegals and that it's unjust that red states are bearing all of the burden. But the border states are not handling it alone. The federal government has spent roughly $333 billion on border security and immigration enforcement in the past 19 years, with much of it targeted on the southern border. As for the burden of immigration, it's debatable that immigrants represent a burden at all. Many studies show that they pay more in taxes than they cost in social services and they are more likely to work, start business, and seek patents than the native born (and less likely to commit crimes).

In any case, southern states have no monopoly on immigrants. In Texas, 17 percent of the population is foreign born. That's about the same as Massachusetts (16.9 percent), and only somewhat higher than the District of Columbia (14 percent), another city that has been the recipient of special delivery immigrants courtesy of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. While protesting the cost of handling immigrants, Abbott has spent $12 million in taxpayer funds busing immigrants to Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City. New York, as it happens, has a higher percentage of foreign born residents (23 percent) than Texas. While the typical image of an illegal immigrant is a person desperately scaling a fence or fording a river from Mexico, a large proportion--in some years, an outright majority--of illegal immigrants are those who overstay their visas.

Those who believe the propaganda that immigration is destroying America should ponder our neighbor to the north. Is Canada a hellscape? The proportion of foreign born there is 21 percent, compared to the American average of 13.7 percent.

In truth, the vast majority of would-be immigrants have done absolutely nothing wrong. It is our own laws that are the problem. Because our political system is so steeped in bile and demagoguery, we can't adapt to changing circumstances. We desperately need workers, yet the wait for legal immigration options is years long. People ask, "Why can't illegal immigrants wait in line?" But there is no line. We resolutely decline to accept guest workers in large numbers, who could fill jobs and return home (without affecting voting patterns, by the way). And so the only way to gain entry is to put feet on American soil and ask for asylum.

We have two aesthetic "problems" that undermine confidence in the capacity of government to function well: immigration and deficit spending.  Even, or especially, a narrowly divided government ought to deal with these, as we did under Reagan and Clinton respectively. As to immigration, return to an Ellis Island system where we admit those who wish to come to America but process them in an orderly fashion as we do so.   

November 20, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 AM


History Is Never Certain: a review of The Man Who Understood Democracy: The Life of Alexis de Tocqueville By Olivier Zunz (Reviewed by Sarah Gustafson, University Bookman)

Moving from Tocqueville's childhood in Normandy, where he was born in 1804 to aristocratic parents personally scarred by the French Revolution, through his boyhood and legal training in Paris, his adventurous voyage to the United States, and his subsequent decades of writing interspersed with political activity, Zunz allows Tocqueville's convictions and their "force" to "drive this biography." Emphasizing Tocqueville's "deepest belief" in democracy as a "powerful, yet demanding, political form," the work meditates both on the substance of his political thought and the context in which he developed and elaborated it. Tocqueville embraced several key principles from which all else flowed: the providential march of democracy, the importance of political liberty, the necessity and good of religion (specifically Christianity), the need to educate the democratic social state, and the open-endedness of human affairs (in contrast to historical determinism). He considered all sides of a question, sometimes hedging his own conclusions to concede adequately the opposite view. The ambiguities of his thought can, Zunz reminds us, make him frustrating to read if we expect a thinker of his stature to have systematically eliminated every tension or doubt. However, Tocqueville's charm lies in the both...and. His is a style that wins readers by wooing and describing, rather than by perfectly articulating its logic and defining terms.  

Tocqueville's contexts sometimes were the contemplative quiet of his libraries and studies in Normandy or Paris, where young Americans assisted his research. At other times, these contexts were political and polemical speeches or epistolary correspondence with formal acquaintances and lifelong friends. Sometimes he wrote from the wilderness of America (he nearly died when a boat sank on the Mississippi!), the Algerian desert, or the poverty of urban Ireland. It is a shame that only recently have these speeches, letters, reports, memoirs, and other documents come to prominence. (Tocqueville comes alive in his letters to his friends, whatever his shy and melancholy reputation). We get much closer to the whole Tocqueville thanks to these non-canonical texts. Zunz makes extensive use of them and thus takes care to highlight the ebb and flow of thought and action in Tocqueville's life. It is worth stressing that his biography is worth telling because it is exciting. It blends the active life with the contemplative. The "new political science" Tocqueville crafted for a "world altogether new," which John Stuart Mill noted was "the first analytical inquiry into the influence of democracy," was the result of a voyage, not arm-chair philosophy. Simultaneously, the ups and downs of his political career demonstrate the gap between philosophy and politics. Making the sausage, as Bismarck put it, is different from theorizing it.  

Zunz also took care to mix the more famous incidents of Tocqueville's life with more mundane and underappreciated--but revelatory--moments. In the last weeks of his life, Tocqueville, sick with tuberculosis, received a copy of Mill's On Liberty. Tocqueville wrote to thank Mill the next day, praising in a conciliatory tone their joint efforts on the "field of liberty," and inquired whether he correctly heard that Harriet Taylor Mill had been doing poorly. "Had Tocqueville the energy to open On Liberty, he would have seen Mill's moving dedication to his deceased wife." Clearly, Tocqueville never read the book. A not insignificant part of Tocqueville's legacy is the articulation of the "tyranny of the majority," which Mill borrowed in On Liberty. Would Tocqueville have approved of Mill's use of the concept? Though friendly in the 1830s and early 1840s, they later had notable disagreements that significantly cooled their relationship. Would they have stayed on the same "field of liberty" had Tocqueville lived? Zunz offers students of history and politics much food for thought in this small, very human detail. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 AM


"The Hobbit" and Virtue (Joseph Pearce, November 13th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

A Christian believes in dragons, even if he can't see them, and knows that they are perilous and potentially deadly. They are certainly not to be courted, nor is it wise to toy with them.

"The more truly we can see life as a fairy tale," said G.K. Chesterton, "the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland."

Grace is always available to those who seek it and ask for it, biasing "fortune" in the direction of goodness; yet, on the other hand, the fallen nature of humanity means that man's natural tendency is towards concupiscence and its destructive consequences. If we don't ask for help, we are bound to fall.

It is in this choice, rooted in the gift and responsibility of free will, that the struggle with evil is won or lost. The will must willingly cooperate with grace or, in its failure to do so, must inevitably fall into evil. The struggle which all of us face is a dangerous adventure in a perilous realm.

If the interplay of Providence and free will is the means by which the dynamism of virtue and its consequences drive the narrative forward, the overarching moral of The Hobbit would appear to be a cautionary meditation on Matthew 6:21 ("Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also").

The story begins with Bilbo's desire for comfort and his unwillingness to sacrifice himself for others. His heart is essentially self-centered, surrounding itself with the treasures of his own home. His position at the outset of the story is an ironic and symbolic prefiguring of the dragon's surrounding himself with treasure in his "home" in the Lonely Mountain.

Bilbo is, therefore, afflicted with the dragon sickness. His pilgrimage to the Lonely Mountain is the means by which he will be cured of this materialist malady. It is a via dolorosa, a path of suffering, the following of which will heal him of his self-centeredness and teach him to give himself self-sacrificially to others.

The paradoxical consequence of the dragon sickness is that the things possessed possess the possessor. Thus Bilbo is a slave to his possessions at the beginning of The Hobbit and is liberated from them, or from his addiction to them, by its end.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 AM


Tyrus (Ring Lardner, June 1915, American Magazine)

Sit down here a while, kid, and I'll give you the dope on this guy. You say you didn't see him do nothin' wonderful? But you only seen him in one serious. Wait till you been in the league more'n a week or two before you go judgin' ball players. He may of been sick when you played agin him. Even when he's sick, though, he's got everybody I ever seen skun, and I've saw all the best of 'em.

Say, he ain't worth nothin' to that club; no, nothin'! I don't know what pay he's gettin', but whatever it is, it ain't enough. If they'd split the receipts fifty-fifty with that bird, they wouldn't be gettin' none the worst of it. That bunch could get along just as well without him as a train could without no engine.

He's twicet the ball player now that he was when he come up. He didn't seem to have no sense when he broke in; he run bases like a fool and was a mark for a good pitcher or catcher. They used to just lay for him when he got on. Sully used to tell the pitchers to do nothin' but waste balls when he was on first or second base. It was pretty near always good dope, too, because they'd generally nail him off one base or the other, or catch him tryin' to go to the next one. But Sully had to make perfect pegs to get him even when he knowed beforehand that he was goin'. Sully was the boy that could make them perfect pegs, too. Don't forget that.

Cobb seemed to think they was only one rule in the book, and that was a rule providin' that nobody could stay on one base more'n one second. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 AM


Poll: US Jews overwhelmingly backed Democrats in midterms (Yonat Shimron, 11/10/22, RNS)

Mastriano seemed most frightening of all: A pro-Trump Christian nationalist (though he dismissed the label) and 2020 election denier, the state senator from Gettysburg had shown himself to be intolerant of religious minorities and his campaign had paid an antisemitic right wing activist as a consultant.

As in the past, Jews across the country voted overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates -- 74% to 25%, according to a new exit poll of 800 registered Jewish voters sponsored by the pro-Israel group J Street. But this year their votes were as much against something or someone -- as in the case of Mastriano. The J Street poll showed that a whopping 97% of American Jews said they were concerned about antisemitism.

They also laid the blame for rising antisemitism at the feet of Trump and the Republican Party. The poll, conducted Nov. 1-8, found that 76% of Jews believe Trump and his Republican allies are directly responsible for the rise in antisemitism and white supremacy in the United States. On another question, 74% of U.S. Jews said Trump and the "Make America Great Again" movement are a "threat to Jews in America."

"There is a new element of the Jewish vote that takes place in the aftermath of Charlottesville and Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and the high-profile antisemitism taking place in the country right now," said Jim Gerstein, founding partner of GBAO Strategies, which conducted the poll for J Street. "It frightens people and introduces a new dynamic."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CHRISTIANITY AND POETRY (Dana Gioia, August 2022, First Things)

Poetry is not merely important to Christianity. It is an essential, inextricable, and necessary aspect of religious faith and practice. The fact that most Christians would consider that assertion absurd does not invalidate it. Their disagreement only demonstrates how remote the contemporary Church has become from its own origins. It also suggests that sacred poetry is so interwoven into the fabric of Scripture and worship as to become invisible. At the risk of offending most believers, it is necessary to state a simple but ­unacknowledged truth: It is impossible to understand the full glory of Christianity without understanding its poetry. [...]

No believer can ignore the curious fact that one-third of the Bible is written in verse. Sacred poetry is not confined to the Psalms, the Song of Songs, and Lamentations. The prophetic books are written mostly in verse. The wisdom books--­Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes--are all poems, each in a different genre. There are also poetic passages in the five books of Moses and the later histories. Prose passages suddenly break into lyric celebrations or lamentations to mark important events.

When David, triumphant in battle, learns that Saul and Jonathan have perished, he mourns his beloved opponents and cries out, "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: How are the mighty fallen!" His lament unfolds into one of the great elegies in the Western canon. The Old Testament is full of such lyric moments, often spoken by women who use poetry to voice their deepest feelings. When the widowed Ruth begs to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi, she expresses herself in words that transform the emotional nature of the narrative. Until now the two women have just been figures in an old story; suddenly they come alive as loving and suffering human beings:

For whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge;
Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be ­buried:
The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

These ancient Hebrew and Aramaic poems remain vividly present in English--and not only for Christians--because the King James Bible had the good fortune to be translated in the age of Shakespeare. Commissioned by James I for the Church of England, the so-called "Authorized Version" was published in 1611. The translators took special care to convey the poetic power of the verse passages. The English Renaissance was not an age of prose. No book has had a more profound effect on English-language poetry, and it still shapes the Christian liturgy, even for Catholics, though they tried to deny it.

November 19, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


'Arthur Miller' Review: Only Truth for Sale: a review of   Arthur Miller: American Witness by John Lahr (Willard Spiegelman, Nov. 10, 2022, WSJ)

He does not seem to have been destined to shine, other than in the eyes of his mother, who worshiped him, calling him "God's chosen" in the wake of his success with "Salesman." He always felt that she was watching over him, "the boy-child, half lover and half rebel against her dominion."

The title of the book is particularly disgraceful given that the author of Witness fought communism, not America. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 AM


On the right tracks: meeting the man behind Thomas the Tank Engine in 1979 (Emma Beddington, 13 Nov 2022, The Observer)

Before the Angry Engines became a global megabrand and Ringo Starr's side hustle, The Observer (22 July 1979) went to meet their creator: the Reverend Wilbert Vere Awdry. Then 68, retired and living in Stroud, he appears otherworldly and bemused at his own celebrity, in a surprisingly loud checked jacket, dog collar and tinted specs. [...]

The lucky Observer writer gets access to Awdry operating his model railway in the spare room, like watching Leonardo doodle, I suppose. 'Mr Awdry attached a wooden box to a canvas belt about his waist and proceeded to operate it faultlessly for half an hour.' She devotes a chunk of the article to the Rev's happily absorbed narration: 'This is Ffarquhar, the main terminus on Thomas's branch line. (Gordon thinks branch lines are vulgar.) We will do the section 6.45 to 11.48... 7.25 here's Toby.'

Put on the spot to choose between 'puffed up and boastful' Gordon, 'wilful and disobedient' Henry and 'saucy, plucky' Thomas, Awdry refused to play favourites. 'Suppose you had a family of 10 or 12 children and I asked you which was your favourite? What would you say?'

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 AM


So this is what capitulation by a great power looks like (Peter Hartcher, 11/16/22, SMH)

So this is what capitulation by a great power looks like.

After all the rants and insults, the political freeze and the trade bans, the president of China brought his intimidation campaign of Australia to a politely meek end.

thanks, Vlad!

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 AM


Who Is Dying from COVID Now, and Why: Nearly three years into the pandemic, COVID's mortality burden is growing in certain groups of people (Melody Schreiber, November 16, 2022, Scientific American)

Today in the U.S., about 335 people will die from COVID--a disease for which there are highly effective vaccines, treatments and precautions. Who is still dying, and why?

Older people were always especially vulnerable and now make up a higher proportion of COVID fatalities than ever before in the pandemic. While the total number of COVID deaths has fallen, the burden of mortality is shifting even more to people older than age 64. And deaths in nursing homes are ticking back up, even as COVID remains one of the top causes of death for all ages. COVID deaths among people age 65 and older more than doubled between April and July this year, rising by 125 percent, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This trend increased with age: more than a quarter of all COVID fatalities were among those age 85 and older throughout the pandemic, but that share has risen to at least 38 percent since May.

Where people live also affects their risk level. The pandemic first hit urban areas harder, but mortality rose dramatically in rural areas by the summer of 2020--a pattern that has held. The gap is currently narrowing, but people living in rural areas are still dying at significantly higher rates.

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 AM


Can Africa power with renewables as it grows? (Beatrice Christofaro, 11/12//22,Deutsche-Welle)

Africa has the potential to become a renewable powerhouse.  

With much of it bathed in sunlight year-round, the continent has 60% of the world's best solar resources. And it has enough wind potential in a year to meet its electricity demand 250 times over, with resources stretching all the way from Algeria to South Africa.  

Countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia already cover more than 80% of their consumption with hydropower -- but there is room to produce even more across the continent. Meanwhile, Kenya is a world leader in harnessing geothermal energy.  

Though the use of clean power varies greatly across Africa, the continent as a whole still gets almost all of its energy from fossil fuels. As half of the population in sub-Saharan Africa doesn't have access to electricity, there are hundreds of millions of customers waiting to enter the market.

Other continents electrified off the back of coal, oil, and gas and, to different extents, are now trying to transition to renewables. Could Africa skip fossil fuels and service new consumers with green energy?  

"What makes Africa the right continent to roll out those [green] technologies is the simple fact that they are there in abundance," said Tony Tiyou, CEO of the engineering consultancy Renewables in Africa that works in Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Nigeria, and Benin. "I call it the promised land."

For people living in Africa, leapfrogging to clean power has one very clear benefit: Mitigating the climate crisis, because they have felt the effects of burning fossil fuels first-hand. This process releases greenhouse gases that heat the atmosphere, which makes extreme weather events more likely and more severe. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:30 AM


John Milton's free speech crusade: His vision of liberty is more potent than ever (ANDREW DOYLE, 11/11/22, UnHerd)

Milton was a free-thinker whose worldview was grounded in reason. At a time when the divine right of kings was rarely contested, Milton considered it unreasonable that a man should be king on the basis of an accident of birth. He believed in meritocracy, which is partly what drew him to Cromwell.

Milton had his inconsistencies. He was a profoundly religious man, but nonetheless wrote extensively about the right to divorce. Most remarkably, his puritanical strain was at odds with his eschewal of the Calvinist notion of predestination. For Milton, free will was an essential aspect of our humanity. The fall of man depicted in Paradise Lost is meaningless unless Adam and Eve have chosen freely to partake of the forbidden fruit.

But Milton's commitment to individual liberty is most keenly expressed in his Areopagitica (1644), a counterblast to the Licensing Order of June 1643, which decreed that all printed texts be passed before a censor in advance of publication. Often cited as a defence of press freedom, the text carries resonance for us at a time when liberalism and free speech is increasingly under threat. Rarely has the case been made with greater elegance and clarity. "Give me the liberty," he writes, "to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties".

Of course, Milton's conceptualisation of "liberty" differs significantly from ours. His was a specifically Christian notion of liberty, predicated on this idea of virtuous self-regulation. He was at pains to distinguish between what he called "licence", the freedom to do whatever one desires, and "liberty", by which the faithful man is called to purge those passions and temptations that enslave the soul. "Licence", Milton contends, is no freedom at all, but an indulgence that amounts to a form of self-imposed tyranny.

Amid all this, Milton is adamant that we are not the merest marionettes, guided by divine providence, but individual agents with responsibility and choice. The act of censorship, he argues, deprives us of our right to determine for ourselves how best to conduct our lives. He makes the case that censorship might begin with good intentions, but that subjective judgement will always blur the line between the heretical and the distasteful. As he puts it in Areopagitica, censors do not "stay in matters heretical" but "any subject that is not to their palate".

Posted by orrinj at 12:13 AM


Brazil's "Moderated" Liberty (Leonidas Zelmanovitz, 11/15/22, Law & Liberty)

The traditional division of power, since Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws, has been one of three branches of power, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary, all of them having popular sovereignty as the sole source of their legitimacy.

Benjamin Constant later proposed a different separation of power. It was based on the recognition that in England, the quintessential constitutional monarchy at his time, in the words of Adolphe Thiers: "the king rules but does not govern." Based on that observation, Constant proposed that the king had a "moderating" power, with the executive power vested in the cabinet of ministers, and the king acting as an impartial "judge" of the political game. Constant is mostly understood as describing, in more detail, a liberal conception of constitutional monarchy with popular sovereignty exercised by a parliament, and not as challenging such conception.

However, that was not what was institutionalized in Brazil.   

The charter Dom Pedro I gave the country concentrated power in his hands to intervene in the political process whenever he deemed it necessary. To that end, he institutionalized a power of "tutelage" of the exercise of popular sovereignty for himself. The emperor at his sole discretion could fire the cabinet, dissolve the parliament, call new elections, command the armed forces, and enjoy legal immunities, among other prerogatives. Soon he abused that power. A crisis ensued and, for all practical purposes, he was forced to resign in 1831. His son, Dom Pedro II, exercised that power more prudently, if not more sparingly, until the monarchy was abolished by a military coup in 1889.

Although Brazil, once it became a republic, has never again explicitly acknowledged the right of someone to exercise "tutelage" over the political process in its formal constitutions, first the army and more recently the Supreme Court have claimed such powers time and again.

Aside from other minor and not-so-minor incidents, Brazil had military coups in 1889, 1930, 1945, and 1964. More recently, the Supreme Court has claimed to have powers not considered by most legal scholars to be authorized by the current Brazilian constitution of 1988.

With more or less acknowledgment, all those instances of tutelage over the political process are manifestations of the "moderating power." It is part of the real, unwritten Brazilian Constitution.

At a minimum, republican liberty has to be paramount. The sovereign power has to be bound by the same laws as the lowest peon.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


How to slash carbon emissions while growing the economy, in one chartMore than 30 countries have already broken the link between emissions and economic growth. (Sigal Samuel, Nov 13, 2022, Vox)

There's a common intuition that says we can either have a healthy climate, or a growing economy, but not both.

Economic activity, so long as it's powered by fossil fuels -- which still provides about 80 percent of the world's energy -- creates greenhouse gas emissions. So it seems to follow that if we want to emit fewer greenhouse gasses, we're going to have to sacrifice some economic growth, even though raising average income levels is a key part of reducing poverty.

This creates a horrible dilemma, because fighting climate change and fighting poverty are both hugely important goals. As developing countries are making clear at the ongoing COP27 climate summit in Egypt, we really don't want to shortchange either one.

Fortunately, we may not have to.

The evidence comes from more than 30 countries that have already achieved what's known as "absolute decoupling." That means they've figured out how to reduce carbon emissions while continuing to grow economically, so those goals are not incompatible. Note that these are not just per capita measures; we're talking about total emissions and total economies here.

Over at Our World in Data, the researcher Max Roser created a great chart that shows 25 of the countries that have pulled off this feat over the past couple decades.

That was easy.

November 18, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Emails Reveal the U.S. Maritime Administration's 2019 Efforts to Derail a Long‐​Term Jones Act Waiver for LNG (Colin Grabow, 10/24/22, Cato)

As millions of New Englanders brace for the coming winter chill and historically high energy prices, they might be interested to know that--per government emails obtained by the Cato Institute--at least one federal agency has been working with maritime industry lobbyists to deny them access to U.S. energy.

As Cato scholars have detailed, the Jones Act ensures that New England cannot access U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other energy products via tanker ships. For the same reason, hurricane‐​hit Puerto Rico was recently forced to seek an emergency waiver of the 1920 law to obtain a limited quantity of U.S. LNG being stored in the neighboring Dominican Republic. Due to a total lack of LNG tankers that comply with the Jones Act, U.S. LNG can be sent to foreign countries but not domestic markets.

The denial of U.S.-origin energy to Americans due to protectionist maritime laws during times of crisis is troubling and farcical on its face. But the situation becomes downright scandalous when it's revealed that a major impediment to relief is the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), working hand in glove with (or for?) the domestic maritime industry.

For many months Cato Institute scholars have been sifting through thousands of pages of documents obtained from MARAD via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As previously noted, one of these documents included a call for members of the Cato Institute to be charged with treason. But other things have been revealed as well.

Among these are efforts by MARAD to thwart proposed waivers of the Jones Act during the Trump administration for the transportation of LNG. 

Man, they hate the free movement of goods and people on the fringes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 AM


The Indian Summer of Carl Yastrzemski (John Eskow, October 30, 1978, New Times)

The face is a harbormaster's face, or a potato farmer's, or a lobsterman's: sharp, prominent nose, articulate features, eyes meant for pinpointing danger. At 39, the body is aching but supple. As he enters the sepulchral clubhouse of the Boston Red Sox moments after their agonizing loss to the New York Yankees in the season-ending tie-breaker game, Carl Yastrzemski tokes hard on a Marlboro and sips from a paper cup of beer.

This afternoon, he made the last out of the season. It hurts to make the last out of a pickup whiffleball game at a picnic; this last out may have ended Yastrzemski's fondest dream. The one-game shoot-out came down to one pitch, and Yastrzemski lost. Now he stands red-eyed in a crowd of oddly silent reporters. Around him, the other players--knowing the season is over--still don't want to shower and change. They sit motionless in their uniforms, some crying, some immobile with grief.

First baseman George Scott sits at his locker, packing his bats into a duffel bag. A sportswriter approaches with a timeworn question: "George, is it going to be a long winter for you, looking back at what might have been?"

Scott is a huge, warm-hearted man, but he's been pushed to the edge of his gentleness. "Long winter?" he says. "I figure it'll go like November, December, January, 'less they puttin' some new months on the calendar they ain't told me about. Be about as long as ev'y otha winter. What kinda fool question is that?"

Across the room, pitcher Bill Lee shakes his head. "If the fans could've held off yelling, 'Yankees suck,' just one more inning, I think we might've won it."

Yastrzemski drags on his cigarette and then clears his throat. As he stands in the heat of the TV lights, the streaks of shoe polish under his eyes--painted there to cut the glare of the afternoon sun--begin to melt. His whole speech is a fight against tears.

"My insides are a bunch of knots. Defeat is heartbreaking, there's no way around it." He stares at the ceiling, then sighs explosively. "In a couple of weeks I guess I'll work it out. Right now I'm still numb.

"This year we had three months of joy, one month of frustration and then a great comeback, and then... I'll just remember the last week of the season--knowing you could not lose one game, and not losing." A few minutes later he succumbs and cries softly.

At 39, most ballplayers are warming the bench, coaching third base or opening bars called The Bat 'n' Glove. But in the late summer of 1978, Carl Yastrzemski, the team captain, sparked the Red Sox with key hits and miraculous catches, in open defiance of nature.

"He wants to win so much, the captain," said Jerry Remy, Boston's gifted second baseman. "More than any of us." Remy uses the term "captain" with reverence, as do many of the younger players, who see themselves as first mates to Yastrzemski. "You know how you pretend you're a major league star when you're a kid, playing stickball in the street?" Remy said. "Yaz hit .450 on my street one year--every time I swung, it was for him, so he got a lot of hits. And now I'm two lockers away from him."

The captain's dream is to win the World Series, and his desire is fueled by past frustrations. Twice in his career, in 1967 and 1975, he led the Sox into the last game of the Series, and twice he lost.

Near the end of this season, he was asked about reports that he's obsessed with the championship. His silence was so long it seemed he would never answer. He flicked ashes from this thermal underwear, studied his uniform and finally spoke.

"Playing this long, you'd like to be able to say 'I played on a World Champion once.' After it's over. Just once... All my All-Star rings have been given away, passed on to friends and relatives. But that's one ring I'd keep." Thirty seconds later, still peering into his locker, he added quietly: "Yeah, I'd keep that one."

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 AM



For two days in late October, I attended Clay Clarke's MAGA-driven ReAwaken America Tour near my home in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Keynote speakers included a predictable Who's Who of Trump surrogates, including Michael Flynn, Mike Lindell, Roger Stone, and Eric Trump. The real driver of the event, however, was the lineup of dominionist, charismatic, Christian pastors, prophets, and lay leaders who were there to openly declare war on their enemies in the name of Jesus. These leaders, aligned with the movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), are driven by a prophetic certainty that God is commanding them to establish a militant Christian theocracy in the United States.

I've spent my entire life immersed in New Apostolic Reformation circles. I was raised in the tradition from infancy, remained a fervent foot soldier into my twenties, and have now been studying the movement as an outsider for the past two decades. As a consequence, I honestly wasn't expecting any big surprises when I bought my ticket to see some of the NAR's brightest stars at the ReAwaken rally when it swept through my hometown. 

I was wrong. While forays into national politics and spiritual warfare rhetoric have long marked the NAR movement, the degree to which the dominionist theology of NAR has co-opted far-right political extremism, conspiracy theory culture, and open calls for violence is both a novel and dangerous development. And this is a movement that is no longer confined to the fringes of American religious and political life. The tour has already visited 16 US cities, drawing sold-out crowds at every stop, with regularly priced tickets ranging between $250 and $500. It is arguably the dominant brand of today's Republican Party. For good reason, a growing number of expert observers have begun sounding the alarm. I suggest it's time we hit the panic button.

The rally featured plenty of repugnant elements--from the relentless attacks on transgender youth consistent with fascist scapegoating, to the steady drumbeat of election fraud claims, to accusations that Dr. Fauci engineered Covid-19 in a Chinese lab to help a demonic cabal in Davos to impose a one-world government over freedom-loving Americans like themselves. Emboldened by their movement's surging popularity, speakers repeatedly embraced the once-toxic label of "Christian nationalist" to thunderous applause. 

