June 30, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:55 PM


Affirmative Action Ruling: Actually a Win for Minority Students (LINDA CHAVEZ, JUN 30, 2023, The Bulwark)

In 1995, I founded the Center for Equal Opportunity, which has since conducted studies on affirmative action admissions policies at some 80 colleges and universities. We've found that most selective schools give preference to black and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Hispanic students with often substantially lower test scores and grades than white and Asian applicants. In recent years, we've found that Asian students have been especially disadvantaged by such preferences for black and Hispanic applicants--and Harvard University had a particularly egregious system of keeping the proportion of Asian students in their classes lower than it would have been had race not been a factor. The irony is that at places like Harvard, many of the black beneficiaries of affirmative action are themselves elites: the children of affluent parents or, increasingly, immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean.

Presumably, now that the Court has ruled, the worst practices will be curtailed. But does that mean we'll see drastic drops in the number of black and Hispanic college graduates going forward? Not likely, judging from what the experience of states like California and Michigan, which banned racial preferences in college admissions through statewide initiatives decades ago. In 1996, California voters adopted a state constitutional amendment outlawing racial preferences in admissions (an effort to repeal the amendment in 2020 failed overwhelmingly, even in districts carried by Joe Biden). As a result, fewer black and Hispanic students attended the state's most elite universities, Berkeley and UCLA, but overall numbers in the statewide system went up, with more black and Hispanic students actually graduating than before the initiative passed. The reason is straightforward: Black and Hispanic students who would have been admitted to more elite campuses ended up attending colleges where their grades and test scores were the same as their white and Asian peers and competed with them on an equal footing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


In affirmative action ruling, a glimmer of hope for 'holistic admissions' (Hilary Burns, June 29, 2023, Boston Globe)

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that colleges and universities "can continue to consider socioeconomic diversity" and continue recruiting students who are the first in their families to attend college, "or who speak multiple languages," for example. It also means that prospective students can talk about how race has impacted or shaped their life experiences and how those experiences give the person a "unique ability to contribute to the university," according to the decision.

That is an important factor, said Vincent Rougeau, president of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

"Holistic review matters," Rougeau, Holy Cross's first Black leader, said in an interview. "I think it will be interesting to see how applicants tell us about the role of race, class and ethnicity in their own lives, and how that will allow us to create a community here that reflects the rich tapestry of our society."

June 29, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


The Biden 'bribery' allegation slips on more banana peels (Philip Bump, June 29, 2023, Washington Post)

If the person who spoke to the informant was, in fact, Zlochevsky, Oversight Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) produced a new transcript that effectively (though not entirely) undercuts the claims contained in the 1023.

You will recall that, in 2019, Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani was actively promoting the idea that the Bidens had engaged in suspect activity related to Burisma. As part of that effort (which contributed to Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine and, subsequently, his impeachment), Giuliani had his aide Lev Parnas reach out to a friend of Zlochevsky's to answer some questions. The responses were previously reported by Politico, but hadn't been seen in their entirety until Raskin included them in a letter to Comer.

"Please detail any contacts you had with VP Joe Biden and his office from 2013 through 2019," one question asked. "Did Hunter ever facilitate any of those contacts?"


"Did VP Biden or his staff assist you or your company in any way with business deals or meetings with world leaders or any other assistance?" another question asked, yielding a terse reply: "NO."

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


Supreme Court rules to end affirmative action, moving US in the right direction (Dace Potas, 6/29/23, USA TODAY)

[T]he Grutter decision failed to recognize that if race is used as a factor to decide whether a person gets into the college of their choice, it will inevitably become the determining factor in at least some cases. The elevation of one group based on their race necessarily means that another group is hindered because of their race. 

The 14th Amendment clearly prohibits such a practice, and the court's decisions on Thursday in cases involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina highlighted that using race as a reason to reject some applications is unconstitutional.

"Respondents' race-based admissions systems also fail to comply with the Equal Protection Clause's twin commands that race may never be used as a 'negative' and that it may not operate as a stereotype," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. "College admissions are zero-sum, and a benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former at the expense of the latter."

The use of affirmative action in college admissions primarily hurt Asian Americans, who at Harvard University have had higher average test scores than any other racial group, yet the lowest rate of admissions.

Race-based admissions was a crude tool that colleges have used to pursue what they are truly after, which is diversity of experience. Eliminating affirmative action will do nothing to hinder diversity of perspective and doesn't preclude racial experience from being considered as one part of an application.

Students can still use their college essays to discuss their experience growing up as a member of a racial group, what challenges that upbringing posed and how they overcame any discrimination that stood in their path. Those topics are compelling expressions of character and perspective and can highlight the value of diversity.

"A benefit to a student who overcame racial discrimination, for example, must be tied to that student's courage and determination," Roberts wrote. "Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life." 

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


Prosecutors are prepared to hit Trump and his allies with new charges, sources say (Andrew Feinberg, 6/29/23, Independent)

Prosecutors are now prepared to "stack" an "additional 30 to 45 charges" on top of the 37-count indictment brought against Mr Trump on 8 June. They would do so using evidence against the ex-president that has not yet been publicly acknowledged by the department, including other recordings prosecutors have obtained which reveal Mr Trump making incriminating statements.

Additionally, it is understood that special counsel Jack Smith's team is ready to bring charges against several of the attorneys who have worked for Mr Trump, including those who aided the ex-president in his push to ignore the will of voters and remain in the White House despite having lost the 2020 election.

One of those figures is Mr Trump's erstwhile personal attorney, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Mr Giuliani, whose law license was suspended in New York and Washington as a result of his allegedly making multiple false representations while seeking to help Mr Trump overturn his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden, reportedly participated in a voluntary interview with prosecutors working under the supervision of Mr Smith, the Justice Department special counsel whose office brought charges against Mr Trump earlier this month.

It is further understood that Mr Giuliani's cooperation with prosecutors was undertaken as part of what is known as a "queen for a day" deal, under which the ex-mayor can avoid indictment for anything he tells prosecutors about during the interview.

This will allow the disgraced former federal prosecutor to avoid some charges, but a source familiar with the matter has said Mr Smith's office will "most definitely" bring some charges against Mr Giuliani for his work on Mr Trump's behalf in the weeks between the November 2020 election and the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The Independent has also learned that Mr Giuliani's "proffer" session with prosecutors dealt mainly with Mr Trump's machinations during that time period as he sought to find a way to remain in the White House for a second term, even against the will of the voters who'd handed Mr Biden the keys to the White House by way of majorities in key swing states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


Supreme Court restricts race-based affirmative action in college admissions (Robert Barnes, June 29, 2023, Washington Post)

"The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual -- not on the basis of race," Roberts wrote. "Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual's identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice."

Roberts said the admissions programs at Harvard and UNC "lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points."

But he added that "nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise."

Who you are, not what you are. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Our New Space Race: a review of When the Heavens Went on Sale by Ashlee Vance (Asheesh Agarwal, 6/29/23, Law & Liberty)

Vance traces the origins of several space companies, starting with the most successful of the new breed, SpaceX. Musk "willed SpaceX into existence" by investing $100 million of his own money and rejecting "the 'truths' held evident by the old, government-backed aerospace industry." Instead, SpaceX created reusable rockets, such as the Falcon 9, that have now launched hundreds of times. Musk's endeavor was not without risk. After multiple launch failures, Musk "was burning through his personal fortune at an alarming rate" and at one point had to launch his last rocket within eight weeks to survive.

Other companies endured by raising prodigious amounts of money via US capital markets. Rocket Labs had developed smaller rockets that reliably ferry satellites into orbit at a low cost. The company started in New Zealand, of all places, and took off in part because the government was "trying to run a pro-business government and quickly embraced the idea of New Zealand being at the forefront of such exciting technology." Within a few months, in fact, New Zealand created a pro-market regulatory framework and negotiated bilateral treaties with the United States. Eventually, Rocket Labs set up a second headquarters in Los Angeles to help secure talent and capital. As its founder, Peter Beck, noted, "Goddammit, America gets s-- done. There is no other place on Earth where a Kiwi could come into town and walk away with enough money to start a rocket company."

All this competition is, per the book's title, putting space within reach. Satellite and launch costs have plummeted. The cost of a satellite has fallen from around a billion dollars to as little as one hundred thousand dollars. With lower launch costs, the number of satellites has doubled (to around 5,000) in the last two years and could rise to 100,000 in the next decade. These new satellites will allow companies to provide new and cheaper services and to provide reliable internet connectivity around the globe. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Meet the 33-year-old Canadian chemist and the renowned MIT professor who are building the 'electric vehicle of cement making' (Catherine Clifford, 6/24/23, CNBC)

Ellis took her Ph.D. in electrochemistry and went to work for Yet-Ming Chiang, a renowned material sciences professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is also a serial clean-tech entrepreneur. Chiang co-founded companies such as American Superconductor Corporation, A123 Systems, Desktop Metal, Form Energy and 24M Technologies.

Now Ellis is working to scale up a new climate-conscious process of making cement, one powered with electrochemistry instead of fossil fuel-powered heat.

Making cement using electrochemistry was Chiang's idea, Ellis told CNBC in Boston at the end of May. Ellis said she worked with Chiang in 2018, just after he had started Form Energy, a long-duration battery company, and he was thinking about the abundant intermittent energy that was being generated by renewable energy sources such as wind.

"Sometimes people will pay you to take energy off their hands," Ellis told CNBC. "Instead of putting that energy in a battery, what if we can use this extra low-cost renewable energy to make something that would otherwise be very carbon-intensive? And then the first on the list of things that are carbon-intensive -- it's cement."

Cement is a necessary ingredient in concrete, which is the cornerstone of global construction and infrastructure, because it's cheap, strong and durable. Four billion metric tons, which is the equivalent of 50,000 fully loaded airplanes, of cement is produced each year, according to a 2023 report from management consulting company McKinsey. The value of the market was $323 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $459 billion by 2028, according to SkyQuest Technology Consulting.

Cement powder is conventionally made by crushing raw materials, including limestone and clay, mixing with ingredients such as iron and fly ash, and putting it all into a kiln that heats the ingredients up to about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. That process of making cement generates approximately 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions, which are a leading cause of global warming.

When Chiang had the idea to electrify cement manufacturing, he turned to Ellis. "He's super busy, so he was like, 'Go off and figure it out,'" Ellis told CNBC.

So she did.

In 2020, Ellis and Chiang co-founded Sublime Systems to refine and scale up the electrochemical process they created for making cement.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


Israel will block establishment of Palestinian state, Netanyahu says (MEMO, June 27, 2023)

Israel must block the path to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced yesterday.

"We are preparing for the period after Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas]. We need the Palestinian Authority. We must not allow it to collapse, and we do not want it to collapse," Netanyahu was quoted by Kan as saying in a closed door meeting with the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. "We are ready to help it economically," he stressed.

Referring to the Palestinians' hopes of establishing a sovereign state, Netanyahu reiterated that their ambitions "must be eliminated."

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM



Battery maker Gotion has big news in charging tech and beyond. The company, founded in China in 2006, is touting a breakthrough electric vehicle (EV) power pack with an astonishing range of 621 miles on a single charge.  

At the same time, plans are moving forward on a battery factory in Michigan that is reported to create 2,300 jobs. It's all part of an EV industry upswing being noticed around the country. 

The Gotion battery, called the Astroinno, is 10 years in the making. It's planned to power a 621-mile drive on a single charge and have a lifetime of 2.4 million miles, according to Inside EVs. 

Kind of miss the days when the Right was assuring us battery technology was permanently static.
Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


The Cost of Thriving Has Fallen: Correcting and Rejecting the American Compass Cost-of-Thriving Index (Scott Winship | Jeremy Horpedahl, 6/22/23, American Enterprise Institute)

The Cost-of-Thriving Index (COTI), developed by American Compass Executive Director Oren Cass, asks whether families can afford a middle-class lifestyle. It compares the costs of five goods and services to the income of a typical full-time male earner. Cass concludes that the cost of thriving has increased dramatically, from 40 weeks of work in 1985 to 62 in 2022. Our improvements to Cass's estimates indicate the cost of thriving rose by 10 weeks rather than 22. After accounting for the better quality of the goods and services he tracks, the increase was four weeks. The cost of thriving declines when we account for falling federal taxes or include all full-time workers. The after-tax cost of thriving for this broader group fell by 7.5 weeks.

No one has it harder than their father did.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


Sealhyfe produces first green hydrogen at sea from offshore wind farm (Joshua S Hill 29 June 2023, Renew Economy)

French green hydrogen pioneer Lhyfe announced on Tuesday that its groundbreaking Sealhyfe platform has produced its first kilos of offshore green hydrogen 20 kilometres from shore.

Lhyfe has already made a name for itself as a leading green hydrogen developer, having inaugurated the first industrial-scale green hydrogen production plant to be interconnected with a wind farm back in 2021.

The company's current focus, however, has been Sealhyfe, the world's first offshore green hydrogen production pilot, which has hit two important milestones in the last year.

It was only nine months ago that the 1MW Sealhyfe pilot project generated its first green hydrogen on a prototype wave energy platform near the Saint-Nazaire quay. This initial production phase was designed to de-risk the technology

Fast-forward to this week, and the Sealhyfe platform was towed 20 kilometres offshore and connected to Central Nantes' SEM-REV offshore testing hub operated by the OPEN-C Foundation, which is already linked with the 2MW Floatgen floating wine turbine.

It's all fast forward from here...

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


There are double the amount of EVs compared to gas cars at dealerships -- solving 2 of the biggest problems with car shopping right now (Alexa St. John Jun 28, 2023, Business Insider)

One of the issues with EV adoption in recent years has been availability. Many automakers weren't producing EVs at scale yet, especially in the US, and thus the supply of the cars at dealerships had been limited. They also had reservation systems and long waitlists that meant it was unlikely a customer would be able to walk into a store and find an EV for purchase.

That was a turnoff for many consumers considering going electric, and led some to just buy a gas-powered vehicle that they could see and go home with that day.

Now, car companies are ramping up EV production, bolstering their manufacturing and supply chains, and churning out more electric cars. In fact, some electric models have more availability than others now.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Donald Trump's Bold Court Gamble Flops (EWAN PALMER, 6/28/23 , Newsweek)

Judge Hellerstein said that Trump's lawyers haven't provided any other proof of any legal services provided by Cohen as special counsel to the president, apart from the reimbursement for the money he paid to Daniels. "There's no proof of what he did," Hellerstein said, via CNN.

Blanche also made an unexpected move by calling on the Trump Organization's chief legal officer, Alan Garten, to testify that Trump hired Cohen as a personal attorney in 2017 when he was in office in order to help separate personal and presidential business.

Garten also testified that The Trump Organization forwarded matters involving the president and then first lady Melania Trump to Cohen, including the $130,000 reimbursement.

"My understanding was to reimburse him for the payments that he had made as part of the Clifford settlement agreement and also to compensate him for the work in the role that he was playing as counsel," Garten said.

However, as noted by MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin, who was present at the hearing, Garten was "hardly the slam-dunk witness" as expected by Trump's legal team as he confirmed that he had never seen any retainer agreement with Cohen and didn't know what other services Cohen provided.

"He could not articulate exactly why Cohen was hired as Trump's personal attorney except to say that he and Eric Trump wanted to ensure that they did not undermine Trump's separation from the business, as advised by his lawyers at Morgan Lewis," Rubin tweeted.

"There was an argument on whether Trump has a colorable federal defense on preemption grounds, but the die was cast once Hellerstein accepted the crux of the DA's argument: That Cohen was Trump's personal lawyer, paid with Trump's personal funds, and handled personal affairs."

Rubin added that Garten "could not attest" to some of Trump's legal team's key points and also made some "damaging admissions" during his testimony.

"It was a bold gamble without any payoff. And something tells me that tonight, Todd Blanche, Trump's shiniest new legal toy, is no longer feeling so golden," Rubin wrote.

Blanche trying to join the disbarment parade. Garten not.

June 28, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Anonymous Disney Imagineer Purportedly Confirms Donald Trump Animatronic Is Hillary Clinton (Kevin Hurler, 6/28/23, Gizmodo)

Stranger things have happened, but this one conspiracy theory might actually be true. Alex Goldman, the former host of the once-heralded, now-defunct podcast Reply All, may have just cracked the code on whether Disney replaced the skin of a Hillary Clinton robot with that of Donald Trump.

Goldman explored the conspiracy theory on his Substack after his tweet on the matter went proper viral just a few weeks ago. The story goes that as Disney prepared The Hall of Presidents in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World just before the 2016 election, the company was anticipating a Hillary Clinton win. As such, Disney began creating a Clinton animatronic to sit amongst the dozens of male presidents our nation had had prior to her. Tragedy struck, however, on November 8 of that year when Donald Trump was named president. Goldman claims that as a result, Disney hastily reconstructed their Clinton animatronic as a Trump animatronic and the results are...not great.

Goldman writes:

I'm not a phrenologist or anything, but there's something uniquely hillary-esque about robo-Donald's face. It's especially apparent in the eyes, which feel much brighter and more open than Trump's typically are, and around the mouth. The HoP Donald has an upper lip, which is more than one can say about real life Donald, and the way the skin forms along the jawline on either side of the chin is very, very Hillary. Hillary also has a much rounder face than Donald does, as does the Trumpamatronic.

In the wake of Goldman's tweet going viral (a tweet he has since deleted), an anonymous Disney Imagineer slid into his DM's to confirm the conspiracy theory. According to this source, The Hall of Presidents closes down for months after a new president is elected in order to create a new figure for the new leader of the free world and get a recording of them giving their spiel. Since animatronics can take months, even years, to develop, Disney was committed to reducing that downtime as much as possible and began developing the Clinton animatronic under the assumption that she would win.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Supreme Court says state lawmakers can't just ignore state law when drawing voting districts or choosing presidential electors (The Conversation,  June 27, 2023)

We asked [Henry L. Chambers Jr., a law professor at the University of Richmond, ] to help readers understand the court's opinion, issued on June 27, 2023.

What question did the Supreme Court answer in this opinion?

The court considered whether a state legislature could have the last word, with no review by state courts, regarding gerrymandered congressional districts they created. State legislatures have always been bound by the U.S. Constitution and by federal laws, so they had to draw lines consistent with the federal Voting Rights Act, for example. But the question was whether a state legislature could draw whatever congressional districts it wanted without review by state courts under state law. If so, state legislatures might also have more freedom to affect the choice of state electors in presidential elections.

At issue was a legal theory called the "independent state legislature doctrine," which the court considered in a dispute over gerrymandered North Carolina congressional districts. In early 2022, North Carolina state courts found the Legislature violated the state constitution when it drew congressional districts favoring Republicans. The Legislature claimed the U.S. Constitution gives it authority, unfettered by state courts' interpretation of the state constitution or laws, to regulate congressional elections, and asked the Supreme Court to agree.

The court did not agree.

In cases that involve the legislative action, courts typically consider whether the legislature has contravened state law. If the legislature has, it has made a mistake, and the legislative action tends to be reversed.

This decision merely reiterates what most people always thought the law was: Legislatures cannot legislate in ways that are inconsistent with the law that governs their actions and their state. This conclusion seems obvious, like saying the sky is blue or water is wet.

June 27, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 PM


Landmark Study Shows Higher Suicide Risk for Transgender People (Azeen Ghorayshi, June 27, 2023, NY Times)

Transgender people in Denmark have a significantly higher risk of suicide than other groups, according to an exhaustive analysis of health and legal records from nearly seven million people over the last four decades. The study is the first in the world to analyze national suicide data for this group.

Transgender people in the country had 7.7 times the rate of suicide attempts and 3.5 times the rate of suicide deaths compared with the rest of the population, according to the records analyzed in the study, though suicide rates in all groups decreased over time. And transgender people in Denmark died -- by suicide or other causes -- at younger ages than others.

They are disordered by definition. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


Moore v. Harper vindicates Rehnquist's opinion in Bush v. Gore  (DEREK MULLER, 6/27/23, Election Law Blog)

[T]he Court looked to Bush v. Gore (2000):

Chief Justice Rehnquist, joined in a concurring opinion by JUSTICE THOMAS and Justice Scalia, acknowledged the usual deference we afford state court interpretations of state law, but noted "areas in which the Constitution requires this Court to undertake an independent, if still deferential, analysis of state law." Id., at 114. He declined to give effect to interpretations of Florida election laws by the Florida Supreme Court that "impermissibly distorted them beyond what a fair reading required." Id., at 115. Justice Souter, for his part, considered whether a state court interpretation "transcends the limits of reasonable statutory interpretation to the point of supplanting the statute enacted by the 'legislature' within the meaning of Article II." Id., at 133 (Souter, J., joined by Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., dissenting).

In other words, the Court-and no justice dissented from this view-seems entirely amenable to the concept promulgated by the Chief Justice, that at some point state courts go "too far" in interpreting state law.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business: Clever business models and the falling price of storage, bandwidth, and processing have given rise to a new economy. Call it "freeconomics." ( CHRIS ANDERSON, FEB 25, 2008, Wired)

AT THE AGE of 40, King Gillette was a frustrated inventor, a bitter anticapitalist, and a salesman of cork-lined bottle caps. It was 1895, and despite ideas, energy, and wealthy parents, he had little to show for his work. He blamed the evils of market competition. Indeed, the previous year he had published a book, The Human Drift, which argued that all industry should be taken over by a single corporation owned by the public and that millions of Americans should live in a giant city called Metropolis powered by Niagara Falls. His boss at the bottle cap company, meanwhile, had just one piece of advice: Invent something people use and throw away.

One day, while he was shaving with a straight razor that was so worn it could no longer be sharpened, the idea came to him. What if the blade could be made of a thin metal strip? Rather than spending time maintaining the blades, men could simply discard them when they became dull. A few years of metallurgy experimentation later, the disposable-blade safety razor was born. But it didn't take off immediately. In its first year, 1903, Gillette sold a total of 51 razors and 168 blades. Over the next two decades, he tried every marketing gimmick he could think of. He put his own face on the package, making him both legendary and, some people believed, fictional. He sold millions of razors to the Army at a steep discount, hoping the habits soldiers developed at war would carry over to peacetime. He sold razors in bulk to banks so they could give them away with new deposits ("shave and save" campaigns). Razors were bundled with everything from Wrigley's gum to packets of coffee, tea, spices, and marshmallows. The freebies helped to sell those products, but the tactic helped Gillette even more. By giving away the razors, which were useless by themselves, he was creating demand for disposable blades. A few billion blades later, this business model is now the foundation of entire industries: Give away the cell phone, sell the monthly plan; make the video game console cheap and sell expensive games; install fancy coffeemakers in offices at no charge so you can sell managers expensive coffee sachets.

Thanks to Gillette, the idea that you can make money by giving something away is no longer radical. But until recently, practically everything "free" was really just the result of what economists would call a cross-subsidy: You'd get one thing free if you bought another, or you'd get a product free only if you paid for a service.

Over the past decade, however, a different sort of free has emerged. The new model is based not on cross-subsidies--the shifting of costs from one product to another--but on the fact that the cost of products themselves is falling fast. It's as if the price of steel had dropped so close to zero that King Gillette could give away both razor and blade, and make his money on something else entirely. (Shaving cream?)

You know this freaky land of free as the Web. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 AM


Rebellion shakes Russian elite's faith in Putin's strength (Catherine Belton, June 26, 2023, Washington Post)

"Putin showed the entire world and the elite he is no one and not capable of doing anything," said one influential Moscow businessman. "It is a total collapse of his reputation."

"Games are being played that no one understands," said a Russian official close to top diplomatic circles. "Control of the country has been partly lost."

Members of the Moscow elite were grappling with how it had been possible for the renegade force of Wagner mercenaries to so easily seize control of the main command center for the Russian Army's war in Ukraine in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don without facing resistance, and then progress hundreds of miles along the road to Moscow before Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, eventually decided to turn his troops back.

"How is it possible for them to drive tanks hundreds of kilometers north toward Moscow and not be stopped?" said an associate of a Moscow billionaire. "There was no resistance."

"When you have columns of thousands of people marching and no one can stop it, the loss of control is evident," said one Russian billionaire who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fears of retribution.

The Ghosts on the Roof (Whittaker Chambers, March 05, 1945, TIME)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican attacks on ESG aren't stopping companies in red states from going green (Michael Copley, 6/27/23, NPR)

Back in the woods of South Carolina's Lowcountry, at a factory spread across thousands of acres near the Cooper River, a company called Nucor is trying to solve one of the thornier challenges of climate change: making steel with the least greenhouse gas pollution possible.

Steel is a building block of modern society. It's in cars and trains and bridges. And producing it is a major driver of global warming, accounting for up to 9% of all the carbon dioxide emissions that humans generated in 2020. Recently, the steel industry's customers, including automakers, have been pushing for a greener product. So, Nucor's exploring its options. It wants to be the go-to company for low-carbon steel.

"We can continue to grow our business and take [market] share because we have something that differentiates us from our competition," Greg Murphy, an executive vice president at Nucor, says as a furnace at the plant thunders nearby, turning scrap metal into molten steel.

But Nucor's efforts to cut its planet-warming emissions put it at cross-purposes with some of South Carolina's political leaders. Republican politicians, including in the Palmetto State, are deeply skeptical of the actions that companies like Nucor are taking to manage the risks and opportunities from climate change. They say investors who reward those sorts of corporate initiatives are focused on advancing "woke" policies instead of making money.

They can't repeal the laws of economics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. government debunks COVID lab-leak conspiracy theory, enraging conspiracy theorists (Michael Hiltzik,  June 26, 2023, LA Times)

The lab-leak conspiracists were certain that the report would validate their contentions, for which there has never been any valid scientific evidence.

Instead it did just the opposite.

While several [Wuhan Institute of Virology] researchers fell mildly ill in Fall 2019, they experienced ... symptoms consistent with colds or allergies.

-- U.S. agencies debunk a factoid cherished by lab-leak conspiracy-mongers

The report was issued in response to the COVID-19 Origin Act, which was signed into law by President Biden in March. The act required the intelligence community to declassify all information on the topic in its possession, save information that could compromise national security or intelligence-gathering sources and methods.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stop accusing Tim Scott of racial heresy for being a Republican (Tyler Austin Harper, June 26, 2023, Washington Post)

On the day Tim Scott announced his presidential bid, Politico published a piece titled "55 Things You Need to Know About Tim Scott." By my count, 34 of those "things you need to know" are variations of the same thing: Tim Scott is Black. Among them: His father smoked Kool menthols (fact No. 7); he and his grandfather both liked Black professional wrestlers (No. 9); the senator is a fan of the 1970s funk band Cameo (No. 37) -- and he gets a lot of racist voice mails (No. 39). Yet, of all these Tim-Scott-is-Black facts -- which range from silly to somber -- my favorite is No. 47. It is simply this quote: "People are fixated on my color."

This should be the title of nearly every article that has been written on the South Carolina senator in recent months -- people are deeply and intensely fixated on Scott's skin color. [...]

What starts as mere curiosity often turns into assertions of betrayal. All too often, public criticism of Black conservatives ends up implying that there is a difference -- as Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times once implied in an infamous tweet -- between being "racially Black" and "politically Black." It should not be controversial to say that putting such straitjackets on permissible Black political sentiment is racist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Justice Dept. asking about 2020 fraud claims as well as fake electors (Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, June 26, 2023, Washington Post)

A key area of interest is the conduct of a handful of lawyers who sought to turn Trump's defeat into victory by trying to convince state, local, federal and judicial authorities that Joe Biden's 2020 election win was illegitimate or tainted by fraud.

Investigators have sought to determine to what degree these lawyers -- particularly Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Kurt Olsen and Kenneth Chesebro, as well as then-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark -- were following specific instructions from Trump or others, and what those instructions were, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation.

Special counsel Jack Smith's team has extensively questioned multiple witnesses about the lawyers' actions related to fake electors -- pro-Trump substitutes offered up as potential replacements for electors in swing states that Biden won.

June 26, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


What the Hell Just Happened in Russia?: A perceptive Estonian military analyst breaks down Yevgeny Prigozhin's abortive coup (Michael Weiss and Holger Roonemaa, June 26, 2023, New/Lines)

To make sense of this vertiginous affair, New Lines turned to a senior Estonian analyst with years of experience tracking Russia's military affairs. The analyst, whom we have called "Karl" to protect his identity, has proved prescient about the course Russia's war would take. He predicted in March last year -- when Kyiv was still very much under siege -- that Russia's offensive in Ukraine would quickly grind down.

New Lines: What was it that we all actually saw in those 24 hours?

Karl: This is what the Russians call "smutnye vremena" -- "confusing times." It was the first such illustrative episode of what is happening in Russia in the current era. One guy, who had been given a relatively large degree of freedom within Russia, went out of control and did so quite definitively.

The second thing we saw was that Russia essentially has no military reserves. Everything is on the front line. A 25,000-strong force went into Russian cities and in less than a day made a 1000-kilometer [620-mile] journey, 200 kilometers [125 miles] from Moscow. Resistance was minimal. On the ground it was essentially nonexistent, the air force tried a little. Something might have been organized around Moscow, but if Prigozhin had decided to go all the way, he would have made it to the Kremlin.

Thirdly, it shows that the "pokazukha" [window dressing] built up externally in Russia is actually very fragile. This is not so surprising, because Russian political systems have always been ones that do not break down under the influence of political developments but under the influence of external events.

