March 3, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


Revealed: Jim Jordan's FBI 'whistleblowers' were paid by Trump ally and spread J6 conspiracy theories (Matthew Chapman, March 02, 2023, Raw Story)

A trio of witnesses being called as "whistleblowers" by the GOP committee investigating the "weaponization" of government were paid off by a Trump ally and spread conspiracy theories, reported The New York Times on Thursday.

"The first three witnesses to testify privately before the new Republican-led House committee investigating the 'weaponization' of the federal government have offered little firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing or violation of the law, according to Democrats on the panel who have listened to their accounts," reported Luke Broadwater and Adam Goldman. "Instead, the trio appears to be a group of aggrieved former F.B.I. officials who have trafficked in right-wing conspiracy theories, including about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol, and received financial support from a top ally of former President Donald J. Trump."

"The roster of witnesses, whose interviews and statements are detailed in a 316-page report compiled by Democrats that was obtained by The New York Times, suggests that Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the panel, has so far relied on people who do not meet the definition of a whistle-blower and who have engaged in partisan conduct that calls into question their credibility," said the report. "And it raises questions about whether Republicans, who have said that investigating the Biden administration is a top goal, will be able to deliver on their ambitious plans to uncover misdeeds at the highest levels."

To be fair, Trumpist loons is the best they can offer.

Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


Screaming for Silence (Roberto De La Noval, 9/08/15, Curator)

What might this dissolution of world, self, and belief amount to? Sheer negation or deconstruction? Not so, and the climactic track of It's All Crazy, "The King Beetle on a Coconut Estate," shows why. One of the band's most beloved and brilliant songs, "The King Beetle" presents the clearest picture of the apophatic theology in mwY's music. Weiss sings the tale of a colony of beetles who regularly wonder in amazement at the fire burned on their estate every year, the "Great Mystery," as the beetles call it. The Beetle King offers generous rewards for any citizen who can carry back the Great Mystery to the King, and a professor and an army lieutenant volunteer for the task. Both fail; the former due to presumption that his knowledge qualified him for contact with the fire, and the latter because of the delusion that his strength could prepare him to face the great unknown. The King's wrath toward the lieutenant appears in one of the band's most dramatic lines: "The Beetle King slammed down his fist,/  'Your flowery description's no better than his/ We sent for the Great Light and you bring us this./ We didn't ask what it seems like--/ we asked what it is.'" With these words, the Beetle King takes leave of his family and kingdom to fly straight into that Great Light, the "blazing unknown," as Weiss calls it. The result is a chorus from his subjects, proclaiming, "Our Beloved's not dead, but His Highness instead/ has been utterly changed into fire." The chorus continues its chant, "Why not be utterly changed into fire?" until the final, hushed note of the song.

This is the apophatic vision of God championed by the great religious traditions: to strip the self of concepts which hinder the attainment of mystical union with the One whose very being cannot be touched without the complete loss--or transformation--of self. The chorus' final cry comes from the collection of Sayings of the Desert Fathers, specifically from the counsel of early Christian desert father Abba Joseph to Abba Lot. Lot inquires of Joseph what else he can do to further his monastic vocation, and Abba Joseph responds by raising his hands to heaven, his fingers becoming like ten lamps of fire. He then asks Abba Lot the very question Weiss poses to his listeners at the end of "The King Beetle." Seen in this light, the apophatic extremism of mwY is a necessary purgation before encountering the greater mystery of God.

One final look at the lyrics of a song from Foxes, this time from the closing track, "Son of a Widow," will paint a picture of the process and results of such a mystical union. The song begins with Weiss plaintively singing, "I'll ring your doorbell/ until you let me in./ I can no longer tell/ where You end and I begin." The main guitar begins its slide downward just as Weiss finishes the word 'doorbell,' coming in at such a similar pitch that the listener can easily mistake the guitar for a continuation of Weiss' voice. The same effect occurs again in the next line, but this time the guitar comes in as Weiss sings "tell," creating the same continuing effect, but also effecting a union between voice and guitar which parallels the union of human and divine Weiss sings of.