But underneath it all was a seething groundswell of spiritually sanctioned incitement to violence that was impossible to ignore. The spiritual leaders of this new religio-political movement are using increasingly violent rhetoric to direct an inspired army of God to wage war against all who stand outside their camp. I watched as 4,000 faithful warriors sprang to their feet with each call to arms, roaring their approval, hands outstretched to the heavens in warfare worship, prayers pouring from their lips.

Posted by orrinj at 12:32 AM


David Hume at the Constitutional Convention: Every generation of Americans needs to be reminded of the wisdom and perception of David Hume's political ideas. (Robert Case, 11/08/22, Law & Liberty)

David Hume was a "public spirit" man through and through, and wrote reflectively, systematically, and widely to this end. He left a body of substantial work that effectively combats the age of dictatorial rationalism from a secular vantage point. Hume's writings provided political guidance, social security, and economic direction for America's Founding Fathers as they created a constitution (with all its flaws) for a new and more just Republic. Hume's ideas, which were so influential to the colonials can still provide guardrails for contemporary American political discourse. David Hume's influence in the shaping of American political society from its very beginning codification will be shown and his benefit for contemporary American society to preserve our union will become evident.

In eighteenth-century America, Hume's seminal works were read by college students and young leaders throughout the colonies. The colonials wrote in Humean phraseology, presumably to those who also understood Hume's thought. Hume's notions of experience and skepticism, the uniformity of human nature, commerce, culture, factions, interests, customs, social institutions, and most importantly, the "science of politics," were avidly studied, absorbed, and promulgated by the leading colonial minds. As Jeffry Morrison put it, "the ideas and language of Hume were in the colonial air."

Hume's political writings fit the pragmatic temper of the new Americans. From every state at the Constitutional Convention his ideas found purchase in the delegates' debates, letters, and essays. What the Founding Fathers found attractive in Hume was his Scottish common sense, and his freedom from political and religious mysticism and convictions. Hume's powerful practical intellect grounded in experience resulted in political compromise, the art of the experience. It is no paradox that Americans have always continued to have faith in their religion but skepticism in their politics. That is, we Americans expect our religion to be metaphysical, but we expect our politicians to be very physical. Thus, there is a sense in which Hume's religious "mitigated skepticism" has its political application in the American civil experience.

Due to Hume's influence, it is the American custom to believe that there are no easy answers to social problems, there are no honest politicians, and there is no place in America for political ideologues. Until now. Americans love their religion and despise their politicians. David Hume's foundational influence in original American political thought and action is still operative in constitutional America. He is still a key to unlock the dangers of contemporary political "imagination" run amuck.

Boston attorney and Founding Father James Otis wrote in support of Humean experience as guiding one's thinking, "what happened yesterday will come to pass again, and the same causes will produce like effects in all ages" since the laws of nature are "uniform and invariable." Bernard Bailyn asserts that experience was the "basic presupposition of the eighteenth-century history and political theory." Hume was just the pied piper of custom being the guide to understanding. For Hume and the early Americans, experience was not just a personal guide; it was a dependable political guide as well. Custom is king!

Hume's emphasis on the value of convention and custom, expressed in "great orders and societies," is important because it is only through felicitous social arrangements that the individual's rights can be preserved against governmental arrangements. He also insists on an innate moral human nature from somewhere rather than a morality from a supreme Being, and therefore warrants continued attention on the great skeptic's importance in our secular age. As regards metaphysics, Hume had a hesitant appreciation for Calvinism and the need for a transcendental perspective in human social life which, if handled properly, can provide social stability and prosperity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 AM


American democracy isn't dead: Every political nightmare eventually comes to an end (Shadi Hamid, November 11, 2022, unHerd)
Democracy didn't die. Of course it didn't. The existential angst of the past few weeks seems quaint in retrospect. Was the panic real or was it more a matter of romanticism run amok -- of wanting to feel like a revolutionary in a country where revolutions don't happen?

To be sure, election anxiety is a real thing, and it can be difficult to avoid entirely. In a bygone era, I struggled with this. On the night of Trump's surprise victory on November 8, 2016, what started as gallows humour transformed into sheer panic. My brother called me at midnight. "I'm not so much worried about us. I'm worried about mom and dad," he told me. I started to tear up -- the first (and last) time I ever cried about politics. Since my mother wears the headscarf, she is visibly and obviously Muslim in a way that I am not. And Donald Trump had spent the previous 12 months demonising Muslims, a relic of a time when Islam and Muslims had become something of a national preoccupation. In addition to his vaunted "Muslim ban", Trump had expressed support for registering Muslims in a database and refused to disavow the internment of Japanese Americans.

I feel a bit sheepish for crying, not because men shouldn't cry -- they probably should, at least occasionally -- but because no one should cry about an election. In a democracy, elections can be cause for disappointment and even anger, but they shouldn't be an occasion for despair. As I discuss in The Problem of Democracy, to contest a democratic election is to know that there are no final victories, merely provisional ones. The worst thing about elections is losing, but the best thing about losing is that you live to fight another day -- through the ballot box in the next election. It does require patience, however. It also requires that the losers come to terms with losing and think about how they might win. There is always hope, in other words. This doesn't mean that things will get better, but it does mean that citizens, activists, and political parties have avenues of redress available to them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The End of History and The Last Man and Liberalism and Its Discontents (Pierre Lemieux, Fall 2022, Regulation)

The genesis of the 1992 book was a 1989 essay, titled simply "The End of History," that Fukuyama published in The National Interest. The essay and book appeared at a time of great promise: the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, and China was opening to capitalism and experiencing internal demands for greater liberalization--until Tiananmen Square in 1989.

All this led Fukuyama to observe in The End of History that both "authoritarian states of the Right" and "totalitarian governments of the Left" had failed. With the democratization of many countries in the last part of the 20th century, he saw only capitalism and democracy as the triumphant forms of economic and political organization. It seemed that the whole of human history pointed in the direction of liberal democracy as the only regime consistent with "the nature of man as man."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Assault in Alabama: Revisiting the attack on Nat King Cole. (Thomas Doherty, 22 Jul 2022, Quillette)

It was precisely that cross-racial attraction--and Cole's languid sexuality--that so enraged the guardians of Jim Crow in postwar Dixie. By 1956, the laws and customs that had been inviolate since the Reconstruction era were suddenly threatened by Brown v. Board of Education and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Cole understood that when certain Southern white men "looked at me, they saw the Supreme Court and the NAACP."

The thugs who attacked Cole were members of the North Alabama White Citizens' Council, a kind of civilian auxiliary to the Ku Klux Klan--like the KKK but without the white sheets or burning crosses--what today would be called a domestic terrorist group. Its executive secretary was a charismatic race-baiter named Asa Carter. Though lunatic, Carter was not fringe. He would go on to become an advisor to and speechwriter for Alabama governor George Wallace, penning the immortal phrase Wallace bellowed at his inaugural address in 1963: "Segregation now ... segregation tomorrow ... segregation forever!"

In 1973, proving there are indeed second acts in American life, Carter left Alabama, assumed the alias of Forrest Carter, and remade himself as a successful novelist. He was the author of the source novel for Clint Eastwood's revenge western The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and the fake Indian memoir The Education of Little Tree, published in 1976, a staple of Native American studies courses until the true identity of the author was revealed in 1991. Carter's story is told in The Reconstruction of Asa Carter (2010), a fascinating documentary by Marco Ricci, Douglas Newman, and Laura Browder.

Carter was not part of the gang that assaulted Cole, but he was with them in spirit. He explained that he and his henchmen had attended the Cole concert as part of a study of the mongrel genres of "be-bop and rock and roll music." The attack, Carter shrugged, was really no big deal. "I feel this has all been played out of proportion," he told the Birmingham Post-Herald. "It's nothing more than a fellow got mad and took a swing at a Negro." The copyeditor doubtless cleaned up Carter's actual word choice.

Yet the North Alabama White Citizens' Council was not alone in opposing Cole's presence on the stage in Birmingham. The NAACP and the black press also believed the Jim Crow South was no place for a black entertainer. To comply with local segregation laws by mounting separate shows for black and white audiences or placing black and white audiences in different sections of the venue, with blacks typically relegated to the balcony, only normalized the racist protocols. Performers with biracial appeal faced a tough choice: forgo lucrative Southern gigs or bow before Jim Crow.

Cole decided that, on balance, going South was better than staying away.

November 17, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 10:33 AM


Fading Supply-Chain Problems Signal Season of Plenty for Holiday Shoppers (Austen Hufford and Sharon Terlep, Nov. 17, 2022, WSJ)

Easing supply-chain pressures mean American consumers can look forward to their first normal holiday season in three years, industry executives and analysts say. They project full store shelves--and even deals--as retailers work through gluts in product categories from toys to furniture.

"The script has been flipped," said Steve Pasierb, president of manufacturing group The Toy Association. "From a supply-chain standpoint, it's the opposite of last year."

Posted by orrinj at 10:24 AM


France's plan for solar panels on all car parks is just the start of an urban renewable revolution (Dylan Ryan, 11/17/22, The Conversation)

France has approved legislation that will require all car parks with more than 80 spaces to be covered over by solar panels. This is part of a wider programme that will see solar panels occupy derelict lots, vacant land alongside roads and railways, as well as some farmland.

This is expected to add 11 gigawatts to the French electricity grid equal to ten nuclear reactors.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Law professors urge incoming coalition to reject High Court override law (TOI STAFF and JEREMY SHARON, 11/17/22, Times of Israel)

The proposed bill will "transform the citizens of Israel from citizens with rights, whom the Knesset must respect and the court protects, to those who are subject to the mercy of the political majority at any given moment."

If the bill passes, they said, the Knesset could -- with a simple majority -- impose movement restrictions on people, approve surveillance, ban demonstrations, or harm religious freedom and equality, all without legal supervision and judicial review, according to a Channel 13 report that cited the letter.

The lecturers said their call stemmed from concern for the human rights of all Israeli citizens, and a recognition that, if enacted, the legislation would be hard to walk back.

On Wednesday, an unnamed legal official cited by Channel 13 said the bill could expose Israel's political echelon to legal vulnerabilities abroad.

If the independence of Israel's judiciary is weakened or compromised and its work undermined, Israeli politicians could be opening themselves up to potential investigations in various countries around the world and even international tribunals, said the official.

The warning came as the US Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it was launching an investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, apparently by an Israeli soldier earlier this year. An Israeli military investigation found that she was hit by a bullet likely shot by an Israeli soldier, by mistake. The Palestinian Authority has alleged that she was targeted.

The point is to stop treating certain people like citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Rooftop solar payback set to shrink to three years, thanks to costly coal and gas (Sophie Vorrath, 11/17/22, Renew Economy)

The average payback period for a residential rooftop solar system in Australia is on track to fall by a full year, a new report says, if retail energy prices continue to rise to levels currently being predicted.

In its latest quarterly carbon market report, the Clean Energy Regulator says the pay back period for rooftop solar could drop from four years to three, reinforcing its status as an "excellent investment" for Australian households.

Well, opponents of renewables do deny economics.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Did COVID-19 Kill Republican Midterm Chances? (DAVID THORNTON, NOVEMBER 17, 2022, Ordinary Times)

Back in the early days of the pandemic, there may have been little difference in fatalities between Democrats and Republicans. Masks were an imperfect defense (when medical masks were even available) and even people who were careful could let their guard down at the wrong time.

After the vaccines became available, however, dying of COVID became more of a matter of self-selection. Contrary to what many people listening to Republican media outlets were told, even the initial COVID vaccines were very effective at preventing death or hospitalization. This remained true as the disease mutated into different strains. There is a wealth of data, the CDC charts below are just one example, that shows that those who were vaccinated, especially with a booster, were much less likely to get sick, get hospitalized, or die from COVID than vaccine refuseniks. (If you say, "But what about deaths from vaccines, read the next section.")

The figure is a two-panel line graph illustrating the weekly trends in age-standardized incidence of COVID-19 cases (during April 4-December 25, 2021) and deaths (during April 4-December 4, 2021) for unvaccinated compared with fully vaccinated persons overall and by receipt of booster doses in 25 U.S. jurisdictions as well as the national weighted estimates of variant proportions.
And by this time, getting vaccinated had gotten political. In January 2022, the Kaiser Foundation found that partisan affiliation was the strongest predictor of COVID vaccination status in the US. On average, counties that voted for Biden had a vaccination rate that was more than 10 points higher than counties that voted for Trump.

This may be medical science, but it isn't rocket science. We would expect (unless we buy into anti-vax conspiracy theories) for counties with lower vaccination rates to have higher COVID death rates. That's exactly what the New York Times found when it examined the data.

Blue counties jumped out to an early lead at the onset of the pandemic for obvious reasons. We all remember how coastal cities and states were hit hard in the opening days of the pandemic.

But even before vaccines were introduced, red counties had taken a lead in the death toll. After widespread vaccinations, deaths in red counties continued a meteoric rise while rates slowed in blue and purple counties.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


New Study Gives Medicare Advantage Edge in Quality of Care (Damien Fisher, 11/16/22, NH Journal)

Medicare Advantage provides health care plans offered by approved private coverage providers. Unlike government-run fee-for-service Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans can cover additional services that seniors rely on and depend upon, such as prescription drugs and routine eye and dental care.

The option currently enjoys broad bipartisan support in Washington, with all four members of New Hampshire's federal delegation calling for more support for Medicare Advantage earlier this year. Sen. Maggie Hassan was part of a group of 62 lawmakers who signed off on a letter supporting the program.

"We write to express bipartisan support for the Medicare Advantage program and the high-quality, affordable care it provides to over 27 million older adults and people with disabilities," the letter read, signed by members as ideologically diverse as Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.)

In September, both Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas joined the House of Representatives in passing a bill on a voice vote to make it easier for seniors using MA to get approval for treatment and prescriptions.

Traditional fee-for-service Medicare does not limit seniors' out-of-pocket costs and copays. As a result, beneficiaries pay nearly $2,000 more per year in total healthcare-related costs than those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.

Because Medicare Advantage relies on the private sector, some more progressive politicians oppose the option and have tried to limit its expansion or even kill it entirely. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


In text messages, coordinators of Ron DeSantis' migrant flights to Martha's Vineyard reveled in plotting surprise political stunt (Samantha J. Gross,  November 16, 2022, THE BOSTON GLOBE)

The text messages were punctuated with exclamation points, thumbs-up emojis, and smiley faces. "Yahtzee!" crowed one missive, after a key goal was attained.

Weeks before 49 migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard in a surprise event that thrust Massachusetts into the national spotlight, Florida officials and executives with a Florida-based plane company were on the ground in Texas gleefully exchanging plans to send unassuming migrants to blue states, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

Beyond emojis, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' public safety czar Larry Keefe and others made plans to celebrate their work with "some wine at dinner," according to the documents, released this week as part of a public records request.

Tiny Trump is no different than Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


In text messages, coordinators of Ron DeSantis' migrant flights to Martha's Vineyard reveled in plotting surprise political stunt (Samantha J. Gross,  November 16, 2022, THE BOSTON GLOBE)

The text messages were punctuated with exclamation points, thumbs-up emojis, and smiley faces. "Yahtzee!" crowed one missive, after a key goal was attained.

Weeks before 49 migrants were flown to Martha's Vineyard in a surprise event that thrust Massachusetts into the national spotlight, Florida officials and executives with a Florida-based plane company were on the ground in Texas gleefully exchanging plans to send unassuming migrants to blue states, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

Beyond emojis, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' public safety czar Larry Keefe and others made plans to celebrate their work with "some wine at dinner," according to the documents, released this week as part of a public records request.

Tiny Trump is no different than Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 AM


Trump and His Disinfo Brigade Fall Flat (JACK SHAFER, 11/12/2022, Slate)

In a late 2019 paper, David Karpf, a George Washington University professor of media and public affairs, cut against the grain by downplaying the effects of Russian disinformation on the 2016 election. Disinformation deserves our attention, Karpf concluded, but not our obsession, and that the 2016 Russian efforts had been something of a flop. "Generating social media interactions is easy; mobilizing activists and persuading voters is hard," he wrote.

In one entertaining passage, Karpf illustrates the absurdity of "hacking" the minds of the electorate with digital propaganda. If the psychometric targeting techniques of social media are so effective, surely those sorts of techniques would be used to successfully induce consumers to, for example, purchase gym memberships. But they aren't. So why believe that such targeting could tip federal elections -- which come every two years and therefore are hard to refine -- but not with gym memberships which can be constantly polished?

Continuing in his paper, Karpf points out that disinformation and propaganda have been traditionally blunted by the fact that America has never had a well-informed public. If the public doesn't pay adequate attention to the "truth," do we need to worry that much about their exposure to disinformation?

Talking about disinformation in today's context, Karpf finds good news. "Voters, en masse, didn't buy what Charlie Kirk and company were selling. If Republicans decide that mass disinformation is an electoral disadvantage, that's a step towards the country becoming governable again," he said in an interview. "It's still a little too early to know what shared narratives will emerge from this election, particularly within the Republican Party network."

Other explanations for the 2022 disinfo flop include the muzzling of serial liar Trump. Previously, he could stump from the White House and Twitter. In this election, his message was muted by his ban from the top social media networks and by the neglect of the press, which accords to presidents, not civilians, saturation coverage of their every thought.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 AM


Common Ground: The Founding Era (George W. Carey, October 24th, 2022, Imaginative Conservative)

Single-theory interpretations of the founding era, along with those that picture it in terms of a battle between the forces of good and evil, are now often viewed as presenting only a partial, and sometimes distorted, account. There is increasing awareness that multiple influences and motivations were operating within the founding generation. This awareness produces an even more confusing account of the era, but one that is also probably more faithful to reality.

The colonists clearly sought to preserve the better portions of their English heritage. They had long enjoyed the common law rights and protections that had emerged from the English tradition. To take but one example, Article 39 of the Magna Carta (1215), the foundational document of English liberties, provides: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or banished, or any ways destroyed, nor will we pass upon him, nor will we send upon him, unless by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land." Five centuries later, we find that among the rights listed in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, widely regarded as the Rolls-Royce of the state constitutions adopted after the Declaration of Independence, is the guarantee that "no subject shall be arrested, imprisoned, despoiled . . . or deprived of his life, liberty, or estate; but by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land." Beginning in the middle of the seventeenth century, the phrase "due process" gradually came to replace the expression "law of the land," so that we may say that the origins of the "due process" clauses of the Fifth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, among other liberties we enjoy, are found in the Magna Carta.

The Revolutionary War, many scholars contend, was a "reactionary" revolution in the sense that the colonists were fighting for a restoration of the English liberties that they had once enjoyed during the "benign neglect" period. Edmund Burke, the great English statesman of the founding era who sought reconciliation with the colonies, argued that the colonists' discontent stemmed from the deprivation of liberties to which they had grown accustomed. Certainly their claim of "no taxation without representation" and their protests against illegal searches and seizures and the housing and quartering of troops possessed great weight because they were based on the common law. In fact, many of the grievances against King George III that constitute the bulk of the Declaration of Independence concern Britain's violations of the common law.

If George had only offered us our own Parliament with him as head of state...

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 AM


Revenge of the Never Trumpers (LIAM KERR  NOVEMBER 16, 2022, The Dispatch)

Let's start with the House. In Colorado's 3rd District, Don Coram, a Republican state senator, forced Lauren Boebert to go through a primary challenge. Coram garnered 36 percent of the vote in that primary, then flipped to endorse independent-turned-Democrat Adam Frisch in the general election. The district--which Nate Silver rated as having a 3 percent chance to flip--is still too close to call, with Frisch at 49.8 percent. Because of Never Trump Republican voters.

In Washington's 3rd District (Nate Silver: 2 percent chance of flipping), a cohort of Republicans endorsed Democratic winner Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez and spoke out aggressively against her MAGA opponent.

In California's 41st (Nate Silver: 5 percent chance of flipping), Assemblyman Chad Mayes--who led the GOP in Sacramento just a few years ago--endorsed former Schwarzenegger aide Will Rollins over the incumbent Republican (and Star Wars bar patron) Ken Calvert. Rollins was at 49 percent on the sixth day of vote-counting.

Then there were the ticket-splitters. A merry band of Mike DeWine voters also pulled the lever for Tim Ryan while some former Republican officials crisscrossed Ohio explaining why J.D. Vance wasn't fit for office. While this group wasn't enough to push Ryan over the top, a slate of state legislative candidates rowing in that Republican-recruiting direction helped Democrats win both close House seats (Nate Silver forecast: 16 percent in OH-1, and 19 percent in OH-13).
The odd truth about these midterms is that there actually was a red wave, both in who showed up (there were more Republican voters than Democrats) and in how people voted overall (Republicans will probably win the House popular vote by about 4 points).

It's not revenge; it's recovery.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 AM


The twilight of Nietzsche (PATRICK WEST, 14th November 2022, spiked)

To the acolytes Nietzsche began to attract in the 1890s, he was a prophet. By this time, he had become insane, following a mental collapse in Turin in January 1889. In his followers' eyes, it was precisely this madness that afforded him mystical status. It was held up as proof that he had perceived the hideous reality of mankind's bleak fate, now that he had killed God. As Nietzsche himself had put it: 'If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.' Never mind that his madness may have had a more prosaic origin in syphilis.

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 AM


These Exit Polls Show How Toxic Trump Is Now (DAN MCLAUGHLIN, November 16, 2022, National Review)

The 2022 exit polls examined the national House electorate and 19 Senate and/or governors races across eleven states -- Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Two of the clearest findings across all of these races are that (1) Donald Trump is profoundly unpopular with the people who voted in 2022 and (2) Trump was a fatal drag on many Republican candidates.

On the first point, look at Trump's favorability ratings. He is viewed unfavorably by a solid majority of the midterm voters nationally (by a 19-point margin of 58 percent to 39 percent), and in every state polled, even places such as Texas (52 percent disapproval to 45 percent approval), Ohio (53 percent to 44 percent), and North Carolina (53 percent to 43 percent) that he won two years ago. In Florida and New Hampshire, the polls asked a different question -- whether voters wanted Trump to run again -- and the results were, if anything, more lopsided. (Granted, in Florida, some Ron DeSantis voters may like Trump but want the man of the hour to run in his place). And across the board, the voters who viewed Trump unfavorably voted in vast margins for the Democratic candidates. Outside of Florida and New Hampshire, Mike DeWine in Ohio was the only one of these candidates to get more than 20 percent of the vote from people with an unfavorable view of Trump (DeWine still lost those voters 69 percent to 31 percent). [...]

How much of a drag was Trump's unpopularity on Republican midterm candidates? The natural dynamic of midterms -- the reason why we so often see them benefit the party out of power -- is that the elections are about the president, who is frequently unpopular at that juncture (as is true of Joe Biden). Yet, the exit polls asked whether voters were voting to support or oppose Trump -- and close to half said that they were. Republicans got massacred with those voters, denying them what might otherwise have been a historic landslide. In the generic House vote, for example, Joe Biden was quite unpopular (56 percent disapproval to 41 percent approval), although not quite as unpopular as Trump. At first glance, it might seem that Biden was the bigger problem. Democrats got just 14 percent of the voters who disapproved of Biden, while Republicans got 20 percent of the voters who disapproved of Trump. Among voters who disapproved of both men, Republicans won 57 percent to 40 percent. But normally, a midterm wouldn't involve a competing unpopular figure from the other party.

A key question: Twenty-eight percent of voters said they were casting their ballots to oppose Trump, while only 16 percent said they were casting votes to support Trump. Thus, the anti-Trump voters outnumbered the pro-Trump voters by 75 percent. If you run the numbers, Democrats won 59.3 percent of the combined vote of the two groups. If both groups had stayed home, by contrast, the remaining 58 percent of voters who said that Trump was not a factor in their vote broke 58 percent to 40 percent for Republicans -- a whopping 18-point win that would have satisfied even the wildest fantasies of the Big Red Tsunami.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Primacy of Liberty (Juliana Geran Pilon, 11/16/22, Law & Liberty)

[A]ccording to Gertrude Himmelfarb in The Roads to Modernity,] The British, French, and American Enlightenments, "took a form very different from that of its counterpart on the continent." For while the Scots like Adam Smith and David Hume acknowledged that reason is common to all human beings, it was the virtues of benevolence and sympathy "which, the British believed, naturally, instinctively, habitually bound people to each other. They did not deny reason; they were by no means irrationalists. But they gave reason a secondary, instrumental role." Or as she put it elsewhere, "[w]here the British idea of compassion lent itself to a variety of practical, meliorative policies to relieve social problems, the French appeal to reason could be satisfied with nothing less than the 'regeneration' of man." Whereas the French were engaging in Platonic republic-building, the practical Brits were working with humans as they were, not as they might be.

This was even more true of the Scots. For while they agreed with Locke regarding the centrality of the individual in political life, the universality of rights, and the need to protect the rule of law against illegitimate government power, no matter how putatively well-intentioned, they put greater faith in common sense. Ultimately, the combined Anglo-Saxon contribution to the American experience exceeded that of the French. Had it been otherwise, wrote Himmelfarb, "Americans could have injected into their Revolution a larger utopian mission, rather than the pragmatic, cautious temper conspicuous in The Federalist and the Constitution." A great admirer of Lord Acton, she agreed with his view of the American revolutionist as the true liberal. He is someone who "stakes his life, his fortune, the existence of his family," wrote Lord Acton, "not to resist the intolerable reality of oppression, but the remote possibility of wrong, of diminished freedom." The American Constitution was unique in being both democratic and liberal: "It was democracy in its highest perfection, armed and vigilant, less against aristocracy and monarchy than against its own weakness and excess.... It resembled no other known democracy, for it respected freedom, authority, and law."

Lord Acton had disdained the French revolutionaries whose notorious "passion for equality made vain the hope of freedom." He advocated semantic vigilance. For "[i]f hostile interests have wrought much injury," he wrote in The History of Freedom in Antiquity, "false ideas [about liberty] have wrought still more." Lord Acton was prepared to offer a proper definition: "By liberty I mean the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion." Ideally, such an assurance should be provided to every human being, unqualifiedly. A just state will do that; but whether that assurance is effective depends on prudent statecraft. Going one step beyond Aristotle, Lord Acton offered an objective criterion: "The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities."

Foremost among those minorities are the Jews, whom Lord Acton praised for their moral and political acumen. He credited "the Chosen People [with providing] the first illustrations of a federated government, held together not on physical force, but on a voluntary covenant. The principle was carried out not only in each tribe, but in every group of at least 120 families; and there was neither privilege of rank nor inequality before the law." Their example, alongside the American experiment, thus offers a useful lesson. "[T]he parallel lines on which all freedom has been won," wrote Acton, are clear: "the doctrine of national tradition and the doctrine of the higher law; the principle that a constitution grows from a root, by process of development, and not of essential change; and the principle that all political authority must be tested and reformed according to a code which was not made by man."

November 16, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


Russia enters recession as GDP shrinks by 4% (TRT World, 11/16/22)

Russia has entered a recession, nine months after launching its offensive in Ukraine as Western sanctions weigh on the economy, according to official data.

Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shrank four percent in the third quarter, according to a preliminary estimate by the national statistics agency Rosstat published on Wednesday.

And that's even with them lying.
Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Gulf states splurged on Trump hotel rooms during Qatar blockade 'lobbying blitz' (Simon Hooper, 16 November 2022, Middle Easy Eye)

Newly released documents reveal the extent of rival Gulf states' spending at Donald Trump's Washington DC hotel as they sought to influence the US president at the height of the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar.

The documents are set to raise fresh questions about Trump's dealings with Gulf states, and whether he sought to profit from those relationships, as he announced on Tuesday that he would run again for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

They show that the governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates spent more money than previously known at the Trump Hotel in Washington DC at the same time as all three Gulf states were publicly lobbying for Trump's support during the blockade. 

The documents were released this week by a congressional committee that obtained them as part of an investigation into whether Trump distorted US foreign policy to serve his own financial interests during his 2017-2021 presidency.