Posted by orrinj at 11:52 AM


A Religious Magazine Whitewashes a Xenophobic Novel Advocating Genocide: First Things peddles a cult favorite among white supremacists, comparing it to 1984 and Brave New World (LINDA CHAVEZ, JUN 26, 2023, The UnPopulist)

But in 1987, John Tanton, the founder of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a rabidly nativist outfit, published a cheap reprint through the Social Contract Press, part of Tanton's myriad network of anti-immigrant and population control groups. Reprinted numerous times since then, the book soon found an audience on the xenophobic right. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán are among the book's fans, and it was touted at the National Conservatives' third annual policy conference in 2022 during a discussion of "Catholicism and the Necessity of Nationalism."

The presenter at that conference, Nathan Pinkoski of the University of Florida, has now published a defense of The Camp of the Saints in First Things that boldly declares that if Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984 were the most important dystopian novels of the first half of the 20th century, then The Camp of the Saints is the most important one of the second half.

The Dehumanization of the Brown Skinned

In fact, the novel is nothing more--or less--than a pornographic call to genocide. It is shocking and dismaying to see it praised in a publication that describes itself as "America's most influential journal of religion and public life."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amazon's New Robots Are Rolling Out an Automation Revolution (WILL KNIGHT, JUN 26, 2023 , Wired)

Proteus is part of an army of smarter robots currently rolling into Amazon's already heavily automated fulfillment centers. Some of these machines, such as Proteus, will work among humans. And many of them take on tasks previously done by people. A robot called Sparrow, introduced in November 2022, can pick individual products from storage cubbies and place them into larger plastic bins--a step towards human-like dexterity, a holy grail of robotics and a bottleneck in the automation of a lot of manual work. Amazon also last year invested in a startup that makes humanoid robots capable of carrying boxes around.

Amazon's latest robots could bring about a company-wide--and industry-wide--shift in the balance between automation and people. When Amazon first rolled out large numbers of robots, after acquiring startup Kiva Systems and its shelf-carrying robots in 2012, the company redesigned its fulfillment centers and distribution network, speeding up deliveries and capturing even more business. The ecommerce firm may now be on the cusp of a similar shift, with the new robots already starting to reshape fulfillment centers and how its employees work. Certain jobs will be eliminated while new ones will emerge--just as long as its business continues growing. And competitors, as always, will be forced to adapt or perish.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia Disarray Creates a Moment of Uncertainty in China (Jason Douglas, Chun Han Wong, and Austin Ramzy,  June 24, 2023, WSJ)

The crisis marks the most serious challenge to Putin's 23-year rule--and a moment of uncertainty for Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Xi has cast China's bond with Russia as a bulwark against U.S. influence in the world and put his personal relationship with Putin at its center.

Now, Russia is in disarray and Putin appears weakened.

"This is that pessimistic scenario that China was afraid of--that Putin, when he started the invasion, will eventually damage the stability of the regime," said Temur Umarov, a fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'The People Are Silent': The Main Reason the Wagner Mutiny Bodes Ill for Putin (LEON ARON, 06/25/2023, Politico)

Like a powerful searchlight, the 48-hour rebellion illuminated the murky innards of the Putin regime including the military's divided allegiances, the seeming hollowness of the people's support for the regime and, by extension, the regime's shaky legitimacy. The images -- of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a famous night owl, addressing the nation in a dark suit and tie early on a Saturday morning; of mangled Russian helicopters felled by Wagner forces; and of residents of Rostov-on-Don jeering local police after the mutiny was ended -- do not bode well for the Kremlin.

Prigozhin had been pushing the envelope for months. Yet until very recently his obscenity-laden Telegram rants were directed at the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov. He hugely upped the ante this past Friday, when he dismissed as fabrications the reasons for invading Ukraine: a preemptive strike against NATO's alleged aggression and protecting the inhabitants of Russia-occupied Donbas from supposedly relentless Ukrainian shelling. Those were Putin's pretexts, so while Prigozhin blamed Shoigu for lying to Putin and didn't name Putin directly, everyone knew that the criticism was ultimately directed at the president.

And so Putin finally decided to end the long-running feud between Prigozhin and Shoigu and Gerasimov. After the Wagner chief refused to sign a "contract" subjugating his troops to the ministry of defense, Prigozhin was already guilty of insubordination and the military leaders' hands were untied. Whether or not they ordered missile strikes on the Wagner camp, as Prigozhin claimed, he apparently opted for dying like a soldier in a battle against Shoigu's and Gerasimov's regular troops to facing a firing squad for treason. (And when a third choice suddenly appeared, the offer of exile in Belarus in return for halting the advance on Moscow, Prigozhin apparently judged that there was enough of a guarantee in the Lukashenko deal keep him alive -- even though, a virtual Putin stooge, Lukashenko is hardly in a position to shield the rebel from Putin's retribution.)

Coups are a tricky thing for an authoritarian. Address the nation too quickly and you are deemed panicked. Wait longer and you come over as indecisive. Putin waited 24 hours. It is now clear why: Once you call it "treason" and threaten the mutineers with "tough" and "imminent" punishment, you'd better follow through. Putin likely hesitated because he doubted that his forces would follow those kinds of orders and he could look impotent as a result.

He was right. Regular troops appear to have melted away before the advancing Wagner forces. There was no resistance even in Rostov-on-Don, the headquarters of the Southern Military District. Apart from a few helicopter gunships, shot down by Wagner, no one attacked the "muzykanty," or "musicians," as the Wagnerites like to call themselves. Where were the bomber and jet fighter pilots, who could have pummeled the advancing columns from on high as they marched from the Ukrainian border to Rostov-on-Don?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Silent Rise of Solar Power: A deep dive into how the coming solar revolution may change the global energy landscape. (Anna-Sofia Lesiv June 8, 2023, Contrary)

The early 2020s have already been a period of many firsts for the solar industry. In 2022, the world surpassed one terawatt (i.e. 1,000 gigawatts) in total solar installations. Replacing coal-power plants with solar and wind plans became cheaper than continuing to run existing coal plans. And for the first time ever, more electricity was generated with solar power than with natural gas in Europe.

The coming decade may prove to be the one that completely changes the global energy landscape away from fossil fuels for the first time since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Over the past five decades, the US has already installed about 140 gigawatts of solar power generation capacity, enough to supply more than 3% of its energy needs.

If current estimates hold, 600 gigawatts of solar generated-energy may come online by 2030. One gigawatt is about the average energy produced by a nuclear power plant, so by 2030, the United States may be able to add the equivalent of 600 nuclear power plants in clean energy production.

Though the promise of solar power as a sustainable energy source has been touted since the 1970s, progress has been slow in terms of growth in production capacity and decline in cost,  leading many to lose faith in solar energy's potential to have a transformational impact. 

But just as it began fading from public attention, over the past handful of years the solar industry has quietly made incredible strides in everything from the cost of production to panel efficiency. The solar industry is expected to undergo exponential expansion in the coming years; the US Department of Energy predicts that 40% of the US's electric demand could be supplied by solar by the year 2035.

Though other exciting technologies like fusion promise to reshape the global energy landscape in the longer term, the timeline for commercializing this technology is uncertain, with many technical and cost hurdles still ahead. By the time it takes fusion to reach maturity, solar will already have taken on a much bigger role in global energy generation.

Additionally, since solar panels are made from silicon, the production of solar panels may soon enjoy the same kind of massive scale, production, and transformative effects that we have seen in the semiconductor industry. Indeed, the solar industry may represent the second silicon revolution we experience in our lifetimes - and the start of a genuine shift towards cheap, abundant, sustainable energy.

June 25, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Putin looked into the abyss Saturday -- and blinked (David Ignatius, June 24, 2023, Washington Post)

The speed with which Putin backed down suggests that his sense of vulnerability might be higher even than analysts believed. Putin might have saved his regime Saturday, but this day will be remembered as part of the unraveling of Russia as a great power -- which will be Putin's true legacy.

Putin's Regime 'Is Over,' Says Analyst, And 'Something New Is Starting In Russia' (Vazha Tavberidze, 6/25/23, Radio Liberty)

After Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, ordered -- and then called off -- his forces to march on Moscow, RFE/RL's Georgian Service spoke to Konstantin Eggert, an independent journalist and political analyst, about how this has significantly weakened Russian President Vladimir Putin's grip on power. [...]

Konstantin Eggert: [L]et me say one thing: This event has significantly weakened Putin's grip on his own system. It has significantly weakened his ability to prosecute the war. It has created chaos among the millions of Russian civil servants on whose shoulders this regime stands.... I think that the Putin regime, as we knew it, is over, and something new is starting in Russia. Maybe, by the way, worse, although it's difficult to imagine something worse, especially if you are Ukrainian. But I do not think we can presume anymore that Putin is in full control of the country and that he is really the master of his fate.

RFE/RL: Why would Prigozhin do all of this in the first place?

Eggert: At this moment, we don't know. But the mere fact that at least on the surface of it, it was Lukashenka who stopped the advance on Moscow, means that, in the eyes of the Russian bureaucracy, Putin is no longer tops. He depends on Lukashenka to communicate with Prigozhin, and this means Putin -- who was saying in the morning that Prigozhin was essentially a traitor -- is now negotiating with this traitor [via] an intermediary who is supposed to be his junior partner.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Strange bedfellows: auto rivals embrace Tesla EV chargers (AFP, 6/24/23)

Tesla's electric charging network has long pleased electric car mavens. But Elon Musk's "superchargers" are now winning endorsements from a more unlikely group: other auto companies.

Ford was the first to announce a partnership with Musk in late May, followed by General Motors earlier this month. On Tuesday, EV truck company Rivian joined the bandwagon, saying it looks forward "to continuing to find new ways to accelerate EV adoption."

Under the partnerships, Musk has agreed to let consumers with autos from rival brands utilize its national network. 

Appearing with Musk on Twitter Spaces, GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said she was "really excited" to almost double the volume of chargers available to GM vehicle owners, adding that she hoped the Tesla system, known as the North American Charging Standard (NACS), could become a unified standard for the continent, which would "enable more mass adoption." 

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Putin's War on Ukraine Backfires, Leading to Wagner Uprising at Home  (Yaroslav Trofimov and Thomas Grove, June 24, 2023, WSJ)

By launching the ill-prepared invasion of Ukraine 16 months ago, a war that he expected to conclude with a triumph days later, Putin fell into the same trap.

Social tensions over accumulated losses and military setbacks in Ukraine have fueled the rise of Prigozhin and his Wagner paramilitary group, creating the biggest threat to Putin's rule since he came to power in 2000.

Wagner's soldiers were deployed in Africa and in Syria when Russian troops crossed into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. The Kremlin asked Prigozhin to join the war effort only after Russian troops failed to take Ukrainian capital Kyiv and were facing severe losses across northern Ukraine.

While regular Russian forces suffered a series of additional defeats in the fall of last year, Wagner achieved a rare success, capturing the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. That record has given Prigozhin the authority to speak honestly about the ineptitude of the Russian military--something that he did, with growing vitriol, over the past several months.

"Prigozhin is now telling the truth about the military failure and the official pretext for the invasion," said Fiona Hill, the chancellor-designate of Durham University in Britain who oversaw Russia policy in the Trump White House. "He openly says what a lot of other people are thinking."

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Drone strike hits Syria President's ancestral town (Al Monitor, June 24, 2023)

A drone attack targeted Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's ancestral town of Qardaha on Friday with two projectiles, killing one person and lightly injuring another, Syrian state news agency, Sana, reported.

The strike came a day after Sana reported a drone attack on Salhab, another government-held town in north-west Syria near rebel territory, that killed a woman and a child.

The strikes on Qardaha and Salhab, which are around 35 kilometres (22 miles) apart, come amid a flare up in fighting in the north-west, with shelling between Syrian government forces and rebels on some front lines.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Latinos Are Not Flocking to the Far Right (David Masciotra, June 23, 2023, Washington Monthly)

But what those obsessing about the Latino "drift to the right" never mention is that Romney's performance among Latinos was one of the worst in the past 40 years. Only Bob Dole in 1996 (21 percent) and George H. W. Bush in 1992 (25 percent) dipped lower, and independent Ross Perot took a piece of the Latino vote in both of those races, 14 and 6 percent, respectively. 

In light of Romney's lonely anti-Trump stances in his party, many might have forgotten how harsh his 2012 rhetoric sounded to Latinos, particularly his calls for "self-deportation." 

Because the mainstream media often behave as if human history began last weekend, there is rarely a reference to the Republican who had record-breaking levels of votes from Latinos: George W. Bush. In 2004, Bush won 40 percent of the Latino vote, partially by promising to exercise "compassionate conservatism" on immigration policy. Four years before that peak performance, the Texan's Latino share was 34 percent. When looking at elections in the 1980s, Republican presidential performance with Latinos ranged between 30 and 37 percent. And in 2008, John McCain earned 31 percent of the Latino vote. Trump did relatively well, perhaps surprisingly so given his rhetoric, but nevertheless in line with several of his predecessors.  

Moreover, presidential performance is not the only metric we should measure. The Latino vote for Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate in 2020 was even stronger than for Biden. The Latino Policy and Politics Institute at UCLA took a magnifying glass to the Senate results in Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas. It reached the following conclusion: "Latino voters supported the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate by wide margins across the five states analyzed. There is no evidence of a 'drop-off' in Democratic support for the U.S. Senate."  

Furthermore, the institute found that "Latino voters supported the Democratic Senate candidate over the Republican candidate by at least a 3-1 margin in Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia" and that the margin was 2-1 in New Mexico and Texas.  

The numbers for the 2022 midterms were the same. Exit polls gauging support for House candidates revealed that one reason why the Republicans did not enjoy a "red wave" was due to a relatively high turnout from voters under the age of 30. Among Latinos under 30, 68 percent voted for Democratic candidates.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Several NH mayors, police chiefs say it's time to give undocumented immigrants access to IDs (GABRIELA LOZADA, 6/24/23,  New Hampshire Public Radio)

In testimony to lawmakers, people who were once undocumented have described how not having a valid license and being unable to drive hindered their ability to participate fully in their communities, partly due to the state's lack of sufficient public transportation. Some reported they and their children feared the police for that reason.

In a roundtable hosted by the New Hampshire Brazilian Council, the mayors of New Hampshire's two largest cities and several local police chiefs underscored these concerns and said they support efforts to expand access to valid forms of identification for undocumented immigrants.

"Businesses need a workforce," Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig said during the meeting, "and individuals need to be able to get to those jobs."

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchness echoed that sentiment.

"We have a lot of jobs here and not enough people to fill them," Donchess said. "It's important that they are allowed to have a driver's license to support their families and their communities."

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 AM


MEMPHIS MAN: CADILLAC RIDING WITH ISAAC HAYES: Michael Gonzales remembers his trip around Memphis with the soul legend. (MICHAEL GONZALES, 5/17/23, CrimeReads)

Three decades before Dead Presidents, Hayes began his career behind the scenes at Stax Records, where the self taught musician was a studio sideman playing various instruments including saxophone and piano on various sessions before becoming a respected songwriter and producer with lyricist partner David Porter. Stax was the home of Booker T. & the MGs, Mavis Staples, the Bar-Kays, Carla Thomas and Otis Redding, who, in the mid-1960s, was the best-selling act on the label. 

Hayes' first gig at the label was playing organ on Floyd Newman's 1964 instrumental "Frog Stomp." Later, when house keyboardist Booker T. Jones went away to college, Hayes subbed for him on some recordings. The following year, Hayes was the pianist on Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul. "I was scared to death," Hayes would tell me, "but Otis was one the nicest guys anyone could work with. He had this wild sense of humor that made us all comfortable. Stax was like a family, man. Sometimes I would sleep on the floor of the studio or at the piano." 

Hayes joined creative forces with lyricist David Porter, who he'd known since their teenage days when they attended competing high schools. He had gone to Manassas while Porter graduated from Booker T. Washington. The first song they wrote together was the dramatic "I'll Run Your Hurt Away" by Ruby Johnson, but it was their work on Sam and Dave singles "Hold On, I'm Comin'" and "Soul Man" that made them a hit making duo. Hayes and Porter penned over two hundred songs in the 1960s, but by the end of the decade he'd grown bored with composing for others, and wanted to transition to the other side of microphone. 

His solo debut Presenting Isaac Hayes (1968) sold badly, but a year later he was more successful with Hot Buttered Soul, a groundbreaking album that mixed soul, pop and orchestration. Still, it wasn't until the Shaft soundtrack in 1971 that Hayes became a crossover pop superstar. 

In pictures published in Ebony, Hayes dressed flamboyantly in furs, leather suits, loud colors and miles of gold chains. Larger than life, he looked as though he'd been drawn by Black Panther creator Jack Kirby. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pfitzner's end; On Hans Pfitzner & the conservative artist. (Adam Kirsch, June 2023, New Criterion)

Pfitzner's magnum opus continues to repay listening and reflection today for the same reason that it fascinated Mann more than a century ago: its powerful expression of the pathos and the perils of conservative artistry in the modern world.

Pfitzner found the perfect vehicle for this theme in an episode in the life of the Renaissance composer Pierluigi da Palestrina. Starting in 1545, the Council of Trent sought to reform the Catholic Church in response to the challenge of Protestantism. Along with doctrine and liturgy, one of the subjects considered was church music: Pope Pius IV proposed abolishing the complex polyphony that had become popular in the Renaissance and returning to the simpler Gregorian chant of the Middle Ages. According to a long-repeated story, Palestrina, the greatest living master of polyphony, was tasked with defending the style, which he did by writing three new masses, including the Missa Papae Marcelli. These were so sublime that they convinced the pope to change his mind.

By Pfitzner's time, scholars had shown that this "trial" of polyphony was a fiction--for one thing, the Missa Papae Marcelli was composed years before the event supposedly took place. But Pfitzner was happy to make use of what he called a "musical legend," since the story chimed so perfectly with his own artistic self-image. He, too, was a composer who loved tradition and sought to preserve it in a time of radical change.

In Pfitzner's case, tradition meant the German Romanticism that descended from Schumann, Brahms, and Wagner--a musical language that was harmonically complex but decidedly tonal, and that cultivated inwardness and depth rather than excitement. This made Pfitzner an aesthetic reactionary at a time when more famous composers were experimenting with atonality and polyrhythms. He wrote the libretto and score of Palestrina between 1910 and 1915, a period that saw the premieres of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (1913) and Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire (1912).

It was an era of artistic manifestos, and in 1917 Pfitzner outlined his views in a pamphlet titled The Danger of the Futurists. It was written as a reply to an earlier pamphlet by the composer Ferruccio Busoni, Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music, which argued in a futurist spirit that music should be liberated from all rules and conventions. "Music was born free and to win freedom is its destiny," Busoni wrote (echoing Rousseau's famous declaration, "Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains"). This included freedom from its own history: "Creative power may be the more readily recognized, the more it shakes itself loose from tradition."

Busoni's call for musical liberation echoes the language of political revolution: rules are arbitrary impositions, the work of tyrants, and freedom-loving people ought to resist them. But Pfitzner argues that this is a false analogy. In music, he writes, "there are no rules set up arbitrarily, the way a law of the state . . . only brings benefit to a certain group." Rather, musical laws codify empirical observations. "Systems, rules, forms in music grow out of their own accord, just like animal and plant species in nature," Pfitzner writes; "Some die out here and there, many are preserved." If there is a lawgiver in music, it isn't a cabal of dead authorities but the human mind, which discovers that certain patterns of sound give pleasure and others don't.

Pfitzner, in other words, shared the Burkean belief that what already exists must exist for a reason and shouldn't be lightly discarded in favor of an abstract freedom. "That the nature of music has been grossly misunderstood for four hundred years," he writes, "I will only believe if I am shown just the glimmer of something positive, something more beautiful . . . than music has produced so far."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being 'It'Group of Men Have Played Game of Tag for 23 Years; Hiding in Bushes, Cars (Russell Adams, January 28, 2013, WSJ)

The game they play is fundamentally the same as the schoolyard version: One player is "It" until he tags someone else. But men in their 40s can't easily chase each other around the playground, at least not without making people nervous, so this tag has a twist. There are no geographic restrictions and the game is live for the entire month of February. The last guy tagged stays "It" for the year.

That means players get tagged at work and in bed. They form alliances and fly around the country. Wives are enlisted as spies and assistants are ordered to bar players from the office.

"You're like a deer or elk in hunting season," says Joe Tombari, a high-school teacher in Spokane, who sometimes locks the door of his classroom during off-periods and checks under his car before he gets near it.

One February day in the mid-1990s, Mr. Tombari and his wife, then living in California, got a knock on the door from a friend. "Hey, Joe, you've got to check this out. You wouldn't believe what I just bought," he said, as he led the two out to his car.

What they didn't know was Sean Raftis, who was "It," had flown in from Seattle and was folded in the trunk of the Honda Accord. When the trunk was opened he leapt out and tagged Mr. Tombari, whose wife was so startled she fell backward off the curb and tore a ligament in her knee.

"I still feel bad about it," says Father Raftis, who is now a priest in Montana. "But I got Joe."

It could have been worse for Mr. Tombari. He was "It" in 1982, heading into the last day of high school. He plotted to tag a friend, who had gone home early that day. But when he got there, the friend, tipped off by another player, was sitting in his parents' car with the doors locked. There wasn't enough time to tag someone else.

"The whole thing was quite devastating," says Mr. Tombari. "I was 'It' for life."

June 24, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:31 AM


The case of the Lego Bandit: Playing with Star Wars Lego bricks made them famous. Then a mysterious crime drove them apart. (David Kushner, May 21, 2023, Insider)

On October 4, 2018, a young Frenchman named Louis came home from work to find the window in his front door smashed. A practical-minded 20-year-old with short dark hair, he figured it was just another petty crime in the rural outskirts of Paris, where he lived with his parents. But when he saw the familiar gleam of a tiny red plastic brick on the driveway, his stomach plunged. It was his Lego.

In brickspeak, Louis is an Adult Fan of Lego -- known as AFOLs, for short -- and among the most ardent. His grandmother gave him his first set, the Lego Clone Scout Walker, for his sixth birthday, igniting a singular passion that hasn't let up since. Under his handle Republicattak (the missing "c" a childhood misspelling that gnaws at him), he shares his custom Star Wars-themed builds on his YouTube channel. Unlike many aspiring influencers, he keeps his identity private, other than his first name, to avoid embarrassment at work. "Otherwise, it'll be very awkward," he tells me over Zoom in his thick French accent. "Because in my videos, I'm very much like, basically, a grown man playing with toys."

On that October day, his toys were everywhere. Colorful parts littered the walkway outside his house -- a green baseplate here, a yellow sloped brick there. As Louis slowly followed the trail, he recognized chunks of his most beloved builds: a broken cockpit from his UCS X-Wing, the black treads ripped from his Clone Turbo Tank, a limbless Stormtrooper Minifigure staring helplessly from inside its helmet. "It was like a horror movie," he recalls, "but for Lego."

Though his parents were away, Louis feared the intruder might still be inside as he pushed open the broken front door. Nervously, he followed the trail of Lego to his bedroom. Since that first gift from his grandma, he'd painstakingly acquired, cataloged, and dusted ("just the dust," he tells me, is "terrible, painful work") more than 300 sets worth more than $20,000.

Now, his collection appeared to have been blasted by a Death Star Superlaser. Whole models had vanished, mint-condition boxes were ransacked, and scattered across the floor were the remnants of his most valuable builds.

His cash and laptops were untouched, but the Millennium Falcon his parents had given him was gone; so was the original Clone Scout Walker from his grandma. Most painful of all, the intruders had destroyed the massive, original Lego opus he'd been building over nights and long weekends for 10 months, a 35,000-piece installation he called "Imperial Gate."

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 AM


The Transistor Kid  (Robert Creamer, MAY 04, 1964, Spoorts Illustrated)

Vin Scully's voice is better known to most Los Angelenos than their next-door neighbor's is. He has become a celebrity. He is stared at in the street. Kids hound him for autographs. Out-of-town visitors at ball games in Dodger Stadium have Scully pointed out to them--as though he were the Empire State Building--as he sits in his broadcasting booth describing a game, his left hand lightly touching his temple in a characteristic pose that his followers dote on and which, for them, has come to be his trademark.

Baseball broadcasts are popular in all major league cities, but in Los Angeles they are as vital as orange juice. For one thing, the Dodgers have been an eminently successful and colorful club in their six seasons in Los Angeles (two pennants and a tie for a third, two world championships, a Maury Wills stealing 104 bases, a Sandy Koufax winning 25 games). For a second, the Los Angeles metropolitan area is huge (6 million people in the 1960 census, the biggest in the country after New York). For a third, because of a minimum of efficient public transportation, practically everybody drives to and from work and, for that matter, to and from everywhere, and in almost every car there is a radio and every radio is always on. When a home-rushing driver bogs down in a classic freeway traffic jam, he finds that nothing else is as soothing as Vin Scully's voice describing the opening innings of a Dodger night game just getting under way a few thousand miles and three time zones to the east. This time difference has been a key factor in the growth of Scully's audience. A man who drives home from work listening to an exciting game is not about to abandon it when he reaches his house. As a result, millions of southern Californians have Vin Scully with their supper.

But it is not just the happy timing of road games that endears Scully to his audience. He appeals to them when the Dodgers are home, too. In fact, he holds his listeners when they come to the ball park to see games with their own eyes. When the Dodgers are playing at home and Dodger Stadium is packed to the top row of the fifth tier with spectators, it seems sometimes as though every member of the crowd is carrying a transistor radio and is listening to Scully tell him about the game he is watching. Taking radios to ball parks to listen to the game as you watch it is a fairly common practice, but nowhere is it so pronounced a characteristic as it is in Los Angeles, and has been since 1958, the year the Dodgers left Ebbets Field and moved west. Los Angeles was hungry for major league ball, and though the Dodgers had a dreadful season that first year (they finished seventh), the crowds jammed into Memorial Coliseum, where the team played until Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine opened in 1962. Perhaps their unfamiliarity with major leaguers prompted so many fans to bring transistors along at first in order to establish instant identification of the players. But a large percentage brought radios not just to identify players but to learn what they were doing. Scully was talking to an audience that had not been watching baseball. The old minor league teams that Los Angeles and Hollywood had in the Pacific Coast League seldom drew more than a few hundred thousand spectators in their best years. Now a million and a half, two million, two million and a half were pouring into the ball parks. Through Vin Scully they learned the fine points, the subtleties, the In language of the game.

Scully was an instant success, and his hold on his near and remote audiences became extraordinary. The thousands of transistor radios in the stadium add up to substantial volume, and Scully, sitting in the broadcasting booth, can hear his voice coming back at him from the crowd around him. The engineers have to keep close watch on field microphones (the ones designed to pick up the background noise of the crowd) to screen out the feedback. Scully says, "I tell you one thing, it keeps you on your toes. When you know that just about everybody in that ball park is listening to you describe a play that they're watching, you'd better call it right. You can't get lazy and catch up with a pitch that you've missed. You can't fake a play that you've called wrong. I guess the thing I'm proudest of is the fact that in six seasons I have never gotten a letter from a fan who had seen a game at the ball park and listened to it at the same time on a transistor telling me that I'd been wrong on a play. I've gotten a few letters telling me to go soak my head, but none that said I described a play inaccurately."

One day in 1960 Scully did something on the spur of the moment that provided extraordinary evidence of his impact on his audience. It was a fairly drab game, and Scully, as is his habit, was filling in the duller moments with stories and anecdotes and revealing flashes of information. He began talking about the umpiring team, one of whom was Frank Secory. Vin leafed through the record books and cited a few bits and things about Secory. He mentioned his age and then did a double take when he noticed the date of Secory's birth. Over the microphone he said, "Well, what do you know about that? Today is Frank Secory's birthday." And because it was a dull game and because he was acutely aware, as always, that most of the people at the game were listening to him on transistors, he said, "Let's have some fun. As soon as the inning is over I'll count to three, and on three everybody yell, 'Happy birthday, Frank!' "

The inning ended. Scully said, "Ready? One, two, three!" And the crowd roared, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FRANK!" Secory looked up, astounded, and the crowd sat back, bubbling with self-satisfaction.

Early last season a similar incident revealed that Scully had not lost his grip on his listeners. The National League had told its umpires to enforce strictly the balk rule, which provided that with men on base a pitcher had to stop for one full second in the course of his windup before throwing the ball to the plate. Many pitchers were violating the rule unintentionally, and the umpires soon made so many balk calls that they sounded like a flock of crows in a cornfield. The league office eventually backed down and everything became serene again, but before that happened one of the real crises of the Great Balk War occurred at Los Angeles during a game between the Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds, the Dodgers and the umpires became embroiled in a loud, long discussion on the question of whether or not a pitcher had stopped for one full second. The argument went on and on, and up in the broadcasting booth Scully was obliged to keep talking. He reviewed the balk rule, the National League's effort to enforce it, the numbers of balks that had been called thus far in league play compared to the number of balks called in previous seasons, and so on. Finally, with the argument still dragging on down below, Scully brought up the obvious but intriguing fact that one second is a surprisingly difficult length of time to judge. He asked his audience if they had ever tried to gauge a second precisely. He said, "Hey, let's try something. I'll get a stopwatch from our engineer..." And with thousands of spectators watching him as he sat in the broadcasting booth, he reached up and back and took a watch from the engineer. "...I'll push the stopwatch and say, 'One!' and when you think one full second has elapsed you yell, 'Two!' Ready? One!"