This union is accomplished through incessant supplication ("ring your doorbell until you let me in"), an allusion to Jesus' parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge in Luke 18 (which itself connects with the title of the song). Like a lone grape on a vine, longing for the company of the other grapes that have been already plucked, Weiss suggests this union can only be accomplished by being pressed into wine. Here the band plays with Jesus' statement in John 15 that he is the "true Vine" in which his disciples live. To know the life of that vine, to truly become one with it, the grape must lose itself, its form, and its life: it must be crushed. And that--to let go of ideas, of the world, and selves in order to become one with the One, "Alone to the Alone"--is the apophatic theology of mwY's music.

In the end, apophatic theology only makes sense within a religious tradition: it is the negative side of what we say about God, a purgative for the positive affirmations of what religious believers trust to be true. MwY's music pushes listeners to examine again and again what they say and what they believe, not so that they might dispense with faith, but that they might not let their theological language and beliefs solidify into the idols humans relentlessly construct in the place of the true God. we put words in His mouth. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Pandemic Murder Wave Has Crested. Here's the Postmortem. (Justin Fox, 3/03/23,  Bloomberg)

The shocking rise in murders that began in the summer of 2020 looks as if it may have played out. In the nearly complete tally of 2022 homicide statistics from 93 US cities compiled by AH Datalytics, murder and non-negligent manslaughter was down 5% from the year before.

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


There is no lab leak theory: It's still just vibes in search of a hypothesis (Jonathan M. Katz, 3/01/23, The Racket)

A decade ago, I traced a deadly epidemic back to a politically explosive source. It was the fall of 2010, and Haiti was reeling from a massive cholera epidemic. Rumors flew that the outbreak was caused by United Nations peacekeepers. Some variations on these rumors were extremely far-fetched.1 Many were politically motivated. But within the rumors was a testable hypothesis: that a specific group of U.N. soldiers at a specific base had introduced the disease in a specific way--by dumping infected sewage into the country's main river system.

Now I could have written a story based on the rumors alone. I could have done a meta-analysis over whether we were "allowed" to have the debate over cholera's origins at all. But I was a journalist living in Port-au-Prince. So I went to the base -- a riverside outpost of recently arrived soldiers from Nepal -- and found the first hard evidence implicating the U.N. That first story kicked off years of research by myself, epidemiologists, and others. It was not easy: The U.N. and its partners in the U.S. government covered up and fought us every inch of the way. But in the end, we established an evidentiary timeline showing when, where, and as close as we could get to how the U.N. introduced cholera to Haiti. Six years later, I extracted a grudging admission from the U.N. Secretary-General.

Given that experience, you might think I'd have been among the first to buy into the allegations of the "lab leak" origin of COVID-19. Indeed, I've heard through the grapevine that some of my old Haiti cholera crew are buying the hype. But I'm not. At least not yet. That is because the lab leak is still missing the key element of the U.N. cholera story that made it more than just a bunch of rumors: an actual, coherent theory of the case that could be refuted or confirmed.

When you peel back the label, it seems "lab leak" is a jaunty alliteration that papers over a variety of wildly different, often mutually exclusive, ideas. It isn't a theory but a bundle of loose hypotheses that contradict each another on basic facts: the nature of the virus in question, the timeline of introduction -- even the identity of the lab at which the alleged leak occurred.

Now, even those contradictions in and of themselves are not necessarily disqualifying. Science famously evolves, and multiple competing ideas can exist at once. But I can't help but notice that whenever one of these myriad "theories" gains cultural currency, even proponents of directly contradicted hypotheses claim vindication. It is as if they don't actually care what happened, so long as it affirms their notions of who was wrong and whom the guilty party should be. It's maddening to watch--especially as someone who thinks that finding the origins of an epidemic is important.

Not coincidentally, all the "lab leak" enthusiasts also continue to pump "Havana Syndrome".

Lab can't leak what it never had (The Editorial Board, 3/03/23)

After all this time, there's no evidence any lab in the world had the SARS-CoV-2 virus or any virus that could have been tweaked to make SARS-Cov-2 prior to the pandemic. 