So ong as they oppress their populations they didn't even need to bribe him for support, but he'll always take cash.
Posted by orrinj at 11:33 AM


Federal judge blocks Title 42 rule that allowed expulsion of migrants at US-Mexico border, puts order on hold for 5 weeks (Priscilla Alvarez and Tierney Sneed, 11/16/22, CNN)

Sullivan faulted the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which issued the public health order, for "its decision to ignore the harm that could be caused" by issuing the policy. He said the CDC also failed to consider alternative approaches, such as letting migrants self-quarantine in homes of US-based friends, family, or shelters. The agency, he said, should have reexamined its approach when vaccines and tests became widely available.

"With regard to whether defendants could have 'ramped up vaccinations, outdoor processing, and all other available public health measures,'... the court finds the CDC failed to articulate a satisfactory explanation for why such measures were not feasible," Sullivan wrote.

The judge also concluded that the policy did not rationally serve its purpose, given that Covid-19 was already widespread throughout the United States when the policy was rolled out.

"Title 42 was never about public health, and this ruling finally ends the charade of using Title 42 to bar desperate asylum seekers from even getting a hearing," American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, who argued the case, said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 10:59 AM


The GOP had terrible Senate candidates and it really did sink them: Mitch McConnell was right. (Andrew Prokop, 11/16/22, VOX)

Senate candidate quality, as compared to the national environment

Another context worth keeping in mind is the national one -- that all these candidates were running in a year when the national popular vote appears to have shifted from favoring Democrats to favoring Republicans.

In 2020, Democrats won the House of Representatives popular vote by 3 percentage points. This year, Republicans are currently leading it by 4.5 points, though that margin will shrink as California tallies more votes. We don't know what the final number will be, but let's be conservative and assume the national environment shifted four points in favor of Republicans, as compared to 2020.

With that baseline, every Republican in a competitive Senate race underperformed because no one managed to improve on Trump's margin by four points. (Budd in North Carolina, who improved the most, only did so by 2.2 percentage points.)

Yet that doesn't necessarily mean all the GOP nominees were bad candidates. Perhaps it points to a broader problem with the party's brand that made voters in all these states hesitant to grant that party control of the Senate. Then, perhaps, some candidates did better than others in dealing with that constraint.

Senate candidate quality, as compared to GOP governor nominees

Still, a national popular vote shift might be a misleading baseline because there were some very different trends in different states. In particular, Republicans sharply improved in New York and Florida, two populous states that affect the nationwide vote count significantly, but the GOP made more limited gains elsewhere.

So another potentially useful comparison is to check how Republican Senate candidates in competitive races did compared to their own party's governor nominees in 2022.

Here we see that in five of these seven contests with a governor's race on the ballot (there was none in North Carolina), the GOP's Senate candidates did worse.

Posted by orrinj at 10:52 AM


The House Rules Committee holds a historic hearing today on whether to honor a 1835 treaty and seat a delegate from the Cherokee Nation.  (Politico, 11/16/22)

The House Rules Committee hears testimony Wednesday on whether to follow through on a nearly 200-year-old treaty promising the Cherokee Nation a non-voting delegate in the U.S. Congress.

"No constitutional or prudential barrier prevents the House from complying with its treaty obligation, and seating the delegate would be consistent with the text of the Constitution, with House's precedents, and historical practice dating back to the Founding era."

-- Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in his opening statement

Some background here: The Treaty of New Echota, which catalyzed the forcible removal of tribal members on the Trail of Tears, says the Cherokee "shall be entitled to a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make provision for the same." The Senate ratified the agreement in 1836 and President Andrew Jackson signed it into law, but the delegate has never been seated.

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 AM


QAnon Is Not Very Happy With Trump's 2024 Announcement (David Gilbert, November 16, 2022, Vice News)

Not only did he invite QAnon influencers to attend the event at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, Trump repeated several QAnon dog whistles during the 70-minute long speech, including multiple references to the storm, a well-known trope within the conspiracy movement. But while influential adherents to the movement were thrilled, most QAnon-ers posting on Telegram last night, in fact, reacted angrily to Trump's announcement. This could be a worrying sign for Trump's 2024 campaign, coupled with the growing resentment against the former president inside the Republican party after major GOP midterm election losses.

Certainly, the response among the major figures within QAnon, a group of influencers and grifters who have driven the movement in recent years, was almost universally positive. "Make NO mistake...President Trump is absolutely UNSHAKABLE," an influencer known as QAnon John wrote on his popular Telegram channel, adding: "That's WHY God picked him."

 Jordan Sather, a QAnon influencer who uses his popularity within the movement to shill vitamin supplements, also hyped Trump's return. Sather was actually in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom for the announcement and excitedly wrote on Telegram that during lunch earlier in the day Trump had passed his table and gave the group a thumbs up.

But for rank-and-file QAnon supporters, who have spent the last two years loudly voicing their anger at having the 2020 election stolen, the announcement was a bitter blow. The majority, who voiced their opinions on Telegram channels and fringe message boards, viewed Trump's speech as a tacit admission that the 2020 election wasn't stolen.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 8:29 AM


Benny Carter - Princeton Concerts (and Beyond)


Robin's Nest:

Those of you who read these All That Jazz posts know that one of my great heroes (both for his music and for his personal qualities) is Benny Carter (1907-2003). 

Recently, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem issued this 8-volume collection of never-before-released Carter concerts recorded between 1973 and 1997.  In addition to Benny's great playing, these concerts also feature jazz great such as Dizzy Gillespie, Hank Jones, Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, Barry Harris and Bucky Pizzarelli. More information can be found on the Museum's website.

These recordings, which are available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and the other major streaming services, and are in the process of being uploaded to YouTube (volumes 1-3 posted as I write this).

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Trump destroyed the guardrails against antisemitism -- and there's no going backWe used to ostracize public figures for even loose affiliations with antisemitism. Those days are long gone (Larry Cohler-Esses, November 11, 2022, The Forward)

For me, the reality that the fences might no longer hold first hit home in 2017, nearly 30 years after I marveled at the Bush campaign's quick reaction to my earlier story. That year, with a feeling of history repeating itself, I exposed the antisemitic associations of Sebastian Gorka, President Trump's White House counterterrorism advisor. 

This time, however, despite high gates and physical fortifications, the White House had no fences around it.

Gorka himself never said anything antisemitic that I, or my journalistic partner, Lili Bayer, could find. This was a point I tried to stress at the time. 

But few seemed to catch the nuance: What Gorka represented -- metaphorically -- was the breach of the fence around the White House that had stood from the rise of Hitler in 1933 until the Trump administration.

Until Trump, no one could get anywhere near a U.S. president's ear if they had sworn allegiance to an organization classified as a Nazi-allied group, written regularly for an infamous anti-Semitic newspaper, launched a political party with the former head of a neo-Nazi organization, or voiced support for a racist vigilante militia organized by that same organization.

That Gorka -- an immigrant who came to America from Hungary -- had never himself uttered an antisemitic word would have been deemed laughably irrelevant in any previous administration. A healthy concern about guilt by association -- in a positive guise here -- forced anyone with political, social or business ambitions to ensure that their affiliations remained above reproach when it came to antisemitism.

Set aside for a moment the endless debates about remarks by Donald Trump that play on classic antisemitic tropes, such as dual loyalty. No less important is the fence he dismantled that prevented anyone around the president -- never mind the president himself -- from saying anything that smacked of anti-Jewish prejudice; or from even from affiliating with entities that did so.

In the end, Gorka was dismissed from his post in August 2017. But antisemitism wasn't the reason, according to insider accounts at the time; rather, it was Gorka's sheer incompetence.

Today, I see Gorka as the pioneer who first breached the fence through which so many others have now followed. But it's business leaders and other politicians who pose the real problem. They have taken their cue from Trump by lowering or even dismantling that fence themselves. Antisemitism, unfortunately, will always be with us. It's reconstructing those fences that will pose the real challenge in the years ahead.

No one hates just Mexicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Dirt-cheap solar evaporation could provide soil pollution solution  (SPX, Nov 14, 2022)

A UniSA-led team including Associate Professor Haolan Xu and Dr Gary Owens has developed a new remediation technique that uses a super-efficient solar evaporation surface to draw water from the soil through a sponge-like filter that traps contaminants, mimicking the process of transpiration that occurs in natural plants, but at a greatly accelerated rate.

"Plants naturally draw mineral components out of the soil when they move water from their roots into their stems, leaves and flowers, where those mineral components are trapped," Dr Owens says.

"This means plants can be used to extract contaminants from soil, but the process is very, very slow, often taking multiple growing seasons, particularly in heavily contaminated situations, where the soil toxicity means the plants struggle to grow and often die.

"We have created a system that mimics this process - a form of biomimetic plant - but one that does so at a much faster rate and without any of the problems caused by toxicity."

Worldwide, more than 10 million sites are considered soil polluted, with more than half contaminated by heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, or metalloids such as arsenic.

The new system can remove such contaminants in as little as two weeks by using a super-efficient solar evaporation surface to rapidly draw water and contaminants from the soil into the biomimetic plant body.

"The solar evaporator used in this system is a variation of technology we are developing for many purposes, including desalination and wastewater purification," Assoc Prof Xu says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Christian Origins of Free Market Thought: Early thinkers sought to turn religious self-interest into a counterbalance to earthly greed (JACOB SOLL, OCTOBER 24, 2022, Tablet)

The Scottish Franciscan monk and Scholastic philosopher John Duns Scotus took a more nuanced view of pricing than Aquinas, proposing that prices came neither from balanced exchange nor from moral rules. Rather, he believed they came from a freely working secular market process. Private property was not the purview of the Church, which was ill-equipped to understand all the market activities that went into creating value. As Scotus saw it, prices came from quantity and the value of labor and expertise. To understand a price, one had to take into account "diligence, prudence, care, as well as the risk one accepts in doing such business." Therefore, it was very difficult for churchmen to calculate market prices. And because this was the case, it was equally difficult for Franciscans to be sure that they were truly obeying their vow of poverty. To keep their vows, they needed to consult with merchants and those expert in secular market prices.

This meant that Franciscans began thinking about market mechanics in a theoretical way before even merchants. As it happened, Franciscans often came from well-educated, commercial backgrounds, which meant that some had a particular awareness of the workings of commerce and pricing.

Franciscan leaders and sympathizers came to believe that the way to manage the vow of poverty was to more carefully codify it. The Franciscan theologian Saint Bonaventure's Constitutions of Narbonne (1260) was a detailed analysis of wealth and poverty meant to create strict rules to hold Franciscans to their vows. One of the most important areas of inquiry was clothing, a prominent sign of wealth in Italy where cloth production was at the center of its flourishing economy. Saint Francis himself considered clothing a material impediment to poverty, and a sign of riches. The rules of the Constitutions thus decreed that each brother own only one tunic, even going so far as to specify what a friar should do if a tunic fell apart, for instance, or if one had to use pieces of other cloth to repair it.

In 1286, the Franciscan Order began to examine how books--vellum manuscripts, which were very expensive--could be viewed not as valuables, but purely as tools of learning. The Franciscans calculated that an expensive book, if it was used for strictly utilitarian spiritual purposes, was not an object of wealth within the strict economy of the order. Thus, a layman could give books as gifts to individual monks or monasteries, but the institutional leader or custodian would have to decide who could actually use them, and to what ends.

Pope Nicholas III (tenure 1277-1280) defended the Franciscan vow, which he believed had been proved valid by the examples of so many pious members of the order. In his Exiit qui seminat (Confirmation of the Rules of the Friars Minor) of 1279, he came up with a revolutionary approach to realizing the vow of poverty. Franciscans could not break their vow, Pope Nicholas maintained, because the pope was the actual owner of all Franciscan property, meaning that the Franciscans themselves never actually "owned" anything. But Nicholas went further, using market valuation to explain that, even if the Franciscans had goods and property at their disposal, the value of these assets was not inherent, but dependent on where, why, and how friars used them. Each thing's value changed according to its practical and spiritual utility. The abdication of property, Nicholas insisted, did "not seem to lead to a renunciation of the use of things in every case." The value of objects, he explained, comes from "places and seasons," and according to specific duties. "Science requires study," he noted, and this exercise was impossible without the use of books. Nicholas thought that religious authorities could oversee this valuation process not only to make sure that Franciscans owned things only out of necessity, but also to lighten their fears of breaking their vows. With his decree, Pope Nicholas embraced a belief in market mechanisms in order to solve this conflict within the Church.

That same year, a French Franciscan, Peter John Olivi, wrote Usus pauper--a work on the restricted use of goods within the vow of poverty--in which he specifically addressed the question of how to keep the vow while owning worldly things. Olivi created some of the earliest, most innovative concepts of specific self-regulating market mechanisms. Olivi was originally from Montpellier, and spent time in both Florence, Italy, and Narbonne, a city of 30,000 people in Provence. This placed him in the center of the Mediterranean world of commerce where Franciscans often worked as confessors to merchants. Having served in Nicholas III's papal administration, Olivi sought to defend the Franciscan vow and, to this end, created the first theory of the law of diminishing marginal utility, by which a good loses value as access to, and consumption of it, increases. Olivi said that if people used things "generally" or "conventionally" it would affect their value. The more available something is, the less it is worth. Commodities like oil and vegetables, produced in great quantity for a great number of people and obtained "with ease," are worth less than rarer products.

Utility and value were based on the number of those who benefit from a product. If hundreds of people had access to something, it was not of great worth. Olivi claimed if something were so rare than only one person owned it--a rare manuscript, or a jewel--then its scarcity made it precious. Olivi noted that "durability," too, affected price. With foodstuffs, for example, freshness was a key factor as recently harvested food was more valuable than older "corrupted" products which rapidly lost value. Longevity mattered too. Storable goods like grain were also worth more. Things like clothing, or houses, were more lasting, and their value had to be calculated according to their durability. What this meant is that no single authority could assign or fix a fair price to something.

Olivi's concept that utility and not morality created value was a challenge to the Church and even to secular authorities that had for so long seen it as their role to judge such things. Add to this, Olivi had also critiqued Saint Augustine's idea that human cognition relied on divine illumination, insisting instead that judgment in the human mind comes from free will. This idea took agency away from God and the Church and centered it more on the individual. This was too much for the leaders of the Church and especially for the powerful doctors of the University of Paris, who declared Olivi's thought heretical. Authorities brought him before a tribunal of seven Franciscan judges in Paris, who condemned him, ruining his chances of teaching there.

Olivi eventually cleared his name, however, managing to win a teaching position in Narbonne, and in 1293 wrote what is arguably one of the most visionary works of economic theory of the Middle Ages, his Treatise on Contracts. In it, he insisted that churchmen could not understand pricing, and thus needed to rely on secular merchant "experts" to illuminate the workings of the market. One of his main concerns was that if people did not understand contracts, they could not understand their sins. This was also true for Franciscans who, in their administrative duties, inevitably had to sign contracts while keeping their vow of total poverty. Olivi was also worried his brethren could be damned if they could not effectively describe their failings to keep their vow in confession--without economic expertise they could not confess to sin. Thus, it was essential to understand contracts both in order to manage one's vow, but also to confess to having broken it.

Olivi believed that only the "judgments" of the merchant "community" could fairly establish prices, for only they knew the relationship between "goods and services" and the demands of "the common good." Olivi believed that honest and accurate business decisions were the causal spark of market mechanisms. Of course, merchants were not always honest and Olivi never explained if fraud could also drive markets. Still, he did have the insight to understand that businessmen knew the value of labor in a specific market, and that this value could be added into prices. He reminded his readers that traveling for business was dangerous, and required significant background knowledge. Merchants had to know their trade routes, not to mention the customs and currencies of the foreign countries they dealt with. Long-distance commerce also entailed serious capital investment and risk.

Nearly 900 years before Karl Marx, Olivi was the first thinker to discuss the market concept of capital. Money lacked intrinsic value, he observed, "because money alone, by itself, is not lucrative." Value came, rather, "through the activity of merchants in their business dealings." He saw money as capital for future investment, whose value could grow, but this value was uncertain and subject to the skill of merchants and their decision-making, along with the more diffuse dynamics of the market. A new age dawned that called for a theory of wealth creation for wealth creation's sake.

Then you just apply the same theory to religion and politics and authoritarianism is over.

November 15, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 AM


November 14, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/14/22, Letters from an American)

While many of us have been focusing on events here at home, the outcome of the election had huge implications for foreign policy. As today's column by conservative columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post notes, "Republicans lost the election--and so did [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, MBS [Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman], and [former/incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu." 

Autocrats and hard-right leaders liked Trump at the head of the U.S. government, for he was far more inclined to operate transactionally on the basis of financial benefits, while Biden and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, have advanced a foreign policy based on democratic values. Leaders like MBS have ignored Biden or denigrated him, expecting that a reelected Trump in 2024 would revert to the system they preferred. Now those calculations have hit a snag.

Indeed, Russia put its bots and trolls back to work before the election to weaken Biden in the hope that a Republican Congress would cut aid to Ukraine, as Republican leaders had suggested they would. The Russian army is in terrible trouble in Ukraine, and its best bet for a lift is for the international coalition the U.S. anchors to fall apart. Russian propagandists suggested that Putin suppressed news that the Russians were withdrawing from the Ukrainian city of Kherson until after the election to avoid giving the Democrats a boost in the polls.  

Today, Secretary of State Blinken announced more sanctions against Russian companies and individuals, in Russia and abroad, "to disrupt Russia's military supply chains and impose high costs on President Putin's enablers." Director of the CIA William Burns met recently in Turkey with his Russian counterpart to convey "a message on the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons" and "the risks of escalation," but said the U.S. is firmly behind "our fundamental principle: nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine."  

Also today, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a resolution saying that Russia's invasion of Ukraine violated international law and that Russia must pay war reparations. In Germany and Poland, the governments separately announced they were taking over natural gas companies that had been tied to Russia's huge energy company, Gazprom, in order to guarantee energy supplies to their people.  

On Friday, November 11, Biden spoke at the United Nations climate change conference in Egypt. He was the only leader of a major polluting nation to go to the meeting, and there he stressed U.S. leadership, pointing to the Inflation Reduction Act's $370 billion investment in the U.S. shift to clean energy and other climate-positive changes. Also on Friday, his administration announced it would use the U.S. government's buying power to push suppliers toward climate-positive positions. Protesters called attention to how little the U.S. has done for poorer countries harmed by climate change that has been caused by richer countries. 

From Egypt, the president traveled to Cambodia for a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. In the past year, the U.S. has announced more than $250 million in new initiatives with ASEAN, investing especially in infrastructure in an apparent attempt to disrupt China's dominance of the region by supporting counterweights in the region. The U.S. is now elevating the cooperation with ASEAN to a comprehensive strategic partnership to support a rules-based Indo-Pacific region, maritime cooperation, economic and technological cooperation, and sustainable development. "ASEAN is the heart of my administration's Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to strengthen our commitment to work in lockstep with an empowered, unified ASEAN," Biden said.

While in Cambodia, Biden also met with Japanese prime minister Kishida Fumio and reinforced the U.S. "ironclad commitment to the defense of Japan" after North Korea's recent ballistic missile tests. Biden and Kishida reiterated their plan to strengthen and modernize the relationship between the U.S. and Japan to "address threats to the free and open Indo-Pacific." 

From there, Biden traveled to Bali, Indonesia, for a meeting of the G20, a forum of 19 countries and the European Union comprising countries that make up most of the nation's largest economies. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Once in a generation:" Gladstone plans pivot from fossil fuels to renewables in Australia first (Rachel Williamson 15 November 2022, Renew Economy)

The port city of Gladstone - long a centre of fossil fuel production and exports - has unveiled a ground-breaking 10-year roadmap plotting a future based around renewables and green hydrogen to replace the fossil fuel exports it has built its economy on.

The regional council's 10-year energy transition roadmap - a first for the country - outlines five other areas which could move it towards what it calls the "new economy", and renewables and green hydrogen are the pillars that makes the most of the city's current export infrastructure.

The plan is the result of a two year project with the regional economic development agency, The Next Economy, and included engagement with 220 community, government and industry stakeholders.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Narcissism and Fraudulence: Intensive con artistry may be a narcissistic strategy for the avoidance of self-knowledge. (Anthony Eagan, 12 Nov 2022, Quillette)

One of the strangest examples of this more pathological type of con artist is Tania Head, the woman who claimed to have been in the Sky Lobby on the 76th floor of the South World Trade Center Tower when the second plane struck. Together with an actual 9/11 survivor named Gerry Bogacz, Tania Head formed the WTC Survivors Network, a sort of trauma-support system. Eventually, she squeezed Bogacz from the board and maneuvered herself to the position of president. She gave guided tours at ground zero, telling groups and even the media of her harrowing experience: how she was thrown across the room from the explosive impact; how she emerged from unconsciousness to find Welles Crowther, the famous man in the red bandana, patting out the fire scorching her arm; how she was carried to safety just before the second tower collapsed; how a fireman guided her under a truck to avoid the falling rubble; and how she slipped into a coma only to awaken five days later in a hospital bed. She also told of how her husband, Dave, had been killed when the first tower collapsed, making her a double-victim.

The documentary The Woman Who Wasn't There chronicles Head's rise to prominence in the world of 9/11 survivors and her fall from fraudulent grace. In many of the film's interviews, we see her former friends and companions discussing how integral she had been in comforting them and helping them through the trauma, how compassionate she was, how strong and supportive and admirable. Over time, however, as Head grew more ruthless in her victimhood, her façade began to crack. Bogacz and others grew increasingly suspicious, and a series of articles and inquiries led to the discovery of the truth that Tania Head was unmarried and living in Barcelona on September 11th, 2001. When the planes struck, she was some 4,000 miles from ground zero. She never profited financially from her manipulations, nor did she appear to harbor any resentment towards victims of the terrorist attack--to the contrary, she seemed to long for the community her duplicity provided, and, clearly, she wished to be a leader of that community.

What if con artists of her inclination, who operate neither from umbrage nor for financial gain, fail to remember that their elaborate construction is untrue? What if the sham itself is an act of forgetting, one that, to put it another way, requires memory but interferes with accurate recollection? In constructing falsehoods of such magnitude, the imagination and the memory coalesce, and in order to avoid betraying the lie, the con artist is required to work up a wealth of detail both subtle and intricate, one that is founded on seized minutiae from a life not her own.

Counterintuitively, in fact, this work of forgetting may be the originating purpose of the deception: not a mere by-product of the urge to swindle, but an unconscious strategy to avoid enduring one's own problematic inner depths. The perspective of such massive dishonesty impedes proper self-knowledge because it neglects the true contents of personality--which is to say that it remembers from a false starting point, and in so doing, occludes recollection of one's substantial reality as an individual in pain. The mental energy required to hold the fabricated structure in place allows the fraud to escape the often distressing ordeal of self-awareness.

A 2020 television series entitled The Undoing plays with these issues. Based on the novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz, the series stars Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser, a pediatric oncologist accused of murdering his mistress with a sculpting hammer. Nicole Kidman plays his wife, Grace, a clinical psychologist. Throughout, Grace struggles with the question of whether her husband is capable of such violence. One of the issues concerns the idea of her husband's potentially pathological narcissism: a self-infatuation and lack of empathy so absolute that, essentially, he has no conscience, no qualms about ending the life of another human with maximum brutality. Is it possible that this man whom Grace has loved and trusted for so long has successfully concealed his sociopathy from her, when after all she is trained in diagnosing such disorders? If her husband is guilty--and all the evidence suggests as much--how is it that she never penetrated beyond his superficiality in order to see the moral vacuum within?

The suspense the series generates hinges around this question, since it reveals the contradiction that, in her own sub-clinical narcissism, Grace Fraser is perhaps more likely to be duped than a woman untrained in clinical psychology. Her strong belief that she is a good psychologist interferes with her willingness to admit that she might have mistakenly married and remained devoted to a man who for all these years has managed to conceal his extreme self-absorption, hollowness, and indifference to the feelings and emotions of other human beings.

But The Undoing raises an even deeper psychological contradiction embedded within the concept of narcissistic personality disorder. The contradiction is best described by Otto Kernberg in his book Borderline Conditions and Pathological Narcissism. In what would amount to an almost picture-perfect description of Hugh Grant's character, Kernberg writes:

I describe patients with narcissistic personalities as presenting excessive self-absorption usually coinciding with superficially smooth and effective social adaptation, but with serious distortions in their internal relationships with other people. They present various combinations of intense ambitiousness, grandiose fantasies, feelings of inferiority, and overdependence on external admiration and acclaim. Along with feelings of boredom and emptiness, and continuous search for gratification of strivings for brilliance, wealth, power, and beauty, there are serious deficiencies in their capacity to love and to be concerned about others. This lack of capacity for empathic understanding of others often comes as a surprise considering their superficially appropriate social adjustment.

That final sentence in Kernberg's description highlights a compelling question. If the pathological narcissist lacks empathy, how is he is able to adjust so well socially, to gain the confidence of others by fooling them into the belief that he is loving and compassionate, and even to seduce others into a devoted reciprocal relationship? If long-term social adjustment requires sensitivity to the emotions of others, if an enduring erotic relationship requires mutual understanding and a nuanced responsiveness to the physical and emotional needs of a partner, then how is a pathological narcissist able to pull off such relations? How does the narcissist dupe his spouse, children, colleagues, and friends into the belief that he is caring and compassionate, perhaps even selfless, when in fact the opposite is true?

There's nothing more American than our desire to see people who completely lack empathy for others as ill, rather than evil.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Katie Hobbs wins race for Arizona governor, defeating GOP election denier Kari Lake, NBC News projects (Dan Mangan, 11/14/22, CNBC)

"Democracy is worth the wait," Hobbs said in a tweet after her victory was projected. "Thank you, Arizona. I am so honored and so proud to be your next Governor."

Most of the results were simply edifying; this one's hilarious.  She was their great white supremacist hope.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

60-40 NATION:

American voters move back to the centre -- as they always do (Dov. S. Zakheim, 11/14/22, The Article)

In fact, as the elections last week--and the results that continue to trickle in--have demonstrated, America remains what it has been for some time: a country of moderates, whether of the Left or the Right. No doubt Americans, like other nations, have their paroxysms of extremism, such as Prohibition in the 1920s, or Trumpism a century later. Yet the political pendulum always moves back to the centre, and if the major political parties show an inclination to remain in thrall to their extremes, the people vote for divided government to ensure that the radicals do not have their way. Moreover, it is for good reason that the largest contemporary American political grouping is neither Democratic nor Republican, but what are known as "Independents".

Americans demonstrated in 2012 and again in 2016 that they could elect and re-elect a Black president. Yet in 2016 when Democrats offered the electorate the widely disliked Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate, who managed to be perceived as both a far more Left-oriented politician than her centrist husband, and yet so elitist that she could dismiss working-class Americans as a "basket of deplorables," voters opted instead for that bumptious, self-centred, bigoted outsider Donald Trump. In turn, Trump's antics, his defiance of presidential and legal norms and his lording over the Republican party proved too much for voters in 2020. They instead chose Joe Biden, whom they perceived to be soothingly centrist, and they followed up in last week's elections by handing the Republicans the worst defeat in mid-term elections that any out-of-office party has suffered since the 1930s.

It is not clear, however, that the extremists of either party will absorb the lessons of November.

The Left is the Right and America is neither.

November 14, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


White Texas Teacher Fired After Being Caught on Video Saying His Race Is 'Superior' (Anya Zoledziowski, November 14, 2022, Vice News)

A Texas teacher was fired after videos of him telling his racially diverse class that he is "racist" and "ethnocentric" went viral on social media.

In one of the videos, the white teacher told his class, "Deep down in my heart I'm ethnocentric, which means I think my race is the superior one."

The result is a back and forth between students and the teacher, with students repeatedly expressing shock. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


QAnon Lost the Midterms (David Gilbert, November 14, 2022, Vice News)

QAnon supporters had hoped that a coalition of election-denying candidates for secretary of state and governor, which was organized by a major QAnon influencer, would sweep to power in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona, and as a result would help get former President Donald Trump reinstalled in 2024.