There was a momentary pause and then 19,000 voices yelled, "Two!" The managers, the umpires, the players, the batboys, the ball boys all stopped and looked around, startled. Scully said into the microphone, "I'm sorry. Only one of you had it right. Let's try it again. One!" And again, a great "Two!" roared across Dodger Stadium and out into Chavez Ravine. The ballplayers were staring up at the broadcasting booth, and one of them got on the dugout phone, called the press box and asked, "What the hell is going on?" The crowd, immensely pleased with itself, waited patiently for the argument on the field to end.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Local Hero: Why the iconic Scottish environmental film was decades ahead of its time (Anthony Frajman, 6th June 2023, BBC)

As it happened, Puttnam and Forsyth had their eye on Lancaster to star in the film from get-go. "The first thing that Bill had said to me when he delivered the screenplay was, 'I'd like Burt Lancaster to play Happer," says Puttnam. While securing Lancaster was crucial for the film's international appeal, this proved extremely difficult as the star's salary took up half of the film's budget. It took a year of negotiating to get him on board.

Despite considering stars such as Michael Douglas and Henry Winkler for the role of Mac, Forsyth was set on casting Peter Riegert as the oilman who experiences an awakening and succumbs to the charms of the rugged Scottish landscapes. For the key part of Oldsen, the local guide who escorts Mac around Ferness, Forsyth chose Peter Capaldi, a then fresh-faced Scottish actor just out of art school, with no credits to his name.

Another integral element of the film is the score by Scottish-born Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler, who Puttnam suggested to Forsyth. While it is regarded as a key component of the film, underscoring shots of the Scottish coastline and the Northern Lights, it almost never came about.

"I heard his (Dire Straits) album Making Movies. So, I wrote to him, I got a letter from his manager who said, 'Oh, that's really, really interesting'. I got Mark and Bill to meet, Bill didn't like Mark's music, so it was a very tense meeting. But Bill liked one track, Telegraph Road. So, I managed to have a meeting where the only track we talked about was Telegraph Road. And, in the end, they got to like each other and they got to work together," says Puttnam.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Graceful Failures of Steely Dan: The true key to the band's greatness is not their famous perfectionism. (ALEX PAPPADEMAS AND JOAN LEMAY, MAY 28, 2023, Slate)

Once you've lived with Katy Lied it's hard to imagine it sounding any way except the way it sounds--the basement-apartment rumble of the bass, the hollow underwater quality of the drums on "Everyone's Gone to the Movies," the way the cymbals on "Dr. Wu" hiss like an inner tube's last breath. Like the photo on the album cover, the music is greenish-brown and out of focus, and it doesn't get that much sharper or more present even if you crank the volume; every copy of Katy Lied sounds like an old cassette tape baked in dashboard sun for three or more summers. You can't hear Katy Lied the way Donald and Walter intended; the only Katy Lied experience you can have is the compromised version.

Steely Dan are famous, or infamous, for their perfectionism, for redoing and redoing and redoing until the oxide flaked from their master tapes. But when you get down to it, so many of the stories about how their records came to be are really stories about human error and Steely Dan falling victim to circumstances even control freaks couldn't control. In the liner notes to the 1998 reissue of Countdown to Ecstasy, Donald and Walter describe trying again and again to add three notes to a particular section of Denny Dias' guitar part on "Show Biz Kids."

"No matter how many times we punched in," they write, "these three notes refused to stick to the tape."

Eventually a surgical splice was performed, and the notes were added manually. Afterward, they wrote, "we sent the little piece of defective tape back to 3M. Months later, they sent us their report. The piece of tape had a tiny blister where the oxide had bubbled up from the backing. Inside this little blister was a drop of mustard. Some clot up in Minnesota had taken his sandwich into the room in the plant where the huge sheets of mylar were coated with oxide, taken a bite and squirted a tiny drop of mustard onto the mylar on the exact spot where we were going to put Denny's guitar part. In effect, our efforts had been sabotaged in advance by a careless worker. This was to haunt us over and over in the years to come."

There's one conception of rock music where the recording process is less about capturing the Platonic ideal of a song and more about documenting people in a room grappling toward that ideal, even if they can't quite get there; recording is about catching unplanned moments of vehemence or trance or grace or badassery as they happen to happen. Steely Dan were after the actual ideal, and that's part of what their detractors don't like about them--they wanted the songs to sound a certain way, and pursued that fidelity at the expense of the spontaneity and friction essential to the part of rock that's derived from rock 'n' roll, producing spotless recordings conveying no sense of musicians tumbling down the same hill together or breathing each other's smoke and funk in enclosed spaces.

But the story of Steely Dan is only superficially about a band making the most impossibly smooth and flawless music the world had ever heard; it's really about a band setting out to do that, committing to the goal so completely they were willing to sacrifice fellowship and profit and even their own mental health to achieve it, and being thwarted over and over--by the limitations of their collaborators, by their ability to capture what those players did in the room, by the technology available to them in their time.

The hidden Torah of Steely Dan (Jeffrey Salkin, 5/24/23, RNS)

Imagine my utter joy when I opened the new book about Steely Dan -- "Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, and Other Sole Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan," by Alex Pappademas and Joan Lemay.

This is the finest piece of rock journalism that I have read in a long time. It is up there with the late Paul Williams of 1960s "Crawdaddy" magazine (I still have every single issue of that short-lived magazine, in mint condition); Greil Marcus; and the late Lester Bangs, who was portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Almost Famous."

Steely Dan populated their songs with people who live on the margins of society: drug dealers ("Kid Charlemagne"); strivers for incest ("Cousin Dupree"); a Charles Whitman-type sniper in the bell tower ("Don't Take Me Alive"), social outcasts and poseurs ("Gaucho"), and various, assorted losers.

The authors speculate about the people in the songs. Plus, Joan Lemay's wonderful art work depicts what they must have looked like.

As for me, I have long wondered about the following questions:

Why should Rikki not lose that number? What was it the number to? (There really is a Rikki, the authors tell us).
In "Any Major Dude Will Tell You," what is a squonk? What is up with a squonk's tears? (Don't worry; there is a wonderful artistic rendition of what one looks like)
Who is Doctor Wu? What kind of doctor is he?
What did Katy lie about?
Who is "The Razor Boy? "(Death?)
Why is Napoleon in "Pretzel Logic?"
What is really going on in the song "Kings?" Is it a song that takes place in medieval times, as in King Richard the Lionhearted dying, and King John succeeding him? Or (this is wild!), is it about Richard Nixon losing the 1960 election to John F. Kennedy?
In "Everyone's Gone to the Movies," Isn't Mr. LaPage showing pornographic movies to kids?

So, what we have here are back stories about the music.

Or, if you will, midrash: musical exegesis. If classic midrash is the filling in of the white spaces between the black letters in the scroll, then this book is a filling in of the silences between the notes in the songs.

There is something metaphorically Jewish in all that, and we should not be surprised.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


You Don't Need a Grill -- Just a Cast-Iron Pan -- for This First-Rate Steak Recipe: Georgia James chef Greg Peters shares his tips for a perfect porterhouse steak over a cast-iron skillet. (KEVIN GRAY , 5/26/23, Inside Hook)

Before you place meat on a cast-iron surface, you first need to prep the pan. Peters suggests putting the stove on low heat for about 15 minutes prior to cooking. Let the pan warm up slowly, and the porous surface will tighten to help you achieve a good sear. 

"If food sticks to your pan, you probably didn't take enough time to bring it up to temperature," says Peters. "A damp protein on that porous surface will stick to all the nooks and crannies."

When the Georgia James crew is done cooking for the evening, they wipe out their pans with a wet towel, let them dry, then apply a light coat of oil. [...]

Greg Peters's Porterhouse Steak Recipe


1 36-oz. porterhouse steak
5 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 oz. butter
10 sprigs thyme
6 garlic cloves
Kosher salt and ground pepper, to season

30 minutes prior to cooking, take the porterhouse out of the refrigerator and let it sit out at room temperature. 

15 minutes prior to cooking, place the cast iron skillet over low heat on the stove. 

When ready to begin cooking, season each side of the porterhouse with salt and pepper.

Add vegetable oil to the skillet and turn up the heat to medium-high. Once oil starts to shimmer, place the steak in the skillet. 

Sear for 5-6 minutes. Do not move the porterhouse during this time. Allow the sear to build a good crust. 

Flip the steak and sear for another 5-6 minutes. 

Add butter, thyme and garlic, and baste the steak for 3-4 minutes. 

Remove from the skillet and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



The legend behind its creation begins with, of all people, legendary sexploitation pioneer Russ Meyer. During the war, Meyer was a combat photographer and as such, took pictures of military prisoners in Europe he was told were trained for a suicide mission. He told their story years later to his neighbor, freelance journalist, E.M. Nathanson. The inspiration may have also come from a unit of the 101st Airborne nicknamed "The Filthy Fifteen" for its unsanitary habits and rowdy ways. However, following over two years of research and being unable to discover anything about the actual prisoners, Nathanson believed Meyer's tale was a 'latrine rumor' and chose to fictionalize the account of the men and their mission. When The Dirty Dozen was published in 1965, it would eventually become a massive international bestseller.

The journey to the screen was thus set in motion. Prior to its publication, director Robert Aldrich attempted to buy the film rights but was outbid by MGM executives who purchased the rights in 1963 for the sum of $80,0000. Harry Denker was assigned to write the script for producing partners William Perlberg and George Seaton, who also planned to direct the project. Perlberg left the project first and was replaced by Kenneth Hyman, looking to follow up his similarly themed The Hill (1965). Seaton eventually dropped out as well due to scheduling conflicts. Nathanson consequently was appalled by Denker's script and offered his own version. His script was also turned down. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nunnally Johnson was assigned the task and the wheels were set in motion.

Almost simultaneously, Hyman went about casting the film, considering such actors as John Wayne, Aldo Ray, and Burt Lancaster for the lead role of Reisman. Other roles were mentioned for the likes of George Chakiris, Nick Adams, Jack Palance, and Sidney Poitier. Director Robert Aldrich came aboard to help with casting and brought in Lukas Heller to revise Johnson's script. When John Wayne turned the part down for several reasons, Aldrich's original choice of Lee Marvin was approved by MGM. One of the more interesting casting choices was actor/director John Cassavetes as prisoner Victor Franko. Cassavetes, who hated the script, had been blacklisted by producer Stanley Kramer and needed money to finish his current project. He eventually relented to Hyman's demands resulting in a renaissance of the maverick filmmaker's career.

Filming began in April of 1966 with cast and crew set to go to England for what was believed to be a few months of production. However, from the start, there were unforeseen problems. Costar Charles Bronson was mourning the recent death of his mother as well as the break-up of his marriage as he pursued Jill Ireland, wife of his good friend, actor David McCallum. His sullen demeanor earned him the nickname "Charlie Sunshine." Leading man Lee Marvin was also in the midst of ending his marriage to Betty Marvin during the tumultuous relationship with Michele Triola, both of whom came to visit him on the location. The all-British crew frustrated director Aldrich for their slow way of working. The weather also proved to be a hindrance as constant rainfall held up the shooting schedule. Also not helping was the few days Marvin took off to go to California for the Academy Awards where he won the Oscar for Cat Ballou (1965).

Back in England, schedule and cost overruns continued, forcing the production to go into late October. In the interim, Cleveland Brown running back Jim Brown, making his second film appearance, was pressured to leave the film or risk a heavy fine from team owner, Art Modell. The ultimatum resulted in the 29-year-old Brown holding a press conference on location announcing his retirement from the NFL. The opposite took place for costar and popular singer Trini Lopez.

When he chose to take Frank Sinatra's advice and ask for more money, Aldrich had Lopez's character promptly killed off before the big finale.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

"WHO SHE KNOWS SHE IS" (profanity alert):

The Epic Return of Lucinda Williams: After striving to overcome a stroke that left her partially paralyzed, the Louisiana native knows one thing for sure: Nothing will stop her from going where the music takes her (BRONWEN DICKEY, May 18, 2023, Garden & Gun)

To a male-dominated, marketing-driven industry that fetishized youth, she didn't belong--at least not in the way record executives wanted her to. There would be no spangles or shoulder pads; she wore dark eyeliner and leather jackets with her cowboy hats. Her songs blended folk and blues, rock and country, punk and zydeco, with an undercurrent of Southern gothic, as if Flannery O'Connor had joined Tom Petty for a late-night drive. Like traditional folk ballads, most of them didn't have bridges, and they weren't easily packaged for mainstream radio. They were songs for people who cared about storytelling: personal and direct, plain and profound, filled with misfits who were still worth loving.

Williams tried not to get "too spiritual woo-woo" about the writing process, but when the music was going well, she felt as though she became "a receptacle or vehicle through which the creativity flows." Sometimes that happened in a bar, sometimes at a cheap motel. Other songs she crafted from a file of notes she kept in a briefcase. She revised her lyrics countless times, usually seeking her father's feedback, then worked out the melodies on a '72 Martin D-28. She was the storm, and her guitar drew the strike.

In life, anxiety and self-doubt plagued her. She dreamed she was trapped in a house filled with dark secrets and locked doors. But in her songs, all the doors were open. She could talk about every feeling, every heartbreak, every toxic--even terrifying--relationship. She went where the silence was and sang.

"Her voice was the most original thing of anybody that I knew," says the singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who met Williams in Texas in the early seventies. "She wasn't trying to be Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell; she was trying to be Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf." Her literary worldview combined with her lively rhythm guitar, honed over years of busking on street corners and gigging with blues musicians, granted her entry into what was then very much a "boys' club." She and Earle became friends, running in the same circles as the outlaw guitarist Blaze Foley and cult legend Townes van Zandt.

In 1995, Earle wrote the duet "You're Still Standin' There" with Williams in mind. Singing on Earle's record introduced her to Ray Kennedy, a Nashville producer she still works with today, and an even wider audience. By then, she had already recorded the first version of her fifth album, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.

Myths and legends about the making of Car Wheels persist. Over the course of five years, Williams recorded the entire album twice at several different studios and butted heads with multiple producers--including Earle--before nailing a sound that satisfied her. "Working in the studio," she says, "whatever issues are going on with people seem to bubble to the surface. It becomes like one big therapy session."

At one point, after weeks of smaller conflicts, Williams complained to Earle that she sounded too slick, too "overproduced," and asked to rerecord her vocals for the song "Lake Charles." Earle told her she didn't need to. She insisted. "It became this long, labored thing, and nothing was getting finished," Earle recalls. Finally, exasperated, he'd had enough. "When are you going to trust someone, Lu?" he said.

"Looking back," Williams says, she knows Earle pushed her musically "because he cared, and he loved me and appreciated what I did." But at that point, she couldn't trust most other people with her work, and the journalists who wrote about her during this period in the nineties weren't kind to her about it. They portrayed her as flaky and neurotic, shackling her with the label "obsessive perfectionist" for years.

In truth, Williams was petrified. For more than two decades, she'd been one of only a handful of women making this type of music, which mainstream record labels told her was "too country for rock" and "too rock for country." She'd crisscrossed America playing small bars while pulling shifts at taco stands and health food stores. She'd lost several talented friends to suicide. Now that her career had finally taken off, she wanted to do her best work, and obsessing over small details became the way her brain tried to protect itself. That pressure built until she broke--or at least until she crumpled to the floor of the vocal booth and cried.

Williams and Earle later smoothed things out, largely because of how much Earle admired Williams's underdog tenacity and her compassion as an artist; he still does. "This job is empathy," he says. "People don't give a f **k what happened to you, they care about what happened to you that also happened to them." And Williams had a way of writing songs that made listeners feel understood.

Car Wheels on a Gravel Road was finally released in 1998, when Williams was forty-five. The vision she fought so hard to realize turned out to be the right one. Rolling Stone called it "near absolute mastery of the pop songcraft" and "excellent only when it isn't superlative." The album spanned the full emotional scale, from up-beat anthems to brooding ballads; pure silk laced with snake venom. Within a year, it went gold and won Williams a second Grammy, this time for Best Contemporary Folk Album. More important, it influenced an entire generation of younger artists. 


"In the frame of a song, we don't have a lot of time to work," the singer-songwriter Jason Isbell explains. "In order to take the listener to the place where you want them to be, you have to pick exactly the right details. And I feel like Lucinda has always been a master of that." Had it not been for her example, Isbell says, "I would have settled for a lot of the wrong words."

Ask her fans to quote their favorite Williams lines, and most can rattle off a list. Maybe it's "heavy blankets cover lonely girls," or "I need a little time / to follow that unbroken line / to the place where the wild things grow." (Mine have always been "If we lived in a world without tears / ...How would broken find the bones?") One of Isbell's favorites comes from "Bus to Baton Rouge," a slow waltz off Williams's 2001 Essence album, in which the singer recalls childhood visits to her grandparents' home and the family turmoil associated with it:


There was this beautiful lamp I always loved
A seashore was painted on the shade
It would turn around when you switched on the bulb
And gently rock the waves


The musician Sharon Van Etten explains Williams's skill this way: "She can look back on her life and tell a story like it's not happening to her. She can see pain in places that other people or other writers may not want to go." Having once left an abusive relationship, Van Etten hears in Williams's lyrics the strength of a woman who refused to let darkness define or diminish her. "Anyone that's a survivor of any nature, really, connects with her music," says Van Etten, who is forty-two. In 2021, Williams covered Van Etten's song "Save Yourself," and the memory of it still brings the younger songwriter to tears. "She gave it all this wisdom that I can't yet."

That wisdom has been hard-won. The success of Car Wheels on a Gravel Road vaulted the normally shy Williams into a new level of fame, one she didn't always feel equipped to handle. She was now playing for much bigger audiences and, suddenly, besotted strangers felt that they knew her. "One time, after a show in Minneapolis, this woman said, 'Did you have a difficult childhood?'" she says. A tired Lucinda nodded, thanked her, and walked backstage. At times, all she wanted to do was hide.

Instead, Williams leaned on her band, whom she considered her family, and came to understand that she didn't have to be so hard on herself. No one gifted her with talent; she earned it. After so many years of second-guessing, she "learned how to connect with audiences and got comfortable with it," Steve Earle says. "She slowly but surely realized that it was out there, that those folks were out there, and they were going to let her just be the way that she is."

June 23, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Trump Prosecutors Struggled Over Motives. Then They Heard the Tape. (Aruna Viswanatha and Sadie Gurman, 6/23/23, WSJ)

Justice Department and FBI officials disagreed back in August about whether their investigation into the handling of sensitive documents justified the search of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. Fewer officials had doubts earlier this month, when prosecutors took an even bolder step: asking a grand jury to indict the former president on 37 counts. 

What turned the tide was an audio tape and other evidence investigators confirmed around February from meetings Trump held almost two years earlier and a thousand miles from the former president's Palm Beach, Fla., resort, according to people familiar with the matter.

That crucial evidence, along with notes from a Trump lawyer describing his response to the investigation, helped spur prosecutors to push forward with a criminal case, the people said--an unprecedented step that might have been avoided if Trump had cooperated even late last year, as some of his lawyers had urged him to do.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Some N.H. residents will see electricity prices plummet (Amanda Gokee, June 16, 2023, Boston Globe)

Eversource is proposing a new rate of 12.6 cents per kilowatt hour starting in August, the company announced on Thursday -- a 38 percent decrease from the current rate of 20.2 cents per kilowatt hour. That rate has to be approved by state regulators before it's finalized, but it would save the average household about $46 per month.

Eversource is the state's largest utility, but it isn't the only company lowering its energy prices. Unitil's new rates would be 13.25 cents per kilowatt hour, almost half of its current 25.9 cents rate.

Those high prices were driven by the high cost of natural gas, at a time when the global market was volatile in the wake of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. New England is very reliant on natural gas for both electricity and heat, making the region extra sensitive to fluctuations in price.

Now the cost of natural gas has come down, and that's translating into lower energy prices here.

"With the unprecedented volatility in the energy markets hitting our customers hard in the last year, we're pleased to let them know that some relief is coming with the new supply rate in August," Penni Conner, Eversource's executive vice president for Customer Experience and Energy Strategy, said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


The Hidden Cost of Gasoline: Gas stations caused a $20 billion toxic mess -- and it's not going away. )Kate Yoder, Jun 14, 2023, Grist)

Almost every gas station eventually pollutes the earth beneath it, experts told Grist. The main culprit: the underground storage tanks that hold tens of thousands of gallons of fuel, one of the most common sources of groundwater pollution. Typically, two or three of these giant, submarine-shaped tanks are buried under a station to store the gasoline and diesel that gets piped to the pump. A large tank might be 55 feet long and hold as many as 30,000 gallons; a typical tank might hold 10,000 gallons. Leaks can occur at any point -- in the storage tank itself, in the gas pumps, and in the pipes that connect them. Hazardous chemicals can then spread rapidly through the soil, seeping into groundwater, lakes, or rivers. Even a dribble can pollute a wide area. Ten gallons of gasoline can contaminate 12 million gallons of groundwater -- a significant risk, given that groundwater is the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans.

As a result, time-consuming cleanup efforts are unfolding all across the country, with remediation for a single gas station sometimes topping $1 million. Leaks are such a huge liability that they've led to a high-stakes game of hot potato, where no one wants to pay for the mess -- not the gas station owners, not the insurance companies that provide coverage for tanks, not the oil companies that supply the fuel. In some states, polluters have shifted tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs onto taxpayers. Roughly 60,000 contaminated sites are still waiting to be cleaned up, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA -- and those are just the ones that have been found. Washington state has about 2,500 in line, one of the biggest backlogs in the country.

"The whole financial underpinnings of gas stations are starting to crumble."
Much of this pollution has been stagnant for decades. Forty years ago, steel storage tanks began corroding, setting off a slow-motion environmental disaster all over the United States. Leaks often weren't discovered until long after petroleum had poisoned the groundwater, when neighbors of gas stations began complaining that the water from their taps smelled like gasoline. In 1983, the EPA declared leaking tanks a serious threat to groundwater, and Congress soon stepped in with new regulations. One of the largest spills was in Brooklyn, where a 17 million-gallon pool of oil gradually collected beneath a Mobil gas station -- a larger spill than the Exxon Valdez disaster in 1989, when a tanker ran aground in Alaska and poured oil into Prince William Sound.

Fast-forward to today, and more than half a million leaks have been confirmed around the country. The Government Accountability Office estimated in 2007 that the total bill for cleanups would top $22 billion. Those old, decrepit storage tanks have left a legacy: overgrown, empty lots that real-estate developers don't want to touch. Of the roughly 450,000 brownfields in the country, nearly half are contaminated by petroleum, much of it coming from old gas stations.

As the contamination from these spills lingers, underground storage tanks are becoming a problem again as the next generation of tanks -- installed in a rush after the old steel ones started breaking -- begin nearing the end of their 30-year warranties, when there's broad consensus they are highly likely to leak. In Washington state, for instance, the average tank is about 29 years old. The tanks at the Arco station in North Seattle were replaced in 1990, soon after contamination was discovered, putting them a few years past the 30-year cutoff.

Tax the externalities.
Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Hispanics officially make up the biggest share of Texas' population, new census numbers show (ALEXA URA JUNE 21, 2023, Texas Trtibune)

[C]onfirmation did not come until this week, when the U.S. Census Bureau updated its official population estimates. In new figures released Thursday, the bureau confirmed Latinos have made up the largest share of the state's population since at least July 2022. The new population figures show Hispanic Texans made up 40.2% of the state's population last summer, barely edging out non-Hispanic white Texans, who made up 39.8%.

The updated estimates retroactively captured a landmark moment in Texas' demographic evolution, but it's not much of a turning point. The new figures showing Latinos outnumbering white Texans by about 129,000 cap off a population boom that has been culturally recasting the state for several decades.

The state had a white majority from at least 1850 until 2004, when white people's share of the state population dropped below 50%. People of color, Latinos in particular, have been powering the state's population gains for at least the last 20 years.

The state's growth -- usually close to evenly split between natural increase and net migration, including both domestic and international -- has brought diversity to pockets of the state that were once nearly all white, transforming classrooms and workforces. Hispanic Texans are expected to make up a flat-out majority of the state's population in the decades to come, and most Texas children will soon be Hispanic. Recent census estimates showed that 49.3% of Texans under the age of 18 are Hispanic. It's been more than a decade since Hispanic students first came to make up a majority of Texas public school students.

Texas Leads Nation With Fastest Economic Expansion (Office of Texas Governor, March 31, 2023)

Governor Greg Abbott today released a statement lauding the strength of the Texas economy as new data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows Texas leading the nation with the fastest economic expansion in the fourth quarter of 2022. As measured by the state's gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced, the Texas economy expanded at an annual rate of 7%. This is the fastest growth in real GDP among all of the states and well ahead of the nation as a whole, which grew at 2.6%.
"It is no surprise that Texas continues to lead the nation, thanks to the hardworking men and women of this great state who have built the most dynamic economy in America," said Governor Abbott.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


House Freedom Caucus faces an internal purge push (OLIVIA BEAVERS, 06/23/2023 , Politico)

At least two hardliners have discussed -- and proposed to Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) -- trying to boot members who no longer meet the group's ideological standards, according to three Republicans with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity. The lawmakers declined to name who's behind the ouster calls, underscoring the sensitivity of the situation.

While the members suggesting a purge did not specify the people they want to remove, they are signaling that one target of any ejection push is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Some in the Freedom Caucus have focused on Greene, who's become a close ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to illustrate their fears that certain group members are too aligned with GOP leaders and too outwardly critical of the group when it splits on certain issues.

The risk of an outside-the-tent conservative becoming too friendly with the establishment isn't the only problem that Freedom Caucus purists have identified, though. Internal Freedom Caucus critics are talking about targeting a handful of members beyond Greene, too, whom they see as violating group standards by being inactive.

June 22, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM



China-based company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited (CATL) has announced that it is almost ready to start production on a new type of electric vehicle (EV) battery that could turn the industry on its head.

CATL's "semi-solid state battery" will apparently have an energy density of up to 500 watt-hours per kilogram. That's twice the energy density of the leading batteries currently on the market, which means that, if this battery comes to fruition, it will lead to EVs that can travel a much greater distance without needing a charge.

Not only that, but CATL says that the semi-solid state battery will be safe enough and have enough energy density to work in airplanes. The company is currently working with partners on developing an electric passenger aircraft, which could one day be a huge deal for the entire planet, as air travel accounts for around 2.4% of all global planet-warming emissions, according to the BBC.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


The expansion of the universe could be a mirage, new theoretical study suggests (Robert Lea, 6/20/23, Live Science)

In Lombriser's mathematical interpretation, the universe isn't expanding but is flat and static, as Einstein once believed. The effects we observe that point to expansion are instead explained by the evolution of the masses of particles -- such as protons and electrons -- over time.

In this picture, these particles arise from a field that permeates space-time. The cosmological constant is set by the field's mass and because this field fluctuates, the masses of the particles it gives birth to also fluctuate. The cosmological constant still varies with time, but in this model that variation is due to changing particle mass over time, not the expansion of the universe. 

In the model, these field fluctuations result in larger redshifts for distant galaxy clusters than traditional cosmological models predict. And so, the cosmological constant remains true to the model's predictions.

"I was surprised that the cosmological constant problem simply seems to disappear in this new perspective on the cosmos," Lombriser said. 

Lombriser's new framework also tackles some of cosmology's other pressing problems, including the nature of dark matter. This invisible material outnumbers ordinary matter particles by a ratio of 5 to 1, but remains mysterious because it doesn't interact with light.

Lombriser suggested that fluctuations in the field could also behave like a so-called axion field, with axions being hypothetical particles that are one of the suggested candidates for dark matter. 

These fluctuations could also do away with dark energy, the hypothetical force stretching the fabric of space and thus driving galaxies apart faster and faster. In this model, the effect of dark energy, according to Lombriser, would be explained by particle masses taking a different evolutionary path at later times in the universe.

In this picture "there is, in principle, no need for dark energy," Lombriser added.

It's mirage all the way down...

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Florida's new budget offers a window into DeSantis' depravity (Ja'han Jones, 6/20/23, MSNBC)

The governor eliminated $160,000 in funding for a Black History Month celebration in Orlando called the 1619 Fest, whose theme this year was to bring awareness to the health disparities Black people face in America. DeSantis also cut $200,000 in funding for Florida's Black Music Legacy, a project designed to highlight the state's contributions to Black music.

A Florida lawmaker even claimed that vetoes of funding in his Sarasota district were a result of his endorsement of Donald Trump for president.

Furthermore, Daytona Beach radio station WNDB reported that the governor vetoed money for a zoo after a local Republican legislator -- and DeSantis ally -- appeared to sour on the funding. 

ReidOut Blog readers may remember that this lawmaker, Rep. Randy Fine, was an early backer of DeSantis' move to strip Disney of its special tax status after company leadership spoke out against Florida's law banning classroom discussions of LGBTQ+ people. He also threatened to strip the Special Olympics of state funding because he hadn't been invited to one of the organization's events. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Air Pollution Has Plummeted in the U.S. Over the Last Half Century (Peter Jacobsen, 6/21/23, FEE)

To understand the fundamental reason why the environment has improved, we should consider the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Simon Kuznets.

Kuznets examined the relationship between income inequality and development. What he found was, as a country becomes wealthier, inequality begins to increase--at first. But as countries continue to become wealthier, this inequality falls over time. Economists call this relationship, the Kuznets curve.

In other words, as countries get wealthier the wealth begins to concentrate, but it spreads out over time.

A similar pattern has revealed itself over time in environmental economics. The "environmental Kuznets curve" describes how, as poor countries start to get richer, their environments get worse, but then it improves!

Getting rich requires using natural resources. Countries begin extracting minerals, chopping down trees, and burning fuel to lift themselves out of poverty.

However, when these countries get rich, people demand a better environment. This demand drives innovation which leaves the environment improved.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM


Revanchist Revolutionaries (Michael Lucchese, 6/21/23, Law & Liberty)

[T]here is nothing conservative about today's paleoconservatism. With its emphasis on class warfare, racial grievance, and power politics, it is an ideology better understood as a right-wing form of Marxism. As Gottfried's Anthology shows, this toxic mix is a recipe for electoral disaster and moral bankruptcy.