That's the ground truth from which every discussion of the origins of the virus must proceed. A lab can't leak what it hasn't got. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


Trump's Prosecution Primary Has Already Begun. It's Going to Be Wild. (Cameron Joseph, March 3, 2023, Vice News)

Welcome to the prosecution primary, where Trump's legal threats are moving faster than the political calendar. 

The biggest action of the next few months won't take place on the campaign trail, but in the hushed conference rooms of District Attorneys and the Department of Justice, where prosecutors will decide whether to indict the former president. Three separate groups of prosecutors are preparing to make charging determinations within the next few months, ahead of next year's GOP primaries. Many independent legal experts now think Trump's indictment looks like a matter of time--including some who were once highly skeptical Trump would ever be charged. 

That means law enforcement officials in Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Manhattan are primed to have an outsized, early influence in the race. 

If Trump is indicted in the first half of 2023, a criminal trial could start before the end of this year, or in the first half of 2024. The resulting possible scenarios seem outlandish to even consider: Will we see a Trump mug shot this summer? If Trump is released on bond, will he do presidential debates wearing an ankle monitor? If he is charged, and refuses to abandon his campaign, will he finally succeed in splitting the GOP? 

First he needs to destroy Timy Trump, then the perp walk.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Ron DeSantis loses his cool with a reporter after failing to answer a question on how his Ukraine policy would differ from Biden' (Tom Porter, March 3, 2023, Business Insider)

Ron DeSantis lost his cool with a reporter when challenged over how his policy on the war in Ukraine would differ from President Joe Biden's, amid speculation the Florida governor is poised to launch a 2024 presidential bid.

DeSantis was profiled Thursday by The Times of London, which was granted a relatively rare level of access to the Republican rising star. The Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News network frequently interviews DeSantis.

David Charter, a US Editor at The Times, wrote that DeSantis showed a "flash of temper" when asked about Ukraine.

"I ask about Ukraine and he says that 'there's a critique of Biden, and I think I'm sympathetic to it in the sense that, is our policy just do whatever Zelensky wants? Or do we have a concrete idea of what we're trying to achieve exactly?'" Charter wrote.

"When I ask him how it should be handled differently, he refers to Biden being 'weak on the world stage' and failing at deterrence, but as that is not answering how it should be handled now, I ask again. DeSantis does not have anything to add: 'Perhaps you should cover some other ground? I think I've said enough.'"

Timy Trump stamping his size 8 cowboy boots.

Florida's Blueprint for America's Media (KYLE POPE, 3/03/23, CJR)

Some of DeSantis's anti-media ploys are old favorites, like stonewalling public-records requests and bullying reporters who write articles that he doesn't like. Trump did these things, too, but in a sense, DeSantis is playing the bad cop to Trump's Pick me! approach, in which he seemed to grant reporters nearly unlimited access even as he publicly pilloried their employers. DeSantis, by contrast, largely shut out the mainstream media during his reelection campaign in Florida last year.

DeSantis is dangerous in more insidious ways, too. Last month, according to a report in Politico, he urged Florida's Republican-controlled state legislature to consider a slate of breathtaking anti-press measures. The proposals go beyond the usual efforts to gut libel laws, including lowering the threshold for when a "public figure" can sue a media outlet. In a serious threat to investigative reporting, Florida's legislature is now looking at a provision to specify that comments made by anonymous sources in news stories would be presumed false for the purposes of defamation lawsuits.

The Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, covering the legislation, wrote that it's reasonable to assume that any anti-press legislation will leech out of Florida:

Given the governor's clout in Tallahassee, it stands a solid chance of passage this spring in the Republican-controlled state Legislature and would likely spur more defamation cases in Florida, legal experts say. Because of the clear-cut constitutional questions, the legislation could eventually be appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where at least two justices have already signaled they are interested in revisiting libel law and press protections.

Ironically, this is in some ways a delicate dance for DeSantis, who has squared an antipathy for the mainstream media with a public embrace of Fox News. Fox, as I wrote last week, is now fighting a defamation suit, in which its primary defense is rooted in the very legal framework that DeSantis is hoping to weaken. DeSantis seems happy to present himself as a practitioner of journalism--or at least memoir--as he promotes his book, which was published by a unit of Rupert Murdoch's empire. (In a review in the New York Times, Jennifer Szalai noted this conflict and was otherwise scathing of the book, writing that, although DeSantis's first book "was weird and esoteric enough to have obviously been written by a human, this one reads like a politician's memoir  churned out by ChatGPT.")