But with most of the votes now counted, it looks like just a single minor member of that coalition--Indiana's Secretary of State-elect Diego Morales--will take office in January.

The coalition's leader, Jim Marchant, lost to Democratic rival Cisco Aguilar in his bid to become Nevada's top election official. The Associated Press has called that race, but Marchant has yet to concede. 

As recently as last month, Marchant had indicated his willingness to "fix" the 2024 election to ensure that Trump won.

In neighboring Arizona, Oath Keeper Mark Finchem, a fellow secretary of state candidate and key member of the America First coalition, narrowly lost out to Democrat Adrian Fontes. Like Marchant, Finchem has yet to concede, instead posting on his Twitter account more baseless conspiracies about "voter suppression" and "ballot harvesting" while labeling the media reporting his loss as "fake news."

Meanwhile Kari Lake, the former TV anchor who is also a member of the coalition, looks to have lost her bid to become Arizona governor, losing out to current Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

..Kari Lake was their future.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP's Chavez-DeRemer flips Oregon 5th Congressional District (AP, 11/14/22) 

Chavez-DeRemer's victory makes her the first Latina congresswoman from Oregon, a distinction also sought by 6th District Democratic candidate Andrea Salinas. That race remained too early to call.

The district was previously held for seven terms by moderate Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader and was targeted by the GOP, which saw the 5th as vulnerable after the long-time incumbent's primary defeat by progressive candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner.

Purging moderates is electoral suicide.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pence: Trump 'endangered me and my family' (DAVID COHEN, 11/13/2022, Politico)

Former Vice President Mike Pence said then-President Donald Trump "endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building" with his words and actions during the Jan. 6 riot in 2021.

Pence's statement came during an interview with ABC's David Muir, parts of which were released Sunday and parts of which are to be released Monday.

Geez, now you know this election castrated Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Former Yancoal mine to be first test site for Australian gravity storage technology (Rachel Williamson 14 November 2022, Renew Economy)

An Australian storage start-up, Green Gravity, has announced the first test site for its gravity energy storage system (GESS) which will use up to 30-tonnes of steel coil lowered into vertical mine shafts.

Green Gravity and Yancoal have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to run a pre-feasibility study looking at whether and how the technology might work in decommissioned ventilation shafts, starting with the closed Austar mine in NSW. The study is expected to finish in 2023.

The study will also consider the tech's potential for working in the NSW grid as a long duration energy storage provider.

November 13, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM

60-40 NATION:

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


Molten salt reactors could save nuclear power (Kristin Houser, 11/13/22, Big Think)

In the 1950s, U.S. researchers started exploring the concept of molten salt reactors, which use molten salt -- salt that's solid at room temperature, but liquid at high temperatures -- in place of water as the material transferring the heat and keeping the fuel at a stable temperature.

The type of salt proposed for these reactors remains liquid at temperatures as high as 2,500° F -- without any pressurization. That higher temperature would increase the reactor's efficiency and generate more electricity, while the lack of pressurization would reduce the risk of a leak.

The nuclear fuel can't melt if it's already liquid.

Instead of solid fuel rods, separate from the water that transports the heat, some molten salt reactor designs call for the fuel to be dissolved in the molten salt itself.

This eliminates the risk of a meltdown -- the fuel can't melt if it's already liquid -- and if there was a leak, any salt and fuel that escaped would rapidly solidify into rock as it cooled. This would be easier to clean up than the radioactive water or steam released if a pressurized water reactor leaks.

Molten salt reactor designs also include a safety feature called a "freeze valve" or "freeze plug." This plug separates the molten salt mixture above from a holding tank below it. If the mixture ever gets too hot, the valve melts, and the molten salt falls into the tank under the pull of gravity -- stopping a disaster even if all the backup systems failed.

molten salt reactor
An example of solid (left) and molten (right) salt. (Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
While we don't know for sure what it would cost to build a molten salt reactor, analysts expect that construction would be cheaper than standard water reactors since the design includes fewer parts.

The reactors may also be more reliable -- today's reactors typically have to go offline every 18-24 months for refueling, but the spent fuel dissolved in molten salt could potentially be processed out and new fuel added while the reactor was operational.

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 PM


Did Trump hurt Republicans in the 2022 elections? The numbers point to yes. (Sahil Kapur, 11/13/22, NBC News)

Nationally, 32% of voters in 2022 said their vote was "to oppose Joe Biden." But 28% said their vote was "to oppose Donald Trump," even though Trump was out of office. That suggests Trump's continued dominance over the GOP made the 2022 election, in the minds of voters, almost as much about a defeated former president as it was about the current president and party in power.

"It was a Trump problem," a Republican operative involved in the 2022 election told NBC News, speaking candidly about the de facto leader of the GOP on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. "Independents didn't vote for candidates they viewed as extreme and too closely linked with Donald J. Trump."

Independent voters made up 31% of the electorate and they favored Democrats over Republicans by a margin of 49% to 47%, a stark break from the past four midterms in which they voted by double digits for the party out of power, according to exit polls.

Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Gretchen Whitmer says her win was a rejection of political violence (OLIVIA OLANDER, 11/13/2022, Politico)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Sunday she "would like to think" her reelection was a repudiation of political violence.

"Good people need to call this out and say we will not tolerate this in this country. And perhaps part of that message was sent this election," Whitmer said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plot in 2020, and the threat of political violence became especially prevalent late last month, following the brutal attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ben Gvir calls for revoking state recognition of Reform conversions (JUDAH ARI GROSS , 11/13/22, Times of Israel)

Far-right leader Itamar Ben Gvir on Sunday demanded that the presumed incoming coalition pass a law to end recognition of Reform conversions for the purposes of citizenship.

This latest demand in the ongoing coalition negotiations was quickly denounced by religious rights groups, particularly the Reform movement's legal arm, the Israel Religious Action Center. The outgoing diaspora affairs minister called the proposal an unnecessary provocation as only an exceedingly small number of Reform converts request Israeli citizenship while the symbolism of the move would ostracize non-Orthodox Jews from Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Electricity prices in Sweden are falling. Here's why (The Local, 13 November 2022)

There are several reasons why analysts expect somewhat more moderate electricity prices this winter.

Some are weather-related, such as the fact that Norway, after a lot of rainfall, has now sorted out its previous water shortage in the reservoirs in the south of the country.

Furthermore, the weather has been mild - and is expected to stay that way for quite a while.

Another decisive factor is that gas prices have fallen strongly in Europe (note: gas is largely used for electricity production).

The reason? Full gas stocks despite cuts in Russian gas imports. Right now, it is almost difficult to take in all the gas flowing into Europe.

"There are a lot of tankers (with liquefied gas) outside the ports waiting to be unloaded," Johan Sigvardsson, an analyst at the electricity trading company Bixia, pointed out.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kevin McCarthy's Faustian bargain (Elle Gyges, 11/12/22, The Spectator)

Victorious politicians often talk about "trusting the voters," but this time the voters really seem to have had a sense of humor. Just as they are deposing House Democrats, they are also tying would-be speaker Kevin McCarthy to the whipping post.

By dethroning Speaker Pelosi but denying McCarthy a commanding majority, they've ensured that he must negotiate with the conservative-leaning House Freedom Caucus if he is to hold the gavel.

The Freedom Caucus denied McCarthy once before, after Speaker John Boehner abruptly resigned in 2015. It began when they moved to vacate Boehner's chair, essentially a vote of no confidence. Fighting the motion would have been contentious -- and so rather than force the vote, Boehner resigned, leaving the path open for McCarthy. But McCarthy dropped out of the race when the Freedom Caucus put up another candidate, denying him the 218 votes he needed to secure the post. After some back-room dealing, it was Paul Ryan who ended up controlling the House.

In the years since, both McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus have changed.

Where the Freedom Caucus first organized around holding the line on federal spending -- a wonky if unpopular stance -- today's Freedom Caucus is best understood as the Trump Palace Guard.

Jeb for Speaker.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


November 12, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/12/22, Letters from an American)

A little before 9:30 p.m. Eastern time, NBC called Nevada's tight Senate race for the incumbent: Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. Cortez Masto defeated Adam Laxalt, a former attorney general for the state, whom former president Trump had endorsed.  

This means that the Democrats keep control of the Senate. 

Democrats will have 50 votes in the new Congress just as they did in the current one, enabling Vice President Kamala Harris to break ties in their favor. 

Harris may not need to break ties, though, if the last Senate seat goes to the Democrats. That last seat is the one outstanding seat from Georgia. In the election there, Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock garnered about 35,000 more votes than Trump-endorsed Republican Herschel Walker, but neither man won 50% of the vote. Under Georgia law, this forces a runoff, which will be held on December 6.

Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Perez defeats Republican Joe Kent in WA House race (Jim Brunner  and David Gutman , 11/12/22, Seattle Times)

Gluesenkamp Perez's victory sends a Democrat to Congress in a district that has voted Republican for more than a decade, and means eight of Washington's 10 House members will now be Democrats, along with the state's two U.S. senators.

It also bolsters Democrats' chances of possibly hanging onto their House majority, with several races too close to call in states including California, Oregon and Arizona. Republicans remain favored to gain the edge to flip House control.

Kent had appeared confident of victory after the August primary, declaring the district to be "deep red MAGA country." [...]

Kent's loss was another stinging defeat for a Trump-endorsed candidate in the midterm elections and provided Democrats with a surprise House seat pickup in a year in which the party was mostly playing defense.

Before the election, the political news site FiveThirtyEight gave Kent a 98% chance of winning, but there had been little polling in the race.

Kent did not concede Saturday, tweeting "this is not over." He said supporters are working on "curing" 6,000 rejected ballots to get them counted. That represents the total number of ballots not counted because of signature or other problems, and those likely include Democratic voters in addition to Republicans.

Kent had become a star in conservative media, appearing frequently on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show, and almost daily at times on the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. [...]

The path to Gluesenkamp Perez's improbable win started when six-term Republican U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler last year voted to impeach Trump over his role in stoking the violent Jan. 6 , 2021 attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters seeking to halt certification of Joe Biden's win.

Trump took revenge by endorsing Kent, who succeeded in ousting Herrera Beutler in the August primary, but went on to lose what had been considered a safe Republican seat.

Jeb for Speaker.

MAGA Election Denier Jim Marchant Just Lost His Bid for Nevada Secretary of State (Noah Lanard, 11/12/22, Mother Jones)

Last month, I published an investigation showing that Nevada Republican secretary of state candidate Jim Marchant was deceiving voters by wildly misrepresenting his business history. After the story came out, Marchant told fellow election denier Steve Bannon, "Mother Jones did some sort of colonoscopy on me and they came up with everything." He contested nothing.

"Everything," in this case, included a former employee who said he "would not want Jim to be secretary of a preschool," overwhelming evidence that Marchant's most prominent company quickly imploded, and previously unpublished divorce records that revealed that his career ended in financial ruin. Marchant was betting that it wouldn't matter--having a R next to his name would be enough in 2022. He was wrong.

Marchant narrowly lost his race for secretary of state to Democrat Cisco Aguilar, a lawyer and former aide to the late Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. Marchant was one of the most extreme candidates running for statewide office this year. He claimed that all Nevada elections since 2006 had been rigged and that the winners had been "installed by the deep-state cabal." Nevertheless, he nearly found himself in charge of all elections in the state. (Marchant didn't answer when I called him on Friday evening to see if he was conceding.)

The origin story for Marchant's campaign would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. In 2020, Marchant lost his race for Congress by more than 16,000 votes. Instead of accepting defeat, he claimed that he and Donald Trump had been victims of voter fraud. The day after the election, he checked himself into the Venetian so that he could work with Trump's team to try to overturn the results of both contests.

His lawsuit to try to force Clark County, which is home to Las Vegas, to hold a new election was quickly thrown out. But while on the Strip, he's said he received a visit from Wayne Willott, a fringe QAnon influencer who goes by the alias Juan O. Savin. Willott told Marchant to run for secretary of state in 2022 so that he could control Nevada elections. He also pushed Marchant to build a coalition of like-minded candidates in other states. Marchant followed Willott's advice.

November 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Democrat Fontes wins Arizona secretary of state race (ZACH MONTELLARO, 11/11/2022, Politico)

Democrat Adrian Fontes will be Arizona's next secretary of state, defeating a supporter of former President Donald Trump who has spread conspiracy theories about elections.

Fontes, a former election official for the state's largest county, Maricopa County, defeated Republican Mark Finchem, a state lawmaker who was endorsed by Trump for the position. Fontes ran on a platform promising to defend Arizona's voting system, calling his opponent a danger to democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


White House Hails Russia's Retreat From Kherson As An 'Extraordinary Victory' For Ukraine (Radio Free Europe, 11/12/22)

"It does look as though the Ukrainians have just won an extraordinary victory where the one regional capital that Russia had seized in this war is now back under a Ukrainian flag -- and that is quite a remarkable thing," national-security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters as he accompanied President Joe Biden to the ASEAN summit in Cambodia.

...crushing Vlad too is just gravy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Mark Kelly wins Arizona Senate race, bringing Democrats one seat away from majority, NBC News projects (Chelsey Cox, 11/11/22, CNBC)

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly will hold on to his U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, pushing Democrats closer to retaining control of the Senate, NBC News projected.

Kelly was leading Republican candidate Blake Masters, who was former President Donald Trump's pick in the key swing state, by almost six percentage points with 85% of the votes in as of Friday night. With Kelly's win, Democrats need just one of the two seats in Nevada or Georgia that haven't been called yet.

In Nevada, Republican candidate Adam Laxalt was ahead by 1 percentage point with 88% of the votes counted as of Friday morning. 

What does a believer in Girardian twaddle do when he turns out to be his own scapegoat?

Blake Masters and Peter Thiel Thought They Could Buy an Arizona Senate Seat. They Were Wrong. (Noah Lanard, 11/11/22, MoJo)

During his days as a Stanford libertarian, Blake Masters was nothing if not principled. The 36-year-old Peter Thiel protégé turned Arizona Republican Senate candidate considered voting morally indefensible, taxation theft, and nationalism a scourge. He called for open borders and full drug legalization. He was an anarcho-capitalist. 

But as I reported this summer, this was not the Blake Masters that Arizona voters saw in one of the closest and most consequential Senate races in 2022. Masters entered the race as a Republican with $10 million from Thiel as the avatar of a young and highly online New Right. He called abortion "demonic." He tweeted that "not everything has to be gay" after a bisexual Superman was announced. He plugged the Unabomber's manifesto. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Election Deniers Got Thrashed in the Midterm Elections (Cameron Joseph, November 11, 2022, Vice News)

Republicans nominated a cadre of far-right conspiracy theorists to try to take over the offices that run elections in a number of swing states, posing a huge risk to democracy and the 2024 election if they won.

But as of Friday morning, it appears that every single one of these candidates will lose.

The latest vote counts in Arizona and Nevada make it highly likely that the QAnon-affiliated candidates running for secretary of state in the two states will go down to defeat. If those results hold, that means that every secretary of state candidate in a swing state that backs former President Donald Trump's false claims about the 2020 election has lost their race.

It's the January 6th Committee's America, not Donald's.

November 11, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Muslim Americans make historic gains in 2022 midterm elections (Alejandra Molina, 11/11/22, RNS)

Nabeela Syed made history in this year's midterms when she defeated a Republican incumbent in Illinois' 51st District, making her the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly and among the first Muslims elected to the state Legislature.

"It is so important for us to have a seat at the table, for us to have a voice in the legislative process," Syed, a 23-year-old Indian American who is Muslim, told a local TV news reporter soon after her win. Syed recalled a conversation with a friend who said he never thought he'd see a name like hers on hundreds of yard signs in their community. [...]

Syed is among a cohort of new candidates who made history this year by becoming the first Muslim Americans to be elected to the state legislature in states like Texas, Illinois, Georgia and Minnesota. All of them are Democrats, many are women and a rising number are Somali Americans.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the 2022 midterms have been a historic election, tracking a record-breaking 145 American Muslim candidates running for local, state and federal office, including 48 state legislative candidates in 23 states.

As a result, more than 80 Muslim candidates won local, state, federal and judicial seats in over 20 states, according to a report from CAIR and the Jetpac Resource Center, a nonprofit that works to increase Muslim representation in U.S. government and politics. This signals the highest number of electoral wins among Muslim Americans since Jetpac and CAIR began tracking. In 2020, 71 were elected.

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Nearly three-quarters of Jewish voters think Trump and Maga are a 'threat to Jews in America', survey finds (Abe Asher, 11/11/22, Independent)

The J-Street survey found that 74 per cent of respondents view Mr Trump and the Maga movement as a threat to Jews in America, while 72 disapproved of AIPAC's endorsing and financially supporting candidates who voted against certifying the results of the last presidential election.

As many as 76 per cent of voters said they believe that Mr Trump and his allies in the Republican Party are directly responsible for rising anti-semitism and white supremacy in the US. Just last month, Mr Trump criticised American Jews in a social media post for being insufficiently appreciative of his support of Israel.

While American Jewish voters on average remain broadly supportive of Israel, they are not Israeli citizens and reject the notion driven by many on the right that criticism of the Israeli state is inherently anti-semitic. The overwhelming majority of respondent to the J-Street survey - 89 per cent - said a person can criticise the policies of the far-right Israeli government and still be "pro-Israel".

The survey also found that voters support the US's re-entering the Iran nuclear deal and still support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict roughly along the parameters laid out by the Barack Obama administration.

Posted by orrinj at 2:35 PM


Democrats' Chances of a Senate Majority Just Got Brighter (DARRAGH ROCHE, 11/11/22, Newsweek)

Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, wrote on Twitter overnight: "I've seen enough: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) wins reelection in #AZSEN, defeating Blake Masters (R)."

Victory in Arizona would not hand Democrats control of the Senate, but the majority could be decided in Nevada, where Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is in a close race against Republican Adam Laxalt.

Laxalt led with 48.97 percent of the vote to Cortez Masto's 48 percent with 90 percent of ballots of counted, but analysis from poll tracker FiveThirtyEight suggests the race will break in the Democrat's favor.

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Demographics can help explain Israel's steady march to the far-right (Honaida Ghanim, 11 Nov, 2022, The New Arab)

The emerging alliance - between the Israeli right and extreme right - is expected to work tirelessly to achieve Israeli sovereignty over all of what it considers the "Land of Israel". The Palestinian question must be destroyed alongside the Palestinian presence, and Jewish supremacy between the "river and the sea" secured. The final stage may be the rebuilding of the Third Temple, which the Israeli right dreams of and considers its final goal and destination. While the religious-settler and nationalist right's plan is unlikely to happen in one fell swoop, they are definitely on track to achieving it.

"The election results reflect the ongoing process of Israel's ratcheting towards the right and far-right, and is linked to several overlapping factors which indicate that this bloc will continue gaining strength"
Rightwards march likely to continue if unopposed

Israel's right and far-right's hold on power will likely increase unless serious pressure is applied. This prediction is based on a series of demographic shifts, namely the growth of religious, Haredi, and Sephardic and Mizrahi groups, which have filled the void left by the decline of the secular Ashkenazi parties and elites i.e. the State of Israel's founders.

The secular Ashkenazi constituted 85 percent of the Jewish population immediately prior to Israel's establishment, with most ascribing to nationalist socialist politics. This percentage has plummeted: today the secularists (the majority Ashkenazi) form around 40 percent of Israel's Jewish population.

The starting point for these changes was the immigration of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East in the fifties, most of whom were conservative and religious. Today they form nearly half the Jewish population. The Mizrahi/Sephardic groups allied themselves with the Herut Party (the major conservative nationalist party from 1948 until it merged with Likud in 1988), driven by discriminatory policies adopted by the establishment elite towards them.

However, what started as a pragmatic alliance and protest vote against policies enacted by the establishment Mapai party, quickly became a strategic alliance between Likud and the Mizrahi/Sephardic groups. Likud took advantage - investing in identity politics and opening its doors to the Mizrahi/Sephardim, while Mapai had effectively barred their entry. Over time, a significant number of Mizrahi/Sephardim managed to advance to top positions in the party.

In Netanyahu's era a populist discourse was adopted alongside a language of incitement against the old-guard elite and "deep state institutions", which he considered biased to the founding elite. The conservative and marginalised classes of the Mizrahi and Sephardic communities became synonymous with supporting Likud and the right-wing; as well as Shas, a Haredi, religious, political party.

Then there is the settler bloc, today over 750,000-strong, alongside the ultra-orthodox Haredi bloc who today exceed 1,250,000, and who have gone through a process of ultra-right nationalist indoctrination and become an inseparable component of the right-wing camp.

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Latinos support Democrats over Republicans 2-1 in House and Senate elections (Gabriel R. Sanchez, November 11, 2022, Brookings)

The Latino electorate was once again pivotal to election outcomes across the nation, including key Senate races in Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado. The 2022 Midterm Voter Election Poll, conducted by the African American Research Collaborative (AARC), has a large sample of Latino voters with enough samples from key states (n-400 per state) to explore important differences across the diverse Latino electorate.

Latino voters remained solidly Democratic in their voting preferences in 2022, with 64% of Latinos reporting that they voted for a Democratic house candidate, compared to 33% who reported they voted for Republican candidates. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Liz Cheney says 2022 midterm elections were a 'rejection' of Trump and a 'victory for team normal' (Sophia Ankel, 11/11/22, Business Insider)

Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said Thursday that the 2022 midterm elections marked a "rejection" of former President Donald Trump and a "victory for team normal."

Speaking at an Anti-Defamation League event, Cheney ⁠-- a fierce Trump critic ⁠-- said the outcome of the elections was proof that people are "coming together to say we believe in democracy," per reports from The Hill, CNN, and others.

"Well, I think that it was a clear victory for team normal," Cheney said. "We believe in standing up for the Constitution, and for the Republic and a real rejection of the toxicity, and the hate, and vitriol, and of Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Chances of Finding COVID-Causing Virus Ancestor 'Almost Nil,' Virologists Say: A genome analysis finds SARS-CoV-2 and bat coronaviruses shared an ancestor just a few years ago, but extensive recombination has muddied the picture (Smriti Mallapaty, 11/11/22, Nature)

The virus that causes COVID-19 probably shared an ancestor with bat coronaviruses more recently than scientists had thought. But finding the direct ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 is very unlikely, say researchers.

The full genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and several closely related bat coronaviruses suggest they shared a common ancestor several decades ago. But the viruses are known to swap chunks of RNA with each other, a process called recombination, so each section has its own evolutionary history. In the latest analysis, presented at the 7th World One Health Congress in Singapore on 8 November, scientists compared fragments of coronavirus genomes. The analysis suggests that some sections of bat coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 shared a common ancestor as recently as 2016--just three years before the virus emerged in people in late 2019.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Inside the Justice Department's decision on whether to charge Trump in Mar-a-Lago case: "If Trump were anyone else, he would have already faced a likely indictment," said lawyer Bradley Moss, who represents intel agency workers in cases involving classified information (Ken Dilanian, 11/11. 22, NBC News)

In February, a week before the National Archives warned the Justice Department that former President Donald Trump had kept Top Secret documents at his Florida compound, Asia Janay Lavarello was sentenced to three months in prison. She had pleaded guilty to taking classified records home from her job as an executive assistant at the U.S. military's command in Hawaii. 

"Government employees authorized to access classified information should face imprisonment if they misuse that authority in violation of criminal law," said Hawaii U.S. Attorney Claire Connors, who did not accuse Lavarello of showing anyone the documents. "Such breaches of national security are serious violations ... and we will pursue them."

Cases like Lavarello's are a major part of the calculus for Justice Department officials as they decide whether to move forward with charges against the former president over the classified documents found in his Florida home, current and former Justice Department officials tell NBC News. In another example, a prosecutor advising the Mar-a-Lago team, David Raskin, just last week negotiated a felony guilty plea from an FBI analyst in Kansas City, who admitted talking home 386 classified documents over 12 years. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

People familiar with the deliberations of Attorney General Merrick Garland and his top aides say the AG does not believe it's his job to consider the political or social ramifications of indicting a former president, including the potential for violent backlash. The main factors in his decision, these people say, are whether the facts and the law support a successful prosecution -- and whether anyone else who had done what Trump is accused of doing would have been prosecuted. The sources say Justice Department officials are looking carefully at a cross section of past cases involving the mishandling of classified material.

It's a simple case of republicanism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


David Shor's (Premature) Autopsy of the 2022 Midterm Elections (Eric Levitz, 11/10/22, New York)

 In the past, you've argued that it's largely futile to try to change swing voters' policy preferences, at least within the time frame of a campaign. Your critics on the left argue that your view is unduly fatalistic: Rather than changing their policy positions to appeal to the median voter, Democrats should try to reframe the policy debate in a manner that gives them an advantage. 

In this case, Democrats did not change their position on abortion. Indeed, to the frustration of many pragmatists, they declined to hold an "up or down" vote on codifying Roe, but instead pushed a maximalist bill that would leave fewer restrictions on abortion than the pre-Dobbs status quo. And yet, despite this absence of moderation, the politics of abortion changed overnight. Which might suggest that Democrats can rapidly remake popular opinion on an issue if they only find the right way to politicize it. 

I think it's important to emphasize that what happened with abortion is extremely rare. It's very rare for party ownership of an issue to shift this rapidly. And I think it really boils down to this concept of "thermostatic" public opinion.

So, the president's party almost always does poorly in midterm elections. That's a very consistent pattern going back to the 1930s. And we see a similar phenomenon overseas. In local elections in England, or regional elections in France and Germany, the party with national power tends to do less well.

I think the best explanation of this comes from a paper by Joseph Bafumi, which basically found that voters like to balance out policy change. They just have a very strong sense of status-quo bias and loss aversion. And as a result, they react negatively to dramatic changes in policy. So when policy moves left, they move right. And when it moves right, they move left. Just as when the temperature goes up outside, you move the thermostat down, and vice versa.

You can see this in polling of whether the government has a responsibility to provide universal health care. Support for universal health care went up during the Bush Administration, then down as Obama tried to push Obamacare, and then up again when Trump tried to repeal Obamacare.

So the theory is: The reason why the party that controls the presidency does poorly in midterms is that voters are trying to balance out policy change by creating divided government. And I think what's really unique about this midterm cycle is that Republicans created a radical policy change -- and one that was quite unpopular -- without controlling the presidency or the legislature. And that allowed Democrats to plausibly run as the party that was going to make less change than the opposition, which is a super-unusual situation.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


November 10, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/10/22, Letters from an American)

What is clear is that there is a war erupting in the Republican Party. After former president Trump surged to an unexpected victory in 2016, there appeared to be a sense in the Republican Party that he had figured out how to mobilize previously unengaged voters to deliver victories to the Republican Party, and established Republicans increasingly rallied to his standard. 

But he has led the party to defeat now for the third time. In the 2018 midterms, Republicans lost control of the House, with Democrats picking up 41 seats. In 2020, of course, he lost the election, as well as control of the Senate. And while this year's outcome is not yet clear, the Democrats have had one of the best midterm performances in recent memory. Suddenly, Trump no longer seems to have a magic formula. 

White nationalist Nick Fuentes told his audience that the solution to the fact Republicans are in a minority and keep losing elections is to establish "a dictatorship." "We need to take control of the media or take control of the government and force the people to believe what we believe or force them to play by our rules." 

Others seem to think the answer is just to dump Trump, although as Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) warned Republicans in his closing argument in Trump's first impeachment trial: "If you find that the House has proved its case and still vote to acquit, your name will be tied to his with a cord of steel--and for all of history." 

That his star is tarnished became clear today not just on cable television and Twitter, where right-wing users complained about his hand-picked candidates, and in Pennsylvania, where Republicans were stung by the loss of a Senate seat, but also on media owned by right-wing kingmaker Rupert Murdoch. Today the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal noted Trump's perfect record of electoral defeat and said: "Trump is the Republican Party's Biggest Loser." 