Twentieth-century conservatives such as Russell Kirk and William F. Buckley built their movement on the idea of the American Founding. For them, conservative politics needed to be rooted in a reverential devotion to the Constitution, a healthy appreciation of the free market, and a vigorous anti-communism. And as Ronald Reagan's stunning electoral successes proved, these ideas were immensely popular.

Paleoconservatives sneered at this approach, however, and desired something more radical. "The main thrust of Kirk's conservatism was to assure Americans that everything was really OK," paleoconservative ideologue Samuel Francis wrote in one essay, "that the society in which they lived and the government and dominant social and political forces that prevailed in the United States were healthy." Protecting the Constitution and defeating the Soviet Union were not enough for Francis--he wanted to upend the entire basis for American politics and adopt new foundational principles.

The latter-day paleoconservatives who contributed to the Anthology agree with Francis. "The ideas of Kirk and Hayek, appealing as they were to Bill Buckley, were always too disconnected from the concerns of the base," David Azerrad writes in the second essay of the collection. "Conservatism was, and largely remains, an ideology in search of a mass constituency." He believes that mass appeal can be found in the Buchananite three-legged stool of economic protectionism, immigration restrictionism, and isolationism.

This is all there ever was to Paleoconservatism, which is why they turned on Reagan no later than his immigration amnesty and hated the Bushes.
Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Pence aide recalls fierce exchange with John Eastman as Capitol was breached (KYLE CHENEY, 06/21/2023, Politico)

Moments before a pro-Trump mob would smash its way through a Capitol window, Greg Jacob was a few yards away at a self-serve coffee shop in the building's Senate wing.

Jacob, then-Vice President Mike Pence's top lawyer, was in the middle of a furious email exchange with John Eastman, the attorney who would soon become famous as the architect of former President Donald Trump's final bid to remain in power. But as Jacob was drafting his most pointed salvo yet -- a fierce rejection of Eastman's claim that Pence could simply postpone the count of electoral votes -- he heard an ear-splitting crash, the sound of a riot shield, stolen by a member of the Proud Boys, shattering a nearby window.

Jacob described this moment -- the very second the Capitol was physically breached by rioters on Jan. 6, 2021 -- on Wednesday as he testified virtually at Eastman's California disbarment proceedings in Los Angeles.

There was a "large, loud 'boom boom boom,'" Jacob recalled. "Suddenly the glass just shattered. The window was probably about 35 or 40 feet from where we were."

For Jacob, who appeared Wednesday via Zoom, it was the first time he had been face to face with Eastman since that fateful Jan. 6 email exchange. And it came under extraordinarily different circumstances.

Today, Jacob is regarded as one of the key checks on an effort by Trump to cling to power despite losing the election. Eastman, on the other hand, is fighting to keep his bar license even as potential criminal charges loom, part of a wave of slow-moving accountability efforts by bar authorities for the lawyers who helped engineer and facilitate Trump's plan.

June 21, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The tree of life has been a powerful image in Jewish tradition for thousands of years - signifying much more than immortality (Samuel L. Boyd, 6/20/23, Conversation)

In the creation story of chapters 2 and 3, God places man in the Garden of Eden, then creates woman, Eve, from his rib. Eden is filled with "every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food," as well as the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - but God commands the man not to eat this last tree's fruit.

Before long, however, a serpent tempts Eve and Adam to do just that. When the serpent speaks, it addresses Eve directly - and for centuries, art and stories about the Garden of Eden have portrayed her as "responsible" for succumbing to temptation.

Yet in the Hebrew text, the snake often uses verbs for the second person plural, suggesting that it is addressing Adam as well - or at least implying the benefits of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will apply to him, too.

Biblical scholars debate the meaning of the tree's name: what exactly do "knowledge" or "good and evil" entail? Persuaded that eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil will make them like God, however, Adam and Eve consume the fruit. Worried that the couple might eat from the tree of life as well, making them immortal, God expels Adam and Eve from the garden and places a flaming sword and angelic beings at the entrance to prevent reentry.

This transgression of the boundary between divinity and humanity begins a recurring theme in the Bible, one that famously appears in the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Scientists create clean fuel from thin air (Anthony Cuthbertson, 6/20/21, Independent)

Researchers have discovered how to create clean, sustainable fuels using only carbon dioxide captured from the air and energy from the Sun.

A team from the University of Cambridge used a solar-powered reactor to transform CO2 from real-world sources into an inexhaustible energy supply, which they say can be developed for use at an industrial scale.

The research took inspiration from carbon capture and storage (CCS) systems, which until now has captured CO2 in order to pump it into underground storage.

"Instead of storing CO2 underground, like in CCS, we can capture it from the air and make clean fuel from it," said Dr Motiar Rahaman from the university's Department of Chemistry.

June 20, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


US murder rate declines dramatically in 2023 -- but you probably haven't heard about it (JUDD LEGUM AND TESNIM ZEKERIA, JUN 20, 2023, Popular Information)

The murder rate remained essentially flat in 2021 and declined slightly in 2022. Nevertheless, violent crime became "a key midterm voting issue," as politicians on both sides of the aisle ran thousands of ads focused on the topic. 

Beyond election day, the quantity and tenor of crime coverage matters. It shapes public sentiment about crime and ultimately shapes important decisions around public safety budgets, police tactics, and criminal justice policy. 

Earlier this month, Jeff Asher, a national expert in criminal justice data, published a piece in the Atlantic revealing that "[m]urder is down about 12 percent year-to-date in more than 90 cities that have released data for 2023, compared with data as of the same date in 2022." Asher described the rapid decrease in the murder rate as "astonishing." In a follow-up piece published in his newsletter, Asher said that, if the trend holds, it will be "the largest decline ever recorded." It would also be the first time ever the murder rate declined by double digits in a single year. (The FBI began keeping statistics in 1961.) 

The cause of this decrease is unclear but may be related to the end of the emergency phase of the pandemic and, for most, a return to more routine activities. 

The precipitous decline in the murder rate, however, has not merited any dedicated coverage in the nation's largest newspapers, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press. It also has been rarely mentioned on cable news channels. 

In many large cities, the decline in the murder rate, year-to-date, is even more pronounced. Year-to-date murders have declined 40% in Minneapolis, 28% in Atlanta, 26% in Los Angeles, 20% in Philadelphia, and 18% in Baltimore. But local coverage of these declines has been sparse or nonexistent. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:31 AM


Hunter Biden reaches deal to plead guilty in tax, gun case (Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein, June 20, 2023, Washington Post)

The court papers indicate the younger Biden has tentatively agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges of failure to pay in 2017 and 2018. The combined tax liability is roughly $1.2 million over those years, according to people familiar with the plea deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe details of the agreement that are not yet public. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of probation for those counts, these people said. Biden's representatives have said he previously paid back the IRS what he owed.

In a letter filed in federal court in Wilmington on Tuesday, federal prosecutors said they were filing two documents called criminal informations -- typically used in cases in which a defendant has agreed to plead guilty.

"The defendant has agreed to plead guilty to both counts of the tax Information," the prosecutors wrote. The second criminal information is about the gun charge. In that case, the letter says, "The defendant has agreed to enter a Pretrial Diversion Agreement with respect to the firearm Information."

Handling the gun charge as a diversion case means Biden will not technically be pleading guilty to that crime. Diversion is an option typically applied to nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


COVID vaccine expert accosted by antivaccine activists at his home after Joe Rogan urges debate with RFK Jr. (Shannon Larson, June 19, 2023, Boston Globe)

Peter Hotez, a professor of molecular virology at Baylor College of Medicine, said he was "stalked" at his Texas home Sunday by a pair of individuals espousing antivaccine views after an online conflict with controversial podcaster Joe Rogan over vaccine misinformation.

The heated exchanges -- now a war of words involving billionaires and prominent scientists -- began on Saturday with Hotez, a respected COVID-19 vaccine expert, debunking claims that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an antivaccine crusader, made in an interview with Rogan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Did physicists get the idea of "fundamental" wrong? (Ethan Siegel, 6/20/23, Big Think)

If all you start with are the fundamental building blocks of nature -- the elementary particles of the Standard Model and the forces exchanged between them -- you can assemble everything in all of existence with nothing more than those raw ingredients. That's the most common approach to physics: the reductionist approach. Everything is simply the sum of its parts, and that these simple building blocks, when combined together in the proper fashion, can come to build up absolutely everything that could ever exist within the Universe, with absolutely no exceptions.

In many ways, it's difficult to argue with this type of description of reality. Humans are made out of cells, which are composed of molecules, which themselves are made of atoms, which in turn are made of fundamental subatomic particles: electrons, quarks, and gluons. In fact, everything we can directly observe or measure within our reality is made out of the particles of the Standard Model, and the expectation is that someday, science will reveal the fundamental cause behind dark matter and dark energy as well, which thus far are only indirectly observed.

They are Zeno's particles.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Patrick Deneen's Otherworldly Regime (JONAH GOLDBERG, JUNE 19, 2023, Religion & Liberty)

Deneen never adequately defines progress in Regime Change, but he is constantly throwing shade on the term. The left's belief in moral progress gave us wokeness and other horribles. The right's belief in material progress gave us everything from closed factories and climate change to anomie. As with his previous book, Deneen writes like a prosecutor, downplaying inconvenient facts and evidence in his brief--or leaving them out entirely--while pounding the table about damning circumstantial evidence and anecdotes.

Thus, looking back at some five centuries of rising life expectancy, exploding living standards, population growth, literacy, etc., Deneen could declare in Why Liberalism Failed: "Among the greatest challenges facing humanity is the ability to survive progress."

In this sequel of sorts, many of the familiar characters are once again in the dock, starting of course with John Locke. His Second Treatise on Government (1690) inflicted upon the world a new metaphysic of self-interest that in turn led to the corrosion of custom, tradition, and the classical political tradition Deneen prefers. Locke's "radical new definition of property that extended not only to material objects, but to ownership of self [italics his]," inexorably unleashed the execrable notion that rewarding merit should be considered a social good. "The liberal regime came into being not mainly to protect property rights--though that was an important political imperative--but to legitimate the ruling principle that would encourage the formation and ascendancy of the 'industrious and rational.'" This "progressive" innovation led to the invidious concept of merit and the "despotic" and "tyrannical" rule of today's "meritocracy."

John Stuart Mill made everything worse by declaring war on the authority of "custom," which let loose a kind of virus of the mind. Mill's call for "experiments in living" added an acidic libertinism, eroding the institutions necessary to a healthy order, and informs, at a metaphysical level, the morally bankrupt ideology of both the progressive-left and the classically liberal right.

Even poor Adam Smith is charged as a co-conspirator. His crime lay not so much in pointing out that the division of labor was essential for economic progress, but for saying that prosperity was worth pursuing at all. Smith acknowledged that the division of labor could "stunt the reflective capacities" of some workers who would increasingly specialize on specific stages of the means of production. But, Smith argued, the concomitant prosperity generated from such efficiency made it an acceptable trade-off. (Life expectancy in the U.K. when Smith was writing was about 39 years, and about a third to half of children didn't survive childhood.) But for Deneen, growing material prosperity for all wasn't worth it. Men, you see, lived much richer lives when they made more expensive pins from scratch by themselves in the isolation of their dimly lit workshops. (I do wonder why Deneen simultaneously laments the opening of factories in the 18th century and the closing of them in the 21st.)

The Right hates Progress because society diversified.

June 19, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


How Modi uses yoga to whitewash India's crimes (Azad Essa, 19 June 2023, Middle East Eye)

Delhi's insistence on owning yoga serves as a means to present India as exceptional and enlightened and provides a cover for its egregious domestic policies.

Yoga establishes Modi as a wise elder, rather than a supremacist authoritarian, and exceptionalises India in the eyes of the world.

Put another way, yoga has allowed Modi "to choreograph an image of himself, and by extension the Hindu state, as flexible (read accommodating) yet strong, peaceful yet powerful. Meanwhile, he continues to sanction genocidal violence against Muslims in India with impunity," wrote Anusha Kedhar, an assistant professor at the University of California.

Yoga, then, has become the perfect vehicle to mask violence in India, and, more insidiously, lean into orientalist and Islamophobic tropes about Muslims.

Yoga has become the perfect vehicle to mask violence in India and, more insidiously, lean into orientalist and Islamophobic tropes about Muslims

"Constructing Muslims as barbaric, violent, and dangerous allows Hindu nationalists to justify aggressively protecting the Hindu faith and culture by any means necessary, including violent and extrajudicial ones. At the same time, it allows Hindus to imagine themselves as tolerant in comparison to the 'rigid', and the 'fanatic Muslim'," added Kedhar.

Modi is a lifelong member of the RSS, a Hindu paramilitary group in India, that has, since 1925, aimed to turn India into a Hindu Rashtra or a Hindu State. For his complicity in the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002, in which up to 2,000 people, mostly Muslim, were killed, the State Department banned him from entering the US between 2005-2014.

The ban was lifted under Barack Obama's administration once Modi became prime minister in 2014.

Under Modi, anti-Muslim rhetoric and conspiracy theories have deepened, lynchings of Muslims have occurred with the tacit support of the state. Meanwhile, anti-conversion laws have been passed on the state level, while Delhi introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act  (CAA) in 2019, which, in conjunction with the National Register of Citizens, had cataclysmic consequences for the rights of Muslims in the country.

As documented by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), religious rights have been severely impaired in India, with the commission recommending that India be categorised as a "country of particular concern" for the fourth year running.

Posted by orrinj at 11:42 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Netanyahu says IDF is training to fight Arab Israelis in 'all-out war' (MEMO, June 19, 2023)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told a closed meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that the Israeli army (IDF) has conducted exercises that simulate the outbreak of fighting within the Arab Israeli community in the context of a war being waged on several fronts simultaneously, public broadcaster Kan reported on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China attempts to dam its leaking economy (James Rogan June 17, 2023, Washington Examiner)

The CCP can dictate economic policy to government officials. The CCP can cut interest rates to stimulate the vulnerable Chinese real estate sector. But the CCP cannot compel the people of China to spend and not to save. The CCP cannot compel personal consumption when China's President Xi Jinping is telling the people of China to prepare for war against the United States .

The economic leaders of China predicted that as China emerged from the pandemic, the economy would expand by about 5% this year. Indeed, in the first quarter of this year, according to always suspect official state statistics, the economy expanded by 4.5%. But economic experts say that economic growth is stagnating in the current quarter. The Chinese people are conditioned to save as there is little to no safety net backstopping the economic fortunes of the Chinese people.

In addition to a moribund household sector, China continues to face the structural challenges of record-high youth unemployment, an over-leveraged real estate sector, weak demand from the private business sector, and an export sector that is under pressure because wages in China are increasingly uncompetitive in the global trade economy. China also suffers from the demographic weight of a rapidly aging population.

You can't have a Clash of Civilizations when there is only one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


June 18, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, JUN 18, 2023, Letters from an American)

Black people in Galveston met the news Order No. 3 brought with celebrations in the streets, but emancipation was not a gift from white Americans. Black Americans had fought for the United States and worked in the fields to grow cotton the government could sell. Those unable to leave their homes had hidden U.S. soldiers, while those who could leave indicated their hatred of the Confederacy and enslavement with their feet. They had demonstrated their equality and their importance to the postwar United States. 

The next year, after the Thirteenth Amendment had been added to the Constitution, Texas freedpeople gathered on June 19, 1866, to celebrate with prayers, speeches, food, and socializing the coming of their freedom. By the following year, the federal government encouraged "Juneteenth" celebrations, eager to explain to Black citizens the voting rights that had been put in place by the Military Reconstruction Act in early March 1867, and the tradition of Juneteenth began to spread to Black communities across the nation.

But white former Confederates in Texas were demoralized and angered by the changes in their circumstances. "It looked like everything worth living for was gone," Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight later recalled. 

In summer 1865, as white legislators in the states of the former Confederacy grudgingly ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, they also passed laws to keep freedpeople subservient to their white neighbors. These laws, known as the Black Codes, varied by state, but they generally bound Black Americans to yearlong contracts working in the fields owned by white men; prohibited Black people from meeting in groups, owning guns or property, or testifying in court; outlawed interracial marriage; and permitted white men to buy out the jail terms of Black people convicted of a wide swath of petty crimes, and then to force those former prisoners into labor to pay off their debt.

In 1865, Congress refused to readmit the Southern states under the Black Codes, and in 1866, congressmen wrote and passed the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Its first section established that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." It went on: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." 

That was the whole ball game. The federal government had declared that a state could not discriminate against any of its citizens or arbitrarily take away any of a citizen's rights. Then, like the Thirteenth Amendment before it, the Fourteenth declared that "Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article," strengthening the federal government.

The addition of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1868 remade the United States. But those determined to preserve a world that discriminated between Americans according to race, gender, ability, and so on, continued to find workarounds. 

June 18, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Why Juneteenth Matters (Joshua Claybourn, June 18th, 2023, Imaginative Conservative)

Acknowledging the enduring legacy of slavery within our national history and culture is vital. Yet, celebrating Juneteenth does not tarnish the American Dream; on the contrary, it signifies its ongoing realization. The Founding Fathers spearheaded a global endeavor to abolish slavery, a significant pursuit rooted in principle. In a time when slavery was globally commonplace, it was the notion of freedom that emerged as the unique institution.

While the promise of America remained somewhat unrealized by the Founding Fathers, it was their vision that propelled an international discourse on human liberty and its compatibility with slavery and other forms of forced labor.

The essence of America isn't characterized by four centuries of racial subjugation but by the 247-year-long persistent and often heroic struggle by Americans of every race and creed to live up to our highest ideals. This ideal continues to inspire countless individuals, both domestically and internationally. Juneteenth stands as a symbol of this enduring inspiration.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


Making a Conservative Case for Clean Energy Investment (Benji Backer, 6/15/23, RCM)

The main thing is that clean energy is the way the world is headed, so why fall behind? As prosperity grows, so will interest in fuel altenatives. If investors agree, legislators should agree to get out of the way.  

Plus, Americans agree. Last year, the Pew Research Center found that 69% of U.S. adults wanted to prioritize the development of renewable energy. And conservative lawmakers hoping to capture the next generation of votes should note that in 2022, 75% of young voters were in favor of building more solar and wind farms. 

Letting the market lead on clean energy technology creates American-led innovation that drives job growth and economic security while reducing costs for consumers. That's a trifecta we should all be able to get behind. And if conservatives want to legislate on top of that, they should focus their efforts on clearing barriers to investment - like additional permitting reform - rather than creating new ones. Creating a cleaner and safer future is worth our investment. 

Make gas taxes confiscatory and let free markets drive the alternatives. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


Green Hydrogen from Fukushima Fueling Zero-Carbon Initiatives (Hashino Yukinori, 6/14/23, Nippon.com)

In the wake of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in 2011, the Japanese government made bolstering renewable energy output a priority, prompting the construction of a slew of large-scale solar and wind farms in Japan. Fukushima's Hamadōri, the coastal area that was the epicenter of the nuclear disaster, drew a number of big projects launched through the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework, a government initiative that aims to build new industrial infrastructure in the area.

While solar and wind offer bountiful carbon-free energy, their output varies according to factors like weather and time of day. While advances in power storage promise to help alleviate issues of intermittency, improving on the high-capacity batteries used in solar and wind farms present many hurdles, both in terms of cost and technology.

The Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field offers a viable alternative to batteries for storing energy from renewable sources. The facility is home to a 20 megawatt solar farm that powers one of the world's largest hydrogen plants, where hydrogen from water is extracted through the process of electrolysis. The hydrogen can then be used to generate electricity to power vehicles and for other purposes, with the only byproduct being water. Hydrogen produced in this manner, called "green hydrogen," emits no carbon dioxide and has gained attention as a clean form of energy. Kept under pressure in tanks, hydrogen can be stored for extended periods and transported over long distances.

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


Wind Power's Explosive Growth Is Blowing Past Green Energy Goals: The production of wind energy keeps breaking records, and its potential for expansion is as wide as the oceans. (Peter Yeung, June 15, 2023, Reasons to be Cheerful)

According to the International Energy Agency, an independent intergovernmental organization, the amount of electricity generated by wind increased by 273 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2021, nearly a fifth higher than 2020, making it the fastest-growing of all power generation technologies. Wind is now the leading non-hydro renewable, generating a total 1,870 TWh in 2021 -- almost as much as all the others combined.

"To reach net zero, wind energy will be absolutely crucial," says Heymi Bahar, senior analyst for renewable energy markets and policy at the IEA. "It already accounts for a significant amount of global energy generation, but the potential to expand is huge."

But in order to reach Net Zero Emissions by 2050, Bahar says each year the world will need to add an extra 250 GW of wind production capacity - which is more than double the current level of growth. But, he adds, less than 5 percent of the potential wind capacity around the world is currently being harnessed, given developments in technology that mean turbines can operate effectively at lower wind speeds.

"Most wind energy production is in just four countries," he explains. "There's so much room for growth, particularly in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia."

Lessons can perhaps be learned from Texas, the state that produces by far the most wind energy in what is the world's second largest producer of wind energy. Uniquely, any electricity producer can plug into the state's liberalized electricity grid, which is separate from the rest of the country. Texas also boosted the market through the creation of Renewable Energy Zones, cutting red tape required for wind farms.

"These zones really allow for quicker scaling up," says Hemsley.

MAGA seems to be losing its war on renewable energy too.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Deer Tick Is Aging Gracefully, Against All Odds (BONNIE STIERNBERG, 6/16/23, Inside Hook)

In a lot of ways, it's fitting that the new Deer Tick album -- Emotional Contracts, their first new LP in six years -- comes out just a few days before Father's Day. In the literal sense, the Rhode Island-based indie rock lifers (founded by frontman John McCauley in 2004, with their lineup solidified in 2009) are now husbands and fathers, but beyond that, this new record is all about being older and wiser, about looking back at your past self with the perspective that comes from growing up and settling down.

If you've been keeping tabs on the band, you already know that this evolution has been brewing for about a decade. McCauley cleaned up his act and married Vanessa Carlton back in 2013 -- swapping a notorious cocaine habit for a tamer, healthier domestic life. That same year, he addressed his struggles with substance abuse on the group's Negativity album. He and Carlton welcomed their daughter, Sidney, in 2015. In other words, the maturity and self-awareness on Emotional Contracts are hardly new developments.

June 17, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 11:36 AM


Should conservatives celebrate Juneteenth? Federal holiday honors a victory for America. (DACE POTAS, 6/17/23, USA TODAY)

On June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to deliver news of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation, the promise of freedom was finally realized in the westernmost Confederate state. 

Although Texas had recognized the holiday since 1979, it wasn't until June 2021, when President Joe Biden signed a bill recognizing the date, that Juneteenth became a federal holiday. The move came as the Black Lives Matter movement gained political clout and during a time of sharp racial tensions in America. [...]

The conservative perspective on America's past injustices commonly goes like this: The founding principles of our country are precisely what allowed us to overcome the crimes of our past and should thus be preserved. 

America has failed to live up to its promise that "all men are created equal" and "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" in many facets of history. However, whether those shortcomings were the original sin of slavery, the deprivation of women's right to vote or any of our other past wrongdoings, America has over time continued to refine her actions to better fulfill her promises. 

We should celebrate occasions that mark the realization of our Founding Fathers' principles, and Juneteenth marks an important victory in that arena. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


June 16, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


National economies recover faster when countries are powered by renewable energy, says new research (Phys.org, 6/14/23)

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin looked for patterns in data from 133 systemic economic crises that affected 98 countries over a 40-year span. While their analyses show that countries relying on a broader range of energy sources experience longer recovery times, the best predictor of economic recovery was the extent to which a country relied on renewable energy.

Underlining the significance of the finding is the fact that while data came from a widely diverse set of societies and their economies, the extent of reliance on renewable energy consistently accounted for a major proportion of the variability in economic recovery time.

After all, a healthy economy attracts immigrants. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


'Israel shooting itself in the foot,' Jewish leaders warn Barkat in Boston (Times of Israel, 6/16/23)

Leaders of the Jewish community in Boston warned Economy Minister Nir Barkat last week that his government's judicial overhaul plan is hurting Israel's standing in the US and causing a rise in antisemitism, Walla News reported Friday.

The meeting took place on June 7 and included representatives of the Jewish Federation in Boston, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

According to the report, participants at the meeting told the former Jerusalem mayor that his Likud party has "put extremists in the government, and now we need to explain their stances."

Guys, you're Americans. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:18 AM


Conservative Justice Gorsuch echoes 'woke' historians in railing against historical injustices (Lawrence Hurley, 6/15/23, NBC News)

Gorsuch's concurring opinion was part history lesson and part explanation of his full-throated support for Native Americans.

He wrote about how Native American families were torn apart by federal and state officials' attempts to assimilate them into Anglo-centric American society by eliminating their cultural ties to their tribes.

"In all of its many forms, the dissolution of the Indian family has had devastating effects on children and parents alike," he wrote.

"It has also presented an existential threat to the continued vitality of tribes -- something many federal state officials over the years saw as a feature, not as a flaw," he added. His opinion was joined by two of his liberal colleagues: Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Chuck Hoskin, principal chief of Cherokee Nation, one of the tribes that defended the adoption law at the Supreme Court, said Gorsuch is "going to loom large over Indian Country cases for a long time" in part because he understands the complexities of Indian law.

"While he may possess a great range of views on a lot of legal issues, he seems to have the most solid understanding of federal Indian law of any justice of the modern era," Hoskin added.

June 15, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


The 'born gay' myth is dead (Paul Huxley  15 June 2023, Christianity Today)

The Guardian is not well known for challenging popular LGBT views about sexuality. But on Sunday, the newspaper covered a new study showing that 7% of UK people changed sexual identity over just a six-year period.

The research, published by Demography, shows a comparable number of people moving into heterosexual identities as away from them.

Some 8.6% of those who had identified as gay or lesbian identified as heterosexual just six years later. People who had identified as bisexual were unsurprisingly the most fluid, with 44% moving to a heterosexual identity.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


N.H. Notches Another Number One: Best State for Childhood Well Being (NH Journal, June 14, 2023)

New Hampshire has been named the best state for child well-being in the nation, just the latest in "We're Number One!" moments for the Granite State.

The ranking came from the newly-released 2023 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

According to a statement from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), New Hampshire was ranked first in the nation in overall well-being for children. It also ranked in the top five on specifics like economic well-being, education, health, and family and community factors.

America deserves to be governed like NH.

June 14, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sununu Laughs at GOP (Michael Graham, 6/13/23, NH Journal)

"Well, as a governor, I'm moving all my secret files into the bathroom immediately because, apparently, that's just fine as long as your house is big enough," Sununu joked. "Look, it's nonsense. It's absolute nonsense. They are scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some type of defense so that he won't come after them, so the other conservative media outlets don't come after them. It's really being all done in fear."

June 13, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Cormac McCarthy, spare and haunting novelist, dies at 89 (Harrison Smith, June 13, 2023, Washington Post)

"There's no such thing as life without bloodshed," Mr. McCarthy told the Times in 1992. "I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous."

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


China's surprise rate cut may be just the beginning (WILLIAM PESEK, JUNE 13, 2023, Asia Times)

[T]he global spotlight is on the PBOC as rarely before as three data points converge.

One is a slowing economy with factory-gate inflation trends falling even faster. Two, a cratering property sector crying out for monetary support. Three, news in the last five days that six state-owned banks cut their deposit rates under policymakers' guidance. [...]

It's true that demand for credit is low and unevenly distributed. It's true, too, that there are concerns as disinflationary trends might morph into full-blown deflation.

As a weaker-than-expected Covid-19 reopening trade weighs on manufacturing, China's factory gate prices plunged 4.6% in May, the most precipitous decline in seven years.

Yet strategist Alvin Tan at RBC Capital Markets speaks for many when he warns that rate cuts alone won't solve the biggest headwind -- a "troubled property sector" that's keeping households "under pressure."

Goldman Sachs economist Wang Lisheng says a stumbling real estate sector is an increasing drag on China's 2023, not least its ability to reach the government's 5% gross domestic product (GDP) growth target.

The trouble, Wang says, is "falling demographic demand, a shift in policy focus to support strategically important sectors, and weaker housing affordability."

The problem, in other words, is of a long-term structural nature, not something that adding yuan to the system can fix. This puts the onus less on Yi's PBOC than Premier Li Qiang's reform team, which is reportedly gearing up to recalibrate growth engines.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


2024 GOPers start hitting Trump (gently) on classified documents (Aaron Blake, June 12, 2023, Washington Post)

On Monday afternoon, both Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley went further than they had before in suggesting that maybe Trump actually did something wrong. Scott called it a "serious case with serious allegations," while Haley later said on Fox News, "If this indictment is true, if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security." [...]

But to this point, among well-known 2024 hopefuls, only Trump critics former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ("devastating") and former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (calling for Trump to drop out) have gone further.

June 12, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Nationalists' Long Hangover: Power is not a necessary precondition for corruption, but it sure makes it easier. (Chris Stirewalt, Jun 12, 2023, Dispatch)

In the case of Trump and, to a lesser degree, Johnson, a notorious past was part of the package when voters hired them on. Certainly for Trump, the tabloid scandals, bankruptcies, cruelty, dishonesty, and braggadocio that had been very much part of his public character were part of how he got the big job. 

Like his forebears Huey Long or Boss Tweed, and many other political insurgents here and abroad, Trump's brawling, enthusiastically corrupt ways were styled as evidence of his willingness to fight an even more corrupt political establishment. Whether it was Standard Oil, the monied interests in Albany, or the "lying press," the entrenched power of elites was so vast that only someone who could draw on an opposing reservoir of dirty tricks and shady funds could dislodge them.