Posted by orrinj at 12:54 PM


Is it Morning in America, or High Noon?: The question we need to ask ourselves isn't so much what we choose to do, it's what we choose to believe about ourselves. (Justin Stapley, 3/03/23, Self-Evident)

Contrary to the very forceful and negative responses of people like John Wayne, I enjoy High Noon and find value in the realist approach. I recognize the foibles and failings of fallen man and understand that human nature often fails to live up to its potential. I think High Noon demonstrates one of the cycles we often see in the history of human society. People blessed with peace and prosperity, thanks to the sweat, blood, and tears of those who came before, often demonstrate a distinct lack of gratitude for what they have and a cowardly unwillingness to defend the things they take for granted. I don't think every story we tell has to be one where everyone does the right thing and all's well that ends well. The extraordinary must be contrasted with the common, the ordinary, and the indifferent if it's to be valued.

But, just like the cycle evident in the film, popular culture and society go through these cycles of gratitude and ingratitude, hopefulness and cynicism, bravery and cowardice. High Noon's darker theme was a big deal when it was released. But its narrative does not stand out much in contemporary society. Indeed, we are so awash with cynicism and nihilism in cinema, in anti-heroes and villains who are "just misunderstood," that what stands out are those rare moments of stark black and white (derided as campy or too uncomplicated by critics). And in our broader culture, in things like politics and how we interact with each other on social media, we have gotten ugly, petty, and cruel. We don't just disagree. We hate. We don't just dismiss. We cancel and hound. It would be very easy to conclude that it's High Noon in America, and those few who try to stand for values and their principles are going to stand alone.

Beloved Children, [...]

For it was more than human tragedy. Much more than Alger Hiss or Whittaker Chambers was on trial in the trials of Alger Hiss. Two faiths were on trial. Human societies, like human beings, live by faith and die when faith dies. At issue in the Hiss Case was the question whether this sick society, which we call Western civilization, could in its extremity still cast up a man whose faith in it was so great that he would voluntarily abandon those things which men hold good, including life, to defend it. At issue was the question whether this man's faith could prevail against a man whose equal faith it was that this society is sick beyond saving, and that mercy itself pleads for its swift extinction and replacement by another. At issue was the question whether, in the desperately divided society, there still remained the will to recognize the issues in time to offset the immense rally of public power to distort and pervert the facts.

At heart, the Great Case was this critical conflict of faiths; that is why it was a great case.

Whittaker Chambers

Kissinger, Metternich, and Realism  (Robert D. Kaplan, June 1999, Atlantic Monthly)

In perceiving the Soviet Union as permanent, orderly, and legitimate, [Henry] Kissinger shared a failure of analysis with the rest of the foreign-policy elite--notably excepting the scholar and former head of the State Department's policy-planning staff George Kennan, the Harvard historian Richard Pipes, the British scholar and journalist Bernard Levin, and the Eureka College graduate Ronald Reagan.


You ever had an epiphany--one of those moments where the scales fall from your eyes, the light dawns, the voices speak, and in one blinding insight that which was obscure becomes crystal clear? I had one this morning and am very angry with myself for not realizing this before. David Gregory, NBC's White House Correspondent, was on Imus in the Morning today and he was asked about George W. Bush's U.N. appearance tomorrow. He revealed that--with half the nation and most of the world expecting the President, like a dutiful and chastened schoolboy to present a kind of book report about Saddam trying to develop nuclear weapons, and then grovel for a UN mandate to do something about it--Mr. Bush is instead going to confront the member nations and the institution itself and ask: What more do you need? He'll discuss the many UN resolutions that Saddam has violated and ask what the purpose of the body is if they're unwilling to enforce their own diktats. He'll demand, though one assumes politely, that either the UN act immediately in accordance with its own previous decisions, or we'll act for them. And with that, like Jake Blues entranced by The Reverend Cleophus James, I saw the light: this is High Noon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 11, 2002 1:11 PM