Apparently stung, Trump unleashed a furious rant on Truth Social, claiming credit for DeSantis's start in politics. It included an astonishing claim: "I was all in for Ron, and he beat Gillum, but after the Race, when votes were being stolen by the corrupt Election process in Broward County, and Ron was going down ten thousand votes a day, along with now-Senator Rick Scott, I sent in the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys, and the ballot theft immediately ended, just prior to them running out of the votes necessary to win. I stopped his Election from being stolen...." 

This is an apparent reference to the 2018 election that put DeSantis in the governor's chair rather than his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum. The race was very close: just 32,463 votes out of 9 million cast, about 0.4%, separated the two candidates. Considering what we now know about Trump's approach to election results, a claim to having rigged the 2018 Florida election was one heck of a statement. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo noted that even though Trump "is a pathological liar... this requires some explanation, if only a clear and definitive confirmation that this did not happen."

Pundits are already suggesting Florida governor Ron DeSantis as a replacement for Trump as a presidential candidate in 2024. This is terribly premature. If, in fact, the party is going to move beyond the Trump years, it seems it might well not turn to DeSantis, who, among other things, is still under investigation for flying a plane load of legal migrants to Martha's Vineyard, an act not just cruel but possibly illegal. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


After months of stubborn inflation, glimmers of hope emerge (Jeanna Smialek, 11/11/22,  New York Times)

After stripping out food and fuel costs, both of which jump around, prices rose by 6.3% on an annual basis, down from 6.6% in the prior reading. And that core inflation measure pulled back sharply on a monthly basis, posting its slowest increase in more than a year.

The report provides early evidence that the Fed's campaign to slow rapid inflation may be helping to ease price pressures, working alongside recent healing in supply chains. The central bank has lifted interest rates from near zero to nearly 4% this year as it tries to slow consumer and business demand and give supply a chance to catch up.

Stocks surged on the news, as investors took it as a sign that Fed officials might raise rates less aggressively and inflict less economic pain in their quest to tame inflation. The S&P 500 soared 5.5%, its best one-day performance since April 2020, which marked the early market recovery from a coronavirus-induced meltdown.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


'Unstoppable' renewables help climate, security (Julien MIVIELLE, 11/10/22, AFP) 

The Ukraine war has led to a serious energy supply crunch and oil and gas price spikes that have forced especially European countries to quickly search for new suppliers as they head into winter.

"In the short term, this will have an impact," said La Camera, director general of IRENA.

"But in the medium and long term, there is no other way than to accelerate decarbonisation. Because ultimately renewables are not only good for the climate, jobs, GDP, but are a real way to ensure energy independence."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also highlighted the strategic aspect of a shift away from dependency on Russia and other oil and gas suppliers to clean and safe renewables. [...]

"The market is the engine," he said. "The market is already saying clearly that we are moving toward a system based on renewables and complemented by hydrogen, mainly green. No one can stop this progress."

Even under ex-president Donald Trump, "coal-fired power plants were already closing in the United States," said La Camera.

"The question is not where we are going but how fast and at what scale."

As Confucious said, since renewables are inevitable just lie back and enjoy them.
Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Jim Crow and Black Economic Progress After Slavery (Lukas Althoff & Hugo Reichardt, November 10, 2022, )

This paper studies the long-run effects of slavery and Jim Crow on Black Americans' economic outcomes. We trace each Black family's linked census and administrative records between 1850 and 2000 to measure how long they were enslaved and where they lived during Jim Crow. We show that Black families who were enslaved until the Civil War have considerably lower education, income, and wealth today than Black families who were free before the Civil War. The disparities between the two groups have persisted because most families enslaved until the Civil War lived in states with strict Jim Crow regimes after slavery. In a regression discontinuity design based on ancestors' enslavement location, we show that states' Jim Crow regimes sharply reduced Black families' economic progress in the long run, largely by limiting their access to education. Using quasi-experimental variation, we show that gaining school access closed 80 percent of the gap in human capital caused by exposure to strict Jim Crow regimes.

As Thomas Sowell has shown, black immigrants succeed at the same rates as white.  Depriving the enslaved and then freed generations of the typical immigrant experience retarded development as well, not just the maintenance of Jim Crow for a century.  This is the case for reparations.

November 10, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 10:43 PM


Michigan GOP memo delivers scathing election post-mortem on Trump-backed candidates (Paul Egan, 11/10/22, Detroit Free Press)

"At the end of the day, high quality, substantive candidates and well-funded campaigns are still critical to winning elections. We struggled in both regards to the detriment of Michiganders across the state."

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, with low name I.D., no campaign money and no political experience, had to "start from scratch" after the primary, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her allies were sitting on tens of millions of dollars, which they used to attack her on her abortion position through TV ads, to devastating effect, Cordes said in the memo. [...]

"Donors for the most part decided against supporting Trump's hand-picked AG (attorney general) and SOS (secretary of state) candidates from the April convention, and also withheld millions in traditional investment into the State Party, despite Chairman (Ron) Weiser's historic contributions of more than $5 million into MIGOP, candidates and caucuses," the memo said.

"In what many of them saw as sending a message to Donald Trump and his supporters, longtime donors to the Party remained on the sidelines despite constant warnings of the possibility of the outcome we saw come to fruition on Election Day: A statewide sweep and one-party Democratic rule in Lansing, something that has not been seen in nearly 40 years in Michigan."

The memo said that amid high Republican turnout, Dixon underperformed the base party vote by 8 percentage points. By comparison, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, the 2018 GOP candidate who lost to Whitmer, underperformed the GOP base by only 3.9 percentage points.

"Tudor's efforts focused largely on Republican red meat issues, in hopes of inspiring a 2020-like showing at the polls," the memo said. "There were more ads on transgender sports than inflation, gas prices and bread and butter issues that could have swayed independent voters. We did not have a turnout problem - middle-of-the-road voters simply didn't like what Tudor was selling."

Why would Republicans fund Trumpists?

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 PM


Rick Scott Was Prepared to Take On McConnell -- Until Tuesday (JONATHAN MARTIN, 11/10/2022, Politico)

Scott had cut an announcement video declaring his intentions, word had reached some prominent conservatives outside the Senate and a handful of GOP senators had gotten wind of his plan and started calculating just how many votes his longshot campaign could accrue at the leadership vote next week in the Capitol.

He would have been virtually certain to lose. But Scott's challenge was not so much aimed at unseating the longtime Senate Republican leader as it was channeling the anger of grassroots conservatives, and the former president, who were peeved at McConnell's criticism of the "candidate quality" of this year's roster of Senate GOP candidates.

The idea was that those supposed mediocrities would romp to victory, credit Scott for his steadfast support and shame McConnell for his lack of faith -- while also starting to loosen the 80-year-old's grip on his leadership post. But only one of those candidates -- Ohio's J.D. Vance -- won his race outright. Arizona's Blake Masters appears likely to lose, Georgia's Herschel Walker is in a runoff, and Pennsylvania's Mehmet Oz and New Hampshire's Donald Bolduc were defeated.

With Republican hopes for claiming the majority now dependent on a tenuous vote advantage in Nevada, McConnell's August assessment of the candidates looks prescient. Because of recruitment failures and Trump's interventions in primaries, the GOP was saddled with candidates who lost, are likely to lose or simply cost McConnell's super PAC and Scott's campaign committee tens of millions of dollars in bailouts.

God made quitters too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Judge slaps sanctions on Trump lawyers for 'frivolous' Clinton lawsuit (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 11/10/2022, Politico)

A federal judge on Thursday excoriated and sanctioned several members of Donald Trump's legal team, saying the former president's massive lawsuit against his former rival, Hillary Clinton, and dozens of other adversaries amounted to an intentional abuse of the legal system.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Batteries of gravity and water: We found 1,500 new pumped hydro sites next to existing reservoirs (Andrew Blakers, Anna Nadolny & Ryan Stocks 11 November 2022, Renew Economy)

You store electricity by pumping water uphill to the upper reservoir on sunny and windy days - and turn it back into power at night or during calm or cloudy days by letting the water flow back downhill through a turbine. Think of this system as a giant "gravity battery", where electricity is turned into gravitational potential energy and back again.

The question now is: where are the best locations? Last year, we released a global atlas of more than 600,000 greenfield locations for pumped hydro. These are sites where there is no existing reservoir. About 4,000 of those are in Australia, including the site for Queensland's newly announced 5 gigawatt Pioneer-Burdekin pumped hydro scheme.

Now we've identified 1,500 new Australian sites in our new bluefield atlas. Bluefield refers to locations with one reservoir already in place, meaning only one new reservoir needs to be built. Existing reservoirs already have a social licence and are usually publicly owned. None of our sites require damming major rivers.

Because we have so many good options, we can afford to be choosy. We can go all the way to 100% renewables while only developing the very best sites.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


6 reasons why Trump's already bad legal troubles are about to get worse (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 11/09/2022, Politico)

With the midterm elections in the rearview, federal prosecutors are no longer abiding by an unwritten code to avoid politically sensitive investigative steps before voters go to the polls. An Atlanta-area prosecutor probing Trump's effort to subvert the 2020 election had also paused most of her potentially explosive steps while Georgia voters were casting ballots. And the inability of Republicans to deliver massive margins of victory threatens to deprive Trump of the overwhelmingly Republican Congress that he had hoped would wield committee gavels and subpoena power to protect him and torment rivals.

All this could be further complicated should Trump, as expected, announce his third run for the presidency in the coming week. With that declaration nearing, Trump finds himself in a new, more precarious reality -- one in which federal and local investigators are closing in on his top allies in at least three criminal probes. The newly reelected New York attorney general is working to dismantle his business empire and the House's Jan. 6 select committee is about to unload a massive trove of evidence that may advance the criminal cases against him.

Here are the top six takeaways...

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Spanish energy giant switches on ACT battery - its first in the world (Sophie Vorrath, 10 November 2022, Renew Economy)

A 10MW, two-hour (20MWh) battery energy storage system has been completed in the ACT, where it will be used in partnership with local transmission company, TransGrid, to support the network in the Queanbeyan region.

The battery was developed by Global Power Generation, a subsidiary of Spanish energy giant Naturgy, as part of a contract awarded by the ACT government to build the 107MW Berrybank 2 wind farm in Victoria's Western Plains.

For Naturgy, the Australian BESS marks the first energy storage facility anywhere in the world for the company. It will be followed by a 50MW/220MWh battery being built as part of a landmark solar and storage hybrid project bought up by Naturgy in September - another first for the company.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Wireless power from space (Solar Daily, Nov 10, 2022)

Solar power gathered far away in space, seen here being transmitted wirelessly down to Earth to wherever it is needed. ESA plans to investigate key technologies needed to make Space-Based Solar Power a working reality through its SOLARIS initative. One such technology - wireless power transmission - was recently demonstrated in Germany to an audience of decision makers from business and government.

The demonstration took place at Airbus' X-Works Innovation Factory in Munich. Using microwave beaming, green energy was transmitted green energy between two points representing 'Space' and 'Earth' over a distance of 36 metres.

The received power was used to light up a model city, produce green hydrogen by splitting water and even to produce the world's first wirelessly cooled 0% alcohol beer in a fridge before serving to the watching audience.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Putin supporters left reeling by yet another Russian 'surrender' in Ukraine (Holly Ellyatt, 11/10/22, CNBC)

As Russia's military commanders announced another major withdrawal in Ukraine, pro-Kremlin commentators have described the retreat as a humiliating and significant defeat for Moscow and President Vladimir Putin.

Putin kept a low profile as Russia announced Wednesday it was withdrawing its troops from the tentatively occupied city of Kherson and the west bank of the Dnipro river, which bisects the Kherson region in southern Ukraine. The military said it could no longer supply its troops there and was worried about the safety of its military personnel.

Kremlin Cronies Sent Reeling on Live TV Over U.S. Midterm Elections (Julia Davis, Nov. 09, 2022, Politico)

On Tuesday, Russia's Tucker Carlson, top propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, greeted his audience by wishing them a "Happy Interference in the U.S. Election Day." Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef," who was indicted as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference, likewise decided to publicly fess up to the allegations he previously denied.

This plan to discredit the U.S. elections and convince the Republicans that the mighty Kremlin hand covertly helped push them to victory had backfired. On Wednesday, state TV propagandists were scratching their heads about the wave that turned out to be but a trickle. During the broadcast of 60 Minutes, host Olga Skabeeva asked an expert: "How are our guys in America?" Political scientist Vladimir Kornilov clarified with a chuckle: "Our Republicans."

Dmitry Abzalov, Director of the Center for Strategic Communications, noted that the outcome was much different than the predictions: "Even the Democrats predicted the red wave that will mow everything down, but it turned out to be quite modest." Political scientist Vladimir Kornilov said, "The worst fears of the Democrats are now behind them. They easily won the states they were most concerned about."

MAGA was their last hope in Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Early midterm results point to a win for democracy: Whether Republicans end up controlling Congress or not, the results of Tuesday's midterms send a clear message: It's time to finally break free from Donald Trump's grip on the party and pass meaningful bipartisan legislation. (The Editorial Board,  November 9, 2022, Boston Globe)

Republicans had every reason to believe they would have a strong showing in the midterm elections: Inflation is near a 40-year high, a recession appears to be in the forecast, and Joe Biden's approval rating is about as low as Donald Trump's was in 2018, when Democrats made their biggest gains in the House since the 1970s. And yet in spite of all of those political advantages, Tuesday's results, while incomplete, indicate that Republicans will have underperformed both expectations and historical trends once the vote counts are complete.

Whatever the final makeup of the next Congress, the results appear to be good news for democracy. And that's not simply because Republicans' anticipated red wave didn't materialize. It's because of how it didn't: Trump-backed candidates proved too extreme in some of the most competitive states, showing that neither Trump nor election denialism ought to be the path forward for the GOP. It's time, in other words, for Republicans to finally break away from Trump's grip on their party and elect a new standard bearer come 2024 -- not just for the sake of the country, but for the sake of their own electoral prospects.

Just look at some of the races that have already been called: In New Hampshire, Don Bolduc, the Republican Senate candidate who helped spread lies about the 2020 election, lost his bid to unseat Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan, who polls showed was vulnerable. Down the ballot, Republican Karoline Leavitt, another election denier, lost her race against Democrat Chris Pappas in a purple swing district.

Elsewhere in the country, some of Trump's highest-profile candidates proved burdensome for the GOP: Mehmet Oz, whom Trump not only endorsed but actively campaigned for, lost the Pennsylvania Senate race, giving Democrats a seat that was previously in Republicans' hands. And Republican gubernatorial candidates Doug Mastriano, Tim Michels, and Tudor Dixon, all of whom are election deniers endorsed by Trump, lost their races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, respectively.

Meanwhile, some officials from both parties who stood up for the rule of law and the will of the American voters in 2020 despite Trump's pressure to overturn the results -- like Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia or Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson of Michigan -- were rewarded for their courage in the face of death threats and won their reelection bids.

Midterm elections showed that Trump seemed to be a drag on Republican Party (Jess Bidgood, November 9, 2022, Boston Globe)

"How are these Republican voters going to perceive Donald Trump going forward, considering how poor of a job Trump's handpicked candidates did last night?" Ramer said.

In Pennsylvania's gubernatorial race, far right state lawmaker Doug Mastriano, whose conspiracy-theory-laden efforts to challenge the 2020 election results there won him Trump's primary endorsement, got blown out by Democrat Josh Shapiro.

Two other GOP gubernatorial candidates in battleground states who also earned Trump's backing and embraced election denialism, Tudor Dixon of Michigan and Tim Michels of Wisconsin, also lost on Tuesday. Their concession calls to their Democratic opponents were a relief to democracy experts who worried they might try to challenge the results.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats flipped a Senate seat when John Fetterman beat Mehmet Oz, a celebrity TV doctor from New Jersey. Oz had won Trump's endorsement late in a divisive primary, but wasn't able to overcome dismal favorability ratings caused in part by Fetterman portraying him as a slick out-of-towner.

Georgia offered yet another example of Trump's struggles.

In the last runoff, in January 2021, two Republican Senate incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, each lost after embracing Trump and his burgeoning claims of fraud in the 2020 election. The wins then by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock gave Democrats narrow control of the Senate.

Earlier this year, the former president handpicked challengers to the state's GOP Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who had refused to go along with Trump's election falsehoods. But those incumbents won their primaries and sailed to reelection Tuesday despite being on the outs with Trump.

Meanwhile, the Trump-blessed Republican football star Herschel Walker, while fighting Warnock to a runoff, nonetheless ran well behind Kemp in the vote count -- an indication that a swath of voters split their tickets between Kemp and Warnock.

"The ones that Trump opposed had the best nights," said Brian Robinson, a Republican strategist here. "There's now more of an ability for candidates to be independent. You can survive being on the other side of Trump, where you couldn't a few years ago."

Here's how Donald Trump sabotaged the Republican midterms (John Podhoretz, November 9, 2022, NY Post)

After three straight national tallies in which either he or his party or both were hammered by the national electorate, it's time for even his stans to accept the truth: Toxic Trump is the political equivalent of a can of Raid.

What Tuesday night's results suggest is that Trump is perhaps the most profound vote-repellant in modern American history.

The surest way to lose in these midterms was to be a politician endorsed by Trump.

This is not hyperbole.

Except for deep red states where a Republican corpse would have beaten a Democrat, voters choosing in actually competitive races -- who everyone expected would behave like midterm voters usually do and lean toward the out party -- took one look at Trump's hand-picked acolytes and gagged.

Liberal fundraisers actually put money behind Trump-endorsed candidates in GOP primaries all over the place to help them prevail so that Democrats could face them in the general election. It was transparently cynical and an abuse of our political process. But it worked like gangbusters.

As Kevin Robillard of the Huffington Post noted on Wednesday afternoon when a Michigan Democrat named Hilary Scholten was finally declared the winner of her House seat against a raving lunatic named John Gibbs: "With this race call, every single Republican who won their primary with help from Democratic meddling has lost in the general election."

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


November 9, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Competence, Not Chaos: The midterm results point to major underlying issues for the Republican Party and the nation. (Fred Bauer, November 9, 2022, City Journal)

The gubernatorial races have more disheartening tidings for Republicans. Republicans were locked out of the governor's mansion in key swing states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In Maryland and Massachusetts, governorships formerly held by Republicans were lost to Democrats in blowout margins. Arizona remains too close to call, as does Oregon (a seat that had seemed a possible Republican pick-up).

An incumbent Democratic president with an approval rating in the 40s, raging inflation, a mixed economic picture, and growing voter concerns about crime--how did it come to this for the GOP? Many structural factors suggested that 2022 would be a "wave" year, but Republican candidates were instead often stranded. Tuesday's results point to major underlying issues for the Republican Party, and the nation as a whole.

If this was a wave election, it might be considered a "normie" wave election. After a pandemic, widespread economic disruption, and years of hyper-polarized conflict in D.C., voters often rewarded candidates with political experience and a record of governing. Joe Biden in part won the White House by promising a return to "normalcy," and if "normalcy" didn't quite arrive by 2022, signs suggest that voters are still looking for it. Many Republican candidates were far from optimal from that perspective. In a number of GOP primaries, Donald Trump intervened to back candidates with whom he had a close personal relationship or who were willing to join in his campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election. Many of these candidates--from Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania to Tudor Dixon in Michigan--ended up washing out.

Gubernatorial races often exerted a significant gravitational force on other elections. Having held almost the entirety of Ohio's political offices, Governor Mike DeWine embodies the "normie" Republican, and he won a smashing reelection victory--which probably helped boost political newcomer J. D. Vance in the Senate race. Georgia governor Brian Kemp defied Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election in the Peach State and crushed a Trump-backed primary challenge. With a record of governing and opposing election nullification, Kemp beat Democratic Party favorite Stacey Abrams by eight points--significantly outperforming Senate nominee (and political newcomer) Herschel Walker.

Conversely, toxic or lackluster gubernatorial candidates likely inflicted pain elsewhere on the ticket. In Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano won Trump's endorsement, but he repelled many Pennsylvanians. His 13-point loss was a millstone around the neck of Senate candidate Mehmet Oz (who did five points better than Mastriano, but not good enough to win). Tudor Dixon's ten-point loss to incumbent Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer was accompanied by a bloodbath down the ticket. Republicans lost races for secretary of state and attorney general there, and Democrats may enjoy their first trifecta in the Michigan statehouse in 40 years.

Tuesday's results show how many voters are turned off by candidates who try to delegitimize past elections. For years, Stacey Abrams discounted the legitimacy of the 2018 election she lost by a razor-thin margin--and Brian Kemp won his rematch against her handily. Kemp and Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger burnished their images as responsible holders of power by defending the results of the 2020 election. Fortunately for American democracy, swing voters (the ones candidates need to win elections) do not reward conspiracy theories that aim to nullify elections.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


The Message of the Midterms (Yuval Levin, Nov. 9th, 2022, National Review)

When the parties don't go out of their way to repel voters, they can win decent majorities. The reason such majorities have become rare is that both parties have worked hard to become repulsive to the median voter.

This is probably a bigger problem for the Democrats in the long run, because they face the challenge of becoming the party of an intensely unpopular elite in a populist time. Swing voters don't like much of what the Democrats increasingly stand for, and that won't be easy for the party to change.

For Republicans, it should be clearer than ever that they have trouble reaching potentially winnable swing voters because of the unhinged appearance and revolting character of the party's Trump-era incarnation. It is easier to see how that could change, though that does not mean such change will be easy to pull off.

The pattern of Republican wins and losses on Tuesday was not random, and its message is not hard to discern. It presents itself as a blinking, blaring, screaming sign that reads "Republicans: Trump is your problem." In Georgia and in Ohio, Republican candidates for governor who were not closely associated with Trump ran far ahead of Republican candidates for Senate who were. Many voters were clearly willing to split their tickets. It is painfully evident that Republicans would have had a far easier time winning Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and elsewhere if they had not chosen the Trump-endorsed candidate in the primary.

The relatively disappointing result for Republicans has a clear cause, and maybe it will finally move Republicans to abandon the ridiculous notion that Donald Trump is an electoral advantage for the party. Sustaining that view has always required painful contortions -- the (implausible) view that Trump's exceedingly narrow win over Hillary Clinton in 2016 was the only way any Republican could have beaten the most unpopular political figure in 21st-century America; the (bizarre) notion that Republican setbacks in 2018 were a function of Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan not being Trumpy enough; the (delusional) claim that Trump didn't actually lose the presidency in 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 5:47 PM


Hasidic rabbi assails Trumpism rampant among the Orthodox (Jacob Kornbluh, November 9, 2022, The Forward)

An influential Hasidic rabbi from New York issued a harsh rebuke the day after Election Day of the Trumpism that has overtaken much of the Orthodox community. 

"Trumpism became entangled in the Jewish camp," Rabbi Aaron Teitlebaum, the grand rebbe of one the Satmar Hasidic sects, said in a speech Wednesday at his yeshiva in Kiryas Joel, north of New York City. "This Trumpism twisted the minds of so many yiden. It brainwashed people - and that's so painful," he said, using the Yiddish word for Jews. 

He alluded to many Orthodox groups' backing of Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, who lambasted the state Board of Regents' vote last month to strengthen oversight of secular studies at Orthodox schools. And Teitelbaum critiqued Orthodox voters' reverence for former President Donald Trump, who exhorted voters to "punish" Democratic incumbent Kathy Hochul, who beat Zeldin in a close race on Tuesday. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


Trumped at the Polls: Despite Joe Biden's deep unpopularity, GOP gubernatorial candidates backed by the former president struggled in yesterday's election. (Steven Malanga, November 9, 2022, City Journal)

The midterm elections of 2010 and 2014, where Republicans made big gains in Washington, were also accompanied by a GOP wave in the states that lasted nearly a decade. Boosted by those midterms, the party over the course of several elections won more than 900 local legislative seats, occupied 33 governor's mansions, and boasted 26 state "trifectas"--that is, complete political control over a state government.

With a deeply unpopular Democratic president in office, inflation raging, and high crime resonating in many areas, Republicans seemed poised to ride another state red wave this year. Instead, they have struggled merely to retain currently held governorships, losing several in the process. What was different this year? Polls suggest it was Donald Trump. The ex-president, who has remained a significant player in local elections, didn't just spit fire at Democrats in 2022. He also feuded with Republican state leaders in some places, took shots at potential competitors within the party, including Florida governor Ron DeSantis, and played a massive role in helping MAGA candidates win state GOP primaries. But Trump, exit polls show, is deeply unpopular with many voters--even more so than President Biden. In some states, candidates he endorsed could muster little support beyond voters who say that they back Trump, too. It wasn't enough to unleash a red wave.

In the previous GOP waves, moderate Republican gubernatorial candidates were able to flip several deep-blue states, including Larry Hogan in Maryland and Charlie Baker in Massachusetts in 2014. Both governors managed the task of governing in a blue state well enough to coast to reelection in 2018. But Hogan was term-limited this year, and Baker, facing the likelihood of a tough challenge from a Trump-backed candidate in the state GOP primary, declined to run again. Trump supporters won both state Republican primaries, including a victory in Maryland by state delegate Dan Cox, who was aided by millions of dollars in ads run by the Democratic Party, which preferred him as an opponent over former state secretary of commerce Kelly Schulz, endorsed by Hogan. The cynical strategy paid dividends. Cox managed less than four in ten votes in Maryland, a sharp turnaround from the 55 percent of votes Hogan won in 2018. Trump's favored Massachusetts candidate, state delegate Geoff Diehl, fared worse, managing just 35 percent of the vote against Democrat Maura Healey. Baker, by contrast, won reelection in 2018 with 66 percent of the vote. As the Boston Globe observed, Healey likely wouldn't even have run if she had to face the popular Baker in a general election. Trump helped ensure that didn't happen.

To offset these potential losses, Republicans had an opportunity to flip Democratic governorships in several states that lean Republican. Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, for instance, have GOP-controlled legislatures but Democratic governors. Both states went narrowly for Biden in 2020, but exit polls from the 2022 midterms show that the president is deeply unpopular there today. In Pennsylvania, 53 percent of those who voted on Tuesday disapproved of the job he is doing. In Wisconsin, the number was 54 percent.

But Trump shook up those races by endorsing candidates backing his agenda, including Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano, who supported efforts to decertify the 2020 election. 

It's America: hating the other is not winning politics.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


The study of evolution is fracturing - and that may be a good thing (Erik Svensson, 11/09/22, The Conversation)

Charles Darwin's theories might be over 150 years old but major questions about how evolution works are far from settled.

Evolutionary biology is now undergoing one of the most intense debates it has had for more than a generation. And how this debate plays out could have a significant impact on the future of this scientific field.

Some biologists and philosophers claim that evolutionary biology needs reform, arguing that traditional explanations for how organisms change through time that scientists have assumed since the 1930s are holding back the assimilation of novel findings

Contemporary evolutionary biology, a vocal minority argue, is incomplete. The dominant and traditional view of the field is too preoccupied with how the genes in a population change over time. This neglects, these critics argue, how individual organisms shape their environments and adjust themselves during their lifetimes to survive and reproduce.

Some go so far as to say that evolutionary theory itself is in crisis and must be replaced with something new.

The paradigm shifts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP Rep. Mayra Flores Fumes 'RED WAVE Did Not Happen' After She Loses (Matt Wilstein, Nov. 09, 2022, Daily Beast)

Less than five months after she was sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives after winning a special election to flip Texas' 34th district, Republican Rep. Mayra Flores lost her seat to Democrat Vicente Gonzalez Tuesday night. 

America doesn't seem that into Q.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's favorite candidates disappoint on Election Day, raising questions about his 2024 pitch (Christina Wilkie, 11/09/22, CNBC)

Earlier in the day, Trump had released a four-page press advisory detailing how much he had done to help Republicans up and down the ballot.