As a consequence, the supporters of these insurgents either turn blind eyes or actively celebrate their misdeeds. If you're trying to fight fire with fire, you don't join the bucket brigade.

But a moral space so capacious makes these leaders lazy and indifferent. They become sloppy and often meet their ends over seemingly small matters, stolen memoranda or lockdown booze busts. Trump was probably right that his supporters would have forgiven him for shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, but over time, the scandals and controversies take their toll. 

The hardcore backers may always remain, but the marginally attached, conditional supporters drift away. By the time Trump gets to a debate stage, if he ever does, the memories of not just pretty corruption but the nightmare of January 6 and his effort to steal another term will point voters away from him.

If they weren't morally corrupt they wouldn't be Nationalist.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ignore the doomsayers: The world is better than ever: In almost every way life is materially better than it was in the past. And not just the distant past either (Marian L. Tupy, 6/10/23, Fox News)

So why aren't we more excited about the future and the new wonders that await us there?

Because human beings are born complainers. Negative emotions are much more powerful and longer lasting than positive ones. That's just the way we're wired. It only took the Hebrews a few days to begin complaining to Moses about the food in the desert after they had been liberated from Egyptian slavery. As a species, we're never satisfied.

But the truth is if you are living today, you are the beneficiary of countless life enhancements.  And not just in developed countries - almost everywhere.

Consider the following global statistics:

Between 1950 and 2020, the average inflation-adjusted income per person rose over 400%. We also live longer, with the average life expectancy rising from 51 years in 1960 to 73 years in 2019 or by 43%. And we are better fed. The daily supply of calories rose from about 2,000 calories in 1961 to about 3,000 calories in 2018. That's growth of 34%. Astonishingly, a recent study from Africa noted that obesity is increasing in urban areas.

Worried about the environment? There's plenty of good news there, too.

We are also safer from natural catastrophes, including earthquakes, floods, droughts, storms, wildfires and landslides. Mortality rates from those disasters fell by almost 99% over the last century. 

Also, the world is greening, with the global tree canopy cover increasing by an area greater than Alaska and Montana combined between 1982 and 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Indictment Is Worse Than You Think It Is (Jeffrey Blehar, Jun. 10th, 2023, National Review)

 The text is lucid, the case is made with a minimum of jargon, and it hits like multiple icepick blows to the skull. Do not willingly keep yourself ignorant of its enormity because you would prefer to huddle in a tortoise-shell defensive crouch. There aren't merely claims, there are evidentiary submissions, including remarkable photographs and excerpts of recorded conversations. 

Trump is nailed dead to rights, and what matters most of all is that it's not on some technical offense. What he was doing, before only a physical raid on Mar-a-Lago stopped this madness, turns out to have been less an act of mere carelessness than an active threat to United States national security, one fueled solely by Trump's demented behavior and sense of self-entitlement.

June 11, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Cyprus no-man's land, owls come to the rescue of farmers (AFP, June 10, 2023)

Standing amid ears of wheat growing tall in the buffer zone dividing Cyprus, farmer Christodoulos Christodoulou can rest easy.

The rodents that once ran rampant in the decades since the no-man's land was created and destroyed his crops are being driven out by owls.

"Our village was full of rats and mice. They ate our crops, nibbled on our tyres," recalls Christodoulou, who owns a farm in the demilitarised corridor that splits the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

"Then we set up these boxes for the owls," he said.

Around 50 light wooden boxes with circular openings have been installed on tree trunks as part of a 10-year-old initiative led by the BirdLife Cyprus non-governmental organisation and the Cypriot government.

BirdLife says the objectives of the project are to encourage farmers to abandon using poison and to help repopulate the barn owl population of Cyprus, which has been in decline across Europe.

Deneia, one of the few villages in the 180-kilometre (112-mile) buffer zone that is still inhabited, is now home to between 20 and 50 barn owls and their chicks -- recognisable by their milk-white plumage.

The birds of prey are only about 30 centimetres (12 inches) tall, but have large appetites, devouring as many as 5,000 rats and mice a year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Evidence in Trump's indictment came from inside Mar-a-Lago and those hired for him (Josh Dawsey and Jacqueline Alemany, June 10, 2023, Washington Post)

A secretary -- identified in the indictment as "Trump Employee 2" -- told prosecutors that Trump himself had been packing and looking through boxes, contrary to assertions from his own lawyers. A young political aide, referred to as "the PAC representative" in the indictment, told prosecutors that Trump showed him a classified map about a military operation in a foreign country and told him to stand back because it was a secret document. At a recent CNN town hall, Trump said he did not remember doing such a thing.

Key parts of the indictment are based on one of his lawyer's detailed notes about Trump's wishing to obstruct justice by not responding to a subpoena -- contradicting the 45th president's claims that he was always cooperative with the Justice Department and the National Archives and Records Administration. And Trump's valet was indicted alongside him, after prosecutors obtained the aide's text messages and accused him of lying about moving boxes at Trump's request.

Over a lengthy investigation, special counsel Jack Smith and his team interviewed dozens of Trump's staffers, including his secretary, groundskeepers and political aides. The interviews gave Smith a close-up look at how Trump had structured his unorthodox post-presidential life -- and made Trump and his advisers deeply angry and uncomfortable, according to people familiar with the matter, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive topics or the ongoing criminal investigation.

Trump never spoke to prosecutors in the case, but his actions, idiosyncrasies and thoughts were relayed in documents and text messages provided by staffers.

There's a reason he can't find decent people to work for him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'In-office attendance' -- The obsolete strikes back, idiotically (Paul Wallis, June 10, 2023, Digital Journal)

Let's start with the economics of office attendance for employees. Employees are the people who actually do something. This is the breakdown:

It costs time and money to come into the office.

You lose money out of whatever pittance you're paid in the process.

It can easily add 4 hours in unpaid and totally unproductive commuting time.  

You can be seriously stressed, killed, or injured commuting if you drive to work.

Upon arrival at work, you are instantly immersed in the blissful rhapsody of the modern workplace. You can catch up on the latest workplace psychoses.

At some point, you get a performance review. A performance review is based on Key Productivity Indicators, and whatever gossip middle management has heard about you. It has little or nothing to do with actual in-person management and evaluation. Many modern managers think performance reviews are absurd.

On the positive side you can tell your managerial dinosaur to go to hell in person, but that's about all.

From the employer's side, the outlook is equally rosy:

You can pay an actual fortune to operate a workplace if you have those newfangled things like water and electricity.

You can pay top dollar for all statutory employee support services with no legal options whatsoever.

You can catch and spread any pandemics going around.

You can surround yourself with resentful, underappreciated people who make nothing a year and sycophantic, untrustworthy, vermin.

You can watch CCTV and make sure nobody's using the bathroom or otherwise threatening to be hygienic. This is also illegal in most countries, so you can grab some of that sweet employer's six-digit legal liability while you're at it.

You can incur any amount of OH&S liabilities in the form of anyone on the premises. That's per day.

You can referee fistfights with customers and staff or, just for a refreshing change, dodge a few bullets.

Are you out of your brain-dead allegedly business-qualified minds?

There is absolutely nothing to be said for office attendance, even by yourself.

...is so that they can pretend to matter to your work product. It's anti-economics.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Migrants say Florida contractors pushed to get them to board planes to California (Jack Herrera, Jun. 10th, 2023, LA Times)

María traveled more than 2,800 miles from Venezuela to reach the United States in early May. Once crossing the border, however, she made it only four blocks, to a shelter at Sacred Heart Church in downtown El Paso.

Like many asylum seekers released on parole by Customs and Border Protection, she had no money to pay for a plane or bus ticket, she said. She slept in the church shelter, then in the alley outside, for three weeks, until a woman approached and said she would fly María on a private plane to California.

"She said I should go, that there were people there to receive us who would give us lodging, that they would help us ... get our [immigration] papers in order," said María, who asked to be identified only by her first name, out of fear of repercussions from the woman.

What María didn't know was that the woman was a contractor hired by the administration of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

María had found herself in the center of a political storm. Migrant flights and the national attention they've drawn are yet another chapter in the political fight over the border, with California officials vowing to investigate whether travelers were misled and the Florida governor doubling down on hard-line policies and a portrayal of himself as a culture warrior.

The contractor, along with another woman and two men, spent the afternoon walking around the church trying to recruit migrants like María to board a charter flight to California. María and other migrants said the contractors did not identify themselves beyond saying they were there to "help the migrants."

Over two days, the contractors managed to recruit 16 migrants for a flight June 2 and 20 for a flight June 5 -- whom they drove two hours west to a small airport in New Mexico for the trips to Sacramento.

Of course, as the pleading of its GOP legislators reveals, Florida needs those immigrants. 

June 10, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 11:25 AM


Right-Wing Culture Warriors Want to Kill Academic Freedom to Save the People (JONATHAN Marks, JUN 6, 2023, The UnPopulist)

But how dominant is the left in Florida's state universities? One metric would be the number of students majoring in subjects like women's studies or black studies, most associated with left wing activism. At the University of Florida, in the 2021-22 academic year, out of 10,884 bachelor's degrees awarded, 56 were in those two fields. That works out to one half of one percent-- just even with plant science.

In the Spring 2023 semester, at Florida State University, 16 of 31,675 bachelor's degree seekers sought a women's studies or black studies degree. That's less than half of a tenth of one percent, just equaling the percentage of brass performance majors. They are outnumbered 43 to 1 by exercise science majors. Unless those exercise science students are there to make sure that the long march through the institutions doesn't cause lower back pain, left-wing dominance of Florida universities may be less than advertised.

But perhaps Florida's state universities have been throwing gobs of money at DEI, as one would expect if the left were in the driver's seat? Thanks to Governor DeSantis, who demanded an accounting of such spending, we know that the University of Florida spends over $5 million per year on DEI programming. That sounds like a lot--until you consider that its annual spending is nearly $4 billion all told. In percentage terms, then, DEI adds up to 0.14 % of the university's total spending. Likewise, Florida State University spends $2.4 million--or about 0.12 % of its budget--on DEI. Perhaps Billy Napier, U-Florida's football coach, who earns $7.1 million, and his Florida State counterpart, Mike Norvell, who earns $8 million, are drilling their guys in gender ideology. But if not, the story that Florida's universities are under the thumb of left-wing ideologues may be an exaggeration. Granted, the impact of the campus left goes beyond direct spending on DEI initiatives, but it is telling that the report DeSantis himself initiated turned up so little.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM



Galvorn is stronger than steel, lighter than aluminum, and has the conductivity of copper, according to an article on LinkedIn. While the jury is still out on whether it's faster than a speeding bullet, experts at Houston-based DexMat suggest their product can revolutionize the green tech landscape.

Galvorn can be an alternative to rare and expensive copper -- a crucial metal in electronics, according to a report from GreenBiz. What's more, the inventors plan to displace dirty materials, contribute to cleaner air, and advance green tech as their "magical" material is rolled out.  [...]

Galvorn is made as tape, yarn, thread, or mesh, among other forms. Its makers said that J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" was an inspiration in the process, though, at first glance, you wouldn't think it can stand up to Orc blades.

"[A] skilled elven smith by the name of Eöl creates a new type of metal called galvorn that is described as being thin and flexible, yet also strong enough to serve as armor," DexMat shared on the company's blog, describing how the creators came up with the name. 

While not made in an elf's forge, the real-life version of Galvorn comes from an equally impressive process. It's a high-tech technique that includes splitting hydrocarbons, according to GreenBiz. 

The impact for consumers will be felt in the application. Lighter and faster vehicles, lighter wind-turbine blades, and higher conductivity in batteries to improve renewable power storage are all advantages Galvorn is set to realize, GreenBiz reports. It is already being used to help de-ice plane wings.  

Dutta noted in the GreenBiz article that putting Galvorn fibers in concrete and other materials could strengthen and provide longer life for buildings and infrastructure. The goal for DexMat is to make carbon-heavy resources like copper "obsolete." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Neoliberalism, geopolitics and ideology: The taming of Giorgia Meloni (Dr Ramzy Baroud, June 8, 2023, MEMO)

Europe keeps reminding us that geopolitical interests often trump ideology. European politics is the prime example of how states and political parties are willing to ditch their ideological foundations to hold on to power, even if briefly.

The unmistakable political shift of attitude by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d'Italia party is the latest evidence that European politicians use ideology merely as a tool to get to the top. Once in power, though, they are governed by the same neoliberal policies that control the rest of Europe.

This assertion applies equally to the Right and the Left. For example, in 2015, Greece's Radical Left-Progressive Alliance shocked the world by winning nearly half of the seats in parliament. It was a success story that invigorated the Left everywhere.

For years, Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the once small radical left party Syriza raged against the neoliberal policies of Europe, blaming it for much of the financial crisis in 2008. Once in power, however, Tsipras's leftist ideology began shifting, whether by choice or under pressure. At the end of his term, in 2019, the new icon of the European Left contributed to the very undoing of any leftist resurgence in Europe, as the Greek economy fell hostage to powerful European governments and multinational corporations.

That "pragmatism" which tamed Syriza, turning it into yet another mainstream European political party, is at work in Italy today.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 AM


How Rome's terrible 7th king led to the Republic (Tim Brinkhof, 6/08/23, Big Think)

The abridged history of Rome holds that Collatinus, Brutus, and their followers were so traumatized by Tarquin's tyranny that they vowed never again to elect a king. In reality, the shift from kingdom to republic may have been more gradual. As historian T.N. Gantz puts it, the purpose of the uprising was not to abolish the monarchy outright but to seize power within the system.

Still, a republic did eventually emerge, one whose legal framework was completely different from the state founded by Romulus. To prevent the rise of another Tarquin, the Romans introduced checks and balances that distributed power across different individuals. Instead of one king, the Republic would be stewarded by two consuls, both of whom served for fixed terms.

Where life in Rome previously revolved around the king, the Republic was founded on laws. These laws took precedence over everything. When the sons of Brutus, one of Rome's first consuls, were caught trying to restore Tarquin, their own father staged the execution. It was the first major sacrifice a Roman would make in the name of his new state, but it certainly would not be the last.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Surprisingly, the World Is Becoming More Equal (Chelsea Follett, 6/09/23, Cato)

Our Inequality of Human Progress Index offers a new way of measuring global inequality. It is more comprehensive than any prior international inequality index, taking into account a greater number of dimensions. We found that in addition to a global decline in income inequality, there have also been declines in lifespan inequality, nutritional inequality, educational inequality, internet access inequality, and political liberty inequality. Around the world, gaps in these areas are shrinking.

Most importantly, there has been a decline in overall global inequality. That result was consistent, even under a variety of specifications that we tested. The data show that across all but two of the areas we examined, the world has become more equal since 1990. The data does not support the narrative of rising worldwide inequality.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


Against inhumane architecture : a review of Architectural Principles in the Age of Fraud by Branko Mitrović (James Stevens Curl, 10 June, 2023, The Critic)

Modernists do not care how buildings look: they never did. In 1954 Peter Reyner Banham (1922-88), a pupil of Nikolaus Pevsner, of course, and one of the gurus of trendiness and Modernism, declared, ex cathedra, that "façade treatments do not form part of the common theory of the Modern Movement ... the problem of the façade does not exist; form follows function, and when the problems of the interior have been correctly resolved, the exterior form will be found to have crystallized into an unarguable solution". And John Summerson (1904-92) declared that the chief contribution of the Modern Movement was "social", and that the source of its "unified approach" lay in the architect's "programme", which he defined as the "description of spatial dimensions, spatial relationships and other physical conditions required for the convenient performance of specific functions ... and the resultant unity ... is the unity of a process". From these chilling statements any possibility that a work claiming to be "architecture" might have any emotional or æsthetic impact was ignored: the Modernists insisted all that was  required was "designing" a building from the inside out, letting its external appearance look after itself. These factors go a long way to explaining why the Modern Movement failed to present anything like an agreeable face to the world, let alone to the street.

Historically, true architecture involved choice, a certain freedom of action, conscious attempts to establish hierarchies of values, and design concerned with metaphors through which those sets of values were made overt and agreeably expressed. It was not "all about structure", as doctrinaire Modernists would hold, and it was not about the sort of minimal effort that produced far too many badly functioning, seedy, leaking, industrialised, ugly buildings in response to loudly trumpeted, bullying manifestoes and idiotic simplistic slogans. The Modernists' pseudo-moralising fixations on supposed "function", industrialised methods of construction, rejection of everything in favour of the "clean slate", and scary pronouncements concerning "total architecture" have produced painfully obvious failures in the context of the urban environment. Pevsner himself, confessing to "National Socialist feelings", claimed in the first edition of his Pioneers (p. 206, 1936), that the Modern Movement was the new style of the twentieth century because it was a genuine style as opposed to a passing fashion, and was totalitarian (my italics ... the word was dropped in later editions).  

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


United States of America v. Donald J. Trump and Waltine Nauta (Scott R. Anderson, Anna Bower, Hyemin Han, Tyler McBrien, Roger Parloff, Stephanie Pell, Katherine Pompilio, Alan Z. Rozenshtein, Benjamin Wittes Friday, June 9, 2023, Lawfare)

The indictment alleges that as president, Trump gathered hundreds of classified documents owned by the United States and kept them in cardboard boxes at the White House. Some of the documents contained information about "defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack," the document says. 

Since the beginning of the Mar-a-Lago investigation, analysts and journalists have puzzled over the question of how classified material ended up at Mar-a-Lago: Was it a matter of staff shoving stuff in boxes and it ending up in moving trucks? Or was Trump somehow personally involved? The indictment addresses these questions. It clearly alleges that material ended up at Mar-a-Lago because of Trump's efforts to squirrel them away. 

In particular, beginning in January 2021, as Trump was preparing to leave the White House, prosecutors assert that Trump personally directed his White House staff to box a variety of items in anticipation of his departure, including "hundreds of classified documents[.]" Waltine Nauta, Trump's body man, a former member of the U.S. Navy, and Trump's co-defendant, was a part of the group directed to assist with this document transfer. 

As Trump prepared to leave office at noon on Jan. 20, 2021, the White House staff executed on his directions and delivered these boxes to the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. At the moment he ceased to be president, the indictment states, Trump was no longer authorized to possess or retain these classified documents, nor was Mar-a-Lago an authorized location for the "storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents."

The handling of the boxes of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago reads like a dark comedy. For several months, prosecutors allege, some of the boxes were stored on a stage in one of the club's ballrooms. Nauta then moved them into the club's business center, until staff needed to use that room as an office, the indictment claims. The records were then moved--we swear we are not making this up--to a bathroom and a shower before staff ultimately emptied out a basement storage room so they could store the boxes there. More than 80 boxes were ultimately relocated to the storage room, which the indictment describes as being "reach[able] from multiple outside entrances, including one accessible from The Mar-a-Lago Club pool patio through a doorway that was often kept open."

While the boxes were being shuffled around Mar-a-Lago, the indictment alleges that Trump showed classified documents to third parties without security clearances on at least two occasions. Neither incident is clearly a predicate for any of the criminal charges brought in the indictment. Nor is it clear that they could be, as both occurred far from the Southern District of Florida where the matter will be tried. Instead, the special counsel appears to have included them in the indictment for another reason: to show that Trump understood what he was doing was wrong.

The first incident occurred in July 2021 at the Trump golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in a meeting with a writer and publisher of a forthcoming book--known from media accounts to be the autobiography of his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows--as well as two Trump staffers, one of whom made an audio recording of the meeting at Trump's request. In this meeting, Trump allegedly disputed an account given by a senior military official--known from media accounts to be Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Mark Milley--noting fears that then-President Trump might order an attack on a foreign country by producing what he described as that official's own "plan of attack." "Secret. This is secret information[,]" Trump is quoted as saying in discussing the document, presumably from the audio recording. "See as president I could have declassified it....Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret."

The second incident took place at the same location in August or September 2021. At a meeting with a representative from a political action committee, Trump is alleged to have produced a classified map of a foreign country where, he commented, an ongoing military operation was not going well. While no recording appears to be available, Trump is alleged to have told the representative that "he should not be showing the map" and urged the representative "to not get too close."

Throughout much of this period, the indictment alleges, Trump and his staff were also in active correspondence with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which was seeking the return of the broader universe of presidential records that Trump had (improperly, in their view) taken with him when he left the White House. NARA began requesting the return of the documents in May 2021; by June, it was threatening to refer the matter to the Justice Department. In response, prosecutors contend, Trump and his staff at Mar-a-Lago appear to have begun preparing to send at least some documents back to NARA at its request.

Beginning in November 2021, Nauta and another employee--identified as "Trump Employee 2"--began bringing Trump boxes so that he could personally review their contents. The indictment quotes liberally from text messages and photographs they exchanged throughout this process, detailing Trump's progress in reviewing the boxes and their contents. Around this same time, Nauta found a box that had been knocked over and had its contents spilled on the floor. These included several documents visibly marked as classified. He documented the event in a photograph he sent to Trump Employee 2, which is included in the indictment. 

(Notably, however, when he was interviewed by the FBI in May 2022, Nauta allegedly indicated that he had no knowledge of any boxes being stored at Mar-a-Lago or any boxes having been brought to Trump for his review. These statements, which the government contends to be false, form the basis for one of the criminal counts against Nauta.)

On Jan. 17, 2022, Nauta sent 15 boxes of material back to NARA at Trump's direction. Upon reviewing them, NARA determined that 14 of the boxes contained classified material and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The FBI later identified 197 documents with classification markings in these boxes.

The Justice Department subsequently opened a criminal investigation in March 2022, and a federal grand jury investigation began in April 2022. As part of this latter investigation, the grand jury issued a subpoena on May 11, 2022, seeking the production of all documents with classification markings in Trump's possession, a subpoena which was served on one of Trump's attorneys a few days later. 

In a number of respects, how Trump and his staff responded to this subpoena forms the real gravamen of much of the criminal conduct alleged in the indictment.

According to the indictment, Trump met with two attorneys--identified as Trump Attorney 1 and Trump Attorney 2--on May 23 to discuss how to respond to the subpoena. These are almost certainly M. Evan Corcoran and Jennifer Little, respectively, two lawyers for Trump who were later compelled to provide information relating to their representation of Trump to the grand jury, following a still-sealed series of judicial rulings concluding that the lawyers' services were being used as part of an ongoing criminal scheme and that the materials thus fell within the scope of the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege. 

The indictment quotes a "memorialization" by Trump Attorney 1 as indicating that Trump expressed reservations about having others review his documents. Trump is alleged to have repeatedly suggested that it would be better if no documents were found. Nonetheless, he agreed that Trump Attorney 1 could return to Mar-a-Lago on June 2 to search the boxes of presidential records brought from the White House to Mar-a-Lago for any documents with classification markings responsive to the subpoena. 

Over the next two weeks, before Trump Attorney 1's return, Nauta is reported to have brought approximately 64 boxes from the storage room to Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence at Trump's direction. The indictment gives a play-by-play of the movement of boxes, including time stamps and related text exchanges between Nauta and at least one Trump family member, identified as female but not specifically named. Only about 30 of those boxes were returned to the storage room before June 2, when Trump Attorney 1 arrived to review the documents removed from the White House. 

When he arrived that afternoon, Trump Attorney 1 was taken to the storage room to review the records located there, in which he found 38 documents with classification markings. He sealed these documents in a Redweld and prepared them for return to the FBI. After completing his search, Trump Attorney 1 met with Trump to discuss what he had found. During that discussion, Trump made what the indictment calls "a plucking motion," which Trump Attorney 1 later described in his memorialization as suggesting, "[W]hy don't you take them with you to your hotel room and if there's anything really bad in there, like, you know, pluck it out."

Trump Attorney 1 then contacted a third attorney not involved in the search--identified in the indictment as Trump Attorney 3, whom we know from prior court filings to be Christina Bobb--and asked them to sign a certification he had prepared indicating that "[a] diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida" and that "[a]ny and all responsive documents accompany this certification." Trump Attorney 3 did so the next day in her purported capacity as the custodian of Trump's records. Shortly thereafter, the certification and 38 recovered documents with classification markings were handed over to Justice Department officials. In a meeting with those officials, in the indictment notes, Trump described himself as an "open book." Yet that same day, several boxes of presidential records that had been removed from the storage room were loaded onto an aircraft and flown north with Trump and his family for the summer.

Of course, as we now know, the story does not end there. The indictment confirms that, in July 2022, the FBI and grand jury obtained and reviewed surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago showing the movement of boxes, which led the Justice Department to secure a court-authorized search warrant. This, in turn, led to the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, during which the FBI recovered 102 documents with classification markings from both the storage room and Trump's office.  

June 9, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


Putin Cops to 'Significant Losses,' Inferior Weapons in Stunning War Admission (Shannon Vavra, Jun. 9th, 2023, Washington Post)

"In recent days, we have seen significant losses in Ukraine, they exceed the classical figure," he said, according to the Kremlin.

The Russian president also confessed that Russian forces were dealing with artillery problems, adding in his remarks that "Yes, we still do not have enough of these modern weapons, but the defense industry, the country's military-industrial complex is developing rapidly."

The dispirited comments about Moscow's prospects in the war come just as Ukraine has launched a series of counteroffensives to push Russian forces out of the country.

Starting to question MAGA's choice of avatars...

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 PM


Iran and US near interim deal on nuclear enrichment and oil exports (Middle East Eye, 8 June 2023)

However, there is still reluctance on the US side to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA, they said.

...Iran should hold out for a complete restoration of ties and a free trade agrreement.

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


The illusion of moral decline (ADAM MASTROIANNI, JUN 7, 2023, Experimental History)


In psychology, anything worth studying is probably caused by multiple things. There may be lots of reasons why people think morality is declining when it really isn't.

Maybe people say that morality is declining because they think it makes them look good. But in Part I, we found that people are willing to say that some things have gotten better (less racism, for instance). And people still make the same claims when we pay them for accuracy.

Maybe because people are nice to you when you're a kid, and then they're less nice to you when you're an adult, you end up thinking that people got less nice over time. But people say that morality has declined since they turned 20, and that it's declined in the past four years, and all that is true for old people, too.

Maybe everybody has just heard stories about how great the past is--like, they watch Leave It to Beaver and they go "wow, people used to be so nice back then." But again, people think morality has declined even in the recent past. Also, who watches Leave It to Beaver?

We know from recent research that people denigrate the youth of today because they have positively biased memories of their own younger selves. That could explain why people blame moral decline on interpersonal replacement, but it doesn't explain why people also blame it on personal change.

Any of these could be part of the illusion of moral decline. But they are, at best, incomplete.

We offer an additional explanation in the paper, which is that two well-known psychological phenomena can combine to produce an illusion of moral decline. One is biased exposure: people pay disproportionate attention to negative information, and media companies make money by giving it to us. The other is biased memory: the negativity of negative information fades faster than the positivity of positive information. (This is called the Fading Affect Bias; for more, see Underrated ideas in psychology).

Biased exposure means that things always look outrageous: murder and arson and fraud, oh my! Biased memory means the outrages of yesterday don't seem so outrageous today. When things always look bad today but brighter yesterday, congratulations pal, you got yourself an illusion of moral decline.

We call this mechanism BEAM (Biased Exposure and Memory), and it fits with some of our more surprising results. BEAM predicts that both older and younger people should perceive moral decline, and they do. It predicts that people should perceive more decline over longer intervals, and they do. Both biased attention and biased memory have been observed cross-culturally, so it also makes sense that you would find the perception of moral decline all over the world.

But the real benefit of BEAM is that it can predict cases where people would perceive less decline, no decline, or even improvement. If you reverse biased exposure--that is, if people mainly hear about good things that other people are doing--you might get an illusion of moral improvement. We figured this could happen in people's personal worlds: most people probably like most of the people they interact with on a daily basis, so they may mistakenly think those people have actually become kinder over time.

They do. In another study, we asked people to answer those same questions about interpersonal replacement and personal change that we asked in a previous study, first about people in general, and then about people that they interact with on a daily basis. When we asked participants about people in general, they said (a) people overall are less moral than they were in 2005, (b) the same people are less moral today than in 2005 (personal change) and (c) young people today are less moral than older people were in 2005 (interpersonal replacement). Just as they did before, participants told us that morality declined overall, and that both personal change and interpersonal replacement were to blame.

But we saw something new when we asked participants about people they know personally. First, they said individuals they've known for the past 15 years are more moral today. They said the young folks they know today aren't as moral as the old folks they knew 15 years ago, but this difference was smaller than it was for people in general. So when you ask people about a group where they probably don't have biased exposure--or at least not biased negative exposure--they report less moral decline, or even moral improvement.

Our lives have become so comfortable that we inflate trivialities into world historical crises and even characterize positive developments as threats. Imagine explaining to your subsistence-level ancestors how awful it is that machines are doing all our work and leaving us nothing but leisure time.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 8:31 AM

ALL THAT JAZZ #67 - Tall, Tan, Young and Lovely (self-reference alert)

Astrud Gilberto died the other day.  https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/06/arts/music/astrud-gilberto-dead.html

While she was not a jazz singer, my interest in jazz (and, therefore, these ATJ posts) has its roots in her first and most famous recording, The Girl From Ipanema.  When I was 12 or 13, I found the Getz/Gilberto bossa nova album among my older brother's records, and it was the sound of Stan Getz's tenor saxophone that made me want to learn to play the instrument and sparked my lifelong fascination with jazz.  