President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly (Remarks by the President in Address to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, New York, 9/12/2002)

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


India's Lost Opposition (Debasish Roy Chowdhury, 3/03/23, Persuasion)

A year away from the election, Modi still towers over his rivals. His politics of ultranationalism mixed with muscular Hinduism has perceptibly moved Indian politics to the right. His personal popularity, the BJP's deep pockets (the party is the prime recipient of electoral funding), its well-oiled party machinery, grass-roots reach, control over a servile media and governing institutions such as the Election Commission and law enforcement agencies all give him an air of invincibility. 

Modi has also been cementing his grip on power through a carefully cultivated cult of personality and suppression of dissent and civil liberties. This month, after the release of a BBC documentary highlighting Modi's role in religious violence in Gujarat state in 2002, tax authorities launched a 60-hour raid on the BBC's India offices. Last week, a Congress spokesman was dramatically deplaned and arrested for merely misnaming Modi's middle name. Discrimination against minorities, especially Muslims, is rising in an increasingly brazen project to remake India's secular republic as a Hindu majoritarian state. Lynchings and open calls for genocide of Muslims are now fairly routine. So is the brutalization of Muslim lives by state governments controlled by the BJP, for example the new trend of bulldozing Muslim homes on the pretext of unproven criminality and the targeting of Muslim men in interfaith relations on charges of "love jihad."

As a result, the stakes are extraordinarily high for next year's elections. India has already been falling rapidly in democracy rankings since Modi's rise to power. Sweden's V-Dem Institute now considers it a "electoral autocracy." Modi's critics fear that one more term for him will irreversibly alter India's constitutional inclusivity and destroy its democracy. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


George Santos, MAGA 'It' Girl (Shawn McCreesh, 3/03/23, New York)

To you, Representative George Santos might be one of the most noxious, if also plainly ridiculous, figures in American public life right now. But last Friday night at the Beach Cafe, a pub on East 70th street beloved by right-wingers, he's the "It" girl. His wrists are bedizened with bling from Hermès and Cartier, and fawning fans line up for selfies. [...]

Sitting beside Santos, smirking, is his bald and bearded 31-year-old "director of operations." His name is Vish Burra. He's a former drug dealer from Staten Island who, while he worked for Steve Bannon, was the guy you went through if you wanted to check out the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop. (He once hosted a viewing party of the laptop's contents.) He also did crisis comms for Matt Gaetz, and, along with Santos, was part of a mini-MAGA cabal that took over the New York Young Republican Club. The club is run by Burra and Santos's buddy, Gavin Wax. He couldn't make it to the Beach Cafe for the party Friday because he was off in Hungary, meeting with members of the country's semi-fascist government.

Burra and Wax were the ones who put on the Young Republicans' most recent holiday gala; that was the one at which Marjorie Taylor Greene said that, had she and Bannon planned January 6, "We would have won. Not to mention, it would've been armed."

"I couldn't have staged that any better," gushes Burra. His own rantings at that gala ripped off chunks of Mussolini's 1935 "wheel of destiny" speech justifying the invasion of Ethiopia. ("To acts of war, we shall answer with acts of war ...")

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


Resist the Post-liberal Temptation (ANDREW T. WALKER, February 26, 2023, National Review)

Because definitions matter, liberal democracy in its usage here denotes a regime established to secure and administer a just order by respecting an individual's natural rights through a system of ordered liberty, the rule of law, and constitutional procedure.

According to various critiques, liberal democracy has strayed so far from its Judeo-Christian beginnings that its problems are not merely comparable to a head cold that will eventually go away, but to a terminable disease from which death is imminent. We could call this the declensionist critique, from the likes of individuals like Stephen Wolfe, author of the much-discussed The Case for Christian Nationalism. A similar narrative holds that liberal democracy was flawed from its foundation because it was premised on a false anthropology organized around maximizing liberty instead of protecting religion, family, and social cohesion. We could call this the foundationalist critique, evident in the works of figures like Patrick Deneen in Why Liberalism Failed.