The list ranged from endorsements Trump issued on behalf of obscure secretary of state candidates, to the hundreds of millions of dollars he helped raise for Republicans mounting high profile Senate campaigns. At huge rallies over the weekend, Trump read off a list of Republican candidates while honing a speech that sounded like his own 2024 presidential campaign stump speech.

The message was clear: Trump was the leader of the Republican Party, and the party would have Trump to thank for its expected victories on Election Day. The former president implicitly put himself on the ballot in recent weeks as he campaigned with 2022 candidates -- and all but acknowledged he held back on a 2024 campaign launch he hoped to jumpstart before the midterms.

But as returns began to come in Tuesday evening, the Republican rout driven by Trump's chosen candidates never materialized.

In one of the country's most high-profile races, Trump's handpicked Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Dr. Mehmet Oz, lost to Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, according to NBC News. The result cost the GOP a Senate seat.

In Michigan, Trump-endorsed Republican Tudor Dixon lost a gubernatorial race, while 2020 election denier Kristina Karamo lost her Trump-backed bid for secretary of state, NBC projected.

In Arizona, Kari Lake, a former newscaster turned gubernatorial candidate who is one of Trump's most high-profile proteges, trailed Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs early Wednesday morning in a race that NBC considered too early to call. Trump-endorsed Senate hopeful Blake Masters, who is challenging Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, also lagged in a race that NBC said was too early to call.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fetterman flips Pennsylvania Senate seat in victory over Oz (Axios, 11/09/22)

Democrat John Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race, flipping a key seat previously held by a Republican, the Associated Press reported.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The red wave that wasn't: 5 takeaways from a disappointing night for the GOP (DAVID SIDERS, 11/09/2022, Politico)

Truth is, if not for the former president's interventions, the night could have been a lot better for the GOP.

Just look at how the most Trump-y candidates fared in states where more traditionalist Republicans were on the same ballot.

In Georgia, Herschel Walker was locked in a neck-and-neck contest with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Gov. Brian Kemp, whose resistance to overturning the 2020 results infuriated Trump, easily defeated his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams.

In New Hampshire, Republican Don Bolduc lost to Sen. Maggie Hassan in a race that didn't even look close, while Gov. Chris Sununu, who once referred to Trump as "fucking crazy," cruised to reelection. Trump's preferred candidate in Ohio, J.D. Vance, did better, beating Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan by a comfortable margin in that state's U.S. Senate race. But he came nowhere close to the margin that incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine, a more traditionalist Republican, put up.

In Arizona, it was still early, with only about half of the expected vote in. But Kari Lake was running behind Katie Hobbs. Even if she comes back to win, it will be a closer race than political professionals of both parties had predicted had a more traditionalist Republican, Karrin Taylor Robson, made it through.

"I mean, come on," said Chuck Coughlin, a veteran Republican strategist based in Phoenix. "This should be a walk in the park for Republicans ... If Karrin Taylor Robson was the [gubernatorial] nominee, it would be an ass-kicking this cycle. But we just have such poor candidates who don't appeal to a broader base."

Besides, Coughlin said, "This is a non-presidential cycle, which tilts against the White House, tilts against the party in power. That's not going to be the case in a presidential cycle. [Trump] doesn't have that wind at his back anymore."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


It's the Energy System, Stupid (VANESSA NAKATE and  RACHEL KYTE, 11/08/22, Project Syndicate)

Fossil-fuel prices are inherently volatile, and it is vulnerable communities that suffer most from wild fluctuations in global hydrocarbon markets. In the United Kingdom, this year's spike in gas prices has led to an 80% increase in projected household energy bills. In the coming months, many lower-income families will be forced to choose between heating and eating. Meanwhile, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Total, and Shell raked in profits of $59 billion just in the second quarter of this year.

Worse, the pain that many are already feeling this year pales in comparison to what awaits us if we continue to burn fossil fuels. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that if we want to avoid catastrophic warming scenarios, we cannot build any new fossil-fuel infrastructure, and we must rapidly phase out the fossil fuels that we are already using. Similarly, in 2021, the head of the International Energy Agency declared that, "If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas, and coal, from now - from this year."

It would be madness to think that the current congeries of global crises can be solved with our current energy systems. More investments in fossil-fuel infrastructure and exploration will result in more pain and uncertainty for households, greater concentrations of profits and wealth, and unlivable climatic conditions for billions of people. But that's what we're getting: The OECD and the IEA report that government fossil-fuel subsidies around the world almost doubled in 2021, reaching $697 billion.

If we want reliable, clean, affordable energy for all, the quickest and most effective solution is to increase investment in renewables, energy efficiency, and integrated power grids. Electricity from solar and wind is now cheaper than electricity from gas, and the prices don't undergo dangerous fluctuations. In the UK, where successive governments have failed to lead on building renewable-energy capacity, homeowners are taking it upon themselves to install solar panels, because they know that the investment will pay for itself in lower energy bills.

Renewables are also a faster and cheaper way to expand energy access in rural Africa. Because they can be located closer to the point of consumption, they have been found to be more economically viable than building transmission lines from centralized gas-fueled power stations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Hampshire Democrat Maggie Hassan wins 2nd Senate term (HOLLY RAMER, 11/09/22, AP)

Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan won a second term representing New Hampshire on Tuesday, defeating Republican challenger Don Bolduc to keep a seat once viewed as ripe for a GOP pickup.

Hassan, a former governor, had been considered vulnerable given her narrow win in 2016. But her odds improved after popular Gov. Chris Sununu took a pass at challenging her, and Republicans nominated Bolduc, a retired Army general who has espoused conspiracy theories about vaccines and the 2020 presidential election.

The GOP candidates for Federal office were so extreme even Governor Sununu couldn't carry them.  Indeed, they appear to have dragged everyone down.

NHDems Defy Midterm History, Hold Fed Races and Possibly Win House (Michael Graham, 11/09/22, NH Journal)

Sen. Maggie Hassan handily won re-election over retired Gen. Don Bolduc by about 10 points, garnering 54 percent of the vote.

As the Washington Post's Henry Olsen noted this weekend, "With the notable exceptions of Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), no Senate candidate since 2014 has run more than five points ahead of the job approval rating of their party's president."

Hassan is on course to outpace Biden's 40 percent approval number by nearly 15 points.

In the First Congressional District, Republican Karoline Leavitt looked like a strong challenger, and polls consistently showed a neck-and-neck race with Rep. Chris Pappas in the polls. Instead, she trailed the incumbent by eight points, failing even to match the performance of fellow Republican Matt Mowers when he challenged Pappas two years ago.

And the Republican retreat reached down to the state house, too. Late Tuesday night, the GOP was in danger of losing control of the House and shrinking its majority in the state Senate.

November 8, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Israeli hydrogen power company and Moroccan renewable energy developer sign MoU (SUE SURKES , 11/08/22, Times of Israel)

 Israeli hydrogen company H2Pro and Moroccan renewable energy developer Gaia Energy signed a strategic agreement for the supply of green hydrogen on Tuesday during the United Nations' COP27 climate conference in Egypt.

Hydrogen power is harvested by separating and reuniting the elements that make up water through a process that uses electrolysis. Hydrogen is green when the energy used to power the electrolyzers comes from renewable sources.

H2Pro is the commercial arm of an innovation developed by the Grand Technion Energy Program at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, in northern Israel. The company separates hydrogen from oxygen in several steps in a technique that uses electricity more efficiently.

Gaia Energy is a leader in renewable energy, working with large utilities, national grid operators and governments to help power Africa with renewable energy. It has six gigawatts of projects under development, and has plans for a further seven projects with a total capacity of 40 gigawatts across the continent.

Gaia Energy's Founder and CEO Moundir Zniber told The Times of Israel that Morocco had large swaths of territory available for giga-scale energy production powered mainly by wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels.

Africa is wise to steal a march on the West.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


In Sikh founder's life, a model for letting justice guide our democracy (Simran Jeet Singh, 11/08/22, RNS)

Today, Sikhs around the world are celebrating the birth of their founder, Guru Nanak, on a day known as Gurpurab. Also today, Americans across the country are voting for their next slate of leaders on what is known in the United States as Election Day.

As a Sikh American born in the United States, I'm carrying both in my heart today, remembering the wisdom and teachings of the past as I hope for a better future. [...]

But Sikh teachings lead me to a different way of thinking, one shared by many people around the world and across traditions, which says that deep spiritual practice leads to compassion for the other, and this compassion in turn inspires service and justice. In this way our deep spiritual practice is deeply engaged in the world.

Many religious interpretations follow this basic logic, which motivated some of the religious figures who lived as the best among us.

When we view religion this way, as inspiring self-development and social concern at the same time, it becomes difficult to accept any attempt to draw a line between the spiritual and the political.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM


Voters Think Democrats Have Their Own 'Extremism' Problem (Matt Lewis, Nov. 07, 2022, Daily Beast)

So how is it possible that Democrats could lose to a party who fields weird and conspiratorial candidates (like Donald Trump, Kari Lake, and Herschel Walker--just to name a few)?

According to Third Way's findings, "Despite a roster of GOP candidates who are extreme by any standard, voters see Democrats as just as extreme..."

Progressive readers may have difficulty understanding this, but for much of the country (and I'm not just talking about Trump fans), far-left ideas and activists are more troubling than the crazy candidates and conspiracies on the right.

Hot-button topics like critical race theory, transgender issues in schools, "social justice" riots, and "defund the police," are simply more bothersome to a lot of the electorate than Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

To be sure, some of the worries about left-wing radicalism are overblown or exaggerated--but not all of them. Indeed, according to liberal journalist Kevin Drum, (who charted changes in public attitudes on issues like abortion, guns, gay marriage, taxes, and religion), "Since 1994, Democrats have moved left far more than Republicans have moved right."

This sense seems to be confirmed by the Third Way memo, which continues: "Less than half [of likely voters surveyed] (46 percent) describe Democrats as patriotic... A paltry 43 percent say Democrats share their values overall and a similar proportion (44 percent) think the party looks out for the middle class--a core element of a winning Democratic brand. Compounding these problems, a majority of voters (55 percent) describe Democrats as preachy and 53 percent say the party is "too woke." And while 54 percent call Republicans 'too extreme,' a strikingly similar 55 percent of voters say the same about Democrats--with 59 percent saying the party has gotten more extreme in recent years."

The Left is the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

"YOU HAVE NO IDEA" (slur alert):

WHEN TRUMAN CAPOTE MET ANN WOODWARD, RECENTLY MINTED WIDOW, IN SAINT MORITZWoodward had killed her husband. Now she was dining out at one of Europe's most exclusive restaurants, with Claus von Bülow. (ROSEANNE MONTILLO, 11/08/22, CrimeReads)

Back in the United States, those familiar with Ann Woodward-- and lately there were few who had not heard of her, whether over lunch at the Colony on New York's Upper East Side, or on the front pages of tabloids--believed that she had been banished to Europe by her formidable mother-in-law, Elsie Woodward, and was now likely leading a lonely life, without family or friends, much less a lover, with plenty of time to reflect on the transgressions that had forced her into exile.

But as Truman Capote watched her from a table across the restaurant, he saw that she was not the solitary widow they expected. Capote was not only surprised to see her in this particular location, but astonished to see her in the company of a man, which was a cause for raised eyebrows, considering that she had entered widowhood by her own hand not so very long ago. But Ann Woodward did not seem rattled by the patrons staring with obvious disdain as she exchanged languorous looks with her companion.

Truman recognized the man she was with: Claus von Bülow. A noted womanizer, the tall and handsome von Bülow had committed himself to the effort of charming a long list of social contacts and prided himself on his cultivation of illustrious connections--much as Ann herself had done during her early years in New York. Ann found in von Bülow an amusing companion, younger than herself, a man with a past as colorful as her own, if not more so. The rumors surrounding him were dark: that he was a necrophile; that he had killed his mother and stashed her body on ice; that somehow, he was still embroiled in espionage; that as a youth he had attended Hermann Göring's wedding. Von Bülow could rebut most of the gossip if he ever found himself in the mood to explain, which was rare. Most of the time he shrugged away the stories with a smirk, which made him even more beguiling to many.

In later years, long after Ann Woodward had come and gone from his life, Claus von Bülow would be indicted for the attempted murder of his wife, Sunny, whom he married in June 1966, and who would spend twenty-seven years and eleven months in a coma after it was suspected Claus von Bülow attempted to kill her by injecting her with sedatives and insulin. The position he would find himself in was not unlike Ann Woodward's, and further solidified his bizarre connection to her.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'The ultimate enemy is women' - inside the fear-filled world of incels (Benjamin Zand, 7 Nov 2022, The Guardian)

I am sitting in a bar in Southampton with an "incel" - meaning involuntarily celibate - who has never had a proper conversation with an adult woman other than his mum. "How do you feel about the idea of talking to a lady?" I ask him. "I think there might be a little bit of a safety concern," he says, "in the sense of false rape charges. From what I read on the internet, it's unsafe to even be in the same room as a woman without a third party." He tells me that if he approaches a woman, she may start beating herself to falsely accuse him of "domestic abuse or assault".

I've spent a year inside the incel community in the UK and abroad - a world of loneliness, isolation and extreme misogyny - for a TV programme. It could be the most depressing documentary I've ever made and there are a fair few contenders.

Like crabs in a barrel, angry, young, virgin men brainwash each other with an ideology that tells them that only extremely good-looking men have any success with women and life, and that if you don't fit that criterion, women will not only ignore you, but set out to destroy you. It encourages anyone who doesn't have the right jaw shape, who isn't tall enough or who isn't a "Chad" (a highly attractive male) to give up. It also points them to one ultimate enemy: women.

No one hates just Mexicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Quack COVID Group America's Frontline Doctors Is Suing Its 'Rogue Founder' Simone Gold ( Anna Merlan, November 7, 2022, Vice News)

America's Frontline Doctors (AFLDS), the pseudo-medical group that rocketed to pandemic infamy by spreading bad information about COVID, advocating for discredited treatments, fearmongering about vaccines, and attempting to influence state legislation, is suing one of its founders in federal court, months after her release from prison. 

AFLDS filed suit on November 4 against Dr. Simone Gold, accusing her of misappropriating AFLDS funds to buy a $3.6 million home, rent another property, purchase three luxury vehicles, and fund a housekeeper, personal security detail, and thousands of dollars a month in other, unspecified personal expenses. The suit also accuses Gold of tortious interference, claiming she's seeking to "to take back control of AFLDS and restore herself into a leadership role with the organization." In September, Gold finished serving almost 60 days in prison on a trespassing charge after she entered the U.S. Capitol during the January 6, 2021 insurrection. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Guy Fawkes & National Identity (Mark Tooley, November 7, 2022, Providence)

As an icon, Fawkes is now cute and whimsical. But of course, he and his conspirators were terrorists and attempted assassins. Their success would have been disastrous for Britain and the wider cause of liberty in the world.  Britain, nearly unique in the world, had a robust and fairly independent parliament that could challenge arbitrary royal power. Within a few decades, the parliament would even launch a war against and behead the king.  Relative liberty in Britain contrasted with more autocratic Spain, for whom Fawkes fought in its war against the Protestant Netherlands.

Fawkes failed to get direct Spanish aid for insurrection in Britain, but he helped organize seditionists on his own. The explosion was intended to kill the "heretic" King James I, after which his nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth would become a Catholic queen who would return the natural order to Britain.  Fawkes was discovered with 36 barrels of gunpowder beneath the House of Lords. Under torture he confessed his plans and the names of his co-conspirators.  He died by hanging before he could be drawn and quartered while still alive. In death, his body parts were scattered throughout Britain as an example.  King and parliament decreed that November 5 should be celebrated annually as a day of thanksgiving with bonfires and church services.  A special liturgy was added to the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer.  Later, fireworks on the holiday became prominent, if also dangerous.

King James II, who was Catholic, unsuccessfully tried to suppress the commemoration.  Auspiciously, William of Orange landed in England on November 5 to overthrow and replace James, and he gladly oversaw the full revival of the holiday. Guy Fawkes Day became enshrined as Britain's chief national day of celebration.  Britain has no equivalent of July 4 or Bastille Day.  Today, Guy Fawkes Day has no legal standing but is the British equivalent of Halloween as a quirky folk holiday.

Guy Fawkes Day has across centuries often included anti-Catholic themes and effigies of the pope. But in recent times those themes have mostly if not entirely faded.  Anti-Catholicism today is likelier to come from secularists than from Protestants.  But the day has been central to Britain's unfolding self-identity as  independent, self-governing, defiant, free from domestic and external tyranny. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


November 7, 2022 (Heather Cox Richardson, 11/07/22, Letters from an American)

Today, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and the leader of the private military company the Wagner Group, who is close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, boasted that Russians had interfered in U.S. elections and continue to do so. "We have interfered, we are interfering and we will continue to interfere. Carefully, accurately, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do." He added: "During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once."

Prigozhin is apparently behind the Russia-based "troll farms" that try to affect U.S. elections. Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times writes that Russians have indeed targeted the 2022 elections to make right-wing voters angry and undermine trust in U.S. elections. Their hope is to erode support for Ukraine's struggle to repel Russian invasion by electing Republicans who side with Putin.

He had them at oppressing Chechnya.

November 7, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Smart energy dream team builds all-electric, solar powered communities (Joshua S Hill, 11/08/22, Off the Grid)

Each home built in these two locations will be equipped with smart technologies as well as a backup battery and community microgrid connectivity.

Designed to work together, the technologies will deliver a self-supporting energy system that powers a community battery which has the capability to operate independently during a grid outage.

More than 200 of these homes will be built as part of what KB Home and its partners hope will serve as a blueprint for future sustainable and resilient home development. [...]

Each of the 219 homes is being built to meet the Department of Energy's Zero Energy Ready Home criteria. Amongst the criteria, the homes must be compliant with Energy Star, WaterSense, and Indoor airPLUS, all of which could help homeowners reduce average energy use by up to 40%.

Additionally, each home is equipped with a SunPower Equinox solar system, a 13kWh SunVault Storage battery, high efficiency appliances, flexible loads such as electric heat pump water heaters and HVAC systems, and other smart technologies.

All the homes will also be pre-wired to be smart EV charger ready, while some of the homes will also demonstrate bidirectional charging.

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


Why Bolsonaro Is Going Quietly: And what comes next for Brazil. (Francisco Toro, 11/07/22, Persuasion)

Bolsonaro's allies got elected, he didn't. [...]

None of Bolsonaro's key allies had an interest in blowing up elections that he had lost but they had won, and their early concessions pulled the rug from under their leader's feet. ​​As Brian Winter, the prominent Brazil-watcher and editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, put it, "Brazilian conservatives performed so well in this election that they [wound up] pleading with Bolsonaro not to destroy the movement by encouraging mass civil unrest--by burning the house down on his way out." In a strange way, Bolsonarismo's stronger-than-expected showing made contesting the election harder, not easier.

Institutions were ready, both at home and abroad.

By being fully transparent about the danger he presented to democracy, Bolsonaro created every incentive for Brazil's state institutions to be fully on their guard against him. Prominent members of Congress, the Supreme Court and the military moved immediately to congratulate the president-elect, closing down many of the institutional avenues he might have used to contest the results. Lula fielded congratulatory calls from everyone from Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron to Nicolás Maduro and Vladimir Putin, with only a MAGA rump led by a jail-bound Steve Bannon urging him to contest the election. By moving quickly, this broad coalition made the hopelessness of Bolsonaro's position clear to him.

All of this must have brought the real stakes into focus. Bolsonaro's immediate future was never really a toss-up between prison, death or victory; it was just prison, because:

Brazil has no taboo against throwing former presidents in jail.

Perhaps the most unexpected factor here is also the most ironic. Lula, a former president himself, spent much of 2018 and 2019 in prison following a conviction (later overturned) for corruption. Bolsonaro could not, therefore, console himself that the authorities would show restraint about putting a former leader in jail: they'd already done so. In fact, he'd appointed the man who had prosecuted Lula to be his justice minister. There's a glorious cosmic irony in Bolsonaro being deterred by a precedent some of his most prominent supporters had engineered.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Detroit judge dismisses Karamo lawsuit, calls it 'false flag of election law violations and corruption' (Jack Nissen, November 7, 2022, FOX 2) 

A Detroit judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent the city's absentee ballots from being counted in the 2022 midterm election, calling the lawsuit by Kristina Karamo a "false flag of election law violations and corruption."

In a blistering opinion authored by Judge Timothy Kenny, the chief official said an attorney for Karamo, who is running for secretary of state in Michigan, failed to show "any shred of evidence."

"No exhibits, no testimony from any of the plaintiffs, no evidence...indicates the procedures for the November 9, 2022 election violate Michigan election laws," read an opinion on the lawsuit, which was filed two weeks ago. 

The lawsuit filed by the Republican candidate had attempted to overturn election practices in the city of Detroit by claiming the city was corrupt and incapable of counting mail-in ballots. But arguments to "shed light in a dark place" "failed dramatically," the opinion read. 

Facts are fatal to the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


On Eve Of Voting, 'Putin's Chef' Prigozhin Admits To U.S. Election Interference (Radio Free Europe, 11/07/22)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- both of whom have been sanctioned by Washington and European countries -- has admitted Moscow interferes with U.S. elections and vowed to continue to do so.

In a post on his Telegram social media channel on November 7, Prigozhin, widely known as "Putin's Chef" for his company's catering contracts with the Kremlin, responded bluntly to a question from a follower asking about Russian efforts to influence elections in the United States by saying, "We interfered, we interfere and we will interfere."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Everyone thought this Republican would be easier to beat. He may win anyway. (Emma Platoff, November 6, 2022, Boston Globe)

Hassan was always expected to be one of Democrats' most vulnerable incumbents this cycle. But many in her party breathed a sigh of relief when Republicans nominated Bolduc, a rough-around-the-edges candidate whose campaign has been marked by outlandish claims and missteps. For a time, in September and October, polls showed Hassan with a consistent, if modest, lead.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said earlier this year that Bolduc was "not a serious candidate"; establishment Republicans were so worried that Bolduc would be easy to beat that they spent millions boosting his more traditional GOP primary opponent, Chuck Morse. Democrats were so sure Bolduc would be a softer target that they spent millions against Morse in hopes of drawing the more favorable opponent. [...]

Some New Hampshire political strategists believe that if Republicans had nominated more moderate candidates, the GOP slate would be polling even better. Arnie Arnesen, a radio host and former Democratic state representative in New Hampshire, said Bolduc and Leavitt are succeeding because "people don't know them."

With Governor Sununu at the top of the ballot, instead of Donald, the downticket GOP was always going to have a good year.  Funding the worst Republican nominees was an act of irresponsibility by national Democrats. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Political Violence Went Mainstream on the Right (RACHEL KLEINFELD, 11/07/2022, Politico)

[T]he problem we face is not solely the number of incidents. It's that violence has been mainstreamed on the right. It's effectively become another partisan tool for too many in the GOP. Changing the climate that fuels political violence won't be easy, but there are ways to do so, particularly by easing polarization so that mainstream Republicans step away from supporting a violent faction.

America has always had a high level of political violence compared to similar high-income, consolidated democracies. In the 1960s and 1970s, when such violence last peaked, it was committed by fringe groups, mostly on the left. In the 1980s and 1990s, extremist fringes on the right started growing. While violence was identifiably ideological, from left-leaning causes like the environment to anti-abortion activists on the right, it was not partisan. Supporting political violence could only hurt mainstream politicians, and it had nothing to do with the election calendar.

Today, violence on the left still looks like this. Progressives who support violence are disconnected from the Democratic Party and are generally disavowed by political leaders (though Democrats could do more to speak against the high levels of property violence that ravaged small businesses during the summer of 2020).

But on the right, support for violence is no longer a fringe position. Hate crimes remain the purview of the normal criminal demographic: unemployed and unmarried young men without kids. However, those joining violent political events like the Jan. 6 insurrection are more likely to be married middle-aged men with jobs and kids. Those most likely to support violence on the right feel most connected to the Republican Party according to a November 2021 Bright Line Watch survey. This is not a marginal movement: It is people who see violence as a means to defend their values, an extension of their political activity.

Donald Trump isn't entirely to blame for this shift, but he's clearly super-charged it. Since 2016, violence on the right has followed the election calendar -- rising and falling with predictability during periods when MAGA politicians fill campaign space with hate-filled, violent rhetoric to cement their base.

Many people who support violence would never actually commit it themselves. But when language that simultaneously depicts people as a threat and less than human becomes common, more aggressive and unbalanced individuals will act. Approximately 3 to 5 million Americans are willing to consider committing political violence, according to a poll conducted in the spring of 2022. Numbers like these mean that America is now at the point of what experts call stochastic terrorism -- a situation in which one can't predict who will commit violence, or exactly where or when, but it's highly predictable that someone, somewhere, will take the bait and act against the target.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel settlers escalate attacks against Palestinians in West Bank (MEMO, November 7, 2022)

On Sunday, at least 50 settlers placed illegal caravans in Khirbet Yanun, near Aqraba town, south of Nablus, as a prelude to seizing the land from its owners, a local official said.

The official in charge of the settlement file in the northern West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas explained that Khirbet Yanoun is already surrounded by five illegal settlements and outposts, erected on land seized from its Palestinian owners and that these outposts and settlements are expanding at the expense of Palestinians land.

In the Ein Fara area, southwest of Hebron in the southern West Bank, settlers have destroyed an irrigation network and destroyed agricultural crops.

Local resident, Nasr Hajja, said a group of settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Adora have destroyed agricultural fields in the Ain Fara area, irrigation networks and destroyed agricultural crops, explaining that Ain Fara is a natural spring used by Palestinians to irrigate their crops.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After ISIS attacked Iran, journalists pushed false flag theory (Matthew Petti, 11/07/22, Responsible Statecraft)

Hamid Badakhshan walked into the Shahcheragh Shrine in Shiraz and murdered 15 worshippers with a gun last week. He was shot, and died in Iranian police custody. ISIS claimed the attack as part of its broader sectarian war on Shi'a Islam.

The reaction to the attack was eerily reminiscent of the early Syrian civil war, or Iran's 1979 revolution. People mistrusted the official line about unfolding violence, with good reason. But as more facts emerged, conspiracy theories served to obscure more than illuminate. Foreign journalists, instead of acting as a check on speculation, indulged in it themselves.

Given the circumstances, many Iranians doubted the ISIS claim in the Shahcheragh attack. Officials and regime supporters had immediately taken advantage of the tragedy to blame Iran's insecurity on the ongoing popular uprising. And there are precedents for the Iranian government egregiously lying in public, including its misinformation and obfuscation around the shootdown of Flight PS752 two years ago.

The evidence for a false flag at Shahcheragh, however, was circumstantial and weak. Opposition outlet IranWire scrutinized a government propaganda graphic about the massacre. The image file's metadata appeared to show that it was made before the attack, which could be evidence of foreknowledge, or a computer time zone error. IranWire also noted contradictions between two different alleged ISIS propaganda claims floating around.

ISIS eventually released a tape and photos of "Abu Aisha al-Umari" taking an oath of allegiance to the group, in front of the ISIS flag. He was the same Hamid Badakhshan photographed at the scene of the attack. Barring an unimaginably sophisticated conspiracy, the imagery proves that ISIS was the culprit.

November 6, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Defiantly playfulA composer worth discovering and rediscovering (Norman Lebrecht, 11/06/22, The Critic)

Whilst Karol Szymanowski is unlikely ever to be voted into the Classic FM Hall of Fame, his stock has risen steadily in the present century, so much so that he can almost be counted now as mainstream. This was never the case in his lifetime, when he suffered the dual disability for a composer of being Polish and gay. On the first count he was compared unfavourably to Chopin, on the second disparagingly to Tchaikovsky. Always his own man, Szymanowski (1882-1937) sounds like no other maker of musical language -- as even a cursory listening will attest.