The "Gilberto" in the album title refers to Astrud's husband, Joao; she wasn't a professional singer or scheduled to sing on the date...she was just attending with her husband as a translator. But her wistful, ethereal voice and lilting accent were a perfect match for the song.  Girl reached the top of the charts in the US and set off a world-wide bossa nova craze.  Besides the true practitioners of bossa nova, such as Joao Gilberto and Antonio Carlos Jobim, many other composers jumped in and wrote songs in the style.  Few, if any, did it better than Benny Carter's Only Trust Your Heart.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Exclusive: Donald Trump admits on tape he didn't declassify 'secret information' (Paula Reid and Jeremy Herb, June 9, 2023, CNN)

Former President Donald Trump acknowledged on tape in a 2021 meeting that he had retained "secret" military information that he had not declassified, according to a transcript of the audio recording obtained by CNN.

"As president, I could have declassified, but now I can't," Trump says, according to the transcript.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM



Hidalgo's plan is to remove the motor vehicle infrastructure that has choked the capital city for the past 60 years. Cutting back on the use of personal motor vehicles will help clear the city of its smog problem, and replacing pavement with parks will help cool the city. 

Slate reported that between 2001 and 2018, the use of cars within Paris dropped by almost 60%. During that time, car crashes fell by 30%, while pollution also decreased. According to the United Nations, heat-trapping gases were reduced by 25% between 2004 and 2018. 

Closing streets around schools has made them safer and cleaner for kids. Instead of noisy, air-polluting cars surrounding schools, kids and teachers are using the roads. Cleaner air has even been linked to higher test scores from students. 

Getting people out of their cars and traveling by foot or bicycle has drastically changed Parisian daily life for the better as the city continues to divest from its formerly car-centric ways. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Do federal or state prosecutors get to go first in trying Trump? A law professor untangles the conflict (Darryl K. Brown, Professor of Law, University of Virginia / June 08, 2023, The Conversation)

Nothing in the U.S. Constitution or federal law dictates that, say, federal criminal cases get priority over state cases, or that prosecutions proceed in the order in which indictments are issued.

The solution ordinarily is that the various prosecutors will negotiate and decide among themselves which case should proceed first. Often, the one that involves the most serious charges gets priority, although the availability of key witnesses or evidence could play a role.

There are a few cases to look to as reference for state charges competing with federal ones.

Special Counsel Jack Smith has filed a seven-count indictment against former President Donald Trump. Peter Dejong /AFP via Getty Images
After neo-Nazi James Fields drove his car into a group of protesters at the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, killing one person and injuring others, he was charged with crimes in both federal and state courts.

The state homicide trial went first. Then, Fields pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges after the state conviction and received two life sentences for his crime from both the state and federal charges.

By contrast, "D.C. Sniper" John Allen Muhammad was finally apprehended at a highway rest stop in Maryland in 2002, after a deadly series of sniper shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, which killed 10 people and injured three.

Maryland police arrested Muhammad. Then, federal officials were the first to file charges. But Muhammad was first put on trial and convicted of murder in Virginia.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 AM


The US is getting its first new nuclear reactor in 40 years (Emily Jones, Jun 06, 2023, Grist)

The first new nuclear reactor built in the United States in more than 40 years is now up and running in Waynesboro, Georgia. After more than a decade of construction and spiraling costs, Plant Vogtle Unit Three, the first of two new reactors at the site, started producing power at its full capacity in May. It's expected to come online this month after a final round of tests.

The completion of the new reactors is a major milestone not just for the long-delayed project but for nuclear energy in the United States. The new units at Plant Vogtle were the first nuclear construction approved in decades and are the country's only new reactors in progress. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 AM


Trump Indicted in Classified Documents Case (Sadie Gurman, Aruna Viswanatha, C. Ryan Barber and Alex Leary, June 9, 2023, WSJ)

While a grand jury in Washington heard testimony for months about the handling of the documents, witnesses began appearing before a separate panel in Miami in recent weeks as federal prosecutors discussed whether to bring a case in Florida or Washington. Prosecutors brought charges in Miami because the focus of their probe was on Trump's actions at Mar-a-Lago, located in that jurisdiction.

Reporters on Thursday waited outside the room at the federal courthouse in Miami where the grand jury voted to indict the former president. At one point, one of Smith's top prosecutors, David Harbach, was seen entering the courthouse, but there was little indication of what was going on during the proceedings.

The panel went in person to a magistrate judge around 3:45 p.m. to deliver its decision, a person familiar with the matter said. Minutes later, reporters were informed that the grand jury was gone.

The federal charges deepen Trump's legal peril as the 2024 presidential race heats up, with Trump as the front-runner for the Republican nomination. Trump, 76 years old, already faces criminal charges in New York stemming from the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into his role in a hush-money payment that was made during the final stretch of the 2016 election to a porn star who alleged she had an affair with him.

And we're just getting started, Here are the other investigations Trump has to worry about (AP, 6/09/23)

June 8, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


FBI agent who testified for Republicans was suspended over leaked sensitive information (Ryan Nobles, 6/08/23, NBC News)

Garret O'Boyle, an FBI agent who was presented in a public hearing by House Republicans as a whistleblower, was suspended by the bureau because internal investigators had concluded that he leaked sensitive investigative information to the right-wing group Project Veritas, according to a bureau official. [...]

Lawmakers learned about the reason for O'Boyle's suspension, which was previously unreported, in testimony that Jennifer Moore, executive assistant director of the FBI for human resources, provided to the House Judiciary Committee's Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Portions of her testimony are included in a letter that top Democrats on the Judiciary and Weaponization panels wrote to Garland, alleging that O'Boyle lied to the committee about leaking information prior to his suspension.

Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


Zero-emission cruise ship with retractable solar sails set to launch in 2030 (Linnea Ahlgren, June 8, 2023, Next Web)

Enter Sea Zero, "the world's most energy-efficient cruise ship," according to Hurtigruten and its 12 maritime partners for the project. The ship will feature 60 watt batteries that will be charged with renewable energy (while Norway is a huge oil and gas exporter, 98% of domestic energy consumption comes from renewables) while in port.

This will be supplemented with wind and solar energy from retractable sails with solar panels, to charge the batteries while cruising. These will extend to a maximum height of 50 metres with 1500m² of photovoltaic panels and a wind surface of 750m². 

Sea Zero will also feature what the company refers to as "other firsts," including artificial intelligence manoeuvring, mimicking that of an aeroplane cockpit. Other novel additions include contra-rotating propellers, and multiple retractable thrusters. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Prosecutors ready to ask for Trump indictment on obstruction and Espionage Act charges (Andrew Feinberg, 6/08/23, Independent)

The Department of Justice is preparing to ask a Washington, DC grand jury to indict former president Donald Trump for violating the Espionage Act and for obstruction of justice as soon as Thursday, adding further weight to the legal baggage facing Mr Trump as he campaigns for his party's nomination in next year's presidential election.

The Independent has learned that prosecutors are ready to ask grand jurors to approve an indictment against Mr Trump for violating a portion of the US criminal code known as Section 793, which prohibits "gathering, transmitting or losing" any "information respecting the national defence". [...]

Mr Meadows has already given evidence before the grand jury and is said to be cooperating with the investigations into his former boss. It is understood that the former North Carolina congressman testified as part of a deal for which he has already received limited immunity in exchange for his testimony.

A source who was briefed on the agreement claimed that the alleged agreement will involve the ex-chief of staff entering pleas of guilty to unspecified federal crimes but an attorney for Mr Meadows, George Terwilliger, denied that to The Independent. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel advances law preventing Palestinian citizens from living in 'Jewish areas' (Elis Gjevori, 6 June 2023, Middle East Eye)

The Israeli government is advancing legislation to "Judaize" the Galilee, a region in northern Israel with a significant Palestinian population. 

The move is part of a deal that was struck to form Israel's new government last year with far-right politicians Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, who want to expand Jewish settlement in the region.

As part of the plan to "save Jewish settlement in the Galilee," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to significantly strengthen a controversial 2011 law that would give small communities powers to vet prospective newcomers.

June 7, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


America Doesn't Need Regime Change: A review of Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future by Patrick J. Deneen  (Damon Linker, 6 Jun 2023, Quillette)

In place of various forms of liberalism, Deneen follows Harvard Law School's Adrian Vermeule in advocating for an alternative called "common-good conservatism." (Vermeule calls his legal variant of the theory "common-good constitutionalism," but the two lines of argument follow from nearly identical premises.) This form of postliberal politics combines economic protectionism, industrial policy, and tough restrictions on immigration; support for the social safety net and private-sector unions; a defense of "traditional" marriage over alternative forms of family life, including a rejection of identity politics, ideas about gender fluidity, and the "sexualization of modern culture"; funding for the kind of pro-natalist policies Viktor Orbán has pioneered in Hungary to encourage family formation and increased birthrates; and stringent opposition to cosmopolitanism and globalism in both its economic and cultural dimensions.

The Right's adoption of the Left's Identity politics is entirely natural for reactionaries but still hilarious.  The entirety of their project is just a matter of trying to protect the status of white men from free market pressures. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mark Meadows testified to federal grand jury in special counsel probe of Trump (Kristen Holmes, Katelyn Polantz and Hannah Rabinowitz, June 6, 2023, CNN)

Meadows is viewed as a critical witness to Smith's investigation. He was ordered to testify before the grand jury and to provide documents after a judge rejected Trump's claims of executive privilege.

His testimony could provide investigators key insight into the former president's actions and mental state following the election he lost to Joe Biden as well as into Trump's actions after he left office in January 2021.

CNN previously reported that Meadows, under subpoena, turned over some materials to the Justice Department as part of their investigation.

Multiple sources told CNN last week that Smith has focused on a meeting related to Meadows as part of his criminal investigation into Trump's handling of documents. Two people working on the former chief of staff's autobiography attended a meeting in Bedminster, New Jersey, in July 2021 where Trump acknowledged he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran, the sources said. The meeting was recorded, but it is unknown from where the Justice Department first obtained the recording. Meadows didn't attend the meeting.

A source close to Trump's legal team told CNN earlier in May that Trump's lawyers had had no contact with Meadows and his team and were in the dark on what Meadows is doing in the investigation. Meadows' silence has irked lawyers representing other defendants aligned with Trump who have been more open, several sources familiar with the Trump-aligned legal teams said at the time. In particular, they pointed to a $900,000 payment Trump's Save America political action committee paid to the firm representing Meadows, McGuireWoods, at the end of last year.

June 6, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


Republicans Urge Immigrants to Stay in Florida, Fearing New Law's Impact (THOMAS KIKA, 6/05/23, Newsweek)

The E-Verify requirement has caused alarm among Republicans with constituencies close to the border or that use considerable migrant labor. With the system in place, there is worry about businesses not being able to tap into the immigrant labor force to which they are accustomed, resulting in mass labor shortages.

On Monday morning, GOP Florida State Representatives Alina Garcia, Rick Roth and Juan Fernandez Barquin spoke at an event in Hialeah, Florida, about the impending implications of SB 1718. At one point, Roth, as captured in a video shared by political activist Thomas Kennedy, said that the bill is meant "to scare" immigrants and urged those in attendance to convince their immigrant acquaintances to stay.

"This bill is 100 percent supposed to scare you," Roth said. "I'm a farmer and the farmers are mad as hell. We are losing employees that are already starting to move to Georgia and other states. It's urgent that you talk to all your other people and convince them that you have resources, state representatives, other people that can explain the bill to you."

Roth also at one point said that SB 1718 was more of a "political bill."

The meth-addicted hillbillies riding around with Confederate flags aren't going to do the jobs in America.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


From Coy to GoyHow America's far right found its anti-Semitic voice and figured out its true identity. (TAMARA BERENS, JUNE 5 2023, Mosaic)

Bannon, to dredge up a recent history that feels suddenly musty, was for years the chairman of the online publication Breitbart News, publishing a mix of rightwing news, opinion, and conspiracy theory. Indeed, in March of that year, the budding conservative media star Ben Shapiro announced his resignation as editor-at-large of Breitbart. In his resignation letter, Shapiro derided Breitbart's pandering to then-candidate Trump, and blamed Bannon for steering the publication away from reporting and into partisan promotion. "Trump's personal Pravda," he called it. (In National Review a few months later, Shapiro decried Trump's "anti-Semitic supporters," who were targeting him directly.) Soon enough, under Trump's aegis, Bannon was subsumed for a time into the right-wing mainstream. He became Trump's chief campaign strategist in August of 2016 and upon Trump's inauguration worked in the White House for a short but significant period. Once he was fired from that position, he went on to promote right-wing populism in Europe.

Bannon's motivating issue was immigration. He seemed to hate the concept personally and saw it as a potent political tool, one that ultimately ended up helping Trump get elected. "Isn't the beating heart of this problem, the real beating heart of it, of what we gotta get sorted here, not illegal immigration?" he asked in 2016. "As horrific as that is, and it's horrific, don't we have a problem? We've looked the other way on this legal immigration that's kinda overwhelmed the country?"

In this he reflected a core obsession of the alt-right: the idea that America was being taken over by immigrants. To the extent that Jews played into the subject, it was as a group seen by many alt-righters to have foreign origins that wanted to bring in yet more foreigners like them.

Bannon was inspired by the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, author of Pagan Imperialism (1928), who offered a critique of Christianity in the name of fascism and ancient Roman beliefs and practices. Richard Spencer, another of the movement's leaders, was a dour man in his thirties who after dropping out of a PhD program attempted to provide the young movement with an intellectual foundation. For that, he thought, the white-identity movement would have to shed foundational aspects of Christianity. He saw some utility in the religion as a uniting force in history for white peoples--but thought that the substance of the Christian religion itself was no longer needed (even if Christian heritage could be a useful identity marker). He describes the "profound thing that was born into the world through Judaism of hating the body" and denounced Christian and Jewish teachings as "an attack on things that are physical and beautiful." As the writer Graeme Wood, a high school classmate of Spencer's, put it then in the Atlantic, "Spencer was right about religion's power. It exerted a binding force and sense of purpose on its followers, and in its absence, the alt-right is delighted to supply values and idols all its own."

In other words, beyond opposition to immigration, a second core stance of the alt-right was a belief in paganism both in itself and as a tool for uniting an irreligious white far-right base. As Spencer put it, men could be saved from worrying about religion's "hellfire"--from sin and guilt. Indeed, in 2016, the alternative right was more hostile to Christianity than favorable to it. Some were members of overtly pagan organizations, such as the Wolves of Vinland, a cult in Virginia whose members would gather in the woods to adorn themselves with Norse body paint, murder sheep, and wrestle one another. (A number of Wolves have been arrested, some for setting fire to black churches and others for attempted bank robbery.) The Wolves became well-known due to the prominence of member Kevin DeAnna, previously a speaker and writer for conventional conservative causes and publications.

The belief in paganism contributed to how the alt-right saw Jews. Alt-righters often framed their anti-Semitism in terms reminiscent of Otto Weininger, the Jewish-born German anti-Semite popular around the turn of the 20th century whom Julius Evola counted among his own influences. Jews in this line of thinking represent the evils of femininity and materialism; broadly, they are bad because they are weak, not because they are powerful, and their weakness is contagious and corrupting.

The Right is united by hate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brad Birzer's Christian Humanism for the Modern World (Michael Lucchese, June 6, 2023, Providence)

What exactly is Christian humanism? Early in Mythic Realms, Birzer says it is a worldview rooted in the way early Christians combined Platonic and Stoic philosophy with Hebrew revelation to understand the mystery of human life and the Incarnate God. In his Gospel, St. John shows how the eternal can enlighten all human beings - and Birzer argues that this is the founding idea of Christian humanism. Beauty is ultimately a signpost to God, a flash of light in a dark world. The Christian humanist seeks to build a culture oriented around such beauty, a culture that can point to man's divine destiny.

Sadly, though, the Christian humanist also knows that man is a fallen creature. We fritter away the glories of Western civilization in our pursuit of worldly pleasures, forsaking the truer, eternal joy of our heritage for passing fancies. What is needed, then, are works of creativity and worship that can remind mankind that God created us for great things. Such creativity "will save civilization before it succumbs to self-destruction," Birzer writes in the introduction.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Graph of the Day: Solar is creating fastest energy change in history (Andrew Blakers 6 June 2023, Renew Economy)

By far the fastest energy change in history is underway. According to the International Energy Agency and other sources, around 400 GW of new solar and wind capacity will be added in 2023. 

The large and growing disparity between the deployment rates of solar and coal/gas/nuclear means that nearly all the global growth in electricity demand is being met by solar (with support from wind).

Demand growth will accelerate, driven by rising population, rising affluence, and electrification of nearly all energy services. 

The fossil fuel fleet is growing old and will nearly all retire before 2050 regardless of national energy policies around the world - just like is happening in Australia, which is the global solar pathfinder. 

Just another reason for MAGA to hate capitalism...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas sheriff recommends charges over Martha's Vineyard migrant flight (Ben Brasch, June 5, 2023, Washington Post)

A Texas sheriff's office has recommended that a San Antonio-area district attorney file criminal charges following an investigation into the transportation in the fall of 49 asylum seekers from Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, allegedly on direction from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

It is not clear whom the charges would be filed against, but the case would include both felony and misdemeanor charges of unlawful restraint, according to the sheriff's office.

Tiny Trump has a tall task, behaving more criminally than Donald but seems up for it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


FBI had reviewed, closed inquiry into claims at center of Hill fight (Perry Stein, Jacqueline Alemany and Devlin Barrett, June 5, 2023, Washington Post)

The FBI and Justice Department under then-Attorney General William P. Barr reviewed allegations from a confidential informant about Joe Biden and his family, and they determined there were no grounds for further investigative steps, according to Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and other people familiar with the investigation.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ukrainian forces advance on Russians, deny 'counteroffensive' has begun (Samantha Schmidt, Isobel Koshiw and Mary Ilyushina June 5, 2023, Washington Post)

Ukraine's military made gains against Russian forces in multiple locations along the eastern front, the country's deputy defense minister said Monday, as an increasing cadence in combat operations raised speculation that the much-anticipated counteroffensive was finally imminent.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram that troops conducted multiple "offensive actions" in the eastern Donetsk region despite "stiff resistance and the enemy's attempts to hold the occupied lines and positions."

June 5, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Just ImagineAdam Smith on the faculty that makes us human (Robert Zaretsky, June 5, 2023, American Scholar)

And so, let's take a moment to celebrate Smith's birthday by trying to imagine why he thought The Theory of Moral Sentiments to be the better book. Whereas he begins the work, in the provocative fashion that endeared him to his students, with a description of a man being tortured on a rack, we can instead begin with a man attending a club in Edinburgh. Not the sort of club given to drinking, though that certainly took place, but instead a club given to thinking.

Crucially, these clubs helped rebrand 18th-century Edinburgh. Long known as Auld Reekie--thanks to the stifling shroud of coal soot that rose from its forest of chimneys--the city became known as the Athens of the North. This was not a hollow claim. Though it boasted scarcely 40,000 residents, Edinburgh also boasted that it was, in the words of an observer, "crouded with men of genius" (Though as a walled city with tottering tenements packed together on wynds, or narrow streets, Edinburgh could hardly be anything but crouded.)

These men of genius, when not lecturing at universities like Smith, writing in their studies like David Hume, sermonizing from pulpits like Hugh Blair, or overseeing their estates like Lord Kames, met in clubs and societies to debate the great notions of that enlightened age. Between sips of claret and gulps of oysters (usually at the Oyster Club), they fearlessly prodded and poked one another (especially at the Poker Club) on the questions of human progress and the nature of being human. They weighed the gains and losses of technological, industrial, and commercial advances; they sought the sources of moral action and why we tend to be good when we could quite easily be bad.

The most select of these clubs was, inevitably, the Select Society. Conceived in 1754 by the portrait painter Allan Ramsay, it brought together the city's best and brightest. Along with Hume and Kames, there was Blair, the Protestant minister who could "stop the hounds with his eloquenc"; Lord Monboddo, who wrote on the evolution of languages when not hearing cases as a judge; and that young "noddle-head," as Hume called James Boswell. ("Bozzy" was admitted to the august society long before he published his biography of Samuel Johnson, who happened to think little of Scots and less of the Select Society).

Another founding member, also yet to become famous, was Smith. A professor of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow--he commuted on the daily coach to Edinburgh for these sessions--Smith was decidedly the most remarkable figure in this group of remarkable men. He never spoke--at least to others. "The most absent man in Company that I ever saw," recalled his friend Alexander Carlyle Smith was always "Moving his Lips and talking to himself, and Smiling, in the midst of large Company's." Indeed, he was often incapable of taking part in everyday conversation, Stewart noted, a man "habitually inattentive to familiar objects, and to common occurrences."

It's not that he was inattentive to the men in his midst. What Smith understood, perhaps better than most of his colleagues at the club, was how futile it is to gain access to the minds of those we meet. We are all strangers to one another not just in the night, but in the day as well. As Smith remarks, "we have no immediate experience of what other men feel." This is both an undeniable and unsettling observation. Yet it is resolved, Smith contends, by two capacities we all share: sympathy for another person's pain or happiness (expressed in the form of pity or joy) and imagination. To Smith, imagination picks up where fellow feeling leaves off. As Smith declares at the start of the book, we can form no idea of how another person feels "but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Indian opposition leader Gandhi calls on U.S. audience to stand up for 'modern India' (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 06/04/2023)

"To be nasty to people, to be arrogant, to be violent, these are not Indian values," Gandhi, 52, told a crowd of about 700 at the Indian Overseas Congress USA event at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. He spoke just after a minute of silence recognizing a massive train derailment in eastern India that killed 275 people and injured hundreds more. [...]

Meanwhile, U.S. congressional leaders have invited Modi to address a joint meeting of Congress later this month. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other leaders announced the address as an "opportunity to share your vision for India's future and speak to the global challenges our countries both face."

More importantly, they are not Western values.  We risk losing Israel and India if we do not hold them to our standards.

June 4, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM SENECA TODAY? (David Fideler in Dialogue with Cristian Pătrășconi, 6/04/23, Antigone)
Could we say that Seneca is "the Stoic par excellence"?

That would be a difficult judgment to make since it would be based on personal taste. But Seneca was the Stoic par excellence historically speaking. For example, the humanists who created the early Italian Renaissance had access to all of Seneca's writings in Latin, and they were deeply influenced them. In terms of ethics, Stoicism was about becoming more virtuous as a person, and it was a remarkably pro-social philosophy. Renaissance humanism was a movement to create a more humane and virtuous society with better leaders. In this way, the writings of Seneca helped to ignite early Renaissance humanism, which was a revival of ancient virtue ethics. The humanists also drew upon the ideas of Cicero, a Stoic-inspired philosopher, whose ideas of civic virtue expanded upon Stoic ideas.

Later in the Renaissance, when the Italian humanists learned to read Greek, the writings of the two major Stoics who followed Seneca - Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius - were published. But they seemed to have had very little impact at that time.

Marcus Aurelius is hugely popular now, but that is a very recent development. He only started to become popular in English in the 19th century, and he's at peak popularity today. But people have been reading and learning from Seneca for 2,000 years.

If you carefully study Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius, you'll discover that they were largely expressing the same ideas, but each in their unique way, because they were addressing different audiences. Of course, since they were all Stoics, that's not surprising. The ideas of Epictetus were recorded by his student Arrian, but even his most famous idea, which people call "the dichotomy of control" today, is found in Seneca's idea of virtue versus Fortune. Virtue, or our inner character, is "up to us", while Fortune is "not up to us".

So which Stoic writer does a reader like the most? In the end, it's a matter of personal taste. But historically speaking, you can find almost every important Stoic idea in Seneca's Latin writings and the writings of Cicero, even if you don't read Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus. That's why people in the early Renaissance understood Stoicism very well, even when Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus were not yet available.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM



Not only are they easier to control for precise temperatures and more energy-efficient than traditional gas stoves, but they also don't produce the same harmful fumes of gas stoves, which can have greater impacts on adults with asthma and increase risks of asthma in children. But how do induction stoves work? 

Induction stoves use electromagnetic energy to heat up pots and pans directly rather than heating the cookware like other stoves do (through a combination of conduction, convection, and radiation). 

Essentially, instead of waiting for a hot surface to transfer heat to your cookware, you heat the cookware itself through the power of electromagnetism. This allows for precise temperature control so you can perfectly cook your food. 

It also means you'll waste less heat while cooking, making induction stoves far more energy-efficient than traditional gas stoves. So, your food will cook more quickly and at a lower cost. 

Because induction stoves use electromagnetic energy rather than burn a fuel, they don't create the nasty indoor pollutants that traditional gas stoves do. 

MAGA hardest hit.
Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


Scientists Successfully Transmit Space-Based Solar Power to Earth for the First Time (Kevin Hurler, 6/02/23, Gizmodo)

The California Institute of Technology has big news for space-based power. Researchers at the university have reportedly beamed solar power from space to Earth without a single wire--and they say it's a first.

The experiment is a part of Caltech's Space Solar Power Project, and the institute announced a successful transmission via press release yesterday. The researchers conducted the power transfer experiment using the Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment, or MAPLE, which is a small prototype aboard the in-orbit Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1) that launched this past January. [...]

"In the same way that the internet democratized access to information, we hope that wireless energy transfer democratizes access to energy," Hajimiri said in the release. "No energy transmission infrastructure will be needed on the ground to receive this power. That means we can send energy to remote regions and areas devastated by war or natural disaster."

The ability to wirelessly transmit solar power from space has huge implications for renewable energy, so much so that Japan plans to start using it by the mid-2030's. A Japanese research team is looking to pilot the technology in 2025 with a public-private partnership.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


New evidence in Trump case bolsters two sets of charges (REBECCA BEITSCH, 06/03/23, The Hill)

Reporting from CNN this week indicates authorities have a recording of Trump discussing his inability to share the contents of a classified document he retained -- undercutting his long-standing claim he declassified the records in his possession.

The special counsel is also seeking more information about the movement of boxes at the Mar-a-Lago carried out by two Trump employees, The Washington Post reported, while Trump attorney Evan Corcoran was waived off from searching certain portions of Trump's Florida home following a subpoena, according to The Guardian. 

Collectively, the reporting suggests the special counsel is buttressing Espionage Act charges over the episode and still building an obstruction of justice case over the ensuing saga to secure the return of the records.

The week was capped with a report from lawyers and former prosecutors who concluded, based on public reporting, that the DOJ has enough evidence in the case to merit charging Trump directly.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


For the good of civilization, conservative 'fusionism' must remain viable (Dan Hannan, May 29, 2023, Washington Examiner)

We can forget how recently the Democrats and Republicans began to divide on Left/Right lines. Well into the 1960s, party allegiances were as much regional and hereditary as doctrinal. Only from Richard Nixon's time can we properly regard the two parties as coherent ideological groupings.

Political conservatism was, to a greater degree than is often acknowledged, the creation of one man: William F. Buckley, Jr., the handsome and eloquent editor of National Review. In the 1950s, Buckley brought together various groups with a shared interest in opposing the USSR and its American apologists. They were a disparate bunch -- patriots, evangelicals, libertarians, foreign policy hawks, monetarists, strict constitutionalists -- and they all had their own reasons for being anti-socialist. Yet their alliance turned out to be a thing of awesome power, carrying Ronald Reagan to the White House and, through him, defeating communism, slashing taxes, and reversing America's decline.

Once those victories were won, some libertarians no longer wanted to march alongside those they regarded as big-state religious nuts; and some trads no longer wanted to associate with those they regarded as crazed enthusiasts of drugs and pornography. The alloy began to melt into its two component metals.

In the absence of revolutionary socialism, could something else bind the coalition together?

Fusionism died once we won.  Having defeated Communism, that which we were fused against ceased to exist.  The Right has remained fused against all of the "other": it has devolved into nothing but Identity politics, hating other genders, ethnicities, religions, etc.  There is nothing in that for conservatives.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


June 3, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM



The team of researchers from the RMIT School of Engineering used a nanomaterial called MXene to create a battery that could last up to nine years. ScienceDaily reports that this battery could become a viable alternative to the industry standard lithium-ion batteries, which wear out very quickly and are a challenge to recycle. 

MXene has high electrical conductivity, similar to graphene, but with even more benefits because of how malleable it is, according to the researchers.

"Unlike graphene, MXenes are highly tailorable and open up a whole range of possible technological applications in the future," Professor Leslie Yeo, the lead senior researcher on the project, told ScienceDaily.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


ChatGPT took their jobs. Now they walk dogs and fix air conditioners.: Technology used to automate dirty and repetitive jobs. Now, artificial intelligence chatbots are coming after high-paid ones. (Pranshu Verma and Gerrit De Vynck, June 2, 2023, Washington Post)

When ChatGPT came out last November, Olivia Lipkin, a 25-year-old copywriter in San Francisco, didn't think too much about it. Then, articles about how to use the chatbot on the job began appearing on internal Slack groups at the tech start-up where she worked as the company's only writer.

Over the next few months, Lipkin's assignments dwindled. Managers began referring to her as "Olivia/ChatGPT" on Slack. In April, she was let go without explanation, but when she found managers writing about how using ChatGPT was cheaper than paying a writer, the reason for her layoff seemed clear.

"Whenever people brought up ChatGPT, I felt insecure and anxious that it would replace me," she said. "Now I actually had proof that it was true, that those anxieties were warranted and now I was actually out of a job because of AI."

Some economists predict artificial intelligence technology like ChatGPT could replace hundreds of millions of jobs, in a cataclysmic reorganization of the workforce mirroring the industrial revolution.

...your biggest problems are  that the cost of labor and energy is headed towards zero and "poor" people consume too many calories.

Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


Is Democracy More Precious than Liberty? (MUSTAFA AKYOL, MAY 07, 2023, Acton)

Theoretically, the most interesting--and to me the most unacceptable--part of Hamid's argument is his dismissal of the very concept of universal rights. "Rights are not," he asserts, "freestanding, self-evident, or morally transcendent." Therefore, rights cannot be held above any democracy. Instead, "rights would be derived from the democracy." This inevitably means that majorities should rule as they wish, without being constrained by "individual freedoms and minority rights." A classical liberal, however, would insist that there are, in fact, universal rights, which are rooted in natural law. But Hamid seems uninterested in that argument. The term "natural law" does not even appear in the book.

