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 PĂ©rez 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."