A Stabat Mater of 1926, mourning the death of a beloved niece, is unexpectedly upbeat for the circumstances. Sung in Polish and using two female soloists and a tenor, it conjures more hope than loss in a musical style closer to Janacek than Stravinsky. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Man held after propane tank wrapped in burning clothes left near Alabama synagogue (STUART WINER , 11/06/22, Times of Israel)

A man was detained on suspicion of arson after a propane gas tank wrapped in burning clothes was found near the Temple Beth-El Synagogue in Birmingham, Alabama, police said Friday. [...]

In 1958, 54 sticks of dynamite were set outside the same synagogue but did not detonate after the fuse burnt out.

The attempted bombing of Temple Beth-El was thought to be retaliation for Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Homeland Security Admits It Tried to Manufacture Fake Terrorists for TrumpA new Homeland Security report details orders to connect protesters arrested in Portland to one another in service of the Trump's imaginary antifa plot. (Dell Cameron, 11/05/22, Gizmodo)

The report describes attempts by top officials to link protesters to an imaginary terrorist plot in an apparent effort to boost Trump's reelection odds, raising concerns now about the ability of a sitting president to co-opt billions of dollars' worth of domestic intelligence assets for their own political gain. DHS analysts recounted orders to generate evidence of financial ties between protesters in custody; an effort that, had they not failed, would have seemingly served to legitimize President Trump's false claims about "Antifa," an "organization" that even his most loyal intelligence officers failed to drum up proof ever existed.

The DHS report offers a full accounting of the intelligence activities happening behind the scenes of officers' protest containment; "twisted efforts," Wyden said, of Trump administration officials promoting "baseless conspiracy theories" to manufacture of a domestic terrorist threat for the president's "political gain." The report describes the dossiers generated by DHS as having detailed the past whereabouts and the "friends and followers of the subjects, as well as their interests" -- up to and including "First Amendment speech activity." Intelligence analysts had internally raised concerns about the decision to accuse anyone caught in the streets by default of being an "anarchist extremist" specifically because "sufficient facts" were never found "to support such a characterization."

One field operations analyst told interviewers that the charts were hastily "thrown together," adding they "didn't even know why some of the people were arrested." In some cases, it was unclear whether the arrests were made by police or by one of the several federal agencies on the ground. The analysts were never provided arrest affidavits or paperwork, a witness told investigators, adding that they "just worked off the assumption that everyone on the list was arrested." Lawyers who reviewed 43 of the dossiers found it "concerning," the report says, that 13 of them stemmed from "nonviolent crimes." These included trespassing, though it was unclear to analysts and investigators whether the cases had "any relationship to federal property," the report says.

A footnote in the report states that "at least one witness" told investigators that dossiers had been requested on people who were "not arrested" but merely accused of threats. Another, citing emails exchanged between top intelligence officials, states dossiers were created "on persons arrested having nothing to do with homeland security or threats to officers."

Questioned by investigators, the agency's chief intelligence officer acknowledged fielding requests by Wolf and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, to create dossiers "against everyone participating in the Portland protest," regardless of whether they'd been accused of any crime, the report says. That officer, Brian Murphy, then head of the agency's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), told interviewers that he'd rejected the idea, informing his bosses that he could only "look at people who were arrested," and adding that it was something his office had done "thousands" of times before.

The DHS report, finalized more than a year ago, includes descriptions of orders handed down to "senior leadership" instructing them to broadly apply the label "violent antifa anarchists inspired" to Portland protesters unless they had intel showing "something different."

Once the dossiers were received by the agency's emerging threat center, it became clear that DHS had no real way to tie the protesters to any terrorist activities, neither at home nor abroad. Efforts to drum up evidence to support the administration's claim that a "larger network was directing or financing" the protesters -- a task assigned to another unit, known as the Homeland Identities, Targeting and Exploitation Center, diverted away from its usual work of analyzing national security threats -- "did not find any evidence that assertion was true," the report says.

Their "crime" was protesting racial injustice.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Learning lessons from dependency on a hostile powerBelief that mutual economic dependence would avoid conflict is quickly - and dangerously - being replaced by new era of engagement avoidance (BILL EMMOTT, NOVEMBER 6, 2022, Asia Times)

For although engagement has gone out of fashion, the question still hangs in the air: What, truly, was the alternative? If the West had not "engaged" with China and Russia during the past 30 years, what would it have done instead?

Can countries like Japan or Britain or Germany or even the United States really decide totally to shun powers that are the size and importance of Russia or China? Would it really make sense to turn your back on them?

We shall find out the answer to this during the coming months and years. Certainly, both the West - especially Europe - and Russia are learning an important lesson from the war in Ukraine. It is that dependency on a hostile power for supplies of a crucial commodity - in this case, energy - can be turned into a weapon of war.

Yet, for Russia, the further lesson is that Europe has proven much more capable of dealing with that weaponization of energy supply than it expected, more capable of finding alternative supplies quite quickly and more capable of absorbing the economic costs of doing so.

This promises to do more long-term damage to Russia than to the West. By weaponizing the supply of gas, Russia has lost its major customer, probably permanently, without gaining any sustainable advantage in the war.

It is possible to imagine Europe returning as a buyer from Russia after the war has finished, but it will not buy anywhere near as large a quantity of Russian gas as it did before.

Russia has badly underestimated the political resolve of European governments and the resilience of their public opinion, which has remained firmly supportive of Ukraine and is now determined to avoid such dependency in the future.

This has been helped by the fact that decarbonization through the replacement of fossil fuels with clean and renewable energy sources is both necessary and popular, depending on the cost.

November 5, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


Polio? Measles? Florida Is Flirting With an Anti-Vaccine Apocalypse: Thanks, DeSantis. (Kiera Butler, 11/05/22, MoJo)

Dr. Mobeen Rathore has spent the better part of his career trying to protect the children in his practice from contracting deadly diseases like measles, whooping cough, and polio. As chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology at the University of Florida's College of Medicine, Rathore remembers a time--just a few decades ago--when vaccination levels in Duval County, in the northeastern part of the state where he works, were lower than those in some of the poorest countries in the world: In 2002, just 77 percent of Duval County two-year-olds were up to date on their shots. So, he and his colleagues at the health department launched an all-out vaccination effort, deploying public health campaigns and training pediatricians to have persuasive conversations with parents. Over the years, they saw their hard work pay off: In 2019, the vaccination rate for two-year-old children in Duval was an impressive 98 percent.

But now, the progress that Rathore and his team made appears to be eroding. This year's survey showed that the Duval vaccination rate has dropped to 92 percent. The pattern in Duval County appears to be even more pronounced for Florida at large. Before the pandemic, the state had been doing pretty well on its decades-long campaign to increase routine childhood immunization rates. An annual state health department survey released in January 2020 found that 93 percent of two-year-olds were up to date on their shots--a major improvement since the first survey of this kind in 2002, when the rate was just 73 percent. This year, the statewide rate had fallen to 81 percent.

If you aren't willing to sacrifice human life to own the libs do you even care about MAGA?

Posted by orrinj at 5:30 PM


What the Pelosi Attack Says About a Post-Truth Church: Some evangelicals are endorsing political violence. It needs to stop. (RUSSELL MOORE, NOVEMBER 3, 2022, Christianity Today)

While all of this is going on, hordes of online commenters and conspiracy theory websites either deny the attack happened at all--as a "false flag" by the Deep State--or positively delight in the humor of it all. Many of them have "Christian. Husband. Father" or some similar designation in their social media bios.

All of this would be bad enough if it were simply happening in the "fog of disinformation." But even after the official Department of Justice affidavit was released with details from the police officers' interview with the alleged assailant--who admits to breaking into the Pelosi home to harm the Speaker--where are the apologies for spreading the lies? Where is the shame at delighting in what could easily have turned into murder?

When looking at some of the responses to the Pelosi beating, Mona Charen asked, "What the hell is wrong with these people?" The answer, of course, is hell.

James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that "the tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell" (James 3:6). He goes on to say to the churches that "bitter envy and selfish ambition" lead to "deny[ing] the truth," and that leads to "disorder and every evil practice" (vv. 14-16).

This imagery of fires from hell shows just how much damage can be done by lies and how easily they can burn out of control. The threat of political violence hangs over our country in ways perhaps not seen since the fiery days of the 1960s.

Indeed, the situation could easily become even more intense. After all, people back then didn't have social media incentives for getting attention through character degradation--the kind that could lead large numbers of people to communicate sympathy with Lee Harvey Oswald, James Earl Ray, or Sirhan Sirhan.

Where does much of this violence or the threat of it come from? Lies. The idea that the election was stolen by a vast conspiracy of liberals is a lie. That elected officials are part of a secret cabal to drink the blood of babies is a lie. That Jews are pulling the strings of the "globalist" order is a lie. That the federal government designed COVID-19 as a hoax is a lie. That your pastor is a "cultural Marxist" for preaching what the Bible teaches on race and justice is a lie.

What's worse, many of the people spreading such lies know them to be lies.

God is a God of truth, and he commands against both the bearing of false witness and the taking of human life. Jesus himself said the devil "was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).

The apostle Paul, too, points to the connection between lies and murder when he speaks of people under the power of sin as those whose "tongues practice deceit" and whose "feet are swift to shed blood" (Rom. 3:13-15).

We are in a precarious and dangerous time, and what's worse, we've become more accustomed to all of it. In early December 2020, when a Republican election official from Georgia called for an end to lies about a stolen election, he warned, "Someone's going to get shot; someone's going to get killed." A little over a month later, police officers were beaten at the United States Capitol. People were chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" And, yes, people were yelling out, "Where's Nancy?"

Is this really the sort of society in which we want to live? Is this really the United States of America we want to leave to our children? And, more importantly, is this the witness of the church we want to display?

The Right prefers its ideology to faith; the rest of us need not pretend they can meld both.

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


Bolsonaro Isn't Playing His Trump Card For Now: Brazil seems on track to ensure a peaceful transfer of power (Tom Shull, 11/04/22, UnPopulist)
In September, The UnPopulist brought you a column by Magno Karl of Livres, a Brazilian classical liberal organization, on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who's been dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics." The nickname, while apt, isn't exact: Unlike Donald Trump, Bolsonaro served in the military, and he was repeatedly elected to political office (as a member of Brazil's National Congress) before winning the presidency.

But as Karl detailed, Bolsonaro's rise was Trumpian: He gained public attention through minor TV fame and provocative and divisive comments. He generated political momentum through the aggressive use of social media, through claims to be an "outsider" who would reform a corrupt political system, and through the mobilization of conservative Christians' support despite no obvious religious convictions of his own. [...]

Seeking insight, UnPopulist Editor-at-Large Tom Shull conducted an interview with Karl this week about his prognosis for Brazil in the days ahead. The interview, which appears below, has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tom Shull: President Bolsonaro has finally spoken publicly about Sunday's presidential election, nearly two days after he was declared the loser in his reelection bid against Workers' Party candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. There were fears that Bolsonaro would dispute his very narrow loss to "Lula," as da Silva is known, and employ some stratagem to stay in office. Where do things stand now?

Magno Karl: Bolsonaro's two-day silence after his defeat was broken by a short speech on Tuesday, when his supporters were already blocking highways in more than 100 locations, in more than 10 states, around the country. In his speech, he acknowledged his followers' feelings of "indignation and injustice," but he didn't say that the election results were illegitimate, and he told the protesters that they shouldn't be like the leftists, engaging in vandalism or trespassing on people's property. 

He did not mention the elections, except to thank people for their votes. It was not a standard concession speech: There was no gracious mention to the winner, nor an order for the protesters to go home. It wasn't what people would expect from a solid democracy, but neither was it a call for resistance.

Between Sunday night, when the election results were confirmed, and Bolsonaro's speech on Tuesday afternoon, many other important players in Brazilian politics had spoken, including the heads of the Electoral Justice, the Deputies' Chamber (Congress' lower house) and the Senate (Congress' upper house). They all accepted the election's results. Just as in the election's first round, on Oct. 2, last Sunday's voting occurred without any major incident. It was then hard for Bolsonaro to make a case against its results.

His team did try to raise questions about the number of advertisement spots that his campaign should have received on a few local radio stations. In the week before the election's second round, Brazil's communications' minister called around to the media and spoke about the topic, but later it became clear that if there were any mistakes about the radio advertisements, they had come from Bolsonaro's campaign itself.

So there would have been no grounds for Bolsonaro to try to cling to power, and there would have been no support in the Brazilian political establishment, media or any institutions for such a move--not even the military. Not a single member of the armed forces came out against the election results.

Pretty sad when Republicans can learn about democratic maturity from Latin america.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


PODCAST: Russ Muirhead on the Enduring Appeal of Conspiracy Theory: Yascha Mounk and Russ Muirhead discuss what it is like for a political theorist to turn into a legislator and how to speak to voters who don't already agree with you. (Yascha Mounk, 11/04/22, Persuasion)

Russ Muirhead is the Robert Clements Professor of Democracy and Politics at Dartmouth College and a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. His latest book, co-authored with Nancy Rosenblum, is A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy.

In this week's conversation, Yascha Mounk and Russ Muirhead discuss how legislators can find sensible compromise even amidst vehement disagreement, why we misunderstand the popularity of conspiracy theories, and what Democrats can do to broaden their coalition and defeat right-wing populists.

The views expressed are those of the speakers, not those of Persuasion. The transcript has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Yascha Mounk: I've known you for many years, but you only recently became an elected official. 

What's it been like going from studying and teaching politics to being a state legislator in New Hampshire?

Russ Muirhead: It's a lot of fun. Sitting in a legislature is like being back in school. I learn so much every day. Any political scientist would probably love serving in the legislature for a couple of years, if they could possibly manage it. 

There's a difference between activism politics, movement politics and legislative politics. In movement politics, it's often about activating like-minded people, coming together, forming a movement. That has an essential place in democratic reform. But legislative politics is about brokering disagreement from the beginning. There's no legislature that's defined just by a movement. There's always more than one party or more than one faction in the legislature. So, legislative politics are about doing politics under conditions of disagreement. 

There's a kind of "right answer" mentality in politics--that the right answers are there, and it's just about authorizing and empowering them. A lot of people in the legislature have that mentality. They kind of think, "if our side just didn't encounter any obstacles, we would be able to legislate the right answers, and the world would be permanently improved as a result of that." And, you know, the phrase that my co author, Nancy Rosenblum, used in the title of one of her books is On the Side of the Angels. It's incredibly tempting to think that about your side. 

But there's a kind of wisdom that comes from political activity. It might come just from looking at the details of policy. This is the realization that there are no right answers. Very rarely do we face a question to which there exists just a right answer, a great answer. We're always, in politics, in a world of "second best", at best.

Mounk: You just made me realize something that I hadn't thought about before: a parallel between two different institutions in our democracies. One quintessentially democratic institution is an adversarial legal system, in which somebody makes the case for prosecution and somebody makes the case for defense. Now, by and large, people who are part of that system understand that they're gonna really strongly play one of these roles. But you need both roles for the system to come to the right results. 

Now, in a way, parliaments were conceived of as a similar thing. You don't try to suppress factions: you try to organize and verbalize them in the hope that the debates between them and the clashes between them lead to policy that's closer to the public good. But that doesn't really seem to be people's self-understanding, most of the time.

Muirhead: You're putting your finger on something really important about making politics work in the United States. The very best lawyers always understand the other side: they understand the other's case. They can try the case on the other side and do a great job because they know the weaknesses of their own side. It's a very bad lawyer who doesn't know how to make the case on the other side. Well, in politics, we have a lot of people--a lot of Democrats--who look across and think, "why are there Republicans? Because people are evil, because people are frail and self interested--a bunch of privileged people who are trying to defend their privilege." And the Republicans look at the Democrats and see a bunch of self-serving cultural elites, professors like me, and people who don't want to work; people who are "takers, not makers." And they think, "Well, the world would just be much better off if we didn't have that side." 

We've taken a very, very giant step toward delegitimizing the other side. But also, we've made it more difficult for us to understand our own weaknesses, to answer for them, to guard against them, and to build a real coalition.

And I don't mean to compress politics to just two sides. But let's just work with that. If you're a progressive, and you can't give an account of what conservatism really looks like, and what a conservative party ought to be, then you're driving with your eyes closed, and you're gonna make it harder, paradoxically, to build your party, because you can't take those little bits of wisdom from the conservative side and try to acquire them. 

Mounk: The second point that you're insinuating is that being able to give a fair account of what the other side believes actually helps win elections. Why is that? 

Muirhead: It would help Democrats win elections if they could understand and give a better account of conservatism than most conservatives could offer. We operate under a framework of constitutional rules. Now, you and I, as political-legal thinkers, might have a better constitution in mind for a country like the United States than the one that the United States actually possesses. So, let's just put aside our ideals for a moment. We've got the Constitution: it has the Senate, in which the states are represented. Meanwhile, progressives are geographically very clustered. And so for the progressive party to build a majority, they need to create a geographically dispersed majority, they need to appeal to people outside of Boston and San Francisco. You need a durable, extensive and diverse majority to rule under our  constitution, and there's no way to do that without creating a really cacophonous, heterogeneously diverse--or, as we like to say, "inclusive"--majority. Purity rituals are not going to get us there. The deepening conviction that the way you think is the perfect way to think, and that your party isn't actually a party, it's really the side of the angels, doesn't get you there either. What does get you there is a really capacious political imagination, where you can close your eyes and imagine how the world looks to somebody who sees it from the other side of the political fray. Only then can you start to, like I said, not just manipulate people who disagree with you, but actually capture some of the pieces of wisdom and insight that the other side has and bring them over to your side, mix them in with your philosophy to get something that can elect 54 senators. 

Mounk: What does it take for Democrats to be able to win in Indiana or Missouri, or perhaps in one of the Dakotas? And to anticipate one of the frequent objections to this: Am I just saying that we should throw in our cards and give up on anything that's important to progressives? 

Muirhead: I think that the real defect in American politics right now is a lack of ambition. Both sides want to win the next election, and only the next election, and they're content to win it just barely. I see this absence of ambition as even more definitive on the Republican side than the Democratic. It's always easier to see the flaws in your opponents; but trying to disenfranchise people on the margin, so that you can get that 0.4% advantage and barely win the congressional seat in a swing district--I mean, that wasn't the way Ronald Reagan thought about American politics. He took his conservatism to the country, he argued for it. I found it unconvincing and, in many ways, repellent--but he won 49 states after serving for one term. And that was a reflection of not just his capacity as a speaker, but of his ambition. 

The last Republican I saw who had that ambition was Karl Rove, when he helped get George W. Bush elected in 2000. We're going to try to build a "durable governing majority"--that's a quote that sent chills up the spines of liberals all over the country when they read it. And he wanted to make conservatism compassionate: he took this thing from the progressive side, compassion, and tried to acquire it for conservatism. What liberals need to do is exactly that. Democrats tend to speak the language of equality, and less the language of virtue or distinctiveness or deservingness.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


State Revenues Continue Strong for First Third of Fiscal Year (GARRY RAYNO, 11/05/22,

State revenues continue to perform ahead of what budget writers estimated for the first third of the 2023 fiscal year.

For October state levies produced $165 million in revenues with business taxes, the room and meals tax and interest earnings producing most of the $42.7 million in surplus for the month.

October's total is also 17.5 million more than the state collected a year ago, when the year's revenue surplus was over $400 million.

For the first four months of the 2023 fiscal year, state revenues total $770.2 million, which is $132 million more than estimates and $23.7 million than a year ago.

Business taxes produced $41 million in October, which is $22.6 million over estimates and $14.6  million more than a year ago.

According to the DRA, the largest contributor is estimates being up 26 percent over the same month a year ago.

For the year to date, business taxes have produced $298.8 million, which is $75 million more than estimates and $13.1 million more than a year ago.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


A church draws families together across the US-Mexico border. A wall pushes them further apart. (Annalisa Quinn, 11/04/22, Boston Globe)

TIJUANA, Mexico -- The Border Church, or La Iglesia Fronteriza, is not a building -- or if it is, it only has a single wall. Instead, it is a weekly, bilingual, interdenominational service held simultaneously on either side of the US-Mexico border.

On the Tijuana side, under El Faro, the city's iconic white lighthouse, a group of about 50 gathers each week. Many are people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador fleeing gang violence or poverty. The church is a place where they come to pray, to receive help with asylum claims, and to find some solidarity with others hoping to reach the United States. Others are deportees from America, often people who came from Mexico as children and were sent back as adults to a country they hardly knew.

Almost by definition, the people gathered in Tijuana are in a state of flux. Guillermo Navarrete, the church's lay pastor, sometimes looks at them and sees invisible questions hanging over their heads, he said. "What will happen? What about me?"

Through gaps in the wall, the other half of the congregation -- Americans who join in solidarity or because of a family connection in Mexico -- is just visible in San Diego, about a hundred feet away across a no-man's land surveilled by cameras mounted on high white towers. The barrier, made up of rusted steel shafts, runs down the beach and into the Pacific Ocean.

Today, because of the distance separating them, the two halves of the congregation communicate mostly by WhatsApp calls or Facebook Live. But when the group first began to hold irregular services in the early 2000s, the collection of fences and dead space and watchtowers we call "the wall" was just one fence, with spaces big enough to pass the sacrament between.

Eventually, a new fence with a wire-mesh barrier was installed, and congregants from both sides could only exchange a "pinky kiss" with the pads of their smallest fingers. A second fence was also installed on the US side, some 50 yards from the first, such that congregants and others who come to meet family and friends across the border can now hardly see or hear each other, let alone touch.

"The body and blood of Christ became contraband," said Seth David Clark, the church's pastoral director on the US side, who has written a book about the church.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Who knew huckleberries were a real fruit? (Jenna Russell, , 11/05/22, Boston Globe)

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. -- Before he landed here for the summer, scooping ice cream and steaming cappuccinos just outside the entrance to Yellowstone National Park, Mustafa Ceren was not familiar with the huckleberry.

It did not take long for him to grasp the critical importance of the elusive fruit.

"Vanilla, chocolate, huckleberry," the affable 23-year-old declared through the window of his takeout ice cream stand. "That's the classics."

No one born east of the Mississippi would agree; indeed, it is questionable how many easterners would even recognize the huckleberry as a real thing. (I confess that for years -- many years -- I thought "huckleberry" was a cute country nickname for some familiar fruit, like raspberry, or a catch-all term for a jumble of mixed berries.)

But here, in the gateway to the Great Northwest, the huckleberry is both real and king -- a finicky, mercurial king who refuses to grow in captivity and thrives only in precise alpine conditions.

A century of efforts to tame it have failed. Turf wars have broken out over coveted, productive swaths of its habitat. And as the frozen product fetches $30 per pound on Amazon, the huckleberry exerts a magical pull on the customers who line up outside Espresso West.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


French lawmaker suspended after shouting, 'Go back to Africa,' in Parliament (Ellen Francis and Rick Noack, 11/04/22,  Washington Post)

Carlos Martens Bilongo, a 31-year-old Black lawmaker who represents a district north of Paris, was addressing the National Assembly, or lower house, about migrants stranded at sea, when another member of Parliament, Grégoire de Fournas, 37, interrupted him and shouted that someone should ''go back to Africa.''

November 4, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Jury finds Trump friend Tom Barrack not guilty of foreign lobbying and lying to FBI (Dareh Gregorian, 11/04/22, NBC News)

Barrack, a California billionaire, had denied doing the bidding of the UAE, and maintained that he had arranged meetings between Emirati and White House officials and made media comments praising the UAE government because he wanted to, not because he was being directed to.

Barrack said he was thankful to the jury. "I'm so moved by them and the system," he said. Asked what he planned to do after the victory, Barrack said he was going to visit the Statue of Liberty -- and "have a drink."

"God bless America," he said. "The system is amazing."

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


What Is Integralism? (William Galston, 11/04/22, Persuasion)

Broadly speaking, there are two different kinds of contemporary American conservatism. The more familiar--traditional conservatism--holds that the founding principles and institutions of the American polity remain sound but have been distorted by waves of progressive activism that have eroded our commitment to individual liberty and limited government. The task is to preserve these fundamentals while restoring their original meaning and function. 

The second kind of conservatism claims that America was flawed from the start. The focus on individual rights comes at the expense of community and the common good, and the claim that government exists to preserve individual liberty creates an inexorable move toward moral anarchy. These tendencies have moved us so far from traditional decency and public order that there is little of worth left to "conserve." Our current situation represents a revolution against the forces--religion, strong families, local moral communities--that once limited the worst implications of our founding mistakes. The only remedy for this revolution is a counter-revolution. Instead of limited government, we need strong government capable of promoting the common good and defending moral common sense against the threat posed by unelected elites.

This proposed counter-revolution has little to do with conservatism as traditionally understood. It seeks not to limit the flaws in our founding principles but to replace them. Specifically, it is a revolt against liberalism, the political theory rooted in the Enlightenment that inspired the Declaration of Independence. This New Right is unabashedly anti-liberal, at the level of philosophical principle as well as political practice.

There are different kinds of anti-liberalism. Some are secular--for example, fascism, which rests its legitimacy on the culture and spirit of a specific "people" and uses all available means to pursue the interests of this people, as defined by an elite that purports to speak in its name. Other kinds of anti-liberalism appeal to a specific religion, the truth of which is taken for granted. Legitimate government rules in the name of this religion and promotes God's will on earth.

With these distinctions, we have reached integralism, which is a distinctive form of religious anti-liberalism within Catholicism. It arose many centuries before the emergence of liberalism, as a justification for the integration of Catholicism and political power that began under the Roman emperor Constantine and was completed in 380 by emperor Theodosius I, who embraced Christianity not only as his personal religion but also as the religion of his realm. At the end of the next century, Pope Gelasius I formalized the Catholic understanding in his famous distinction between priestly and royal authority. In matters concerning religious practice and ultimate salvation, Gelasius argued, political authorities are required to submit to the authority of the Church. 

Among other implications, this arrangement precludes religious liberty as now understood. Any political authority that permits individuals and groups to freely choose among religions ipso facto denies the authority of the Church in spiritual matters.

It begins with anti-Americanism. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:59 AM


Israel just had a bad week (Jeffrey Salkin, 11/04/22, RNS)

I cannot overstate the danger that Israel, the American Jewish community, and Judaism itself faces.

Itamar Ben-Gvir is a racist.

He believes in the discredited radical anti-Arab and xenophobic rhetoric of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the Jewish Defense League in New York in the 1960s and then made aliyah.

He venerated Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 opened fire in the tomb of the patriarchs in Hebron, killing 29 people and wounding 125 Palestinian Muslim worshipers.

He had threatened to assassinate former prime minister Yitzchak Rabin, and on this day in 1995, Yigal Amir did precisely that.

He supports passing a law that would make sex between a Jew and a gentile illegal.

Ben-Gvir was considered so dangerous, that he was forbidden to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. That is the most stunning condemnation that you will ever find of him and his ideas.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


The GOP's new, Russia-friendly campaign-trail buddy: Tulsi Gabbard (ANDREW DESIDERIO, 11/04/2022, Politico)

Republicans once slammed Tulsi Gabbard as a socialist seeking to appease dictators like Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. These days, much of the GOP is embracing her. [...]

"The only reason people know who Tulsi Gabbard is, particularly on the right, is because she has become a darling of the alt-right because of her statements on Russia," said Heath Mayo, a conservative activist who founded the advocacy group Principles First. "They're saying they like her pro-'America First' views, when she's primarily known by most of the American electorate for having met with Assad and partially blamed America for him gassing his citizens, and blamed America for Putin invading Ukraine."

"It's clear to everyone that what Tulsi Gabbard represents," Mayo added, "is isolationism and excuses for dictators."