There is a key flaw in Hamid's argument against universality, however: It cuts down the branch on which he is sitting. For if there are no universal rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, why should there be an absolute right to vote? If his dismissal of liberalism is valid--that it is a subjective Western system that other civilizations don't need--why is the same dismissal not valid for democracy as well? In fact, that is exactly what pro-regime ideologues in Beijing and Moscow, and pro-ruler clerics in Riyadh and Dubai, argue.

Hamid seems to push this theoretical argument mainly to substantiate the legitimacy of democratically elected Islamists in the Middle East. I can see how it will be music to the ears of those Islamists, as well as many conservative Muslims who may be uninterested in the rights of secular individuals or non-Muslims in their midst, let alone the rights of those branded as "heretics" or "apostates."

But these Muslims deserve to be cautioned: Hamid's argument cuts both ways. In other words, it also means that in contexts where Muslims are minorities, their rights can be curbed as well, this time by non-Muslim majorities. I confirmed this with Hamid on a lively panel about his book sponsored by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy. I asked him whether, in his worldview, it is legitimate for French secularists to ban Islamic veils of Muslim women or for India's Hindu supremacists to punish Muslims for eating beef? His answer was that he would not favor such bans, but, yes, it would be legitimate. [...]

"In this book, there is no "resolution" to the problem of religion and politics. The problem of deep difference over the role of Islam will remain, with neither side able to conclusively defeat the other. There will be Islamists and there will be secularists, with many shades in between." [...]

 Liberalism, he says, "can't but clash with Islam." Islamic reformers can try to change things, but they have little chance: "This is not Islam as it 'should' be, but Islam as it has been--nearly uninterrupted for the better part of fourteen centuries."

Yet this argument, too, has an ironic blind spot: for some 13 centuries, "Islam as it has been" did not include democracy, Hamid's favorite political system, either. Medieval Islamic political doctrine never advocated free elections, political parties, parliaments, and term limits. Such ideas appeared in the Islamic civilization only in the 19th century, with Western influence, and thanks to thinkers such as the New Ottomans. They are often called "Islamic liberals," as they advocated not just political representation but all the key features of political and economic liberalism as well, finding inspiration from the Qur'an and the Prophet's example. (I myself am an admirer of such pioneers in this regard as Namik Kemal and Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi, as I highlighted them in my book Why, as a Muslim, I Defend Liberty.

So if Muslims had stuck simply to "Islam as it has been" and never advocated new ideas, democracy would also not have occurred to them. Similarly, "Islam as it has been" included slavery until the 19th or even 20th century--when it was abolished thanks to international human rights campaigns from outside, as well as efforts of Islamic and secular liberals from within.

That convinces me that "Islam as it has been" can change even more--toward liberty. And I find that absolutely necessary, for without liberty, democracy easily collapses into the tyranny of the majority. But I also believe that the people of the Middle East, and people elsewhere from East to West, deserve better than that. They deserve the dignity of liberty.


Posted by orrinj at 12:06 AM


Duke Ellington's Sacred Swing: The spirituality of 'The Majesty of God' (Steve Futterman, April 29, 2023, Commonweal)

You come away from "The Majesty of God" certain that its composer was sincere in his beliefs, open to the inspiration of unguarded spiritual thought. Yet he was no less open to what the world offered up--good, bad, and everything in between. Those who admire Ellington's music sense that this was a man who loved people, and food, and sex, and romance, and travel, and community, and the multitude of other pleasures life offers. You can also hear him responding to the political, social, and existential tribulations that Black Americans have had to endure. Parsing the supposedly specific images that Ellington claimed as musical correlatives in his strictly instrumental works can be more obfuscating than illuminating. Is "Harlem Air Shaft" an overview of communal life in uptown New York? Is "Reminiscing in Tempo" a portrait of his deceased mother? With Ellington, it's always dangerous to confuse inspiration with literal interpretation. But his creativity was obviously fueled by whatever he encountered. Read whatever you want into his expressive music, it all comes out the same. Ellington's art elevates the spirit, mind, and body.

It's not enough, assuming that this is still true, that he remains a famous name, or that he's associated with a few classic songs: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "In a Sentimental Mood," "Solitude," and "Mood Indigo" among them. Ellington's oeuvre is far vaster. As critic Gary Giddins says in Jazz (written with Scott DeVeaux),

In what category do you place a pianist, bandleader, composer, and arranger who created an ensemble unlike any other and wrote practically every kind of Western music other than grand opera--from ragtime to rock'n'roll, from blues to ballet, from stage and film scores to tone poems, oratorios, and sacred concerts, not to mention works for instrumental combinations from piano-bass duets to symphony orchestra. A proudly black artist, whose subject matter never departed for long from African American history and life, he also wrote about the full breadth of America and much of the world.

A career that stretches from the early 1920s to the early '70s may seem daunting, but streaming services make exploration far easier.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Of Songs and Stories: What Bruce Springsteen Learned From Flannery O'Connor: Warren Zanes on the Literary Influences Underpinning Nebraska (Warren Zanes, May 10, 2023, LitHub)

Springsteen would eventually speak of the connection between Nebraska and O'Connor's writing, describing himself as being "deep into O'Connor" just before writing the Nebraska material. He'd discovered her work when Barbara Downey, his manager Jon Landau's wife, gave him a copy of O'Connor's collected stories. "My wife and I had a summer place in the '80s," says Landau, "and Bruce came out to visit. My wife had been reading Flannery O'Connor, and she thought Bruce might like it. So she gave him a copy of the short stories, which he still references to this day. With Bruce, you don't know what's going to stick, where it's going to come from, or what it's going to influence, often because his eyes are going to focus on something other eyes are not."

Writer Toby D'Anna describes Flannery O'Connor's short stories as shining "lights in moments of incredible darkness." O'Connor became known for coaxing something monumental from the stillness of American life. Remarking on her own living situation in Georgia, she said, "Lives spent between the house and the chicken yard do not make exciting copy." Nonetheless, that's where she went to work as a writer. A devout Catholic, she found in the stillness a violence and a stupidness, a "meanness," to borrow a word that resonated for Springsteen, that O'Connor's critics would have to reconcile, often clumsily, with her Catholic faith.

How could a believer such as O'Connor see the world as she portrayed it in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," "Good Country People," "The Life You Save May Be Your Own"? "To the hard of hearing you shout," O'Connor explained, "and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures." Grotesques, really. "The characters are not 'likeable,'" Joseph O'Neil writes in The Atlantic, "but my God they are alive." The very same thing could be said of characters one finds in Nebraska.

In a 1998 conversation with Will Percy, nephew of the novelist Walker Percy, Springsteen spoke further of Flannery O'Connor:

The really important reading that I did began in my late twenties, with authors like Flannery O'Connor. There was something in those stories of hers that I felt captured a certain part of the American character that I was interested in writing about. They were a big, big revelation. She got to the heart of some part of meanness that she never spelled out, because if she spelled it out you wouldn't be getting it. It was always at the core of every one of her stories--the way that she'd left that hole there, that hole that's inside of everybody. There was some dark thing--a component of spirituality--that I sensed in her stories, and that set me off exploring characters of my own.

O'Connor's stories didn't hinge on redemption. Among her most lasting images is that of the traveling salesman's Bible in the story "Good Country People," a book hollowed out and containing a bottle of booze, some condoms, and a deck of cards with naked women on them. Just when you think it's one thing, the Good Book, it becomes another. The grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" comes into her moment of grace, a word O'Connor liked, only as the killer on the loose, the Misfit, holds a gun in her face. In that instant, late in the story, she sees his humanity as it's bound up with her own... and then she's dead. "'She would of been a good woman,' The Misfit said, 'if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.'" In Flannery O'Connor's words, she was after those moments when she could reveal "the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil."

Until Nebraska, one got the sense that redemption was almost structural to the songs of Bruce Springsteen. "Thunder Road," "The River," "Racing in the Street." The redemption didn't always come easy, was sometimes only implied, but it came often, as some measure of hope, something to live for, an outline of possibility, sometimes delivered not just through words but through the music itself. But with Nebraska it's gone.

Flannery O'Connor trusted that her readers could see in her grotesques something more. Her fiction, and her Catholicism, hinged on that. Though Springsteen didn't work with what could be called grotesques, he did create characters caught in their own blocks of stone. Nebraska closes on "Reason to Believe," which might be summarized thus: there isn't one. "It's a common misinterpretation of 'Reason to Believe,' that it's a hopeful song," Springsteen told me. "It's hard to find a basis for that misinterpretation. I suppose the title does it. But it was one of the darkest songs on the record and it was the way I decided to finish that album. In that density." It might have been O'Connor who let Springsteen know that he could end right there and his listeners would, hopefully, know what to do with it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Northwest Ordinance: The Most Republican Law in History? (Bradley J. Birzer, July 13th, 2011, Imaginative Conservative)

What did the Northwest Ordinance decree in its six articles: 1) freedom of religious worship; 2) the rights of the English common law, the right to associate (marriage, schools, business, churches, education, etc.) with one another without political interference, and the absolute natural right to property; 3) respect for American Indians; 4) equality among the states, thus preventing a citizen of one of the original thirteen states claiming superiority over an American from a future state; and 5) the abolition of slavery. These laws applied to what is now Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and a small part of Minnesota.

They also created the spirit of what western expansion for the republic SHOULD BE.

Two years later, the French Revolutionaries in their insidious Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed that

the principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

Under the Northwest Articles, Americans argued just the opposite--real sovereignty resides in the individual human person in association.

To state the obvious, we're not the French.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Myth of Western Decline (CHRIS PATTEN, 5/29/23, Project Syndicate)

To be sure, the G20's economic performance has improved dramatically over the past few years, as billions of individuals in developing countries have increasingly participated in a global economy whose rulebook was primarily authored by the West. As Western democracies became more open to trade following the end of the Cold War, developing countries gained access to huge markets for their often lower-priced goods. For example, Chinese exports to the United States increased from $3.86 billion in 1985 to $537 billion in 2022.

Even so, given that the prosperity of affluent democracies has been a driving force behind developing countries' success, it would be misguided to interpret this trend as a sign of the West's decline. Similarly, while it has become increasingly common to predict the end of America's economic dominance, history suggests that the US will overcome its current problems, as it has consistently done in the past.

Admittedly, the US faces daunting political and economic challenges. The excessive influence of big money has compromised the integrity of its political system, contributing to the erosion of constitutional checks and balances. And deepening polarization, stoked by social media and out-of-control culture wars, has compounded the country's political dysfunction and contributed to the politicization of its judiciary.

While these are serious problems, they are manageable and solvable thanks to the openness of American society, which encourages free and vigorous debate. Moreover, the US maintains its status as the world's leading military power and a bastion of liberal democracy, as evidenced by its support for Ukraine. It boasts the world's most successful corporate sector, and its universities, celebrated for their exceptional research output, are a global talent magnet. And, contrary to its depiction by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his followers as the decadent leader of a declining West, the US exerts vast cultural influence and remains a preferred destination for migrants around the world.

Over the past few years, G7 countries have been vocal in criticizing China for its violations of international norms. At the same time, they have sought to address the country's often dishonest practices without containing its economic growth and have encouraged China to play a leading role in tackling global challenges. Some analysts have interpreted these actions as a form of support for US efforts to exert control over a rival power.

In his 2018 book Destined For War, political scientist Graham Allison observes that the US and China are headed toward what he called the "Thucydides' Trap," a reference to the ancient Greek historian's account of Sparta's efforts to suppress the rise of Athens, which ultimately culminated in the Peloponnesian War. A better analogy, however, is the message sent by the Athenians to the inhabitants of the besieged island of Melos before executing the men and enslaving the women and children: "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sneak a Peek Into the Powerful New AI Economy With ChatGPT (Luke Lango, 5/31/23, InvestorPlace)

AI will only profoundly change the world - and unlock $15 trillion of economic value over the next 10 years - if it is cheap enough to be deployed abundantly. 

That brings us to a discussion of the second factor which will drive forward the AI Revolution of the 2020s: costs. 

AI is built on top of computers, which benefit from both Moore's Law - the number of transistors on a semiconductor chip will double every two years - and Wright's Law - the cost of production decreases at a constant percentage for every cumulative doubling of production volume. Therefore, the computing costs for AI - which have been plunging for years - should continue to drop for the near future. 

Not to mention, as data becomes more abundant in the coming years, the cost of data itself will drop, too. And so will the costs to gather, analyze, and store it. 

Put it all together, and AI training costs should crash in the 2020s. 

The cost to train a large language model to GPT-3 level performance was $4.6 million in 2020. Last year, it dropped to $450,000 - below even aggressive forecasts from ARK Invest for a drop to $740,000. 

If this cost-decline curve persists, AI training costs could fall to $30 per model by 2030 - down 99.999% from 2020. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why this Jew is binge-watching The Chosen (and maybe you should too) (Faydra L. Shapiro, MAY 23, 2023, Times of Israel)

To my embarrassment, it wasn't until The Chosen approached me to help on a small "Jewish advisory board" for Season 4 that I realized I probably should have some idea of what I had agreed to.

So there I was - a religious Jewish mother of six trying to prepare the house for Passover and binge-watch three seasons of The Chosen at the same time. My kids were a bit appalled that I was so intent on watching so much Jesus TV. "It's work, kiddos. Sometimes work just has to get done."

And then I started watching.

To my complete surprise, the Chosen presents the most intensely Jewish Jesus and the Gospels we've ever had.

Now look, don't misunderstand me. As an educated Jew watching it, undoubtedly some of it is a bit kitschy. Some of it is anachronistic. Some of it is just plain wrong. But all that pales in the face of its value for building understanding between Jews and Christians. The series takes a fact that by now all Christians know, and makes it impossible to look away, fleshing out the Jewishness of Jesus and his earliest followers into something an inescapable, determinative and profoundly positive foundation for the Christian faith.

Creating this small Jewish advisory board tells us a lot. Until now, all the advisors for The Chosen have been Christian, aside from one Messianic Jewish leader. Which makes sense. But recognizing that the narrative was entering more complex terrain in terms of Jewish-Christian relations, the team realized some more traditional Jewish input should be solicited. And that in itself is remarkable.

"Christian Nationalism" is the latter, not the former.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Lincoln's God' Review: Abe's Ambitious Religious Creed (Barton Swaim, May 5, 2023, WSJ)

"Lincoln's God" is partly a religious biography, partly a history of 19th-century American evangelicalism. Mr. Zeitz, who writes on political topics for Politico and holds a doctorate in American history from Brown, chronicles Lincoln's early years in the home of his Calvinist father, his rejection of the faith in which he was raised, and various attempts to sidestep questions of religious commitment during his rise to political prominence. At the same time, Mr. Zeitz contends, evangelical Protestantism in the 1840s and '50s was transforming into the sort of outward, revivalist and robustly moralistic faith that made more sense to Lincoln than the severe and doctrinally scrupulous faith of his upbringing.

Northern evangelicalism and Abe Lincoln came together, Mr. Zeitz asserts, on the question of slavery. In late 1862, with the Union's survival appearing unlikely, the president embraced abolition as the only way out of the morass in which the nation found itself. Many evangelical clergymen, too, moved from simply opposing slavery to preaching the necessity of armed conflict and abolitionism. Northern Christians of all denominations remained divided on political allegiances and war policy, Mr. Zeitz points out, but the coming of war prompted evangelical leaders to take up abolitionism the way Protestant liberals would take up civil rights a century later. The destruction of slavery became the overriding goal of evangelical religion; indeed some clergymen, writes Mr. Zeitz, "entirely blurred the line between their clerical and political commitments."

Since his early 20s--that is, after he left home in 1831 and was no longer under his father's care--Lincoln had committed to memory many passages of the King James Bible. Not until the trial of his presidency, though, did he begin to treat scriptural language as a source of hope and moral guidance in the way a believer would. The Civil War was going badly, Lincoln's critics were growing more numerous and more vicious, and in February 1862 his son Willie drank contaminated water and died an excruciating death.

Now, Mr. Zeitz argues, Lincoln began to embrace a quiet but genuine form of Christian belief. Of course, this isn't strictly knowable, inasmuch as the president, a reticent man at all times, never made any explicit attestation of faith. His widow, Mary, recalled to Herndon that "he read the Bible a good deal in 1864. He felt religious more than ever about the time he went to Gettysburg"--that is, in November 1863. The president more often accompanied his wife to church in last three years of his life.

The content of Lincoln's late public addresses, Mr. Zeitz observes furthermore, is so richly biblical that the supposition of a newfound acknowledgment of God is impossible to ignore. "Neither before nor since," Mr. Zeitz writes of the Second Inaugural Address, "has a United States president so openly infused a public speech with religious sentiment and phrasing."

June 2, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


I have gorgeous hair: a review of  The Complete Works: Handbook, Discourses and Fragments by Epictetus, translated by Robin Waterfield (Emily Wilson, LRB)

A short, accessible pamphlet, the Handbook (Encheiridion in Greek) has been the more popular and widely read of the two texts and can readily serve as a very short introduction to Stoicism. But you need to read the more expansive Discourses to understand the charm of Epictetus' version of the philosophy, which depends not on the regurgitation of Stoic doctrine but on the vigorous, humane and often funny interaction of the teacher with his students, and his insights into the concerns that impede their philosophical progress. Marcus Aurelius' Meditations were written by a misanthropic, warmongering emperor for his own edification, but Epictetus' kindness to his needy, self-pitying students is legible on the page. The Discourses are not easy to read straight through because there is no real structure or development, but they're wonderful to dip into.

Stoicism was a well-established philosophical system by Epictetus' time. Founded in the third century bce in Athens by Zeno of Citium, and developed by Chrysippus, Stoicism included logic and physics as well as 'ethics' - a set of teachings about the disposition and behaviour needed to attain well-being. The modern term 'ethics' may be a little misleading as a descriptor of the ancient field: Stoic ethics was concerned not with establishing a rational basis for moral judgments, but with the way an individual - usually imagined as a male, relatively privileged individual - could attain the best possible life, through making himself immune to the vicissitudes of fortune. The goal was 'well-being' - eudaimonia - a term that is sometimes misleadingly translated as 'happiness': for a Stoic, as for an Epicurean or a Cynic, well-being is not about feeling cheerful, but about control. The philosopher seeks ataraxia: a state of being untroubled, which could be attained by ridding yourself of false beliefs and aligning yourself with what truly matters.

According to the Epicureans, the true good is pleasure, of a moderate, balanced kind. For the Stoics, by contrast, the true good is individual human excellence or virtue - aretē in Greek, or virtus in Latin. Such excellence, for the Stoics, could be attained only by aligning your own will with the universe, nature or God (the Stoics often spoke of a singular deity). The central theme in the teaching of Epictetus is that we can and must choose to stop paying attention to things we have no control over. 'Some things are up to us and some are not,' the Handbook begins - foreshadowing the teachings of modern recovery programmes and the Serenity Prayer, with its distinction between the things we can change and the things we cannot.

For Epictetus, nothing is up to us except our own purpose, attitude or 'will', as Robin Waterfield translates it (the Greek is prohairesis): 'wealth, health, status - these things aren't up to us.' Rhetorically, it's no coincidence that these lists of unimportant things - there are many of them in the teachings of Epictetus - tend to focus on individual privileges that most people would agree are overvalued. An ancient Roman student or reader wouldn't be surprised to learn that it is undignified to be too concerned with money or prestige, or that the bravest, most noble man will show courage in the face of physical danger. Epictetus presents a version of Stoicism that often aligns with traditional Roman social norms, even if his expression of those ideals is often wonderfully vigorous. 'I'll cut off your head,' a tyrant threatens. 'Well,' the insouciant Stoic replies, 'have you ever heard me suggest that I'm unique in having a non-detachable head?' (Waterfield's clear, readable translation brings out Epictetus' humour and conversational tone as well as his philosophical vision. A preening man at one point comforts himself with the thought: 'I have gorgeous hair.')

In terms of behaviour, too, Epictetus' version of Stoicism posed no threat to existing social norms. Diogenes the Cynic had shown his contempt for convention by living in a barrel, wearing rags and defecating in public, but Epictetus recommends that his students adapt themselves with dignity to perform whatever social role they happen to find themselves inhabiting. This is not a philosophy to inspire a slave revolt, or a revolution. All anger - including righteous rage at collective injustice - is to be eradicated for the individual's peace of mind. The followers of Epictetus are supposed to do what is 'appropriate' (kathēkon), and he doesn't worry about what that is. Convention and tradition are good enough guides. According to Epictetus, the Epicurean ideal of a quiet life focused on friendship and moderate pleasure is 'subversive of the state, destructive of households and unsuitable even for women', but Stoicism will allow an elite Roman man eager to advance in his political career to perform his normal 'duties'.

The fundamental conservatism of Epictetus' teaching can be seen in many of his favourite metaphors: life is an inn at which we make only a brief stop; our station in life is a role in a play. Presumably, most of his students were privileged men; as Waterfield observes, the anonymous addressee is always imagined as masculine. The assumed student is usually a wealthy, privileged enslaver, whose problems include such trivialities as 'the slave' bringing water that isn't hot enough. Epictetus advises the student who has been 'assigned a somewhat higher station' in life to be 'just' and 'decent' in his response (qualities that are viewed as quite compatible with enslaving others). At the same time, however, he pushes back against the idea, present in ancient philosophical thought since at least the time of Aristotle, that some human beings are naturally slavish. The enslaved are the enslaver's kinsmen, Epictetus says, and they, too, are the offspring of Zeus; their subjugation is not justified by their supposed inferiority. The only real 'slaves' are those who have failed to follow Stoic teaching - including the philosopher's ostensibly free students. He hammers this point home by addressing the reader who is subject to the whims of passion as 'Slave!'

Posted by orrinj at 12:47 AM


The Observer Effect: Seeing Is Changing (Farnham Street)

The observer effect pops up in many scientific fields.

In physics, Erwin Schrödinger's famous cat highlights the power of observation. In his best-known thought experiment, Schrödinger asked us to imagine a cat placed in a box with a radioactive atom that might or might not kill it in an hour. Until the box opens, the cat exists in a state of superposition (when half of two states each occur at the same time)--that is, the cat is both alive and dead. Only by observing it does the cat shift permanently to one of the two states. The observation removes the cat from a state of superposition and commits it to just one.

(Although Schrodinger meant this as a counter-argument to Einstein's proposition of superposition of quantum states - he wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of the proposition - it has caught on in popular culture as a thought experiment of the observer effect.)

In biology, when researchers want to observe animals in their natural habitat, it is paramount that they find a way to do so without disturbing those animals. Otherwise, the behavior they see is unlikely to be natural, because most animals (including humans) change their behavior when they are being observed. For instance, Dr. Cristian Damsa and his colleagues concluded in their paper "Heisenberg in the ER" that being observed makes psychiatric patients a third less likely to require sedation. Doctors and nurses wash their hands more when they know their hygiene is being tracked. And other studies have shown that zoo animals only exhibit certain behaviors in the presence of visitors, such as being hypervigilant of their presence and repeatedly looking at them.

In general, we change our behavior when we expect to be seen. Philosopher Jeremy Bentham knew this when he designed the panopticon prison in the eighteenth century, building upon an idea by his brother Samuel. The prison was constructed so that its cells circled a central watchtower so inmates could never tell if they were being watched or not. Bentham expected this would lead to better behavior, without the need for many staff. It never caught on as an actual design for prisons, but the modern prevalence of CCTV is often compared to the Panopticon. We never know when we're being watched, so we act as if it's all the time.

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 AM



In the years leading up to the American Revolution, republicanism was most often defined in its classical sense through the works of Aristotle, Polybius, Cicero, Livy, Sallust and Tacitus, and later espoused by such political theorists as Machiavelli, Harrington, Sidney, Bolingbroke, Montesquieu and Rousseau. This version highlighted the ideal of a virtuous citizenry acting on behalf of the res publica and voluntarily setting aside self-interest. In his Politica, Aristotle asserts that humans realize their full potential as zoon politicon only when they actively participate in the affairs of the polis (vita activa) by doing what is necessary for the good of the state. Such virtue directed on behalf of the state was in no way related to Christian virtue, for it was overtly social in nature--a manifestation of homo politicus. Today we would label it patriotism.

Civic virtue was also central to Machiavelli's political thought. It was he who, in both his Il Principe and Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, revived the Aristotelian and Polybian ideal of the active citizen who did whatever was necessary for the good of the state. Most importantly, he focused on the image of the citizen warrior, ready to give his life in service to the state. This Machiavellian concept of a militia made up of citizens fully invested in the defense of the state was to become a cherished element in the Anglophone republican tradition as it was set in stark contrast to a standing army, which was seen by 18th century Whigs in both Britain and America as the tool of tyranny and an impediment to liberty.

In 17th century England, this Aristotelian-Polybian-Machiavellian concept of civic involvement was most notably taken up by James Harrington, whose The Commonwealth of Oceana had a profound impact on the political theory of John Adams. In equating virtue with ownership of real property (i. e. land), Harrington asserted that only a republic in which a majority of the people were freeholders could be stable, for possession of real property gave the citizen the incentive to follow the Aristotelian vita activa--it motivated them toward working for the betterment of the state. And in his influential Esprit des Lois, Montesquieu asserts that only such civic virtue can be relied on to serve as the underlying principle of a republic. John and Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Richard Henry Lee were among the many 18th century colonial leaders whose public and private writings highlighted this particular view of republicanism. Indeed, pre-Revolution literature trumpeted the fact that the Americans were the true defenders of a virtue-based, disinterested republicanism against the increasingly corrupt forces of the British Ministry and Parliament. Without virtue, Adams proclaimed, liberty could not be maintained.

Republicanism in this classical sense was rooted in the assumption that the people of any given state were a homogeneous body sharing the same experiences and holding the same values. Thus, what was beneficial for the general populace should be deemed beneficial for the individual. "The sacrifice of individual interests to the greater good of the whole," writes Gordon Wood, "formed the essence of republicanism and comprehended for Americans the idealistic goal of the Revolution."

Posted by orrinj at 12:24 AM


BURKE AND ADAMS: TRADITION VS. CONSTITUTIONALISM (Gregory Spindler, 12/16/22, Starting Points)

For Burke, tradition, custom, and emotional attachment were as important as, if not more important than, reason when determining government policy.  The fact that the colonial legislatures had had autonomy in determining internal matters such as taxation for 150 years needed to be respected by Parliament.  To suddenly legislate for the colonies was courting disaster, for it ignored the traditions and customs to which the Americans had become accustomed.  Such action would surely arouse the anger and strong opposition of a people jealous of their liberties.  Burke's argument had nothing to do with the constitutionality of Parliament's action.  In fact, in his "On Taxation" speech on the floor of the Commons on April 19, 1774, Burke made it clear that Parliament had sovereignty over the colonies in all matters whatsoever.  However, by asserting that right, Parliament was undermining its relationship with the Americans.  The only way to retain the colonies was to affirm the colonists' right to make their own decisions based on more than a century of tradition.  All policy must be founded on prescription, which meant for Burke the respecting of a people's past and the strong attachments that individuals had to traditional institutions.

Unlike Burke, John Adams never developed an explicit philosophical defense of tradition. Like many American Whigs, he was concerned with the fundamental rights granted to British America by the English constitution.  Following in the footsteps of James Otis, Jr., whose 1761 speech against writs of assistance before the Massachusetts Superior Court was considered by him the real beginning of the American independence movement, Adams argued that Parliament's assertion of its right to tax the colonies was an infringement upon the Americans' liberties and thus an unconstitutional and illegitimate act.  In his Novanglus Essays, Adams drew upon legal arguments to demonstrate that Parliament had no right to impose taxes on people who were without representation.  As early as the Stamp Act crisis, and throughout the conflict with Britain, Adams maintained that the colonists' basic rights as Englishmen were being denied them and that, for this reason, separation was the only logical outcome.  For Adams, precedent and tradition were not the underlying factors in wanting independence.  It was a constitutional matter that led the Braintree attorney to take a leading role in the opposition movement.

Burke and Adams on the American Constitution

As the independence movement became stronger in the early months of 1776 following the publication of Paine's Common Sense, a sense of urgency regarding the creation of independent republican state governments swept over Congress.  No one was more involved in the matter than Adams.  In fact, he took the lead in putting together a fundamental outline of what such government should look like.  As early as November 15, 1775, in a letter to Virginia congressman Richard Henry Lee, Adams outlined the basic components of a republican government.  This outline was amplified in the spring of 1776 in his Thoughts on Government, which was to play a significant role in the drafting of constitutions in Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, and, of course, Massachusetts, whose 1780 Constitution was drafted almost entirely by Adams.  What should be noted is how closely Adams followed the British model, which, in his Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, he deemed to be the greatest example of mixed government--joining together the One, the Few, and the Many--that the world had yet seen.  By separating the elite and the representatives of the people in different chambers while giving the executive an absolute veto, Adams replicated the British constitution.  The delegates to the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 certainly had before them the various state constitutions, especially that of Massachusetts, as well as the first volume of Defence, which was available for purchase in the United States in April 1787.  The final draft of the Constitution, with its emphasis on separation of powers, independent judiciary, and strong executive, reflects the influence that Adams, and the British constitution, had on the delegates.