Though grouped under the broad umbrella of "post-liberalism," proponents of these narratives are not monolithic. Indeed, Wolfe, though he despises what he calls the "liberal creedalist project," nonetheless has distanced himself from the "post-liberal" label. Moreover, not all of their critiques are unfounded: America has strayed from its initial Protestant moral ecology. All, however, seem to converge around the consensus that America as we know it requires "regime change" -- a systemic restructuring of our politics and culture. [...]

[T]he post-liberal revolutionary zeal is the direct opposite of a Burkean conservatism that champions American constitutionalism. Indeed, some post-liberals are downright hostile to the idea of distributing power to an entire population instead of to a select few competent to oversee a robust common good. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Washington's Favorite Republican Is Making All the Right Moves (Michael Schaffer, 3/03/23, Politico)

Showing up on schmoozy, talky media platforms? Check: Sununu just hit network Sunday talk shows an impressive three weeks in a row last month. If you don't count the shows on conservative networks, that's three more times than fellow Republican not-quite-candidates Ron DeSantis, Mike Pompeo and Tim Scott managed in the entire previous year. For those who like to witness their high-minded gabbing in the flesh, the Atlantic announced yesterday that Sununu will appear, along with a roster of notables including Nancy Pelosi and Brad Raffensberger, at a "Future of Democracy" session the venerable publication is organizing at this month's South by Southwest festival.

Punching right against Republican ultras? No doubt: In media appearances, Sununu reliably distances himself from culture warriors, election deniers and anyone who would wink at political violence like last year's attack on Paul Pelosi. Book the New Hampshire governor on a Beltway interview show or make him the subject of a lengthy profile in an elite publication and you'll hear him deride Trumpism as an electoral "loser" or denounce the Republican "echo chamber." But he's also apt to make somewhat less familiar critiques -- decrying the failures of the 2017-2018 GOP political trifecta, say, or taking a "Face the Nation" shot at Ron DeSantis, whose battle with Disney over the firm's allegedly woke priorities he described as "the worst precedent in the world" (because it violates free-market principles).

Paeans to bipartisanship? Naturally -- and, better yet, they come couched in reflections on the can-do culture demanded by being governor of a small state, working in the sort of cooperative political milieu permanent Washington's media brass tends to fetishize. Sununu speaks in Lincolnesque terms about the workings of New Hampshire's Executive Council, the bipartisan body that governors must consult about all but the smallest contracts and requires people to debate in close proximity. In one recent interview, he said the job of leaders right now is to "take down the heat" inflaming American politics.

Given this record, you might be thinking it's just about time for Sununu to get himself invited to give remarks at one of those backslappy Washington galas that draw members of the elite media and their insider guests. In fact, Sununu, overachiever that he is, touched that station of the cross an entire year ago. Donning white tie and tails, he brought down the house at the annual dinner of the Gridiron Club with a routine that included calling Trump "fucking crazy," to the delight of an audience that included Anthony Fauci, Merrick Garland, Adam Schiff and a paltry two GOP legislators.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Sir Launcelot Battles the Truth: A familiar tale raises strangely modern questions about truth, nobility, and personal character. (Shawn Phillip Cooper, 3/03/23, Law & Liberty)

Mark Lambert addresses Launcelot's apparent transformation from being Arthur's best knight to being a murderous and unrepentant liar by arguing that "Lancelot is acting within a shame system rather than a guilt system," in which the crucial distinction is not whether Launcelot is objectively guilty (in the modern sense), but whether he can be shamed by someone proving the charge through the means available for resolving disputes in the Arthurian court: trial by combat. Lambert writes that:

What matters for Lancelot here is not the fact of his guilt or innocence of the adultery and his personal awareness of that fact, but the public recognition of the charge, the public machinery for making the charge good, and the way the public accusation and public "making good" affect his reputation and the queen's. [. . .] The important thing is not one's own knowledge of what one has done (the inner life is not very significant in Malory), but public recognition of one's actions.