Oh, no, she represents much weirder stuff than that.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


The Great Jewish-American Entanglement : a review of .The Arc of a Covenant: The United States, Israel and the Fate of the Jewish People, by Walter Russell Mead (Jorge González-Gallarza, November 1, 2022, City Journal)

Mead calls these two interlocking fates a "great quantum entanglement," and a singular focus of his magisterial study is to show how little a role Jews themselves played in kindling this relationship. "The perception that America is a pro-Jewish power," he writes, "antedates significant Jewish immigration to the United States." This paradox, Mead notes, applies to the wider Zionist movement, whose success in declaring a Jewish state in 1948 ultimately hinged on the support of Gentile politicians, industrialists, and diplomats. "The secret weapon of the Zionists," he writes, "was their ability to gather up the critical gentile support," yet replicating that among Jews would, in Theodor Herzl's mind, "be Zionism's hardest test." Israel, he notes later, is "something that gentiles, antisemites included, and Jews made together." Zionists, Mead explains, were a minority of American Jewry until word of the Final Solution reached the U.S. around 1943.

America's special bond with Jews, in fact, does not just predate the Jewish-American diaspora; it predates America itself. Mead cites four reasons why, from the fifteenth century onward, the Anglosphere as a whole began turning away from the theologically tinged anti-Semitism that remained a hallmark of Europe's politics for centuries thereafter. First, the Protestant Reformation shed a new, friendlier light on Judaism by connecting the faithful to the Torah, unmediated by the Church. Second, a vision took hold that "linked the fate of the Jews with the fate of the English speakers," a point Mead could have expanded on by referring to eminent Hebraists in the common-law tradition, such as John Selden. Third, England and America gradually replaced "total society" with a more pluralistic model of inter-faith concord sooner than continental Europe, though England would remain a religious quasi-monolith for a while longer. And fourth, the advent of industrial capitalism helped destigmatize the largely commercial and financial trades to which Europe's medieval anti-Semitic laws had relegated Jews.

In addition to these four reasons, the growth on U.S. soil of religious denominations that put Jews firmly back in God's plan, from Puritanism to Evangelicalism, helped cement America's philo-Semitic bent. That is not to mention the philo-Hebraism of the Founding generation, which was "immersed in the images, the language, and the historical ideas of the Hebrew Bible"--the same Bible that a philo-Christian Jewish author like Yoram Hazony wants restored in public education. The very idea of America, in fact, is shot through with the kind of Mosaic nationalism that elevated the ancient Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt. Like them, "the American people had been entrusted with a providential message intended for the whole human race."

This long, profound relationship, ultimately rooted less in Judaism itself than in Christianity's new forms, is among the storylines Mead harnesses to dispel what he calls the "planet Vulcan" theory--namely, "the antisemitic legend that falsely attributes American support for Israel to the machinations of a secretive and all-powerful Jewish lobby."

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


New renewables record as UK wind generation blows past 20GW (Sophie Vorrath, 4 November 2022, Renew Economy)

The UK has notched up a new wind energy generation record, with its offshore and onshore wind farms contributing more than 20 gigawatts to the national power supply at around midday on November 3.

According to a Tweet from the National Grid ESO, wind power generated 20,896MW in the 12:30 settlement period, contributing more than half (53%) of all of Great Britain's electricity.

"Overall, it was a VERY green day," the tweet continues, "70% of energy was zero carbon (Nuclear, Wind, Hydro, Solar & Storage).

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Israel vote cements rise of extreme right (Rosie SCAMMELL, November 4, 2022, AFP)

This gives the extreme right unprecedented influence, securing Ben-Gvir's transformation from political pariah to powerbroker. [...]

Ben-Gvir lives in a settlement of religious hardliners in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank, but has attempted to moderate his public appearance in the run-up to elections.

"When I said 20 years ago that I wanted to expel all the Arabs, I don't think that anymore. But I will not apologise," he told AFP ahead of the vote.

Before entering the political mainstream, Ben-Gvir hung a portrait in his living room of Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli who killed 29 Palestinian worshippers at a Hebron mosque in 1994.

The picture was taken down before he entered parliament last year, but Ben-Gvir still regularly shows up at flashpoint sites in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As a policymaker, his sights are set on annexing the West Bank and ensuring Israel's security services use more force in countering Palestinian unrest.

The United Nations says recent months have been the deadliest period in years in the West Bank, with near daily army raids and an increase in clashes and attacks on Israeli forces.

More US Jewish groups publicly fret over far-right showing in Israeli election (JUDAH ARI GROSS, 11/04/22, Times of Israel)

The Anti-Defamation League, which had raised concerns about the Religious Zionism party's past rhetoric in the lead-up to the election, doubled down on its criticism after the results came in.

"We believe that including these far-right individuals and parties in an Israeli government would run counter to Israel's founding principles, and impact its standing, even among its strongest supporters," the organization said.

The ADL added that it "will not shirk from calling out expressions by, and policies of, the Israeli government and Israeli leaders that are hateful, racist, anti-Arab, homophobic and anti-democratic."

The 130-year-old National Council of Jewish Women released a fierce response to the election results on Thursday night, calling out the party by name.

"We support the electoral process in Israel and respect the outcome of its elections. And we are deeply concerned by the statements and ideologies of the parties that appear to be forming the next coalition government -- particularly the anti-LGBTQ+, anti-women and anti-Arab rhetoric from the parties that make up the Religious Zionism Slate, including Ben Gvir's Otzma Yehudit party, the Noam party and the Religious Zionism party," the organization's CEO Sheila Katz said.

"NCJW will always stand up for justice, democracy and diplomacy, and we refuse to normalize racism, incitement or discrimination," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


Why Flightline, the Breeders' Cup favorite, is the fastest horse you've never heard of (Dana O'Neil, Nov 4, 2022, The Athletic)

[F]lightline, who will load into the starting gate as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Saturday, needs to be in the conversation for the fastest racehorse of all time. And yes, that's a list that includes Secretariat. [...]

[W]hat he is doing now is extraordinary. He is not merely undefeated, he is near untouchable. He has won his five races by a combined 62 ¾ lengths and all but one has been by 11 lengths or more. Whatever skeptics remained turned into converts in his most recent race, the Pacific Classic. Running in a race that included two turns for the first time and a race that stretched for more than a mile for the first time, Flightline won by 19 ¼ lengths, leaving the Dubai World Cup winner among others in his dust. "It's eerie when you think about it -- he's never had to even think about a competitor, because he's never had one,'' says Terry Finley, the CEO and president of West Point Thoroughbreds, which purchased Flightline at the 2019 Saratoga sale. "I love that idea. He's never even had to think about another horse.''

While studying at Harvard in the 1960s, a man by the name of Andy Beyer came up with a measurable for horses, and in 1992, the Daily Racing Form started publishing those figures. Only one horse has recorded a better Beyer speed figure than Flightline's 126 in the Pacific Classic, and none have matched his five-race string of excellence -- 105, 114, 118, 112, and 126. "It's like comparing Babe Ruth to Mickey Mantle; it's not easy to compare generations, but he is a great, great horse,'' Sadler says. "One of those rare horses that only comes along every 20 years." For those who at least want some recent comparisons, Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the Breeders' Cup Classic by 6 1/2 lengths in 2015; his Beyer figure was 120. It was, by far, the best of his career.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


What is Beauty?: Chloe Cooper Jones examines physical disability and the politics of being seen in her memoir "Easy Beauty" (WYNTER K MILLER, 11/04/22, Electric Lit)
There's a scene in Easy Beauty, one of many in Chloé Cooper Jones' complex and exceedingly intelligent memoir, that speaks volumes. In it, the author is asked why she doesn't write about disability. She replies, "As soon as you identify as something, people start telling you who you are and what you mean. They put you in a little box and leave you there." [...]

Chloé Cooper Jones and I connected via Zoom to talk about beauty, transformation, and the art of being fully present--all timeless topics covered thoughtfully in Easy Beauty.

Wynter K Miller: One of the theses underlying Easy Beauty is the belief that proximity to beauty can be transformative for the individual. Assuming that society operates on the same belief--what do you think we're being transformed into, writ large?

Chloé Cooper Jones: I think that what's important about this idea that beauty is transformative is that there is a threshold, in a certain sense, in which beauty can be transformative, and in a way that I would associate with positive growth. There's this operating idea in the book that beauty can give us a chance. And this is not really my idea. It's Iris Murdoch's idea, that beauty can give us this chance to escape ourselves, to actually move outside of our ego or our own limited perspective, and that we can use beauty, or the aesthetic experience, or art in general, to step outside of your palace of self-regard, engage in the world, and then to return to yourself further enriched. I think there's a lot in society that does support that aim, and I think that aim is unbelievably worthwhile and is transformative in the very best sense because it literally lifts us outside of the limits of being just one single person.

Nailed the point of Identitarianism too--submersion. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


How to Love People Who Love Conspiracies: Fighting over the facts is unlikely to convince anyone. (Arthur C. Brooks, NOVEMBER 3, 2022, The Atlantic)

Conspiracy beliefs can also bring tangible benefits for well-being. For example, they can provide a sense of control in a chaotic world. Research has shown that people who feel they have little control over their lives are more likely to hold superstitions (for example, that the number 13 is unlucky), see spurious correlations (in, say, the stock market), and believe in conspiracies. Similarly, people with a need to feel unique and special may gravitate toward unusual beliefs, such as conspiracies, held by a minority of people.

These beliefs can also provide a sense of community, as Kelly Weill wrote earlier this year in The Atlantic in an article about people who believe in a flat Earth. Even though conspiracy theories can drive a wedge between those who believe them and their friends and family who don't, at the same time, these unpopular views can create a sense of kinship among people who hold them--sort of like unpopular tastes or esoteric knowledge. For more than a century among some social scientists, this has been called the "sociology of secret societies."

Shorter version:  "Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden...We join
    a mass movement to escape from individual responsibility, or, in the words of an ardent young
    Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared
    themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed.  They considered themselves
    cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not
    joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?"

November 3, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:18 PM


How a sand battery could transform clean energy ( Erika Benke,  3rd November 2022, BBC)

At the end of a winding, tree-lined country road in western Finland, four young engineers believe they have a possible answer to one of green energy's biggest challenges.

The challenge is how to provide a year-round, steady power supply from renewable energy during changing seasons and variable weather conditions. The answer nestling in Vatajankoski power plant, 270 km (168 miles) north-west of Finland's capital, Helsinki, is remarkably simple, abundant and cheap: sand.

The Vatajankoski power plant is home to the world's first commercial-scale sand battery. Fully enclosed in a 7m (23ft)-high steel container, the battery consists of 100 tonnes of low-grade builders' sand, two district heating pipes and a fan. The sand becomes a battery after it is heated up to 600C using electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels in Finland, brought by Vatajankoski, the owners of the power plant.

The renewable energy powers a resistance heater which heats up the air inside the sand. Inside the battery, this hot air is circulated by a fan around the sand through heat exchange pipes.

Hating Progressives doesn't actually stop progress.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Trump's Company Is Now Under Court Supervision (Greg Walters, November 3, 2022, Vice News)

Former President Donald Trump can no longer run his business empire as he pleases without informing New York authorities of his plans, a New York judge ruled on Thursday.

The decision means Trump must notify the judge and New York Attorney General Letitia James before selling or transferring assets, following a warning from James' office that Trump's company appeared to be gearing up to transfer parts of his business empire outside the reach of her $250 million civil lawsuit. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Virginia's governor set up a tip line to crack down on CRT. Parents used it for other reasons (Alia Wong, Nirvi Shah, Nick Penzenstadler, 11/03/22, USA TODAY)

Complaints about special education violations. Praise for teachers. Concerns about academic rigor and options. 

These are some of the main themes in a sampling of the emails sent to a so-called tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin earlier this year for parents to report, as he put it, "any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated" and schools are engaging in "inherently divisive practices." The email tip line was part of a larger campaign by the governor to root out the teaching of critical race theory. But few of the tips flag the types of practices Youngkin was describing.

All comedy is conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 2:50 PM


Capitol Police cameras caught break-in at Pelosi home, but no one was watching (Aaron C. Davis, Carol D. Leonnig, Marianna Sotomayor and Paul Kane, 11/03/22,  Washington Post)

Inside the command center for the US Capitol Police, a handful of officers were going through their routines early Friday morning, cycling through live feeds from the department's 1,800 cameras used to monitor the nearby Capitol complex as well as some points beyond, when an officer stopped. On a screen showing a darkened street nearly 3,000 miles away, police lights were flashing outside the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, officials say.

The officer in D.C. quickly pulled up additional camera angles from around Pelosi's home and began to backtrack, watching recordings from the minutes before San Francisco police arrived. There, on camera, was a man with a hammer, breaking a glass panel and entering the speaker's home, according to three people familiar with how Capitol Police learned of the break-in and who have been briefed on or viewed the video themselves.

Fear of the panopticon is one of the silliest paranoias--and that's a pretty fierce competition...

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


No lithium? No problem, says Woburn battery startup (Hiawatha Bray, 11/03/22, Boston  Globe)

A small startup in Woburn called Alsym Energy is working on one of the world's biggest problems -- the need for better, cheaper batteries for cars, electric utilities, and even seagoing ships.

Alsym's founders, veteran entrepreneur Mukesh Chatter and Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Kripa Varanasi, say they've built a new kind of rechargeable battery that delivers the performance of lithium ion cells at half the cost.

That's largely because the batteries don't contain lithium or cobalt -- scarce and expensive metals mostly controlled by China. And Alsym says they will never burst into flame like lithium batteries, because none of the ingredients are flammable.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Russia will rejoin UN grain corridor (Peter Beaumont, 11/03/22, The Guardian)

The Kremlin has said it will rejoin the UN-administered grain export corridor from Ukraine, after pulling out over the weekend following a drone attack on Russian warships in the port of Sevastopol.

Moscow's humiliating climbdown came two days after a large convoy of ships moved a record amount of grain in defiance of Russia's warnings that it would be unsafe without its participation, and after high-level diplomatic contacts between Turkey - one of the guarantors of the scheme with the UN - and Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Psychedelics show promise in treating depression: study (AFP, November 3, 2022)

For years, scientists have been looking ever more seriously at the therapeutic effect of psychedelics, which are not legal under US federal law. However, despite this renewed interest, large-scale studies are still lacking.

On Wednesday, researchers took an important step to fill this gap.

Their work, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the largest clinical trial ever conducted to evaluate the effect of psilocybin, a psychoactive substance found naturally in  "magic" mushrooms.

A single dose of 25 milligrams reduced symptoms of depression in people for whom several conventional treatments had failed, they showed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


A submerged buoy-like device is harnessing the sea's 'epic amounts of energy in Scottish trial (Anmar Frangoul, 11/03/22, CNBC)

Sea-based trials of a wave energy converter weighing 50 metric tons have produced "highly encouraging results," according to the company behind its development.

On Tuesday, Scotland-based AWS Ocean Energy said the average amount of power its device was able to capture "during a period of moderate wave conditions" came to more than 10 kilowatts, while it also recorded peaks of 80 kW.

In addition, AWS said its Waveswing was able to operate in more challenging conditions, including Force 10 gales.

The piece of kit -- which has been described as a "submerged wave power buoy" -- has a diameter of 4 meters and stands 7 meters tall.

The Waveswing, AWS Ocean Energy says, "reacts to changes in sub-sea water pressure caused by passing waves and converts the resulting motion to electricity via a direct-drive generator." [...]

Neil Kermode, who is EMEC's managing director, said it had been "great to see the Waveswing deploy, survive and operate at our test site this year."

"We know there are epic amounts of energy in the seas around the UK and indeed the world," Kermode went on to add. "It is really rewarding to see a Scottish company make such progress in harvesting this truly sustainable energy."

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


EXCERPT: How Much Control Do Humans Have Over Their Lives, Really?: Kennon M. Sheldon on Free Choice and Intrinsic Motivation (Kennon M. Sheldon, November 3, 2022, LitHub)

Deci had some doubts about this idea. What if he could instead show that people were less motivated the more money they received as a reward? What if money, in some circumstances, actually functioned like a punishment instead of like a reward? By definition, a punishment is any stimulus that reduces the likelihood that the preceding behavior will be repeated. Suppose you smile at someone, and that person frowns back. If you don't smile at that individual anymore, then the frown (the stimulus) is said to have punished your smiling behavior, reducing its likelihood of recurring. Usually, a punishment (like the frown) feels unpleasant, which is why people try to avoid repeating behaviors that brought punishment. Wouldn't it be ironic if money functioned as a punishment for some kinds of behavior?

Deci decided to put his hypothesis to the test and devised an ingenious and subversive set of experiments. He chose to use a type of puzzle that was all the rage at that time, the Soma puzzle. The Soma puzzle consists of seven colorful and irregularly shaped pieces that can fit together to form a cube. Mathematically, it's a simpler version of the Rubik's cube, which came later.

The Rubik's cube, however, twists and turns, and the challenge has to do with arranging the colors, whereas the Soma cube's seven pieces come apart entirely, and the challenge is to put them back together--and not always into a cube. Particular Soma puzzles involve trying to assemble the seven unique pieces into various larger shapes after seeing pictures of those shapes. People naturally enjoyed playing with Soma cubes; it enjoyed great popularity at the time. Deci wondered if he could kill that enjoyment.

Deci randomly assigned each of his study participants to one of two conditions. In the first (neutral control) condition, participants were simply asked to spend a few minutes "trying out some of the puzzles, to see if you like them." After five minutes the experimenter excused himself, supposedly to make copies of a final survey, telling individual participants that while they waited, they could either do some more Soma puzzles or look at some magazines (today, participants would just take out their cellphones!). Many of these participants kept playing with the puzzles during this "free-choice" period. Deci timed them, unbeknownst to them, through a one-way window. And why shouldn't they want to keep going, rather than read a boring magazine? Deci chose the game because of its addictive properties.

In the second experimental condition, participants were instead told at the beginning that they would receive one dollar for each Soma puzzle they correctly solved, for up to five puzzles. This was the only difference between the two conditions: the second group of participants knew they could earn money by solving the puzzles.

And during the free-choice period in this second condition, what happened was exactly what Deci had predicted: participants who knew they could earn money by doing the puzzles spent less time, on average, doing additional puzzles than the participants who had not been told they could earn money, and more time thumbing through magazines. They had been "punished by rewards," as the writer Alfie Kohn later put it. When the time came for them to exercise free choice, they chose not to play anymore.

In interpreting his findings, Deci embraced a radical new idea that was emerging in the 1960s: that behavior can be intrinsically motivated. This means that doing a behavior can be its own reward--it is fun and interesting, and people don't have to be reinforced by external rewards and tokens to do it. Intrinsically motivated behaviors are the things that we choose to do when we get to do what we want: relaxing on the weekend, going on vacation, celebrating Mardi Gras. Today, the concept of intrinsic motivation is almost universally accepted, and it is easily seen even in nonhuman animals (just search for "curious cats" on YouTube). The bigger the brain, the more intrinsic motivation it has--the more it "plays."

No one will miss jobs.

November 2, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


A Federal Judge Calls Clarence Thomas' Bluff on Gun Rights and Originalism (MARK JOSEPH STERN, NOV 02, 2022, Slate)

Last Thursday, Judge Carlton Reeves of the Southern District of Mississippi [...] proposed appointing a historian to help him "identify and sift through authoritative sources on founding-era firearms restrictions" to decide the constitutionality of a federal law barring felons from possessing firearms. His proposal is the first positive development in Second Amendment law since the Bruen revolution. At worst, it will demonstrate the absurdity and impossibility of Thomas' command. At best, it will restore sanity to an area of jurisprudence that is going completely off the rails.

Reeves' order is bracingly honest about the sorry state of Second Amendment jurisprudence today. "The justices of the Supreme Court, distinguished as they may be, are not trained historians," he wrote. Federal judges "lack both the methodological and substantive knowledge that historians possess. The sifting of evidence that judges perform is different than the sifting of sources and methodologies that historians perform. And we are not experts in what white, wealthy, and male property owners thought about firearms regulation in 1791." Putting oneself in the mindset of rich, white men in the 18th century requiring training and practice. "Yet we are now expected to play historian in the name of constitutional adjudication."

To illustrate his point, Reeves wrote that while historians still fiercely contest the theory of an individual right to bear arms, that right remains the law. He quoted the academic Patrick J. Charles, who wrote that advocates of this theory "broke, and continue to break, virtually every norm of historical objectivity and methodology accepted within academia." Charles' complaint could be applied to a huge amount of pseudo-originalist legal theory. As he explained: "Minority viewpoints are cast as majority viewpoints. Historical speakers' and writers' words are cast in terms outside the bounds of their intended context or audience. The intellectual and political thoughts of different historical eras are explained from modern vantage point. Historical presumptions or inferences are sold as historical facts."

Bruen exemplifies these problems. Thomas adopted a tendentious and selective reading of the record, endorsing a false narrative shaped by Republican-allied academics funded by gun rights groups like the NRA. He started with the false premise that the Second Amendment created an individual right to bear arms--a right that the court established for the first time in 2008's District of Columbia v. Heller--which scholars have comprehensively debunked using originalist tools. He then manipulated or ignored long-established limits on concealed carry to conclude that such restrictions are not rooted in American history.

...the notion of individual gun rights is anti-textual. Originalism is a tough taskmaster.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Transmission infrastructure lowers energy bills, creates jobs, and keeps Americans safe (CONRAD LA JOIE,  KRISTIN EBERHARD, NOVEMBER 1, 2022, Niskanen Center)

More transmission means more jobs for American workers, economic growth for American industry, and more money in the bank for American families. Lack of transmission and rising energy costs strain the average American family. Average electric bills across the country are now almost $137 per month[1]-3 percent of the median household's take-home pay.[2] Transmission infrastructure can reduce these costs by connecting more Americans to cheap and plentiful energy resources. Building more transmission lines to access low-cost clean energy generation can reduce the average household's electricity bills by $300 per year. 

Transmission also provides Americans with honest pay for honest work. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that a 20-mile transmission line will generally create 114 construction jobs and 2 maintenance jobs. Specifically, analysis of a 180-mile transmission line from Wyoming to Colorado indicates it will create 500 construction and 70 maintenance jobs. Given the dynamic growth in the energy sector, especially in wind and solar development, some analysts project job growth of over 1.5 million jobs just in transmission and another 7.5 million jobs throughout the entire energy sector by 2050.

Transmission helps drive economic growth throughout our economy as well. The TransWest Express Transmission Project is expected to generate up to $9.5 billion dollars over the next 50 years in the Mountain-West region alone. Other more comprehensive portfolios in the Great Lakes region and along the Mississippi can reap as much as $74.8 billion in economic benefits. 

Sufficient transmission infrastructure makes cheap and clean energy available to more Americans. The United States is fortunate to have abundant energy resources, including geothermal, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, high-value solar in the American Southwest, and copious wind in the Midwest and Plains states that can keep the lights on at low costs with limited pollution. Unfortunately, our power grid lacks the capacity to deliver this energy across the country.

The U.S. must build a robust transmission network to tap into these vast energy reserves. We are already generating cheap energy that gets trapped, unable to benefit households, businesses, and American industry. Once generated, electricity must be used or wasted. If there isn't transmission capacity available to get the electricity to the consumer, producers must "sell" the energy at a negative price. Building more transmission infrastructure in these areas experiencing regular negative prices would allow that cheap power to flow to homes and businesses in neighboring regions. This would not only bring down power prices for those customers immediately, but the stable revenues for power producers would also drive more investment in energy development, creating more abundant energy and driving prices down further. 

Transmission brings massive benefits to our country. It fortifies energy security against weather events and other threats, brings down costs, bolsters economic prosperity, and unlocks vast sources of clean, low-cost, made-in-America energy. Building more transmission infrastructure would extend these benefits to many more Americans and ensure that the disasters wrought by Winter Storm Uri don't become a recurring national nightmare.

November 1, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Supreme Court Rejects Graham's Attempt To Evade Georgia Grand Jury (National Memo, November 01 | 2022)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is overseeing the probe of Trump's attempted coup, has demanded that Graham appear by testify by November 17. Several Trump lawyers, including John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, and Boris Epshteyn have already been forced to testify. A US District Court judge has also ruled that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must testify.

Starting to think they're just in it for the spankings.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


As a jockey, he's won 2,683 horse races. The toll on his body tells the story. (Hanna Krueger, 11/01/22, Boston Globe)

PINE RIDGE RESERVATION, S.D. -- A legendary Lakota horseman lives near Wounded Knee. He has a poorly healed rib poking out against the skin of his torso and a long scar curving from the left corner of his mouth toward his right eye, a reminder of 62 stitches. His left knee is slightly bigger than his right; the ligaments inside are shot. Knotty bumps along his collarbone convey all the times it has broken and healed, and broken and healed.

His name is Fred Ecoffey, and the 85-year-old former jockey was declared winner at horse racing tracks 2,683 times, most often in Nebraska and more often than anyone else in that state's history. The South Dakota native first barreled out of the gates in 1957 on a horse named Baby Sweeper. He kept doing so astride other thoroughbreds 17,521 more times over his 26-year career, despite being laid up for years-long stretches recovering from injuries.

Ecoffey does not volunteer these statistics. They need to be pried out of him, one story, one race, one horse at a time. He embodies the Lakota virtue of humility -- or unsiiciyapi -- and prefers to discuss his horses, his family, his late wife of 53 years, Phyllis, and his love for this beastly, beautiful land that he's never been able to shake.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Our great debt to the ReformationThe Protestant movement pushed God's Kingdom forward (Mark Tooley, 10/31/22, The World)

By stressing humanity's direct access to God and the Bible, stressing salvation through faith alone, and also uplifting non-ecclesial vocations and marital life, Protestantism ennobled and liberated much of humanity. Modern literacy, modern science, modern markets and capitalism, constitutional democracy and human rights were all advanced by the Reformation, and in a decisive way.

Martin Luther likely had few of these eventual developments in mind when he nailed those 95 theses to the church door. Perhaps he would have been discomfited by some of these consequences, had he known. But by his own admission, he was but a worm who was a tool of God's Providence. No human being can, in any age of history, fully appreciate how God is using him or her to advance divine justice and righteousness.

Luther's insistence on human direct access to God through Christ dethroned the medieval church's grasping after inordinate spiritual and temporal power. His stress on direct reading of the Bible by laity in their own language facilitated mass literacy, in order that the Bible might be read. His translation of the Bible into German, amid endless pamphleteering, helped launch modern publishing. His departure from the celibate priesthood, and his wife's departure from the convent, into a happy marital union, elevated marriage, and family, into godly estates no less than celibacy.

His stress on scholarship and translation from original sources, accompanied by rational discernment apart from direct ecclesial control, contributed to a broadening of scientific analysis and discovery, with free inquiry. His affirmations of professions outside the church dignified labor, trade, and finance, further enabling modern markets. His stress on private conscience and rejection of unquestioned ecclesial authority undermined political and ecclesial authoritarianism. After the Reformation, there was increasing expectation that governance was no longer the exclusive preserve of a favored few but now was a project involving all God's creatures.

After the Reformation, across decades and centuries, entire cultures were increasingly empowered by literacy and knowledge, expectations of political authority and economic prosperity, a sense of progress through scientific and technological discovery, a deliverance from superstition and captivity to a perceived invisible world, a growing awareness of human equality with consequent responsibilities, an appreciation for emerging nation states accountable to populations, and, above all, a confidence in God's direct love for and relationship with all who call upon Him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



"This is a race where there is clear pro-Israel candidate and an anti-Israel candidate in Summer Lee," said Dorton, the UDP spokesperson. Asked about the optics of its first attack ad, Dorton said UDP is a "single-issue" organization and supported several pro-Israel progressive candidates of color in Democratic primaries.

Lee, a rising Democratic star, has not said much about Israel in her short political career. Virtually all the criticisms of her from pro-Israel figures stem from a single tweet thread where she compared Palestinians and Black Lives Matter protesters, decrying the justifications offered for the indignities suffered by marginalized groups. In an interview following the tweets, Lee said aid to Israel should be conditioned on progress toward a peace deal with the Palestinians. Asked why UDP was attacking Lee, Dorton cited comments in the tweet thread and the interview -- as well as Lee's relationship with the Squad in Congress.

UDP ads that ran during the primary claimed that Lee wasn't really a Democrat and had attacked President Joe Biden. The group also endorsed more than 100 Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.