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 AM



The ballad is poetic style dating back hundreds of years, and it's easy to understand the form's appeal. The four-line, rhymed stanzas are memorable (important for an originally oral tradition), and the stories are dramatic. Crime remains a popular subject. If you were strolling the streets of London in the seventeenth century, you might be handed a broadside about the Twa sisters, learning how the older sister drowned the younger in an act of jealousy. When the dead girl washes ashore, somebody makes an instrument out of her bones--or her garments, depending on the version--and that instrument sings about the killing. It doesn't get much more macabre than that. 

If you tune your radio to a country station today, you might learn about a man driving to his ex-girlfriend's wedding with "an old friend at his side," aka his Colt .45. "L.A. County" is not Lyle Lovett's biggest hit off his 1987 album Pontiac, but it's the only one with a gruesome double murder told to a tune so jaunty that you'll find yourself drumming on the steering wheel and humming along. 

A more famous murder ballad example might be "Goodbye Earl" by The Chicks in which best friends conspire to kill an abusive husband. Poisoned black-eyed peas do the trick, and the cops never suspect a thing. Or, as Dennis Linde wrote for the performers, "turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all." The video emphasizes the narrative strengths of this song by casting the story with Jane Krakowski and Dennis Franz. But if you're imagining a dark tearjerker, let me assure you that there's more humor than horror, complete with a dancing zombie version of Earl. 

An example with a similar plot but a less jubilant tone is Hardy's "Wait in the Truck." In this story, a stranger stumbles across a woman who's been beaten up. He tells her to wait in his truck then he knocks down her door and shoots her abuser. The song ends with the "hero" serving 60 years in prison without any regrets. The woman gets her own lines (sung by Lainey Wilson), and she expresses her gratitude as well as her surprise: "I never thought my day of justice / would come from a judge under a seat." Like Lovett's gun being his friend, this one is both judge and jury.

What is it about murder ballads that appeal to country music songwriters, performers, and fans? Is there a fantasy element involved perhaps? Often the victims in these songs are despicable, so it's satisfying to hear about them getting their comeuppance. Revenge for domestic abuse is a common theme. Martina McBride's "Independence Day" recounts a woman burning down her own home to escape her abusive husband. The music sounds so celebratory that it's been used by at least one high-profile politician as an anthem at campaign events despite of--or perhaps in ignorance of--its meaning. But plenty of other songs feature crimes of passion, including Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart" in which a woman burns down her ex's house, not because of abuse but because of rejection. Then there's Charley Pride's 1968 "Banks of the Ohio" in which a man kills his girlfriend for breaking up with him. 

Willie Nelson has an entire concept album about a killer, Red Headed Stranger. Perhaps because the story spans multiple songs, it is more nuanced than the one-off hits. The protagonist kills his wife and her lover then flees from the police, eventually coming to regret his actions. While the story itself is outlandish--at one point the stranger kills another woman for trying to grab his horse--there's memorable reflection, particularly in "Hands on the Wheel." Songwriter William Callery categorizes people as "deceivers and believers and old in-betweeners," a nod to the gray areas of morality.

My favorite example of the country music murder ballad is "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," which also boasts a more complex conclusion, good guys (and gals) blurring with the bad ones. It was written by Bobby Russell and recorded by his wife Vicki Lawrence, but I am more familiar with Reba McEntire's 1991 cover. A man discovers that his wife's been cheating on him, but when he goes to confront the couple, he finds them dead. The cops arrest him for the murder, and he's executed for a crime he didn't commit. This song comes complete with a blockbuster-worthy twist: the killer is the hanged man's sister. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 AM


Lincoln and the Question of Self-Government (Allen C. Guelzo, 5/10/23, Public Discourse)

There are East-Coast Straussians and there are West-Coast Straussians. Reduced to a single mouthful, East-Coasters can be said to believe that liberal modernity is a bad thing for politics and ethics. Since the American political experiment was born out of the Enlightenment, it unavoidably shares in modernity's defects--among which are a dismissal of religious and ethical restraints and a depressing weakness for the tyranny of the majority. West-Coasters agree that liberal modernity, as so defined, has had some lamentable consequences; but they understand the American experiment as an effort to recur to the first principles of classical politics (and particularly to Aristotle), and that recurrence renders American political history as the tale of a struggle between a righteous classicism and a lethal relativism. (Of the two, we may take Allan Bloom as emblematic of the East-Coasters, and Harry Jaffa of the West-Coasters). Between these upper and nether millstones, there is also a Midwestern Straussianism, which agrees that modernity is toxic (in the worst Hobbesian or Nietzschean sense of the word) and that the American experiment is indeed a modern one, but an experiment whose instincts struggle to tame the worst features of political modernity. And Michael P. Zuckert, the author of A Nation So Conceived: Abraham Lincoln and the Paradox of Democratic Sovereignty, is one of its prophets.

It is worth noting at the outset that this is a book about Abraham Lincoln, and that it reflects a basic Straussian methodology in its exquisite and detailed attention to texts--in this case, the texts of Lincoln's most famous speeches. It's worth noting, too, that simply by fixing on Lincoln, Zuckert has made an important theoretical gesture. Lincoln has been a figure of reverence for West-Coasters ever since Harry Jaffa first encountered the Lincoln-Douglas debates and experienced a philosophical eureka, which convinced him that the contest of Long Abe and the Little Giant was really a reprise of Socrates and Thrasymachus. Even in his last great work on Lincoln, A New Birth of Freedom in 2000, Jaffa asked whether "Socratic rationalism ever appeared more powerfully in public utterance since the founder of political philosophy walked the streets of Athens." Contrast this with East-Coaster Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind, where only the most casual references to Lincoln occur, and even then to decide that modernity's "gradual movement from rights to openness" renders him an artifact of the past.

This does not seem to leave much room between the two millstones except for grinding. But in the case of Michael Zuckert, whatever grinding occurs is tastefully fine. Zuckert never disputes the modernity of the American experiment in democratic republicanism. His interest in Lincoln is a nod toward Jaffa and the West-Coasters; but what he finds in Lincoln is an example of a political philosopher who has found a way to constrain raw majoritarianism, not by the use of classical politics (neither Aristotle nor Socrates makes a bow in A Nation So Conceived) but by showing what tragedies are likely to occur by yielding to the irrational impulses of popular sovereignty.

Lincoln is, for Zuckert, the prime example of an idealist whose "one abiding question" is, how to sustain the American experiment in the face of democracy's temptation to surrender everything to the Moloch of a Most-Votes Majority. Lincoln saw the fundamental problem in democracy as one single, monstrous question: "Can the principle that liberates all and produces self-government remain disciplined and restrained enough in practice to retain self-government?" Ironically, voices on both the political right and left loudly answer NO, the second adding and it's a good thing, because all restraint is oppression, and the first adding and that shows how liberal democracy makes for monsters. Lincoln never doubted that democracy was the best of all forms of government, but he was also aware that American slavery was a blatant contradiction of it, and that slavery's survival depended on demagogues like Douglas pandering to the basest popular instincts. "There is something tragic" in Lincoln, Zuckert argues, because "the very success of popular government contributes to the confidence of the people in their own sovereignty" and allows them unwittingly to don a reckless or selfish sheet of flame that will destroy them. Whether this is literally tragic or simply ironic is the struggle now being played out in our history wars.

The problems with the Left/Right are obvious enough from this.  In the first place, there is the mistaken belief that the Founding was Modern and a product of the Enlightenment.  This error is most often associated with the canard that John Locke was a major influence on the Founders, when the truth is not only that they were largely unfamiliar with his political theories but rejected them to the extent they were familiar because he was too Rationalist. The second is that the ancient Roman republican liberty that the Founders sought to vindicate contains its own control on popular sovereignty/majoritarianism by requiring that all laws apply to the majority as well as the minority.  The virtues of the Republic reside in its anti-Modernity.  That's why the threats to it are all Modern. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Mycelium bricks are made out of mushrooms, specifically microscopic fungi fibers that can be found in agricultural waste, like straw or chaff.

Mycelium is the rootlike material at the base of a mushroom. It can grow to fill different spaces or shapes when it is combined with organic material. It is also extremely strong and water-resistant -- one study even suggested that mycelium bricks are bulletproof.

The building and construction sector was responsible for around 37% of the world's energy and process-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2021, which had increased since before the pandemic. This means that the industry is far from on track to meet its goals to decarbonize by 2050 and must dramatically reduce its polluting practices. 

One area where there is room for improvement is in its production of building materials. The cement industry alone accounts for at least 8% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Because microcars are smaller than standard cars and max out at 25 mph, they're very energy-efficient, according to Electrek. This makes them cheap to drive and also good for the environment since they produce the minimum amount of air pollution. Electric microcars like GEM models are the least polluting of all since they produce no tailpipe exhaust.

Now, GEM vehicles will be even cheaper to run. A rooftop solar panel captures free energy from sunlight to charge the car's internal battery, Electrek reports. WAEV expects this feature to produce enough energy for 4.3 to 12.4 extra miles of range each day, depending on the model.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Machiavelli Preferred Democracy to Tyranny (Matthew Kroenig, May. 27th, 2023, Foreign Policy)

Discourses is so named because it is Machiavelli's commentary on Titus Livius's monumental History of Rome. Machiavelli uses the Discourses and Rome's ancient history to derive enduring lessons for the practice of politics. The book is consistent with the Renaissance method in that it looks to the ancient world to recover lost wisdom and inspire new truths.

Machiavelli's motivation for writing the book is clear. He wanted to understand how Rome rose from a small city-state on the Tiber River to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin. The Italian city-states of his time were weak and preyed upon by larger powers. There was a time, however, when an Italian state was great. What was the secret to its success?

Machiavelli's answer is straightforward. Rome achieved glory due to its republican form of government. His review of history leads him to conclude that democracies are better able than autocracies to harness the energy of a broad cross-section of society toward national greatness. He explains (in a 2007 edition of his writings translated by Peter Constantine): "We have seen from experience that states have grown in land and wealth only if they are free: the greatness that Athens achieved within a century of liberating itself from the tyranny of Pisistratus is astonishing and even more astonishing the greatness that Rome achieved after it freed itself from its kings."

For Machiavelli, it comes down to the "pursuit of the public interest, not private interest. ... The opposite occurs when there is a prince because more often than not what he does in his own interest will harm the city and what he does for the city will harm his interests."

Machiavelli was not making an argument about the morality or wisdom of democratic or autocratic leaders--he knew better than anyone that humans are not angels--but of institutional constraints. Democratic leaders often want to exploit their position, but they will be constrained by laws, institutions, and other branches of government. Dictators may want to be magnanimous, but since there is little standing in their way, they will always be tempted to maximize their own well-being at the expense of the nation.

Despite Machiavelli's claims, and democracies' stellar performances over the ages, some still argue that China's model is superior. They argue that the Chinese Communist Party has an advantage because it can pursue steady, long-term strategies, whereas the United States cannot look past the next election and zigzags with each new administration.

Machiavelli would disagree, again pointing to institutional differences. He argues that the checks and balances in a democracy keep a country on a stable course, whereas unconstrained dictators take countries in an extreme direction and, when they change their minds, back again. He writes, "I therefore disagree with the common opinion that a populace in power is unstable and changeable." On the contrary, he argued, "The prince ... unchecked by laws will be more unstable and imprudent than a populace."

History had Ended no later than 1776. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The painful, cutting and brilliant letters Black people wrote to their former enslavers (Gillian Brockell, March 13, 2022, The Washington Post)

Some are exquisite condemnations from learned and accomplished men who escaped their enslavement. Some are brief queries, shots in the dark, dictated by illiterate women. One is brilliant sarcasm, humorously calculating and requesting back wages.

All of these letters from Black Americans to the people who once controlled their lives show a desire for freedom and a desperate longing to be reunited with their families.

Three of these five letters were written by formerly enslaved people directly to their onetime enslavers. One was addressed to President Abraham Lincoln, who had the power to emancipate its author and had so far withheld it. One was written by a still-enslaved woman desperately searching for her daughter.

Spelling has been standardized and paragraph breaks added for readability. [...]

Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

To my old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee


I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.

Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what "the good chance" is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane, and Grundy, go to school and are learning well. The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master.

Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future.

I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio.

If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die, if it come to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters.

You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

From your old servant, Jourdon Anderson

P.S.-- Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

Anderson's former enslaver was forced to sell his plantation and died a few years later at 44. Anderson lived a long life, had 11 children with his wife and became a sexton in his church.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Two Thousand Years of Christian StrangenessA podcasting scholar sums up the history of pain in two artworks and the lives of three illustrious women. (Tom Holland, FEBRUARY 28, 2023, PloughCast)

In this interview, Plough's Peter Mommsen speaks with Tom Holland, the historian, cricket fan, and podcaster, about how Christianity changed humanity's view of suffering.

Why would a humiliated hero have seemed foreign to the creators of the Laocoön?

For the Greeks and Romans, the ability to withstand excruciating pain was the measure of a man. The classic example is Mucius Scaevola, who according to the historian Livy infiltrates the enemy camp, is captured, is told to reveal what he knows, and as a mark of his contempt for that demand, thrusts his hand into the fire until it's consumed without once letting out a hint of pain. This is the kind of story the Romans adored. The pain endured by a hero becomes the measure of a hero.

Conversely, the pain suffered by, say, a slave who is nailed to a cross is contemptible. There is elevated pain and there is servile pain. The servile pain is to be mocked and despised.

So by definition, the victim of a crucifixion can't be heroic?

The whole point of crucifixion is to humiliate and degrade. It is the punishment seen as paradigmatically suited to a rebellious slave. Not only is it excruciatingly painful and protracted - you could survive on the cross for days - but it's also public. You are hung up there like a piece of meat, and your sufferings are objects of public ridicule. There's nothing you can do to brush away the birds who might peck out your eyes or attack your genitals. You can't stop people from watching your gasps and heaving breath as you struggle to lift yourself up to gulp for air. It's this that makes you serve as a billboard of Roman power.

This is the penalty that is visited on rebels against Roman rule out in the provinces, and so it becomes the fate suffered by Jesus. The titulus, the board affixed above his head by Pilate's orders, says that he is the king of the Jews. And there can be no king of the Jews in a Roman province.

No evangelist would make up such a story. 

June 1, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 AM


God might be an underachiever (Jeffrey Salkin, 5/04/23, RNS)

If we look at the harsh realities of the world, and if we must choose between a God Who is loving, and a God Who is all-powerful, we will take the God Who is loving, and choose a God Who is less than all-powerful.

It is the most often-repeated "move" in modern pastoral theology.

There are echoes of this idea in Jewish mysticism. In order for the world to come into being, God needed to contract (tzimtzum) into the divine self. That divine contraction left a space in existence that was "godless." This was either a bad thing, because it let a place devoid of the divine presence. Or, it was a good thing, because it left room for human initiative.

Or. put it this way: God might be the most powerful entity in the universe, but even God is not all-powerful. There are "holes" in God's power.

The Genesis story, literally, begins by detailing how limited God is, The Fall. He is who He is, not who some adherents need Him to be. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 AM


The West Is Not Necessarily 'Democratic'--In Fact, It Never Was (Tomislav Kardum,  May 3, 2023, European Conservative)

 Authoritarian Spain and Portugal under Francisco Franco and Antonio Salazar, whom some political scientists consider fascists (and in any case they were right-wing dictators), were neutral in World War II, with the exception that Spain sent volunteers to Operation Barbarossa (the so-called Blue Division).

These two countries are a good introduction to the Cold War part of my thesis. Among the founders of NATO, supposedly the guardian of the free liberal world, was precisely Salazar's Portugal, despite the North Atlantic Treaty's statement that signatories "are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law."

Franco, on the other hand, especially during the administration of Dwight Eisenhower, developed a strong relationship on an anti-communist basis with the U.S., but without joining NATO. Tom Gallagher, in his recently published biography of Salazar, writes:

Through the 1950s Spain also quickly emerged from the diplomatic isolation it had endured in the late 1940s. In 1949 Churchill had swum against the West European tide by stating in the House of Commons that excluding Spain from NATO left "a serious gap in the strategic arrangements for Western Europe." Unlike Salazar, Franco, having begun by sharing the same deeply sceptical views of the United States, decided to focus on building up strong bilateral ties with Washington. Senior American generals such as General Omar Bradley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed the view in 1948 that the Iberian peninsula could well be 'the last foothold in continental Europe' that might be held if the Soviet Union mounted an invasion. A geostrategic partnership gathered pace in the 1950s, leading to Franco ceding the Americans the right to establish three airbases and a submarine base on Spanish soil (a concession unacceptable to Salazar in terms of his own relations with the U.S.).

Are Spain and Portugal under Franco and Salazar part of the West, or do they become so only after the establishment of democracy in the 1970s? 

They were Western then precisely because Salazar and Franco--like Pinochet in Chile--saved them from falling to Communism allowing them to easily evolve back to liberal democracy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 AM


Chesterton's Fence: A Lesson in Second Order Thinking (Farnham Street)

Second-order thinking is the practice of not just considering the consequences of our decisions but also the consequences of those consequences. Everyone can manage first-order thinking, which is just considering the immediate anticipated result of an action. It's simple and quick, usually requiring little effort. By comparison, second-order thinking is more complex and time-consuming. The fact that it is difficult and unusual is what makes the ability to do it such a powerful advantage.

Second-order thinking will get you extraordinary results, and so will learning to recognize when other people are using second-order thinking. To understand exactly why this is the case, let's consider Chesterton's Fence, described by G. K. Chesterton himself as follows:

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."

Chesterton's Fence is a heuristic inspired by a quote from the writer and polymath G. K. Chesterton's 1929 book, The Thing. It's best known as being one of John F. Kennedy's favored sayings, as well as a principle Wikipedia encourages its editors to follow. In the book, Chesterton describes the classic case of the reformer who notices something, such as a fence, and fails to see the reason for its existence. However, before they decide to remove it, they must figure out why it exists in the first place. If they do not do this, they are likely to do more harm than good with its removal. In its most concise version, Chesterton's Fence states the following:

Do not remove a fence until you know why it was put up in the first place.

Chesterton went on to explain why this principle holds true, writing that fences don't grow out of the ground, nor do people build them in their sleep or during a fit of madness. He explained that fences are built by people who carefully planned them out and "had some reason for thinking [the fence] would be a good thing for somebody." Until we establish that reason, we have no business taking an ax to it. The reason might not be a good or relevant one; we just need to be aware of what the reason is. Otherwise, we may end up with unintended consequences: second- and third-order effects we don't want, spreading like ripples on a pond and causing damage for years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:29 AM


The History of the Baseball Cap  (Michael Clair, May 9, 2023, MLB.com)

But while the Peck and Snyder No. 1 may have kicked off the baseball cap revolution, it looks more like a beret or a deflated soufflé sitting atop someone's head compared to today's lids. Those same Brooklyn Excelsiors then brought us much closer to today's baseball cap, with what is now known as the "Brooklyn-style cap." The brim went longer and it had a deeper, button-topped crown.

"In the 1850s, especially by the late 1850s when you have a decent number of images, you're definitely seeing people wearing what you and I would think of as a baseball cap, which is a crown with a bill that comes out just one direction instead of all the way around," Shieber said. "This is not a particularly groundbreaking object. Really, something like that had been worn in horse racing by jockeys for many years. We call it a baseball cap because we're Americans and it's just been associated with baseball for a long time. But it's not like it was invented for baseball. The cap had been around a long time."

While there were other styles -- including the famed pillbox, which practically screams the 1800s -- it was this "Brooklyn" style that took off. By the end of the century, one cap had clearly won out, even though there were plenty of others around.

Perhaps shockingly, while we think of the pillbox as the standard historical baseball cap -- just go to any vintage baseball game in your area and you'll see that's certainly the case -- it actually had a very short period on baseball players' heads.

"It wasn't until the late 1880s, really, where the pillbox becomes popular," Shieber said. "I mean, we're dabbling in it before that, but its height of popularity was in the late 1880s. But it doesn't really last that long, surprisingly. From a modern standpoint, you say 'old timey baseball' and everyone thinks of a certain kind of mustache or a beard."

(Oddly enough, the Philadelphia Athletics wore pillbox caps during their height of success in the early 1900s. This helped re-popularize the cap, but could also be considered a type of uniform throwback. Oddly enough, teams were wearing nostalgic baseball uniforms in the 1880s and '90s, already harkening back to an earlier time.)

While these early models had the look and feel of a modern ballcap, they were still lacking that all-important logo on the front. That would come in 1894 when the Boston Baseball Club -- now the Atlanta Braves -- became the first team to wear letterforms when they donned a monogram-style look on their caps. Three more teams would join in on the fun the next year.

It would take another seven years before a mascot first appeared on a Major League hat, when the Detroit Tigers proudly displayed a red tiger on a dark ballcap in 1901. The tiger -- which looks a little like a child's drawing of the animal -- would be replaced by the letter "D" in 1903, with the now-iconic Olde English-style letterform showing up a year later.

While the Tigers are often credited as the first to pull off the mascot lid, that's maybe not entirely accurate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"We Are Your Only Hope": When pilot Nathaniel Johansson '18 had to ditch in the Pacific, no problem. The real nightmare came during a frantic rescue operation to pluck him from the ocean. (JENNIFER WULFF '96 | MAY-JUNE 2023, Dartmouth Alumni Magazine)

Engine failure in a small turboprop plane flying 28,000 feet above the Pacific isn't as scary as it sounds. 

At least that's what pilot Nathaniel Johansson will tell you about the day in November 2020, that could easily have been his last. As the owner of an aviation ferrying business, Johansson had flown dozens of planes overseas for wealthy clients. For this job, he was hired to deliver a Pilatus PC-12 NGX to Australia. "Repositioning" an aircraft is not easy. To solve for small gas tanks, pilots have to take circuitous multi-stop routes or carry a lot of extra fuel. "These little planes are hard to move far, so a lot of planning is needed," says Johansson, 27. "It obviously comes with some risks, too."

To make it across the massive hurdle of ocean between California and Hawaii, the Pilatus needed about double the gas it was built to carry. The solution? Pull out the plane's eight plush, leather passenger seats and ship them via FedEx and use the space for two aluminum, 150-gallon auxiliary tanks.

Johansson typically flies solo, but for this job, he invited his former flight instructor, Kelly Michaels. At 61 she had decades of experience, and she's Pilatus-certified and an aircraft mechanic. "I have so much respect for Kelly. She is one of the most impressive and passionate aviators I know and one of my most influential mentors," says Johansson. "This industry can be an annoyingly jockish culture, so she overcame a lot of obstacles to get where she is." 

The pilots took off from Santa Maria, California, at 10 a.m. For five hours the fuel system worked just as smoothly as it had in their multiple test flights. "It was a beautiful sunny day, we were on time, we had a nice tailwind, and everything was perfect," says Johansson. But after the next fuel transfer, the engine cut out. "There was no power, the plane began to depressurize, and it got dead silent," he says.

Johansson made a mayday call on his short-range radio and reached an Alaska Airlines pilot. He asked her to let air traffic control know that he was dropping to 20,000 feet, where the air is thick enough for reignition. No luck. At 16,000 feet, he tried again. This time the engine responded, but not kindly. "There was this grinding noise and then a tremendous bang that threw us out of our seats," says Johansson. "I looked at Kelly and said, 'Looks like we're landing in the ocean today.' "

While Michaels located the life jackets, raft, and satellite phone, Johansson updated the Alaska pilot with details to relay to the U.S. Coast Guard. It wouldn't be easy to spot them, he told her. The plane's paint color? A hue named Pacific Blue.

Johansson describes feeling relatively calm through most of the descent. "We'd done so much simulator training that it felt very matter-of-fact," he says. He guided the plane into the wind to slow its 80 m.p.h. speed. Adrenalin kicked in as they approached the 10-foot waves below. "All my senses were suddenly heightened, and it hits me that we're in the middle of nowhere with nothing in sight," he says.

The tail made impact first, catching one of the waves with so much force the rudder tore. A few seconds later, the body of the 6,500-pound plane bounced off the surface before touching down. Once Johansson was sure the plane was steady and that neither of them was injured, he and Michaels quickly opened the emergency door and popped out the self-inflating raft.

"I just started tossing stuff in--Snickers bars, a water jug, and some Starbucks hummus," says Johansson. Then they stepped out onto the plane's right wing and into the small raft. With a satellite phone, Johansson contacted the Coast Guard and left voicemails for his parents and girlfriend. "We ditched the plane into the ocean, but we're on the life raft and we have survival equipment," he said. "We're going to be okay, so please don't worry."

The Coast Guard assured the pilots that they also needn't worry: Help was on the way. Johansson snapped a few photos before the $5-million plane slid under the surface and disappeared into the abyss. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This Scientist Tracked Bats for Decades and Solved a Mystery About a Deadly Disease (Kathleen Flynn for ProPublica and Caroline Chen, May 22, 2023, Pro Publica)

Wildlife ecologist Peggy Eby fell in love with flying foxes when she moved to Australia from Kansas. She spent decades studying the bats' movement and behavior. At times she worked without pay to answer questions she had about the fuzzy, fox-faced mammals.

Those bats turned out to be the carriers of the deadly Hendra virus, which can jump from bats to horses and then to humans. Eby began a quest to understand why and how the virus was making these leaps between species, known as spillover. She hoped to predict when the next infection would emerge. The decades of data Eby gathered as she followed her curiosity were key to cracking the mystery. So ProPublica decided to make a video about her.

Eby and her colleagues' work shows that it's possible to predict when spillover will happen. Doing so requires long-term research and funding to match. But ProPublica has found that public health authorities focus on responding to outbreaks already underway rather than trying to prevent them. Grants for developing treatments are easier to come by than for studies on spillover.

Eby says she hopes their findings will inspire more research into understanding what's sparking outbreaks of other diseases like Ebola or Hendra's equally deadly cousin, the Nipah virus: "Our response to COVID has made it pretty clear that vaccines aren't going to be the answer, that while they are very important, while containment is very important, having a better idea of what's causing the spillover in the first place can play an important role in preventing pandemics."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ben Franklin, The Albany Plan, and the Heart of American Consensus  (Guy Chet, 5/09/23, Starting Points)

Other historians - a minority opinion - argue that this was not a war of national liberation. They hold that Americans were not and did not see themselves as distinct from other Englishmen, and that they did not see themselves as connected to one another by a bond of nationhood before 1776. These historians hold that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution, a revolution designed not to change the status quo and create a new social and political arrangement, but to preserve the status quo. Americans were conventional and backward-looking Englishmen who wanted to resist changes that the British government was introducing to the Empire's system of government, such as new trade restrictions and tax measures, strong enforcement of imperial regulations, undercutting the jurisdiction of local courts, and otherwise expanding the reach of the central government at the expense of local autonomy.

The Albany Congress and Ben Franklin's Plan of Union play an important role in both interpretations of the American Revolution. Both groups of historians claim Franklin and the Albany Plan as evidence that supports their own understanding of the Revolution and its purpose. The Albany Congress convened (in Albany) in the summer of 1754, as the western and northern frontiers were warming up before the official outbreak of the French and Indian War (1755-63). It seated delegates from the middle and northern colonies and from as far south as Maryland to discuss matters of common concern - primarily Indian relations and frontier defense. Ben Franklin, who represented Pennsylvania, proposed his famous Albany Plan (supported by this popular propaganda cartoon: see below) which called for the formation of a supreme governing body over the American colonies. This government would be headed by a "President-General of the United Colonies" and a deliberative representative council composed of delegates from the different colonies. This continental government would deal with matters of common concern, like inter-colonial commerce, Indian relations, common defense, westward expansion and the like. Moreover, this government would have the right to tax the colonies to finance its operations.

Historians who argue that English settlers in America were being transformed into Americans during the colonial era see in the Albany Congress evidence that the colonists were already thinking of, and tinkering with, plans for union 20 years before the Revolution. These historians point to the Albany Congress as proof that these colonists were thinking of what connected them with one another - what common interests, concerns, and values they shared. They see in the Ben Franklin's Plan of Union evidence that American settlers were looking beyond their own colonial borders and seeking support from their fellow Americans, seeing their security and prosperity tied to some sort of continental union between their different colonies. To these historians, the Albany Congress was an important middle stage that arose from colonies that were disparate and atomized, and from colonists who were English in their frame of reference, to the Stamp Act Congress and the Continental Congress, and to settlers who saw themselves as Americans.

What is lost in this temptation to see the Albany Plan of Union as a precursor to the United States - specifically, to the US Constitution - is that the Albany Congress was convened not by any of the colonies, but by the Board of Trade in London. It was a British initiative, rather than an American one. Ben Franklin saw his plan as a way to strengthen colonial ties to Britain, and to integrate the colonies into the fabric of the British Empire. Moreover, not one single colony approved Franklin's Plan of Union. The colonies rejected the Albany Plan because they were not interested in an American government coordinating the policies of the different colonies and having jurisdiction over and within these colonies.

This is why that second (and smaller) group of historians sees the Albany Plan as evidence for its alternate understanding of the American Revolution: as an effort to preserve the status quo. Instead of highlighting the settlers' transformation into Americans during the colonial era, the story of the Albany Plan points to continuity - the colonists rejected Franklin's Plan of Union because they remained traditionalist and conventional Englishmen, whose frame of reference and allegiance was provincial, not national. And they remained so during the American Revolution - the colonists who rejected the Albany Plan in 1754 to preserve colonial autonomy, rejected Britain's imperial reforms for the very same purpose in 1776. They therefore enacted a constitution (the Articles of Confederation, the first US constitution) that enshrined the sovereignty of the individual states and denied the sovereignty of the United States of America. And they later strongly opposed the more nationalist Federal Constitution of 1787 on the same grounds, demanding assurances - in writing - about preserving state sovereignty and autonomy.

An American parliament with the British sovereign would have been the ideal solution to our demand for representation and our rights as Englishmen.