This passage seems disturbingly prophetic when read alongside today's social and news media, and it foregrounds the essential point that Launcelot's understanding of reality is not confined solely to the literary world of the Morte. Lambert himself writes that, "It is Malory himself, not just his characters, for whom honor and shame are more real than innocence and guilt." But Lambert's observation is not only true of the fifteenth-century Malory: it is also true of twenty-first-century people, many of whom seem now to live within a shame system rather than a guilt system.

The misinformation virus (Elitsa Dermendzhiyskais, Aeon)

The classic experiments to correct misinformation date to the late 1980s. Subjects were given news briefs from the scene of a fictional warehouse fire, one of which mentions a closet with volatile materials - cans of oil paint and gas cylinders - others report 'thick, oily smoke', 'sheets of flames' and 'toxic fumes' that put the firefighters' lives at risk. A further brief cites the police investigator on the case stating that the closet was, in fact, empty, before the report ends with the fire finally put out.

Having read the briefs, subjects had to answer a series of questions meant to probe their grasp of the correction made by the police investigator. It seems a simple test yet, across a multitude of studies, people repeatedly fail it. In one experiment, as many as 90 per cent of the subjects linked the fire's toxic nature or intensity to the cans of oil paint and gas cylinders, despite none being found in the closet. More surprisingly, when asked directly, most of these participants readily acknowledged the empty closet. Researchers have reported similar results many times, including using blatantly direct retractions ('there were no cans of paint or gas cylinders'). Yet no matter how clear the correction, typically more than half of subjects' references to the original misinformation persist. What's remarkable is that people appear to cling to the falsehood while knowing it to be false. This suggests that, even if successfully debunked, myths can still creep into our judgments and colour our decisions - an outcome referred to in the literature as 'the continued influence effect'.

The guilt is so often hard-earned. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


The Supreme Court Hears Arguments in the Challenge to Biden's Student-Loan Giveaway (George Leef, 3/03/23, James Martin Center)

Last year, President Biden announced that he would cancel student-loan debts of up to $20,000 for millions of borrowers. While that policy had been under discussion since the first days of his administration, only after the announcement did the administration's lawyers advance a legal justification for the action--that it came under the 2002 HEROES Act.

That law was passed to allow the Secretary of Education to waive or modify student debts for service members or others suffering financial hardships "as a result of wars, military operations or national emergencies." Biden's legal team came up with the argument that, since the law pertained to "emergencies" and the Covid pandemic had been deemed an emergency, the president was acting within his authority.

Many pointed out that the president himself had said that the Covid "emergency" was over and that, since the passage of the HEROES Act, Congress had declined to enact bills that would have directly dealt with student-loan cancellation. In short, the government's argument was a gigantic stretch.

Biden overreached on student loans. But the court shouldn't stop him. (The Editorial Board, March 1, 2023, Washington Post)

[M]r. Biden's student debt forgiveness scheme is far more expansive -- and a questionable reading of the two-decade-old law. When lawmakers passed it in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it is unlikely they were envisioning a future president issuing audacious, across-the-board student loan relief, as opposed to, say, pausing loan payments while soldiers are deployed in a foreign war or helping hurricane survivors rebuild. The straightforward reading of the law's purpose is that it permits aid targeted at those who would struggle to repay their loans as a direct result of a serious emergency.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Ron DeSantis Usually Avoids the Press. For Murdoch, He'll Make an Exception. (Michael M. Grynbaum, March 2, 2023, NY Times)

Presumably, few Republican primary voters reside in Britain. But The Times of London, one of England's oldest and most respected papers, is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose media empire has already thrown its considerable influence behind the prospect of a DeSantis presidential bid.

The governor appears to be returning the favor.

As he kicks off a promotional tour for his new memoir (published by Mr. Murdoch's HarperCollins), Mr. DeSantis took Salena Zito, a conservative columnist at The New York Post (owned by Mr. Murdoch's News Corp), on a tour of his hometown in Florida, and he appeared on Fox News (owned by Mr. Murdoch's Fox Corp) for interviews with Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Jesse Watters and the co-hosts of "Fox & Friends." Excerpts from his memoir appeared in The Post and on

By contrast, Mr. DeSantis's press secretary recently said the governor would not engage at all with journalists at NBC News or MSNBC. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM